Archive for Iraq War

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.

Glenn Greenwald: The real definition of Terrorism

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2011 by loonwatch

(cross-posted from Salon)

The FBI yesterday announced it has secured an indictment against Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa, a 38-year-old citizen of Iraq currently in Canada, from which the U.S. is seeking his extradition. The headline on the FBI’s Press Release tells the basic story: “Alleged Terrorist Indicted in New York for the Murder of Five American Soldiers.” The criminal complaint previously filed under seal provides the details: ‘Isa is charged with “providing material support to a terrorist conspiracy” because he allegedly supported a 2008 attack on a U.S. military base in Mosul that killed 5 American soldiers. In other words, if the U.S. invades and occupies your country, and you respond by fighting back against the invading army — the ultimate definition of a “military, not civilian target” — then you are a . . . Terrorist.

Here is how the complaint, in the first paragraph, summarizes the Terrorism charge against ‘Isa:

By “outside of the United States,” the Government means: inside Iraq, ‘Isa’s country. The bulk of the complaint details conversations ‘Isa allegedly had over the Internet, while he was in Canada, with several Tunisians who wanted to engage in suicide attacks aimed at American troops in Iraq; he is not alleged to have organized the Mosul attack but merely to have provided political and religious encouragement (the network of which he was allegedly a part also carried out a suicide attack on an Iraqi police station, though ‘Isa’s alleged involvement is confined to the attack on the U.S. military base that killed the 5 soldiers along with several Iraqis, and the Terrorism indictment is based solely on the deaths of the U.S. soldiers).

In an effort to depict him as a crazed, Terrorist fanatic, the complaint includes this description of conversations he had while being monitored:

Is that not exactly the mindset that more or less anyone in the world would have: if a foreign army invades your country and proceeds to brutally occupy it for the next eight years, then it’s your solemn duty to fight them? Indeed, isn’t that exactly the mentality that caused some young Americans to enlist after the 9/11 attack and be hailed as heroes:they attacked us on our soil, and so now I want to fight them?

Yet when it’s the U.S. that is doing the invading and attacking, then we’re all supposed to look upon this very common reaction with mockery, horror, and disgust– look at these primitive religious fanatic Terrorists who have no regard for human life — because the only healthy, normal, civilized reaction someone should have to the U.S. invading, occupying, and destroying their country is gratitude, or at least passive acquiescence. Anything else, by definition, makes you a Terrorist. That’s because it is an inherent American right to invade or occupy whomever it wants and only a Terrorist would resist (to see one vivid (and darkly humorous) expression of this pathological, imperial entitlement, see this casual speculation from a neocon law professor at Cornell that Iran may have committed an “act of war” if it brought down the American drone that entered its airspace and hovered over its soil without permission: “if it is true, as the Iranians claim, that the drone did not fall by accident but was brought down by Iranian electronic means, then isn’t that already an act of war?”).

It’s one thing to condemn ‘Isa’s actions on moral or ethical grounds: one could argue, I suppose, that the solemn duty of every Iraqi was to respectfully treat the American invaders as honored (albeit uninvited) guests, or at least to cede to invading American troops the monopoly on violence. But it’s another thing entirely to label someone who does choose to fight back as a “Terrorist” and prosecute them as such under charges that entail life in prison (by contrast: an Israeli soldier yesterday killed a Palestinian protester in a small West Bank village that has had much of its land appropriated by Israeli settlers, by shooting him in the face at relatively close range with a tear gas cannister, while an Israeli plane attacked a civilian home in Gaza and killed a father and his young son while injuring several other children; acts like that, or the countless acts of reckless or even deliberate slaughter of civilians by Americans, must never be deemed Terrorism).

Few things better illustrate the utter meaninglessness of the word Terrorism than applying it to a citizen of an invaded country for fighting back against the invading army and aiming at purely military targets (this is far from the first time that Iraqis and others who accused of fighting back against the invading U.S. military have been formally deemed to be Terrorists for having done so). To the extent the word means anything operationally, it is: he who effectively opposes the will of the U.S. and its allies.

This topic is so vital because this meaningless, definition-free word — Terrorism — drives so many of our political debates and policies. Virtually every debate in which I ever participate quickly and prominently includes defenders of government policy invoking the word as some sort of debate-ending, magical elixir: of course President Obama has to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process: they’re Terrorists; of course we have to stay in Afghanistan: we have to stop The Terrorists; President Obama is not only right to kill people (including civilians) using drones, but is justified in boasting and even joking about it, because they’re Terrorists; of course some people should be held in prison without charges: they’re Terrorists, etc. etc. It’s a word that simultaneously means nothing and justifies everything.

(Continues here).

The Forgotten Anniversary: 10/7 and America’s Longest War

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on October 17, 2011 by loonwatch

(image by Carlos Latuff)

The “anniversary” of 9/11 was celebrated with great pomp and Super Bowl style fanfare, while 10/7–the day the United States launched the Orwellian-named Operation Enduring Freedom–passed without notice.

The Forgotten Anniversary: 10/7 and America’s Longest War

By Faiz Ahmed

On 7 October 2001, at approximately 12:30pm EST, US and British forces launched Operation Enduring Freedom, an aerial bombing campaign with the declared objectives of overthrowing the Taliban regime, destroying or capturing Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, and bringing an end to terrorist activities in Afghanistan.

In one of the fiercest displays of military might in modern history, early combat operationsincluded air strikes from land-based B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit, and B-52 Stratofortress bombers; carrier-based F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet fighters; and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from US ships and submarines in the Arabian Sea. In spite of this overwhelming display of “shock and awe” force, it was not until April of this year that US forces found and killed the alleged culprit behind the 9/11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden, through a US covert operation in Pakistan.

Less commonly remembered is that in the weeks following 11 September 2001, the Bush Administration held high-level secret negotiations with Taliban officials. As reported by the BBC, CNN and the Washington Post, among other news outlets, US-Taliban talks included the possibility of turning over Bin Laden to an international criminal tribunal. Although most Americans are unaware and policymakers are loathe to admit, negotiations proceeded so far that the Taliban offered to hand Bin Laden over to a neutral third country for trial if they were shown evidence of his culpability in the 9/11 attacks. The Bush administration turned down the offer. Meanwhile, with the exception of one brave dissenting voice from California’s ninth congressional district, Congress had already authorized the use of military force by 14 September 2001.

As the tenth anniversary of our war in Afghanistan looms, Americans have the right to ask: Would not the capture and trial of Bin Laden through negotiation and engagement—with a resultant disruption of al-Qaeda networks, and without the deaths of over 1,700 US soldiers, thousands of Afghan and Pakistani civilians, and trillions of dollars in taxpayer income—have been a preferable path?

True, history is notoriously malleable in hindsight. But as any good historian would also admit, history is not an agreed upon set of dates and facts of the past. It is rather what a nation chooses to remember—and forget. It is about collective memory. The Bush Administration’s secret negotiations with the Taliban are not the only inconvenient truth left out of the dominant narrative of 9/11 and our war in Afghanistan ever since. While some hailed the killing of Bin Laden in Pakistan to a tune of “Mission Accomplished,” meanwhile in Afghanistan, civilian casualties, inexorable corruption, and mind-boggling waste have filled up the margins of the official story. According to a recent report by a bipartisan commission on wartime spending, the US government wasted thirty billion dollars in contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade. This includes three hundred million dollars on a Kabul power plant the government will not run, and 11.4 billion dollars on facilities for the Afghan military that have been deemed unsustainable.

Behind precious American lives lost, families shattered, and the unquantifiable disservice to taxpayers and a public sector already under enormous financial strain, an even more disconcerting fact emerges from our Afghan war. From the beginning, the US-led military campaign prompted concerns over the number of Afghan civilians it was killing. Although no government has cared to count, the Los Angeles Times found that in the first five-month period from 7 October 2001 to 28 February 2002 alone, there were between 1,067 and 1,201 reported civilian deaths from the bombing campaign. An independent report by Professor Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire states that in the twenty-month period between 7 October 2001 and 3 June 2003, US-led military operations killed at least 3,100 civilians. Shockingly, a February 2002 analysis by The Guardian estimated that as many as 20,000 Afghans died as an indirect result of the initial US airstrikes and ground invasion, due to starvation, exposure, or wounds sustained while fleeing from zones hit by air strikes.

The horrifying trend has continued. In 2011, US and NATO air strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan killed scores of civilians. According to a 2009 Brookings report, US drone strikes may be killing “ten or so civilians” for every militant killed in both countries. Apologists for the war will retort: The lack of deliberateness excuses this “collateral damage” in an overall “just war” against ruthless terrorists who have killed even more. But last June, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates described how the costs of US military intervention have taught him to be cautious of launching “wars of choice” in the first place. Most interpreted his words as referring to Iraq, but they are also applicable to Afghanistan. After all, the biggest victims of the Afghan war have not been the Taliban or al-Qaeda organizations, but the very civilians we were claiming to liberate and protect.

My views are not abstract theories enunciated from an ivory tower. On 27 June 2011, I arrived in Kabul to complete research for my doctoral dissertation at the National Archives of Afghanistan. The following night, the Kabul InterContinental Hotel I was staying in was attacked by Taliban-affiliated insurgents armed with machine guns, grenade-launchers, and vests strapped with explosives. By the end of the night, at least twenty people were killed, the majority of whom were Afghan hotel workers and guests. Trapped in my room for hours as the battle raged in stairwells and hallways above, below, and on my own floor, I thought of God, my family, and what I would say to the world if I survived. It has taken me three months to say it.

That night, as grenades detonated, helicopter missiles exploded, and machine gunfire sprayed a hotel with seventy guests in the middle, it became painfully obvious that innocent civilians are bearing the brunt of this war. Blame who we will for “starting it,” our Afghan war now bears all the signs of a top-heavy invasion that toppled a government, spawned and inflamed a deadly insurgency, and never achieved peace. A decade later, as we prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan, the Taliban’s top leadership is still at large. Its fighters are seemingly more motivated than ever, and while US negotiations with the Taliban have already commenced, we must ask: What was the point of this war? Can anyone say it was worth it? Moreover, could this ten-year quagmire with unfathomable costs for Americans have been exactly what the 9/11 perpetrators intended? These are not questions for U.S military personnel to answer, but rather our statesmen, who put them in harm’s way in the first place.

It is time we realize September 11 is tied to another somber anniversary in US history: when our country’s leadership plunged the nation into its longest war within twenty-six days, while viable diplomatic alternatives, which we can only speculate about today, were cast aside and abandoned. Although details are still to emerge, I am convinced that the Bush-Taliban negotiations are a question that American historians, including myself, will explore for generations to come. Furthermore, as we remember and pay honor every autumn to the victims of the horrific September 11 attacks, we must also remember the victims of our current war in Afghanistan. Like the victims of 9/11, they are innocent men, women, and children, who did nothing wrong but go to work in the morning, shop at a local market in the afternoon, or attend a wedding party in the evening. They, too, deserve our remembrance and mourning. After all, if we cannot acknowledge that our suffering and the suffering of others share an everlasting bond, and that foreign policies based on vengeance, or cruel indifference, only unleash cycles of violence and retaliation that can inevitably reach our own shores, then we will have missed the greatest lesson that 9/11 and its ten-year anniversary can possibly offer.

Faiz Ahmed is currently a Doctoral Candidate in History at the University of California, Berkeley. 

This article orginally appeared on Jadaliyya.com.

Salon: Iraq foots the bill for its own destruction

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2011 by loonwatch

Some people have wondered why I focus so much on America’s many wars: isn’t this site about Islamophobia, not U.S. foreign policy? Although it is true that LoonWatch is primarily a site documenting and refuting Islamophobia, I strongly believe that there exists an intimate link between Islamophobia and America’s Endless Wars.

For one, America’s foreign policy is itself Islamophobic.  Our wars are launched thanks to Islamophobia within the most jingoist elements of American society, the neoconservatives, the Zionists (both Jewish and Christian), etc.  It finds an audience within the general public, which has a very poor opinion of Islam.  Our wars can only be sustained by ratcheting up fear-mongering and Islamophobia.  Our wars conveniently serve to complete the loop by feeding Islamophobia itself, as Muslims are Other-ized as the enemy.

Islamophobia operates under the assumption that it is Islam itself that makes Them Hate Our Freedoms.  They hate us (and some of them attack us) because we are the Infidels.  The reality, of course, is that they hate us not for our freedoms or the fact that we are infidels, but the fact that we bomb them, invade them, and occupy them.  As the article below shows, we also make them foot the bill for their own destruction:

Iraq foots the bill for its own destruction

By Murtaza Hussain

When considering the premise of reparation being paid for the Iraq War it would be natural to assume that the party to whom such payments would be made would be the Iraqi civilian population, the ordinary people who suffered the brunt of the devastation from the fighting. Fought on the false pretence of capturing Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, the war resulted in massive indiscriminate suffering for Iraqi civilians which continues to this day. Estimates of the number of dead and wounded range from the hundreds of thousands into the millions, and additional millions of refugees remain been forcibly separated from their homes, livelihoods and families. Billions of dollars in reparations are indeed being paid for the Iraq War, but not to Iraqis who lost loved ones or property as a result of the conflict, and who, despite their nation’s oil wealth, are still suffering the effects of an utterly destroyed economy. “Reparations payments” are being made by Iraq to Americans and others for the suffering which those parties experienced as a result of the past two decades of conflict with Iraq.

Iraq today is a shattered society still picking up the pieces after decades of war and crippling sanctions. Prior to its conflict with the United States, the Iraqi healthcare and education systems were the envy of the Middle East, and despite the brutalities and crimes of the Ba’ath regime there still managed to exist a thriving middle class of ordinary Iraqis, something conspicuously absent from today’s “free Iraq.” In light of the continued suffering of Iraqi civilians, the agreement by the al-Maliki government to pay enormous sums of money to the people who destroyed the country is unconscionable and further discredits the absurd claim that the invasion was fought to “liberate” the Iraqi people.

In addition to making hundreds of millions of dollars in reparation payments to the United States, Iraq has been paying similarly huge sums to corporations whose business suffered as a result of the actions of Saddam Hussein. While millions of ordinary Iraqis continue to lack even reliable access to drinking water, their free and representative government has been paying damages to corporations such as Pepsi, Philip Morris and Sheraton; ostensibly for the terrible hardships their shareholders endured due to the disruption in the business environment resulting from the Gulf War. When viewed against the backdrop ofmassive privatization of Iraqi natural resources, the image that takes shape is that of corporate pillaging of a destroyed country made possible by military force.

Despite the billions of dollars already paid in damages to foreign countries and corporations additional billions are still being sought and are directly threatening funds set aside for the rebuilding of the country; something which 8 years after the invasion has yet to occur for the vast majority of Iraqis. While politicians and media figures in the U.S. make provocative calls for Iraq to “pay back” the United States for the costs incurred in giving Iraq the beautiful gift of democracy, it is worth noting that Iraq is indeed already being pillaged of its resources to the detriment of its long suffering civilian population.

The perverse notion that an utterly destroyed country must pay reparations to the parties who maliciously planned and facilitated its destruction is the grim reality today for the people [of] Iraq. That there are those who actually bemoan the lack of Iraqi gratitude for the invasion of their country and who still cling to the pathetic notion that the unfathomable devastation they unleashed upon Iraqi civilians was some sort of “liberation” speaks powerfully to the capacity for human self-delusion. The systematic destruction and pillaging of Iraq is a war crime for which none of its perpetrators have yet been held to account (though history often takes[though history often takes time to be fully written] time to be fully written), and of which the extraction of reparation payments is but one component.

Christopher Hitchens: No “Arab Spring” If Saddam Still Ruled Iraq

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2011 by loonwatch

The Arab Revolutions are a unique moment in the history of the world for a number of reasons. Chief amongst these important reasons is the shattering of age old Orientalist myths that Arabs and Muslims are impervious to Democracy, the language of rights, etc. These talking points are usually further essentialized by the view that what is holding Arabs and Muslims back is the retrograde force of Islam.

Yet, there are attempts to steal these revolutions. Attempts to deny the indigenous, organic nature of the transformation happening before our eyes. “How could the natives rise against their dictatorships without our help,” the thinking goes.

Christopher Hitchens comes to mind. The militant atheist, morose humorist, man of letters, convert from the ranks of International Socialism to neo-Conservatism, who, terming the revolutions “Arab uprisings” believes they would never have happened if it weren’t for the Iraq War.

Hitchens was an early skeptic of the revolutions, he wrote that he “won’t be surprised” if the “exemplary courage and initiative of the citizens of Tahrir Square slowly ebb away.” The revolutions put him and others like him in a tough spot, he supported the Iraq War, claiming that Iraqis could only be freed from Saddam through Western intervention. He denied that the war was ever only about the threat of WMD’s, but rather about overthrowing a ruthless dictator.

He didn’t believe in the ability of Iraqi people, which is surprising considering the frequency with which Hitchens extols the founding fathers who wrote a document based on natural law that made the bold claim that liberty was an unalienable right for all mankind,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Either we believe that all mankind is equal and thirsts to realize its unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness or we don’t. Either we believe that all mankind has the ability to throw off the shackles of oppression without dubious intervention, unending occupation or we don’t.

Hitchens writes,

Can anyone imagine how the Arab spring would have played out if a keystone Arab state, oil-rich and heavily armed with a track record of intervention in its neighbors’ affairs and a history of all-out mass repression against its own civilians, were still the private property of a sadistic crime family? As it is, to have had Iraq on the other scale from the outset has been an unnoticed and unacknowledged benefit whose extent is impossible to compute.

It is pitiful to see Hitchens try to cover his ass now. Such a great man of letters, reduced to writing like some glorified assistant to Donald Rumsfeld, justifying the unjustifiable.

Hundreds of thousands of people have died due to the conflict in Iraq. Many more lives have been upended, destroyed and ravaged, including the lives of many American soldiers.

Now, beaming onto our television and computer screens are the inspirational, brave, victorious people of Tunisia and Egypt, who proudly let it be known that they toppled their despots.

Instead of worrying about his legacy or what the obituary in the New York Times will read, can Hitchens overcome his hubris and polemical nature, and give credit where credit is due?

Defector admits to WMD lies that triggered Iraq war

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2011 by loonwatch

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi lied about WMD’s. After millions of deaths and injuries and a fractured country he is still proud of what he did. He shows no remorse, but the fact is that if Rafid al-Janabi didn’t exist, Cheney and gang would find another Rafid. I wonder if Lieberman is still going to claim their were WMD’s in Iraq?

Defector admits to WMD lies that triggered Iraq war

(Guardian)

The defector who convinced the White House that Iraq had a secret biological weapons programme has admitted for the first time that he lied about his story, then watched in shock as it was used to justify the war.

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, codenamed Curveball by German and American intelligence officials who dealt with his claims, has told the Guardian that he fabricated tales of mobile bioweapons trucks and clandestine factories in an attempt to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime, from which he had fled in 1995.

“Maybe I was right, maybe I was not right,” he said. “They gave me this chance. I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy.”

The admission comes just after the eighth anniversary of Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations in which the then-US secretary of state relied heavily on lies that Janabi had told the German secret service, the BND. It also follows the release of former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s memoirs, in which he admitted Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction programme.

The careers of both men were seriously damaged by their use of Janabi’s claims, which he now says could have been – and were – discredited well before Powell’s landmark speech to the UN on 5 February 2003.

The former CIA chief in Europe Tyler Drumheller describes Janabi’s admission as “fascinating”, and said the emergence of the truth “makes me feel better”. “I think there are still a number of people who still thought there was something in that. Even now,” said Drumheller.

In the only other at length interview Janabi has given he denied all knowledge of his supposed role in helping the US build a case for invading Saddam’s Iraq.

In a series of meetings with the Guardian in Germany where he has been granted asylum, he said he had told a German official, who he identified as Dr Paul, about mobile bioweapons trucks throughout 2000. He said the BND had identified him as a Baghdad-trained chemical engineer and approached him shortly after 13 March of that year, looking for inside information about Saddam’s Iraq.

“I had a problem with the Saddam regime,” he said. “I wanted to get rid of him and now I had this chance.”

He portrays the BND as gullible and so eager to tease details from him that they gave him a Perry’s Chemical Engineering Handbook to help communicate. He still has the book in his small, rented flat in Karlsruhe, south-west Germany.

“They were asking me about pumps for filtration, how to make detergent after the reaction,” he said. “Any engineer who studied in this field can explain or answer any question they asked.”

Janabi claimed he was first exposed as a liar as early as mid-2000, when the BND travelled to a Gulf city, believed to be Dubai, to speak with his former boss at the Military Industries Commission in Iraq, Dr Bassil Latif.

The Guardian has learned separately that British intelligence officials were at that meeting, investigating a claim made by Janabi that Latif’s son, who was studying in Britain, was procuring weapons for Saddam.

That claim was proven false, and Latif strongly denied Janabi’s claim of mobile bioweapons trucks and another allegation that 12 people had died during an accident at a secret bioweapons facility in south-east Baghdad.

The German officials returned to confront him with Latif’s version. “He says, ‘There are no trucks,’ and I say, ‘OK, when [Latif says] there no trucks then [there are none],’” Janabi recalled.

He said the BND did not contact him again until the end of May 2002. But he said it soon became clear that he was still being taken seriously.

He claimed the officials gave him an incentive to speak by implying that his then pregnant Moroccan-born wife may not be able to travel from Spain to join him in Germany if he did not co-operate with them. “He says, you work with us or your wife and child go to Morocco.”

The meetings continued throughout 2002 and it became apparent to Janabi that a case for war was being constructed. He said he was not asked again about the bioweapons trucks until a month before Powell’s speech.

After the speech, Janabi said he called his handler at the BND and accused the secret service of breaking an agreement that they would not share anything he had told them with another country. He said he was told not to speak and placed in confinement for around 90 days.

With the US now leaving Iraq, Janabi said he was comfortable with what he did, despite the chaos of the past eight years and the civilian death toll in Iraq, which stands at more than 100,000.

“I tell you something when I hear anybody – not just in Iraq but in any war – [is] killed, I am very sad. But give me another solution. Can you give me another solution?

“Believe me, there was no other way to bring about freedom to Iraq. There were no other possibilities.”

Egypt and Tunisia have just proven you wrong Rafid, there is another way, peaceful and sustained protests that break the fear barrier and overwhelm the dictators.

 

Justin Elliot: From accused murderer to member of Congress?

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2010 by loonwatch

From accused murderer to member of Congress?

BY JUSTIN ELLIOTT

In a race that has largely been flying under the national radar, a former Marine who killed two unarmed Iraqi prisoners in 2004 and who has made the threat of Islam and the “ground zero mosque” centerpieces of his campaign has a real shot at being elected to Congress.

Republican Ilario Pantano, 39, is taking on incumbent Mike McIntyre, a seven-term conservative Democrat, in North Carolina’s 7th District, which takes in the state’s southeast corner. If Pantano wins, he would surely be one of the most compelling — and right-wing — members of Congress. He told Salon in an interview Friday, for example, that he welcomes the endorsement of the far-right blogger and anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller.

Though there haven’t been recent polls on the race, two local political analysts told Salon that Pantano has a real shot, and the National Republican Congressional Committee recently started buying ads in the race after naming Pantano one of its top-tier “Young Guns.” While McIntyre has represented it since 1997, the 7th District actually voted for John McCain by 5 points in 2008.

Pantano’s biography has made him an irresistible subject for newspaper and magazine profiles even before this campaign (see, for example, this New York magazine cover story) and would almost certainly make him a darling of the neoconservative wing of the GOP if he is elected.

Pantano, who describes himself as a “born-again Christian and a born-again Southerner,” grew up in Manhattan, where he went to a fancy private high school on scholarship and then on to the Marines during the first Gulf War. When he got back, he went to NYU and worked as a trader at Goldman Sachs for a few years before becoming a consultant. He was in the city on Sept. 11, and that’s when he decided to rejoin the Marines. He was sent to Iraq.

It was there that, in a disputed April 2004 incident south of Baghdad, Pantano killed two unarmed Iraqi prisoners, Hamaady Kareem and Tahah Ahmead Hanjil. The incident occurred after the two men had been arrested as suspected insurgents and Pantano directed them to search their own car. According to Pantano’s version of events, the men moved toward him in a threatening way and he opened fire in self-defense, shooting up to 60 rounds and killing both of them. He then put a sign next to the bodies with a Marine slogan: “No better friend, no worse enemy.” Pantano told New York magazine: “I believed that by firing the number of rounds that I did, I was sending a message” to other potential insurgents.

In 2005, Pantano was formally accused of premeditated murder, partly on the strength of testimony of other Marines present during the incident who believed it was not justified. But after a series of hearings, the military brass agreed with Pantano’s version of events and he was cleared of the murder charges.

By that time, Pantano’s ordeal had became a cause célèbre among conservative media like the Washington Times, which reported on the ins and outs of the trial. His cause was championed by talk radio host Michael Savage and others who felt the U.S. military had no business prosecuting one of its own over the killings of Iraqis. Capitalizing on that publicity, Pantano wrote with a co-author a book on his experiences, “Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.” On the ensuing book tour, he charmed many of his interviewers, including Jon Stewart.

Pantano took some criticism last week for editing a reference to the killings out of news clips he was using in a campaign ad. But one of the remarkable things about the campaign in North Carolina this year is that the murder charges are not only not an issue, but have barely even been talked about.

David McLennan, a political scientist at North Carolina’s Peace College, told Salon that the issue could backfire for McIntyre, the Democratic incumbent, particularly in a district with a large ex-military population.

“There are some people in the district who consider Pantano to be a hero. For McIntyre to raise that issue is just way too delicate,” McLennan says.

Some of the only criticism of Pantano’s past has ironically come from the man he beat in the GOP primary, fellow Iraq war vet Will Breazeale. He told the Daily Beast after his primary loss that he considers Pantano “dangerous,” adding: “I’ve taken prisoners in Iraq and there’s no excuse for what he did.”

Asked by Salon if he is surprised that his critics have largely ignored the Iraq incident, Pantano was defiant. “If they want to question my war effort — if they think that’s prudent, they can go ahead … I’ve served my country proudly in two wars.”

His campaign has focused to an unusual extent on opposing the Park51 Islamic community center project in New York, which he refers to as a “Martyr Marker” that’s really about “territorial conquest.”

“If they think that the threat of inflaming the Muslim street is enough for Americans to back down, they’re deluding themselves,” he said. “We have our own street to worry about being inflamed.”

Or as he wrote in a Daily Caller Op-Ed over the summer that connected the mosque organizers to the threat from Iran and the Gaza flotilla:

If Mosques go up like mushrooms everywhere there is a bombing or a shooting we will create a perverse incentive, not a deterrent. This mosque at Ground Zero will serve as a big Trojan trophy; and we are welcoming it?

This kind of rhetoric has attracted the enthusiastic support of Pamela Geller, the blogger who leads a group called Stop the Islamization of America and who played a key role in creating the “ground zero mosque” controversy. Most candidates might tread carefully when dealing with a Geller (among the conspiracies she subscribes to is a theory that Malcolm X is President Obama’s real father).

But not Pantano.

Geller’s endorsement is proudly reprinted on his website. “I very much appreciate Pamela Geller’s endorsement,” Pantano told Salon, calling her a “patriot.”

He said he had no qualms about speaking at an anti-mosque rally on Sept. 11 near ground zero earlier this month with Geller and other controversial figures like Geert Wilders, a Dutch parliamentarian who advocates restricting civil liberties for Muslims.

Says Pantano of the mosque issue and his campaign: “I see this as a war for the heart of our country.”

Here he is speaking at ground zero, introduced by Geller: