Category Archives: Afghanistan War

War On Terror Electric Boogaloo

Hey kids, let’s shoot a machine gun with the Navy Seal who killed Bin Laden! All it takes is a cool 50 grand:

Key contributors to a conservative group have received a special invitation: For $50,000, they can shoot guns and hang out this June with Robert O’Neill, the former Navy SEAL credited with killing al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The offer was recently made by the ForAmerica organization. Those invited have until May 10 to RSVP for an event at the Amangani Resort Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyo. The facility offers picturesque views of the Snake River, and is on the southern tip of Grand Teton National Park. A room there can cost more than $1,000 per night.

[…]

The ForAmerica group is run by America, Inc., of Reston, Va. It was founded in 2009 by Brent Bozell, a conservative commentator who also started the Media Research Center, which provides a conservative critique of the media. It received nearly $4.9 million in contributions in 2012, and $2.5 million in 2013, according to tax documents.

I am so sick of this jingoistic, pro-war, amygdala-tweaking, “wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross” bullshit fascism-disguised-as-patriotism we’ve come to expect from conservatives.

But hey, maybe I’m just being melodramatic, right? Silly woman. But nothing speaks — no screams — a morally bankrupt culture louder than this. Nothing screams that institutional conservatism is made up of a bunch of sick fucks louder than this.

War is not entertainment. Assassinating Osama bin Laden may have been necessary (I say may — because we never did have a national conversation about that, did we?) but for God’s sake, don’t turn it into a fucking fundraiser! Don’t cheapen this entire chapter of American history by monetizing it, for fuck’s sake.

What the hell is wrong with these people?

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Filed under advertising, Afghanistan War, gun violence, rants

The Revolution Won’t Be Photographed

History is written (or recorded) by the victors, or so the saying goes. Today I saw an art installation from Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar which really illustrates that idea.

For some background, here’s what the BBC wrote about Jaar’s installation in 2014:

Jaar chose not to show us any pictures but instead blinded us with a blaze of projected light. Rather than a despairing nihilist gesture, Lament of the Images was integral to a strongly held argument that images mattered.

Jaar’s installation was a response to the increasing political control, erasure and suppression of images. Our encounter with Jaar’s field of light was preceded by three glowing panels of back-lit texts presented in a darkened room, all musing on different forms of blindness and erasure: beginning with Nelson Mandela being dazzled by the light on his release from prison and how prisoners were blinded by the glare of the sun on the limestone as they broke rocks in a quarry on the centre of Robben Island.

Texts two and three considered the loss and control of images in relationship to two significant events: the burial of 17 million photographic images from Bettmann and United Press International, purchased by Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates, in a limestone mine, and how before launching airstrikes against Afghanistan, the United States Defense Department had bought all rights to satellite imagery of Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, creating an “effective white-out of the operation”.

And here is the final panel, the one related to the “white out” of our bombing of Afghanistan:

IMG_1745 3

It’s powerful stuff. Presented in an art context, it was more than powerful: it was enraging. As a reasonably engaged American, I wanted to know why I hadn’t heard about either the Bill Gates or Afghanistan incidents of image suppression. Especially Afghanistan. I remember much uproar about the Bush Administration censoring photographs of coffins arriving home from Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t remember anything about this.

Pictures are powerful, a picture is worth a thousand words, as the old saying goes. No wonder the Bush Administration wanted to make sure nobody saw the devastation our bombs wrought on Afghanistan.

Today if you Google this story, you find this, from the New York Times:

The Pentagon contract, concluded on Oct. 7, also means that news media and other organizations outside government will not be able to obtain independently their own high-resolution satellite images of the Afghanistan region.

In addition, the contract effectively allows the Pentagon to keep the images it bought out of the public eye forever. None can be released without Defense Department approval.

The old disputes between the military and news media centered on access for the media pool. The new dispute is about access to images collected in the nonsovereign territory of space.

The Pentagon has also taken a more subtle approach to the fight. Under the law, the Bush administration could have blocked news media’s access to the satellite on national security grounds by invoking a never-used provision, “shutter control.” Such a move would have quite likely set off legal challenges and heated protests. Instead, the Pentagon achieved its desired result through its contract.

For some reason, this story basically disappeared. And that’s exactly how the Bush Administration wanted it. By using economic power instead of legal power, they made sure there was little if any knowledge or protest about their actions.

The power of the pocketbook — be it the U.S. government’s or Bill Gates’ — is not new. That these are the people who can control our history by controlling what information the world sees is scary, indeed.

I recommend that someone in the news media petition the Obama Administration to release these images, much as President Obama allowed the photographing of coffins arriving home from war. We need to see what we have wrought. We bought this war, we need to see the damage we caused.

And let me add a final word of caution: we can petition the government to release these images. We can use FOIA requests, the news media can make an argument about the First Amendment. We have no such recourse with the Bill Gates images. None.

Next invasion, wait for Son of Dick Cheney to get Bill Gates to buy (and bury) satellite images on the government’s behalf.

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Filed under Afghanistan War, media, media manipulation

Ugly Americans

From comments, it appears conservatives were for freeing Bowe Bergdahl before they were against it. Check out this June 2011 memory hole.

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Is this some new strain of Obama Derangement Syndrome or what? Republicans are actually going all-in on the “an American POW should rot in an Afghan prison for another 5 years” thing.

Meanwhile, our news media continues to spread misinformation, such as that the Bowe Bergdahl deal was in exchange for “the release” of five Gitmo detainees. Actually, they’re not being released, they’re going to Qatar, for a year at least. Potayto, potahto, perhaps — but it’s not like these guys are gonna show up with explosives strapped to their chests at JFK or anything. I’ve heard people say Qatar can’t be trusted, but if that’s the case why the hell do we have a military base there, from which we launched all of our Iraqi exploits of the past 20 years? Our US Air Force Central Command is located in Qatar. We invaded Iraq the first time to protect Qatar’s borders. Now we can’t trust them? Seriously? The idea that these guys are going to become leaders of terrorist cells seems like blatant, unfounded fearmongering. Some folks just aren’t happy unless we’re on a permanent war footing, I guess.

(BTW, speaking of people who negotiated with the Taliban, remember this? Unocal is now defunct, swallowed by the Chevron Corporation. People upset about negotiating with the Taliban might want to keep an eye on our multinational oil companies, too. Just sayin’.)

Maybe Obama should have brought in Seal Team 6 to rescue Bergdahl. Oh wait, conservatives didn’t like that, either.

While all of this is going on, we have CNN and CBS News starting the character-assassination of Bowe Bergdahl, calling him a deserter or at best an incompetent who walked away from his post and forced the U.S. to expend valuable resources and time trying to get him back. No ticker-tape parade for you, buddy. Saving Jessica Lynch this is not. There will be no movie-of-the week. This dude’s going straight to home video.

I bet you a million bucks that Regnery Publishing is readying its “The Truth About Bowe Bergdahl” smear books right now, in time for the 2016 Presidential Election. You know, Republicans have got nuthin’ if they can’t bang the “Democrats make you less safe” drum during a presidential election.

They are truly horrible people. Hard not to imagine how differently this whole thing might be playing out if the deal were negotiated by a President Romney.

I really don’t think conservatives recognize how repellant their constant criticisms of every single thing the Obama family does looks to reasonable people

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Filed under Afghanistan War, Gitmo

Pigs At The Trough, Etc.

A whistleblower lawsuit has been filed against private defense contractor Jorge Scientific, described in the link as a “billion dollar government contractor.” According to the lawsuit, Jorge’s Kabul, Afghanistan operation indulged in such flagrant and gross misconduct, it placed the U.S. mission in Afghanistan at risk.

What kind of misconduct? Take it away:

For example, they indiscriminately fired weapons and possessed grenades (legally prohibited for government contractors), and drunken Jorge supervisors tossed live ammunition into house party bonfires causing the bullets to explode and destroy property. In one case, an errant bullet struck a Jorge employee near his eye and exploding bullets regularly found their way into the nearby civilian community causing Afghani civilian and military neighbors to complain – Jorge ignored those complaints.

Oooh that’s bad. But you know, not that bad, right? Wrong:

According to court documents alcohol abuse at the Villa was so prevalent, that in an inebriated and oxycodone induced state, Sullivan once placed a loaded gun in the mouth of an Islamic Jorge employee and called him “my nigga.” Another documented incident shows a Jorge executive drunk with a firearm snagged in his waist belt and disparaging “f…ing Arabs.” In another incident, two Jorge employees driving home drunk from a bar ended up in a ditch, clearly violating local customs and Islamic codes which prohibit alcohol consumption and driving under the influence.

Naturally, these alcohol-and-oxy parties were paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. And then we have this alleged incident, which is so bad you almost want to laugh:

In yet another incident captured on video, Jorge’s security manager for the entire country of Afghanistan was so intoxicated he was choking on his own vomit. When one of the relators tried to retrieve the medic from his bedroom to provide treatment, the relator found the medic himself intoxicated and drugged on ketamine to the point of incoherence, unresponsive with a syringe and a bag of horse tranquilizer on the floor and blood trickling from the medic’s arm.

Man I hope some of that video ends up on YouTube.

If these were military personnel there would be courts-martial and the like. But they’re not. They’re private contractors, and they’re going to keep feeding at the trough. Any repercussions will be swept under the rug. The company will change its name and land itself another cushy security contract, while Republicans continue to sell the idea that cutting our defense budget puts the country at risk.

Your tax dollars at work.

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Filed under Afghanistan War, defense, privatization, war economy

WTF Are We Doing In Afghanistan?

Stephen Colbert nailed it last night. Again, WordPress won’t let me embed Comedy Central videos, but hit the link and watch Colbert’s classic depiction of our complicated relationship with Pakistan. It’s another one of those sad-but-true satirical moments which have made Colbert famous.

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Filed under Afghanistan War, Stephen Colbert, War On Terror

>Going Rogue Electric Boogaloo

>[UPDATE]:

More on this from Wired. And we wonder how the U.S. government gets faulty intelligence about things like Saddam Hussein having WMD?

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Nobody could have anticipated this:

Former Spy With Agenda Operates a Private C.I.A.

WASHINGTON — Duane R. Clarridge parted company with the Central Intelligence Agency more than two decades ago, but from poolside at his home near San Diego, he still runs a network of spies.

Over the past two years, he has fielded operatives in the mountains of Pakistan and the desert badlands of Afghanistan. Since the United States military cut off his funding in May, he has relied on like-minded private donors to pay his agents to continue gathering information about militant fighters, Taliban leaders and the secrets of Kabul’s ruling class.

Well, that’s just peachy. Any rich asshole, or person with rich asshole friends, can field their own private CIA or NSA. Hell why not? Can’t imagine there being a problem with everyone fielding their own private spy operation, can you?

Oh, and this:

His dispatches — an amalgam of fact, rumor, analysis and uncorroborated reports — have been sent to military officials who, until last spring at least, found some credible enough to be used in planning strikes against militants in Afghanistan. They are also fed to conservative commentators, including Oliver L. North, a compatriot from the Iran-contra days and now a Fox News analyst, and Brad Thor, an author of military thrillers and a frequent guest of Glenn Beck.

For all of the can-you-top-this qualities to Mr. Clarridge’s operation, it is a startling demonstration of how private citizens can exploit the chaos of combat zones and rivalries inside the American government to carry out their own agenda.

Yeah this is so awesome. How great that a bunch of rich assholes can decide all on their own that they don’t like the policies of the duly elected President of the United States, and just go off to pursue their own foreign espionage campaigns. How awesome that they can feed certain salacious bits of information to their rich asshole-funded private propaganda machine, too.

First of all: how is this legal?

Second of all: how is this legal?

Third of all: Can you imagine what our allies are thinking when they read this? WTF? “We thought so-and-so represented the United States government!” “Oh, no! He’s just running his own rogue operation. Pay no attention!”

None of this would even be possible if we hadn’t decided a few years ago to “outsource” critical national security operations like intelligence gathering to “private contractors.” Who thought that was a good idea, anyone know? That is a colossally stupid idea.

Of course, this is the same U.S. government which decided it was a good idea to out a CIA agent just out of spite. So, I’m not surprised.

But back to my first question: How is this not illegal? It appears it is, but someone at the Pentagon decided to use some clever semantics to skirt the law:

Four months later, the security firm that Mr. Clarridge was affiliated with, the American International Security Corporation, won a Pentagon contract ultimately worth about $6 million. American officials said the contract was arranged by Michael D. Furlong, a senior Defense Department civilian with a military “information warfare” command in San Antonio.

To get around a Pentagon ban on hiring contractors as spies, the report said, Mr. Furlong’s team simply rebranded their activities as “atmospheric information” rather than “intelligence.”

Mr. Furlong, now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general, was accused in the internal Pentagon report of carrying out “unauthorized” intelligence gathering, and misleading senior military officers about it. He has said that he became a scapegoat for top commanders in Afghanistan who had blessed his activities.

This whole thing stinks to high heaven. Wonder if Darrell Issa will be investigating this? I’m guessing … no.

As they say … stay tuned.

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Filed under Afghanistan War, CIA, military contractors

>Fiscal Phonies Revealed

>Just repeating what I said yesterday, but when House “Blue Dog” Dems and Republicans approve billions for war on the Chinese credit card, you know damn well that talk about the budget deficit is just propaganda and empty rhetoric:

In the House vote, 148 Democrats and 160 Republicans backed the war spending, but 102 Democrats joined 12 Republicans in opposing the measure. Last year, 32 Democrats opposed a similar midyear spending bill. Among those voting against the bill on Tuesday was Representative David R. Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat and the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, the panel responsible for the measure.

Some of the Democratic opposition stemmed from the decision by party leaders to strip from the bill money that had been included in the original House version to help address the weak economy at home, including funds to help preserve teachers’ jobs. But some of those voting against it said they were influenced by the leaked documents, which highlight the American military’s struggles in Afghanistan and support claims that elements of Pakistan’s intelligence service were helping the Taliban.

And count me among the few voices saying it was right to strip funds for teachers and other projects from this bill. Dammit, liberals, are you really trying to tell me that you think it’s okay to hold education and our economic recovery hostage to war spending? Are you kidding me? The argument that we need to fund the war so we can fund teacher pay is the worst sort of immoral bullshit policy debate anyone ever cooked up. No, no, no. You do not “sweeten” war spending. That is appalling.

Here’s how they voted. Big shocker that phony local fiscal hawks like Zach Wamp, Marsha Blackburn, Jim Cooper and the rest voted Yes to spend $59 billion on wars while our schools crumble, our infrastructure is in disarray, unemployment remains widespread, state budgets are strapped, etc. etc. I mean, these are the same frauds who said we couldn’t afford an extension of unemployment benefits during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression? Give me a break. You guys are worse than frauds: you’re heartless and immoral. You’ll pay for war but not food or education? You’ve lost any credibility where issues like the supposed “deficit crisis” are concerned. You just approved $59 billion that wasn’t “budget neutral” to be pissed away in a sandhole on the other side of the world. And for what?

Am I the only one remembering when the healthcare bill had to be “budget neutral”? Why do wars never have to be “budget netural”? We’re knocking on the door of 10 years in Afghanistan, people. A decade of war, costing us how many billions of dollars? Is it a trillion? This is, indeed, how empires fall. Study your history, people.

Of Tennessee’s delegation, only Memphis Democrat Steve Cohen and Knoxville Republican John Duncan Jr. voted no on this farce. The rest of you guys, every last one of you, are frauds.

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Filed under Afghanistan War, budget, deficit, Iraq War

>Some Day Maybe But Not Now

>Any Tea Bagger who tells you they are concerned about the deficit is a liar. None of those assholes are rallying in the streets about this.

When I was a kid we used to see this quote on posters all the time:

“It’ll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers.”

Sad that I’m nearly 50 years and not a damn thing has changed.

(h/t, Atrios)

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Filed under Afghanistan War

>Resource Wars Are The BESTEST Wars!

>File this under nobody could have anticipated:

WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and Blackberries.

History shows us that when a desperately poor country finds itself sitting on top of a treasure trove of natural resources, it ends very, very badly for said country. Just ask most of Africa or South America.

Let the feeding frenzy begin.

(By the way, the timing of this announcement is certainly interesting, what with Congress voting on another $33 billion for our occupations adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

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Filed under Afghanistan War

>Everybody Loves Us, Nobody Hates Us

>As Bill Maher pointed out Friday night, nothing displays the hypocrisy of the Tea Party movement more than their disconnect on defense spending. I think this is as much about ego as anything else. Most conservatives seem to feel like Merka is so crucial to global stability that without us, the planet would stop in its orbit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discounting our importance to global stability and all, but I think for a lot of conservatives such feelings are rooted in fantasies going back to World War II: you know, the whole “we bailed your asses out” thing. We love to think that the world loves us–nay, owes us–don’t we?

It’s sorta like how Florida’s Teanuts rallied to keep the government’s hands off their NASA jobs. I love the idea of NASA and space exploration, but let’s remember that for much of Baby Boom America, it was our space program which brought us a collective ego boost back when we were battling the Russkies for global domination bragging rights. A lot of these folks don’t care about science or space, they care that we have these gazillion-billion dollar phallic symbols telling the world to suck on this.

So little wonder news like this rarely gets prominent play in the U.S. media:

Mass rally in Japan against US base on Okinawa

Nearly 100,000 people have attended a rally in Japan’s southern island of Okinawa demanding that a US military base be moved off the island.

Under a 2006 agreement with the US, the US Marines’ Futenma base was to be moved from the centre to the coast.

But demonstrators want Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to stick to an election pledge to remove it completely.

The row over the base has undermined relations between his centre-left Government and the US.

[…]

Japanese have long been resentful of the massive US base on the island, which is home to most of the 47,000 American troops based in Japan.

I’m sorry but why is it necessary for us to have 47,000 troops in Japan? Anyway, the Japanese government wants to move the base to the island of Tokunoshima, a place we don’t want to go. And they apparently don’t want us there, either. From April 19:

Tokunoshima residents rally against hosting Futenma

By ERIC JOHNSTON

At least 11,000 people gathered Sunday on Tokunoshima to protest a plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Okinawa to the island.

The rally, which had been planned for weeks and was expected to draw about 10,000 people, took place only a few days after it was reported that the U.S. had rejected Tokunoshima Island as a Futenma relocation site.

U.S. officials say moving Futenma’s air operations to Tokunoshima, which is hundreds of kilometers away, would make it impossible to effectively conduct joint air, land and sea training with other marine units in Okinawa.

It’s important for Americans to remember that we are not beloved around the world, much as we wish it were true. So many were puzzled by the 9/11 attacks, and “why do they hate us” became a national mourning cry. We heard that tired Bush line about being hated “for our freedoms,” which is asinine, simplistic, even jingoistic.

We are not hated for our freedoms. We are hated for our power, for our dominance, for the way we muscle our way around the world. Japan was once our foe, now our ally, but even here 100,000 citizens have rallied to get our troops off their soil. And our news media, if they cover the event at all, will relegate the story to the small print and back pages. It certainly won’t dominate our national conversation, where we talk about Tea Parties and Sarah Palin’s e-mail and the White House’s Wall Street reform plan.

Why do we have 47,000 troops in Iraq Japan? Because we won a war 65 years ago.

I am reminded of this excellent column by author Mohsin Hamid from 2007. Do read the whole thing, but I wanted to call attention to this part:

Americans need to educate themselves, from elementary school onward, about what their country has done abroad. And they need to play a more active role in ensuring that what the United States does abroad is not merely in keeping with a foreign policy elite’s sense of realpolitik but also with the American public’s own sense of American values.

Right now we have troops in Afghanistan, still mopping up “the final campaign of the Cold War” which Americans only know about thanks to a Hollywood movie starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

In Baghdad we have built an embassy-slash-military-base the size of Vatican City. In 65 years, will we still be in Afghanistan? Will we still be in Iraq? Will Americans wonder why we have thousands of troops in these foreign lands, will the Iraqis be rallying in the streets in numbers as high as 100,000 to get us to leave?

Or will the American empire have crumbled under its own weight by then?

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Filed under Afghanistan War, Iraq War, U.S. military