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Posts Tagged ‘civilian casualties’

  • MacLean’s: Shocking article about NATO compensation schemes for civilian deaths in Afghanistan. It’s a business. Compensation for one tragedy was $20,000 and a new car, whereas for another death, it was just $210. That NATO forces are able to put a dollar value on human life through bargaining is proof of the devastating and dehumanizing effects this war is having. End it now before any more blood ends up on our hands.
  • Via Andrew Sullivan, HuffPo: Visualizing what America’s armies hath wrought in Iraq: 100-150k dead civilians, 2 million refugees abroad, 2 million displaced persons domestically.  If you had any illusions about this empire being a liberal or ennobling one (contradiction in terms), they must be shredded by now.
  • The Globe & Mail: In news that should shock no one, a Kelowna (B.C.) Mountie kicked the hell out of a suspect. You can watch the video yourself. Eyewitnesses report that the suspect, Buddy Tavares, was complying with the officer. Cops are not your friend.
  • Juan Cole: We already knew about Jawaher Abu Rahmah, the Palestinian woman killed by Israeli tear gas recently. Add to the list of Israel’s victims the names of Anas Salih (died in Gaza after being denied the exit visa he needed to get medical treatment) and Omar al-Qawasmeh (innocent man murdered in his home in a case of mistaken identity). The occupation must end.
  • Glenn Greenwald: Writing about the “climate of fear” the American government has created in the minds of its citizens. I used to study totalitarian regimes. Many scholars agreed that the worst kind of censorship they exercised was the self-censorship that went on in the fear-wracked minds of their citizens. This self-censorship is now here in America. Progress!
  • Radley Balko at Reason: Guess what–stupid anti-meth laws had the unintended consequences of making the meth trade far more profitable and seeing a boost in meth use. But hey, at least those kneejerk laws that make you feel like a criminal when you go to buy cough medicine kept some old lady without an ID from getting the Nyquil she wanted.
  • NYT: Do not forget the name “Nasrin Sotoudeh.” She is a human rights lawyer in Iran who has been sentenced to 11 years in jail, disbarred, and (my favorite) banned from leaving Iran for 20 years. “You are such an awful criminal that…we cannot bear to have you leave us!” What a vile place. Sotoudeh’s “crime” was talking to the foreign media.
  • National Post: In this time of governmental austerity, the Canadian government has somehow found additional money to expand their prison capacity. To be fair, Canada’s incarceration rate is much lower than America’s. This move still repulses me. At best, it is a cynical way to “create jobs,” never mind the fact that building more jail cells creates a powerful incentive to fill them. At worst, it is a declaration of faith in the untruth that locking more people in cages makes a better society. It doesn’t.
  • Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy: Post on the Illinois budget crisis, where income taxes may be jacked up to cover a deficit. I don’t have a strong position on the budget crisis. What I do have a strong position on is oft-quoted beltway “libertarian” Megan McArdle, who wrote, “Whether or not you think these programs should exist, they do now, and you can’t simply throw people off who planned their lives around them.” Time to write that loser out of the libertarian movement.
  • Via Thomas DiLorenzo, Anne Applebaum: It’s not often a mag like Foreign Policy prints an article titled “Homeland Security Hasn’t Made Us Safer,” so relish it for now. After unmasking the fact that DHS is a porkbarrel subsidy program, Applebaum writes, “As for the TSA, I am not aware of a single bomber or bomb plot stopped by its time-wasting procedures.” Amen.
  • Via Liberale et Libertaire: “Serious” and “respected” pundit Matt Yglesias recently called for the U.S. to institute a gendarmerie system (as he put it, “a quasi-military federal organization specialized in police/security functions rather than finding and killing bad guys per se.”) Sweet Jesus! As if the thing that this horrid little police state needs to get it going again is more cops with more power.
  • MacLean’s: This article about drunk driving nearly made me cry. In each case discussed, a drunk driver killed a beloved passenger. In each case, the family of the dead victim asked for clemency for the drunk driver, a friend of their lost loved one. In each case, Leviathan said, “Down, slave! I know what is best for this society,” and promptly threw the book at the offenders. No respect for the dead.
  • Cienna Madrid at The Stranger: Blogging from day two of the inquest into the murder death of half-deaf woodcarver John T. Williams at the hands of SPD Ofc. Ian Birk. A homicide investigator apparently tried to claim that the legal-sized whittling knife Birk claimed Williams had open but was found closed at the crime scene somehow magically closed itself when Williams dropped it. Mmmm-hmm. Then Birk took the stand to admit that he never called for back-up in 10-second confrontation that ended with Williams dead on the pavement. Birk has the gall to claim Williams looked at him threateningly, even though dashcam footage shows the perpetually drunk Williams shuffling across the street in a pitiful and harmless enough way that other pedestrians continued to walk towards him. It can’t happen in this inquest, but I look forward to the day Birk faces murder charges.
  • NYT: Israeli bloggers question their government’s use of tear gas following the tragic death of Jawaher Abu Rahmah. Awesome work, bloggers. It is a powerful and important thing for the world to understand that not all Israelis support the brutal thuggery and murder carried out in their name.
  • NYT: The Russian opposition thought they had a way around the country’s absurd permit process for protests–sending out protesters willing to stand an approved distance away from each other. Now pro-Kremlin groups are counter-picketing the solo protesters by standing near them, just to get them arrested. Of course, the cops are not arresting the pro-Kremlin folks. Vile.
  • Katherine Mangu-Ward at Reason: In case you still thought NAFTA was really a free trade agreement, did you know Mexican truckers have been banned from driving in the U.S. since 2009? This then led to punitive tariffs from Mexico. Sounding like free trade, right? Well, Obama might be about to address the situation, but not without the noxious Teamsters warning us how awful that would be for America.
  • NYT: My, my, the Israelis are bloodthirsty lately–the latest allegation is that they killed a 65-year-old Gazan man on his farm…for getting too close to the security fence. Of course, Palestinians responded with violence of their own.
  • NYT: The post-election crackdown in Belarus is getting worse. Lukashenko’s rotten state is now trying to place Danil Sannikov, the 3-year-old son of (arrested) opposition leader Andrei Sannikov and his (arrested) journalist wife Irina Khalip, in an orphanage. Never mind that his grandmother has been appointed to care for him! How dare Lukashenko bring innocent children into his bloodsport.
  • Daily Anarchist: Another “ugh” moment from this (formerly good) blog–author Seth King says that it is right to milk the state for benefits. Why? “Only then will the productive class begin to realize that paying taxes is for chumps.” Also, “you are not responsible for its theft because you never condone forced wealth redistribution.” Whatever helps you sleep at night after you’ve spent your ill-gained food stamps, Seth. Shameful.
  • Brendan Kiley at The Stranger: The fourth (and last) installment in an awesome investigative series on the drug war. Kiley comes to the conclusion that the best thing to do is legalize all drugs. This is very good. The only problem is this statement: “The only way out is to legalize—and regulate—everything.” Regulate it? Why? Just let people put what they want into their bodies and face the consequences. If they don’t like the risk, then don’t ingest the drug or create a private testing organization to give them the safety they want. Even if I disagree with regulating, it’s a great and invaluable piece of writing.

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WikiLeaks has done it again, this time releasing over 400,000 pages of classified documents on the Iraq War. God bless you, Bradley Manning! Before I get into the new information, let me just say that I loved the Yahoo News headline today wondering why the Sunday morning talk shows essentially ignored the WikiLeaks documents. Is it really a mystery? Those spineless “journalists” are all tools of the American imperialist-security complex. Of course they are going to ignore these documents, they’ve got two wars to perpetuate!

The NYT and Der Spiegel both had preferential access to the documents. I liked the presentation employed by the Times more, sort of bundling big clumps of documents together into related portfolios. The two most interesting bundles were about the treatment of detainees and civilian casualty figures.

The documents on detainees are, unfortunately, almost all about their treatment by other Iraqis. The information is horrifying: torture, death, abuse, etc. The U.S. seems to have done a little wink-wink, nod-nod show most of the time and let the Iraqis “investigate” abuses for themselves. Oh, and the U.S. used the threat of Iraqi detention to intimidate detainees in our custody. This stuffy is horrifying, but it’s not surprising at all. It’s basically a carbon copy of the model the CIA has been employing around the world since whenever extraordinary rendition started. We don’t need to torture people ourselves when we can find all manner of thugs from failed authoritarian states who are unemployable in any career except for violence and who would love to torture fellow humans in places beyond U.S. jurisdiction. If the slaves back home get wind of it and try to do anything, just invoke state secrecy against them and let the courts take over!

The civilian casualties in the report add up to an additional 15,000 deaths. That pushes the Iraq Body Count to somewhere between 98-106,000 civilian deaths. That’s blood on our hands, guys. We didn’t have to fight this war. Saddam was no saint, but even his infamous gassing of the Kurds at Halabja amounted to something like 3000-5000 deaths. Keep our crimes in perspective.

Der Spiegel‘s best reporting was on unfair attacks conducted by Apache helicopters, of which the infamous Collateral Murder video was just the tip of the iceberg, it seems. It’s easy to point your joystick at people trying to surrender and click a button that will eliminate them. It feels just like a video game. Maybe you can even compare your kill stats with your buddies back at the base!

Don’t let the war-loving mainstream media fool you: the WikiLeaks Iraq documents reveal new and damning evidence about our awful war in Iraq. Don’t let the government fool you, either: these documents don’t put anyone in any more danger than our continued ignorance would. The Surge is unraveling. Chaos is returning. We broke Iraq, but sticking around indefinitely isn’t going to help anything. Don’t let the military fool you into thinking our conduct there is justified. End the war now, bring the troops home, and don’t forget to Free Bradley Manning and donate to WikiLeaks.

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As promised, here’s the links I owed you from last night.

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  • NYT: Lindsey Graham is a sick, sick puppy. A man equally dough-faced in politics and his own countenance, he has come under fire from the Republican base in his home state of South Carolina for being too liberal. Graham has seen what the Tea Party has done in getting rid of Republicans even more conservative than him this year and can’t hold much hope for his future. That’s what I think is behind his proposal to alter the 14th Amendment and get rid of birthright citizenship. It’s a page stolen from the playbook of “tough on crime” leftists, who knowingly sell out civil liberties and nonviolent criminals in an attempt to not look wimpy. In my mind, this ploy is even worse–the schmuck is talking about altering the Constitution and changing a working citizenship law just to protect his political future. I hope you will have many long years to reflect on your next term in the Senate when you are burning in hell, Lindsey!
  • NYT: Senate passes an immigration bill by unanimous consent that will require increased U.S.-Mexico border security to in part be funded by raising fees on Indian-owned firms that employ Indian immigrant-majority staffs in the U.S. What? It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Chuck Schumer was the guy behind this populist bit of hijacking. Please issue a moral defense of the idea that companies that hire too many Indians should pay for more wasteful security on a border with which they have no concern. I’m waiting.
  • The Independenta British backpacker stands to be freed after serving six years of a ten-year sentence in an Indian jail cell shared with 50 other inmates. His crime? Drug possession. And the best part is that his trial was conducted entirely in Hindi (which  he does not speak) and presented no DNA or fingerprint evidence connecting him to the drugs. It took the guy four years to even get an appeal. The list of conditions he’s picked up in jail: “malaria, dysentery, rat bites, depression, prostatitis and urinary dysfunction.” Another life ruined by the drug war!
  • Der Spiegel: Germany reaches a settlement with the families of Afghan civilians mistakenly killed in a bombing. I find it remarkable that the compensation will be $5000 per family. $5000 goes a long way in Afghanistan, but for us in the West–isn’t it sad that we’ve reached a point at which innocent life is worth only $5000? Do we really want this war tarnishing our souls any longer?
  • Via Andrew Sullivan, Bill Kristol: giving Obama a checklist for reelection. This is one of those, “Oh no…my God, he’s serious!” sort of posts. The checklist Kristol offers: 1. extend tax rates, 2. rescind the Afghanistan withdrawal deadline and 3. oppose the not-really-at Ground Zero mosque. But hey, at least if Obama can get through the next year with that BORING list, Kristol has military action in Iran for him to look forward to. These policies would be bad enough in a vacuum, but it’s like Kristol completely missed the last decade.
  • NYT: Hamid Karzai throws a hissy fit over anti-corruption investigators looking into the dealings of his government cronies. Because that’s what innocent guys who aren’t involved in corruption up to their eyeballs tend to do. But hey, at least it isn’t like American teenagers are dying and dropping bombs on innocent people for the sake of this guy and his dope baron brother. Oh wait….
  • People’s World: article accusing Rand Paul of being a shill for anti-workplace safety coal companies. It’s not very interesting, except for this part: Paul also argued for “local and state” control instead of federal regulation of mining….”The bottom line is I’m not an expert, so don’t give me the power in Washington to be making rules. You live here, and you have to work in the mines.” But miner Tim Miller, a United Mine Workers representative in Madisonville, Ky., saw things differently. “Rand Paul and his deregulation – all he talks about is deregulation and the local authorities having total control over any regulation,” Miller told the Associated Press. “I think that takes us back at least 100 years, back to when 12-year-old kids could work in the coal mines.” Seriously? Rand Paul admitting the limits of his own knowledge and saying that coal regulations probably shouldn’t be made by people in Washington who have never even seen a coal mine rather than local actors who are intimately acquainted with every step of the production process makes him the bad guy? The left can be incredible at times. Here, it is like they are faulting Rand Paul for taking a textbook Hayekian position on information asymmetry rather than being humble enough to defer to the judgment of people who know more than him. Thou art a politician, thou must control!
  • LewRockwell.com: one of those head-scratching articles that keeps LewRockwell.com confined to the fringe, this time railing against a 13-year-old Canadian girl for raising money to boost education for women in Afghanistan. Why publish an article like this one? It’s mainly meanness, and meanness  directed against someone in no position to defend herself. I get the point the author is making against universalist humanitarianism as grist for the mill of “humanitarian” interventionism and imperialism. But using this girl to make your point (along with some low blows against Canada) is stupid. And this is why LewRockwell.com will remain mired where it is.
  • Glenn Greenwald: assessing Elena Kagan. Greenwald would prefer a justice more “progressive” than Kagan, I would prefer more of an originalist, but we can agree that Kagan will be no friend of civil liberties. Greenwald had one quote that I loved: The reality is — and this has long been clear — that Americans have little respect for, and even less interest in, people who stand for nothing and seem afraid of their own belief system.  Clarity of principle and courage of conviction are almost always more politically appealing than muddled incoherence, calibrated careerism, or muted cowardice. Here’s hoping we never see a candidate so artificial, self-censoring and calculating as Kagan again.
  • South China Morning Post: a Western expat calls for the Hong Kong government to compel all licensed taxis to install GPS devices because this loser has trouble communicating with the cabbies in English. “Boo-hoo, I didn’t get where I was going fast enough, you need to put a gun to the head of private business owners so my feelings don’t get hurt again!” Hey guy–if you don’t like the taxis you’re hailing, then stop hailing cabs or book through a higher-end service. If enough people are like you and get tired of the low English capacity, then taxi companies will respond. Until then, take your force-loving whining back to Australia where they could probably use your help in building the internet firewall they want.
  • Matt Welch at Reason: you’d think the government would have learned not to encourage people who can’t afford to own homes to buy them…but you’d have thought wrong. Even after the property bubble, even after we are encouraging Section 8 renters to rent McMansions in foreclosure-capital-of-the-world Las Vegas, these people still haven’t learned. I don’t know if it’s just that home “ownership” is really that much of an entrenched fetish in Washington or that there’s whole federal agencies and close buddies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that would probably be in for significant layoffs if the market scaled back down to where it needs to be and are filled with self-preservation types.
  • Via Andrew Sullivan, Jon Chait at the war-loving New Republic: “surely you can’t mean you only support defensive wars!” Chait is smugly shocked and argues that Joe Klein is over-reacting to the Iraq war in saying that we should only fight defensive wars–that is, wars in which we have been attacked first. What an insane standard for making wars! We can’t let our tanks and planes go to waste like that! Bring on the death!
  • NYT: very interesting article on the Italian economy. It’s interesting that much of Italy’s huge public debt is owned by Italians themselves, not foreign creditors. It doesn’t really matter whose passport they are carrying if they all present their notes at once and demand payment, but it is an interesting point that probably help to explain why Italy had fewer problems with credit rating agencies than Greece, Spain or Ireland earlir this year. My favorite quote: “‘Before World War II, Argentina was rich,’ he says. ‘Even in 1960, the country was twice as rich as Italy.’ Today, he says, you can compare the per capita income of Argentina to that of Romania. ‘Because it didn’t grow. A country could get rich in 1900 just by producing corn and meat, but that is not true today. But it took them 100 years to realize they were becoming poor. And that is what worries me about Italy. We’re not going to starve next week. We are just going to decline, slowly, slowly, and I’m not sure what will turn that around.'”
  • St. Petersburg Times: discussing whether Russia’s current policy course leads to a Soviet future for the country. Things you don’t want to miss include a fascistic drug cop who wants Moscow-area clubs to close at midnight because it would help him fight drugs and the revelation that an anti-red tape/corruption measure designed to cap corrupt inspections of businesses put a temporary dent in bureaucratic salaries is just being replaced by fewer inspections with higher payments.
  • Via Publius at the Western Standard, Maclean’s: analyzing Canada’s stimulus. Publius pulls the particularly egregious case of $25 million ferry terminal for a village of 450 people that will admittedly be used for only a few hours per week. This is a big part of why centrally-planned projects like the ever-popular stimulus are doomed to failure–throwing productive dollars at unproductive, politically beneficial programs the market would never support. Publius wants to make the point that Conservative voters aren’t getting a very conservative deal under Harper. Agreed.
  • LewRockwell.com blog: good post highlighting the recent disclosure that this will be the first year Social Security pays out more than it takes in, or the first year that people might be forced to recognize its insolvency.
  • NYT: public sector pensions are bloated and they’re dragging down governments across the country, but at least public sector retirees recognize the problem and are cooperating. Not! The main guy profiled in the piece is a poor, pitiful 62-year-old who toiled away as a public school math teacher for an insufferable 29 (!) years and thinks the Colorado pension reforms could cost him half a million dollars over the rest of his life. Oh, poor you! Money quote:
  • Taxpayers, whose payments are also helping to restock Colorado’s pension fund, may not be as sympathetic, though. The average retiree in the fund stopped working at the sprightly age of 58 and deposits a check for $2,883 each month. Many of them also got a 3.5 percent annual raise, no matter what inflation was, until the rules changed this year.

    Private sector retirees who want their own monthly $2,883 check for life, complete with inflation adjustments, would need an immediate fixed annuity if they don’t have a pension. A 58-year-old male shopping for one from an A-rated insurance company would have to hand over a minimum of $860,000, according to Craig Hemke of Buyapension.com. A woman would need at least $928,000, because of her longer life expectancy.

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  • NYT: a NATO airstrike kills somewhere between 4-32 Afghan civilians. More blood on our hands, everybody. We voted in the elections that produced the politicians who started this war just as we voted in the elections that produced the politicians who escalated this war. Our participation in those elections was our consent. So whilst the blood falls most immediately on the commanders who ordered this airstrike and the pilots who carried it out, it falls, too, on our hands. Still think it’s a just war? Still want to kill people to make peace and fail to protect noses? Hopefully you’ve woken up and realized it’s time to get involved in the sort of left-right peace coalition we discussed here yesterday.
  • Nick Gillespie at Reason: covering one of the stories of the day, Michelle Obama’s vacation in Spain, for which taxpayers will at least be footing the tab for 70 Secret Service agents. The Europhile in me think it’s refreshing to see someone from the presidential family vacationing in glorious Europe. It bothers me that European leaders like Sarkozy feel no pressure in choosing to vacation in America, but the idea of an American president in Europe or elsewhere is apparently so deeply upsetting to the nationalistic American public that we can’t even discuss it. On the negative side of the ledger, I love that Ms. Obama is going to Spain with 40 of her supposedly closest friends. People don’t have 40 close friends, lady. Cut the artificiality. Also, it bugs me to no end that we the taxpaying masses will be footing her security bill. She’s a private citizen. If she wants Secret Service coverage on a voluntarily-scheduled vacation, then she should pay for it.
  • NYT: Pentagon asks WikiLeaks to return leaked documents. At first glance, it sounds like a cute little kid demanding his toy back, but the more you read this article, the more you recognize that a lot of the statements from the Pentagon sound like threats to WikiLeaks. Consider: “Mr. Morrell said that if asking WikiLeaks respectfully did not work, the Pentagon would resort to other steps, which he did not describe. ‘We will figure out what other alternatives we have to compel them to do the right thing,’ he said.” Julian Assange, watch your back!
  • Jacob Sullum at Reason: feds admit that they’ve already broken their word about not saving body scan images from security x-ray scanners. I’m not prudish about nudity, but there’s no reason we need the x-ray scanners to begin with and there’s even less of a reason for the feds to save the resultant data. At least they are making sure we don’t forget how consistently they lie when it comes to matters of the security state and civil liberties. Oh, and remember–you never have to walk through an x-ray scanner, you can always request an alternate method like a metal detector, wanding or pat-down.
  • Katherine Mangu-Ward at Reason: guy starts a free shuttle service to prevent DUIs, gets ambushed by a protection racket local taxi operators. The best part is that he’s even been arrested for running his shuttles without licenses. I understand that the cabbies want to protect their turf and make money. I understand that they can’t really compete with a free shuttle service. Still, there must be a better way to resolve the issue, especially when you consider the guy they took down was trying to solve a real societal problem.
  • AlterNet: UN General Assembly passes a resolution recognizing “the human right to water.” When exactly did this Enlightenment project go off the rails? Water issues are an unfortunately large problem in our world today. Helping people in problem areas access clean water is a priority I can support. However, creating new positive rights out of thin air is not the way to do it. How can people have a natural right to a material good or quantity? Natural rights are negative rights; that is, freedom from something, like censored speech or gun ownership restrictions.
  • NYT: wealthy Chinese use money to buy their way out of their corrupt, anti-humanistic dictatorship. Good for these emigres. I guess I am glad that Western governments allow them to invest their way to permanent residency, but ideally Chinese who want to emigrate would be treated as refugees fleeing a dictatorship and given a fast-track to permanent residency in the free West, regardless of wealth.

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The combined cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan recently surpassed the benchmark of jaw-dropitude that is $1 trillion, so people have been taking more notice than usual. On this topic, I liked Elisabeth Bumiller’s feature in the NYT today. Money quote:

A second look at the numbers shows another story underneath. In 2008, the peak year so far of war spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, the costs amounted to only 1.2 percent of America’s gross domestic product. During the peak year of spending on World War II, 1945, the costs came to nearly 36 percent of G.D.P.

The reason is the immense growth, and seemingly limitless credit, of the United States economy over the last 65 years, as compared to the sacrifice and unity required to wring $4 trillion from a much smaller economy to wage the earlier war. To some historians, the difference is troubling.

“The army is at war, but the country is not,” said David M. Kennedy, the Stanford University historian. “We have managed to create and field an armed force that can engage in very, very lethal warfare without the society in whose name it fights breaking a sweat.” The result, he said, is “a moral hazard for the political leadership to resort to force in the knowledge that civil society will not be deeply disturbed.”

That’s the thing. We do have round-the-clock cable and internet news coverage of these wars in a way that we have never had before. But probably not since the horrors of Fallujah have most Americans really had any sense of the human loss that is going on in our name. I saw a figure in Der Spiegel today that blew me away–at the height of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in 1968, there were roughly 1,000 soldiers dying each week. By comparison, the entire coalition has taken fewer than 2,000 deaths in nearly a decade in Afghanistan. So long as limbless men aren’t wheeling around our streets asking for money and an “acceptable” number of flag-draped caskets are showing up at the local airport, most people seem perfectly content to grumble about the war a bit in between breaks of pro sporting events and American Idol. (more…)

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