Archive for Blackwater

I’ll See Your Jihad, and Raise You One Crusade

Posted in Feature, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2012 by loonwatch

Modern Day Crusaders

Eric Prince, Modern-Day Crusader and founder of Xe, formerly known as Blackwater

by Ilisha

“I’ll See Your Jihad, and Raise You One Crusade” is a popular refrain among loons convinced they’re modern-day crusaders locked in an epic battle with Islam. Unfortunately, their apocalyptic visions are not confined to the lunatic fringe. Eric Prince, the reclusive co-founder of Blackwater “private military company” used to outsource US wars fancies himself a modern-day crusader, and he’s not alone.

Blackwater is infamous for its brutality, belligerence, and reckless disregard for the lives of Iraqi and Afghan civilians. This month, Harper’s Magazine featured an exposé, “The Warrior Class”: The Blackwater Videos, by Charles Glass on the rise of private “security contractors” in the years since 9/11. Video clips featured in the article are reminiscent of scenes  from George Miller’s 1979 dystopian action film, Mad Max, but for Iraqis, this was real life–and all too often, death.

In one of the most disturbing clips, a Blackwater vehicle struck down a veiled pedestrian and never bothered to stop, or even to pause. Subsequent vehicles in the convoy also barreled past with total disregard for the victim, apart from making the effort to capture the monstrous crime on video:  (H/T: Saladin)

Video of Blackwater Contractors Driving Over Iraqi Woman


In 2007, Blackwater mercenaries massacred 17 innocent Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, including 9-year-old Ali Kinani. In January of this year, the “private military contractor” reached a wrongful death “settlement” with the victim’s families and survivors, though criminal charges were dropped, allowing the perpetrators to escape accountability.

Ali Kinani9-year old Ali Kinani

In 2009, Blackwater re-branded itself as Xe (pronounced “Zee”), apparently to escape its well-deserved image as a gang of ruthless thugs or hire.

What’s missing from the Harper’s Magazine article, and much of the coverage surrounding Xe, is that Erik Prince is a fundamentalist Christian who built his military empire around the notion of Christian Dominionism. An exclusive video featured on Democracy Now revealed previously undisclosed details regarding the companies methods and motives.

The Economist provided more shocking details in an article entitled, “Erik Prince and the last crusade,” : (H/T: MasterQ)

In an affidavit lodged with a court in Virginia, one of the witnesses said that Mr Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.” The statement continues:

To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.

Mr. Prince operated his companies in a manner that encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life. For example, Mr. Prince’s executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to “lay Hajiis out on cardboard.” Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince’s employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as “ragheads” or “hajiis.”

Mr Prince is further accused of trying to cover up Blackwater’s misdeeds, which allegedly include profiteering and arms smuggling, by killing employees who tried to blow the whistle on the company….

Sending Christian crusaders to a Muslim country where you’re trying to restore peace is what I would call a very bad idea. Perhaps that wasn’t the case, but sending freelance soldiers into a country unbound by any laws is still a terrible strategy. It breeds a shoot first, ask questions later mentality. And for Blackwater, at times, it was more like shoot first, drive on. The latest allegations are shocking, but much of the story is not surprising at all.”

No, modern-day crusader themes and utter contempt for the lives of innocent Iraqis shouldn’t be surprising at all, and it isn’t confined to private “security” contractors like Xe. Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik also fancied himself as a modern-day crusader who sought to restore the medieval Knights Templar, though he certainly wasn’t alone in this peculiar brand of madness.

It seems Christian-themed holy wars have captured the imaginations of prominent US politicians, journalists, and military leaders. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, then President George Bush  referred to the so-called “War on Terror” as a “crusade,” sparking widespread criticism in the Islamic world, and even in Europe. Four years later, the BBC reported that Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq:

“President Bush said to all of us: ‘I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, “George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.” And I did, and then God would tell me, “George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq .” And I did.”

A “born again” dry drunk, Bush appealed to millions of conservative Christians, some of the biggest backers of the Iraq war and endless conflict in the Middle East to fulfill their apocalyptic visions:

This is the dark side to their religious world view. Their fantasy is often sung to uplifting gospel music of a soon-to-come Paradise. Its concomitant message (not openly discussed) is that God will then (brutally) kill the entire human race except for Christians (for many meaning “born again” Christians). The Left Behind book series dwells on how God will eviscerate, torture and kill all non-Christians. Why so many of them dwell on this is not clear.  Perhaps it gives meaning to their lives.  Or instilling fear is a way to keep them in line under their preachers’ domination. In any case they are cleverly used by the Israeli lobby, imperial neoconservatives and (more profitably) by the military industrial complex.

The Book of Revelation is the integral passion of their foreign policy, their belief that the founding of Israel foretells the imminent Second Coming, conversion or death for Jews and eternal happiness for themselves in Heaven. In their view America, as God’s instrument, should encourage wars and chaos in the Middle East in order to “hurry up” God and His agenda. One of their leaders is John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel. Senator Liebermanis a friend and favored speaker at his events. I have described The Strangest Alliance in History about how each side thinks it is using the other for its own ends.

Also in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, “conservative” journalist  Anne “All Terrorists Look Alike” Coulter said in her “battle cry”  for Washington:

“We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

Her sentiment was echoed in subsequent statements by prominent Christian war monger Ellis Washington, in an article featured in the far right WorldNetDaily. Such statements weren’t merely confined to the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and in fact, persist into the present day, according to an article in the Huffington Post, Newt and the Loony Religious Fringe That Now Runs the Republican Party:

America needlessly went to war in Iraq because neoconservative war mongers — who laugh at the “those rubes,” as they think of earnest Evangelical Christian Zionists, and whose own sons and daughters seem notably absent from our armed services — used the religious passion and dedication of conservative Evangelicals to provide political means and cover for the neoconservatives’ commitment to America’s military dominance of the world. In other words the Evangelicals provided the votes to put foolish warmongers like George W Bush in power. And now Gingrich wants their votes.

Gingrich shares a crowded stage with other prominent Republicans who also court the religious right, including Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachman, and Herman Cain.

Not surprisingly, the US military also is also plagued with Blackwater-like perversity and religious extremism. Gen. Tommy Franks, who directed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, callously dismissed concerns over the number of innocent civilians killed in Iraq saying, “We don’t do body counts.” Not to be outdone, Democracy Now has revealed the Pentagon refers to the victims as “Bugsplat,” the name of a computer program that estimates how many civilians will be killed in US-led bombing raids.

Adding perhaps the most infamous religious twist to this madness is Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin. An outspoken Evangelical Christian, Boykin claimed Muslims hate America, ”because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian … and the enemy is a guy named Satan.”

Referring to a battle in Somalia, Boykin also said, ”I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol,” and later he said, “We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this.” Boykin also claimed God put George Bush in office, and continued to frame the so-called “War on Terror” as a religious conflict, even as George Bush tried to assure the world the US was not at war with Islam.

Should these remarks be dismissed as the rantings of a lone loon?

Last January, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist  Seymour Hersh said key branches of the US military are being run by “crusaders,” According to a Huffington Post article:

“What I’m really talking about is how eight or nine neoconservative, radicals if you will, overthrew the American government. Took it over,” Hersh said.

He said that the attitude that “pervades” a large portion of the Joint Special Operations Command, which is part of the military’s special forces branch and which has carried out secret missions to kill American targets, is one that supports “[changing] mosques into cathedrals.”

Hersh also said that Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC before his tenure as the top general in Afghanistan, as well as his successor and many other JSOC members, “are all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta.” Blake Hounsell, the reporter for Foreign Policy, speculated that Hersh may have been referring to the Sovereign Order of Malta, a Catholic organization.

“Many of them are members of Opus Dei,” Hersh said. “They do see what they’re doing…it’s a crusade, literally. They see themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They’re protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function.

While the world focused myopically on “Islamic” terrorists, it seems the crusader mentality that germinated in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks has flourished and permeated not only the lunatic fringe, but high-ranking officials within the US establishment. Apparently extremists on both sides of the so-called Clash of Civilizations are inspired to play their respective roles, equally hellbent on hurtling the rest of humanity ever closer to Armageddon.

Religious Extremism and Islamophobia in the Military a Major Concern

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , on May 28, 2010 by loonwatch
The Bible in one hand and a gun in the other

The Quran in one hand and a gun in the other

The most common manifestation of Islamophobia is to call a person a “terrorist” simple because he/she is Muslim.  Currently, a U.S. soldier is being investigated for posting a video on his Facebook page in which he taunted Iraqi children calling them “gay terrorists” and used racial slurs against them.  ABC News reports:

Spc. Robert A. Rodgriquez posted the video, titled “future gay terrorists!,” earlier this month. It shows two young, T-shirt-clad boys standing side-by-side on a dirt road, nodding and giving the thumbs up sign as the man behind the camera taunts them about whether they are gay or terrorists…

“Are you going to grow up to be a terrorist?” the solder, who may be Rodriguez, asks from behind the camera.

The boys do not appear to understand English as they raise their thumbs.

“Yeah, all right. Cool,” the cameraman responds. “Terrorists. Woo!”

In addition to asking the boys if they were terrorists, the man behind the camera also asked them if they were gay, using a slur the station didn’t air. They were also asked if they engaged in certain sex acts. When the boys smiled, the camera operator asked, “Are you good at it?”

The boys continued to smile and nod.

Later in the video, it appeared that the older boy began to realize the man wielding the camera was making fun of them. He reached over and carefully lowered the arm of the other little boy as he again made the thumbs up sign.

According to the same article, this is not an isolated event:

“The vast majority of soldiers are doing the right thing, and I think the public knows that,” Coppernoll said.

But a quick search of YouTube pulled up several videos of soldiers from across the United States and the United Kingdom mocking children. One showed American soldiers waving a much-desired bottle of water out the back of a truck as Iraqi children ran behind it, pleading for a drink.

Others showed soldiers intentionally scaring the children. But some videos showed the opposite — soldiers handing out candy or playing soccer with locals.

This begs the question whether there is a larger problem of anti-Muslim bias in the U.S. Army.  Such questions are intensified when one reads about Muslim soldiers in the U.S. military being discriminated against by their fellow soldiers.   For example, there is the case of Army Spec. Zachari Klawonn:

At 2 o’clock on a Monday morning, the sound of angry pounding sent Army Spec. Zachari Klawonn bolting out of bed.

THUD. THUD. THUD.

Someone was mule-kicking the door of his barracks room, leaving marks that weeks later — long after Army investigators had come and gone — would still be visible.

By the time Klawonn reached the door, the pounding had stopped. All that was left was a note, twice folded and wedged into the doorframe.

“F— YOU RAGHEAD BURN IN HELL” read the words scrawled in black marker.

The slur itself was nothing new. Klawonn, 20, the son of an American father and a Moroccan mother, had been called worse in the military. But the fact that someone had tracked him down in the dead of night to deliver this specific message sent a chill through his body.

Before he enlisted, the recruiters in his home town of Bradenton, Fla., had told him that the Army desperately needed Muslim soldiers like him to help win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet ever since, he had been filing complaint after complaint with his commanders. After he was ordered not to fast and pray. After his Koran was torn up. After other soldiers jeered and threw water bottles at him. After his platoon sergeant warned him to hide his faith to avoid getting a “beating” by fellow troops. But nothing changed.

Then came the November shootings at Fort Hood and the arrest of a Muslim soldier he’d never met: Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, who is charged with killing 13 people and injuring more than 30 in a massacre that stunned the nation. And with it, things only got worse.

It should be noted that the actions of a few soldiers do not reflect the entire U.S. military, and it would be unfair to say so. In fact, several soldiers reached out to Klawonn after his story was published in the Washington Post to offer their support. Nevertheless, the question remains: is there a larger anti-Muslim problem in the U.S. Army that needs to be addressed?

And could this be related to the problem of rising fundamentalist Christian evangelism in the military?

Michael L. Weinstein, a former Air Force JAG, founded an organization called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). According to Weinstein, there exists a “fundamentalist Christian parachurch-military-corporate-proselytizing complex.” Moreover, Weinstein said:

The scary thing about all this is it’s going on not with the blind eye of the Pentagon but with its full and totally enthusiastic support. And those who are not directly involved are passive about it. As the Talmud says, ‘silence is consent.’

It was Weinstein who exposed the fact that the lead supplier of rifle scopes to the U.S. military placedcoded references to passages  in the New Testament. It was Weinstein who also led the campaign to disinvite Franklin Graham from speaking at a Pentagon event because of his comments about Islam. Weinstein himself was the subject of harrassment, being beaten unconscious twice:

This battle is personal for him: Nearly 30 years ago, as a Jewish cadet at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, he was twice beaten unconscious in anti-Semitic attacks. (There wouldn’t have been much of a choice of targets — only 0.3 percent of the members of the U.S. military identify themselves as Jewish. Ninety-four percent are Christian.) Visiting his son, Curtis, on the eve of his own second year at the academy in the summer of 2004, Weinstein was stunned to learn little had changed; over lunch at McDonald’s, Curtis told his father that he had been verbally abused eight or nine times by officers and fellow cadets on account of his religion.

Weinstein filed a complaint, in response to which the Air Force launched an investigation that revealed a top-down, invasive evangelicalism in the academy. Among other things, it revealed that the commandant of cadets taught the entire incoming class a “J for Jesus” hand signal, that the football coach had draped a “Team Jesus” banner across the academy locker room, and that more than 250 faculty members and senior officers signed a campus newspaper advertisement that proclaimed: “We believe that Jesus Christ is the only real hope for the world.” Weinstein has been a First Amendment vigilante ever since.

According to an article in Foreign Policy magazine:

Although he is frequently attacked for waging a war on Christianity, all but a fraction of Weinstein’s clients are practicing Catholics and Protestants of mainline denominations who claim to be targeted by proselytizing evangelical superiors. The root of the problem, Weinstein believes, is a cluster of well-funded groups dedicated to Christianizing the military and proselytizing abroad. They include the Navigators, which, according to their website, command “thousands of courageous men and women passionately following Christ, representing Him in advancing the Gospel through relationships where they live, work, train for war, and deploy.” There is Campus Crusade for Christ’s Military Ministry, which has a permanent staff presence at U.S. military academies and whose directors have referred publicly to U.S. soldiers and Marines as “government-paid missionaries.”

Weinstein himself says such groups are: “are the flip side of the Taliban. They’re like Islamic officers exercising Quranic leadership to raise a jihadi army.” Weinstein has taken on Zachari Klawonn as a client in a lawsuit against the U.S. Army.

Writer Jason Leopold has also written about the fundamentalist Christian movement in the military:

The Christian right has been successful in spreading its fundamentalist agenda at US military installations around the world for decades. But the movement’s meteoric rise in the US military came in large part after 9/11 and immediately after the US invaded Iraq in March of 2003. At a time when the United States is encouraging greater religious freedom in Muslim nations, soldiers on the battlefield have told disturbing stories of being force-fed fundamentalist Christianity by highly controversial, apocalyptic “End Times” evangelists, who have infiltrated US military installations throughout the world with the blessing of high-level officials at the Pentagon. Proselytizing among military personnel has been conducted openly, in violation of the basic tenets of the United States Constitution.

There is the feeling in the Muslim world that the United States is at war with Islam itself.  Many Westerners mock Muslims for this conspiratorial talk, and wonder how or why Muslims would ever think such a ridiculous thing.  But Glenn Greenwald put it best: “So-called paranoid conspiracies in the Muslim world are often based more in fact than our derision of them.” How far out there would it be to consider the Iraq War an Evangelical crusade fueled by Islamophobia?  Well, when you consider that

1. The illegal Iraq War was started in large part due to the religious right, which beat the drums of war hardest.  Indeed, “conservative Christians [were the] biggest backers of [the] Iraq War.”

2. George Bush, a fervent Evangelical Christian, said he invaded Iraq because of Biblical prophecy, i.e. “Gog and Magog at work.”

3.  Evangelical Christianity is surging in the U.S. military, and many of the soldiers feel like they are on a crusade against Islam.

4.  Islamophobia is a major problem amongst the troops–not all, but certainly enough to be troubling.  Usage of the racial slur “hajji”, which is the equivalent of “gook” or “Jap”, is not uncommon.

it no longer seems surprising why many Muslims think so.  And then you have to add #5 to the list, which is the rise of Blackwater, the Christian version of Al-Qaeda.  Erik Prince, the founder of the company, “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.” Blackwater is the world’s largest mercenary army (and members refer to themselves as the Knights Templar).  This security company is at the center of a number of troubling allegations, which The Nation‘s Jeremy Scahill has done an excellent job of chronicling.  Recently, Scahill has written that:

From the first days of the launch of the so-called “war on terror,” Blackwater has been at the epicenter of some of the most secretive operations conducted by US forces globally. It has worked on government assassination programs and drone bombings, operated covertly in Pakistan for both the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command, assisted secret raids inside of Syria, trained foreign militaries and continues to bodyguard senior US officials in Afghanistan. The company also has a bloody track record of killing civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many seasoned observers believe that the extent of the dark acts committed by Blackwater have yet to come to light.

While Congressional committees, the IRS, the FBI and lawyers representing foreign victims of the company have fought for years to hold Blackwater and its forces accountable for their alleged crimes, the company has proved to be Teflon. Not a single case against the company has resulted in any significant action. Following last December’s dismissal of the high-profile criminal case against the Blackwater operatives allegedly responsible for the 2007 Nisour Square shootings that left seventeen Iraqis dead and more than twenty others wounded, federal prosecutors have now launched another salvo.

Last week, the Justice Department announced that a federal grand jury had returned a fifteen-count indictment against five current and former Blackwater officials, charging them with conspiracy to violate a series of federal gun laws, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Among those indicted were Blackwater owner Erik Prince’s longtime right-hand man, former company president Gary Jackson, Blackwater’s former legal counsel Andrew Howell and two former company vice presidents. Given Blackwater’s track record and the severity of other allegations against the company–including killing unarmed civilians–if the charges in this case stick, it would be somewhat akin to Al Capone going down for tax evasion. The one major difference being, the number-one man at Blackwater, Erik Prince, is evading prosecution and jail. Prince, who remains the Blackwater empire’s sole owner, was not indicted.

The demonization of “the other” is a common occurrence during wars.  Neo-cons would shrug this off by saying “that’s war.”  Yes, that’s true.  But that’s why we shouldn’t fight them, at least whenever it’s possible not to.  So many troubling incidents have been reported about the Iraq War that we really need to reevaluate what we are doing there, and question our foreign policy altogether.  It is not patriotism to send our troops to die for fanatical religious causes, hateful crusades, or to slay Gog and Magog.  Rather, it is patriotism to save our boys from the horrors of wars.

Furthermore, we need to take steps to check religious extremism and Islamophobia in the military.  In a time when the U.S. has attacked and occupied numerous Muslim countries, these anti-Muslim incidents are indeed concerning.  We are quite clearly able to see the troubling militarization of religion in the Islamic world, but are we oblivious to it when it concerns in our own ranks?

 

Cenk Uygur Obliterates Closet Islamophobe

Posted in Loon TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2009 by loonwatch
Cenk, posing as a Bollywood hero
Cenk, posing as a Bollywood hero

Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks Obliterates Closet Islamophobe

Cenk Uygur, the host of The Young Turks, rips this closet Islamophobe a new one.  I especially like how he made sure to mention George Bush’s intention behind invading Iraq (the Biblical prophecy of Gag and Magog), which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.  (But of course those civilians don’t count, since they are brown Moozlems.)

Cenk could have sealed that argument by mentioning the Christian version of Al-Qaeda, none other than the fundamentalist Evangelical Blackwater group, which has killed scores of civilians.  And he could also have mentioned the thousands of Christians who believe in the Joel’s Army theology and the general surge of Christian fanaticism in the U.S. military.

One other point: the conservative loon mentioned the idea that 90% of mosques in America are owned and operated by Saudi Arabia.  This is a blatant lie commonly peddled by Islamophobes.  “But you can google it!”  Believe it or not: but not everything on the interwebs is true.  *gasp*  In fact, the vast majority of mosques in America run on local donations.

Joy "7 million Muslims in the World?" Tiz
Joy “7 million Muslims in the World?” Tiz

Then in that same breath she says that they are funded by the Muslim Brotherhood, when in fact the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood runs contrary to that of the “Wahhabi” (Salafi) strain of Islam followed in Saudi Arabia.

But anyways, I must say that Cenk did a great job (and I give him a 10 out of 10).  Here is the debate:

Cenk vs Conservative [Loon] on Muslims in the Military

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFsV1tHEvzA 300 250]