Topic: Couldn't be so...
Lining Up the Week: What's Hot News, What's Not
First a follow-up… In these pages a month ago - October 23, 2005, Doing Good, Doing It Right - you'd find an extensive discussion of the Australian television footage of our soldiers burning the corpses of two dead Taliban fighters with their bodies laid out facing Mecca, and using the images in a propaganda campaign in southern Afghanistan. At the time our guys said they burned the bodies for hygienic reasons - but then a psychological operations unit broadcast a propaganda message on loudspeakers to the Taliban guys, taunting them to retrieve their dead and fight, as in this -
Something was lost in translation there. He probably said "girly men."
We said it never happened. Now? Reuters - Saturday, November 26, 11:47 AM ET - US military admits it burned bodies. Well, we're still claiming the "hygienic reasons" thing, but four psyops guys are facing charges. As before, for immediate tactical advantage you sometimes screw up your larger strategic aim, which in this case might be to appear to be the good guys who bring civility and democracy and the rule of fair and dispassionate law to a land of chaos. Will the reprimand of four soldiers give us a mulligan here? Sorry about that. Our bad. Let's move on.
Case closed, maybe.
Of course, now the Brits have a bit of the same sort of problem, as reported in the Sunday Telegraph (UK) on November 27th - 'Trophy' video exposes private security contractors shooting up Iraqi drivers: "A 'trophy' video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal."
You see, the private contractors who help out in the war, for a lot of money, don't fall under anyone's jurisdiction actually. The video shows these guys randomly shooting civilians, just folks passing by, for giggles. The video uses an Elvis Presley thing for a soundtrack - Mystery Train. The company involved here is Aegis Defence Services, set up in 2002 by one Lieutenant Colonel Tim Spicer, a former Scots Guards officer, and we learn these folks were recently awarded a £220 million security contract in Iraq by the United States. Aegis helped with the collection of ballot papers in the country's recent referendum. Good guys? Aegis said this really wasn't their people - they have no idea who was randomly picking off civilians in the video. But then this Spicer fellow had a problem back in 1998 when his private military company, Sandlines International, was accused of breaking United Nations sanctions by selling arms to Sierra Leone. One wonders about them, and what they do for dun.
Well, someone was blowing off steam, and showing the video for laughs. The locals are rather angry. The British Foreign Office? - "Aegis have assured us that there is nothing on the video to suggest that it has anything to do with their company. This is now a matter for the American authorities because Aegis is under contract to the United States."
Will we do something, or pass this back to the Brits? Or will we say the new Iraqi government should bring charges? It's their country now. Aegis says it looks like them but it isn't their guys, the Brits say it's our problem. We will probably say it's the Iraqis' problem - our troops were not involved and, if a crime has been committed, let the new local legal system deal with it.
The video is here (Windows Media) or here (QuickTime) - via the media resource site Crooks and Liars.
Minor note. Aegis - the goatskin shield or breastplate of Zeus or Athena. Athena's shield carried at its center the head of Medusa. Athena was the goddess of wisdom, of course. Yeah, right.
Sunday, November 27th also brought us the tale of Colonel Ted Westhusing, in the Los Angeles Times, here, which they ran on the front page, upper left. This fellow was a West Point guy, very bright, one of the leading scholars in military ethics. Like all West Point guys he was big on honor and duty. The question posed is where he killed himself or was murdered when he uncovered a load of corruption and "human rights violations" (random killing again and torture and that sort of thing) by private contractors we have working for us in Iraq.
Key passage -
That's a curious conflict. Free enterprise and lack of regulation is supposed to be a good thing.
His suicide note?
Friends and family say this is crap. The guy was too bull-headed and single-minded in making things right to ever be suicidal. They go with the evidence the contractor bumped him off.
The Times reports the position of the military. Suicide. It comes down to the guy being too inflexible. They quote an Army psychologist explaining -
Yep, you read that right. We take the position that the guy just didn't understand that sometimes profit matters more than doing the right thing. He should have lightened up.
Will our military contractors, our mercenaries for whom we accept no responsibility, be the topic of the week? Probably not.
Ayad Allawi, formerly prime minister in the interim government of Iraq (his fifteen minutes of fame as the US-backed good guy, with a visit or two to the White House), drops this bomb in the British press -
Didn't Donald Rumsfeld say democracy was messy? Well, lots of lefty-loonies say we have made things worse - bringing back the terror of the Saddam regime (with different players this time) combined with little running water and no electricity in the major cities for large parts of each day, a strangled oil industry producing little funds for running things, roaming militias in army uniforms, or in the army, doing nasty things to old enemies, and so on. Now our guy, the former prime minister, is saying this? Drat. Time for Karl Rove to go after him.
On the other hand, as reported the Washington Post, you have Abdul Aziz Hakim, who heads the Shiite Muslim religious party that leads the current government, and who oversees the party's rather scary Badr Brigade ("death squads and secret torture centers" the specialty there), saying this is not so. He says we, the squeamish Americans, are keeping him from important work -
Sounds like a Shiite civil or tribal war (they'll get around to "cleansing" the Sunnis later), and we're being asked to choose sides.
Which way will we go? Which Shiite faction will we support in eliminating the other? Decisions, decisions?
Then there's this, a rundown on investigative reporter Seymour Hersh's Sunday, November 27th appearance on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" discussing his latest New Yorker article "Up in the Air" - a chat providing a little more detail on the Bush administration's withdrawal proposal.
Yeah, you heard that right - White House Lays Foundation for US Troop Withdrawal, Sunday, November 27 - and they're saying that the plan is "remarkably similar" to a plan by Democratic senator Joe Biden, but they thought of it first, but this is not "cut and run." You see, things are going so well in getting the new Iraqi government up and running we've sort of, kind of won, or something.
So what was all that anger about that late Friday night with the witch-lady from Cincinnati calling the decorated Marine a coward and that forced vote to "stay the course" and all the rest? We're getting out anyway? This very odd.
But during the CNN interview Hersh said that although the Bush administration will probably withdraw US troops from the ground next year, that won't mean that will be the beginning of the end of the war. Not at all. Hersh has great sources in the military (in those Vietnam years he broke the story of the My Lai massacre) and says we will shift to an air war. We'll just let the guys in power there, whoever they are, tell us where to drop the bombs and let the chips fall where they may.
Of course the problem is obvious. We don't know why we're bombing this and that.
But our guys will not be on the ground any longer. So what if we're asked to bomb some dude's cousin's wedding with a five hundred pound laser-guided thing because some uncle pissed him off?
Yeah, we get out and provide muscle for the Iraqi equivalent of the mob. We went to war for that? We lost over 2,100 of our guys to end up doing the bidding of folks with this grudge or that?
But it's not a "news" story. It's in the realm of "later" - where we might be soon.
In the realm of "now" there are other stories that might be good this week. There's that Abramoff scandal that might take down more than half of the Republican congressional leadership. That's cool. The links has all the names. Over in the UK the opposition party may do what Senator Pat Roberts' intelligence committee can't seem to get around to doing on this side of the pond - there, a full investigation of Blair's responsibility for manipulating questionable intelligence to con the Brit politicians into supporting this war. Here? More farting around. The other odd story - either a blip or something more - may be this from the Telegraph (UK), Bolton loses British backing for UN tactics. It seems Bolton suggested stopping all UN spending of any kind until there was real reform, shutting the place down, and even our best and truest ally decided that was madness. When you lose the Brits?
But will this week have more on Walter Pincus' Washington Post troubling scoop, Sunday, November 27, on the Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA?
Why does that sound a little scary? Read a little into this and you'll see Harris Technical Services Corporation (HTSC) provides services to CIFA, as does Unisys, ISX and Sytex. All the branches of the armed services are involved too. The military hired the geeks to watch out for "treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage."
Is the military supposed to do this? What about laws like laws like that Posse Comitatus business?
Who needs public debate? You have to trust the military, right?
You'll find a ton of supporting documentation here if you want to know more.
I see also CIFA has been reading at least two blogs - Jesus's General and Uncommon Thoughts. They report finding CIFA logons in the site statistics. Neither says nice things about the Bush administration, and they're pretty sarcastic. Treason? You never know. Time to check out the Just Above Sunset and As Seen from Just Above Sunset site meters. There are a lot of .MIL logons each week. May have to tone it down. Who would take care of Harriet-the-Cat if the editor has been "disappeared" as an enemy combatant? But the number of site visits each week is far too low for this to be a real worry.
Still, this is where we are these days. One should watch what one says.
And one might worry when that Hersh fellow adds this in his Sunday chat with Wolf Blitzer -
Blind at the top? On a mission from God and listening to no one?
Senator Urges Bush To Explain Iraq War, Sunday, November 27 - and that would be super Republican Warner of Virginia suggesting a series of FDR-style "fireside chats." Maybe Warner needs to rethink that.
We'll see what happens.