Archive for April, 2010

Leaked video shows soldiers killing civilians

Posted in Middle East, War and Peace with tags , on April 6, 2010 by Black Pumpkin

WikiLeaks has just published a classified military video of soldiers killing unarmed civilians in Iraq.  Twelve civilians, including at least one Reuters journalist, were killed, and several more people were injured including two children.  The attack took place in July of 2007.

Here is how Democracy Now! covered the story.  And compare that to how Talk of the Nation on NPR covered the story.  Democracy Now! played clips of the video while talking to Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks and Glenn Greenwald, the wonderful blogger and former constitutional lawyer, while Talk of the Nation played parts of the video while talking to David Finkel who wrote a book called The Good Soldiers.  Finkel is really just an apologist for the military.  He argues that soldiers thought that some of the people they were firing at had weapons.  Also, he says that the soldiers in that particular area of Iraq (eastern Baghdad) had been taking a lot of fire around the time of the video and it was a bad time for the soldiers involved.

It seems very clear from the video that the individuals on the ground were not armed, and even if they were, they were not engaging with anyone.  No one was firing any weapons at anyone else.  No one was trying to shoot the helicopter that kept flying in circles around the individuals.  I really don’t understand how the soldiers could think that these were legitimate targets.

Another thing that is hard to understand is the indifference of the soldiers when they are “engaging” the people on the ground.  They seem all too happy to kill people.  They request permission to shoot, and then get irritated when it doesn’t come fast enough.  They joke about running someone over.  And then blame the people who have been shot and killed for bringing their children. It is simply amazing to me how callous these guys can be.

Everything about this is just tragic.

Of course, some will ask, could this tragedy have been avoided?

The answer is an unequivocal yes.  Yes, this tragedy could have been avoided.  If we weren’t there, then we wouldn’t be killing civilians.  It’s as simple as that.

When the US government sent its armed forces into Iraq under what we all know now was false pretenses, we decided that things like this were going to happen.  The US says that they try to avoid killing civilians, and even if we take them at their word, there are still tens or even hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis that would say that it doesn’t matter what one intends.  Dead is still dead.

And it is very hard to take them at their word when we can clearly see in the video what is going on (no one is shooting or doing anything that could be construed as menacing) and the military says (after their investigation) that the soldiers were engaging with the enemy.  And one commander says that he doesn’t know how the children got hurt.  Well, it is clear that the soldiers didn’t care if they hit the children or not.  They even seemed to be joking about it.  I certainly hope that this is not indicative of most soldiers, but I think that when we train people to kill, we are all worse off for it.

And the only way that a tragedy like this will be avoided in the future is by getting all of our troops out of Iraq now.

If we hadn’t attacked Iraq, we wouldn’t have to worry about killing civilians, and if we hadn’t occupied the country we wouldn’t have to keep worrying about this sad state of affairs.

On Democracy Now! Amy Goodman made this statement when transitioning from one story to the next, “we now move from a story of the US killing civilians in Iraq to a story of the US killing civilians in Afghanistan.”  This is not a story that we will hear everyday, but it could be.  Civilians are dying every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The only reason we are hearing about this particular incident is because we have (leaked) video footage of it.  The military tried to keep this under wraps, even after they had done an “investigation” and concluded that everyone involved did what they were supposed to do.  The military did the shooting, and others did the dying… everyone did just what they were supposed to do.

These are war crimes.  And they are happening every day.  Until all of our troops are out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we will continue to have incidents like this, whether we hear about them or not is another story.

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Education by Pfizer

Posted in Domestic, WTF? with tags , , on April 1, 2010 by Black Pumpkin

Pfizer admitted that it paid 4500 doctors $35 million to help promote its products.  They are simply trying to “educate” the doctors to better help their patients.  Yes, of course, Pfizer is simply thinking about the patients.  This is certainly not about their bottom line.  Right!

I think it’s a simple conflict of interest and it should be illegal.  But the new health care bill “will require drug companies to publicise how much they pay doctors for consulting and speaking arrangements, as well as meals and other perks.”  That’s a step in the right direction but look how well disclosure has worked for our political system.  We know who is paying our representatives, but to say that it has no effect on them is laughably disingenuous or naive.

As long as we know who is bribing whom then all is well.  What a great system!

Offshore drilling is just the beginning

Posted in Domestic, Environment with tags , , on April 1, 2010 by Black Pumpkin

So Obama wants to expand the offshore drilling of oil and natural gas.  Apparently the West Coast is immune for now.  Well, I am glad for that because I live in California, but I wouldn’t be too happy if I lived in Virginia or Florida.  Of course, none of us should be really happy about this.  But we shouldn’t be surprised.

White House spokesman Bill Burton said, “None of this should have been a surprise to anybody.”

No, I don’t think anyone would really call Obama an environmentalist.  We have heard very little about any environmental issues since the campaign simply because the focus has been on the economy and health care.  But whenever he did talk about the environment or energy, it was always in “pragmatic” terms.  Obama has always included offshore drilling and nuclear in his plans for a “comprehensive” energy plan.  So if you are surprised that the candidate for change is trying to expand offshore drilling, then you simply haven’t been paying attention.

In addition, there is talk (denied by the White House) that this is a move that is meant to try to win over the Republicans.  The idea being that Obama is trying to show that he is going to give a little to them and they will help him pass the climate change bill.  Really?  I doubt it.  I don’t think the Republicans care how much he gives them, they are not going to help pass any kind of climate change legislation.  Some of them still deny that it even exists, why would they want to pass a bill that helps a problem they don’t even think is a problem.  And of course, it would be something Obama and the rest of the Democrats want, so again that is not something that the Republicans want anything to do with.  Just look at health care and how helpful they were there.  They tried every trick in the book to stop that from getting passed. They are not in power so they are the Party of No.  Plain and simple.  The Democrats want to do something, anything, and the Republicans want to stop it at all costs.

I honestly think that Obama and the Democrats should just try to ram as much as they can through before they lose a bunch of seats in the upcoming election because the Republicans are just going to try to stop everything that the Democrats try to do anyway.  And if they want to filibuster, make them actually filibuster instead of just threatening to do it.  But of course, this is not going to happen.  The Democrats will hem and haw about what they can and can’t do.  And they will call for bipartisanship and they will try to make compromises with the Republicans.  And any bill on any issue, whether it is climate change or financial regulation or anything else, will be watered down and the Republicans will still vote against it.  It is so irritating to see this process play out over and over again.  But that’s what we get for thinking that the Democrats are on our side.  They are not even on their own side.

Most of the Democrats are just like the Republicans, not because they are conservative or even moderate but because they know where the money comes from.  They are beholden to the paymasters.  They don’t even have positions of their own, they just take the lead of those that keep them in office.  And of course, regardless of what the rhetoric is, this is the real reason why the legislation gets watered down, no matter what the issue is.

Again, just look at health care.  The rhetoric is that they want to make sure that everyone has insurance.  That and bipartisanship.  But the bill is really a giveaway to the health care industry.  And is there a public option that would provide any kind of cost control in the form of competition?  Of course not.  The Republicans wouldn’t have it and the health care industry certainly wouldn’t stand for that.  And so it goes.

So regardless of what the rhetoric will be around the climate change legislation, you can be rest assured that the oil and gas industries will get plenty when all is said and done.  Offshore drilling is just the beginning.