Friday, June 06, 2008

National Water Security

How Water Has Become a National Security Issue

by Maude Barlow, June 6, 2008

It's a colossal failure of political foresight that water has not emerged as an important issue in the U.S. Presidential campaign. The links between oil, war, and U.S. foreign policy are well known. But water -- whether we treat it as a public good or as a commodity that can be bought and sold -- will in large part determine whether our future is peaceful or perilous.

Americans use water even more wastefully than oil. The U.S relies on non-renewable groundwater for 50 percent of its daily use, and 36 states now face serious water shortages, some verging on crisis.

Meanwhile, dwindling freshwater supplies around the world, inequitable access to water, and corporate control of water, together with impending climate change from fossil fuel emissions, have created a life-or-death situation across the planet. Both Democrats and Republicans have emphasized loosening U.S. dependence on nonrenewable energy resources in their platforms, but neither party gives significant air time to the threats posed by water shortages.

This is not to say that no one is paying attention. In fact, water has become a key strategic security and foreign policy priority for the United States government.

Cut Deals, Carry Water

Corporate interests have pursued schemes to privatize, commodify, and export water for decades. We have seen how this plays out in Canada. For instance, in the late 1990s, Sun Belt Water, Inc., sued the Canadian government under NAFTA because British Columbia banned water exports, preventing a deal that would have sent B.C. water to California.

Corporations have also made attempts to ship Canadian water as far as Asia and the Middle East, proposals that fizzled after fierce opposition from public citizens who were beginning to understand the dangers of permanently removing water from local ecosystems and placing it under corporate control.

Now the Pentagon, as well as various U.S. security think tanks, have decided that water supplies, like energy supplies, must be secured if the United States is to maintain its current economic and military power in the world. And the United States is exerting pressure to access Canadian water, despite Canada's own shortages.

Under the name, "North American Future 2025 Project," the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) brought together high level government officials and business executives from Canada, the United States, and Mexico for a series of six meetings to discuss a wide range of issues related to the Security and Prosperity Partnership, a controversial and tightly guarded set of negotiations to expand NAFTA. [See related story .]

"As ... globalization continues and the balance of power potentially shifts, and risks to global security evolve, it is only prudent for Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. policymakers to contemplate a North American security architecture that could effectively deal with security threats that can be foreseen in 2025," said a leaked copy of a CSIS backgrounder. On the agenda for one of two meetings in Calgary were, "water consumption, water transfers, and artificial diversions of bulk water" with the aim of achieving "joint optimum utilization of the available water."

The water and security connection deepens with the fact that Sandia National Laboratories, a vital partner with CSIS in its Global Water Futures Project, also plays a major role in military security in the United States. While Sandia is technically owned by the U.S. government, and reports to the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, its management is contracted out to Lockheed Martin, the world's biggest weapons manufacturer. Ralph Pentland, water consultant and primary author of the Canadian government's Federal Water Policy in 1987, believes that the purpose of these cross-border discussions is to secure sufficient water for Alberta tar sands production in order to ensure uninterrupted oil supplies to the United States.

Energy extraction would be far more attractive if a new source of water -- potentially from northern Canada -- could be brought to the tar sands through pipelines or other diversions. As long as the water doesn't cross the international border, it is within Alberta's power to do this.These schemes to displace water from one ecosystem to another in the service of corporate profit are an environmental problem for the entire planet, which is another reason why water must form a crucial part of any progressive discussion around U.S. dependence on foreign energy resources.

Corporate interests understand the connection and are using it to make their case for private solutions to the water crisis. In language that will be familiar to critics who argued that the United States invaded Iraq not for democracy but for access to oil and profits for corporations, a 2005 report from CSIS's Global Water Futures project had this to say about water: "Water issues are critical to U.S. national security and integral to upholding American values of humanitarianism and democratic development. Moreover, engagement with international water issues guarantees business opportunity for the U.S. private sector, which is well positioned to contribute to development and reap economic reward."

Water for All

Clearly, the powers that be in the United States have decided that water is not a public good but a private resource that must be secured by whatever means. But there are alternatives. North Americans must learn to live within our means, by conserving water in agriculture and in the home. We could learn from the many examples here and beyond our borders -- from the New Mexican "Acequia" system that uses an ancient natural ditch irrigation tradition to distribute water in arid lands to the International Rainwater Harvesting Alliance in Geneva, that works globally to promote sustainable rainwater harvesting programs.

Conservation strategies would undermine the massive investment now going into corporate technological and infrastructure solutions, such as desalination, wastewater reuse, and water transfer projects. And conservation would be many times cheaper, a boon to the public but not to the corporate interests that are currently driving international water agreements.

At the grassroots, a global water justice movement is demanding a change in international law to settle once and for all the question of who controls water, and whether responses to the water crisis will ensure water for the public or profits for corporations.

Ricardo Petrella has led a movement in Italy to recognize access to water as a basic human right, which has support among politicians at every level. The Coalition in Defense of Public Water in Ecuador is demanding that the government amend the constitution to recognize the right to water. The Coalition Against Water Privatization in South Africa is challenging the practice of water metering before the Johannesburg High Court on the basis that it violates the human rights of Soweto's citizens. Dozens of groups in Mexico have joined COMDA, the Coalition of Mexican Organizations for the Right to Water, a national campaign for a constitutional guarantee of water for the public.

The U.S. and Canada are the only two countries actively blocking international attempts to recognize water as a human right. But movements in both countries are working to change that. A large network of human rights, faith-based, labor, and environmental groups in Canada has formed Canadian Friends of the Right to Water to get the Canadian government to support a U.N. right-to-water covenant. And a network in the United States led by Food and Water Watch is calling for a national water trust to ensure safekeeping of the nation's water assets and a change of government policy on the right to water.

Such campaigns may have a fight ahead of them, but the vision is within reach: a United Nations covenant that recognizes the right of the Earth and other species to clean water, pledges to protect and conserve the world's water supplies, and forms an agreement between those countries who have water and those who don't to work toward local -- not corporate -- control of water. We must acknowledge water as a fundamental human right for all.

Maude Barlow wrote this article as part of A Just Foreign Policy, the Summer 2008 issue of YES! Magazine. Maude is the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians and author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Canadian TV Journalist Held in Bagram

Detained Journalist Sues Bush Administration
By AP.
Lawyers for a Canadian television journalist being held as an enemy combatant in Afghanistan filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing the Bush administration of holding him illegally and demanding his release.

Afghani native Jawed Ahmad, 22, has been held in Bagram, Afghanistan, for more than six months without being charged, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.

Ahmad was working for CTV, a Canadian television network, when he was detained in October 2007. Authorities accused him of being in contact with Taliban leaders, including having video of them and possessing their phone numbers, according to the complaint.

Attorneys with the International Justice Network compared Ahmad’s case to that of Bilal Hussein, an Associated Press photographer who spent more than two years in U.S. military custody. Hussein initially was accused of working with Iraqi insurgents but was released in April after Iraqi judges closed his case.

“Given the pivotal role of freedom of the press in the development and maintenance of a true democracy, the United States should not seize journalists like Jawed Ahmed merely because they are doing their jobs,” said Barbara Olshansky, an attorney at the International Human Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School who is representing Ahmed.

The Justice Department declined to comment. “Needless to say, we’ll have to review the complaint before we decide how to ultimately respond,” said spokesman Charles Miller.


Doctors Seek War Crimes Charge Against former Australia PM Howard

Howard war charges bid
June 3, 2008
AN AUSTRALIAN doctors' group is pushing to have former prime minister John Howard charged with war crimes for sending troops to Iraq.

The Medical Association for the Prevention of War said the war was illegal because it was not backed by the United Nations.

Association spokesman Robert Marr said Mr Howard committed Australian troops to the war on the basis of misleading information about weapons of mass destruction. He said the medical group was supporting a legal brief prepared by International Criminal Court Action Victoria that would be sent to the court. Dr Marr said more than 650,000 Iraqi citizens had died as a result of the war.

Mr Howard said last week that while the war's cost had been heavy he believed it had been right. He said he would not have brought the troops home at this point.


Inedible: Food Summit 'Disgusting' Farmers Say

Dismay at UN food summit outcome

The UN talks were held amid steep increases
in the price of staple foods [AFP]

Small farmers' groups have reacted with "disgust" to the conclusions of the UN food security summit in Italy.

"We are dismayed and disgusted to see the food crisis used to further the policies that have led us to the food crisis in the first place," Maryam Rahmanian from Iran's centre for sustainable development said.

Dozens of non-governmental organisations and small farmers' groups held a forum in Rome this week to coincide with the United Nations food and agriculture organisation (FAO) summit.

The FAO summit distributed a draft text on Wednesday that Rahmanian said "will not fill any plate".

"The recommendations for more liberalisation would lead to more violations of the right to food," she said in a statement.

Since the 1996 world food summit, "we have warned continually that the current model would lead to a food crisis, and it has."

The farmers' groups criticised multi-national food corporations whose profits have shot up through the crisis.

Flavio Valente, a Brazilian activist, said it was "about time we treated this as a crime against humanity".

Dena Hoff, an American activist said: "In the first quarter of 2008, profits of Monsanto have already shot up by 108 per cent, while Cargill registered profit increases of 86 per cent... More food aid would help these companies, but do not offer any solutions for the poor and hungry."

World attention

However, the UN and some food agencies hailed the summit a success.

Voices on the crisis

Economic experts talk to
Al Jazeera

"The most important thing about the summit is that it has focused attention on the world leaders and on something that has been ignored for too long," Matthew Wyatt, from the International funds for agricultural development, said.

"We've let investment in agriculture drift terribly. In 1979 it was 18 per cent of all aid. Now it's less than 3 per cent, that's absolutely ridiculous... We have to reverse that.

"If there is a good and strong declaration particularly with the commitment to small-holder farming and commitments to boosting supplies, that would be a bonus," Wyatt said.

Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, said: "I think these kinds of conferences are important to put together people discussing. I think it's more important outside the big room and the official speeches.

"It's important to know each other because many times we meet in the operation and if we know each other we can work better together," said Massimo Barra, a Red Cross representative.

The summit is due to issue a declaration later on Thursday committing to eliminating hunger and ensuring food supply sufficiency.

However, according to Mark Seddon, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Rome, the delegates are struggling to agree on a final declaration.

Seddon said: "This has taken a lot longer than anyone expected. There's a consensus that this was a good event to have in that it has concentrated the eyes of the world on the problem.

"However, in terms of concrete deals, it has not been a great success."


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Canadian Broadcast Corporation: Canada's War Pimp

by C. L. Cook

Yesterday, the House of Commons did something we haven't seen since the heady wayback days when Trudeaumania gripped the nation.

Taking their collective, if figurative cojones in hand, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois members joined the New Democratic Party (NDP) to endorse its motion to immediately stay deportation proceedings against U.S. military war resisters seeking refuge from American justice here in Canada, and offer those already here, (and perhaps the throng sure to follow) and their families the opportunity to stay, live, and work in Canada as the first steps to naturalization.

Predictably, the Conservative minority government voted in lock-step with their leader, Stephen Harper in opposition, but for the first time since Harper's party took power in 2006, a piece of House business the government did not support was ratified: The NDP motion was endorsed in a 137-110 vote.

This is huge news for the millions of anti-war activists in the United States, and the world, but you would not know it watching the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) news flagship, The National. Though last night's program found more than twenty of its allotted 48 minute broadcast window to devote to Barack Obama's as yet to be ratified "victory" in the Democratic Party's primary race for November's scheduled presidential election, not one second was granted to a story that could have both an earth-shaking effect on Canada's relationship with the United States, and could prove literally a matter of life or death for thousands of refugee soldiers in hiding in Canada and the States.

It could, should the Conservatives honour the will of the House, also mean the beginning of the end to the immoral and illegal wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Canadian Broadcast Corporation chose instead silence.

Joining the CBC's dead air on this issue is Canada's biggest private communications company, CanWest Global. Perusing today's edition of Victoria's only daily, Canwest's Times-Colonist, not one mention of Harper's first defeat in the House, or the ramifications of this historic vote: Blank. It was, as Harold Pinder might say, something that; "...never happened; even as it was happening, it never happened."

The CBC's acquiesence to the promoters of perpetual warfare is not new; the management and its correspondents willingly suspended disbelief when George Bush the Elder told tall tales of American womanhood being violated by thugs in Panama City, thus justifying the destruction of thousands of lives to bring to heel the despot Noriega.

Likewise, the CBC cheered along when George Bush recycled WWI era stories of babes butchered in hospitals by Saddam's sadistic storm troopers in Kuwait, thus justifying the destructions of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives; and just so, the CBC willingly embedded itself within the Clinton administration's hide and marched along with it to war against the next newest Hitler, Milosevic of the Former Yugoslav Republic. There, again, uncounted lives ruined and a country laid waste.

In fact, the CBC is itself a war promoter and profiteer, and they do so now as they have done so for too long.

That Canwest Goebbels would seek to banish to the gulag the only hopeful news to emerge Ottawa, in the form of yesterday's triumph for peace, is par for the course for that pathetic excuse for truthful journalism: We need only remember the sentiment of the late patriarch of the Asper-controlled media behemoth, Israel "Izzy" Asper, who vowed; nary a discouraging word would be heard, nor written, by Canada's predominant media operator concerning his namesake nation's beastly behaviour.

That these latest wars are supported, and some venture were created, by Zionist activists in America and elsewhere, Canwest's deafening silence on the House vote is unsurprising. But, I don't have to pay to hear Canwest's lies; the same is not true for the CBC, for which a portion of my taxes, extracted on pain of imprisonment, supports.

Following WWII, both Lord Haw Haw and Tokyo Rose, well known to British and American troops, were hung by the conquering Allied armies. They were deemed war criminals, whose studio night jobs propagandising for Hitler and Hirohito were justly rewarded at the end of a rope.

Sentenced to death not only for the lies they told, but for the truths they refused to reveal, theirs is a fate perhaps undeserved, but the board and camera talent of the CBC might do well to remember: It was sad Haw Haw's and Madame Rose's enabling role being tried following the horror of their day, and they were found complicit.

That these wars and occupations are immoral is truth. That this crime, (the "mother" of all crimes, another stretch-necked war criminal from the recent past might have said) this abomination against humanity is not George W. Bush's, or even America's alone, but is a conspiring of ruthless corporate and politcal interests literally making a killing killing is truth. That these truths are not acknowledged as such by Canada's media is truth.

While the Corp. won't allow talk of peace to interrupt its war tattoo, they do carry two tales that may make of this "conscientious" stuff a story yet.

Tonight's CBC broadcast of The National reports the body of Captain Richard Stephen Leary arriving home in Canada. Captain Leary's tearful widow, Rachel assures the CBC camera team her husband was killed doing a job he believed in, and says he will be missed. Leary is the 78th Canadian killed outright in Afghanistan. (The Canadian government, like it's American partner, does not do body counts of those it kills and maims in the fields and towns of the occupied territory).

The CBC news website, meanwhile hosts a story about another Canadian soldier preparing for his third deployment to Afghanistan.

It begs the question: If "Canada's New Government," as it insists it be described, refuses to grant haven for those Americans with moral qualms about killing innocent men, women, and children half a world away, where will Canada's first soldiers of conscience go in their turn?

Below are both a letter I received with the minister respsonsible's address and a letter I sent to encourage her conscience. You may consider doing the same.

Chris Cook
Victoria, Canada
June 5, 2008

Greetings minister; I applaud the courage of this House to come forward in support of the motion allowing conscientious objectors stay in Canada until which time it is safe for them to return to their families without fear of persecution. Canadians are fully aware of the nature of these young men and women's objection to the war in Iraq, and many of us share that opinion of this country's involvement in Afghanistan.

I'm writing in hopes your party in government will make good its mandated course with all haste, as I'm sure you and your colleagues, with respect to the will of the House will do; just as I have reassured my many media colleagues around the world: "Canada respects democracy."

Cheers and good governance.

Chris Cook

Managing Editor, Pacific Free Press
Host/Producer, Gorilla Radio

Carol Grier
The motion has passed!

Thanks everyone who called and emailed. The next step is to write to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Diane Finley, and prime minister Stephen Harper to ensure that the will of Parliament is implemented.

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley
phone 613.996.4974
fax 613.996.9749
email and
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
phone 613.992.4211
fax 613.941.6900

parliament says: "let them stay!"

The House of Commons has voted in favour of the resolution that demands the Harper government immediately cease all deportation proceedings against any Iraq War resisters currently in Canada and allow all resisters and their families to remain in Canada and apply for permanent residence.
Vote total announced as Yea: 137 & Nay: 110!!

It was a very simple procedure: The motion was read and then voted on. Yeas stood and were counted, then the Nays. The totals were announced, the speaker declared the motion passed, and they moved on to the next item.

House of Commons votes to let U.S. War Resisters stay in Canada

OTTAWA, June 3 /CNW/ - The Opposition parties in the House of Commons joined together today to adopt a recommendation which, if implemented, would make it possible for U.S. Iraq War resisters to obtain Permanent Resident status in Canada.
The recommendation was adopted by a majority of Members of Parliament from the Liberal, Bloc Québécois, and New Democratic Parties. The Conservatives voted against the motion.

The motion, which originated in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in December 2007, calls on the government to "immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members ... to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and ... the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions ... against such individuals."

Corey Glass, 25, a war resister who came to Canada in 2006 and was recently told to leave Canada by June 12 or face removal to the United States, welcomed the vote. "I'm thankful that the MPs voted to let me and the other war resisters stay in Canada. I'm also thankful to all the Canadians who urged their MPs to support us."

"This is a great victory for the courageous men and women who have come to Canada because they refuse to take part in the illegal, immoral Iraq War, and for the many organizations and individuals who have supported this campaign over the past four years," said Lee Zaslofsky, Coordinator of the War Resisters Support Campaign and a Vietnam War deserter who came to Canada in 1970.

The War Resisters Support Campaign is calling on the Conservative government to respect the democratic decision of the Canadian Parliament and immediately implement the motion and cease deportation proceedings against Corey Glass and other war resisters.

Posted by redsock at 6/03/2008 03:12:00 PM 13 comments
Labels: canadian politics, war resistersParliament urges Canada to end war resister deportations

On a 137-110 vote, Canadian lawmakers approve the nonbinding motion. It could lead to a last-minute reprieve for a U.S. soldier who deserted in 2006 and has been ordered to leave Canada by June 12.

By Maggie Farley, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
1:41 PM PDT, June 3, 2008

OTTAWA -- Parliament passed a motion this afternoon calling on the Canadian government to stop deportation proceedings against foreign war resisters who have sought refuge in this key U.S. ally.

The measure, though nonbinding, could lead the government to offer a last-minute reprieve for Corey Glass, a 25-year-old American soldier who deserted to Canada in 2006 and has been ordered to leave the country by June 12.

Glass and a busload of resisters came to Ottawa to watch the pivotal hearing, and cheered from the gallery when the motion passed, 137-110.

"This is just great," Glass said. "We hope the will of the Canadian people will be carried out. We will see what happens next."

Despite Canada's history as a haven for as many as 50,000 Vietnam War draft resisters, the new conservative government has stood firm with the Bush administration in supporting the Iraq War and the detention of militants at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. But the pending change of U.S. political leadership gives hope to resisters for a change in Canadian policy as well.
"Canada has always been a place that welcomes those who seek peace and freedom," said Bob Rae, a Liberal Party member of Parliament.

"We want to see it remain that way."

Glass joined the National Guard in 2002 after assurances he would not see combat. But he was later deployed to Iraq, where he served as a military intelligence officer. He has said that witnessing the killing of civilians by U.S. troops made him want to quit after his first tour of duty.

"What I saw in Iraq convinced me that the war is illegal and immoral. I could not in good conscience continue to take part in it," Glass said last month after Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board denied him refugee status.

It ruled that he did not face persecution if he returned to the United States.

Glass, who is still on active duty and considered absent without leave, has been working in a funeral home in Toronto since coming to Canada in August 2006.

NDP motion to let war resisters stay passes

NDP motion to let war resisters stay passes
Tue 3 Jun 2008
OTTAWA – Iraq War Resisters residing in Canada received overwhelming support from the House of Commons following today’s passage of an NDP motion to let them stay in the country.

NDP Citizenship and Immigration critic, Olivia Chow’s (Trinity-Spadina) motion reflected ordinary Canadians’ belief that George Bush’s war in Iraq is wrong and that resisters should not be deported to jail.

The motion calls on the Harper Conservatives to allow American war resisters who have refused or left military service related to the illegal invasion of Iraq and their immediate family members to stay in Canada and be able to become permanent residents. Furthermore, the motion would force the government to immediately withdraw any removal or deportation orders against War Resisters.

NDP MP Bill Siksay (Burnaby Douglas), moved a similar motion a year ago on May 8, 2007 at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. His motion was rejected by the Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc.

Through ongoing campaigns and mobilizations, supporters have finally been able to sway the Liberal and Bloc vote in support of the war resisters

“Ordinary people want the Iraq war resisters to stay,” said Chow. “The Harper Conservatives must respect this and immediately implement this motion.”

War and Occupation, American Style

Tomgram: Chris Hedges, War and Occupation, American-style
Written by Tom Engelhardt
Wednesday, 04 June 2008
by Tom Engelhardt

American soldiers have long scrawled messages to the enemy on the bombs they were about to deliver. In the The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes reminds us, for instance, that "Little Boy," the bomb that would inaugurate a new age over Hiroshima, "was inscribed with autographs and messages, some of them obscene. 'Greetings to the Emperor from the men of the Indianapolis,' one challenged." (The Indianapolis, a heavy cruiser which had transported parts of Little Boy to the island of Tinian for assembly, had been torpedoed by a Japanese submarine only a week earlier and most of its crew had died at sea under gruesome circumstances.)

Recently, my eye was caught by a report on just such "autographs and messages" from our most recent war. A Washington Post piece discussing the air war over Baghdad and the Hellfire missiles the U.S. military has been regularly firing into the vast Shiite slum, Sadr City, these last months included this passage:

"At a sprawling air base on the outskirts of Baghdad, Edens, Katzenberger and their colleagues live in small trailers surrounded by blast walls, play volleyball on sand courts and eat at an outdoor food court. Many of the pilots are in their 20s. The pilots sometimes scrawl messages on the five-foot-long missiles strapped to their 'birds.' During a recent visit to the base, a reporter saw a missile addressed to 'Haji,' an honorific for people who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Many U.S. soldiers use it to refer dismissively to Iraqis and Arabs in general. Someone wrote 'rock this thang' on another."
"To refer dismissively…": This is the Post's polite way of describing the bedrock racism — the demeaning of the enemy (and hardening of the self) — that is essentially bound to go with any counterinsurgency-cum-neocolonial war like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Few know this better than Pulitzer Prize-winning former war reporter Chris Hedges who, along with Laila al-Arian, has produced a remarkable new book, Collateral Damage, America's War Against Iraqi Civilians (officially published on this very day). Based on hundreds of hours of interviews with veterans of the Iraq war and occupation, it lays out graphically indeed and in their own words the American system of patrols, convoys, home raids, detentions, and military checkpoints that became a living nightmare for civilians in Iraq. Think of their book as a two-person version of the Vietnam-era Winter Soldier Investigation, this time for a war in which Americans have seemed especially uneager to know much about what their troops, many thousands of miles from home, are really doing to the "hajis."

The following piece — with echoes of Hedges's classic work War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning — has been adapted from his introduction to the new book. Tom

Collateral Damage - What It Really Means When America Goes to War
by Chris Hedges

Troops, when they battle insurgent forces, as in Iraq, or Gaza or Vietnam, are placed in "atrocity producing situations." Being surrounded by a hostile population makes simple acts, such as going to a store to buy a can of Coke, dangerous. The fear and stress push troops to view everyone around them as the enemy. The hostility is compounded when the enemy, as in Iraq, is elusive, shadowy and hard to find. The rage soldiers feel after a roadside bomb explodes, killing or maiming their comrades, is one that is easily directed, over time, to innocent civilians who are seen to support the insurgents.

Civilians and combatants, in the eyes of the beleaguered troops, merge into one entity. These civilians, who rarely interact with soldiers or Marines, are to most of the occupation troops in Iraq nameless, faceless, and easily turned into abstractions of hate. They are dismissed as less than human. It is a short psychological leap, but a massive moral leap. It is a leap from killing — the shooting of someone who has the capacity to do you harm — to murder — the deadly assault against someone who cannot harm you.

The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing. The savagery and brutality of the occupation is tearing apart those who have been deployed to Iraq. As news reports have just informed us, 115 American soldiers committed suicide in 2007. This is a 13% increase in suicides over 2006. And the suicides, as they did in the Vietnam War years, will only rise as distraught veterans come home, unwrap the self-protective layers of cotton wool that keep them from feeling, and face the awful reality of what they did to innocents in Iraq

American Marines and soldiers have become socialized to atrocity. The killing project is not described in these terms to a distant public. The politicians still speak in the abstract terms of glory, honor, and heroism, in the necessity of improving the world, in lofty phrases of political and spiritual renewal. Those who kill large numbers of people always claim it as a virtue. The campaign to rid the world of terror is expressed within the confines of this rhetoric, as if once all terrorists are destroyed evil itself will vanish.

The reality behind the myth, however, is very different. The reality and the ideal tragically clash when soldiers and Marines return home. These combat veterans are often alienated from the world around them, a world that still believes in the myth of war and the virtues of the nation. They confront the grave, existential crisis of all who go through combat and understand that we have no monopoly on virtue, that in war we become as barbaric and savage as those we oppose.

This is a profound crisis of faith. It shatters the myths, national and religious, that these young men and women were fed before they left for Iraq. In short, they uncover the lie they have been told. Their relationship with the nation will never be the same. These veterans give us a true narrative of the war — one that exposes the vast enterprise of industrial slaughter unleashed in Iraq. They expose the lie.

War as Betrayal

"This unit sets up this traffic control point, and this 18 year-old kid is on top of an armored Humvee with a .50-caliber machine gun," remembered Sgt. Geoffrey Millard, who served in Tikrit with the 42nd Infantry Division. "And this car speeds at him pretty quick and he makes a split-second decision that that's a suicide bomber, and he presses the butterfly trigger and puts two hundred rounds in less than a minute into this vehicle. It killed the mother, a father, and two kids. The boy was aged four and the daughter was aged three.

"And they briefed this to the general," Millard said, "and they briefed it gruesome. I mean, they had pictures. They briefed it to him. And this colonel turns around to this full division staff and says, 'If these f — -ing hajis learned to drive, this sh-t wouldn't happen.'"

Millard and tens of thousands of other veterans suffer not only delayed reactions to stress but this crisis of faith. The God they knew, or thought they knew, failed them. The church or the synagogue or the mosque, which promised redemption by serving God and country, did not prepare them for the awful betrayal of this civic religion, for the capacity we all have for human atrocity, for the stories of heroism used to mask the reality of war.

War is always about betrayal: betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics, and of troops by politicians. This bitter knowledge of betrayal has seeped into the ranks of America's Iraq War veterans. It has unleashed a new wave of disillusioned veterans not seen since the Vietnam War. It has made it possible for us to begin, again, to see war's death mask and understand our complicity in evil.

"And then, you know, my sort of sentiment of, 'What the f — - are we doing, that I felt that way in Iraq,'" said Sgt. Ben Flanders, who estimated that he ran hundreds of military convoys in Iraq. "It's the sort of insanity of it and the fact that it reduces it. Well, I think war does anyway, but I felt like there was this enormous reduction in my compassion for people. The only thing that wound up mattering is myself and the guys that I was with. And everybody else be damned, whether you are an Iraqi — I'm sorry, I'm sorry you live here, I'm sorry this is a terrible situation, and I'm sorry that you have to deal with all of, you know, army vehicles running around and shooting, and these insurgents and all this stuff."

The Hobbesian world of Iraq described by Flanders is one where the ethic is kill or be killed. All nuance and distinction vanished for him. He fell, like most of the occupation troops, into a binary world of us and them, the good and the bad, those worthy of life and those unworthy of life. The vast majority of Iraqi civilians, caught in the middle of the clash among militias, death squads, criminal gangs, foreign fighters, kidnapping rings, terrorists, and heavily armed occupation troops, were just one more impediment that, if they happened to get in the way, had to be eradicated. These Iraqis were no longer human. They were abstractions in human form.

"The first briefing you get when you get off the plane in Kuwait, and you get off the plane and you're holding a duffel bag in each hand," Millard remembered. "You've got your weapon slung. You've got a web sack on your back. You're dying of heat. You're tired. You're jet-lagged. Your mind is just full of goop. And then you're scared on top of that, because, you know, you're in Kuwait, you're not in the States anymore... So fear sets in, too. And they sit you into this little briefing room and you get this briefing about how, you know, you can't trust any of these f — -ing hajis, because all these f — -king hajis are going to kill you. And 'haji' is always used as a term of disrespect and usually with the F-word in front of it."

The press coverage of the war in Iraq rarely exposes the twisted pathology of this war. We see the war from the perspective of the troops or from the equally skewed perspective of the foreign reporters, holed up in hotels, hemmed in by drivers and translators and official security and military escorts. There are moments when war's face appears to these voyeurs and professional killers, perhaps from the back seat of a car where a small child, her brains oozing out of her head, lies dying, but mostly it remains hidden. And all our knowledge of the war in Iraq has to be viewed as lacking the sweep and depth that will come one day, perhaps years from now, when a small Iraqi boy reaches adulthood and unfolds for us the sad and tragic story of the invasion and bloody occupation of his nation.

As the war sours, as it no longer fits into the mythical narrative of us as liberators and victors, it fades from view. The cable news shows that packaged and sold us the war have stopped covering it, trading the awful carnage of bomb blasts in Baghdad for the soap-opera sagas of Roger Clemens, Miley Cyrus, and Britney Spears in her eternal meltdown. Average monthly coverage of the war in Iraq on the ABC, NBC, and CBS newscasts combined has been cut in half, falling from 388 minutes in 2003, to 274 in 2004, to 166 in 2005. And newspapers, including papers like the Boston Globe, have shut down their Baghdad bureaus. Deprived of a clear, heroic narrative, restricted and hemmed in by security concerns, they have walked away.

Most reporters know that the invasion and the occupation have been a catastrophe. They know the Iraqis do not want us. They know about the cooked intelligence, spoon-fed to a compliant press by the Office of Special Plans and Lewis Libby's White House Iraq Group. They know about Curveball, the forged documents out of Niger, the outed CIA operatives, and the bogus British intelligence dossiers that were taken from old magazine articles. They know the weapons of mass destruction were destroyed long before we arrived. They know that our military as well as our National Guard and reserve units are being degraded and decimated. They know this war is not about bringing democracy to Iraq, that all the clichés about staying the course and completing the mission are used to make sure the president and his allies do not pay a political price while in power for their blunders and their folly.

The press knows all this, and if reporters had bothered to look they could have known it a long time ago. But the press, or at least most of it, has lost the passion, the outrage, and the sense of mission that once drove reporters to defy authority and tell the truth.

The Legions of the Lost and Damned

War is the pornography of violence. It has a dark beauty, filled with the monstrous and the grotesque. The Bible calls it "the lust of the eye" and warns believers against it. War allows us to engage in lusts and passions we keep hidden in the deepest, most private interiors of our fantasy lives. It allows us to destroy not only things and ideas but human beings.

In that moment of wholesale destruction, we wield the power of the divine, the power to revoke another person's charter to live on this Earth. The frenzy of this destruction — and when unit discipline breaks down, or when there was no unit discipline to begin with, "frenzy" is the right word — sees armed bands crazed by the poisonous elixir that our power to bring about the obliteration of others delivers. All things, including human beings, become objects — objects either to gratify or destroy, or both. Almost no one is immune. The contagion of the crowd sees to that.

Human beings are machine-gunned and bombed from the air, automatic grenade launchers pepper hovels and neighbors with high-powered explosive devices, and convoys race through Iraq like freight trains of death. These soldiers and Marines have at their fingertips the heady ability to call in airstrikes and firepower that obliterate landscapes and villages in fiery infernos. They can instantly give or deprive human life, and with this power they become sick and demented. The moral universe is turned upside down. All human beings are used as objects. And no one walks away uninfected.

War thrusts us into a vortex of pain and fleeting ecstasy. It thrusts us into a world where law is of little consequence, human life is cheap, and the gratification of the moment becomes the overriding desire that must be satiated, even at the cost of another's dignity or life.

"A lot of guys really supported that whole concept that, you know, if they don't speak English and they have darker skin, they're not as human as us, so we can do what we want," said Spc. Josh Middleton, who served in the 82nd Airborne in Iraq. "And you know, 20 year-old kids are yelled at back and forth at Bragg, and we're picking up cigarette butts and getting yelled at every day for having a dirty weapon. But over here, it's like life and death. And 40 year-old Iraqi men look at us with fear and we can — do you know what I mean? — we have this power that you can't have. That's really liberating. Life is just knocked down to this primal level of, you know, you worry about where the next food's going to come from, the next sleep or the next patrol, and to stay alive.

"It's like, you feel like, I don't know, if you're a caveman," he added. "Do you know what I mean? Just, you know, I mean, this is how life is supposed to be. Life and death, essentially. No TV. None of that bullsh-t."

It takes little in wartime to turn ordinary men into killers. Most give themselves willingly to the seduction of unlimited power to destroy. All feel the peer pressure to conform. Few, once in battle, find the strength to resist. Physical courage is common on a battlefield. Moral courage, which these veterans have exhibited by telling us the truth about the war, is not.

Military machines and state bureaucracies, which seek to make us obey, seek also to silence those who return from war and speak to its reality. They push aside these witnesses to hide from a public eager for stories of war that fit the mythic narrative of glory and heroism the essence of war, which is death. War, as these veterans explain, exposes the capacity for evil that lurks just below the surface within all of us. This is the truth these veterans, often with great pain, have had to face.

The historian Christopher Browning chronicled the willingness to kill in Ordinary Men, his study of Reserve Police Battalion 101 in Poland during World War II. On the morning of July 12, 1942, the battalion, made up of middle-aged recruits, was ordered to shoot 1,800 Jews in the village of Józefów in a daylong action. The men in the unit had to round up the Jews, march them into the forest, and one by one order them to lie down in a row. The victims, including women, infants, children, and the elderly, were shot dead at close range.

Battalion members were offered the option to refuse, an option only about a dozen men took, although a few more asked to be relieved once the killing began. Those who did not want to continue, Browning says, were disgusted rather than plagued by conscience. When the men returned to the barracks they "were depressed, angered, embittered and shaken." They drank heavily. They were told not to talk about the event, "but they needed no encouragement in that direction."

Each generation responds to war as innocents. Each generation discovers its own disillusionment, often at a terrible personal price. And the war in Iraq has begun to produce legions of the lost and the damned, many of whom battle the emotional and physical trauma that comes from killing and exposure to violence.

Punishing the Local Population

Sgt. Camilo Mejía, who eventually applied while still on active duty to become a conscientious objector, said the ugly side of American racism and chauvinism appeared the moment his unit arrived in the Middle East. Fellow soldiers instantly ridiculed Arab-style toilets because they would be "sh-tting like dogs." The troops around him treated Iraqis, whose language they did not speak and whose culture was alien, little better than animals.

The word "haji" swiftly became a slur to refer to Iraqis, in much the same way "gook" was used to debase the Vietnamese and "raghead" is used to belittle those in Afghanistan. Soon those around him ridiculed "haji food," "haji homes," and "haji music." Bewildered prisoners, who were rounded up in useless and indiscriminate raids, were stripped naked and left to stand terrified for hours in the baking sun. They were subjected to a steady torrent of verbal and physical abuse. "I experienced horrible confusion," Mejía remembered, "not knowing whether I was more afraid for the detainees or for what would happen to me if I did anything to help them."

These scenes of abuse, which began immediately after the American invasion, were little more than collective acts of sadism. Mejía watched, not daring to intervene yet increasingly disgusted at the treatment of Iraqi civilians. He saw how the callous and unchecked abuse of power first led to alienation among Iraqis and spawned a raw hatred of the occupation forces. When Army units raided homes, the soldiers burst in on frightened families, forced them to huddle in the corners at gunpoint, and helped themselves to food and items in the house.

"After we arrested drivers," he recalled, "we would choose whichever vehicles we liked, fuel them from confiscated jerry cans, and conduct undercover presence patrols in the impounded cars.

"But to this day I cannot find a single good answer as to why I stood by idly during the abuse of those prisoners except, of course, my own cowardice," he also noted.

Iraqi families were routinely fired upon for getting too close to checkpoints, including an incident where an unarmed father driving a car was decapitated by a .50-caliber machine gun in front of his small son. Soldiers shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold alongside the road and then tossed incendiary grenades into the pools to set them ablaze. "It's fun to shoot sh-t up," a soldier said. Some opened fire on small children throwing rocks. And when improvised explosive devices (IEDS) went off, the troops fired wildly into densely populated neighborhoods, leaving behind innocent victims who became, in the callous language of war, "collateral damage."

"We would drive on the wrong side of the highway to reduce the risk of being hit by an IED," Mejía said of the deadly roadside bombs. "This forced oncoming vehicles to move to one side of the road and considerably slowed down the flow of traffic. In order to avoid being held up in traffic jams, where someone could roll a grenade under our trucks, we would simply drive up on sidewalks, running over garbage cans and even hitting civilian vehicles to push them out of the way. Many of the soldiers would laugh and shriek at these tactics."

At one point the unit was surrounded by an angry crowd protesting the occupation. Mejía and his squad opened fire on an Iraqi holding a grenade, riddling the man's body with bullets. Mejía checked his clip afterward and determined that he had fired 11 rounds into the young man. Units, he said, nonchalantly opened fire in crowded neighborhoods with heavy M-240 Bravo machine guns, AT-4 launchers, and Mark 19s, a machine gun that spits out grenades.

"The frustration that resulted from our inability to get back at those who were attacking us," Mejía said, "led to tactics that seemed designed simply to punish the local population that was supporting them."

The Algebra of Occupation

It is the anonymity of the enemy that fuels the mounting rage. Comrades are maimed or die, and there is no one to lash back at, unless it is the hapless civilians who happen to live in the neighborhood where the explosion or ambush occurred. Soldiers and Marines can do two or three tours in Iraq and never actually see the enemy, although their units come under attack and take numerous casualties. These troops, who entered Baghdad in triumph when Iraq was occupied, soon saw the decisive victory over Saddam Hussein's army evolve into a messy war of attrition.

The superior firepower and lightning victory was canceled out by what T. E. Lawrence once called the "algebra of occupation." Writing about the British occupation of Iraq following the Ottoman Empire's collapse in World War I, Lawrence, in lessons these veterans have had to learn on their own, highlighted what has always doomed conventional, foreign occupying powers.

"Rebellion must have an unassailable base… it must have a sophisticated alien enemy, in the form of a disciplined army of occupation too small to dominate the whole area effectively from fortified posts," Lawrence wrote. "It must have a friendly population, not actively friendly, but sympathetic to the point of not betraying rebel movements to the enemy. Rebellions can be made by 2 percent active in a striking force, and 98 percent passive sympathy. Granted mobility, security… time and doctrine… victory will rest with the insurgents, for the algebraical factors are in the end decisive."

The failure in Iraq is the same failure that bedeviled the French in Algeria; the United States in Vietnam; and the British, who for 800 years beat, imprisoned, transported, shot, and hanged hundreds of thousands of Irish patriots. Occupation, in each case, turned the occupiers into beasts and fed the insurrection. It created patterns where innocents, as in Iraq, were terrorized and killed. The campaign against a mostly invisible enemy, many veterans said, has given rise to a culture of terror and hatred among U.S. forces, many of whom, losing ground, have in effect declared war on all Iraqis.

Mejía said, regarding the deaths of Iraqis at checkpoints, "This sort of killing of civilians has long ceased to arouse much interest or even comment."

Mejía also watched soldiers from his unit abuse the corpses of Iraqi dead. He related how, in one incident, soldiers laughed as an Iraqi corpse fell from the back of a truck. "Take a picture of me and this motherf — -er," said one of the soldiers who had been in Mejía's squad in Third Platoon, putting his arm around the corpse.

The shroud fell away from the body, revealing a young man wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.

"Damn, they really f — -ed you up, didn't they?" the soldier laughed.

The scene, Mejía noted, was witnessed by the dead man's brothers and cousins.

The senior officers, protected in heavily fortified compounds, rarely experienced combat. They sent their troops on futile missions in the quest to be awarded Combat Infantry Badges. This recognition, Mejía noted, "was essential to their further progress up the officer ranks."

This pattern meant that "very few high-ranking officers actually got out into the action, and lower-ranking officers were afraid to contradict them when they were wrong." When the badges — bearing an emblem of a musket with the hammer dropped, resting on top of an oak wreath — were finally awarded, the commanders brought in Iraqi tailors to sew the badges on the left breast pockets of their desert combat uniforms.

"This was one occasion when our leaders led from the front," Mejía noted bitterly. "They were among the first to visit the tailors to get their little patches of glory sewn next to their hearts."

War breeds gratuitous, senseless, and repeated acts of atrocity and violence. Abuse of the powerless becomes a kind of perverted sport for the troops.

"I mean, if someone has a fan, they're a white-collar family," said Spc. Philip Chrystal, who carried out raids on Iraqi homes in Kirkuk. "So we get started on this day, this one, in particular. And it starts with the psy-ops [psychological operations] vehicles out there, you know, with the big speakers playing a message in Arabic or Farsi or Kurdish or whatever they happen to be saying, basically, saying put your weapons, if you have them, next to the front door in your house. Please come outside, blah, blah, blah, blah. And we had Apaches flying over for security, if they're needed, and it's also a good show of force. And we were running around, and we'd done a few houses by this point, and I was with my platoon leader, my squad leader, and maybe a couple other people, but I don't really remember.

"And we were approaching this one house, and this farming area; they're, like, built up into little courtyards," he said. "So they have like the main house, common area. They have like a kitchen and then they have like a storage-shed-type deal. And we were approaching, and they had a family dog. And it was barking ferociously, because it was doing its job. And my squad leader, just out of nowhere, just shoots it. And he didn't — motherf — -er — he shot it, and it went in the jaw and exited out.

"So I see this dog — and I'm a huge animal lover. I love animals — and this dog has like these eyes on it, and he's running around spraying blood all over the place. And the family is sitting right there, with three little children and a mom and a dad horrified. And I'm at a loss for words. And so I yell at him. I'm like, ‘What the f — - are you doing?' And so the dog's yelping. It's crying out without a jaw. And I'm looking at the family, and they're just scared. And so I told them, I was like, 'F — -ing shoot it,' you know. 'At least kill it, because that can't be fixed. It's suffering.' And I actually get tears from just saying this right now, but — and I had tears then, too — and I'm looking at the kids and they are so scared. So I got the interpreter over with me and I get my wallet out and I gave them twenty bucks, because that's what I had. And, you know, I had him give it to them and told them that I'm so sorry that asshole did that. Which was very common.

"Was a report ever filed about it?" he asked. "Was anything ever done? Any punishment ever dished out? No, absolutely not."

The Plaster Saints of War

The vanquished know war. They see through the empty jingoism of those who use the abstract words of "glory," "honor," and "patriotism" to mask the cries of the wounded, the brutal killing, war profiteering, and chest-pounding grief. They know the lies the victors often do not acknowledge, the lies covered up in stately war memorials and mythic war narratives, filled with stories of courage and comradeship. They know the lies that permeate the thick, self-important memoirs by amoral statesmen who make wars but do not know war.

The vanquished know the essence of war — death. They grasp that war is necrophilia. They see that war is a state of almost pure sin, with its goals of hatred and destruction. They know how war fosters alienation, leads inevitably to nihilism, and is a turning away from the sanctity and preservation of life. All other narratives about war too easily fall prey to the allure and seductiveness of violence as well as the attraction of the godlike power that comes with the license to kill with impunity.

But the words of the vanquished come later, sometimes long after the war, when grown men and women unpack the suffering they endured as children: what it was like to see their mother or father killed or taken away, or what it was like to lose their homes, their community, their security, and to be discarded as human refuse. But by then few listen. The truth about war comes out, but usually too late. We are assured by the war-makers that these stories have no bearing on the glorious violent enterprise the nation is about to inaugurate. And, lapping up the myth of war and its sense of empowerment, we prefer not to look.

We are trapped in a doomed war of attrition in Iraq. We have blundered into a nation we know little about, caught in bitter rivalries between competing ethnic and religious groups. Iraq was a cesspool for the British in 1917 when they occupied it. It will be a cesspool for us as well. We have embarked on an occupation that is as damaging to our souls as to our prestige and power and security. We have become tyrants to others weaker than ourselves. And we believe, falsely, that because we have the capacity to wage war we have the right to wage war.

We make our heroes out of clay. We laud their gallant deeds and give them uniforms with colored ribbons on their chests for the acts of violence they committed or endured. They are our false repositories of glory and honor, of power, of self-righteousness, of patriotism and self-worship, all that we want to believe about ourselves. They are our plaster saints of war, the icons we cheer to defend us and make us and our nation great. They are the props of our civic religion, our love of power and force, our belief in our right as a chosen nation to wield this force against the weak, and rule. This is our nation's idolatry of itself. And this idolatry has corrupted religious institutions, not only here but in most nations, making it impossible for us to separate the will of God from the will of the state.

Prophets are not those who speak of piety and duty from pulpits — few people in pulpits have much worth listening to — but are the battered wrecks of men and women who return from Iraq and speak the halting words we do not want to hear, words that we must listen to and heed to know ourselves. They tell us war is a soulless void. They have seen and tasted how war plunges us into perversion, trauma, and an unchecked orgy of death. And it is their testimonies that have the redemptive power to save us from ourselves.

Chris Hedges is the former Middle East Bureau Chief of the New York Times, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a Senior Fellow at the Nation Institute. He is the author of several books including War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. This piece has been adapted from the introduction to the just-published, Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians (Nation Books), which he has co-authored with Laila al-Arian.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

House of Commons votes to let U.S. War Resisters stay in Canada

Attention News/Assignment/International Affairs/House of Commons Editors:

OTTAWA, June 3 /CNW/ - The Opposition parties in the House of Commons joined together today to adopt a recommendation which, if implemented, would make it possible for U.S. Iraq War resisters to obtain Permanent Resident status in Canada.

The recommendation was adopted by a majority of Members of Parliament from the Liberal, Bloc Québécois, and New Democratic Parties. The Conservatives voted against the motion.

The motion, which originated in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in December 2007, calls on the government to "immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and...the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions...against such individuals."

Corey Glass, 25, a war resister who came to Canada in 2006 and was recently told to leave Canada by June 12 or face removal to the United States, welcomed the vote. "I'm thankful that the MPs voted to let me and the other war resisters stay in Canada. I'm also thankful to all the Canadians who urged their MPs to support us."

"This is a great victory for the courageous men and women who have come to Canada because they refuse to take part in the illegal, immoral Iraq War, and for the many organizations and individuals who have supported this campaign over the past four years," said Lee Zaslofsky, Coordinator of the War Resisters Support Campaign and a Vietnam War deserter who came to Canada in 1970.

The War Resisters Support Campaign is calling on the Conservative government to respect the democratic decision of the Canadian Parliament and immediately implement the motion and cease deportation proceedings against Corey Glass and other war resisters.

For further information: Michelle Robidoux, (416) 856-5008; Lee
Zaslofsky, (416) 598-1222 or (415) 369-0864

Monday, June 02, 2008

It's Time to Get

"Enough Is Enough, It's Time to Get Out"
Inter Press Service
By Dahr Jamail

Click here to read story at original source with photo.

SEATTLE, Jun 2 (IPS) - Dozens of veterans from the U.S. occupation of Iraq converged in this west coast city over the weekend to share stories of atrocities being committed daily in Iraq, in a continuation of the "Winter Soldier" hearings held in Silver Spring, Maryland in March.

At the Seattle Town Hall, some 800 people gathered to hear the testimonies of veterans from Iraq. The event was sponsored by the Northwest Regional Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), and endorsed by dozens of local and regional anti-war groups like Veterans for Peace and Students for a Democratic Society.

"I watched Iraqi Police bring in someone to interrogate," Seth Manzel, a vehicle commander and machine gunner in the U.S. Army, told the audience. "There were four men on the was pummeling his kidneys with his fists, another was inserting a bottle up his rectum. It looked like a frat house gang-rape."

Manzel joined the army after 9/11 for economic reasons -- he'd just been laid off, and his wife had just had a baby. Manzel told another story of military medics he was with in Tal Afar who refused to treat an elderly man in their detention centre. Manzel described the old man as being jaundiced and lying on the ground, writhing in pain.

"The medics said the old man was just being lazy and they were not authorised to treat detainees," Manzel said.

Jan Critchfield worked as an army journalist while attached to the 1st Cavalry in Baghdad during 2004. "I was with a unit that shot at a man and wife near a checkpoint," Critchfield said, "She had been shot through her shinbone, and that was the first story I covered in Iraq."

Critchfield told the audience that his unspoken job in Iraq was to "counter the liberal media bias" about the occupation.

"Our target audience was in the U.S., and the emphasis was reporting on humanitarian aid missions the military conducted," Critchfield said. "I don't know how many stories I reported on chicken drops (distributing frozen chickens in a community). I don't know what else you can call that, other than propaganda. I would find the highest ranking person I could get, and quote them verbatim without fact checking anything they said."

Other veterans told of lax rules of engagement that led to the slaughter of innocent civilians in Iraq.

"We were told we'd be deploying to Iraq and that we needed to get ready to have little kids and women shoot at us," Sergio Kochergin, a former Marine who served two deployments in Iraq, told the audience. "It was an attempt to portray Iraqis as animals. We were supposed to do humanitarian work, but all we did was harass people, drive like crazy on the streets, pretending it was our city and we could do whatever we wanted to do."

As the other veterans on the panel nodded in agreement, Kochergin continued, "We were constantly told everybody there wants to kill you, everybody wants to get you. In the military, we had racism within every rank and it was ridiculous. It seemed like a joke, but that joke turned into destroying peoples' lives in Iraq."

"I was in Husaiba with a sniper platoon right on the Syrian border and we would basically go out on the town and search for people to shoot," Kochergin said. "The rules of engagement (ROE) got more lenient the longer we were there. So if anyone had a bag and a shovel, we were to shoot them. We were allowed to take our shots at anything that looked suspicious. And at that point in time, everything looked suspicious."

Kochergin added, "Later on, we had no ROE at all. If you see something that doesn't seem right, take them out." He concluded by saying, "Enough is enough, it's time to get out of there."

Doug Connor was a first lieutenant in the army and worked as a surgical nurse in Iraq. While there he worked as part of a combat support unit, and said most of the patients he treated were Iraqi civilians.

"There were so many people that needed treatment we couldn't take all of them," he said. "When a bombing happened and 45 patients were brought to us, it was always Americans treated first, then Kurds, then the Arabs."

Connor added quietly, "It got to the point where we started calling the Iraqi patients 'range balls' because, just like on the driving range (in golf), you don't care about losing them."

Channan Suarez Diaz was a navy hospital corpsman who returned from Iraq with a purple heart, among other medals. He served in Ramadi from September 2004 to February 2005 with a weapons company. He is now the Seattle Chapter president of IVAW.

"Our commanding officer wanted us to go through a route that another platoon did and was completely wiped out in an ambush," Diaz explained. "We refused. They canceled that mission and we didn't go. I don't think these are isolated incidents. I think this is happening every day in Iraq. The military doesn't want you to know about this, because it's kind of like lighting a fire in a prairie."

The first Winter Soldier event was organised in 1971 by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in response to a growing list of human rights violations occurring in Vietnam.

>From Mar. 13-16, 2008, IVAW held a national conference titled "Winter Solider: Iraq and Afghanistan" outside Washington, DC. The four-day event brought together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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(c)2008 Dahr Jamail.
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Sunday, June 01, 2008

World Bank Chum into the Global Food Crisis Frenzy

World Bank Chum into the Global Food Crisis Frenzy: The Four Horses Ride Again

by C. L. Cook

The World Bank today charged out of the wilderness at the fourth International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Tokyo to announce its 1.2 billion dollar (US) top up of a loans fund aimed at the heart of Africa, (including a few juicy throw-away grants to poverty-poster children in Haiti, Djibouti, and Liberia) with promises of more to come.

Well they had to come back, and honesty be told, we all know they had never really gone away; from the darkened wings today rose again the four-headed monster of the world's miserable, the World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Food Programme (WFE), the Food and Agricultural Association (FOA), joined by a conglomeration of various other UN and EU international poverty pimps doing business under the rubric of "international institutions."

Drawn to the media limelight like so many fish brought to the surface by the full-mooned brilliance of the growing Global Food Crisis (GFC), the organizations that proved the agency of incalculable suffering and misery around the planet over the last few decades are back.

Amazingly though, the tools the paragons of economic prowess profer as cure to the ills of the backward blacks of Africa and the Caribbean are the same loans-for-social-sacrifice instruments known at the peak of IMF/WB influence as Structural Adjustment Plans (SAPS).

In a performance worthy of the Reagan era, today the World Bank's current numero uno, president Robert Zoellick outlined his gang's plan for Africa's future, as the Voice of America quotes him;

* "[T]he assistance being provided Liberia is intended to help boost agricultural production in the country, by providing farmers all the requisite support they need to grow more food. Haiti, the World Bank President announced, will also receive similar support.

* Mr. Zoellick disclosed that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and other international institutions are drawing up a comprehensive program to determine an efficient and effective approach in dealing with the situation."

The Situation

In the guise of rescuers of economic basket cases around the world, these international operators lever national disasters into promising opportunities for perpetual control over the lives and livelihoods of the "beneficiaries" of their largess, once those suckers are duly saddled with impossible loan repayments. It's a phenomena recently outlined in great detail in Naomi Klein's best-seller, 'The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,' (an expansion, among other things, of points emphasized at every rally against globalization since at least last century's 'Battle of Seattle') made grotesquely lucrative in places like Iraq, Louisiana, and more recently, Burma.

The principle is surprisingly simple: Find someone desperate enough to agree to any terms for survival, then make them an offer they can't refuse. As Klein chillingly informs; these disasters need not be nature's doing, nor need they be waited for; necessarily.

The Guardian's Julian Borger reports the World Bank will "fast-track" monies, "bypassing the normal vetting procedures." Among the normal procedures left behind seems to be any sense of shame, or propriety. Borger quotes the redoubtable Zoellick;

* "The fast-track World Bank money would be available immediately, bypassing the normal project vetting procedures, and would help fund safety net support for the hungry, in the form of school feeding programmes or food-for-work schemes. Zoellick said priority would be given to pregnant women and infants, who were most vulnerable. The money would also be spent on seeds and fertiliser for farmers for the next few harvests."

Work for Food Schemes?

So, 220 million of the 1.2 billion is destined to feed the pregnant and infants in the form of "grants" for now, the bulk of further aid presumably coming later in the form of loans, certainly not of the sub-prime variety; and in a new twist, "work for food schemes."

Zoellick's a little short on the details of that one, but we can all but hope the WB will learn from the failures of the UN's Food for Oil programme.

This time, as in the past the spotlight is trained on Africa and benighted Haiti. Following years in decline, especially in the Americas, the figurative smell of blood in the water accompanying the recent spike in oil and fuel prices affecting most the world economy's hardest done-by, president Zoellick seems poised to pounce to solve problems largely created by the system he sits atop.

The invocation to stir good Zoellick from his Swiss perch seems Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's plea for assistance. Just the enticement to gain the doorway. Sirleaf will doubtless discover: Some guests never leave once invited in; not without a good measure of blood.

Whether Work for Food, Food for Oil, or Blood for Oil, today's backdated gesture by the World Bank and its old order coterie reveals just how far from reality these global string-pullers have drifted: There is no more "there" there fellas. The blood is all gone.

But, Zoellick persists;

* "This is not an issue like HIV/AIDS where you need some research breakthrough. People know what to do, and we need to get the resources out quickly to where they are needed."

Another scheme kicking around is the idea to introduce "management tools such as hedge funds and insurance schemes to protect poor countries and their farmers."

Makes you want to weep for the humanity of it.

The nabobs of the world's economy will meet in Rome next week to chart this and scheme that. Robert Zoellick laid out his organization's game plan, saying;

* "As we go into the Rome meeting next week it is crucial that we focus on specific action. Along with our partners, these initiatives will help address the immediate danger of hunger and malnutrition for the 2 billion people struggling to survive in the face of rising food prices, and contribute to a longer-term solution that must involve many countries and institutions."

Doubtless that "longer-term solution" will be short in coming.


Oil price is a bubble that will burst soon: Soros

Is free trade answer to food woes?
Commodity Online

Liberia: World Bank Pledges Us$10 Million to Country At TICAD
The Analyst (Monrovia)
29 May 2008

World Bank Boosts Aid To Fight Hunger
By VOA News
29 May 2008

World Bank's $1.2bn fund to feed the poor· Rapid response facility to help developing countries Liberia, Haiti and Djibouti receive first three grants
Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
The Guardian, Friday May 30 2008

Behind the World Food Crisis

Corporate Vultures Lurk Behind the World Food Crisis
By Anuradha Mittal, AlterNet
Posted on April 29, 2008, Printed on June 1, 2008

UN agencies are meeting in Berne to tackle the world food price crisis. Heads of International Financial Institutions (IFIs), including Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank (former U.S. trade representative) and Pascal Lamy, WTO's Director General, are among the attendees. Will the "battle plan" emerging from the Swiss capital, a charming city with splendid sandstone buildings and far removed from the grinding poverty and hunger which has reduced people to eating mud cakes in Haiti and scavenging garbage heaps, be more of the same -- promote free trade to deal with the food crisis?

The growing social unrest against food prices has forced governments to take policy measures such as export bans, to fulfill domestic needs. This has created uproar among policy circles as fear of trade being undermined sets in. "The food crisis of 2008 may become a challenge to globalization," exclaims The Economist in its April 17, 2008 issue. Not surprisingly then, the "Doha Development Round" which has been in a stalemate since the collapse of the 2003 WTO Ministerial in Cancun, largely due to the hypocrisy of agricultural polices of the rich nations, is being resuscitated as a solution to rising food prices.

Speaking at the Center for Global Development, Zoellick passionately argued that the time was "now or never" for breaking the Doha Round impasse and reaching a global trade deal. Pascal Lamy has argued, "At a time when the world economy is in rough waters, concluding the Doha Round can provide a strong anchor." Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the IMF, has claimed: "No one should forget that all countries rely on open trade to feed their populations. [...] Completing the Doha round would play a critically helpful role in this regard, as it would reduce trade barriers and distortions and encourage agricultural trade."

Preaching at the altar of free market to deal with the current crisis requires a degree of official amnesia. It was through the removal of tariff barriers, made possible by the international trade agreements, that allowed rich nations such as the U.S. to dump heavily subsidized farm surplus in developing countries while destroying their agricultural base and undermining local food production. In Cameroon, lowering tariff protection to 25 percent increased poultry imports by about six-fold while import surges wiped out 70 percent of Senegal's poultry industry. Similarly reduction of rice tariffs from 100 to 20 percent in Ghana as a result of the structural adjustment policies enforced by the World Bank, increased rice imports from 250,000 tons in 1998 to 415,150 tons in 2003. In all, 66 percent of rice producers recorded negative returns leading to loss of employment. Vegetable oil imports in Mozambique shrank domestic production from 21,000 tons in 1981 to 3,500 in 2002, negatively impacting some 108,000 small-holder households growing oilseeds.

Developing countries had an overall agricultural trade surplus of almost $7 billion per year in the 1960s. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), gross imports of food by developing countries grew with trade liberalization, turning into a food trade deficit of more than $11 billion by 2001 with a cereal import bill for Low Income Food Deficit Countries reaching over $38 billion in 2007/2008.

Erosion of the agricultural bases of developing countries has increased hunger among their farmers while destroying their ability to meet their food needs. The 1996 World Food Summit's commitment to reduce the number of hungry people -- 815 million then -- by half by 2015 had become a far-fetched idea by its 10th anniversary. U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, reported last June that nearly 854 million people in the world-one in every six human beings-are gravely undernourished.

So on who's behalf are the heads of the IFIs promoting the conclusion of the Doha Round and further liberalization of agriculture. While Investors Chronicle in its April 2008 feature story, "Crop Boom Winners" explores how investors can gain exposure to the dramatic turnaround in food and farmland prices, a new report from GRAIN, Making a Killing from the Food Crisis, shows Cargill, the world's biggest grain trader, achieved an 86 percent increase in profits from commodity trading in the first quarter of 2008; Bunge had a 77 percent increase in profits during the last quarter of 2007; ADM, the second largest grain trader in the world, registered a 67 percent per cent increase in profits in 2007. Behind the chieftains of the capitalist system are powerful transnational corporations, traders, and speculators who trade food worldwide, determine commodity prices, create and then manipulate shortages and surpluses to their advantage, and are the real beneficiaries of international trade agreements.

The vultures of greed are circling the carcasses of growing hunger and poverty as another 100 million join the ranks of the world's poorest - nearly 3 billion people who live on less than $2 a day. Agriculture is fundamental to the well-being of all people, both in terms of access to safe and nutritious food and as the foundation of healthy communities, cultures, and environment. The answer to the current crisis must be centered on small-scale farmers producing for local and regional markets. It is time for the developing countries to uphold the rights of their people to food sovereignty and break with decades of ill-advised policies that have failed to benefit their people.

Anuradha Mittal is executive director of the Oakland Institute.