Archive for Iraq

Cautiously Optimistic

Posted in Middle East with tags , , on September 21, 2013 by Black Pumpkin

I will admit I am a pretty pessimistic guy.  In fact, I am often so pessimistic that when I have those rare optimistic moments, they are immediately followed by skepticism.  And that’s where I find myself now.  I am watching the developments in Syria and it seems like progress is being made.  There are hopeful signs and it seems like real change is possible.  Of course, with situations like this, things could take a turn for the worse at any moment.  So all of my optimism is very cautious.

And the same could be said about Iran today.  It seems like Iran is ready to negotiate with the US about its nuclear program.  In fact, there are a number of reasons to be hopeful about this.  According to Foreign Policy, about 20 reasons, with one important caveat.  And so again, I find myself thinking that this looks really good, not only for Iran and the US, but for the world.

I am certainly not holding my breath and thinking that everything will turn out rosy and smelling fresh, but I think sometimes, some optimism is warranted.  And, for now, I have cautious optimism about Syria and Iran.

Unfortunately, I am not at all optimistic about Iraq.  They are pretty fucked.

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OK, so there’s that…

Posted in Middle East, War and Peace, WTF? with tags , , , , on September 7, 2013 by Black Pumpkin

I can’t remember the first time I heard that we (the US government) knew about Iraq’s use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War that last from 1980-88.  But Foreign Policy has the CIA documents.  So I guess there is no question that this is true.  Which leads me to a somewhat obvious conclusion in another area of the Middle East.

We cannot go after Assad and his use of chemical weapons if we are going to blatantly disregard its use by other countries.  Believe it or not, we supported Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War and so we just ignored his use of chemical weapons.  Which makes the invasion of Iraq in 2003 all the more hypocritical.  We really shouldn’t go down that road again.

Assad must be held to account for not only the civil war that he felt was necessary but his use of chemical weapons.  But it shouldn’t be the US that holds him to account for it.  He needs to be brought before the International Criminal Court or something similar.  I certainly don’t think that he should be allowed to get away with what he has done.  But, at the same time, the US is really in no position to punish him.

We really need to show some kind of consistency before we have any room to tell others what they can and cannot do.  The hypocrisy of the US government is really astounding.

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.

The “Other”

Posted in Human Rights Abuses, Middle East, War and Peace with tags , , on September 6, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

It is a tragic story.

A group of US soldiers gang-raped a 14-year-old girl and then killed her and her family.  Thankfully, those that committed the crimes have been sentenced to life in prison.  But is this something that should really surprise us?

We take young men and turn them into killers.  They need to be desensitized to the violence that they perpetrate.  If they can’t pull the trigger without a second thought then they will probably lose their lives and possible cost others their lives too.

The best way to ensure that these soldiers will do what they need to is to ensure that they do not think of those they are fighting as human beings.  They are the enemy, plain and simple.  I’m sure that some (perhaps most) think and talk about them in extremely derogatory terms.  When one doesn’t think of the “other” as equal is becomes easy to injure and kill it.

This is a case that the world found out about.  How many others cases are there that we know nothing about?

Morning in the Sunni Triangle

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on July 20, 2009 by Mort the Sport

The sun rose over Ramadi: a pink eye,

an industrial fire. Just off the highway

to Baghdad, we waited behind a hatchback

for my Chechen friend. My contact,

an Iraqi, helped me pack the car

with all the necessary items, but nothing

behind the seat caught my eye; my friend,

nowhere in sight. The man stiffly

mused over a piece of paper, a checklist,

making sure I had everything I needed

and that I was, in fact, following Iraqi law.

The car, a beat-up old ‘70s-era compact,

was a dingy white, the color of all foreign cars

that one sees in old spy movies. He kept

eyeing the piece of paper to make sure

I would be okay. He had, I felt, nothing

but my best interest in mind. Before we

were about to leave, my friend appeared,

darker and shorter than I had remembered.

We exchanged jovial pleasantries;

we laughed nervously, kicked at the sand.

Before we left, my Iraqi host wanted to make

sure I had a gun. He said I not only needed protection

but also that it was the law. According to Iraqi law,

one had to have a gun to travel. He threw

a clear plastic bag at me, which I caught.

In it, I found a toy gun. I couldn’t even

get my finger in between the trigger

and the trigger guard. The Iraqi

assured me that I would need nothing

else besides the gun to travel.

Fighting for Freedom?

Posted in War and Peace with tags , , on July 13, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

This is something that I probably shouldn’t even write about.  I have never been in any kind of war or combat situation.  I haven’t even been in the military.  So I suppose you can criticize me for that, but be that as it may, I felt the need to say something.

I got an email from someone at work.  He knows how I feel about politics and the war(s), and I think he likes to send me stuff like this just to irritate me.  Here is most of what it said:

We all came together,
Both young and old
To fight for our freedom,
To stand and be bold.

In the midst of all evil,
We stand our ground,
And we protect our country
From all terror around.

Peace and not war,
Is what some people say.
But I’ll give my life,
So you can live the American way.

I give you the right
To talk of your peace.
To stand in your groups,
and protest in our streets.

But still I fight on,
I don’t fuss, I don’t whine.
I’m just one of the people
Who is doing your time.

I’m harder than nails,
Stronger than any machine.
I’m the immortal soldier,
I’m a U.S. MARINE!

So stand in my shoes,
And leave from your home.
Fight for the people who hate you,
With the protests they’ve shown.

Fight for the stranger,
Fight for the young.
So they all may have,
The greatest freedom you’ve won.

Fight for the sick,
Fight for the poor
Fight for the cripple,
Who lives next door.

But when your time comes,
Do what I’ve done.
For if you stand up for freedom,
You’ll stand when the fight’s done.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad that there are people who are willing to put their lives on the line for something they believe in.  I would hope if the cause were right and just, I would do the same.  And that is exactly the problem.  The cause is almost never right and just.  We like to delude ourselves into thinking that when we go to war it is always a good reason.  We are fighting for freedom.  We have to fight to defend our way of lives.  And on and on.  But is that what we are really fighting for?

We’re fighting for freedom because we’re fighting the terrorists.  But if we are making more terrorists than we kill, are we really doing anything to help ourselves?  And when we go into a country under false pretenses (anyone remember weapons of mass destruction?) are we still fighting for freedom?

We certainly have a right to defend ourselves if we are attacked.  But what did Iraq do to us?  Hell, what did Afghanistan do to us?  And we could ask this about dozens of other countries.  We have sent forces into a lot more countries than just Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  We have been all over the world fighting for freedom.

Just since WWII, we have been in:

China: 1945-1960s

Italy: 1947-1948

Greece: 1947-1950s

The Philippines: 1940s-1950s

Korea: 1945-1953

Albania: 1949-1953

Eastern Europe: 1948-1956

Germany: 1950s

Iran: 1953

And on and on and on…

For a truly amazing wake up call read William Blum’s Killing Hope.  That’s where this list comes from and he continues into the mid 1990s.  So to say that we only fight for freedom is simply naive.  Or maybe we should ask: who’s freedom are we fighting for?

When America decides that it doesn’t need to overthrow every “dictator” and decide who should be in power all over the world, we will be a much safer country.  And we won’t have to worry so much about fighting for freedom.  It will come naturally.

Iraq Withdrawal

Posted in Middle East with tags , , on July 1, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

So US forces have pulled out of Iraq.  Wait, that’s not right.  They just pulled out of the cities.  So they are still in the country and now are just a little further away but they are still there.  About 131,000 of them are still there.  Is it just me or is that 131,000 too many?

Don’t get wrong, I’m glad that the US is pulling back.  I understand that this is one step on the road to eventual complete withdrawal.  But it is moving very, very slowly.  I just wish we could move this process along a bit faster because we should not be there.  Period.

I know the arguments are that there is violence that is being caused by terrorists, and we need to stop the violence.  But the violence will be there whether we are there or not.  And it could be argued that some of the violence is a result of us being there in the first place. 

Of course, we shouldn’t just abandon Iraq and not look back.  We need to help the government get on its feet.  We need to do more to build the civilian infrastructure.  But that should be done by the Iraqis.  There are plenty of Iraqis that are unemployed that would be glad to build hospitals or schools.  And if Iraq can get back on stable footing then they will have a much better chance of taking care of the terrorists.  And it will not be militarily.  The military should play a role, but education should play a much bigger role.

Iraq needs a lot of help, but keeping our forces there is not the help they need.