Monday, August 31, 2009

Scenes from Baghdad Market

These are some scenes of a Baghdad market, sent to me by Faiza.

She gathered and donated some money to get four young men in Sadr city started in the market. They had to buy a street booth, and then the children’s clothing to sell at the market. As Faiza said, it is better that they can make their own income than to join up with a militia. Jobs are very limited in Iraq, and high unemployment leads to many problems. Young men will often turn to the military or militias for employment only because there are no other options.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

WWB: rape and sexual torture

WHAT WAR BRINGS: rape and sexual torture

One of the uglier aspects of wars and occupations is the rape of men, women and children. It is always a part of wars and occupations, and it is mainly the civilians who are the victims. The rapists might be the invading/occupying military, the authorities put in power by the occupation forces, the militias or military of the invaded country, or just the thug down the street. When security leaves an area, all sorts of evil things happen. The act of rape can happen anywhere, and anyone could end up the victim, although women and children are particularly vulnerable. The point of rape and sexual torture is to both harm the victim physically and to harm them emotionally. Generally this means to harm them to the point where they can no longer function.

Rape is an instrument of war. Sexual torture and sexual humiliation are instruments of war.

Of course, the vast majority of rape incidents go unreported in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And of what is reported, I have only included a few samples.

We have all heard about Steve Green and the rape of a young Iraqi girl, after her parents and sister were murdered. The rape victim was also murdered and they attempted to burn her body. That is an act of a group of men who have abandoned morality and inflicted their sadistic wishes on someone else. While I am certain this act was not the only one of its nature, that is not what I am covering here. I am covering the use of rape as an act of war, or the increase in rape because of a war.

The most striking example was Abu Ghraib. The photos that we have seen show forced nudity, forced masturbation, and forced sexual acts on another prisoner. We have seen the photos of the naked man on the end of a dog chain, and the piles of naked men. We have heard the reports of sodomizing these prisoners. But that is just the start of the use of rape, sexual torture and sexual humiliation, as a weapon of war. Even before Abu Ghraib, there was clear evidence of sexual torture and rape going on by the British forces in Iraq.

Sexual Terrorism

Surprising to many, nearly a year before Abu Ghraib was exposed, in May 2003, British private Gary Bartlam, previously stationed in Basra and the port of Umm Qasr, was arrested in his hometown of Tamworth, Staffordshire. He had brought in a roll of pictures he shot in Iraq to his local photo-developer for processing. A shocked clerk, after reviewing the shots, called the police. Among his photos were:

* a picture showing an Iraqi man being forced to perform oral sex on a (white) man;

* a picture showing two Iraqis apparently being forced to perform anal sex;

* a picture showing two naked Iraqis cowering on the ground.

A flabbergasted Bartlam told the police that he took the shots to show his mom what was going on in Iraq.

One has to wonder what kind of home life those folks have. Ministry of Truth did a diary on this subject – the rape of children in Iraq.

Children tortured before parents, raped, all covered up by Bush/Cheney and our media

A couple more reports, this time from Taguba.

Rape Photos not at issue in lawsuit – but they do exist

The charge that President Obama, in the ACLU lawsuit, is blocking the release of photos that depict such horrific acts, appears to be untrue. But on the more important, underlying issue, Taguba seems to have confirmed that he's seen photos showing US soldiers raping and sexually abusing Iraqi detainees, both male and female -- and therefore that such things occurred.

Taguba Saw "Video of Male Soldier Sodomizing Female Detainee"

In 2007, shortly after he was forced into retirement, Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba made a startling admission. During the course of his investigation into the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Taguba said he saw "a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee." Taguba told New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh that he saw other graphic photos and videos as well, including one depicting the "sexual humiliation of a father with his son, who were both detainees."

And it happened in Guantanamo Bay.

Sexual Terrorism

Such interrogation practices were not limited to Iraq. According to a report in the “Sydney Morning Hearld”: “Female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man's face with fake menstrual blood, according to an insider's written account.”

And the US mercenaries got in on the action too. In this example, Blackwater actually recruited young girls to act as prostitutes. Since these are underage girls, that is statutory rape, or worse.

Ex-employees claim Blackwater pimped out young Iraqi girls

The declarations describe Blackwater as “having young girls provide oral sex to Enterprise members in the ‘Blackwater Man Camp’ in exchange for one American dollar.” They add even though Prince frequently visited this camp, he “failed to stop the ongoing use of prostitutes, including child prostitutes, by his men.”

In Iraq, we have lots of examples of sexual torture and rape done by US forces or US mercenaries. I did not find any recent reports of rapes done by Iraqis themselves, but I did find several older reports.

Rape’s vast toll in Iraq war remains largely ignored

As though recoiling from her own memories, Khalida shrank deeper into her faded armchair with each sentence she told: of how gunmen apparently working for Iraq's Interior Ministry kidnapped her, beat and raped her; of how they discarded her on a Baghdad sidewalk.

…. Rape is a common weapon of any war; no one knows how many Iraqi women have been raped since the war began in 2003. Most crimes against women "are not reported because of stigma, fear of retaliation, or lack of confidence in the police," MADRE, an international women's rights group, wrote in its 2007 report about violence against women in Iraq. Some women, like Khalida, are raped by Iraqi security forces. A 2005 report published by the Iraqi National Association for Human Rights found that women held in Interior Ministry detention centers endure "systematic rape by the investigators."

In Iraq, a story of rape, shame and honor killing

A young woman imprisoned in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, sent a letter to her brother last summer, appealing for help. The woman, named Dalal, wrote that she was pregnant after being raped by prison guards. The brother asked to visit her. Guards obliged. The brother walked into her cell, drew a gun and shot his visibly pregnant sister dead.

…… At the employee's insistence, lab workers using freshly acquired DNA-testing equipment drew a sample from the fetus. The prison guards were ordered to submit DNA samples and did so, apparently unaware of the sophistication of the morgue equipment and the people trained to use it. "They thought we were incapable of figuring it out," said the morgue employee. The DNA results showed that the father of the unborn baby was a police lieutenant colonel who reportedly supervised guards at the prison.

The rapist was (apparently) not punished.

And beyond rape, there is sexual torture. And forced diapering and forced enemas were part of the sexual torture done by the CIA, at least that is Digby’s assessment (and I completely agree):


This stuff is actually one of many sick, psychosexual techniques that were used on prisoners under the assumption that "teh ayrabs" were especially a-scared of the dirty dirty. The manly men of the Vice President's sadism corps knew exactly what to do (and anyway, the torturers probably needed to blow off some steam --- it's a stressful job.)

And then there is Afghanistan.

I have not found any reports of US mercenaries or US forces engaging in rape or sexual torture in Afghanistan (but I am sure it exists to some degree). But there are plenty of examples of Afghan authorities CURRENTLY engaging in the rape of women, young girls and young boys.

AFGHANISTAN: Call for tougher laws on rape

“In some areas, alleged or convicted rapists are, or have links to, powerful commanders, members of illegal armed groups, or criminal gangs, as well as powerful individuals whose influence protects them from arrest and prosecution,” said the report entitled Silence is Violence, launched in Kabul on 8 July. “Women and girls are at risk of rape in their homes, their communities and in detention facilities,” it said.

Sometimes in Afghanistan, the rape issue is settled by forcing the rapist to marry his victim. In other cases, a girl is handed off to the victim’s family for one of the sons of that family, and thereby a rape victim is ‘appeased’ by another rape victim. This makes no flipping sense to me. But that is hardly the worst of it. In Afghanistan, the Afghan police are known (and hated) for their policies of raping young boys. They would kidnap them and bring them to their stations, and keep them there until they tired of them.

Child rapist police return behind US, UK troops

The police in the province, who are linked to the local warlord, have committed systematic abuses against the population, including the abduction and rape of pre-teen boys, according to village elders who met with British officers.

Here is a photo of one rape victim in Afghanistan. This was found on RAWA’s website (see above).

Caption: Anisa, twelve, sits weeping next to her crying father. Anisa was gang-raped by five men some months back. “I want the criminals to be hung,” she says weeping. Child rapes have risen sharply in recent years, according to Afghanistan’s Human Rights Organisation (AHRO), which claims most of the sexual assaults are carried out by government officials and other powerful men.

Rape – the most vulnerable victims of corruption

The rich and powerful in Afghanistan are known to rape women and young girls with impunity. The government's inability to stop these horrors have only encouraged those in positions of authority to continue abusing Afghanistan's most vulnerable. Last year, the son of a member of the Afghan National Assembly raped an eight-year-old girl. On the basis of Afghan law, he should have been severely punished. But the victim's family claims that the rapist had connections with local authorities. Rather than submitting to punishment, he was able to have his tazkira (ID card) illegally altered, making him younger than he actually was and ineligible for a rape charge. This change allowed him to avoid being punished for the crime the girl's family says he committed. Mooneseh Rahimi of the Law Institute of Kabul, says this happens all the time.


is that while rape itself was not ‘authorized’ by the US authorities, the threat of rape and forced long term nudity were US policy. And when someone took it too far, no one was punished, no one was reprimanded, and it was just ignored or overlooked. We will never, ever know the full extend of it.

What is acknowledged and what remains unknown

“Removal of clothing was authorized by the Secretary of Defense [Rumsfeld] for use at GTMO [Guantánamo] on December 2, 2002,” acknowledges the recently released U.S. Senate Armed Service Committee report on the use of harsh interrogation techniques. It also reports that the use of prolonged nudity proved so effective that, in January 2003, it was approved for use in Afghanistan and, in the fall of 2003, was adopted for use in Iraq.

“Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody”

….. Scotland’s “Sunday Herald” reported that a former Iraqi prisoner claimed that there is a photo of a civilian translator raping a male juvenile prisoner; he stated, “They covered all the doors with sheets. I heard the screaming, … and the female soldier was taking pictures.”

London’s “Independent” reported on the experience of Hayder Sabbar Abd, immortalized as the man in the hood in infamous Abu Ghraib photo of Lynndie England. Abd alleges that he was ordered to masturbate as Ms. England “put her hands on her breasts," which he couldn’t; and to simulate fellatio with another prisoner, which he appears to have done.

The “Sydney Morning Herald” noted: “Female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man's face with fake menstrual blood, according to an insider's written account.”

CIA threats to detainees' families exposed

An internal CIA report published yesterday reveals a host of incidents in which its interrogators went far beyond acceptable bounds, including threatening an al-Qaida leader that his children would be killed and hinting to another suspect that his mother would be raped in front of him.

Is The USA A Sick Country Or What?

Remember this when you hear about torture tactics that we are learning were used by our side--things that make waterboarding sound like a walk in the park. We're now getting confirmation of things that we journalists were hearing rumors of earlier: faked executions using blanks, faked executions in neighboring rooms, followed by threats of the same to a person who had just heard the screams and a shot in the cell next to him, threats with an electric drill, and now perhaps the worst yet--the threat to kill a captive's children. And of course there is the already disclosed case of a captive who had his genitals cut with a razor, and generous use of tasers in places on the body designed to cause maximum pain. That, and of course there are a lot raped captives (including young boys), and a lot of bodies yet to be dug up of captives who were simply killed during torture.

And, so far, no one has been brought to justice for the vast majorities of these rapes and incidents of sexual torture. I doubt that we could bring Iraqis or Afghans to justice, but it sure seems to me that we could bring AMERICANS and EMPLOYEES OF AMERICAN COMPANIES to justice for these evil crimes.

I don’t see that happening, even with the appointment of a special prosecutor. They might prosecute some of the lower level “bad apples” like they did with Abu Ghraib, but clearly that is but a small part of the problem.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: rape and sexual torture.

Prayers for the victims……and may the criminals be brought to justice.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Email to Governor Purdue

Dear Governor Purdue:

Promptly investigate ongoing state and local support of crimes against humanity by initiating a full and transparent state-level investigation of Aero Contractors and their involvement with transporting kidnapped individuals to other countries or black sites to be tortured.

I would like to request a further investigation on how NC tax dollars were used to support public facilities that host Aero Contractors at Global TransPark and Johnston County Airport.

A German public prosecutor has issued arrest warrants for three Aero Contractors pilots involved in the kidnapping, illegal detention, and torture of a German citizen, Khaled El-Masri. These pilots live in or near Clayton, North Carolina, and their identity is known.

I attend Asheville Friends Meeting and I am involved in the Peace & Earth Committee. I am very concerned about torture issues, kidnapping by US state actors, detaining prisoners without trial or even charges, and other acts of gross immorality. I am involved with death penalty issues. My beliefs do not allow my fellow humans to be treated in this manner, and my morals do not allow me to be comfortable with my tax dollars being spent on these immoral actions.

This is particularly true when the victims, such as Mr. El-Masri, are innocent.

Please investigate these situations, and let me know what you find out.

If you would like to email Governor Purdue, go to this website.

If you would like more information on NC Stop Torture Now, go to this website.

Grit TV - murdering drones

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

WWB: dead bodies dumped on the street

WWB: dead bodies dumped on the streets

WHAT WAR BRINGS: dead bodies of unknown persons found dumped on the streets, and nearly anywhere else also

A part of all wars and occupations is the vast rise in murder and violence in the society that has war visited upon them, or has a foreign occupation visited upon them.

Part of that are just random murders, because society just disintegrates and people go generally nutso and kill off whomever. Or it could be old family feuds or neighborhood feuds that drive the increase in murders. Or it could be racial violence.

But another part of it – a large part in the case of Iraq – is sectarian violence, or politically motivated violence.

Here is a very small sample of the bodies found dumped in Iraq in the last few months. I really did not look too hard for these, and I am certain there are many, many more:

Dead bodies found on the street

29 May 2009 Police on Thursday said they found the body of man in Telkeif, north of Mosul, adding that the man had been dead for at least a few days.

2 corpses found in Makhmour

29 May 2009 Police forces on Friday found two bodies of a man and a woman in a house at Takh village, southwestern Makhmour suburb, according to a security source. The bodies bore signs of gunshot wounds. Makhmour, which lies 68 km southwest of Arbil city, is one of the disputed areas between the central Baghdad government and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Body found in Kirkuk

5 July 2009 Police found the body of a man with bullet wounds to the head and chest in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, on Saturday, police said.

Young man found dead in Makhmour

5 July 2009 Iraqi army forces on Sunday found an unknown body belonging to a young man in northern Iraq, according to an army source. Makhmour is administratively affiliated with Ninewa province. It is one of the disputed areas between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). It is located 68 km southwest of Arbil, which lies 362 km northeast of Baghdad.

Unknown body found in Diala

14 July 2009 Police forces on Tuesday found an unknown body in a village near Baaquba, according to a local security source. “The corpse, found in Sharwin village, Shahraban district (45 km northeast of Baaquba), bore signs of gunshot wounds and was taken to the morgue,” the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency. “The age of the victim ranges from 25 to 30 years. He is believed to have been killed during the past two days,” the source noted. Baaquba, the capital city of Diala province, lies 57 km northeast of Baghdad.

Body of girl found in Kut

17 July 2009 Policemen found the body of a girl in her 20s in eastern al-Kut city on Friday, a security source said. “The body, showing signs of having been shot, was found in the open and most probably she was killed today (July 17),” the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency. “The body was removed to the Kut al-Zahraa Hospital morgue in case identified by relatives,” he added. Kut, the capital city of Wassit province, lies 180 km southeast of Baghdad.

Body of a man in uniform found

20 July 2009 Meanwhile, the same source said police forces in Diwaniya found on Monday an unidentified body of a man clad in uniform in the area of al-Nahr al-Thalith, (65 km) east of the capital city of al-Diwaniya. “The body showed signs of having been stabbed to death,” he said, adding the police are investigating the incident. Diwaniya lies 180 km south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Body found in Mosul

6 Aug 2009 A body with bullet wounds was found in northern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Body found in Mosul

23 Aug 2009 Police said they found the body of a man on Saturday whose throat had been slit in eastern Mosul.

This is by no means a comprehensive listing.

As bad as things might be in 2009 in Iraq, it is nothing compared to what happened in 2006. This is a blog post from News About Iraq (which is no longer being updated) from May 4, 2006. The links to the original articles no longer work, but these articles originally came from Reuters.

Iraq's Interior Ministry also updated the number of Iraqis whose bullet-ridden bodies were found in the country on Wednesday to 43, many of them in the capital.

And this:

An average of 35 to 50 bodies, most of them with gunshot wounds, are brought to Baghdad's main morgue every day, likely victims of sectarian killings, its deputy director said on Thursday.

It was in 2006 that the numbers of dead bodies found on the streets really shot up (sometimes over a hundred in a single day) but 2005 and 2007 also showed significant numbers. The blog Today in Iraq and Iraq Today tracked what happened on a daily basis in Iraq.

All the other years of the US occupation of Iraq have shown this same reality….. this definitely shows that US forces were not able to keep the average Iraqi safe at all. (Of course, some of these dead bodies on streets may have come about because of US policy under Rumsfeld and Negroponte. We just don’t know for sure.)

But, an average of 50 bodies a day would be equal to 18,250 per year. Since the US population is roughly ten times the population of Iraq, that would be 182,250 dead bodies on the streets (or wherever) in the USA in one year. That is the reality Iraqis lived through in 2006.

People would come to the local morgues to try to identify the bodies of their missing loved ones, but were often unsuccessful. The bodies were often decayed or damaged by violence, and where therefore unrecognizable.

Many of the unknown Iraqi bodies from Baghdad were buried in a mass grave in Najaf. That mass grave alone (over 40,000 bodies in July 2007) is bigger than all of the Saddam mass graves that have been uncovered. It is very unlikely that Saddam’ s mass graves will end up totally more than that one mass grave in Najaf. AND there are other mass grave sites in Iraq from the US invasion and occupation that have yet to be uncovered.

If unidentified bodies are being dumped in Afghanistan, it is not making the news. I could only find examples of bodies dumped who were identified – often kidnapping victims. It was mainly foreigners who were the victims.

Unknown bodies were found in Pakistan, and they most likely were combatants, not civilians:

Bodies of 18 found in Swat valley

16 Aug 2009 Pakistani troops on Sunday found bodies of at least 18 suspected militants in the scenic Swat valley, where the army is wrapping up a three-month offensive against the Taliban, media reports said.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: the dumping of dead bodies on the public streets.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What War Brings: mercenaries

WHAT WAR BRINGS: mercenaries

Sometimes these mercenaries are called “security contractors” here in the USA, or just “contractors”. But they are mercenaries, and they are feared by helpless civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. These mercenaries from America are basically operating in various places without much oversight or control. And they are the people who represent our country to the people of other lands.

For the most part, it seems they represent us very badly. In some cases, the “contractors” are not even Americans, though they work for US institutions. But their nationality does not matter to the men who hire them. The guys who own and run these “security contractors” are only in it for the thrills and the money…. mostly the money. Ditto for the hired hands.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of armed contractors is rising under the Obama administration. According to an article written by Jeremy Scahill and published in June 2009, there has been a 23% increase in the number of “security contractors” in Iraq and a 29% increase in Afghanistan. Scahill is referring to the Department of Defense “security contractors”. He was unable to determine if the “security contractors” under the State Department were included in these numbers or not, so the real numbers may be higher. (This is somewhat disputed and may reflect better counting under Obama. Still, there are no signs that the number of mercenaries being used by the DoD and State Department is going down under Obama.)

Obama Has 250,000 "Contractors" in Iraq and Afghan Wars, Increases Number of Mercenaries

Overall, contractors (armed and unarmed) now make up approximately 50% of the "total force in Centcom AOR [Area of Responsibility]." This means there are a whopping 242,657 contractors working on these two US wars. These statistics come from two reports just released by Gary J. Motsek, the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Program Support): "Contractor Support of U.S. Operations in USCENTCOM AOR, IRAQ, and Afghanistan and "Operational Contract Support, 'State of the Union.'"

"We expect similar dependence on contractors in future contingency operations," according to the contractor "State of the Union." It notes that the deployment size of both military personnel and DoD civilians are "fixed by law," but points out that the number of contractors is "size unfixed," meaning there is virtually no limit (other than funds) to the number of contractors that can be deployed in the war zone.

Of course, we all know about the Blackwater killings on the streets of Baghdad in September 2007. That was just one incident of many. Blackwater goes by several different names now, but they are still going strong.

Here is what one Iraqi had to say about that shooting in September 2007:

Farid Walid, who was shot in Nisour Square two years ago during a massacre that killed 17 Iraqis, said: “Everybody here knows of cases where Blackwater guards shot innocent people without a second thought. They are a symbol of the occupation. Nobody will forget.”

Lawsuit now accuses Xe contractors of murder, kidnapping

A just-amended lawsuit alleges six additional instances of unprovoked attacks on Iraqi civilians by Blackwater contractors. Three people, including a 9-year-old boy, are said to have died.

Also added to the suit is a racketeering count accusing Blackwater founder Erik Prince of running an ongoing criminal enterprise involved in, among other things, kidnapping and child prostitution. The latest charges, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, bring to more than 60 the number of Iraqis allegedly killed or wounded since 2005 by armed Blackwater contractors guarding U.S. diplomatic personnel in Iraq.

….. The racketeering count added to the suit this week accuses Prince's companies of engaging in murder, weapons smuggling, money laundering, tax evasion, kidnapping, child prostitution, illegal drug use and destruction of evidence.

In short, they are accused of engaging in war crimes. (But then, the whole invasion and occupation of Iraq is a war crime.)

Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."

Well, I don’t know if the last statement is true, but they sure did kill a lot of Iraqis who were unarmed. If they cared about Iraqi lives, it seems to me that less of that would have happened. And, they are still in Iraq, even though the Iraqi government officially told them to leave. We also know that the US extended their contracts with Blackwater after those sworn statements were made. That’s pretty amazing.

Blackwater has different names now, like “Xe” or “DynCorp” or “US Training Center”.

Blackwater Still Armed in Iraq

"The public perception in Iraq is that Blackwater is no longer operating in the country; that they were kicked out and their license revoked," says Raed Jarrar, the Iraq consultant at the American Friends Service Committee. "The public perception is that they are gone already. This is very disturbing."

And over in Afghanistan, the same story is shaping up. Blackwater is under investigation for the deaths of two Afghan civilians (and other incidents). The story below claims that there are more than 70,000 “security contractors” in Afghanistan.

Deadly contractor incident sours Afghans

The shooting deaths of Raheb Dost, 24, and another Afghan civilian by four gunmen with the company once known as Blackwater have turned an entire neighborhood against the U.S. presence here. Already enraged by the deaths of civilians in U.S. military airstrikes, many Afghans are also demanding more accountability from security contractors who routinely block traffic and bark orders to motorists and pedestrians. As the war escalates in Afghanistan and the U.S. seeks to win over a wary public, incidents such as the one that left Raheb Dost dead raise uneasy ghosts of the Iraq war.

…… A June report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan cites serious deficiencies among private security companies in Afghanistan in training, performance, accountability and effective use-of-force rules.

Well, I guess we can be reassured that they are not engaging in weapons smuggling, prostitution, or money laundering……yet.

Photo above: Mirza Mohammed Dost at the grave of his son, Raheb, 24, who was shot by Blackwater (now Xe) security contractors in May as he walked in his neighborhood. Another man was also shot fatally and a third was wounded. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Even the oversight of the “security contractors” has been contracted out:

Since February, oversight of security contractors in Afghanistan has been entrusted not to Congress or the Pentagon, but to a British-owned private contractor, Aegis. The company was hired by the American government after the U.S. military said it lacked the manpower and expertise to monitor security contractors. Aegis is supposed to help U.S. authorities make sure contractors are properly trained, armed and supervised.

It is no wonder there is so much violence and corruption under the mercenaries – it is the wild, wild west out there in the countries were the US decides to make war or occupation.

There was another incident that caused a great deal of trouble. President Karzai accused Afghan guards working for US forces of killing the police chief of Kandahar and four officers in Kandahar in May 2009.

Karzai: Afghan guards employed by US killed police

President Hamid Karzai accused Afghan guards working for U.S. coalition forces of killing a provincial police chief and at least four other security officers during a gunbattle outside a government office Monday.

……. The U.S. military said it was not involved in the shooting, calling it an "Afghan-on-Afghan incident." However, Karzai's statement suggested that the security guards sought refuge at a U.S. coalition base after the killings, and he "demanded that coalition forces prevent such incidents, which weaken the government."

Killing the police chief of a major city cannot be good for the overall security situation.

And Blackwater is feared in Pakistan too.

US Blackwater-Xe mercenaries spreads fear in Pakistani town

Fear is spreading across University Town, an upmarket residential area in Pakistan's north-western city of Peshawar, due to the overt presence of the controversial US private security contractor Blackwater. Sporting the customary dark glasses and carrying assault rifles, the mercenaries zoom around the neighbourhood in their black-coloured armoured Chevy Suburbans, and shout at motorists when occasionally stranded in a traffic jam. The residents are mainly concerned about Blackwater's reputation as a ruthless, unbridled private army whose employees face multiple charges of murder, child prostitution and weapons smuggling in Iraq.

One Pakistani man said that they (Blackwater) are creating a state within a state, and he questioned if the streets of Pakistan are ruled by Pakistan or by the Americans. Of course, these “security contractors” may not be Americans at all, since Blackwater has hired mercenaries from foreign countries.

And the latest story to come out – that the CIA hired Blackwater to kill “jihadists” back in 2004.

CIA sought Blackwater’s help to kill jihadists

It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.

This development, when Panetta found out, inspired him to go and brief Congress. They had been kept in the dark about this for years. Panetta also ended this program, reportedly because it was not successful. From that same article:

The C.I.A. this summer conducted an internal review of the assassination program that recently was presented to the White House and the Congressional intelligence committees. The officials said that the review stated that Mr. Panetta’s predecessors did not believe that they needed to tell Congress because the program was not far enough developed.

That reminds me of something Bill Moyers said back in the 1980’s – if the CIA will brag about killing off foreign heads of state, what would they do that they would be hesitant to brag about? Of course, THAT question takes us right into CT land.

As to this particular program at this particular time, it is claimed that the Blackwater “security contractors” did not kill any al Qaeda operatives. I wonder how many innocent civilians were killed by them while pursuing these “al Qaeda operatives”. Blackwater, by the way, is so closely connected to the CIA that the CIA uses their facilities in North Carolina.

It’s a dirty web we weave, when we practice to deceive. And that is exactly what the US authorities, the mercenaries, and the CIA have done. Just recently we learned that Blackwater was involved in the drone bombings in Pakistan.

US still using security firm it broke with

This week, government officials and current and former Blackwater employees said the company had also taken on a role in the United States’ most important counterterrorism program: the use of remotely piloted drones to kill Al Qaeda leaders.

Well, that certainly explains why so many civilians are being killed in those drone bombings…. Blackwater is running it! Or helping to run it.

US Drones kill 687 innocents

But here is a bit from a WaPo article, that I found particularly funny:

Meanwhile, Raytheon, the corporation that supplies many technical elements of the Predator drones, is advertising for a technician to help "troubleshoot" the surveillance camera used on the unmanned vehicles. A senior Senate staff aide familiar with defense matters said yesterday that such technicians are needed "because the equipment is so advanced" that the best workers are those from the companies that helped build the drones and not from the military.

And WHY did I find this funny? Because our military is using equipment that they cannot even control!! This, of course, means that the “security contractors” have them over a barrel. This is both funny and frightening.

This website records the news articles about the war profiteers – and their war crimes.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: mercenaries.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Iraqi Sewing Project

These are pictures of the sewing machines and fabric for the Iraqi Sewing Project and the receipts for these items. There were four sewing machines purchased, along with fabric, scissors, needles and thread.

Faiza sent these photos to me, and she is the one getting the sewing machines set up with Iraqi widows. These women will start sewing clothes for their children and to sell at the market.

The money for this project was raised in Asheville in June 2009. Many thanks to Faiza for coming to Asheville and speaking to us about Iraq and the hardships the Iraqi people are facing. This is a small project, but hopefully, something bigger and better will grow from this project.

And here is a quote for you:

No true effort is in vain. Look at the fields over there. The grain sown therein has to remain in the earth for a certain time, then it sprouts, and in due time yields hundreds of its kind. The same is the case with every effort in a good cause. – Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988)

And another one:

Further, every good and true effort has its own immediate benefit in that it adds both to the goodness of the doer and to the world at large. Even though the benefit may be unseen - it is there. -- Tarak Kauff

WWB: drug addiction

WHAT WAR BRINGS: drug addiction

There are multiple causes of the growth and development of a drug addiction population in a war zone. The break down in security and the easier availability of drugs is one major factor. The pain that comes from living in an occupied country – psychological and emotional pain, plus the lack of health care, food and even adequate warmth in winter, also contribute greatly to a drug addiction problem.

And it is often a problem for an entire family, even the children.

Earlier this month, jimstaro wrote a diary on drug addiction in Afghanistan. He covered the story of one Afghan family, and the many causes of their drug addiction. Well worth reading:

Drug Addiction in Afghanistan

In a report from IRIN (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks) from this past July, several carpet weavers in Afghanistan talk about their opium habit, and how it allows them to work longer, ease pains, keep their children quiet, and hold off hunger pains.

“Opium eases my pain, keeps my children quiet”

Opium addiction among rural women has been exacerbated by a lack of access to health services either due to cultural restrictions or dearth of health centres, say health workers. “Women use opium not for fun or luxury but as the only available painkiller to them,” said Mahbooba Ebadi, an obstetrician in Balkh.

It is unclear how many Afghan women use opium, but a 2005 addiction survey by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) put the number of adult female drug users in the country at 120,000. At least 900,000 Afghans were estimated to be drug addicts out of a population of 25 million in 2005.

A New Zealand news agency reported on how opium was used as cash in one Afghan valley, until the government began aggressively enforcing a ban on opium production. They are no longer allowed to plant their only cash crop, and the entire community is sinking into poverty.

Afghan opium trade raising generation of addicts

Opium is one of the biggest problems facing this troubled country, because it is deeply woven into the fabric of daily life as well as into the economics of insurgency. Afghanistan supplies 93 percent of the world's opium, and it is one of the main sources of funding for the growing Taliban movement.

Yet the government ban on opium is working at best unevenly. In areas of the country under Taliban control, opium production is going strong. In government-held areas such as Shahran, it has gone down drastically, but at the cost of the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people. Their anger is imperiling government support in one of the few areas of the country that has resisted the Taliban's advance.

……Two years ago, opium, the raw ingredient used to make heroin, grew on nearly half a million acres in Afghanistan. The harvest was worth about $4 billion, or equal to nearly half the country's GDP in 2007. As much as a tenth - almost half a billion dollars - went to local strongmen, including the Taliban, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

[Note: the Taliban have other sources of funding than the opium (like forcing people to pay protection money) which are bringing in more money than the opium. Corruption is rampant in Afghanistan. And when the Taliban were in power in the 1990's, opium production was stopped.]

A story by the AP from earlier this month talks about how the addiction is passed down from one generation to the next. But if a picture can speak a thousand words, then the picture on this post explains it all.

Photo: In this July 13, 2009 photo, Sarab village resident and opium addict Islam Beg, center, offers his opium pipe to his grandson after having an early morning smoke in the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan. In dozens of mountain hamlets in this remote corner of Afghanistan, opium addiction has become so entrenched that whole families — from toddlers to old men — are addicts. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Opium addictions grip families in Afghanistan’s remote villages

In dozens of mountain hamlets in this remote corner of Afghanistan, opium addiction has become so entrenched that whole families - from toddlers to old men - are addicts. Cut off from the rest of the world by glacial streams, the addiction moves from house to house, infecting entire communities. From just one family years ago, at least half the people of Sarab, population 1,850, are now addicts.

Opium is the only medical treatment they have, and there are no available treatment programs for addicts. Entire families, even babies, end up addicts. Food and hygiene are seen as secondary, the important thing is getting the opium. This, of course, creates a huge amount of problems.

Meanwhile… Over in Iraq

There is not as much information out there on drug addiction in Iraq, but it has been mentioned in prior years. In a report from 2005, it was noted that Iraq has a growing drug addiction problem. As in Afghanistan, the security situation (that is, the lack of security) means that drug can flow in, often from Afghanistan via Iran. Criminal activity flourishes.

Hospitals wage a different war: against addiction

"The pattern is similar to what we have seen in other post-conflict situations," Hamid Ghodse, president of the International Narcotics Control Board, said during the United Nations agency's spring meeting in Vienna. "Weakening of border controls and security infrastructure make countries into convenient logistic and transit points," he said.

Here is what this report in 2005 had to say about the increases in drug addition:

Patients, most ages 20 and 30, are addicted to everything from alcohol to Valium and cough syrup, says Adel Ja'afer Abdul Sahib, the hospital's deputy director. Addiction in Baghdad is rising steadily, he says. In 2002, before the war, the hospital treated 370 patients in its outpatient facility. An additional 144 were admitted to the hospital for addiction. Last year, Sahib says, outpatients rose to 407 and hospital admissions rose to 250, he says.

A more recent report from December 2008 talks about how Iraq’s children have become drug addicts and dealers.

Iraq’s children drug addicts, dealers

Ahmed, 12, is one of them. "Smoking marijuana makes me happy even being orphan," the child, who has lost his parents to the bloody violence, told "I like to feel the sensation that, for a period of time, can help me forget all the problems I have," said Ahmed, not his real name. "I do it as much as I want, until I feel safe again just like I used to feel before my parents were killed."

An Iraqi psychologist claims in that article that there were no drug addicted children prior to the US invasion. I don’t know if that is true, but there sure were less Iraqi orphans prior to the US invasion. (By the way, a child who loses their father is often called an orphan even if the mother is still alive. I think this is due to the fact that the father is almost always the bread-winner of the family.) Another thing that is certainly true: the number of drug addicts in Iraq who are children has been increasing every year.

UNICEF reports have warned that drug addiction is becoming more of a phenomenon amongst Iraqi children. There has been a 30 percent increase in addiction among children since 2005, according to specialists. Since last year alone, the number of child addicts jumped by nearly 10 percent, they estimate.

There has been some reports (from unverified sources) that prescription drug abuse and addiction is on the rise in Iraq, including among the police and Iraqi military.

It appears that the drug addiction problem is worse in Afghanistan, because of the easy supply of opium. It appears that prescription drug abuse is worse in Iraq, because those drugs are more available in Iraq. I don’t have any information on Pakistan, but logically, drug addiction is growing there also.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: drug addiction.

Please note –

Since this series of WHAT WAR BRINGS is about civilians, I did not mention the growing drug addiction in US troops who were stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also a very serious problem.

And I would predict that Afghanistan war veterans will have higher levels of drug addiction, simply due to the availability of opium in that country.

Friday, August 21, 2009

WWB: the destruction and murder of Ali’s family

WHAT WAR BRINGS: the destruction and murder of Ali’s family

Today is the fourth anniversary.

On Saturday evening, August 20, 2005, Ali’s entire family was murdered. He was the only survivor of the attack.

His full name is Ali Nasir Jabur and he was 10 years old. He lived in Tikrit with his mother, father, two brothers and a sister. They were at home that evening – or night – when gunman wearing Iraqi security forces uniforms showed up at their home and proceeded to kill all of them except Ali. He hid under a blanket while the massacre happened. He survived.

The world only knows about this incident because of a two pictures taken by Bassim Daham, who worked for the Associated Press at the time. His photo showed a pile of bodies wrapped in blankets in the back of a pick up truck. Ali is there too sitting on his heels, with his head in his left hand, and a look of utter grief and forlorn hope on his face.

His world was shattered. He lost everything that August night, and lost it forever.

There were NO stories or news reports on this hideous incident.

Now, at this point in time we can be pretty sure that those gunmen were not just WEARING Iraqi security forces uniforms, they actually WERE IRAQI SECURITY FORCES.

We may never know what caused them to do this act of cold blooded murder, or what Ali’s family knew or had or were related too that might have inspired this hideous crime. Maybe it was because they belonged to a certain sect, maybe it was because of their father’s involvement with the resistance or maybe he was a criminal too.

Most likely, he was innocent. The mother was most likely innocent too. The children were surely innocent.

We know that these death squads started running around Iraq in Iraqi security forces uniforms, or in Iraqi police uniforms, or in Iraqi army uniforms, shortly after NEGROPONTE showed up. Where NEGROPONTE goes, death squads follow.

In the overwhelming violence sweeping Iraq at this time in 2005, it is unlikely that much was done in the way of justice for Ali and his family. In the extreme violence that followed 2006, I imagine it was swept aside.

And Ali was left to survive as best he could, and hopefully he had some extended family to take him in. I sure don’t know if that happened or not.

But I did take some action on Ali’s behalf. I took the single photo from the AP and put it on 100 letters addressed to US Senators. I added my own request that they help this child and that they take some action to stop the escalating sectarian violence going on in Iraq at the time….. to stop it before it spun out of control into a full-fledged civil war. I also did this for the 13 Representatives from North Carolina.

Then I went to DC in September 2005 and hand delivered all these letters.

I could tell from the responses of the staff in the various law offices that the vast majority of them did not give a shit about this child, his losses, or what pain the people of Iraq might be suffering. For the most part, they did not give a shit.

There were a few exceptions in the Democratic Senators offices. There was one except in the Republican offices. Rep. Walter Jones office seemed to care. Senator Lautenberg, Senator Sanders, Senator Kennedy and a few more seemed to care.

None of them responded to me. None of them took any action.

I came to the realization (over those two days of hand delivering this child’s story) that we are governed by a bunch of psychopaths.

Here is a photo of Ali.

And here is another one.

How many Ali’s are there that we know nothing about?

Oh, I bet there are thousands in Iraq alone. Today is the fourth anniversary of the destruction and murder of Ali’s family. I have posted this before, but I am posting it again because I am sure that Ali, now 14 years old, has not recovered from this devastation and mass murder of his family. I am also quite sure that the US government and US military have not done a damn thing to help Ali.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: the destruction and murder of Ali’s family.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

WWB: homicide by torture

WHAT WAR BRINGS: homicide by torture

In all wars, and all occupations, people are captured or kidnapped and then tortured to death. This certainly happened in Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq. And it was done by the occupation forces, and local militias, the resistance, and in Iraq by the elected government.

A researcher for Human Rights Watch reported on homicides that resulted from US torture policy. He found that about 100 prisoners died during interrogations, and some were clearly tortured to death.

The Bush Administration Homicides

A simple fact is being overlooked in the Bush-era torture scandal: the number of cases in which detainees have been tortured to death. Abuse did not only involve the high-profile cases of smashing detainees into plywood barriers (“walling”), confinement in coffin-like boxes with insects, sleep deprivation, cold, and waterboarding. To date approximately 100 detainees, including CIA-held detainees, have died during U.S. interrogations, and some are known to have been tortured to death. The bottom line is that many detainee homicides in Iraq and Afghanistan were the direct result of approval and orders from the highest levels of government, and that high officials in the government are accomplices.

As of today, those homicides by torture have yet to be fully investigated. Those in the higher level of commands have avoided accountability. Here’s one report from Afghanistan:

In September 2004, the Crimes of War Project, working with investigative journalist Craig Pyes, uncovered a torture murder in Gardez, Afghanistan, in March 2003. Jamal Naseer, a soldier in the Afghan Army, died after he and seven other soldiers were mistakenly arrested. Those arrested with Naseer later said that during interrogations U.S. personnel punched and kicked them, hung them upside down, and hit them with sticks or cables. Some said they were doused with cold water and forced to lie in the snow. Nasser collapsed about two weeks after the arrest, complaining of stomach pain, probably an internal hemorrhage.

And here is one from Iraq:

To take one example, in December 2003, a 44-year-old Iraqi man named Abu Malik Kenami died in a U.S. detention facility in Mosul, Iraq. As reported by Human Rights First, U.S. military personnel who examined Kenami when he first arrived at the facility determined that he had no preexisting medical conditions. Once in custody, as a disciplinary measure for talking, Kenami was forced to perform extreme amounts of exercise—a technique used across Afghanistan and Iraq. Then his hands were bound behind his back with plastic handcuffs, he was hooded, and forced to lie in an overcrowded cell. Kenami was found dead the morning after his arrest, still bound and hooded. No autopsy was conducted; no official cause of death was determined.

With waterboarding, the CIA recognized that they might kill someone, so they had standby medical personnel and equipment:

An unresponsive subject should be righted immediately, and the integrator should deliver a sub-xyphoid thrust to expel the water. If this fails to restore normal breathing, aggressive medical intervention is required....” The memo also notes that CIA doctors present during waterboarding sessions stood by with necessary equipment to perform a tracheotomy if necessary: “[W]e are informed that the necessary emergency medical equipment is always present—although not visible to the detainee—during any application of the waterboard.”

I wonder how many would have died but were revived at the last minute. What a sickening thought – our government officials are running around torturing and murdering people who did not do a thing to hurt us in the first place. We are barbarians to allow this to go unpunished.

A Daily Kos writer has posted a review of five of the prisoners murdered by the CIA in the last eight years. There are more, but the information is ‘classified’.

Number of detainees murdered by CIA is classified information

Many of these names are probably familiar to you. The un-named detainee froze to death after being chained to a concrete floor without blankets and was left there the whole night. Manadel al-Jamadi was effectively crucified by his CIA interrogator, who is fully known and remains free to this day. Abdul Wali was beaten to death by CIA contractor David Passaro, who would later go on to be the only CIA employee convicted of abusing detainees. Abed Hamed Mowhoush was beaten by a CIA-sponsored unit of Iraqis and then suffocated by Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, who subsequently received no jail time for his actions. Lt. Col. Abdul Jameel was beaten and put into a savage stress position that blocked his oxygen intake and triggered asphyxiation. CIA involvement was discovered in all five of these cases, yet only one CIA interrogator, a contractor, was ever charged in connection to their deaths.

Jonathan Hafetz, a staff attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project, said, "Torture and abuse at Bagram is further evidence that prisoner abuse in US custody was systemic, not aberrational, and originated at the highest levels of government."

It wasn’t just the CIA and US military involved in homicide by torture - the Brits got involved too.

Were Iraqis tortured and killed by our soldiers?

Allegations that British soldiers murdered and mutilated 20 Iraqis are to be fully investigated after it emerged that ministers had attempted to warn Tony Blair about damaging evidence of the ill-treatment of battlefield prisoners five years ago. The startling revelation in the High Court yesterday led to the Government withdrawing its objection to a judicial inquiry into the alleged massacre after the battle of "Danny Boy" involving British forces near Basra in May 2004.

They have reopened the inquiry, and I have not heard any results. One piece of evidence that came to light was a video of a British soldier abusing Baha Mousa, who died while in custody. You can watch the video here:

A video of a British soldier screaming at Iraqi detainees is shown as evidence in an inquiry into the death of one of the prisoners.

And, the Iraqis did it too – well, at least we have evidence that they tortured, although I don’t know of documentation that Iraqi officials tortured people to death.

Iraqi torture practices could be more widespread

The discovery of malnourished detainees, many bearing signs of torture, in an underground bunker at the Iraqi Interior Ministry came after a US Army 3rd Infantry Division soldier investigated an Iraqi family's complaints that one of its sons was being secretly held. When US troops raided the facility Sunday night, they expected to find at most 40 detainees, not 173 sickly men and boys, all Sunni Arabs. Iraqi officials have since confirmed that torture implements were also found there.

There was plenty of evidence that Iraqis were tortured to death, just no concrete proof of who was responsible (although I would guess that nearly all parties in Iraq were doing it at some point – police, army, Interior Ministry, militias, and common criminals). Plenty of dead bodies with signs of drill marks, beatings, and mutilations were found on the streets of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. Here’s one example from the same story as above, which indicates the Iraqi police were involved:

Ammar Hamid Khalaf Muhammed Hummos related how his two brothers Hamid and Rafa were abducted by men in police uniforms on a street in Zafranaiyah, on the outskirts of Baghdad, this May, and how he later received word that the brothers were being held in the Shiite city of Kut, and that for $8,000 they'd be released. The family didn't come up with the money, and near tears he showed photos of his brothers' badly mutilated bodies, which were recovered in a ditch near Kut. "Pulling their fingernails out wasn't even the worst part."

And here is another example:

But the most arresting interview was with a man who wanted only to identified as Abu Adhar. He was carried to the interview by four relatives. Injuries covered his face, back, and legs. He was abducted and thrown into the back of a car while investigating charges of abuse by the Interior Ministry for a Sunni mosque where he leads prayers. After driving through at least five Iraqi police checkpoints, they arrived at a house. He said he was tortured for two days with electric shocks and whips. "Then their commander said they were done, and to take me out and kill me." Driving to a field where he expected to be shot, he managed to free his hands and escape when the car slowed. A farmer took him in and contacted his family.

And here is another story, about Iraqi militias engaging in torture that surely led to homicide.

One of them, Ahmed Isa Fathil, 19, a former member of the new Iraqi Army, said he had been held and tortured there for 22 days. All the while, he said, his face was almost entirely taped over and his hands were cuffed. In an interview with an embedded reporter just hours after he was freed, he said he had never seen the faces of his captors, who occasionally whispered at him, "We will kill you." He said they did not question him, and he did not know what they wanted. Nor did he ever expect to be released. "They kill somebody every day," said Mr. Fathil, whose hands were so swollen he could not open a can of Coke offered to him by a marine. "They've killed a lot of people."

In the case of the militias (or insurgents, or terrorists, or whatever they called themselves) they openly declared that they would kill the men they tortured. So did the Iraqi police, and there have been reports that the Iraqi Special Forces and Iraqi Interior Ministry and Iraqi military did this also. And I am sure there were times when US forces or British forces also threatened to kill their prisoners.

Torturing people to death was not official policy, just as rape was not official policy. But torture, when allowed, will sometimes go on to the point of death for the victim. And the sanctioning of the threat of rape will one day lead to actual rape.

But, this is what wars and occupations lead to – always.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: homicide by torture.

Resolution – The Torture Song