U.S. Soldiers Shooting Random Vehicles in Iraq

Once again, as many soldiers who have turned against the occupation have stated, these are not isolated nor even unexpected events.  This is the nature of a brutal military occupation in which the enemy is the entire populace and the goal is control of resources or to maintain geopolitical fragmentation of a state.  

Outspoken Iraq veteran Ethan McCord says of another incident caught on video, of an Apache helicopter attack in 2007 on a wounded man and those trying to help him, words that are applicable to the entire occupation (I refuse to call this a war.  A war has two sides with armies facing each other who have roughly the same firepower.  This is a slaughter.)

McCord says:

"Instead of people being upset at a few soldiers in a video who were doing what they were trained to do, I think people need to be more upset at the system that trained these soldiers. They are doing exactly what the Army wants them to do."

Part of the brainwashing in the Army which teaches the dehumanization of an occupied population are words sung in basic training as you run or march:

we went to the market where all the hadji shop,
pulled out our machetes and we began to chop,

we went to the playground where all the hadji play,
pulled out our machine guns and we began to spray,

we went to the mosque where all the hadji pray,
threw in a hand grenade, and blew them all away.

Now as Obama draws down what is being called the "rebranded occupation" to the 50,000-troop permanent American presence, bolstered by what Jeremy Scahill calls the "coming surge" in private security contractors, we have the power, the many who worked for him and had high hopes, to demand the country be given back fully to the Iraqis.  We might not like the geopolitical outcome (a Shiite government leaning towards Iran) but it will tell the world we have renounced Bush foreign policy and are ready to make amends.  Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) has called for prosecution of Bush administration officials for "conspiring to manipulate intelligence in order to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq."

IVAW alleges that Bush administration officials conspired to create the perception that Saddam Hussein presented an imminent threat to the United States in order to bypass an uncooperative U.N. Security Council and secure a congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq.  The growing body of evidence, including testimony from British officials in the ongoing Chilcot Inquiry, indicates that Bush officials could be charged with criminal offenses against the United States and violations of international law for making false claims to national self-defense.

Seumus Milne of the UK Guardian writes:

The horrific cost of the war to the Iraqi people...and the continuing fear and misery of daily life make a mockery of claims that the US surge of 2007 "worked" and that Iraq has come good after all.

It's not only the hundreds of thousands of dead and 4 million refugees. After seven years of US (and British) occupation, tens of thousands are still tortured and imprisoned without trial, health and education has dramatically deteriorated, the position of women has gone horrifically backwards, trade unions are effectively banned, Baghdad is divided by 1,500 checkpoints and blast walls, electricity supplies have all but broken down and people pay with their lives for speaking out.

Please sign the Open Letter to the Iraqi People, authored by former soldiers in Iraq, and work to demand from your congressman that this country be given back to its people. The letter reads in part:

"We did unto you what we would not want done to us. More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny...."

Do not hate the soldiers in this video.  Pity them.  We have all played a part in this.  Like the soldiers who have stepped forward to renounce their actions, we can still step forward too.  In The Kiterunner (recommended) the narrator is told in a mysterious message from his past, "There is a way to be good again."

FORWARD THIS TO YOUR CONGRESS MEMBERS

ROLLCALL OF JULY VOTE TO CONTINUE FUNDING FOR IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN OCCUPATIONS ("YEA" MEANS THEY VOTED FOR MORE WAR)

FREE PFC. BRADLEY MANNING

 


U.S. Soldiers Shooting Random Vehicles in Iraq

Once again, as many soldiers who have turned against the occupation have stated, these are not isolated nor even unexpected events.  This is the nature of a brutal military occupation in which the enemy is the entire populace and the goal is control of resources or to maintain geopolitical fragmentation of a state.  

Outspoken Iraq veteran Ethan McCord says of another incident caught on video, of an Apache helicopter attack in 2007 on a wounded man and those trying to help him, words that are applicable to the entire occupation (I refuse to call this a war.  A war has two sides with armies facing each other who have roughly the same firepower.  This is a slaughter.)

McCord says:

"Instead of people being upset at a few soldiers in a video who were doing what they were trained to do, I think people need to be more upset at the system that trained these soldiers. They are doing exactly what the Army wants them to do."

Part of the brainwashing in the Army which teaches the dehumanization of an occupied population are words sung in basic training as you run or march:

we went to the market where all the hadji shop,
pulled out our machetes and we began to chop,

we went to the playground where all the hadji play,
pulled out our machine guns and we began to spray,

we went to the mosque where all the hadji pray,
threw in a hand grenade, and blew them all away.

Now as Obama draws down what is being called the "rebranded occupation" to the 50,000-troop permanent American presence, bolstered by what Jeremy Scahill calls the "coming surge" in private security contractors, we have the power, the many who worked for him and had high hopes, to demand the country be given back fully to the Iraqis.  We might not like the geopolitical outcome (a Shiite government leaning towards Iran) but it will tell the world we have renounced Bush foreign policy and are ready to make amends.  Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) has called for prosecution of Bush administration officials for "conspiring to manipulate intelligence in order to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq."

IVAW alleges that Bush administration officials conspired to create the perception that Saddam Hussein presented an imminent threat to the United States in order to bypass an uncooperative U.N. Security Council and secure a congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq.  The growing body of evidence, including testimony from British officials in the ongoing Chilcot Inquiry, indicates that Bush officials could be charged with criminal offenses against the United States and violations of international law for making false claims to national self-defense.

Seumus Milne of the UK Guardian writes:

The horrific cost of the war to the Iraqi people...and the continuing fear and misery of daily life make a mockery of claims that the US surge of 2007 "worked" and that Iraq has come good after all.

It's not only the hundreds of thousands of dead and 4 million refugees. After seven years of US (and British) occupation, tens of thousands are still tortured and imprisoned without trial, health and education has dramatically deteriorated, the position of women has gone horrifically backwards, trade unions are effectively banned, Baghdad is divided by 1,500 checkpoints and blast walls, electricity supplies have all but broken down and people pay with their lives for speaking out.

Please sign the Open Letter to the Iraqi People, authored by former soldiers in Iraq, and work to demand from your congressman that this country be given back to its people. The letter reads in part:

"We did unto you what we would not want done to us. More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny...."

Do not hate the soldiers in this video.  Pity them.  We have all played a part in this.  Like the soldiers who have stepped forward to renounce their actions, we can still step forward too.  In The Kiterunner (recommended) the narrator is told in a mysterious message from his past, "There is a way to be good again."

FORWARD THIS TO YOUR CONGRESS MEMBERS

ROLLCALL OF JULY VOTE TO CONTINUE FUNDING FOR IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN OCCUPATIONS ("YEA" MEANS THEY VOTED FOR MORE WAR)

FREE PFC. BRADLEY MANNING

 


U.S. Soldiers Shooting Random Vehicles in Iraq

Once again, as many soldiers who have turned against the occupation have stated, these are not isolated nor even unexpected events.  This is the nature of a brutal military occupation in which the enemy is the entire populace and the goal is control of resources or to maintain geopolitical fragmentation of a state.  

Outspoken Iraq veteran Ethan McCord says of another incident caught on video, of an Apache helicopter attack in 2007 on a wounded man and those trying to help him, words that are applicable to the entire occupation (I refuse to call this a war.  A war has two sides with armies facing each other who have roughly the same firepower.  This is a slaughter.)

McCord says:

"Instead of people being upset at a few soldiers in a video who were doing what they were trained to do, I think people need to be more upset at the system that trained these soldiers. They are doing exactly what the Army wants them to do."

Part of the brainwashing in the Army which teaches the dehumanization of an occupied population are words sung in basic training as you run or march:

we went to the market where all the hadji shop,
pulled out our machetes and we began to chop,

we went to the playground where all the hadji play,
pulled out our machine guns and we began to spray,

we went to the mosque where all the hadji pray,
threw in a hand grenade, and blew them all away.

Now as Obama draws down what is being called the "rebranded occupation" to the 50,000-troop permanent American presence, bolstered by what Jeremy Scahill calls the "coming surge" in private security contractors, we have the power, the many who worked for him and had high hopes, to demand the country be given back fully to the Iraqis.  We might not like the geopolitical outcome (a Shiite government leaning towards Iran) but it will tell the world we have renounced Bush foreign policy and are ready to make amends.  Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) has called for prosecution of Bush administration officials for "conspiring to manipulate intelligence in order to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq."

IVAW alleges that Bush administration officials conspired to create the perception that Saddam Hussein presented an imminent threat to the United States in order to bypass an uncooperative U.N. Security Council and secure a congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq.  The growing body of evidence, including testimony from British officials in the ongoing Chilcot Inquiry, indicates that Bush officials could be charged with criminal offenses against the United States and violations of international law for making false claims to national self-defense.

Seumus Milne of the UK Guardian writes:

The horrific cost of the war to the Iraqi people...and the continuing fear and misery of daily life make a mockery of claims that the US surge of 2007 "worked" and that Iraq has come good after all.

It's not only the hundreds of thousands of dead and 4 million refugees. After seven years of US (and British) occupation, tens of thousands are still tortured and imprisoned without trial, health and education has dramatically deteriorated, the position of women has gone horrifically backwards, trade unions are effectively banned, Baghdad is divided by 1,500 checkpoints and blast walls, electricity supplies have all but broken down and people pay with their lives for speaking out.

Please sign the Open Letter to the Iraqi People, authored by former soldiers in Iraq, and work to demand from your congressman that this country be given back to its people. The letter reads in part:

"We did unto you what we would not want done to us. More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny...."

Do not hate the soldiers in this video.  Pity them.  We have all played a part in this.  Like the soldiers who have stepped forward to renounce their actions, we can still step forward too.  In The Kiterunner (recommended) the narrator is told in a mysterious message from his past, "There is a way to be good again."

FORWARD THIS TO YOUR CONGRESS MEMBERS

ROLLCALL OF JULY VOTE TO CONTINUE FUNDING FOR IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN OCCUPATIONS ("YEA" MEANS THEY VOTED FOR MORE WAR)

FREE PFC. BRADLEY MANNING

 


Wikileaks Soldier Who Found Rocket Launcher at Scene Says No Attack Was Imminent

The soldier in a now-famous Wikileaks video who found a rocket launcher at the scene of a controversial 2007 Apache helicopter attack, in Baghdad, said in a radio interview this week that he did not believe an ambush was imminent.   The video shows 12 men, including two Reuters newsmen, standing on a street corner before being fired upon with the Apache’s 30mm cannon, resulting in what appears to be an unprovoked massacre.  The video caused an international outcry after it was leaked  to the media by the government watchdog Wikileaks.  The presence of the rocket launcher was seized upon by defenders of the attack as proof that the attack was justified, and that this was evidence of an impending ambush.

The soldier, Ethan McCord, can be seen in the video as he runs with a wounded child in his arms to a Bradley armored vehicle, seeking to get the child to help.

"One thing I do need to make clear is that when I came onto the scene I did see an RPG and an AK-47, however, my experience in Iraq is when the locals see someone with a camera,  maybe a  photographer, someone with a news agency, is they always come out with their weapons, kind of like showing off...look what I have, make me famous, put me in the magazine type of thing...my personal belief is that I do not believe these guys had anything to do with the attacks we were facing earlier, from a few blocks away, these guys were walking around nonchalantly, they weren’t gathering in any kind of formation to do anything to us..."

McCord’s remarks solve the riddle in the minds of many as to why would-be attackers would be standing so casually out in the open and with so little concern for the small but visible pair of Apaches so dreaded by insurgents, and undermines the Pentagon's conclusion that it was justified.

At one point McCord criticized media war analysts, whom he called "these supposed war analysts [who] were going over this video , who knew nothing of what happened that day..."

In the wide-ranging interview with Cindy Sheehan on her weekly radio program Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox,  McCord also again attested to witnessing a high-level war crime, that of random execution of civilians in retaliation for an attack on U.S. forces, a crime which was successfully prosecuted after World War II.  McCord’s allegation was broadcast widely across the Internet two months after he first made it in an interview in April.

In that interview, McCord recounted that, in the middle of a particularly turbulent time when his battalion was being hit frequently by IEDs, his battalion commander issued an order which was to be a new "SOP" or Standard Operating Procedure.  McCord attests that the commander, a Lieutenant Colonel, gave the order to engage in "360 rotational fire" upon being hit by an IED.   McCord recalls the commander saying "If someone in your line gets hit with an IED, 360 rotational fire. You kill every motherfucker on the street."

Understanding this to mean civilians as well, including women and children, McCord has said previously that "many soldiers wouldn’t do that" and agreed among themselves that they would shoot into rooftops rather than kill civilians.   McCord goes on to say, however, that he witnessed the order being carried out many times, and civilians shot indiscriminately following an IED attack.  Two other soldiers in McCord’s unit have stepped forward since that interview to corroborate his claims.

McCord said in the April interview: "I’ve seen it many times, where people are just walking down the street and an IED goes off and the troops open fire and kill them."  

In 1944 German SS Obersturmbannführer Herbert Kappler ordered the execution of civilians in retaliation for a hidden bomb ambush of German soldiers.  Kappler rounded up prisoners of war and civilians in the ratio of ten executions for every German soldier killed in a March 1944 attack by Italian partisans.  Kappler stood trial for war crimes and was sentenced to life in prison. High level orders for the killing of civilians have also been documented as war crimes in the cases of Nanking 1937, Hankow 1938, and German Invasion of Poland 1939.

The Wikileaks video shows men with cameras being mistaken by the Apache helicopter crew for men with weapons, although a man at one point does appear to be carrying a rifle.  Rifles such as AK-47s are legal and common in Baghdad, and are frequently carried by private bodyguards for protection against bandits in the generally lawless climate of the city.
 
The American crew whose radio chatter is captured in the video has been heavily criticized for the casual and sometimes callous tone of its banter, in which crewmembers are heard making remarks such as "nice shootin’," "you talk, I’ll shoot," and at times laughing.  

Upon discovering that two children have been wounded in an attack on a van in which the alleged insurgents were attempting to evacuate a wounded man, a crewmember is heard to say  "That’s what they get for bringing kids into battle." The crewmembers and their ground controllers regularly use the word "engage" to mean "open fire."  Although the word "engage" means "to enter into contest or battle with,"  the alleged combatants possess no weapons remotely capable of harming the helicopters given the distance.  

McCord and his unit mate Josh Stieber have gained prominence as the authors of "Open Letter of Reconciliation and Responsibility to the Iraqi People,", a statement which is gathering co-signers of soldiers and non-soldiers alike at www.LetterToIraq.com A portion of the letter reads:

"We did unto you what we would not want done to us. More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny...."

In his discussions of civilian casualties and atrocities in the combat zone, McCord insists on placing the lion’s share of the blame on the systematic training implemented by the Army, which teaches soldiers to "dehumanize" the enemy, which easily extends to entire civilian populations.

McCord says:

"Instead of people being upset at a few soldiers in a video who were doing what they were trained to do, I think people need to be more upset at the system that trained these soldiers. They are doing exactly what the Army wants them to do."

McCord notes in the radio interview that in the Apache helicopter attack, upon hearing that children had been hit, a crew member first says "Oh damn," but quickly recovers bravado, as perhaps trained to do so, with the remark  "that’s what they get for bringing kids into battle."  McCord relates a cadence taught in basic training, a song soldiers sing to keep time as they run or march:

we went to the market where all the hadji shop,
pulled out our machetes and we began to chop,

we went to the playground where all the hadji play,
pulled out our machine guns and we began to spray,

we went to the mosque where all the hadji pray,
threw in a hand grenade, and blew them all away.

Although the focus of controversy over the Wikileaks video has been almost exclusively on the legality of the initial attack on the group of men, it is the second attack on three Good Samaritans who attempt to evacuate a wounded man which has been put forth by many experts as a clear war crime.

McCord said that although he relives his experiences in Iraq, as do many veterans, every day, part of his healing process has come from speaking out, and letting people know about the atrocities which take place in war so that people might "open their eyes."  McCord said the kinds of events depicted in the video happen "almost every day" and that the only thing unusual about the events in the video is that "America got to see what happened."

The Army has charged Private Bradley Manning with leaking the classified video to Wikileaks. Manning is now being held in the military prison at Quantico, VA, awaiting charges of leaking classified information. 

 

 

Secretary Gates Aims to Cut the Growth of Military Spending

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced on Monday deep cuts to the rate of growth of military spending as the nation enters a period of belt tightening. The cuts include closing a major military command, restricting the use of outside contractors and reducing the number of generals and admirals across the armed forces and are aimed at offsetting the growth of military spending.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Gates said he had ordered a 10 percent reduction in spending on contractors who provide support services to the military, including intelligence-related contracts, and placed a freeze on the number of workers in the office of the secretary of defense, other Pentagon supervisory agencies and the headquarters of the military’s combat commands.

Mr. Gates, who has been promising to cut the Pentagon’s day-to-day budget in order to meet the continuing costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the face of tight fiscal constraints and mounting domestic spending, placed a cap on the number of generals, admirals and senior civilian positions across the Pentagon and the military. He said the Defense Department should try to cut at least 50 general and admiral posts and 150 senior civilian positions over the next two years.

The most pronounced change, in terms of the number of jobs to be eliminated in one blow, was his plan to close the military’s Joint Forces Command, in Norfolk, Va.

The command includes about 2,800 military and civilian positions supported by 3,000 contractors at an annual cost of $240 million. Its responsibilities, which includes programs to force the armed services to work together on the battlefield, will be reassigned, mostly to the military’s Joint Staff.

While large headquarters have been combined and realigned over the years, Pentagon officials could not recall a time in recent history when a major command was shut down and vanished off the books.

Still the cuts outlined by Secretary Gates do not represent an actual decline in year-to-year total spending. The Pentagon’s budget will keep growing in the long run at 1 percent a year after inflation, plus the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which are not included.

Mr. Gates is calling for the Pentagon’s budget to keep growing in the long run at 1 percent a year after inflation, plus the costs of the war. It has averaged an inflation-adjusted growth rate of 7 percent a year over the last decade (nearly 12 percent a year without adjusting for inflation), including the costs of the wars. So far, Mr. Obama has asked Congress for an increase in total spending next year of 2.2 percent, to $708 billion — 6.1 percent higher than the peak under the Bush administration.

Mr. Gates is arguing that if the Pentagon budget is allowed to keep growing by 1 percent a year, he can find 2 percent or 3 percent in savings in the department’s bureaucracy to reinvest in the military — and that will be sufficient to meet national security needs. In one of the paradoxes of Washington budget battles, Mr. Gates, even as he tries to forestall deeper cuts, is trying to kill weapons programs he says the military does not need over the objections of members of Congress who want to protect jobs.

Over all, Mr. Gates has ordered the armed services and the Pentagon’s agencies to find $100 billion in spending cuts and efficiencies over the next five years: $7 billion for 2012, growing to $37 billion annually by 2016.

At the moment, the administration projects that the Pentagon’s base budget and the extra war spending will peak at $708 billion in the coming fiscal year, though analysts say it is likely that the Pentagon will then need at least $30 billion more in supplemental war financing.

Any takers on a bet that Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol will call these proposals irresponsible?

Just to throw a few hard numbers at you but US military spending now accounts for 4.7 percent of US GDP. During the Bush Administration, US military spending average 3.5 percent of GDP. Before the 9/11 attacks, US military spending was just 2.9 percent of GDP. Military spending last topped 4 percent of GDP in 1991 during the First Gulf War and in the closing hours of the Cold War.

The United States accounts for 47 percent of the world’s total military spending, however the United States share of the global GDP is about 21 percent. Still it is likely that conservative analysts from the Heritage Foundation will rant and rave about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid consuming 8.7 percent of GDP.

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