"For a lot of soldiers, there are two kinds of people: those who serve, and those who expect to be served, and those who serve are pretty noble.'' The U.S. Army now begins its 10th continuous year in combat, the first time in its history the United States has excused the vast majority of its citizens from service and engaged in a major, decade-long conflict instead with an Army manned entirely by professional warriors.
From the bloody civil wars in Africa to the rag-tag insurgencies in Southeast Asia, 33 conflicts are raging around the world today, and it’s often innocent civilians who suffer the most. [more inside]
Iraq air raids hit mostly women and children. "Air strikes and artillery barrages have taken a heavy toll among the most vulnerable of the Iraqi people, with children and women forming a disproportionate number of the dead. Analysis carried out for the research group Iraq Body Count (IBC) found that 39 per cent of those killed in air raids by the US-led coalition were children and 46 per cent were women. Fatalities caused by mortars, used by American and Iraqi government forces as well as insurgents, were 42 per cent children and 44 per cent women."
More than 100 nations have reached an agreement on a treaty which would ban current designs of cluster bombs. Naturally, the most militant nations (USA, Russia, China, India, Pakistan) have refused to negotiate (creating significant interoperability issues for allied nations such as the UK to the USA). The Cluster Munition Coalition is an excellent resource about the issue. [more inside]
People can handle the truth about war. Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas reflects on how the media's willingness to show the horrors of war has changed since Vietnam.
The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness. "Investigating the impact of the war on Iraqi civilians, Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian reveal disturbing patterns of behavior by US troops in Iraq--brutal acts that often go unreported and almost always go unpunished." [Via No Quarter.]
Listening In and Naming Names "...The press tends to shy away from covering America's largest and most secretive intelligence agency, fearing precisely the kind of scolding President Bush delivered to the New York Times. But the truth is that the NSA—which has an estimated $6 billion annual budget bigger than those of the CIA and the FBI combined—has a decidedly checkered history when it comes to playing by the rules." And yet, NSA abuse seems not limited to Bush. Now, possib ly, Carter and Clinton also used NSA for spying on civilians. That said, NSA seems also to have been used for non-miltary spying, to help selected American firms compete against rival companies elsewhere. What is curious about this agency is that it is the single biggest intelligence organization in our country and yet so few people know what they do, where they are, what they had been legally allowed to do. If, as we are told, tapping phones is necessary in our fight against terror, why then doesn't the FBI do this? If any mobster worth his blackjack knows not to use phones because they are potentially tapped, why are we told that NSA doesn't want terrorists alerted to our tapping their phones and therefore there ought not to be any discussion of this "strategy."? In sum, my suspicion is that a lot more is going on than we have thus far been told, and that in fact email and the internet are more involved in what is taking place than is phone tapping.
French Soldiers Machine-gunning Civilians. NOTE: 100Mb video download, very graphic content. So much for the "moral high ground" of the French, as they slaughter civilians in the Ivory Coast.
This is what we do to looters (3Mb windows media video) This clip comes from Frontline, showing a US tank crew confronting some Iraqis taking some wood. I'll give a quick preview: it's probably not the best way for Americans to build US-Iraq relations. [via rc3]
A little Iraqi girl -- no more than eight years old -- squatted beside the road with tears of humiliation streaming down her cheeks. Twenty feet away, three American soldiers had their rifles aimed at her as she was forced to relieve herself in full view of a long line of parked cars. From inside their vehicles, the Iraqi onlookers screamed their rage at the U.S. troops. Whenever one of the Iraqis ventured to step out of his vehicle, an American officer bellowed, "Get back in the car, a--hole!" and the .50-calibre machinegun mounted on the U.S. Hummer would swing menacingly toward the protester.
Eight women and children killed by US bombing in Afghanistan. Nothing on CNN or BBC so far. An MSNBC/AP report describes the victims as "tribesmen", others described them only as "gypsies".
'No real planning for postwar Iraq' "The officials didn't develop any real postwar plans because they believed that Iraqis would welcome U.S. troops with open arms and Washington could install a favored Iraqi exile leader as the country's leader. The Pentagon civilians ignored CIA and State Department experts who disputed them, resisted White House pressure to back off from their favored exile leader and when their scenario collapsed amid increasing violence and disorder, they had no backup plan. Today, American forces face instability in Iraq, where they are losing soldiers almost daily to escalating guerrilla attacks, the cost of occupation is exploding to almost $4 billion a month and withdrawal appears untold years away." Bring 'Em On!
Human Filter. "U.S. troops killed seven Iraqi women and children at a checkpoint Monday when the Iraqis' van would not stop as ordered, a military official said."
The Myth of the "Civilian"? Rationalizing the status quo or hard-headed realism for "interesting times"? Baghdad coming shortly...
So what's the difference between the latest suicide bombing and the incursion in Jenin? Both targeted off-duty combatants (13 of the 17 killed on the bus were armed soldiers, the majority killed in Jenin were armed combatants) and both had "collateral damage" of civilians. If one argues that Jenin was a military operation that pursued combatants and unfortunately civilians were caught in between, couldn't one argue the same about this bus bombing? Disclaimer: I oppose both as immoral.
How to buy military weapons banned for civilians, with the help of the police - In a small Missouri town, a 72-year old man and 3 buddies bought weapons and accessories banned for private ownership claiming they were part of a "volunteer deputy" SWAT team. The police chief at the time agreed, although only one of them was a police deputy doing 4 hours a week of police work. The new police chief, a person with real experience in SWAT teams, freaked out when he heard of the agreement, which lets the "fantasy" deputies keep the weapons locked in the trunk of their cars. City officials aren't happy either, perhaps be because they were not informed at the time of the deal ("we wanted to keep it low key, you don't want the bad guys to know our tactics"). Many neighbors of the single-stop-light-type of town praise the good intentions of the men, but members of professional SWAT deny in several ways their ability to deal with any high-intensity situation. A very entertaining read picked up at obscurestore.com
Afghan civilians attempt a desperate flee out of Kabul, only to be beat back at Pakistan border.
U.S. to ban civilians at controls of military vehicles Sec Rumsford has announced a "temporary" ban of civilians at the controls of military machinery, including of course, subamarines. Temporarily?