Saturday, April 28, 2007

Hugh Thompson And My Lai:

“He Broke Ranks; He Did the Right Thing”

January 12, 2006 By CLANCY SIGAL, Counterpunch

There is an Ugly American, a Quiet American and then there’s Hugh Thompson, the Army helicopter pilot who, with his two younger crew mates, was on a mission to draw enemy fire over the Vietnamese village of My Lai in March, 1968.

Hovering over a paddy field, they watched a platoon of American soldiers led by Lt. William Calley, deliberately shoot unarmed Vietnamese civilians, mainly women and children, cowering in muddy ditches. Thompson landed his craft and appealed to the soldiers, and to Calley, to stop the killings. Calley told Thompson to mind his own business.

Thompson took off but then one of his crew shouted that the shooting had begun again. According to his later testimony, Thompson was uncertain what to do. Americans murdering innocent bystanders was hard for him to process.

But when he saw Vietnamese survivors chased by soldiers, he landed his chopper between the villagers and troopers, and ordered his crew to fire at any American soldiers shooting at civilians. Then he got on the radio and begged U.S. gunships above him to rescue those villagers he could not cram into his own craft.

On returning to base, Thompson, almost incoherent with rage, immediately reported the massacre to superiors, who did nothing, until months later when the My Lai story leaked to the public. The eyewitness testimony of Thompson and his surviving crew member helped convict Calley at a court-martial.

But when he returned to his Stateside home in Stone Mountain, Georgia, Thompson received death threats and insults, while Calley was pardoned by President Nixon. Indeed, for a time, Thompson himself feared court-martial.

Reluctantly, the massacre was investigated by then-major Colin Powell, of the Americal Division, who reported relations between U.S. soldiers and Vietnamese civilians as “excellent”; Powell’s whitewash was the foundation of his meteoric rise through the ranks.

Hugh Thompson died last week, age sixty two. Thirty years after My Lai, he, and his gunner Lawrence Colburn, had received the Soldiers Medal, as did the third crew member, Glenn Andreotta, who was killed in combat.

“Don’t do the right thing looking for a reward, because it might not come,” Thompson wryly observed at the ceremony.

Something stuck in my head when I learned of Thompson’s death. ”There was no thinking about it,” he said before his death. ”There was something that had to be done, and it had to be done fast.”

Words similar to these are often used by combat heroes to describe incredible feats of courage under fire. With one possible difference. According to the record, Thompson did have time to think about it as he took off from My Lai, hovered and tried to wrap his mind around the horror below. Then he made a conscious decision to save lives. Some of the Vietnamese he rescued, children then, are alive today.

Ex-chief warrant officer Thompson is a member of a small, elite corps of Americans who have broken ranks and refused to run with the herd.

They include Army specialist Joseph Darby, of the 372d Military Police Company, who reported on his fellow soldiers who were torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. His family has received threats to their personal safety in their Maryland hometown.

And Captain Ian Fishback, the 82d Airborne West Pointer, who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tried vainly for seventeen months to persuade superiors that detainee torture was a systematic, and not a ‘few bad apples’, problem inside the U.S. military. In frustration, he wrote to Senator McCain, which led directly to McCain’s anti-torture amendment. I wouldn’t want to bet on the longevity of Captain Fishback’s military career.

Thompson’s death also reminded me of Captain Lawrence Rockwood, of the 10th Mountain Division. Ten years ago, Rockwood was deployed to Haiti where, against orders, he personally investigated detainee abuse at the National Penitentiary in the heart of Port au Prince.

He was court-martialed for criticizing the U.S. military’s refusal to intervene, and kicked out of the Army. While still on duty, he kept a photograph on his desk of a man he greatly admired. It was of Captain Hugh Thompson.

Some of my friends get so angry at the Bush White House, and so despairing, that they slip into a mindset where Americans, the great ‘Them’ out there, are lumped into a solid bloc of malign ignoramuses.

They forget that this country is also made up of people like Hugh Thompson, Joe Darby, Ian Fishback and Lawrence Rockwood, outside and inside the military.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Paul Krugman | A Hostage Situation

Paul Krugman | A Hostage Situation

The New York Times

Monday 23 April 2007

There are two ways to describe the confrontation between Congress and the Bush administration over funding for the Iraq surge. You can pretend that it's a normal political dispute. Or you can see it for what it really is: a hostage situation, in which a beleaguered President Bush, barricaded in the White House, is threatening dire consequences for innocent bystanders - the troops - if his demands aren't met.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Depleted Uranium: Poisoning Our Planet

Depleted Uranium: Poisoning Our Planet:

See the video from Daytona on DU radiation effects showing up in US soldiers from Gulf wars 1 &2.

"Health and environmental effects of depleted uranium are at the heart of scientific studies, a lawsuit in the New York courts and legislative bills in more than a dozen states (although not in Florida)."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Crooks and Liars » Experts: Draft May Be Necessary

Crooks and Liars » Experts: Draft May Be Necessary:

"This shouldn't be surprising to anyone who has paid attention to recruitment levels over the last few years, but given the military's reticence over publicly admitting anything that might be perceived as detrimental to the military, I find this remarkable."

From the Mairne Corp Times:
"Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, an international relations professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., described what he sees as the "disastrous state" of ground forces, a broken commitment to troops because of broken equipment, missed training and his sense that the 95,000 increase in Army and Marine Corps personnel planned over the next five years isn't fast enough to provide relief.

The 95,000 - 65,000 soldiers and 30,000 Marines by 2012 - are not enough, he said, because of the extraordinary means used to field forces. This includes having 20,000 Navy and Air Force personnel assigned to traditionally ground-force missions such as convoy duties and guarding detainees, using stop-loss to prevent people from leaving the military when their obligation has ended, recalling people from the Individual Ready Reserve - who "in many cases" did not even have a relevant military skill, McCaffrey said - and relying on contractors and civilians to replace military personnel, both in combat theaters and even for stateside assignments such as being instructors for military training.

"For the first time since Vietnam, we are caught with no strategic reserve. We simply do not have a strategic fallback position for the crisis that will come inevitably," McCaffrey warned.

McCaffrey, like Korb, worries about the quality of recruits.

"Ten percent of Army recruits are of low caliber and do not belong in uniform," he said, noting that the number of moral waivers has increased, the percentage of high school graduates has dropped, and the average age of first-time enlistees is rising.

Because of concerns about who is being recruited and even who is being retained, Andrew Krepinevich of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said he is not even certain it is wise to make the planned 95,000 increase.

"There are very likely clear limits on the size of an all-volunteer ground force the Army and Marine Corps can achieve without dramatically increasing the pay and bonuses of soldiers and Marines," Krepinevich said. The average cost of supporting a soldier has more than doubled over the last five years, he said, in part because of big bonus increases, but "there are worrisome indicators that the quality of the force has declined, perhaps significantly."

Like Korb, Krepinevich mentioned a military draft as a possibility. Another suggestion from Krepinevich was to "welcome" foreigners to serve in the U.S. military in exchange for citizenship.

Korb had two suggestions beyond the draft, both controversial. One would be to drop the military's prohibition on openly homosexual people serving in the military.

"Over the past 10 years, more than 10,000 personnel have been discharged as a result of this policy, including 800 with skills deemed mission critical, such as pilots, combat engineers and linguists," he said."

The Vast Power of the Saudi Lobby - - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

The Vast Power of the Saudi Lobby - - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

A rare look at another issue our media never talks about.

"Before he died in the World Trade Center on 9/11, the former FBI counterterrorism chief John O’Neill complained to French investigator Jean-Charles Brisard that Saudi pressure on the State Department had prevented him from fully investigating possible al-Qaida involvement in the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen, and of the destroyer Cole in 2000. As with Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf, there’s always talk of the Saudis playing a double game with al-Qaida — publicly denouncing it and privately paying it off — but you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to understand that the Saudis don’t have America’s best interests at heart."

"Now, according to Seymour Hersh, Bandar has virtually joined the Bush administration as a shadow cabinet member. Hersh’s New Yorker article last month described “the redirection” of U.S. foreign policy against Iran and Arab Shi’ite terrorists in collaboration with such Sunni-dominated countries as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt (this in spite of the fact that Sunni rebels, funded in part by Saudi “private citizens,” have killed the bulk of American solidiers who have died in Iraq)."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Informed Comment

Informed Comment:
"Dick Cheney and the Two 21st Centuries;
On Nukes, Vice President Confuses Television with Reality"

This kind of sounds like the argument I had with the Centcom type on the peace train home from DC. He seemed to think that nothing oculd be done about the technological mistakes in Iraq like the armoured humvee and couldn't understand anything I said about how the technology was useless if you were ignorant of the culture and politics involved.

"Cheney has been watching the television show "24" too much, and says he is worried about terrorists getting a nuke. That prospect is actually very, very remote. Cheney worries about high tech terrorism because he does not understand low key social mobilization. He is worried about the wrong thing. Slum kids with RPG-29s and GPS systems are the real threat to his plans.

There are two 21st centuries, that of the Osprey on which Cheney is depending, and that of the national liberation movements. There is the 21st century of the aircraft carrier and that of the suicide bomber. There is the 21st century of the Tomahawk missile and that of the religiously inspired crowd, hundreds of thousands strong, who demonstrated at Najaf last Monday (about which everyone has already, unwisely, forgotten).

It is precisely because it is the 21st century that the US is unlikely to be able to stay in Iraq in the way Cheney imagines.

When Cheney and his pals came back into office in 2001 after Clinton defeated them in 1992, the terrorism czar Richard Clarke was amazed at how hung up they still were on Iraq and threats posed by lumbering rogue states. They had not seen the rise of al-Qaeda and discounted asymmetrical struggles. Clarke said that it was as though they had been frozen in amber since 1992.

But since Cheney & Co. don't even so much as seem to know about how Nehru, Gandhi and Jinnah kicked Britain out of India, it would be more accurate to say that they have been frozen in amber since 1945. They haven't understood the social history of decolonization."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Raed in the Middle

Raed in the Middle:
An Iraqi's response to John McCain's shopping spree in Bagdhad:

"I don't think many Iraqis can afford to hire some hundreds of bodyguards and a few helicopters to protect them while they are shopping. Do you realize how would it be for a regular Iraqi to go shopping without the US army's protection, do you realize how your shopping spree would have looked like if you went to a real market with cars driving around?

How does it feel when you can't stop lying? Don't you think that a better way to support the US, the President, the Republicans, or even yourself is to tell the truth and end illegal interventions in other countries?

Did you check the number of Iraqis who have died last month? It's more than 2000, which is 15 percent higher than the month before. Does this look like an improvement to you?

Did you check the number of Americans killed in Iraq last month? It's more than 80, an increase over the previous month. Do you know that the US casualties in the first three months of 2007 are 65% higher than the US casualties in the first three months of 2006? Does this look like an improvement to you?"

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Civilian deaths down in Baghdad, up elsewhere

Civilian deaths down in Baghdad, up elsewhere:

"Iraqi civilian deaths have fallen in Baghdad in the two months since the Feb. 14 start of the U.S.-led offensive, an Associated Press tally has found.

Outside the capital, however, civilian deaths are up as Sunni and Shiite extremists shift their operations to avoid the crackdown.

And the sweeps have taken a heavy toll on U.S. forces: Deaths among American troops climbed 21 percent in Baghdad over the previous two months.

Figures compiled by the AP from Iraqi police reports show that 1,586 civilians were killed in Baghdad between the start of the offensive and Thursday.

That represents a sharp drop from the 2,871 civilians who died violently in the capital during the two months that preceded the security crackdown. Outside the capital, 1,504 civilians were killed"

This article also reports without question and without naming its sources that "US says Iran is aiding both sides in the conflict". Juan Cole, an expert on the Middle East, has stated often that the gulf between Iran and the Sunni resistance who kill 90% of US troops would not allow that kind on aid. Insult to Injury Insult to Injury:

"Fred Ball's story is just one of a shocking number of cases where the U.S. military appears to have dispensed low disability ratings to wounded service members with serious injuries and thus avoided paying them full military disabled retirement benefits. While most recent attention has been paid to substandard condition"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How to Get Out of Iraq

How to Get Out of Iraq

Juan Cole's formula includes a phased withdrawal designed to force the shia and Kurds to compromise with the Sunni resistance when American repression no longer protects their "Allies".

But what about all that oil?

Here is a partial answer:
Let me second Juan Cole's central point, which I would reword as follows: instead of the surge vs. unilateral withdrawal debate there needs to be a search for a rational, negotiated or multilaterally monitored disengagement of US troops. I realize it's a tall order -- but not necessarily more daunting than a military solution.

To think about this we need to stop envisioning battlefield scenarios and start imagining ceasefire scenarios, or violence-reduction strategies. And we need to stop acting as if the future of Iraq were an either-or decision to be made in Washington between Democrats and Republicans. It's going to involve Iran, especially, and Syria, and Saudi Arabia, as well as Turkey, Jordan, Kuwait, and other countries in the region, and it's likely to be connected to the larger Arab-Israeli conundrum. A plan for peace in Iraq could really use the the active collaboration of Europe, Russia, and China, too.

I wonder whether Pelosi's visit to Damascus, along with however those British detainees were released, indicates an attenuation of the "Syria-is-naughty, Iran-is-naughty, so we are not speaking to them" line. I am not sure of this, since by many accounts the Speaker went bearing a message from Israel, and not from Washington. But perhaps she brought something home.

There are a vast array of alternatives between pacification by force and a unilateral pull-out (Gaza, anyone?) Let's try to think of some.

Remember cease-fires, before they were vilified this summer by Rice and Bolton? Is there no one in the world with the moral authority to at least call for all sides to halt the bloodshed, if only for a day? The civil wars in Algeria, Sierra Leone, and Lebanon didn't only wear themselves out, there were talks leading to negotiations that eventually, if imperfectly, led to a laying down of arms of principle factions. Can anyone imagine scenarios for violence abatement? If a reduction in the American use of force can only make matters worse, as the consensus seems to hold, then are there visions for how, possibly, some other kind of policing or peace-making or financial incentives (or poetry readings?) might mitigate those outcomes?

This discussion also raised anew the question of what we are doing in Iraq, now. Are we there to protect the Kurds? To prevent full-scale ethnic cleansing? Or to preserve the al-Maliki government (which, tautologically, asks us to remain there for that purpose)? or to secure an American strategic presence? or to get a the oil legislation passed?

If we can specify specific goals, then policy debates can be reformulated: what would it take to protect the Kurds, from Turkey or from Iraqi elements? Would the current Iraqi government really survive an American departure? What would it take to secure an indefinate SoFA, if that is our minimal national interest, that would maintain bases but get troops out of the cities? What incentives might Iran be offered to support Shia peacemakers?

Sheila Carapico
University of Richmond

Sunday, April 8, 2007



Don't relax on Iran folks. Read it and weep!

The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran.

Except, you know, not.

Bleichwehl said troops, facing scattered resistance, discovered a factory that produced "explosively formed penetrators" (EFPs), a particularly deadly type of explosive that can destroy a main battle tank and several weapons caches. (In Iraq!)

Burrrp burrp! Does not compute! Does not compute! Washington Post version of the story, as captured by Google News "1 hour ago."

That paragraph is now missing from that WaPo version of the story. But you do have this:

The U.S. military said two U.S. soldiers died in separate roadside bombings in the east and west of Baghdad on Friday.

One of the bombs was an explosively formed projectile, a particularly deadly type of device which Washington accuses Iran of supplying Iraqi militants.
So someone is back to manufacturing intelligence and the wapo is back on its US gov stenography job.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Trouble at the Pottery Barn - by Jay Barr

Trouble at the Pottery Barn - by Jay Barr

While we are on talking points here is a good answer to another common RW talking point!

"You Break It = You Bought It
Colin Powell is said to have famously introduced this fatally flawed analogy. This, along with a couple other accomplishments, appears to be one of the few contributions of his service to his country. There is one key mistake Powell makes when asserting this "Pottery Barn Rule": Iraq, unlike a dinnerware set at the Pottery Barn, was not for sale. While there are notable exceptions, the majority of the Iraqi people are not offering their homeland (and oil) up for grabs despite the actions of their so-called representatives. Besides, if Iraq was broken, it was by the British, and any attempt to rectify that situation was dealt with." Terror From the Right Terror From the Right:
Apparently "fighting them over there" is not all we have been doing:

"In the 10 years since the April 19, 1995, bombing in Oklahoma City, in fact, the radical right has produced some 60 terrorist plots. These have included plans to bomb or burn government buildings, banks, refineries, utilities, clinics, synagogues, mosques, memorials and bridges; to assassinate police officers, judges, politicians, civil rights figures and others; to rob banks, armored cars and other criminals; and to amass illegal machine guns, missiles, explosives, and biological and chemical weapons. What follows is a list of key right-wing plots of the last 10 years."

Here is one example:
"Oct. 10, 2003
Police arrest Norman Somerville after finding a huge weapons cache on his property in northern Michigan that includes six machine guns, a powerful anti-aircraft gun, thousands of rounds of ammunition, hundreds of pounds of gunpowder, and an underground bunker. They also find two vehicles Somerville calls his "war wagons," and on which prosecutors later say he planned to mount machine guns as part of a plan to stage an auto accident and then massacre arriving police. Officials describe Somerville as an antigovernment extremist enraged over the death of Scott Woodring, a Michigan Militia member killed by police a week after Woodring shot and killed a state trooper during a standoff. Somerville eventually pleads guilty to weapons charges and is sentenced to six years in prison."

Friday, April 6, 2007

TomDispatch - Tomgram: Noam Chomsky on "the Iran Effect"

TomDispatch - Tomgram: Noam Chomsky on "the Iran Effect":

The Iran Effect"

The results of an attack on Iran could be horrendous. After all, according to a recent study of "the Iraq effect" by terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, using government and Rand Corporation data, the Iraq invasion has already led to a seven-fold increase in terror. The "Iran effect" would probably be far more severe and long-lasting. British military historian Corelli Barnett speaks for many when he warns that "an attack on Iran would effectively launch World War III."

"The debate over Iranian interference in Iraq proceeds without ridicule on the assumption that the United States owns the world."

"It is, however, useful to ask how we would act if Iran had invaded and occupied Canada and Mexico and was arresting U.S. government representatives there on the grounds that they were resisting the Iranian occupation (called 'liberation,' of course). Imagine as well that Iran was deploying massive naval forces in the Caribbean and issuing credible threats to launch a wave of attacks against a vast range of sites -- nuclear and otherwise -- in the United States, if the U.S. government did not immediately terminate all its nuclear energy programs (and, naturally, dismantle all its nuclear weapons). Suppose that all of this happened after Iran had overthrown the government of the U.S. and installed a vicious tyrant (as the US did to Iran in 1953), then later supported a Russian invasion of the U.S. that killed millions of people (just as the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran in 1980, killing hundreds of thousands of Iranians, a figure comparable to millions of Americans). Would we watch quietly?"

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News - Iran takes the wind out of US sails

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News - Iran takes the wind out of US sails:

"WASHINGTON - If the administration of US President George W Bush is paying attention, the drama over the 15 British sailors and marines, whose release by Iran after 12 days of detention was announced in Tehran on Wednesday, was designed to convey two key messages, according to experts in Washington.

First, the initial capture of the Britons by Revolutionary Guards near the entry to the disputed Shatt-al-Arab waterway was meant to demonstrate that, despite its conventional military weakness and diplomatic isolation, Iran retains the ability to strike at Western interests when it feels sufficiently provoked.

Second, when Western powers engage Iran with respect and as an equal, they are more likely to get what they want than when they take a confrontational path designed to bully or humiliate the regime."

Yea, Its called diplomacy!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

‘US Ready to Strike Iran on Good Friday’ - - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

‘US Ready to Strike Iran on Good Friday’ - - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community: "The United States will be ready to launch a missile attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities as soon as early this month, perhaps “from 4 a.m. until 4 p.m. on April 6,” according to reports in the Russian media on Saturday. According to Russian intelligence sources, the reports said, the US has devised a plan to attack several targets in Iran, and an assault could be carried out by launching missiles from fighter jets and warships stationed in the Persian Gulf.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted a security official as saying, “Russian intelligence has information that the US Armed Forces stationed in the Persian Gulf have nearly completed preparations for a missile strike against Iranian territory.”

The Russian Defense Ministry rejected the claims of an imminent attack as “myths.” There was no immediate response from Washington."

Former Intel Officers | Brinkmanship Unwise in Uncharted Waters

Former Intel Officers | Brinkmanship Unwise in Uncharted Waters:

"Writing in his widely read blog (, Murray points to a 'colossal problem' with respect to the map the British government has used to show coordinates of the incident and the Iran/Iraq maritime border - the story uncritically accepted by stenographers of the mainstream press. Murray writes:

The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree on their bilateral boundary, and they have never done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force.... Anyway, the UK was plainly wrong to be ultra-provocative in disputed waters....

They [the British Marines] would under international law have been allowed to enter Iranian territorial waters if in 'hot pursuit' of terrorists, slavers, or pirates.... But they were looking for smuggled vehicles attempting to evade car duty. What has the evasion of Iranian or Iraqi taxes got to do with the Royal Navy?

Ambassador Murray has appealed to reason and cooler heads. To state what should be the obvious, he notes it is not legitimate for the British government to draw a boundary without agreement of the countries involved: