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Monthly Archives: March, 2007

Bush’s secret army

Meet the American mercenaries of Blackwater, who fight outside of the law and take direction from the radical Christian right

The company operates its own intelligence division and counts among its executives senior ex-military and intelligence officials. It recently began constructing new facilities in California (“Blackwater West”) and Illinois (“Blackwater North”), as well as a jungle training facility in the Philippines. Blackwater has more than $500 million in government contracts — and that does not include its secret “black” budget operations for US intelligence agencies or private corporations/individuals and foreign governments. As one US Congressmember observed, in strictly military terms, Blackwater could overthrow many of the world’s governments.

Blackwater is a private army, and it is controlled by one person: Erik Prince, a radical right-wing Christian mega-millionaire who has served as a major bankroller not only of President Bush’s campaigns but of the broader Christian-right agenda. In fact, as of this writing Prince has never given a penny to a Democratic candidate — certainly his right, but an unusual pattern for the head of such a powerful war-servicing corporation, and one that speaks volumes about the sincerity of his ideological commitment. Blackwater has been one of the most effective battalions in Rumsfeld’s war on the Pentagon, and Prince speaks boldly about the role his company is playing in the radical transformation of the US military. “When you ship overnight, do you use the postal service or do you use FedEx?” Prince recently asked during a panel discussion with military officials. “Our corporate goal is to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did to the postal service.”

Jordan Schrader: Pirates are not welcome

When you’re a pirate, some dangers just come with the territory: scurvy, grog hangovers, a walk down the plank at sword point. But being kicked out of school for a day? Bryan Killian doesn’t think that’s a fair reaction to his decision to come to North Buncombe High School wearing an eye patch and an inflatable cutlass. […]

“I feel like my First Amendment was violated,” Killian, 16, said. “Freedom of religion and freedom of expression. That’s what I tried to do, and I got shot down.”

Freedom of religion? Yes, Killian says, his “pirate regalia” is part of his faith — the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The parody religion, whose “Pastafarian” members worship a sentient, airborne clump of noodles and meatballs, originated in a letter to the Kansas school board urging it to add the religion to its plans to teach evolution and intelligent design side by side. It became an Internet phenomenon, spawning a belief system that holds pirates to be divine beings and blames global warming on the disappearance of the buccaneers.

Satirical though it may be, Killian isn’t laughing. “If this is what I believe in, no matter how stupid it might sound, I should be able to express myself however I want to,” he said. An eye patch is no more disruptive than a Christian cross around one’s neck, he said. His teachers saw it the same way, he said, but Assistant Principal Sarah Cooley didn’t. She assigned him two days of in-school suspension before calling his home to add out-of-school suspension.

[Article continues at link. The impossibility of deliniating which superstition is to be honored and which superstition is disruptive is why the seperation between state and superstition was instituted. Either you welcome every expression of every superstition in every tax-funded event or you disallow superstition in tax-funded events.]

British troops raid Iranian consulate

British forces stormed Iranian consulate in Iraq’s southern city of Basra and surrounded the office during a shootout with unknown gunmen in Iraq on Thursday, Islamic Republic of Iran’s consulate announced.

“British forces sealed off the Iranian consulate in Basra. They went inside for 10 minutes and after that there was intense gunfire on them,” Iranian Consul Mohammed Reva Nasir told reporters in Basra.

“This is a provocative act against the Iranian consulate in Basra. I believe it has something to do with the British detainees in Iran,” he said.

Now it’s getting serious – the third carrier is on its way:USS Nimitz Scheduled To Depart For Persian Gulf

SAN DIEGO — The USS Nimitz and its support ships will depart San Diego on Monday for the Persian Gulf to join another local aircraft carrier strike group already in the region, military officials said.

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will join the San Diego-based John C. Stennis Strike Group and relieve the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to Naval Air Forces Public Affairs.

Military officials said in a statement that the two-carrier presence in the Persian Gulf area is intended to demonstrate the country’s “resolve to build regional security and bring long-term stability to the region.”

The Nimitz Strike Group is comprised of the guided-missile cruiser Princeton, guided-missile destroyers Higgins, Chafee, John Paul Jones and Pinckney, two helicopter squadrons and an explosive ordnance disposal unit.

The Stennis, and its strike group, left Naval Base Coronado on Jan. 20. The aircraft carrier entered the Persian Gulf Wednesday, according to authorities. It is the largest carrier presence in the area since the start of the war in Iraq

Pat Tillman’s mother rejects military’s bullshit

(CNN) — The mother of Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former NFL player killed
by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004, on Tuesday rejected
the latest explanation from the U.S. military about her son’s death.

“It became very obvious early on that they were lying to us,” Mary
Tillman said on ESPN Radio’s “Dan Patrick Show.” “They were only
telling one side of the story. They weren’t telling the other side.”

The military reported Monday that nine military officers, including
four generals, will face “corrective action” for making critical
mistakes in the aftermath of the Army Ranger’s death.

An investigation by the Army’s inspector general and Criminal
Investigation Command concluded officers in Tillman’s chain of
command knew almost immediately after his death that he had been
killed by fire from his own platoon, but that information was
withheld from his family for more than a month, in violation of Army

The investigation also concluded that inadequate initial
investigations “contributed to the inaccuracies, misunderstandings
and perceptions of concealment.”

Tillman’s mother was not convinced.

Everyone involved in the shooting knew almost immediately that her
son had been shot three times in the head by his own troops, she said.

Yet, at the memorial service for her son in May 2004, the military
said Pat Tillman had been killed by enemy fire, she said.

“That was not a misstep, that was not an error,” she said. “This was
an attempt to dupe the public and to promote this war and to get
recruitments up, and that is immoral.”

Mary Tillman called for a congressional hearing “to have it all aired out.”

She added, “I really don’t know what happened. We’ve been told so
many different things.”

Shot intentionally?

Mary Tillman said she was not excluding the possibility that her son
was shot intentionally.

“Pat was used,” she said. “Once he was killed, I think they saw this
as an opportunity.” She noted that April 2004 was the worst month up
to that time in the year-old Iraq war, and the shooting occurred
right after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke.

The latest investigation “only presented the points of view of the
soldiers in the vehicle” who fatally shot her son and an Afghan
soldier and wounded two others, she said.

“They never brought into play what the other witnesses said,” Mary
Tillman said.

She described as “shocking” the military’s claim that no rules of
engagement were broken.

The platoon members “fired at soldiers who weren’t firing at them in
areas where hands were waving and at a building,” she said. “All of
those things are breaking rules of engagement.”

The soldier believed to have shot her son three times in the head was
asked whether he had made a positive identification of the target
before firing, she said. “This soldier said, ‘No, I wanted to be in a
firefight,’ ” she said. “That was a definite breaking of the rules of

She said the military is still spinning the story for its own gain.

“The first investigative officer, in his statement to the third
investigative officer, said in his opinion, there was evidence of
criminal intent, and he also used the term ‘criminal negligence,’ “
Tillman said.

“Yet his report has been devalued because it doesn’t go along with
what they want out in the public eye.”

In 2002, Pat Tillman, a safety with the Arizona Cardinals, turned
down a multimillion-dollar contract offer and instead joined the
Army, a decision he said was a response to the September 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks.

He was shot April 22, 2004, in a remote area near the
Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Who Pays for Torture?

BBC: Torturers must pay victims. “States that commit acts of torture should be forced to pay for victims’ rehabilitation, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak has said. Mr Nowak said torture victims required long and costly treatment, and usually rich nations footed the bill rather than the offending states.”

Washington Post: Judge Dismisses Torture Lawsuit Against Rumsfeld. “Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld cannot be tried on allegations of torture in overseas military prisons, a federal judge said Tuesday in a case he described as ‘lamentable.'”

[What am I going to say when my neice grows a little older and asks me ‘why didn’t you do anything?’]

Judge wants medical marijuana user to get pot in jail

A medical marijuana activist in Calgary [Canada] was sentenced Tuesday to four months in jail for trafficking in marijuana, but the judge ruled that corrections officials must make sure he has access to the drug while behind bars.

[Article continues at link. This post dedicated to the memory of Peter McWilliams (1) (2).]

CNN: Military Sources Respond To McCain’s Escalation Remark With ‘Laughter Down The Line’

CNN reporter Michael Ware, who has been in Iraq for four years: McCain is “way off base... To suggest that there’s any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous. I’d love Sen. McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll.” (Think Progress)

Lee Dye: God is on Our Side. Does That Mean War?

Does believing that “God is on our side” make it easier for us to inflict pain and suffering on those perceived to be our enemies? If we think God sanctions violence, are we more likely to engage in violent acts? The answer to both those questions, according to new research, is a resounding “yes,” even among those who do not consider themselves believers. Social psychologist Brad Bushman of the University of Michigan led an international research effort to find answers to these questions, and said he is very “disturbed” by the results, though he found what he had expected. […]

“What worries me is when people use God as a justification for their violence. There are scriptures that say you should not take God’s name in vain. This is the most extreme version of taking God’s name in vain,” he said. Yet his own research shows that whether people consider themselves believers or not, they are more likely to be aggressive, perhaps even willing to start a war, if they think God is on their side.

[Article continues at link. Would war diminish if religion diminished? I’d like to find out. Instead I get George Bush on one side and Osama bin Ladin on the other.]

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