My main intent is to expose the fear-mongering machine; and with any luck, disarm the machine by arming people with information. It's real news that the mainstream ignores, things I consider to be smokescreens, plus a few ideas on what to do about it all. Please see the bottom of the blog for older posts and a wide variety of resources that I consider need-to-know info.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Accountability for Contractors - And YOU?

So something finally happened, there's a chance at some accountability for private contractors' actions in Iraq - at last. We still have to wait and see if it actually isn't abolished with a veto, but I'm hopeful that Congress will be insistent nonetheless. It's important to note that this bill, commonly known as the "Blackwater Bill" actually applies to ALL contractors. Which is great since apparently some of the contractors have even been firing at US troops!!!

Another way we could stop the war profiteering is to remove the members of Congress that are appropriating unethically in their OWN FAVOR! Take Senator Dianne Feinstein for example. Not only has she voted in favor of no-bid contracts for her husband's company (working in Iraq & Afghanistan, just to name a few places), but she is also sitting on the Ethics Committee now, where she can legally ensure her immoral deeds remain "ethical" in the eyes of Congress. She may have quit the appropriations committee that gave the contracts, but...come on southern California, are you seriously going to continue to allow that war-profiteering criminal to also be her OWN police enforcement too? GET HER OUTA THERE! As well as the many, many others in Congress that have clearly chosen profiteering over precious life. I'm a giant advocate for contacting Congress for any reason; whether it be to express dismay over lack of support or bad vote, as well as congratulating on a good vote (the latter is not as often done, but just as important!). We cannot depend on the next president alone to fix this giant mess, and I implore you to keep an eye on Congress before casting congressional votes in '08 for this reason too.

What has happened with the contractors in Iraq is just one of MANY things that happens in unfettered and radically free markets. In fact, Iraq was a dream guinea pig for the radical free market yea-sayers, implemented by Paul Bremer, and based upon an economic plan that was originally born out of a desire to put an end to The New Deal. Naomi Klein has dubbed it: THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, but it's more commonly known as "Economic Shock Treatment" or as the "Chicago School of Economics." It has been followed by people such as Rumsfeld, and the economic puppets for Pinochet - who were trained to do their part by the same (and probably most notorious) economist who had created this theory, Milton Friedman. The premise stems from the CIA's use of shock, as a means of reducing prisoners to a child-like state so they may wield power over them. Friedman wanted free markets in a time that they were very unpopular, and he realized the same practice the CIA was using could be applied to the masses in cases of natural disaster, war, or any other shocking event. Today we see the Shock Doctrine in play here in the US, after the attacks on 9/11 where Bush manipulated our shock to get all kinds of policies we would otherwise be opposed to into law, as he promised to protect us. There is a short film about the whole concept that is very well done on Naomi's website as well.

i think they are perpetuating the fear and shock with the endless war, and the supposed "threats" from Iran. In order for the Shock Doctrine to keep its grip, people must remain paralyzed by fear, and Iran is just the next tool for these means. A reminder that Iran poses NO THREAT (a short, narrated by Arron Russo):

Since there is so little real understanding in the US of the Iranian people, I think it's important that we make an effort to go beyond what we are force-fed or limited to by our media. I don't think it is any accident that the media has made this war faceless and that we have not heard reports on any individual Iraqis since the war began; because if we do not feel connected to the human lives there, then it's easier for us to support their deaths - so I want to put a face and real people in the place we have labeled "our enemies." In this video below you will see what everyday life is like for Iranians; it's produced by the BBC. I think most will be surprised and even intrigued, as I was. It's beautifully done and focuses solely on their culture, different areas of Tehran, various lifestyles there, and simply based on the people overall - no politicians were interviewed for this piece.

Now, every time somebody ventures into a discussion on Iran in the US, it invariably leads to Israel, and then to accusations of Antisemitism. So I want to remind everybody (as I so frequently do), that the cabal seeking to squash Iran are the Zionists, NOT Jews. Sure, some Zionists are Jews (but certainly not all), there are also Christian Zionists, and other organizations that work in concert with them; but the fact remains that it's so far from just being Jewish people behind the Zionist movement.

It's of vast importance to differentiate between the two in order to understand what is behind, and truly motivates this verbal attack on Iran. We must not allow the Zionists hide behind their accusations of prejudice! I recently discovered this great website via the picture above on another website, the website I'm speaking of is on the sign the Rabbis are holding in the picture above. Within that site you'll find this insightful article about their visit with the Iranian president, and the following counter-protests they held in response to the ones against Ahmadinejad's visit to the US. The press release at the bottom of this article includes a speech given the night before that meeting, and it explains extremely well why Jews are opposed to Zionism. I will gladly give numerous resources to anybody that wants to read more about this too, just ask. To accept this vicious rhetoric about antisemitism, is to allow these immoral wars to continue. For those of you that still think it's a good idea to attack Iran, I ask you to please seriously consider this:

Also, this is just one tragedy that awaits our attack. Another (in brief) is that Iran could simply chose to shut-down the Straights of Hormuz by whatever means necessary; and that would seriously and so easily crush America. Not only by way of our troops, but also because it's the passage that MUCH of our energy resources travel though - amongst other things. Honestly, Iran is NOT a war the US has ANY chance of "winning."

It's not my intention to condone any beliefs held by Iranians here that are considered controversial; but I think it's important to recognize that judging another country's religion, beliefs, or lifestyle is no place for a democracy! To consider ourselves the world's "cultural police" or the ones on some sort of "moral high-ground" is a very dangerous position to take; and it's in fact, quite the opposite action of said intentions behind this stance. Please consider how long it took for you to understand your own faith, and that most devout followers of any religion believe that they may never fully understand their God or It's divine intent. So how can people be so comfortable judging another's faith with so little understanding? Almost all faiths preach that it is only for God to judge, and teach love and respect for all life. Sadly it seems that many faithful have forgotten, or chosen to ignore these very valuable principles. Most faiths believe that if you life by good example, there will be no reason to seek converting anybody because they will desire what you have and ask of you what led you there; and I suggest that to developing a desire for democracy, will work in like fashion. We as Americans are for the most part, not setting a good example in either arena.

On our side of the border, we can continue to blame the administration, and that wouldn't be so far off base, however...When are we the people going to stand up against what we know is wrong, and have known has gone on for so long?

This is a democracy after all, meaning that everything this administration does is ultimately on our hands. It's sad to hear anybody say that they still believe Bush actually intends to protect Americans from harm, especially when there seems to be evidence to the contrary popping up almost everyday! Bush's promises of protection are empty, and he's not listening to commanders on the ground, or anybody else but himself. It's time we forgive those that were blinded by shock, and time for all of us to come out of our shock so we can make way for some badly needed change! I'm thinking that perhaps what I've thought up until now was just apathy, was really just a result of shock; and I have The Shock Doctrine to thank for opening my eyes to that possibility. I really want to forgive too, so we can move on from that stand-still. As Naomi Klein surmised from her research, it's only when we are aware of what is happening to us, and when we have access to knowledge that we can resist the power that shock has over us. Part of informing ourselves involves taking responsibility for all that has passed, and actually doing something to change it.

In this New York Times OP-ED piece that was published yesterday, it so precisely lays out as to how we the people are now equally responsible for the atrocities that have followed the criminality and negligence that the administration, the media, and the Congress were initially responsible for. I was glad to see such an accurate account of so many of the things we've been told about listed in one place and yet, not resolved even one of those things - it should shame the best of us to recall it. I recommend you "get it while it's hot" too (this OP-ED article), since this publication archives fairly quick and then you have to be a member to access it. That is why I have posted it in full below. However, there are several great links within the original article, so PLEASE go read it now.

I wonder when Americans are going to stop allowing these entities to hold the power of shock over us, to let the press turn the page for us so that we forget without resolving anything, and to accept their reasoning for turning a blind eye to profiteering and violations of our rights and freedoms, and all in the name of hate?
I know now, that it will only happen, and we will only be able to have some peace, when we decide not to allow ourselves to remain in a state of shock.

PS - I'd like to thank numerous friends that are also dedicated to spreading information and offering truth. There are truly too many to name here but I think you know who you are, and I wanted to let you know that I cannot do this sort of thing without you. You also work very hard to shake-off the shock! Thank you.


The ‘Good Germans’ Among Us

Published: October 14, 2007

“BUSH lies” doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves.

Ten days ago The Times unearthed yet another round of secret Department of Justice memos countenancing torture. President Bush gave his standard response: “This government does not torture people.” Of course, it all depends on what the meaning of “torture” is. The whole point of these memos is to repeatedly recalibrate the definition so Mr. Bush can keep pleading innocent.

By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago. As Andrew Sullivan, once a Bush cheerleader, observed last weekend in The Sunday Times of London, America’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques have a grotesque provenance: “Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the ‘third degree.’ It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation.”

Still, the drill remains the same. The administration gives its alibi (Abu Ghraib was just a few bad apples). A few members of Congress squawk. The debate is labeled “politics.” We turn the page.

There has been scarcely more response to the similarly recurrent story of apparent war crimes committed by our contractors in Iraq. Call me cynical, but when Laura Bush spoke up last week about the human rights atrocities in Burma, it seemed less an act of selfless humanitarianism than another administration maneuver to change the subject from its own abuses.

As Mrs. Bush spoke, two women, both Armenian Christians, were gunned down in Baghdad by contractors underwritten by American taxpayers. On this matter, the White House has been silent. That incident followed the Sept. 16 massacre in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, where 17 Iraqis were killed by security forces from Blackwater USA, which had already been implicated in nearly 200 other shooting incidents since 2005. There has been no accountability. The State Department, Blackwater’s sugar daddy for most of its billion dollars in contracts, won’t even share its investigative findings with the United States military and the Iraqi government, both of which have deemed the killings criminal.

The gunmen who mowed down the two Christian women worked for a Dubai-based company managed by Australians, registered in Singapore and enlisted as a subcontractor by an American contractor headquartered in North Carolina. This is a plot out of “Syriana” by way of “Chinatown.” There will be no trial. We will never find out what happened. A new bill passed by the House to regulate contractor behavior will have little effect, even if it becomes law in its current form.

We can continue to blame the Bush administration for the horrors of Iraq — and should. Paul Bremer, our post-invasion viceroy and the recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts, issued the order that allows contractors to elude Iraqi law, a folly second only to his disbanding of the Iraqi Army. But we must also examine our own responsibility for the hideous acts committed in our name in a war where we have now fought longer than we did in the one that put Verschärfte Vernehmung on the map.

I have always maintained that the American public was the least culpable of the players during the run-up to Iraq. The war was sold by a brilliant and fear-fueled White House propaganda campaign designed to stampede a nation still shellshocked by 9/11. Both Congress and the press — the powerful institutions that should have provided the checks, balances and due diligence of the administration’s case — failed to do their job. Had they done so, more Americans might have raised more objections. This perfect storm of democratic failure began at the top.

As the war has dragged on, it is hard to give Americans en masse a pass. We are too slow to notice, let alone protest, the calamities that have followed the original sin.

In April 2004, Stars and Stripes first reported that our troops were using makeshift vehicle armor fashioned out of sandbags, yet when a soldier complained to Donald Rumsfeld at a town meeting in Kuwait eight months later, he was successfully pilloried by the right. Proper armor procurement lagged for months more to come. Not until early this year, four years after the war’s first casualties, did a Washington Post investigation finally focus the country’s attention on the shoddy treatment of veterans, many of them victims of inadequate armor, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military hospitals.

We first learned of the use of contractors as mercenaries when four Blackwater employees were strung up in Falluja in March 2004, just weeks before the first torture photos emerged from Abu Ghraib. We asked few questions. When reports surfaced early this summer that our contractors in Iraq (180,000, of whom some 48,000 are believed to be security personnel) now outnumber our postsurge troop strength, we yawned. Contractor casualties and contractor-inflicted casualties are kept off the books.

It was always the White House’s plan to coax us into a blissful ignorance about the war. Part of this was achieved with the usual Bush-Cheney secretiveness, from the torture memos to the prohibition of photos of military coffins. But the administration also invited our passive complicity by requiring no shared sacrifice. A country that knows there’s no such thing as a free lunch was all too easily persuaded there could be a free war.

Instead of taxing us for Iraq, the White House bought us off with tax cuts.

Instead of mobilizing the needed troops, it kept a draft off the table by quietly purchasing its auxiliary army of contractors to finesse the overstretched military’s holes. With the war’s entire weight falling on a small voluntary force, amounting to less than 1 percent of the population, the rest of us were free to look the other way at whatever went down in Iraq.

We ignored the contractor scandal to our own peril. Ever since Falluja this auxiliary army has been a leading indicator of every element of the war’s failure: not only our inadequate troop strength but also our alienation of Iraqi hearts and minds and our rampant outsourcing to contractors rife with Bush-Cheney cronies and campaign contributors. Contractors remain a bellwether of the war’s progress today. When Blackwater was briefly suspended after the Nisour Square catastrophe, American diplomats were flatly forbidden from leaving the fortified Green Zone. So much for the surge’s great “success” in bringing security to Baghdad.

Last week Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq war combat veteran who directs Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, sketched for me the apocalypse to come. Should Baghdad implode, our contractors, not having to answer to the military chain of command, can simply “drop their guns and go home.” Vulnerable American troops could be deserted by those “who deliver their bullets and beans.”

This potential scenario is just one example of why it’s in our national self-interest to attend to Iraq policy the White House counts on us to ignore. Our national character is on the line too. The extralegal contractors are both a slap at the sovereignty of the self-governing Iraq we supposedly support and an insult to those in uniform receiving as little as one-sixth the pay. Yet it took mass death in Nisour Square to fix even our fleeting attention on this long-metastasizing cancer in our battle plan.

Similarly, it took until December 2005, two and a half years after “Mission Accomplished,” for Mr. Bush to feel sufficient public pressure to acknowledge the large number of Iraqi casualties in the war. Even now, despite his repeated declaration that “America will not abandon the Iraqi people,” he has yet to address or intervene decisively in the tragedy of four million-plus Iraqi refugees, a disproportionate number of them children. He feels no pressure from the American public to do so, but hey, he pays lip service to Darfur.

Our moral trajectory over the Bush years could not be better dramatized than it was by a reunion of an elite group of two dozen World War II veterans in Washington this month. They were participants in a top-secret operation to interrogate some 4,000 Nazi prisoners of war. Until now, they have kept silent, but America’s recent record prompted them to talk to The Washington Post.

“We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture,” said Henry Kolm, 90, an M.I.T. physicist whose interrogation of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, took place over a chessboard. George Frenkel, 87, recalled that he “never laid hands on anyone” in his many interrogations, adding, “I’m proud to say I never compromised my humanity.”

Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those “good Germans” who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It’s up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war’s last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country’s good name.

About Me

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I had been writing a News & Politics column for an online magazine for a little over three years, and just last fall opened this blog to continue publication. I also had the pleasure of being the associate producer for a progressive talk radio host for about a year. Alittle of everything... I've advised small businesses, and I paint all kinds of things (boxes, figurines, greeting cards, personalized children's and other dish-wares, decor...). I still paint when I can, but mainly I'm manage a wholesale company for a Fair Trade, eco-friendly Jewelry & Homewares designer/producer out of Bali called, Verlu. You can see a full catalog of our line on the website, and there is now a list of our retailers for you to visit too. "Wear in everybody's Good Health!"
The political opinions expressed in this blog are in no way related to Verlu. The proud Progressive in me is thrilled to say I'm working with a company that operates in a manner respectful to both Mother Earth & Humanity; however, Progressive Mews is not meant to reflect any opinion - aside from my very own.

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