Joan Conrow on torture and military propaganda in our schools

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Musings: The Ugly Side

Well, it’s been six years since the U.S. began its “shock and awe” campaign to destroy Iraq and oust Saddam Hussein on those bogus “weapons of mass destruction” claims.

My how time flies – except for those guys and gals who keep having their tours of duty extended, and the Iraqis still living under the American occupation.

For the American public, it’s apparently turned into one big yawn:

“This is already one of the longest wars in American history. There’s nothing new in Iraq,” said Steven Roberts, a professor of media studies at the George Washington University. “We’ve read the stories of instability in the government a hundred times. Every single possible story has been told, and so there is enormous fatigue about Iraq.”

Yes, let’s skip all that and get into the really interesting stuff, like the latest celebrity to enter rehab and Michelle Obama’s penchant for sleeveless dresses.
Never mind those tedious details, like the $800 billion price tag and the 4,261 Americans killed in the war – a figure that I’m not sure includes the alarming suicide rate among ground troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Oh yeah, and then there’s the Iraqi casualty count, which CNN says is “harder to ascertain because of the lack of formal record-keeping.” But it’s “reached at least 128,000,” by CNN’s tally.

And let’s just totally gloss over the torture thing.

Democracy Now! had an interview yesterday with author, journalist and professor Mark Danner, who this past weekend broke the story that two years ago the International Committee of the Red Cross concluded in a secret report that the Bush administration’s treatment of prisoners “constituted torture” in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

In hearing the account of what happened to Abu Zubaydah, including beatings, cold temperatures, sleep deprivation, being kept in coffin-like boxes and waterboarding administered over the course of many weeks, I couldn’t help but think about what happened not only to the prisoner, but to the men who were doing the torturing.

I mean, what kind of mind set do you have to be in to systematically mistreat someone in such horrendous ways? How do you gear yourself up to go to work when that’s your job? And how do you ever go on to live a normal life?

Yeah, all of the above is the ugliness of war, the downside that most Americans don’t see and think about – and don’t want to see and think about.

Perhaps if they did they’d find it just a little bit inappropriate to have the crew of a target boat visiting Kalahelo elementary school as part of a “career development program.”

A photograph of a kindergartener being shown a piece of military equipment accompanies the story, in which Principal Erik Burkman chirps:

“It’s all about showing the students what kinds of opportunities are available to them once they leave school.”

OK, that’s fine, but while you’re also showing kids the war mongers dressed in their “smart black headwear, khaki-colored shirt and smartly pressed black slacks with black socks and black shoes,” how about showing them some of the amputees, or the guys who will never leave the VA hospital because of head injuries or the homeless vets living in the street or the ones whose lives are forever screwed up because they’ve got PTSD?

How about showing them photos of the kids just like them who are blown up and maimed and orphaned by American soldiers, sailors, Marines and suicide bombers fighting the occupation of their nation? How about showing them what happens to real people when the joy stick they’re operating isn’t controlling a video game, but a Predator drone?

But that kind of education might distress and depress the poor keiki, and perhaps even require parental permission. Far better to fill their heads with propaganda and nonsense to prime them at an early age to fight the next imperialistic war.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Navy visit to Kalaheo School offers students another career choice

By Dennis Fujimoto – The Garden Island
KALAHEO – The new look of the United States Navy arrived with the crew of a target boat Wednesday morning on the Kalaheo School campus.

Lt. Michael Prince, whom many of the school students knew as “Coach Mike,” brought along a crew from the Navy’s Seaborne Target Division that operates out of the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Mana. That division is more commonly known as SEPTAR with its larger boats moored at the Port Allen harbor.

“This was a special visit,” said Erik Burkman, Kalaheo School’s principal. “It comes on the heels of our career development program that was changed from previous years.”

Burkman said instead of having community professionals visit the school, the classes instead visited places where people worked.

“It’s all about showing the students what kinds of opportunities are available to them once they leave school,” Burkman said.

The Navy’s target crew – Francisco Herndon, Alfonso Gomez and Randy Belknap – operate under Prince and were dressed in the Navy’s new uniform of a smart black headwear, khaki-colored shirt and smartly pressed black slacks with black socks and black shoes.

“I’m in white because people associate white with the Navy, but the new uniforms are a lot more ‘user-friendly,'” Prince said. “They’re smart looking and make the people look good.”

Along with the new uniforms, the crew hauled in one of the latest classes of target boats, the OA class, for the students to see.

“This is to show the students just one more opportunity they have available to them, but also how the remote system on one of these target boats work,” Prince said. “We’ve been to other schools for Career Development, but this is the first time we are visiting Kalaheo School.”

Herndon took the reins and welcomed the students, showing them how the target boat is operated using a laptop computer and a joystick resembling those found in gaming systems on home computers.

“The boat is remotely operated when it pulls a target,” Prince said. “In actuality, all the boats are targets. Eventually, they’ll be expended.”

Prince said the new boats are different from the older models in its keel where the newer boats use a four-foot cut with the result being the newer boats being able to negotiate swells better, comparing the target boats against the United States Coast Guard’s rigid-hull craft.

Students reveled in the ability to move the boat’s steering system using the joystick control, doing radio checks with Gomez answering on their inquiries and even getting a close up look at some of the gear used by the Navy personnel.

“Normally, we operate out of PMRF and launch out of the Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor,” Prince said. “But recently, the harbor has been undergoing a facelift so we sometimes launch out of Port Allen.

For the crew, it was a nice change of pace, especially for Belknap who recently moved here from Oklahoma.

But for the students, the most thrilling part was being able to sound the boat’s horn using the special tab located atop the joystick.

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