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Posts Tagged ‘collateral damage’

  • 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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  • 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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Lew Rockwell’s blog hosts disturbing video on General James Mattis, the guy who is going to replace David Petraeus as commander of CENTCOM.

Here’s the most shocking quote, from committee testimony given by Mattis:

“Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people.”

Nothing about war is a hoot, General Mattis. American teenagers are coming home in body bags. Afghan civilians are being killed right and left–whether our drones or Taliban bombings, the death of innocents is the constant. Not even shooting your enemy should be fun. It might be your duty to yourself and your own self-defense, but you will still have made another kid fatherless every time you put a notch on your gun.

These comments are far more insensitive and frightening than anything Stan McChrystal’s staffers said in the Rolling Stone interview. Mattis sounds little better than a rah-rah high school football player with some medals on his chest and a deadly arsenal at his command. We don’t need people with no regard for life making a bad war even worse.

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Because people die–many of them innocent. The NYT did a great piece on a South Korean commission that has found at least 138 instances of U.S. forces attacking Korean civilians during the Korean War. Of course, the South Korean government is not pursuing the vast majority of the claims any further because it might antagonize the U.S., the chief guarantor of their security against the North.

I’ve no doubt that many of these instances were probably accidents. War in the 1950s was not such a surgical, precise affair as it is today, and yet we still kill innocent civilians even now. Of course, this doesn’t keep some South Koreans from being (rightly) incensed:

“Our government is cowering before the big U.S. government,” said Lee Chang-geun, 77, whose parents were among an estimated 300 South Korean soldiers, railway officials, students and other civilians killed on July 11, 1950, when American aircraft bombed the train station in Iri, a southern town many miles behind the front line.

Two weeks earlier, on June 25, the North Korean Army invaded the South, starting the war. The United States fought alongside South Korea in an intervention that left more than 36,000 American soldiers dead and has sown both gratitude and pain among South Koreans ever since.

“I want to ask the Americans: Is it O.K. to bomb civilians by mistake?” Mr. Lee said. “I want to ask: Just because their military came to help South Korea, is it O.K. to kill South Korean civilians and keep mum about it?”

We must cease to fight all but the wars essential to the defense of our territorial homeland. If we don’t, we will continue to shed innocent blood that will be just as much on our hands for electing the politicians who started the wars as it will be on the hands of the soldiers responsible.

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The NYT ran an op-ed by the absolutely vile war and empire apologist Max Boot. One of the choicest parts:

Iraq was also much more violent. Last year 2,259 civilians were killed in Afghanistan. Compare that with 34,500 civilians killed in Iraq in the pre-surge year of 2006 — 15 times as many. […]

What part of “civilians killed” doesn’t this guy understand? Would he tolerate 2,259 American civilians murdered by foreign armies every year? 2,259 is less than 34,500, but it’s still 2,259 too many. Innocent people are dying. Young soldiers are dying. What is perhaps worst is that we are putting young soldiers in situations in which they may end up killing innocent people. None of this needs to happen and none of it should happen.

Then there’s the conclusion:

By letting his aides mouth off to a reporter, General McChrystal has displayed a potentially fatal lack of media savvy. But he deserves credit for energizing a lethargic command and putting in place the right strategy to turn around a failing war effort. Whether or not he carries it out, his plan can work. We just need to give it a little time.

A little bit of time, eh? How much longer beyond nine years and 1,863 dead coalition soldiers will it be before we reach “a little bit of time?” When I read stuff by people like Max Boot, I wonder if they just never matured beyond playing Risk. Sure, maybe they read some Clausewitz and Kipling and some COIN theory along the way, but they are still just boys moving armies around on a map, trying to get the most provinces under their control. Except we aren’t dealing with plastic markers here, we are dealing with human lives, both coalition and Afghan.

The NYT should stop printing pro-death idiocy like this op-ed.

[Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan]

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