Monday, October 29, 2007

Studs Terkel Editorial in NYT Nails Wiretaps

This morning, Studs Terkel had an editorial in the New York Times about the history of the US executive branch’s “dragnet interceptions”. He remembers a lot. He was born in 1912. Terkel is most famous for his oral histories of just folks, such as the people he interviewed for his book “Hard Times”, which is about the depression in the 1930’s. When his latest book (“My American Century”) came out this past May, Terkel was Jon Stewart’s guest on The Daily Show. He was 95 on May 16th and was the same funny, sharp, insightful raconteur he’s always been. Although he said he’s deaf as a post now. Terkel had open-heart surgery when he was 93 and I believe he was one of the oldest, if not the oldest person to ever come through that kind of operation and be able to tell about it. When I was a kid in the 40’s, we listened to Studs on Chicago’s WGN. I remember commercials on WGN for performances of Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” that Terkel used to do with Win Stracke in Chicago. Terkel was blacklisted by the McCarthy hearings and wasn’t allowed to work in television for years. But he continued working in radio. He was a mainstay on Chicago’s WFMT from 1952 until 1998. Studs Terkel’s real name is Louis Terkel. He was reading “Studs Lonegan” at the time he was acting in a play with another actor named Louis. The director wanted to keep the two Louis’s straight and started calling Terkel “Studs”. His last professional acting job was in “Sacco and Vanzetti”, which opened this past March. This morning Studs Terkel says in the New York Times: “I am a plaintiff in one of those lawsuits (against American telephone companies who wiretapped Americans), and I hope Congress thinks carefully before denying me, and millions of other Americans, our day in court...Congress is moving in a haphazard fashion to provide a ‘get out of jail free card’ to the telephone companies that violated the rights of their subscribers. Some in Congress argue that this law-breaking is forgivable because it was done to help the government in a time of crisis. But it’s impossible for Congress to know the motivations of these companies or to know how the government will use the private information it received from them.” He ends his column by saying: “I have observed and written about American life for some time. In truth, nothing much surprises me anymore. But I always feel uplifted by this: Given the facts and an opportunity to act, the body politic generally does the right thing. By revealing the truth in a public forum, the American people will have the facts to play their historic, heroic role in putting our nation back on the path toward freedom. That is why we deserve our day in court.”

Thursday, October 25, 2007

LA Times Writer Calls Bush & Cheney Psychotic

Today, LA Times columnist Rosa Brooks called for mental health professionals and the courts to order the hospitalization of Bush and Cheney due to mental illness. Brooks says, “On Tuesday, Bush insisted on the need ‘to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat.’ Huh? Iran is now a major threat to Europe? The Iranians are going to launch a nuclear missile (that they don't yet possess) against Europe (for reasons unknown because, as far as we know, they're not mad at anyone in Europe)? This is lunacy in action.” We don’t need to impeach Bush and Cheney, Brooks says. Bush and Cheney need to be treated for their madness and laws already exist for the courts to act. In Washington, Brooks says, “the appropriate statutory law is already in place: If a ‘court or jury finds that [a] person is mentally ill and . . . is likely to injure himself or other persons if allowed to remain at liberty, the court may order his hospitalization.’" As far as I know, this is the first time that anyone in the mainstream media has suggested in print that President Bush and Vice President Cheney are mentally ill and that the courts have the power and the duty to have them committed to a mental institution. I see George W. Bush as afflicted with congenital mental defects, which were known to those who decided his madness would be a great asset to the Republican Party. Putting W in the loony bin would be a belated, though appropriate mercy for him. However, I believe Dick Cheney has been driven mad by his detestably passive-aggressive spiteful and hate filled horror-wife Lynne. And, of course, he’s physically ill and over-medicated. Not that Cheney can be rehabilitated. He can’t. But I’m willing to see him as a man who at one time had all his marbles but lost them due to circumstances. But GWB was mentally ill from birth due to his parents and his parents’ parents and his parents’ parents’ parents’ parents. Those who foisted him on the American people should be jailed, but that’s another case for the courts and too wearying and futile to even contemplate. The New York Times reported this morning that four current and two former Blackwater employees “have described a grating sense among many of the Blackwater guards, especially those with years of experience, that the killings on Sept. 16 were unjustified.” Also, the NYT said, “Richard J. Griffin, the State Department official who oversaw Blackwater USA and other private security contractors in Iraq, resigned Wednesday.” That’s putting it nicely. Griffin was canned. Not that a respected newspaper declaring our Prez and VP to be insane is good news. And not that Blackwater thugs admitting that Blackwater thugs commit murders is good news. Still, seeing the bald-faced truth in print has the effect of reading good news and I feel better for it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Latest Bush Warning

The New York Times reports this morning: "President Bush is planning to issue a stern warning Wednesday that the United States will not accept a political transition in Cuba in which power changes from one Castro brother to another, rather than to the Cuban people.” So the Prez of the United States says the US will not accept Raul Castro as Cuba’s leader. So what? What’s Bush going to do? Send war ships to invade Cuba? Having no army at his disposal, the Prez has recently deployed more war ships to the western coast of Iran to show the Iranians he means business. Maybe he plans to do the same thing with Cuba. One wonders why? But asking that question of the Bush/Cheney regime has never proved fruitful because there is only one answer and it is insane. They do these things to prove they (and their supporters) have balls. That’s it. That’s all there is, Do you realize that the Department of Defense and the Pentagon have been switching US Navy personnel over to the Army to beef up our military in Iraq? When the sailors’ tour of duty as soldiers is over, they go back to being Navy personnel. Then another contingent from the Navy is deployed to Iraq to be soldiers for awhile. This is the US military that is going to attack Iran? Our Army is non-existent and the White House is using guns-for-hire thugs and Navy personnel to act like soldiers in Iraq. This is what is going to defend Americans from terrorism or from retaliatory attacks? God help us! And at the height of all the bombastic nonsense coming out of the Bush administration warning the world not to fuck with the United States, the Prez says the US will not accept Raul Castro as Cuba’s leader. Who cares? Not Raul Castro, that is certain. The real threat to the United States is not terrorism or the proliferation of nuclear capability. The real threat is that some little country will call Bush/Cheney’s bluff and reveal the men behind the curtain have NOTHING but NOTHING with which to defend the US. No military. No plans. No strategy. NOTHING. As Phil Peters, an expert on Cuba at the non-partisan Lexington Institute said about the Bush administration and Cuba: “Succession has already happened. They can no longer have a policy that keeps them waiting for Castro to die when the rest of the world has moved on.” The entire world has moved on re Iraq. The entire world knows the US has nothing to back up its threats. The entire world knows the men behind the curtain are dickless creeps. The only problem is, these dickless creeps are determined to provoke some annoyed nation into kicking our ass.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Far-Right Righteous Right’s Values

Here’s a conference name you gotta love: The Values Voter Summit. The far-right religious fanatic conservatives had a meeting in Washington, DC on Saturday called The Values Voter Summit to decide which candidate was righteously pure enough to be backed by their righteously pure selves. Five thousand seven hundred seventy five votes were cast in a straw poll. The votes were allowed to be cast online as far back as August: Mitt Romney got 27.6 percent; Mike. Huckabee, 27.1 percent; Ron Paul, 15 percent; Fred D. Thompson, 9.8 percent. Rudy Giuliani less than 2 percent and John McCain finished last among the nine candidates. The Values Voter Summit was held because the far-right religious fanatics are very worried that candidates won’t be sufficiently hardline on the abortion issue, which, according to Values Voters, is the biggest issue facing the United States government. It’s this cast of characters that thinks the murders committed by Blackwater USA in Iraq and Afghanistan are fine and dandy because the Blackwater founder is a far-right religious fanatic. In addition, it’s this cast of characters that believes it’s fine and dandy for the US to torture prisoners. It’s good to know what values voters value, at least.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bush Takes Insensitivity to a New Level

Children's healthcare advocates were 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the Prez’s veto of a bill to provide health insurance to 10 million children. That Bush, the Bush administration and the Republicans who rubber stamp the current administration would vote against a bill to ensure health care for a million children by claiming it costs too much money is unfortunate and callous. That this crew of Republicans has bankrupted the United States, put Americans into indentured servitude for the foreseeable future to pay for an illegal and unnecessary war but won’t spend money for the health care of children is uncivilized and merciless. And that is their right. However, President George W. Bush went on television and bragged that this particular veto proves he is still relevant and that he intends to use his veto power until the end of his term to confirm that he has power. And that behavior is childish, vicious, mean, nasty, cruel and arrogant. But the Prez being proud and boastful about using his veto power to prove he has cojones, perfectly sums up the George W. Bush presidency. It’s a thumbnail example that will go down in the history books, alongside the picture of Bush not knowing what to do when he heard about the 9/11 attacks, the Mission Accomplished photo and the stage-prop plastic turkey he supposedly shared with the troops in Iraq.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bush/Cheney Warn They Will Start WWIII

The New York Times reported this morning: “President Bush issued a stark warning on Iran on Wednesday, suggesting that if the country obtained nuclear arms, it could lead to “World War III.” For some reason that is totally unclear to me, the President and Vice President of the United States are itching to start World War III. Why they would want to end life on earth is a mystery. They are insane of course. The White House has decided to make Iran the fall guy in the Bush administration’s plan to start a nuclear war in the Middle East. If Iran obtains nuclear arms, Bush/Cheney plan to mount a nuclear attack on Iran and, like the mother who kills her child for crying, they will say “Look what you made me do!” Another thing that is totally unclear to me is how the Bush administration can castigate other countries for committing the exact same sins it commits. The US signed a Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty in 1968. And yet, under the Bush administration, the US has not only increased its stockpile of nuclear arms, but the US has also been devising new nuclear weapons and has been stockpiling them. The current White House says torture is not a good thing. But the US merely changed its definition of torture and continues to torture political prisoners in horrendous ways. The current White House tries to export the concept of democracy to other countries while it practices fascism and freely and notoriously violates the concepts of democracy at home. The man who cannot (or stubbornly will not) pronounce nuclear correctly, George W. Bush, is mentally challenged and probably does not understand that a nuclear war would end life on earth or at the very least make life on earth a living hell, even for rich Republicans. But what is the excuse of the Republicans in the Bush administration who are not insane neocons? I cannot help wondering if there are secret meetings going on in Republican homes and caucus rooms hatching plots to assassinate our leaders.

Monday, October 15, 2007

This is How the Pullout Will Be Sold

Not unlike the US pullout from Viet Nam, the Bush administration will yell, “We won”, and start withdrawing troops. This morning’s Washington Post reports: “The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al-Qaeda in Iraq in recent months, leading some generals to advocate a declaration of victory over the group, which the Bush administration has long described as the most lethal U.S. adversary in Iraq.” As far as Iraq is concerned, the White House, Pentagon and US military have never been concerned about whether their version of events was based on fact or fiction. Whether, indeed, the US has delivered irreversible blows to al-Qaeda, or delivered no blows at all is not the point. The White House will sell the story that “the most lethal U.S. adversary in Iraq” has been vanquished. And then the Bush administration's bought-and-paid-for generals will “advocate a declaration of victory”. And the Bush administration has saved face. Which is what our staying in Iraq has been about. The same White House that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about seeing to it that children receive proper medical care, also does not give a rat’s ass about the devastation the Bush regime has visited on the Iraqi people. Nor has this WH ever cared about bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people. It’s all about selling the Bush administration’s version of events. WaPo pointed out that many generals, analysts and US officials are saying that claiming victory over al-Qaeda in Iraq is premature. One senior US official, “who declined even to be identified by the agency he works for said ‘the data are insufficient and difficult to measure’.” But that is hardly the point. The White House version of events that will signal a major pullout of troops from Iraq has now started. And do not for one minute imagine that Dick Cheney will allow those troops to come home. No. They will be redeployed to Afghanistan to a war that is not carrying as much negative baggage as Cheney and George W. Bush’s war in Iraq. WaPo claims “The expanded presence of U.S. troops in combat outposts in many parts of Baghdad has also put pressure on AQI (WH code for al-Qaeda 1, since there are other al-Qaeda presences in other parts of the world), but a major test of gains against the organization will come when the U.S. military begins to turn security in those areas over to Iraqi forces next year.” That is not really the major test. The major test will be if and when the US is forced to pull Blackwater USA thugs out of Iraq. We have 168,000 Blackwater mercenaries fighting alongside our troops in Iraq. Should the Iraqi’s suit against Blackwater for wanton murder of Iraqis force the US to end its unholy alliance with Blackwater, the US will no longer be able to even float the fiction that the US military is winning or holding its own in Iraq. WaPo’s tagline tells the whole story about the Bush administration’s war in Iraq. WaPo says: “While a victory declaration might have the ‘psychological aspect’ of discouraging recruitment to a perceived lost cause, the White House official said, advantages overall would be minimal. ‘I recognize that there are pros to saying, “Hey, listen, the bad guys are on the run.” ‘But if AQI were later able to demonstrate residual capabilities with a series of bombings, even though it was temporary, the question becomes: How does this play out in terms of public opinion?’” Oh yes! Isn’t that the main point? Screw the Iraqis, screw all our soldiers dead and alive in Iraq, screw the American people who will pay for this Republican temper tantrum called the War in Iraq for the foreseeable future. The point is: HOW DOES THIS PLAY OUT FOR THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IN TERMS OF PUBLIC OPINION?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Blackwater USA Sued by Iraqis

The Associated Press reported this morning: “A wounded survivor and relatives of three people killed on Sept. 16 when employees of the private security company Blackwater USA opened fire on Iraqis in Baghdad sued the firm in an American court on Thursday.” The suit was filed in behalf of Talib Mutlaq Deewan and the estates of Himoud Saed Atban, Usama Fadhil Abbass and Oday Ismail Ibraheem. The Center for Constitutional Rights, a legal advocacy group, said it filed the suit, which charges that Blackwater and its affiliates violated United States law in committing “extrajudicial killings and war crimes.” The AP report said, “United Nations officials in Baghdad called for the United States on Thursday to prosecute any unjustified killings of Iraqi civilians by private security contractors. Such killings, they said, could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.” That surely puts the Bush administration in a bind. Does the White House support its far-right religious fanatic friend, Erik Prince, and his thuggish guns-for-hire group Blackwater USA that the White House has bankrolled in Iraq to the tune of $832 million? Or does the Bush administration do the right thing? The lawsuit claims that Blackwater “created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company’s financial interests at the expense of innocent human life.” If the Bush administration does the right thing, that will make history since it will be the first time since the Bush fascist regime gained power that it will have done the right thing. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bush Administration & Pentagon in La-La Land

Here’s the thinking of the Pentagon, US military honchos and the Bush administration who are sitting in their safe and secure offices diddling themselves while Iraq falls into chaos, Afghanistan continues to grow poppies to supply the world with drugs, our troops continue to die for nothing in Iraq and Afghanistan—securing nothing and preventing nothing, our budget to support these futile and failed wars continues to escalate into unthinkable stratospheric figures, and George Bush and Dick Cheney continue to descend into delusional madness. According to the New York Times this morning: “The Marine Corps is pressing to remove its forces from Iraq and to send marines instead to Afghanistan, to take over the leading role in combat there, according to senior military and Pentagon officials. “While still under review, its supporters, including some in the Army, argue that a realignment could allow the Army and Marines each to operate more efficiently in sustaining troop levels for two wars that have put a strain on their forces.” The military geniuses are saying, according to the NYT, “the Marine proposal is also an early indication of jockeying among the four armed services for a place in combat missions in years to come.” Or, as one Pentagon asshole put it, “At the end of the day, this could be decided by parochialism, and making sure each service does not lose equity, as much as on how best to manage the risk of force levels for Iraq and Afghanistan.” The chief Army asshole in Iraq David Petraeus and his No. 2 Deputy asshole Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odiereno, say "Anbar Province is a significant success story in Iraq.” Oh really? Success? That’s a laugh. The NYT notes, “The Marine Corps has recently played the leading combat role in Anbar Province, the restive Sunni area west of Baghdad.” And last week, the NYT reminds us, “The Senate approved a $459 billion Pentagon spending bill, an increase of $43 billion, or more than 10 percent over the last budget. That bill did not include, as part of a separate bill, President Bush’s request for almost $190 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Adding to the unreal, insane atmosphere in Washington, and even though we can blame the Repubs for all the above, the Dems are so afraid of being seen as not Republican, that they are starting to side with the Repubs to get votes. Which, of course, they won’t get because Dem voters want Dems not to be Republicans.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Daily Show Nails the Bush Presidency

When ever has the Bush regime been called the “meta-presidency” as Jon Stewart defined it last night on The Daily Show? Never. But it’s a spot-on description. In clip after clip showing Bush during photo-ops, we see the Prez explaining that he wants to explain. Or he informs us that he wants to inform. But he never explains or informs. Rather, he quotes himself on how he intends to explain and inform. And so the circle of talking about explaining widens. The Prez explains that he told us what he was going to explain in the past. But he never explained anything in the past. He only gave us information about how he wanted to inform. Time after time we see Bush telling his audience in effect, “The reason I am here is because I want to tell you why I am here.” And then he goes on to explain that he is at whatever venue he is at because it is necessary for him to be at that venue.” Simply, “meta” is a prefix meaning “information about”. George Bush’s meta-presidency is one that gives information about information. But it never gives information. Metadata is data about data. Metadata describes how and when and by whom a particular set of data was collected, and how the data is formatted. But like the Bush meta-presidency, metadata gives no information. It gives information about information. The Jon Stewart segment last night about the meta-presidency was brilliant. If you didn't see it, watch it in replay on Comedy Central. Last night’s show is replayed many times today, but most conveniently, it’s on at 8:00 tonight.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Pete Domenici Has a Diagnosed Brain Disease

Senator Pietro "Pete" Domenici (R-NM) is 74 years old. He has served as a senator since 1973, the longest tenure in New Mexico’s history. Last Thursday, Domenici announced that he's been diagnosed with frontotemporal lobar dementia (sometimes called Pick's Disease for the doctor who first diagnosed it in 1972). It's a fairly rare brain disease. Only 100,000 to 200,000 people in the US have it, as contrasted with the 4.5 million people afflicted with Alzheimer's. There is no cure for frontotemporal lobar dementia. The salient characteristic is that as it progresses—and it can progress very fast--it impairs insight and judgment, something patients themselves cannot recognize. What made Domenici seek a medical opinion? We don’t know. How long has Domenici been afflicted with a brain disease? We don’t know. The New York Times reported this morning that Domenici’s spokeswoman, Courtney M. Sanders, said: “He’s had the condition, been aware of it, for some time. I can’t say precisely how long.” Nor would Ms. Sanders say what led to the diagnosis, what symptoms the senator had or what indicated that the disease had progressed. Domenici wants to serve out his term. It ends in January, 2009. I love this bit from the NYT news story: “Ms Saunders said that Mr. Domenici had regular examinations by a doctor at Johns Hopkins, and that a checkup in April detected no signs of progression. At that point, he was planning to run for re-election, but changed his mind after the examination in September.” Oh great! Domenici has been getting regular examinations at Johns Hopkins to monitor his brain disease for God knows how long. Six months ago, there was no sign of progression. But in September there obviously was progression because Domenici suddenly let us in on his secret. The man has a degenerative brain disease that is progressing. The tip-off that this disease is spiraling downward is impaired judgment which patients can’t recognize themselves. So someone had to tell Domenici that his brain disease is progressing. But nevermind that. Domenici wants to soldier on through January 2009. Dr. Jason Karlawish, an associate professor of medicine and medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania has weighed in on this news story, He says, “Just because he (Domenici) has a diagnosis doesn’t mean he’s not capable of doing his job.” But Dr. Bruce Miller, a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and a leading expert on frontotemporal dementia, called it “a very tough disease,” and said it could progress rapidly, twice as fast as Alzheimer’s...In a study we did, the average person, from the time of diagnosis, lived only about three and a half years." Neither doctor is Domenici's doctor. In 2006, Domenici pressured New Mexico’s United States Attorney David Iglesias to speed up indictments of Democrats in federal corruption investigations. When Iglesias said there would be no indictments handed down, Domenici said (and subsequently admitted he said it), “I’m very sorry to hear that” and within a month Iglesias was fired by the Bush administration. Was that due to Domenici’s mental impairment, or just normal Domenici behavior? We don’t know. And obviously, mental disease and psychiatric disorders in the Republican Party have not kept people like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and others too numerous to name from holding public office. But Pete Domenici has made a public announcement that he has a diagnosed brain disease that will impair (and maybe already has impaired) his judgment. Pete Domenici must resign NOW.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Our State Dept. Is Going to Monitor Blackwater

Oh hahahahahahahahaha! And hahahahahahahahaha! The US State Department is the outfit that hired the Blackwater thugs and has paid the Blackwater company $600 mil during last year alone for their guns-for-hire criminals to be sent to Iraq. And NOW that the thugs have been proven to be marauding and killing whatever moves in Iraq, the New York Times reported today that the US State Department said on Friday it is “seeking to retain its relationship with Blackwater USA while trying to bring the company’s armed guards under tighter control” and that it “would now send its own personnel as monitors on all Blackwater security convoys in and around Baghdad.” Oh well, that makes everything fine and dandy. Now both the fox and his father are sitting squarely in the center of the hen house where they can monitor the movements of the nasty foxes outside the henhouse who don’t seem to be there anymore because they are sitting squarely in the center of the henhouse. What are the chances that the US State Department will exercise any control at all on their anointed and highly paid Blackwater hirelings? Slim and none. And Slim has left town.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Rest Easy, Comedians, Craig Will Stick It Out

Urged on by the Crapo/Specter team in the Senate--you can’t make up names like that--Michael D. Crapo (R-ID) and Arlen Specter (R-PA)—Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) has reneged on his vow to leave the Senate if he could not get his guilty plea in Minnesota reversed. A Minnesota judge has ruled that Craig’s guilty plea re soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in a restroom of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport last June will stand. But now Craig says he’s staying in the Senate until his term ends in January 2009. And every comic in the US has breathed a sigh of relief. What if the Repubs suddenly started acting like ethical, mature, responsible, honest human beings? What if the Republicans stopped being hypocrites who sneak around with prostitutes and enjoy gay sex while decrying the moral decay of people who sneak around with prostitutes and enjoy gay sex? Well, never fear all you comics...Craig is staying in the Senate. And he won’t be leaving until George W. Bush’s term ends. (Will they walk out of Washington hand-in-hand? What a lovely photo-op that would be.) matter how grim the Bush administration makes the headlines from now until January 2009, we’ll still have Larry Craig to lighten our mood. Because neither the Repubs nor the Dems are going to let this die down. There are investigations to mount, and allegations of prior Craig dalliances in public bathrooms to be divulged, pored over and dissected ad infinitem. The big clowns in Washington, DC—George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, David Petraeus, Ryan Crocker, and honorary DC clowns David Brooks, Erik Prince, James Dobson and Newt Gingrich have a new leader: Larry Craig. Carry on Larry. You get the Ratbang Clown of the Day award.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Erik Prince Defends His Hoodlums

Blackwater USA founder Erik D. Prince told a Congressional committee yesterday that his company’s employees in Iraq were not “trigger-happy mercenaries”, but were “loyal Americans doing a necessary job in hostile territory.” He said he was proud of his employees. He said the Blackwater guards had “strictly followed rules of engagement set by the State Department, which call for gradual escalation of force before any shots are fired.” However, the New York Times reports this morning that the House committee staff “found that Blackwater employees had fired their weapons 195 times since early 2005 and in a vast majority of incidents used their weapons before taking any hostile fire. The report also said that in most cases Blackwater guards fired from fast-moving vehicles and immediately fled the scene of any confrontation.” The latest outrageous Blackwater incident occurred on September 16th. The NYT says it started out as a family errand: “Ahmed Haithem Ahmed was driving his mother, Mohassin, to pick up his father from the hospital where he worked as a pathologist. As they approached Nisour Square at midday on Sept. 16, they did not know that a bomb had gone off nearby or that a convoy of four armored vehicles carrying Blackwater guards armed with automatic rifles was approaching. Interviews with 12 Iraqi witnesses, several Iraqi investigators and an American official familiar with an American investigation of the shootings offer new insights into the gravity of the episode in Nisour Square. And they are difficult to square with the explanation offered initially by Blackwater officials that their guards were responding proportionately to an attack on the streets around the square.” Near the end of his testimony, which lasted nearly three hours, Erik Prince made a thought-provoking statement. He said, “If the government doesn’t want us to do this, we’ll go do something else.” Oh really? What would that be? It was revealed during the hearing yesterday that the Blackwater company charges the United States government $1222 for each day of work for each of its mercenaries. In 2001, Blackwater took in less than $1 million in federal government contracts. But last year, Blackwater made nearly $600 million in federal money, most of it with contracts with the State Department. Committee Chairman Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) said it appeared the State Department was acting as “Blackwater’s enabler”. What “something else” does Erik Prince have in mind if the State Department cancels his contracts? Is the fanatic religious right-wing faction in the Republican Party prepared to pay Blackwater USA $600 million a year to start the religious war in the United States that the Prince family and James Dobson have predicted will happen if Republicans aren’t kept in office? That doesn’t seem likely. But then, what other service could Prince provide that would utilize his Blackwater thugs? Perhaps one of the seven United Arab Emirates needs a few thousand guns-for-hire at $1222 a day.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

State Department on Hot Seat Re Blackwater

A 15-page report by Congressman Henry A. Waxman’s (D-CA) House Oversight Committee, says the Bush State Department covered up and ignored misconduct by Blackwater USA mercenaries. The founder of Blackwater, religious fanatic ex-Navy SEAL Erik Prince, is scheduled to appear before Waxman’s committee today. The New York Times reported this morning that “Employees of Blackwater USA have engaged in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, in a vast majority of cases firing their weapons from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or assist the wounded, according to a new report from Congress.” The LA Times says, “The detailed allegations, which the committee said were backed by thousands of documents, depict a security firm that almost routinely opens fire in Iraq's streets, occasionally attempts to cover up its transgressions and is frequently protected from censure and prosecution by its State Department overseers...The memo describes incidents in which Blackwater guards eagerly rushed to battles involving U.S. soldiers; plowed their armored trucks into civilian vehicles for no apparent reason; and left scenes of violence without assisting wounded civilians.” This is the private militia contractor in Iraq that the Bush administration most favors. In fact, the White House loves Blackwater so much that the State Department has paid Blackwater more than $832 million to guard US diplomats and to fight the Bush administration’s war in Iraq. The NYT says, “The committee report places a significant share of the blame for Blackwater’s record in Iraq on the State Department.” The Washington Post reported this morning “Blackwater security contractors in Iraq have been involved in at least 195 "escalation of force" incidents since early 2005, including several previously unreported killings of Iraqi civilians...In one of the killings...Blackwater personnel tried to cover up what had occurred and provided a false report. In another case, involving a Blackwater convoy's collision with 18 civilian vehicles, the firm accused its own personnel of lying about the event.” WaPo goes on to report, “The State Department has made little effort to hold Blackwater personnel accountable beyond pressing the company to pay financial compensation to the families of the dead, In a case involving a drunken Blackwater employee who killed a security guard to one of Iraq's vice presidents last Christmas Eve, U.S. government personnel helped negotiate a financial settlement and allowed the employee to depart Iraq.” Blackwater paid the dead man’s family $15,000. In another fatal shooting a State Department official in Baghdad told Blackwater to pay the victim’s family $5000 and wrote in a memo, “I hope we can put this unfortunate matter behind us quickly.” The NYT says, “Blackwater has dismissed 122 of its employees over the past three years for misuse of weapons, drug or alcohol abuse, lewd conduct or violent behavior, according to the report. It has also terminated workers for insubordination, failure to report incidents or lying about them, and publicly embarrassing the company. One employee was dismissed for showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.” Many otherwise intelligent Republicans have held their noses and supported George W. Bush and the neocons in the White House simply because they are Republicans. Presumably, they believe that eventually the White House will be inhabited by a president who not only is a Repub but also is sane and is not a religious fanatic. However, now that the far-right zealots have taken over the US State Department and are polluting the military in Iraq with their amoral behavior and jihad-like tactics re ethnic cleansing, it’s time for thinking Republicans to stand up and to call a halt on the religious fanaticism that abounds in the Bush administration. This blog will repeat over and over and over the fact that religious fanatic madman James Dobson’s entire career as a rightwing hate-spewing zealot has been bankrolled by the Erik Prince family. And James Dobson counsels George W. Bush on all matters political and religious. The Prince family started Blackwater USA in order to have a militia at its beck and call when Dobson and his believers force their version of Christianity on the United States und Morgan die Welt. Let me say that I do not believe for one minute that Bush, Prince and Dobson would be successful in their fanatic scheme. However, the fact that they have a scheme and a military force like Blackwater USA to back them up, and the fact that their military force is already marauding and killing in Iraq like crusaders on a mission, should be sending shivers of horror through every Republican in America.