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One Veteran’s Rough Path from Killing and Torturing to Peace

November 15, 2011 

Check out this article about military whistleblower Evan Knappenberger and his journey from wanting to kill in revenge for 9/11 to speaking out against the crimes of the government:

One Veteran’s Rough Path from Killing and Torturing to Peace

By davidswanson – Posted on 15 November 2011

Not yet 30, Evan Knappenberger has already lived several lives.  His story destroys the U.S. government’s case against whistleblower Bradley Manning, exposes the toxic mix of fraud and incompetence that creates U.S. war policies, and highlights the damage so often done to soldiers who come home without visible injuries.

Knappenberger, seen in this video, was trained as an “intelligence analyst” at the U.S. Army’s Intelligence Training Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona in 2003 and 2004, the same school attended by Bradley Manning.  In April of this year, the PBS show Frontline, responding to an article Knappenberger had published, flew him to Los Angeles on a private jet, and interviewed him for four hours.

Knappenberger told Frontline that he, like Manning, had had access to the U.S. government’s SIPRNet database when he had been in Iraq.  Knappenberger told Frontline that 1,400 U.S. government agencies put their information on SIPRNet, and that 2 million employees were given access to it.  SIPRNet has secret blogs, secret discussions, and its own secret Google search engine.  At one point, the Pentagon encouraged gambling on SIPRNet on the likelihood of future terrorist attacks.  Knappenberger also pointed out that the United States had given the Iraqi Army access to the database, knowing full well that many members of the Iraqi Army were also on the U.S. target list as enemies fighting U.S. troops.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Beating the war profiteers

July 28, 2011 

Amy Goodman reports that a Pentagon whistleblower won a legal settlement for the retaliation she endured after challenging contracting abuses:

“War is a racket,” wrote retired U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler, in 1935. That statement, which is also the title of his short book on war profiteering, rings true today. One courageous civil servant just won a battle to hold war profiteers accountable. Her name is Bunnatine “Bunny” Greenhouse. She blew the whistle when her employer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, gave a no-bid $7 billion contract to the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) as the invasion of Iraq was about to commence. She was doing her job, trying to ensure a competitive bidding process would save the U.S. government money. For that, she was forced out of her senior position, demoted and harassed.

Just this week, after waging a legal battle for more than half a decade, Bunny Greenhouse won. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers settled with Greenhouse for $970,000, representing full restitution for lost wages, compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees.

Her “offense” was to challenge a no-bid, $7 billion-plus contract to KBR. It was weeks before the expected invasion of Iraq, in 2003, and Bush military planners predicted Saddam Hussein would blow up Iraqi oilfields, as happened with the U.S. invasion in 1991. The project, dubbed “Restore Iraqi Oil,” or RIO, was created so that oilfield fires would be extinguished. KBR was owned then by Halliburton, whose CEO until 2000 was none other than then-Vice President Dick Cheney. KBR was the only company invited to bid.

Bunny Greenhouse told her superiors that the process was illegal. She was overridden. She said the decision to grant the contract to KBR came from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, run by VP Cheney’s close friend, Donald Rumsfeld.

As Bunny Greenhouse told a congressional committee, “I can unequivocally state that the abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Waste and corruption is endemic to war profiteering.  More chaos means more opportunities to defraud tax payers.  Federal auditors recently reported that the military has lost $6.6 billion in cash that was intended for the reconstruction of Iraq.

As the U.S. veers towards the fiscal precipice, Sen. Tom Coburn (R, Okla.) has revived proposals to cut the military budget, including:

(reducing) military personnel stationed in Europe and Asia by one-third. It calls for reducing authorized force levels by the same number, therefore not requiring increased U.S. facilities to handle the returnees. The estimated savings would be almost $70 billion over 10 years.

Cutting the Pentagon budget – wouldn’t that be a novel idea?

Kailua man admits aiding Marine to launder bribes

July 23, 2011 

The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports:

A 40-year-old Kailua man admitted in federal court Friday that he helped a Marine Corps sergeant launder bribery money from military contractors in Iraq.

“A friend of mine was getting bribes. I was helping him conceal the bribes,” Francisco Mungia III said.

[...]

The government said Mungia received about $150,000 in 2006-2008 from two contractors doing business in Camp Fallujah, where the sergeant worked as a contracting officer.

Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

March 22, 2011 

Interesting analysis from Stratfor of the U.S.-led war in Libya and the Westʻs conflicting imperatives: welcoming popular democratic uprisings while preventing repressive governments from crushing them:

Nevertheless, a narrative on what has happened in the Arab world has emerged and has become the framework for thinking about the region. The narrative says that the region is being swept by democratic revolutions (in the Western sense) rising up against oppressive regimes. The West must support these uprisings gently. That means that they must not sponsor them but at the same time act to prevent the repressive regimes from crushing them.

This is a complex maneuver. The West supporting the rebels will turn it into another phase of Western imperialism, under this theory. But the failure to support the rising will be a betrayal of fundamental moral principles.

The problem with Libya is that the government enjoys significant popular support from certain tribal factions, while the opposition forces are a loose coalition of tribes that oppose the Gadhafi regime, not a popular uprising.

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Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

By George Friedman

Forces from the United States and some European countries have intervened in Libya. Under U.N. authorization, they have imposed a no-fly zone in Libya, meaning they will shoot down any Libyan aircraft that attempts to fly within Libya. In addition, they have conducted attacks against aircraft on the ground, airfields, air defenses and the command, control and communication systems of the Libyan government, and French and U.S. aircraft have struck against Libyan armor and ground forces. There also are reports of European and Egyptian special operations forces deploying in eastern Libya, where the opposition to the government is centered, particularly around the city of Benghazi. In effect, the intervention of this alliance has been against the government of Moammar Gadhafi, and by extension, in favor of his opponents in the east.

The alliance’s full intention is not clear, nor is it clear that the allies are of one mind. The U.N. Security Council resolution clearly authorizes the imposition of a no-fly zone. By extension, this logically authorizes strikes against airfields and related targets. Very broadly, it also defines the mission of the intervention as protecting civilian lives. As such, it does not specifically prohibit the presence of ground forces, though it does clearly state that no “foreign occupation force” shall be permitted on Libyan soil. It can be assumed they intended that forces could intervene in Libya but could not remain in Libya after the intervention. What this means in practice is less than clear.

There is no question that the intervention is designed to protect Gadhafi’s enemies from his forces. Gadhafi had threatened to attack “without mercy” and had mounted a sustained eastward assault that the rebels proved incapable of slowing. Before the intervention, the vanguard of his forces was on the doorstep of Benghazi. The protection of the eastern rebels from Gadhafi’s vengeance coupled with attacks on facilities under Gadhafi’s control logically leads to the conclusion that the alliance wants regime change, that it wants to replace the Gadhafi government with one led by the rebels.

But that would be too much like the invasion of Iraq against Saddam Hussein, and the United Nations and the alliance haven’t gone that far in their rhetoric, regardless of the logic of their actions. Rather, the goal of the intervention is explicitly to stop Gadhafi’s threat to slaughter his enemies, support his enemies but leave the responsibility for the outcome in the hands of the eastern coalition. In other words — and this requires a lot of words to explain — they want to intervene to protect Gadhafi’s enemies, they are prepared to support those enemies (though it is not clear how far they are willing to go in providing that support), but they will not be responsible for the outcome of the civil war.

The Regional Context

To understand this logic, it is essential to begin by considering recent events in North Africa and the Arab world and the manner in which Western governments interpreted them. Beginning with Tunisia, spreading to Egypt and then to the Arabian Peninsula, the last two months have seen widespread unrest in the Arab world. Three assumptions have been made about this unrest. The first was that it represented broad-based popular opposition to existing governments, rather than representing the discontent of fragmented minorities — in other words, that they were popular revolutions. Second, it assumed that these revolutions had as a common goal the creation of a democratic society. Third, it assumed that the kind of democratic society they wanted was similar to European-American democracy, in other words, a constitutional system supporting Western democratic values.

Each of the countries experiencing unrest was very different. For example, in Egypt, while the cameras focused on demonstrators, they spent little time filming the vast majority of the country that did not rise up. Unlike 1979 in Iran, the shopkeepers and workers did not protest en masse. Whether they supported the demonstrators in Tahrir Square is a matter of conjecture. They might have, but the demonstrators were a tiny fraction of Egyptian society, and while they clearly wanted a democracy, it is less than clear that they wanted a liberal democracy. Recall that the Iranian Revolution created an Islamic Republic more democratic than its critics would like to admit, but radically illiberal and oppressive. In Egypt, it is clear that Mubarak was generally loathed but not clear that the regime in general was being rejected. It is not clear from the outcome what will happen now. Egypt may stay as it is, it may become an illiberal democracy or it may become a liberal democracy.

Consider also Bahrain. Clearly, the majority of the population is Shiite, and resentment toward the Sunni government is apparent. It should be assumed that the protesters want to dramatically increase Shiite power, and elections should do the trick. Whether they want to create a liberal democracy fully aligned with the U.N. doctrines on human rights is somewhat more problematic.

Egypt is a complicated country, and any simple statement about what is going on is going to be wrong. Bahrain is somewhat less complex, but the same holds there. The idea that opposition to the government means support for liberal democracy is a tremendous stretch in all cases — and the idea that what the demonstrators say they want on camera is what they actually want is problematic. Even more problematic in many cases is the idea that the demonstrators in the streets simply represent a universal popular will.

Nevertheless, a narrative on what has happened in the Arab world has emerged and has become the framework for thinking about the region. The narrative says that the region is being swept by democratic revolutions (in the Western sense) rising up against oppressive regimes. The West must support these uprisings gently. That means that they must not sponsor them but at the same time act to prevent the repressive regimes from crushing them.

This is a complex maneuver. The West supporting the rebels will turn it into another phase of Western imperialism, under this theory. But the failure to support the rising will be a betrayal of fundamental moral principles. Leaving aside whether the narrative is accurate, reconciling these two principles is not easy — but it particularly appeals to Europeans with their ideological preference for “soft power.”

The West has been walking a tightrope of these contradictory principles; Libya became the place where they fell off. According to the narrative, what happened in Libya was another in a series of democratic uprisings, but in this case suppressed with a brutality outside the bounds of what could be tolerated. Bahrain apparently was inside the bounds, and Egypt was a success, but Libya was a case in which the world could not stand aside while Gadhafi destroyed a democratic uprising. Now, the fact that the world had stood aside for more than 40 years while Gadhafi brutalized his own and other people was not the issue. In the narrative being told, Libya was no longer an isolated tyranny but part of a widespread rising — and the one in which the West’s moral integrity was being tested in the extreme. Now was different from before.

Of course, as with other countries, there was a massive divergence between the narrative and what actually happened. Certainly, that there was unrest in Tunisia and Egypt caused opponents of Gadhafi to think about opportunities, and the apparent ease of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings gave them some degree of confidence. But it would be an enormous mistake to see what has happened in Libya as a mass, liberal democratic uprising. The narrative has to be strained to work in most countries, but in Libya, it breaks down completely.

The Libyan Uprising

As we have pointed out, the Libyan uprising consisted of a cluster of tribes and personalities, some within the Libyan government, some within the army and many others longtime opponents of the regime, all of whom saw an opportunity at this particular moment. Though many in western portions of Libya, notably in the cities of Zawiya and Misurata, identify themselves with the opposition, they do not represent the heart of the historic opposition to Tripoli found in the east. It is this region, known in the pre-independence era as Cyrenaica, that is the core of the opposition movement. United perhaps only by their opposition to Gadhafi, these people hold no common ideology and certainly do not all advocate Western-style democracy. Rather, they saw an opportunity to take greater power, and they tried to seize it.

According to the narrative, Gadhafi should quickly have been overwhelmed — but he wasn’t. He actually had substantial support among some tribes and within the army. All of these supporters had a great deal to lose if he was overthrown. Therefore, they proved far stronger collectively than the opposition, even if they were taken aback by the initial opposition successes. To everyone’s surprise, Gadhafi not only didn’t flee, he counterattacked and repulsed his enemies.

This should not have surprised the world as much as it did. Gadhafi did not run Libya for the past 42 years because he was a fool, nor because he didn’t have support. He was very careful to reward his friends and hurt and weaken his enemies, and his supporters were substantial and motivated. One of the parts of the narrative is that the tyrant is surviving only by force and that the democratic rising readily routs him. The fact is that the tyrant had a lot of support in this case, the opposition wasn’t particularly democratic, much less organized or cohesive, and it was Gadhafi who routed them.

As Gadhafi closed in on Benghazi, the narrative shifted from the triumph of the democratic masses to the need to protect them from Gadhafi — hence the urgent calls for airstrikes. But this was tempered by reluctance to act decisively by landing troops, engaging the Libyan army and handing power to the rebels: Imperialism had to be avoided by doing the least possible to protect the rebels while arming them to defeat Gadhafi. Armed and trained by the West, provided with command of the air by the foreign air forces — this was the arbitrary line over which the new government keeps from being a Western puppet. It still seems a bit over the line, but that’s how the story goes.

In fact, the West is now supporting a very diverse and sometimes mutually hostile group of tribes and individuals, bound together by hostility to Gadhafi and not much else. It is possible that over time they could coalesce into a fighting force, but it is far more difficult imagining them defeating Gadhafi’s forces anytime soon, much less governing Libya together. There are simply too many issues between them. It is, in part, these divisions that allowed Gadhafi to stay in power as long as he did. The West’s ability to impose order on them without governing them, particularly in a short amount of time, is difficult to imagine. They remind me of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, anointed by the Americans, distrusted by much of the country and supported by a fractious coalition.

Other Factors

There are other factors involved, of course. Italy has an interest in Libyan oil, and the United Kingdom was looking for access to the same. But just as Gadhafi was happy to sell the oil, so would any successor regime be; this war was not necessary to guarantee access to oil. NATO politics also played a role. The Germans refused to go with this operation, and that drove the French closer to the Americans and British. There is the Arab League, which supported a no-fly zone (though it did an about-face when it found out that a no-fly zone included bombing things) and offered the opportunity to work with the Arab world.

But it would be a mistake to assume that these passing interests took precedence over the ideological narrative, the genuine belief that it was possible to thread the needle between humanitarianism and imperialism — that it was possible to intervene in Libya on humanitarian grounds without thereby interfering in the internal affairs of the country. The belief that one can take recourse to war to save the lives of the innocent without, in the course of that war, taking even more lives of innocents, also was in play.

The comparison to Iraq is obvious. Both countries had a monstrous dictator. Both were subjected to no-fly zones. The no-fly zones don’t deter the dictator. In due course, this evolves into a massive intervention in which the government is overthrown and the opposition goes into an internal civil war while simultaneously attacking the invaders. Of course, alternatively, this might play out like the Kosovo war, where a few months of bombing saw the government surrender the province. But in that case, only a province was in play. In this case, although focused ostensibly on the east, Gadhafi in effect is being asked to give up everything, and the same with his supporters — a harder business.

In my view, waging war to pursue the national interest is on rare occasion necessary. Waging war for ideological reasons requires a clear understanding of the ideology and an even clearer understanding of the reality on the ground. In this intervention, the ideology is not crystal clear, torn as it is between the concept of self-determination and the obligation to intervene to protect the favored faction. The reality on the ground is even less clear. The reality of democratic uprisings in the Arab world is much more complicated than the narrative makes it out to be, and the application of the narrative to Libya simply breaks down. There is unrest, but unrest comes in many sizes, democratic being only one.

Whenever you intervene in a country, whatever your intentions, you are intervening on someone’s side. In this case, the United States, France and Britain are intervening in favor of a poorly defined group of mutually hostile and suspicious tribes and factions that have failed to coalesce, at least so far, into a meaningful military force. The intervention may well succeed. The question is whether the outcome will create a morally superior nation. It is said that there can’t be anything worse than Gadhafi. But Gadhafi did not rule for 42 years because he was simply a dictator using force against innocents, but rather because he speaks to a real and powerful dimension of Libya.

Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

Protest in Waikiki against U.S. Wars

March 18, 2011 

A call from World Canʻt Wait:

Already have plans for Saturday night? Question whether protesting makes a difference? Think again!

Listen to Daniel Ellsberg’s call to protest. Listen to his commentary on Bradley Manning on today’s edition of Democracy Now. Read about yesterday’s drone attack in Pakistan that killed 40 civilians! Note the bipartisan vote in the U.S. House overwhelmingly supporting the continuation of the war in Afghanistan beyond next year! Listen to Obama defending the torture of Bradley Manning! Ask yourself how you can fail to protest!

Protest in Waikiki on Saturday, 7-8:30pm at the corner of Kalakaua & Seaside.

The unjust occupation of Iraq, the war on the people of Afghanistan, the drone bombings of Pakistan and Yemen, the secret wars, the black sites or torture and rendition, Obama’s indefinite detention, the repression against Muslims and antiwar activists, — all of this is growing worse…and will continue to get worse UNLESS we stop it.

Think protesting is useless? Tell that to the people of Egypt and Tunisia. To the people who occupied the Capitol in Wisconsin. To millions of people around the world who feel the wrath of the greatest superpower in the world…and yearn to see opposition to these murderous wars in U.S. streets!

This Saturday, Ann Wright, Daniel Ellsberg, Debra Sweet, Chris Hedges, and many more prominent anti-war activists will speak at the rally/protest in Washington D.C. Today they are using the airwaves to call on all of us to join them. Be part of this action by joining us in Waikiki on Saturday evening from 7pm – 8:30pm.

Protest Details:

Converge on the corner of Seaside & Kalakaua as close to 7pm as possible. This will not be a march. We hope to first establish a strong, highly visible group of signholders on the corner of Seaside & Kalakaua. If there are enough people some will break off to “occupy” another corner. Drums, guitars, costumes welcome. The World Can’t Wait will provide signs, some noisemakers, and hand-held Bradley Manning masks but all signs in the spirit of the day are welcome.

Parking is difficult in Waikiki. Car-pools will leave Revolution Books at about 6:15 and 6:30pm. (There will be limited parking for your cars next to the store.) It’s easy to catch a bus from Ala Moana Shopping Center and parking there is free. For those who have difficulty standing for more than an hour, there are planters with benches near this corner and it should be possible for you to find a seat.

WE CANNOT BE SILENT!

STOP ALL WARS AND OCCUPATIONS!

CLOSE GUANTANAMO & STOP TORTURE!

FREE BRADLEY MANNING!

‘I didn’t think of Iraqis as humans,’ says U.S. soldier who raped 14-year-old girl before killing her and her family

January 10, 2011 

Steven Green, the former soldier sentenced to five life terms for raping and killing a 14 year-old Iraqi girl and killing her family spoke to a reporter for the Daily Mail newspaper:

An Iraq War veteran serving five life terms for raping and killing a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing her parents and sister says he didn’t think of Iraqi civilians as humans after being exposed to extreme warzone violence.

Steven Green, a former 101st Airborne soldier, in his first interview since the 2006 killings, claimed that his crimes were fuelled in part by experiences in Iraq’s violent ‘Triangle of Death’ where two of his sergeants were gunned down.

The story is as horrifying and shocking as the first time I read about it:

At the Iraqi home, Barker and Cortez pulled Abeer into one room, while Green held the mother, father and youngest daughter in another.

Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, stood guard in the hall. As Barker and Cortez raped the teen, Green shot the three family members, killing them.

He then went into the next room and raped Abeer, before shooting her in the head. The soldiers lit her remains on fire before leaving. Another soldier stood watch a few miles away at the checkpoint.

Mission accomplished?  Who is ultimately responsible for war crimes of this nature? The persons who pull the trigger of the gun? Or the ones who pull the trigger on the troops sent into war?

Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, Green's 14-year-old victim, whose parents and sister were also murdered in the attack. Green said deaths of two of his colleagues had 'messed him up real bad'

Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, Green’s 14-year-old victim, whose parents and sister were also murdered in the attack. Green said deaths of two of his colleagues had ‘messed him up real bad’

Steven Green, pictured in April 2009, is serving five life sentences for rape and murder in Iraq. He has launched appeal but doesn't have 'much hope' of ever being freed
Steven Green, pictured in April 2009, is serving five life sentences for rape and murder in Iraq. He has launched appeal but doesn’t have ‘much hope’ of ever being freed

“Stryker Advise and Assist Brigade”?

September 11, 2010 

According to the Tacoma News Tribune the Hawai’i-based 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division is now called the Stryker Advise and Assist Brigade:

the Defense Department is using kinder, gentler terminology to describe its deployed units in Iraq, now that President Obama has pulled out all “combat” troops.

For example, according to a casualty press release we read, the 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, is now called a “Stryker Advise and Assist Brigade” rather than the traditional “Stryker Brigade Combat Team” – even though the soldiers are presumably still driving the same 20-ton vehicles equipped with the same .50-caliber guns, grenade launchers, etc. And even though they are still dying in combat engagements with enemy fighters.

That brigade, by the way, is taking part in “Operation New Dawn,” according to the same press release. The name has a slightly different flavor than the longstanding “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”


But apparently the Iraqis don’t like the advice and assistance they are getting. Michael O’Brien writes in antiwar.com that ‘First US Soldiers in Iraq ‘Non-War’ Killed’:

The first two US soldiers to die in Iraq since Barack Hussein Obama told the country (and the world) that we were no longer at war there were killed on Tuesday, September 7, 2010. To those with a shred of logic and common sense, this poses a problem: if we’re not at war, how do we classify their deaths? If we’re not at war, as Obama and Biden tell us, I guess that makes the deaths of these two soldiers the equivalent of a training accident, or maybe the equivalent of a bar fight gone wrong. If we’re not at war they aren’t combat casualties. Obama and Biden have made it so. The insurgent who killed these soldiers must not have gotten the word when Joe Biden was over there a week ago. Someone needs to tell him the war is over and to go home. Maybe Joe will go back and do that.

SHAPE-SHIFTER: THE MANY FACES OF U.S. MILITARISM

August 31, 2010 

Washington’s Wars and Occupations:

Month in Review #64

August 31, 2010

By Maryam Roberts & Alicia Garza, War Times/Tiempo de Guerras

SHAPE-SHIFTER: THE MANY FACES OF U.S. MILITARISM

Countless monsters lurk in the shadows of the U.S. empire. But U.S. militarism may be the biggest, most elusive, of them all – a shape-shifter. The nature of a shape-shifter is to be unreachable, unknowable, to change its way of being in order to accomplish its own goals, its own missions. While vampires, werewolves and shape-shifters fill the collective pop-culture consciousness in shows like Twilight or True Blood, there is a real-life shape-shifter playing out its bloody agenda across the globe. Shape-shifting U.S. militarism maneuvers to keep its opponents and victims guessing, to occupy our attention in one direction while executing a different tactic in another part of the world.

U.S. combat operations are supposedly over in Iraq – but U.S. casualties in Afghanistan under Obama have now surpassed those under Bush and continue to climb. A majority of U.S. people think that war is not worth fighting, but General David Petraeus is leading other senior military commanders in a campaign to undermine Obama’s July 2011 timeline for U.S. troops to “begin leaving” Afghanistan. In the last month, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sent National Guard Troops to the U.S/Mexico border saying that the troops will help protect the American people. Military recruiters still target youth in people of color and poor communities: amid today’s “jobless recovery” the U.S. military is the biggest jobs program going. A generation of veterans and active duty servicewomen and men, their families and friends, have sacrificed and paid too high a price for the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. And while the drawdown of troops in Iraq makes the front pages, there is an unpublicized military build-up of another kind on a small island in the Pacific far from the Middle East.

COMBAT TROOPS OUT OF IRAQ: REALLY?

The Iraq drawdown results from a timetable set by the Obama administration to withdraw combat troops by August 31. The last combat brigade crossing the border into Kuwait was big news for the mainstream press August 19. But there is more to the story. Does this mean an end to the seven-year-long illegal Iraq occupation? Is this a victory for peace? Unfortunately, it’s not at all simple.

The shape-shifter is changing the way the Iraq occupation is enforced. Fifty thousand U.S. troops will remain, working with a large-scale build-up of private contractors brought in by the State Department to support the military. The remaining troops are a “transitional force” with, according to Obama, a “focused mission – supporting and training Iraqi forces, partnering with Iraqis in counterterrorism missions, and protecting our civilian and military efforts.”

Juan Cole says the mission in Iraq has shifted from “Shock & Awe” to “Advise & Assist.” The troops remaining in Iraq, he elaborates, “include special operations units, helicopter gunship crews, and other war fighters who are still going to be engaged in combat but will not be categorized as being in Iraq for that purpose.”

Tom Hayden expanded on the nature of the civilian build-up: “Thousands of military contractors will conduct Iraqi police training, protect Iraq’s airspace, and possibly conduct continued counterterrorism operations. State Department operatives will be protected in mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles [MRAPS], armored vehicles, helicopters and its own planes.” How independent and sovereign can Iraq really be with such a huge U.S. military presence? And U.S. generals hint that “if the Iraqis request it” thousands of troops will stay after the end-of-2011 deadline for all to be gone.

SHAPE-SHIFTING WAYS: SAME STORY, DIFFERENT SCRIPT

The drawdown is an attempt to signal a shift from the Bush/Neocon agenda of “preemptive war” justified by lies, fear-mongering and defiance of international law. The Neocons definitely don’t like it. But we still see the demonization of “other” communities inside and outside U.S. borders, with anti-Muslim tirades and campaigns at fever pitch. From Arizona to Afghanistan U.S. militarism still operates with a framework of shoot it, fence it in, control it somehow with force – and lots of it.

The loss of life on all sides will continue. The occupation of Iraq has claimed over 4,400 U.S. troops’ lives, wounded thousands physically and psychologically, and left millions of Iraqis killed, wounded or displaced. Three days after the last U.S. troops designated as combat units left on August 19, another U.S. soldier was killed. The military announced that the soldier was killed in “a hostile attack” (isn’t that combat?) in the province around Basra.

Life in Iraq: the middle class has disappeared, medical care is difficult to attain, there is no government five months after national elections, foreign troops are still there. People have protested and rioted in recent weeks over lack of electricity and other basic services. Juan Cole added it up: “The U.S. has done enough damage, and can best help Iraqis by allowing them to return to being an independent country.”

AFGHANISTAN: OPERATION ENDURING CASUALTIES

As Operation Enduring Freedom moves into its tenth year, Obama’s surge continues its devastating impacts on Afghan civilians and U.S. troops. U.S. troops have suffered more than 1,100 fatalities in Afghanistan since fighting began in October 2001, including a monthly record of 66 this past July. Seven more U.S. deaths were announced just yesterday.

Obama has set a July 2011 timetable for U.S. troops to begin leaving the country, but even this loophole-filled target is too restrictive for the military brass. Gen. David Petraeus and senior military officials like Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway have begun a political and media campaign to undermine the White House, arguing that the U.S. is in the “early stages” of a counterinsurgency campaign. In a press conference last week, Gen. Conway said, “In some ways … [Obama’s timetable] is probably giving our enemy sustenance… We think he may be saying to himself… ‘Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.’” Gen. Conway continued, “I honestly think it will be a few years before conditions on the ground are such that turnover will be possible for us.”

The latest polls show 60% of the U.S. people opposed to the war. We see what Gen. Petraeus and the hawks don’t want us to: things are only getting worse, and U.S. troops need to come home now.

ISRAEL/PALESTINE: U.S. IS NO HONEST BROKER

Regarding Israel/Palestine, the shape shift now is the beginning of “direct talks.” On August 20, the Obama administration announced that it will host face-to-face Israeli-Palestinian peace talks beginning on September 2 in Washington, D.C. No honest broker for the negotiations, Washington has spent the last several decades arming and funding the Israeli military as it grabs Palestinian land and enforces an apartheid-type arrangement on the Palestinian people. And it continues to do so: according to the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, “The U.S. is scheduled to provide Israel with $30 billion in weapons from 2009-2018. The U.S. cannot credibly broker Israeli-Palestinian peace while bankrolling Israel’s military machine and simultaneously ignoring Israel’s human rights violations.”

Even before talks begin, a crisis for them looms. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told his right-wing party August 29 that he has made no promises to anyone to continue the partial moratorium on settlement-building. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had declared when he agreed to direct talks that if settlement building officially resumed (it never really stopped) it meant negotiations would end.

THE PEACE MOVEMENT: SHIFTING OUR TACTICS

The antiwar movement no longer has one single, illegal war as the over-riding focus of our efforts. The Bush administration swung so far to the right that it was easy to target and “other” his administration and the Republican Party. The shape-shifting nature of U.S. militarism is a challenge to our strategies. Our attention has to include many issues in many different communities and many different crisis-points, as the U.S. military maintains over 700 military bases and installations world-wide.

Now we have Obama, the first Black President. Someone who became so human to all of us in the anti-war movement, partly because of the great obstacles he had to surmount to get to the White House, partly because with his promise to end the war in Iraq we finally had a candidate “on our side.” But U.S. militarism is bigger than Bush, bigger than Obama. Its shape is changing again: so must the shape of our resistance. U.S militarism’s shape-shifting ways were born at the dawn of the U.S. over 200 years ago, and have a long and twisted history staking out and protecting U.S. interests around the world.

STRATEGIC REGION: THE PACIFIC

As global economic clout shifts to Asia, the guardians of U.S. power are increasingly concerned about their interests in the Pacific region. That’s the context for the big buildup the Pentagon is planning for the tiny island of Guahan (Guam), which will bring an estimated 8-10,000 additional Marines (mostly combat troops) and their dependents onto the island.

Known as the “tip of the spear,” Guahan is strategically positioned in the Pacific Basin. Like Japan, the Philippines, Okinawa and South Korea, Guahan is used by the U.S. military to train and maintain wartime fighting capabilities and to project military might against potential rivals, especially China. But the residents of Guahan are getting organized and fighting back, making the U.S. military nervous that grassroots opposition will undermine their empire-building project.

Guahan has been an unincorporated territory of the U.S. since 1944. Though technically U.S. citizens, the residents of Guahan are unable to vote for President, unable to select Congressional representatives who have voting power, unable to determine their future on their own terms. Under colonial status for nearly 340 years, on Guahan the U.S. military enjoys some support from residents who see the U.S. as a liberating force from the islands’ earlier conquerors, and who depend on the military’s activities for their economic survival. Currently the military owns more than 30% of the 212-square-mile island.

But as in many other military communities, the local government strategy of trying to use the military presence and infrastructure building for economic development often has the opposite effect. Nearly one-third of Guahan’s population receives food stamps. Twenty-five percent live below the federal poverty line. Chamorros (the indigenous residents of Guahan) lead all U.S. demographic groups in the number of U.S. troops killed per capita and in their rate of military recruitment. Guam is also home to over 100 toxic sites and 12 Superfund sites, a direct result of the U.S. military presence.

SHAPE-SHIFTING, PACIFIC VERSION

The Bush administration, under growing pressure from a Japanese government besieged by popular protests over military presence in that country, negotiated a complicated bilateral agreement of $13 billion dollars with Japan. Under this agreement, the U.S. Marines would acquire an additional 40% of Guahan’s lands, and relocate between 8,000 and 10,000 armed personnel from Okinawa, Japan to Guahan. This move would increase Guahan’s population by 45% over the next four years. Additionally, the buildup would require that 71 acres of vibrant coral reef be destroyed to make way for a transient nuclear carrier.

The U.S. military uses its Pacific bases to provide logistical support for missions around the world. From its numerous bases there, the military is able to supply itself, restock and conduct repair and maintenance of military platforms and equipment. Currently Guahan is home to the Anderson Air Force base, which is capable of handling the largest U.S. aircraft in history, and the ability to acquire more assets if necessary. U.S. bases on Guahan already handle nuclear powered attack submarines, F-22 fighter jets and B-2 stealth bombers.

Guahan’s strategic location relative to China, North Korea, Russia, Japan and Vietnam makes it a prime spot for the U.S. to prepare for military aggression. North Korea is the most likely immediate target; China is regarded as the main long-range “threat.”

A key reason for the buildup in Guahan is that U.S. military presence in Okinawa has been contested, with mass popular protests calling for the ousting of the U.S. military, based on widespread reports of rape of women and young girls and other crimes committed by military personnel stationed there, as well as the infrastructure costs of hosting nearly 150,000 US troops in total. Since Guahan is a U.S. colony, unlike Japan or other Pacific nations, it does not have a democratic voice within this process.

“WE ARE GUAHAN” FIGHTS BACK

The U.S. military wants everyone to believe that there is popular support for the buildup that threatens the island. However, a Draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS) released by the military in November 2009 was given the lowest possible rating by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA identified a host of concerns with the plans for buildup, including but not limited to taxing local infrastructure that would put public health at serious risk. The EPA says that with a 45% increase in population, Guahan’s infrastructure would be significantly taxed – enough to overwhelm Guahan’s aging water treatment systems and limit access to water by thousands of low income residents. The EPA states that the damage to the coral reef would significantly and irreparably alter Guahan’s ecosystems.

In addition to logistical and environmental concerns, popular forces have organized in opposition to the military buildup and in support of self-determination for the island and its residents, and all other communities impacted by military occupation and violence. We Are Guahan – http://www.weareguahan.com/- is a grassroots organization that has begun to organize residents of Guahan and beyond to oppose the military buildup using a combination of popular education, cultural awareness, and intergenerational and multiracial / multiethnic alliances.

As the empire tries to gain approval of this massive project, We Are Guahan is exposing the contradictions of moving U.S. Marines unwanted in Okinawa to another location where residents oppose the military’s presence. Last week, organizers surprised a formal tour organized by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense by staging a community cleanup that also demonstrated to community members exactly how much of an ancestral burial ground would be taken and used for a military firing range. Indeed, the buildup is a threat to the very existence of the indigenous people of Guahan. Less than 40% of the current population is Chamorro, and it is estimated that within the next 30 years the Chamorro language could become extinct.

A CALL TO THE BELLY OF THE BEAST

On September 8, the U.S. military will issue a Record of Decision on the pending Environmental Impact Study (EIS). This date is an opportunity for the antiwar movement to act in solidarity with the people of Guahan who are resisting military buildup, and organizers for We Are Guahan are actively seeking stateside alliances. As anti-military sentiment grows on the island, people in the U.S. can lend our support by calling our representatives and telling them that we want to move the money from militarization and war preparations to education, health care, and infrastructure.

From tiny Guahan to front-page news Afghanistan, the shape-shifting U.S. military is maneuvering to get its way. The antiwar movement’s challenge is to keep our eyes and ears open, to read between the lines, to see the links between these many faces of the shape-shifter. We have to look for the places where our struggles overlap, and illuminate those links to build solutions together.

Maryam Robertsis an Oakland-based writer, educator, and member of War Times new “Month in Review” writing team. She has been working on U.S. militarism, veteran and military family advocacy, with a focus on gender, racial justice and queer rights for nearly a decade. Alicia Garza, also a new writer for War Times, is currently the co-executive director at People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER) in San Francisco. For nearly ten years she has been helping to build people’s power in working class communities of color in the Bay Area and abroad.

You can sign-on to War Times/Tiempo de Guerras e-mail Announcement List (2-4 messages per month, including our ‘Month in Review’ column), at http://www.war-times.org/. War Times/Tiempo de Guerras is a fiscally sponsored project of the Center for Third World Organizing. Donations are tax-deductible; you can donate on-line at http://www.war-times.org/or send a check to War Times/Tiempo de Guerras, c/o P.O. Box 22748, Oakland CA 94609.

Iraq/Afghanistan vet apparently murdered a woman and her 13-year old daughter then killed himself

August 20, 2010 

At around 1:00 am this morning in Makiki, neighbors were awoken by breaking glass, a barking dog, and gunshots.  A woman shouted “No, no, help, help, no!”, more gunshots.  A man’s voice.  A gunshot, then an eerie silence.

A woman, teenage girl and a man were found dead by gunshot wounds in an apparent double murder suicide.    The murder victims were Christine Cass and her 13-year old daughter Saundra Cass, an eighth grader at Sacred Hearts School.

According to KHON news, “Friends identified the shooter as 43-year old Clayborne Conley, who met Christine several months ago. Conley had served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.”

KHON reports that Conley was pursuing a relationship with Cass.  Apparently, he visited her workplace  unannounced several times in the last few weeks and had visited  her house earlier in the day.

This is one of the human costs of the wars.  But Christine, Saundra and Clayborne will not be counted among the casualties of those wars.

Pentagon hunting for Wikileaks founder and Arrest of Alleged Leaker of “Collateral Murder” video

June 18, 2010 

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/6/17/wikileaks_whistleblowers

With Rumored Manhunt for Wikileaks Founder and Arrest of Alleged Leaker of Video Showing Iraq Killings, Obama Admin Escalates Crackdown on Whistleblowers of Classified Information

Pentagon investigators are reportedly still searching for Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange, who helped release a classified US military video showing a US helicopter gunship indiscriminately firing on Iraqi civilians. The US military recently arrested Army Specialist Bradley Manning, who may have passed on the video to Wikileaks. Manning’s arrest and the hunt for Assange have put the spotlight on the Obama administration’s campaign against whistleblowers and leakers of classified information. We speak to Daniel Ellsberg, who’s leaking of the Pentagon Papers has made him perhaps the nation’s most famous whistleblower; Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic Parliament who has collaborated with Wikileaks and drafted a new Icelandic law protecting investigative journalists; and Glenn Greenwald, political and legal blogger for Salon.com.

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