How can we get a less hyperbolic assessment of the state of the world? Certainly not from daily journalism. News is about things that happen, not things that don’t happen. We never see a reporter saying to the camera, “Here we are, live from a country where a war has not broken out”—or a city that has not been bombed, or a school that has not been shot up. As long as violence has not vanished from the world, there will always be enough incidents to fill the evening news. And since the human mind estimates probability by the ease with which it can recall examples, newsreaders will always perceive that they live in dangerous times.
President Obama will announce today that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is submitting his resignation. According to the New York Times, "The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ." [more inside]
Lieutenant General Daniel P. Bolger, recently retired from 35 years in the US Army, reflects on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "As a general, I got it wrong."
"Many Marines I talk to are skeptical of the aims used to justify the war - fighting terrorism, getting weapons of mass destruction (which they never see). Quite a few accept that this war was probably fought for oil." 'The Killer Elite', Evan Wright's coverage of a US Marine Corps Battalion in the 2003 Iraq War (later developed into the book and TV series Generation Kill). [more inside]
How the US Stumbled into the Drone Era [WSJ] As ubiquitous as Predators, Reapers, Global Hawks and their ilk may now seem, the U.S. actually stumbled into the drone era. Washington got into the business of using drones for counterterrorism well before 9/11—not out of any steely strategic design or master plan but out of bureaucratic frustration, bickering and a series of only half-intentional decisions.
On Tuesday, a group of Islamic militants that were thrown out of al-Qaeda for being too violent took over Iraq's second largest city. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (abbreviated as ISIS) kicked the Iraqi Army out of Mosul, a wealthy city in northwestern Iraq. Today, ISIS secured another northern city, Tikrit. It currently controls an area "the size of Belgium," according to Jason Lyall, a Yale University political scientist who studies insurgencies. [more inside]
The young men and women enlisting in the armed forces now were in pre-school on 9/11. "As a nation we have internalized our longest military conflict; it has suffused the social, political, and cultural body. The war is not something the nation is doing; it's simply something that is." Vox on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, from Jessica Lynch to Bowe Bergdahl. [more inside]
The Interpreters We Left Behind. "As our troops pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we're abandoning fixers and translators to the dangerous countrymen who view them as traitors. Asylum in the U.S. could be their last hope. If only we'd let them in."
What Combat Feels Like, Presented in the Style of a Graphic Novel. An animated film based on a true story by Iraq veteran Colby Buzzell (previously).
"Daniel Somers was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was part of Task Force Lightning, an intelligence unit." [more inside]
How A War Hero Became A Serial Bank Robber. "Army medic Nicholas Walker returned home from Iraq after 250 combat missions, traumatized and broken. His friends and family couldn’t help him. Therapy couldn’t help him. Heroin couldn’t help him. Pulling bank heists helped him." [Via]
"A Gazette investigation shows an increasing number of soldiers, including wounded combat veterans, are being kicked out of the service for misconduct, often with no benefits, as the Army downsizes after a decade of war."
"Disposable: Surge in discharges includes wounded soldiers"
"Left Behind: No break for the wounded"
"Locked Away: Army struggles with wounded soldiers"
"Disposable: Surge in discharges includes wounded soldiers"
"Left Behind: No break for the wounded"
"Locked Away: Army struggles with wounded soldiers"
Syria Options Go From Bad To Worse
As reports have surfaced of possible use of sarin gas in the Syrian civil war, calls by long-time proponents of U.S. intervention on behalf of the anti-Assad rebels have grown to a fever pitch. These same voices, both at home and abroad, have evoked the administration’s previously stated “red line” on use of chemical weapons. But even assuming that reports of WMD usage in Syria turn out to be true, the Obama Administration’s position may be far more nuanced than previously thought.[more inside]
"Women get flustered under fire. They're too fragile, too emotional. They lack the ferocity required to take a life. They can't handle pain. They're a distraction, a threat to cohesion, a provocative tease to close-quartered men. These are the sort of myths you hear from people who oppose the U.S. military's evolving new rules about women in combat. But for women who have already been in combat, who have earned medals fighting alongside men, the war stories they tell don't sound a thing like myths" [more inside]
“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Cheney said. “There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.” Zinni, sitting right next to Cheney’s lectern, says he “literally bolted” when he heard the vice president’s comments. “In doing work with the CIA on Iraq WMD [weapons of mass destruction], through all the briefings I heard at Langley, I never saw one piece of credible evidence that there was an ongoing program.” Rachel Maddow hosts Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War, a documentary special, based on the eponymous book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, that will air Monday, February 18 on MSNBC at 9 p.m.
"If I had felt any unease that I was potentially exploiting a horrible situation for personal gain, it was short-lived. The next four months were the most stressful, difficult, and dangerous of my life until that point, and probably—hopefully—ever. ... On December 31, 2004, I achieved a couple of significant milestones: I made my final student loan payment, and I had a positive net worth for the first time in my adult life. Mortars, rockets, and car bombs aside, that was pretty satisfying."
"Hell Broke Luce" -- a surreal anti-war video from Tom Waits for his powerful song based on the harrowing story of Lance Corporal Jeff Lucey, a 23-year old Iraq war Marine veteran who committed suicide in 2004. From Waits' 22d album Bad As Me (2011, AntiRecords) [more inside]
Curveball comes clean: "My main purpose was to topple the tyrant in Iraq because the longer this dictator remains in power, the more the Iraqi people will suffer from this regime's oppression." ... When it is put to him "we went to war in Iraq on a lie. And that lie was your lie", he simply replies: "Yes."
Tomorrow marks the official end of the Iraq war. The Obama administration describes it as a 'promise kept'. The war resulted in a great many casualties. Although the final troop movement out of the country is not scheduled to begin for a few days, history will record December 15 as the end of the war, as the flag of the American military mission in Bagdhad is lowered and returned to the US. Scholars at Brown University estimate the total cost of the war at 265,000 dead and $3-4 trillion dollars. The main contenders for the Republican party's 2012 nomination both expressed approval and disapproval. Previously, 339 times.
Throughout time immemorial, songs of patriotism, such as Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten?" are a staple of countries at war. Our ballads root for our soldiers to come back safe and sound to families and sweethearts, but who sings the tale about the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, the autonomous drone that pines for the vending machine it left at home? Only the evil ghost of Johnny Cash does. [more inside]
Final Salute. Between 2004 and 2005, "Rocky Mountain News reporter Jim Sheeler and photographer Todd Heisler spent a year with the Marines stationed at Aurora's Buckley Air Force Base who have found themselves called upon to notify families of the deaths of their sons in Iraq. In each case in this story, the families agreed to let Sheeler and Heisler chronicle their loss and grief. They wanted people to know their sons, the men and women who brought them home, and the bond of traditions more than 200 years old that unite them. Though readers are led through the story by the white-gloved hand of Maj. Steve Beck, he remains a reluctant hero. He is, he insists, only a small part of the massive mosaic that is the Marine Corps." The full story ran on Veteran's Day, 2005 and won two Pulitzer Prizes: one for Feature Photography, another for feature writing in 2006. A nice single-page version of one section: Katherine Cathey and 2nd Lt. James J. Cathey (via.) The Rocky Mountain News closed in 2009. [more inside]
Walt Harrington's profile of the 43rd POTUS, Dubya and Me.
Army vet with PTSD sought the treatment he needed by taking hostages – but got jail instead. "Fifteen months of carnage in Iraq had left the 29-year-old debilitated by post-traumatic stress disorder. But despite his doctor’s urgent recommendation, the Army failed to send him to a Warrior Transition Unit for help. The best the Department of Veterans Affairs could offer was 10-minute therapy sessions — via videoconference. So, early on Labor Day morning last year, after topping off a night of drinking with a handful of sleeping pills, Quinones barged into Fort Stewart’s hospital, forced his way to the third-floor psychiatric ward and held three soldiers hostage, demanding better mental health treatment." [Via] [more inside]
Annia Ciezadlo, author of Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War [reviews, excerpt] discusses Iraqi intellectualism, war and food, ancient Iraqi cooking, the Middle East's dependence on imported wheat, and the link between bread and civilian uprisings. [more inside]
UK's official use of torture policy. For MI5 & MI6, special renditions: when to proceed knowing torture would be used during the interrogation. [more inside]
In pictures: the life of a war photographer (There are some graphic images in here; not for the squeamish, though for most would be SFW for most workplaces).
The U.S.'s military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq are mostly staffed by Third Country Nationals (TCN), who are often victims of human trafficking. [more inside]
Kurds Move To Upend The Status Quo In Kirkuk - "In northern Iraq, Kirkuk has always been a flashpoint with Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs, who all claim it as their own. It has a special place in the new Iraqi constitution, but nothing has changed for years." [more inside]
“I had reached the point of no return. You finally get fed up … I finally wanted to speak the truth.”
Last year, the unofficial Dean of the White House Press Corps, Helen Thomas, spoke about the State of Israel on camera. (Previously) Her replies: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," and that the Jews "can go home" to "Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else," sparked media outrage, prompted her to issue an apology and retire. After months of being out of the the public spotlight, she has now given her first long-form interview, which will appear in the April issue of Playboy Magazine. In it, she explains what she meant, tells us how she would like to be remembered and expands upon her positions regarding Israel, Jewish political influence, Presidents Bush and Obama, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today is the 8th Anniversary of the beginning of the War in Iraq. Protesters around the country are trying to bring attention to our nation's continued involvement.
Cartoonist Tim Kreider (previously, previously) of The Pain talks about the last decade, our "disastrous decline" and his latest book of cartoons and essays, Twilight Of The Assholes. Part 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
The Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Celexa, Effexor, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, Restoril, Xanax, Adderall, Ritalin, Haldol, Risperdal, Seroquel, Ambien, Lunesta, Elavil, Trazodone War New York Magazine's Jennifer Senior writes on prescription drug (ab)use among soldiers and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. [more inside]
"Regardless of political stance, no one can deny the joy felt upon seeing your loved ones return home safely -- WelcomeHomeBlog.com is a site celebrating that amazing feeling. Visit daily for heartwarming stories, videos and pictures of members of our courageous armed forces returning home to their families and friends..."
War veteran barred from college campus for frank words on killing. After publishing essay on addiction to war, Charles Whittington must obtain psychological evaluation before returning to classes
"Hundreds of the leaked war logs reflect the fertile imagination of the torturer faced with the entirely helpless victim – bound, gagged, blindfolded and isolated – who is whipped by men in uniforms using wire cables, metal rods, rubber hoses, wooden stakes, TV antennae, plastic water pipes, engine fan belts or chains." [more inside]
Combat operations in Iraq are over! Except, the AP says "our content should not refer to the end of combat in Iraq, or the end of U.S. military involvement." Meanwhile, in Iraq, a new show has been airing since Ramadan that has been described as "Punk’d, Iraqi-Style, at a Checkpoint." You can watch 14-minutes of the show (in Arabic, no English subtitles), here.
Soldiers involved in the "Collateral Murder" video have come forward to tell their story. [more inside]
CNN.com's 'Home and Away' initiative honors the lives of U.S. and coalition troops who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The extensive data visualization project tells the story of where and how the lives of these troops began and ended. The project is a sobering look at the human cost of two wars in the Middle East, and as such is restrained with a sober palette of blacks, whites and greys. [via] [more inside]
They Fled from Our War. "Among the many consequences of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the plight of millions of Iraqi refugees is seldom mentioned. The stories of such people as Burhan Abdulnour, whom we met in Sweden in 2008, have hardly been told."
Wikileaks posts a classified US military video (17:47) to YouTube. It depicts "the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad -- including two Reuters news staff." Supporting documents from military whistleblowers appear at the site they set up, Collateral Murder.
The Pleasure of Flinching. "In the viral video realm, amateur Iraq war footage ranks just behind pornography, celebrities’ drunken exploits, and shark attacks. Do these videos represent what Sontag called our 'right to view,' or are they a porn medium made from leftovers of a world filming its self-destruction?" [Via]
Searching for Saddam : how the U.S. military used social networking to capture the Iraqi dictator
For quite some time, I’d wanted to make a screwball comedy. A fast-talking, wildly acclerating ensemble comedy that gets stupider and stupider. I never imagined it would be about a war, and inspired by a very recent war at that. But Simon, Jesse, Tony and I all felt that the more we found out about the dysfunction in Washington and the naivety in London leading up to the Iraq invasion, the more obvious it was that the only way to deal accurately and fairly with this topic was as a screwball comedy. - The Oscar nominated script for In The Loop, with an introduction by writer Armando Iannucci.
Our real enemies are not those living in a distant land whose names or policies we don't understand; The real enemy is a system that wages war when it's profitable, the CEOs who lay us off our jobs when it's profitable, the Insurance Companies who deny us Health care when it's profitable, the Banks who take away our homes when it's profitable. Our enemies are not several hundred thousands away. They are right here in front of us. — Mike Prysner (YT) [more inside]
Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones. "Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations." [Via]