Friday, September 21, 2007

Kevin & Monica Benderma, United for Peace & Justice

First things first. A Matter of Conscience is a new documentary which details Kevin Benderman's feelings about the Iraq War, his decision to take a stand, the trumped up case the US military created against him, and how he and Monica Benderman view the war. You can see a preview of it by clicking here.

I lost a paragraph due to a problem with the link to the preview. In case it doesn't work, here's the link:

C.I. will note it in the Iraq snapshot on Monday and I'll also be taking it over to The Third Estate Sunday Review this weekend -- possibly bringing it up in a roundtable -- but it will be noted there. Please make a point to check it out if you can. On Monday, I'll write something about it because I realize that not everyone has computer with the capacity or the connection to stream online and I'm also aware that we have physically challenged members in our community. I've e-mailed Hilda and told her I would be happy to write something up about it for Hilda's Mix and she's already replied saying she's thrilled by the idea. So if you can't stream or you wouldn't be able to hear it for whatever reason, you can also check out Hilda's Mix on Tuesday.

In C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" on Wednesday, it was noted that United for Peace & Justice is now using the Just Foreign Policy count. I had an e-mail heads up on that from UFPJ as well. I didn't see it until this evening. My focus was on DC since last weekend and I only got back Wednesday night. I did my sessions on Thursday (including my night group) but I did take off today. By the way, The Nation magazine does not have an article on the Iraq Moratorium in it. They have posted another "online exclusive." There's no excuse for that. That should have been a cover and it should have been on magazine racks in time to make a difference. This moratorium didn't just pop up. Obviously, if I had time to clear this Friday of all appointments, The Nation had time to write about the moratorium and get it on magazine racks. I want to say C.I. told me about it in July -- probably mid-July -- and I'm not doing any sessions on the third Friday of each month as a result. There was plenty of time for the weekly magazine to do a story on it that was something other than "an online exclusive."

Back to United for Peace & Justice. I thank them for considering the issue. I am glad that they have agreed to note the fact that it's not "600,000 plus," it's over a million. This was a huge problem for the organization. I believe it was Tuesday when C.I. gave me a heads up (of last week) that some college students were bringing it up. On Wednesday, C.I. advised it was more college students and high school students. This went on Thursday as well. Mike and I joined everyone on Friday. I think we missed at least one speaking forum but we did catch two -- one at a high school and one at a college. People were outraged. They were offended.

There was no way to disagree with them because they weren't wrong. They were informed, they were active and they were outraged. Phyllis Bennis has a very bad name on campuses. We made that point Sunday. The piece is co-written by Bennis and Eric Leaver. Students don't know from Leaver. Bennis is known. My point there is that she will take the fall for this if she doesn't stop undercounting the Iraqi dead. It's also true that she's a woman and it's always more 'fun' in this society to go after them. That's why Katie Couric is subjected to some of the most extreme criticism (or 'criticism') while Brian Williams and Charlie Gibson get a pass. It's why Judith Miller became a national joke but her frequent co-writer Michael Gordon is still unknown to most Americans.

That's her dance and she'll dance it however she wants and have to deal with the consequences. C.I. had defended all during the first part of last week. It got to the point where defending her meant students would be shutting down. Defending Bennis wasn't worth it. I wasn't present when C.I. attempted to explain at one gathering the best possible reason Bennis was using an undercount (I heard about it from everyone). But C.I. noted then something like, "This is the last time I'm offering any excuse." If Bennis were being slammed for something brave, C.I. would defend her. But there's no defense for undercounting. The peace movement is not about creating a cult for Bennis (nor am I implying she wants that). It's about getting truth and reality out.

So as I listened, last Friday, and heard (I'd been warned about this) a student carry their rage (justifiable rage) at Bennis and Leaver's report over to United for Peace and Justice, I pulled a page from C.I.'s playbook and said I'd offer a possible explanation and I'd do it once and never again.

I offered it and about half the students seemed receptive. (In short, they went to two people who know a great deal on Iraq to write a report so that they could present something that was easy to follow and understand -- something people could use as a reference and also pass on to get the information out.) But about half the students, I could see it in their eyes, were shutting down and shutting me out. That's fine. I'm just a tag along a few weeks a year. But I understand why C.I. (who likes Bennis) took the attitude of, "She's on her own." It's not worth it to the movement.

It's not worth it to C.I. either. My friend has been speaking to students about the illegal war since February 2003 -- before the illegal war started. After the massive, global protests didn't stop the illegal war, C.I. had to face students who had been hyped into believing a massive protest would stop it. C.I. had to carve out a space where the war could be discussed and where students could go from jaded and upset to feeling their own power. In Boston, the day after the 2004 election, I saw C.I. wait to speak. A number of people spoke before. The audience was mainly students. "We just have to try harder" was the message speakers were offering. People listening were dejected. C.I. wasn't feeling chipper either (we'd just learned, this was early in the morning, that John Kerry wasn't going to fight for a full count of the votes in Ohio). The mood in the room can be described as "soggy" at best.

Now I've seen C.I. inspire many times before. When C.I.'s "on," no one can compete. I also know C.I. well enough to know when there's genuine nervousness and I could see there was. We, Rebecca and I, had already been told (by C.I.), "I have no idea what I'm going to say." C.I. went to the mike, took a deep breath, and started talking about failure. Where it failed and how. C.I. has great timing and no fear about pointing out the elephants in the room but even I was shocked. The people ate it up. The crowd went from dejected to inspired.

C.I. talked about what didn't work and what we needed to do next. It was just this "Yeah, we can do this!" movement. Now when C.I. got back to California, the infamous strategy session would take place, where a number of people working against the illegal war would discuss what worked and what didn't. From that would come The Common Ills. I had urged C.I. to do a "blog." I wasn't the only one. But in that compare notes session everyone was asking, "What didn't I do that I could have?" C.I. didn't want to "blog" -- mainly due to not knowing what a blog was. C.I. knew Danny Schechter's site and a few others. If C.I. was online, it was to e-mail.

But this is how C.I. is, C.I. went online and found out about blog hosts or whatever the term is. That was about twenty minutes of work. I found out about it because I was called asking, "I need a title! What do I call it?" C.I. was already setting it up and hadn't even thought of a title. I tossed around a few ideas and C.I. flipped one suggestion around and pulled a book by a scholar who had been a friend (Judith N. Shklar) and read through the first part over the phones. I said, "That's it! 'The Common Ills!'" So C.I. did a little introductory note that first night as soon as the site was set up.

On Saturday, the next day, C.I. did several entries. Mainly because, I'm not telling stories out of school, C.I. had no idea what to write. It was probably Sunday morning when I remembered, "My friend started a 'blog.'" So I logged on to check and I was impressed. There were a lot of comments to the posts. So I call and C.I. tells me about these e-mails that have come in. One was from Keesha and she was arguing for comments to be closed. Jim had written as well and so had a lot of others. I remember about those two for different reasons. Keesha's point was, as an African-American, she was always told there was a welcome mat out but if she had a criticism about a Democrat that had to do with affirmative action -- with a really sorry position on affirmative action -- and she posted it, she would get slammed. That stood out and C.I. was already talking about closing off comments then (but didn't know how to). It would be two weeks later before it would be closed (maybe three). The first time one of those Blue Dogs that haunted the comment threads made a racist remark and the comments were closed immediately.

What I remember about Jim's e-mail (hearing of it) was that he was very passionate about ending the illegal war (still is) and that in the time since Kerry's loss, he felt people were turning on the illegal war. He wasn't wrong. Jim saw what was coming and what we'd all see. WalkOn would drop it completely shortly and it would be forever before they picked it back up. (Norman Solomon, Joshua Frank and Danny Schechter were some of the ones criticizing the dropping of Iraq by WalkOn when it became obvious they had.) A woman whose name I won't try to spell (although I could and get it wrong without feeling bad since she so often gets her pop-cult writings wrong) wrote a piece that was calling for Iraq to be dropped as an issue. She denies that's what she wrote but it is what she wrote and Tom Hayden called her out on that publicly. By January 2005, I would hear Tom Hayden on the radio practically begging a host to focus on Iraq. There was no focus on Iraq.

So Jim was right there. He was also concerned about the nonsense that students didn't care about the illegal war. For those who've forgotten, with no polling, Cokie Roberts showed up on NPR the day after the election (the morning after) claiming that young people hadn't voted. Young people turned out in record numbers but once the myth gets started everyone repeats it. Such as the myth of "values voters" which C.I. called out in real time. That was a four-part series in one day. The New York Times pushed that lie and their polling data never supported it.
That made a huge impression on members.

But this was when the pattern for the site (and not being a blog) really changed. A stranger e-mailed about NPR. They had allowed someone to be an impartial critic of John Kerry's campaign. The media watchdogs (such as Media Matters) had offered critiques about how Robert Kagan was a war supporter so it wasn't fair for him to do that. C.I. took the criticism where it belonged. Forget war supporter, Kagan's wife worked for Dick Cheney in the White House. An NPR reporter whose husband worked for the Kerry campaign wasn't allowed to cover it. The issue was even an appearance of a conflict of interest. C.I. pointed out that a critic of the Kerry campaign shouldn't have a wife working for Dick Cheney. Kagan wasn't a Kerry supporter. The question of whether he was objective when his wife -- if Kerry won --would be out of a job raised the issue of an appeareance of conflict.

That was the first big attention entry. FAIR linked to it, so did many others. I used to make a big deal of that and point out, "You were linked to by ___ and ___ and . . ." C.I. would always get leery about that. (I even printed up pages that linked and made a huge deal out of the on air NPR mention.) C.I.'s attitude was, "If they're linking now and I treat it like it's something huge, what happens when they don't link?" That day would come, C.I. always knew it. You can't be independent and get linked.

There's also the fact that C.I. doesn't churn out 'greatest hits.' The whole point was to get people talking about Iraq and C.I. has been a huge success. When a site harassed a 14-year-old kid, C.I. didn't blink when it came to defending the child. That "news" site was a big site (may still be one) and they had C.I. on the permalinks. C.I. knew defending the child would mean losing the link and C.I. didn't blink twice. It doesn't matter now if people link or not, C.I.'s established a voice online. A community has been built.

But the e-mail on NPR really was showing where the site was going. People didn't want to post comments. They wanted someone to speak the truth and all you have to do is imply that's something not being discussed and C.I. will tackle it. C.I. is fearless.

I'll give two college examples. Let me note, this is how I remember it and C.I. may remember it differently. One of the examples even Rebecca hasn't written about, the other she's probably forgotten. I'll start with the latter. We were on campus. We were outside on a patio/balcony of a high building. Some little boy trying to be macho was saying that the peace movement (this was during Vietnam) was too 'feminine' and operated from 'fear' because 'girls' were afraid. He used as his example, hopping up on the barrier (that was chest level) and sitting on it. He said something like, "All you girls sit nicely in the chairs at the tables, you never sit up here." Well, actually, no one sat up there. C.I. stood up and Rebecca and I knew something was about to happen. C.I. went to where the barrier started, hopped up on it and walked all around it. People were freaking out and gasping. C.I. hopped down and told the guy, "Little boys who think they are daring rarely are." Point made.

The second is the one that I know Rebecca wants to tell. So let me repeat, this is how I remember it. Rebecca was dating a guy and he was an art student. He was doing his senior year project and it was going to be nudes. He was talented and had a campus reputation so there were some professors saying they'd do it. Early on, he asked C.I. and C.I.'s response was, "Forget it." Everyone began cancelling on the guy. They chickened out. When C.I. found out -- this was a week before the project was due -- C.I. said, "I'll do it." None of us believed it. We even forgot about it. Then it was time to go to the exhibit. I remember some guy had a hat like they wore in Vietnam, a peasant hat that, were I younger, I'd remember the name for. C.I. grabbed that on the way to the exhibit and wore it. (Grabbed it off the guy's head. The guy was flattered.) So we're walking in and there are all the senior exhibits and everyone's gloomed in front of one. When we make our way up to it, it's Rebecca's one-time boyfriend (they'd already broken up). It's all these incredible nude drawings and paintings and they're all of C.I.

Our mouths dropped. But C.I.'s attitude was that others who talked big chickened out (neither Rebecca or I had agreed to pose nude, just FYI). It was for art and the guy's project was falling apart. It was actually going to be multiple nudes and more abstract. But when all of his models backed out (including the big talking professors), C.I.'s attitude was, "People it's art! Grow up." Now Rebecca, C.I. and I shared an apartment in college. Rebecca was perfectly comfortable walking around nude. (You could say, "Those were the times"; however, she's still not too concerned. With her body, she can afford not to be.) But Rebecca will tell you she saw me topless once when I was having a huge fit (I was a teenager once) over a torn blouse that I didn't know was torn until I was getting ready for a date. We never saw C.I. undressed except in a towel. I mean, we'd have to go wake each other up if a phone call came in (we had one phone, in the living room) and sometimes we'd be walking in on what I'll politely term "an occupied bed" (such were the times). But we never saw C.I. nude. We didn't think, "Prude!" But we had noted that to each other, Rebecca and I. So it was a surprise to see the most clothed of our trio completely nude in drawing after drawing, painting after painting. C.I. got a painting and a drawing for the posing and still has them. The others sold out before the exhibit was over. The other exhibits usually had one painting sold. If they were lucky. But Rebecca's ex-boyfriend saw his entire project sell. (He still does art by the way and is very talented.)

But, my point, C.I. isn't someone you say "no" to. If you try to box in, C.I. will leap out of the box. One of our professors would always use the term "fearless." I never thought that was correct. More "I don't care." If it needs to be done and it's not being done, point it out to C.I. and it's not a "fearless" nature, it's more of a, "Someone has to say it." I draw the line because I know C.I. and know there is very much an awareness of potential fallout from some things. If it's really controversial, there will be fears. It will be done, but there are fears along the way. To me, that's more brave than someone who is fearless.

If that's not clear . . . I'm looking a glass of lemonaid so I'll use that as an example. If there's an attack on lemonaid and someone points it out to C.I. and C.I. likes/supports lemonaid, C.I. will speak up. C.I. will be fully aware that softdrink drinkers or apple juice drinkers may be offended. There will be, "How bad do you think it will get?" But C.I. will speak out for lemonaid. Knowing what could come as well as what more could come, but still speaking out, I don't see that as fearless. I see it more of confronting fears.

Did that explain the difference I see? I'm going to post this because if I wait, I'll pull the second story. Rebecca has many times. But remember, C.I. is perfectly welcome to say, "I don't know what she's talking about." (I don't think C.I. will care. I've told that to Rebecca before when she's written about the exhibit in a post and then called me to ask, "Do you think it's okay to share this story?") I should probably note that they were amazing art, the paintings and the drawings. Both Rebecca and I felt, "We should have done that!"

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, September 21, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, 'progress' is no where to be found in Iraq, the US loses weapons and the Iraqi resistance reportedly now has them, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Alaam News reports that a US family of five (three children) is seeking asylum in Finland "with local media speculating that it is opposition to the Iraq war" that has led the family to leave the United States and start over in Helenski this week. If true, it would be only the second time this decade that an "American citizen . . . [has] filed an asylum application in Finland during the current decade." Meanwhile IVAW's Michael Prysner (PSL) reports, "The number of deserters is also steadily climbing, with official numbers now reaching over 10,000 since the war began. Many believe these numbers may actually be much higher. The G.I. Rights Hotline reports an average of 3,000 calls a month by new recruits and active duty soldiers who have decided they want to abandon the military. . . . Soldiers against the war have begun organizing within the military. Active duty soldiers started the Appeal for Redress, a petition calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. It was formulated less than a year ago, and has collected over 2,000 signatures of soldiers currently serving in the military. Membership in Iraq Veterans Against the War is nearing 600. . . . Soldiers like Lt. Ehren Watada and Camilo Mejia have set the example, publicly refusing deployment and condemning the war for its illegal and immoral nature."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Derek Hess, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko,Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

Peter Hart spoke with Anthony Arnove (
IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal) on this week's CounterSpin (airing on most radio stations today) about the issue of contractors.

Anthony Arnove: There is effectively a doubling of the US occupation in Iraq right now through the employment of private contractors of whom as many as 50,000 are armed -- effectively private mercenaries working in the employee of the US occupation. Blackwater is operating under the employment of the State Department. What's interesting is that very early on in the US occupation, Paul Bremer -- who was acting as the colonial viceroy -- in his capacity of head of the Coalition Provision Authority deliberately exempted these mercenaries and other US contractors from Iraqi law. And they've created basically a legal black hole in which these mercenaries can operate without any accountability. And the few times there have been incidents in which Iraqis tried to pursue contractors for violations they've been skirted out of the country so as not to have to face any prosecution. They do technically fall under rules of engagement set down for US contractors -- whether that's Pentagon rules or State Department rules. But like we've seen with active duty troops who've engaged in abuses of human rights in Iraq, there's really been no accountability certainly not up the chain of command.

No accountability. And Bremer and the CPA were nothing but a shell game. Bremer stripped Iraqis of oversight and, in fact, the US may not have any legal right to oversight as well. As Naomi Klein explains in her new book
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism:

Bremer's CPA would not try to stop the various scams, side deals and shell games because the CPA was itself a shell game. Though it was billed as the U.S. occupation authority, it's unclear that it held that distinction in anything other than name. This point was forcefully made by a judge in the infamous Custer Battles corruption case.
Two former employees of the security firm launched a whistle-blower lawsuit against the company, accusing it of cheating on reconstruction-related contracts with the CPA and defrauding the U.S. governments produced by the company that clearly showed it was keeping two sets of numbers -- one for itself, one for invoicing the CPA Retired Brigadier-General Hugh Tant testified that the fraud was "probably the worst I've ever seen in my 30 years in the army." (Among Custer Battles' many alleged violations, it is said to have appropriated Iraqi-owned forklifts from the airport, repainted them and billed the CPA for the cost of leasing the machines.)
In March 2006, a federal jury in Virginia ruled against the company, finding it guilty of fraud, and forced it to pay $10 million in damages. The company then asked the judge to overturn the verdict, with a revealing defense. It claimed that the CPA was not part of the U.S. government, and therefore not subject to its laws, including the False Claims Act. The implications of this defense were enormous: the Bush administration had indemnified U.S. corporations working in Iraq from any liability under Iraqi laws; if the CPA wasn't subject to U.S. law either, it meant that the contractors weren't subjected to any law at all -- U.S. or Iraqi. This time, the judge ruled in the company's favor: he said there was plenty of evidence that Custer Battles had submitted to the CPA "false and fraudulently inflated invoices," but he ruled that the plaintiffs had "failed to prove that the claims were presented to the United States." In other words, the U.S. government presence in Iraq during the first year of its economic experiment had been a mirage -- there had been no government, just a funnel to get U.S. taxpayer and Iraqi oil dollars to foreign corporations, completely outside the law. In this way, Iraq represented the most extreme expression of the anti-state counter-revolution -- a hollow state, where, as the courts finally established, there was no there, there.

Contractors in Iraq -- with the permission of the US government and sometimes on the orders of the US government -- have been allowed to act with impunity.
Daniel Howden and Leonard Doyle (Independent of London) provide a look at the rise of outsourcing governmental tasks and note, "A high-ranking US military commander in Iraq said: 'These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There's no authority over them, so you can't come down on them hard when they escalate force. They shoot people.' In Abu Ghraib, all of the translators and up to half of the interrogators were reportedly private contractors."
Rosa Brooks (Los Angeles Times) also addresses the reality of governmental tasks being sold off to the private section, "What's been happening in Iraq -- and in Afghanistan, Columbia, Somalia and the Pentagon and the State Department -- goes far beyond the 'outsourcing of key military and security jobs.' For years, the administration has been quietly auctioning off U.S. foreign policy to the highest corporate bidder -- and it may be too late for us to buy it back. Think I'm exaggerating? Look at Blackwater. Its $750-million contract with the U.S. State Department employees in Iraq is just one of many lucrative U.S. (and foreign) government contracts it has enjoyed (and it's a safe bet that Sunday's episode will be only a minor PR setback for Blackwater). As for Blackwater's most recent slaughter, Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reconstructs the events on Sunday via eye witness testimony: " We have found no Iraqi present at the scene who saw or heard sniper fire. Witnesses say the first victims of the shootings were a couple with their child, the mother and infant meeting horrific deaths, their bodies fused together by heat after their car caught fire. The contractors, according to this account, also shot Iraqi soldiers and police and Blackwater then called in an attack helicopter from its private air force which inflicted further casualties." Apparently unable to speak to Iraqis, Sabrina Tavernise and James Glanz (New York Times) rely on a leaked report from the Ministry of the Interior which "has concluded that employees of a private American security firm fired an unprovoked barrage in the shooting last Sunday," "that the dozens of foreign security companies here should be replaced by Iraqi companies, and that a law that has given the companies immunity for years be scrapped" -- and the reporters offer: "The Iraqi version of events may be self-serving in some points." And the US version may be what? Tavernise and Glanz ignore that prospect. Blackwater's apparently ignoring some things as well. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes, "In Iraq, the private security firm Blackwater USA is reportedly back on the streets of Baghdad despite an announced ban on its activities. The Iraqi government said it had revoked Blackwater's license this week after its guards killed up to twenty-eight Iraqis in an unprovoked mass shooting. But a Pentagon spokesperson said today Blackwater is guarding diplomatic convoys following talks with the Iraqi government." So, as Ian Thompson (PSL) judged it, "Even the Iraqi puppet government leadership spoke up -- but its words were hot air. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki wants to gain credibility and appear to be independent of his U.S. colonial masters." The events appear to answer Thursday's question ("For the US government, it's a quandry: Do they use this moment to provide al-Maliki with a chance to alter his image or do they continue to let greed rule?"): Greed again won out.

Self-serving? Sabrina Tavernise and James Glanz apply that to the report from Iraq's Interior Ministry and it's doubtful they'd ever use the term for the upcoming US report. Along with the issue of equality, there's also the fact that the term is flat out wrong. The Interior Ministry is not self-serving, it's US-serving.
Dropping back to the September 6th snapshot:

Turning to retired generals,
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) reported today, "A panel of retired US generals is urging the United States to disband and reorganize the Iraqi police force because of infiltration by sectarian militias. The generals also report Iraq's security forces will be unable to fulfill their essential security responsibilities independently for at least another twelve to 18 months." Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) explains that the national police force as well as the Iraq Interior Ministry are "riddled with sectarianism and corruption" by the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq headed by James Jones (Marine general) in there 150-plus page report which also finds the Iraqi army at least a year to 18 months away from being able to handle "internal security". Tim Reid (Times of London) reports, "The 20 member-panel also said today that the Iraqi Army was incpable of acting independently from US forces for at least another 18 months, and 'cannot yet meaningfully contribute to denying terrorists safe haven'."

The militias of the Interior Ministry are thugs who terrorize. Who trained them? Who introduced the "Salvador option"? The US. Who has refused to disband them? The US. Self-serving? The Interior Ministry wishes it were self-serving. Then it could really go to town slaughtering 'enemies.' It wouldn't have to worry that one of the many torture chambers they are running might result in a US military 'rescue' of their torture victims. If they were independent and self-serving, all of their torture chambers would be signed off on and not just some.

Today on
NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Rehm spoke with the Washington Post's Karen DeYoung, the Wall St. Journal's Neil King Jr. and Newsweek's Michael Hirsh about a number of topics. On the topic of Blackwater, Hirsh declared, "Often all that happens is that the employee is spirited out of the country. That happened last Christmas Eve when a Blackwater employee shot and killed a guard to a senior Iraqi official inside the Green Zone which was obviously a little politically toxic. And he left, the company has since refused to disclose his name and he has not been prosecuted."

Neil King, Jr. (Wall Street Journal): The thing that is extraordinary about it is that we had the Petraeus hearings last weekend or last week, and all the discussion "we want Iraq to be a country, we want it to step up, we want it to meet all these benchmarks" etc. And yet we don't really actually treat it as a country to the extent that we've got thousands of our own nationals driving around with machine guns and opening fire on people and then being totally immune from the law and as is the case of this shooting last week -- sorry, last December -- where a person shot a security guard who was the personal security guard of the vice-president of Iraq and the person's spirited out of the country. Nobody ever knows what his name was and he's gone. There'll never be -- I mean if you reverse the scenario and imagine any remote corrolary to that in the United States which is literally unimaginable.

A point the paper of record misses. Self-serving also wasn't applied by the New York Times to any of Gen. David Petraeus' many laughable reports to Congress. Rather strange considering
Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London via CounterPunch) was reporting in the midst of the dog & pony show on how Petraues was explaining how he wanted to be President as early as 2004 but thought 2008 would be too soon to run. As Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reported earlier this week, safety "is deteriorating in southern Iraq as rival Shiite militia vying for power have stepped up their attacks after moving out of Baghdad to avoid U.S.-led military operations, according to the latest quarterly Pentagon report on Iraq". If it all sounds familiar it's because it's the same story that's been playing out over and over across Iraq. But this was hailed last week as 'progress.' Let's stick with 'progress' for a bit. Remember how the meaningless soccer victories didn't change anything but were hailed with waves of Operation Happy Talk? Strangely, that's not been the case for a title Iraq actually won. The title? Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reported mid-week that "Iraq holds the world record for both the first and second highest amounts taken in the history of bank robberies." Number one! Number one! In fact, the chart accompanies the article reveals that four of the top five Iraq bank robberies have taken place this year for a total of $282 million (US equivalent). And how about the 'progress' in the spreading of cholera? What had been a crisis for nothern Iraq is now reaching into Baghdad with Andrew E. Kramer (New York Times) reporting that there are now two confirmed cases of cholera in Baghdad. And it's not stopping at Baghdad. Katrina Kratovac (AP) reports that "a baby in Basra" is "the farthest south the outbreak has been detected." "Progress"? Robert Burns (AP) reports that Iraqis control approximately 8 percent of Baghdad -- only 8 percent -- which Burns points out is not a large growth even though Maj Gen Joseph Fil claims it is, "Despite the slow pace of progress towards having Iraqi forces maintain control of Baghdad neighborhoods with minimal U.S. troop presence, Fil said he was hopeful that it would accelerate in coming months." He's hopeful -- that's supposed to have us all glowing.

Well maybe there's 'progress' to be found in oil news? Tuesday
Press TV reported on the bombing outside Beiji of an oil pipeline "causing huge quanties of crude oil to spill into the Tigris River" which has "caused oil to seep into the Tigris River damaging water stations and triggering their temporary closure in Tikrit". And the Tigris flows. Last night AP reported, "City officials urged Baghdad residents Thursday to conserve water and fill up their tanks in case water treatment stations have to be shut down because of an oil spill in the Tigris River." Progress? Just more violence.

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Hawija bombing of the home "of the former chief of Hawija police". Reuters reports 1 Romanian soldier dead from a Tallil bombing that left five more injured, a Kirkuk roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 Iraqi police officer, an Iskandariya mortar attack that claimed 1 life (three more injured)


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 8 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and three female corpses in Basra. Reuters notes that three corpses were discovered in Yusufiya and 1 in Bajwan.

Today the
US military announced: "A soldier assigned to Task Force Lightning died in a non-combat related incident in Kirkuk province Sept. 20." And they announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier was killed in Diyala Province Thursday when an explosion occurred near his vehicle." The deaths bring the total number of US service members killed in the illegal war since it began in March of 2003 to 3794 (ICCC). That's six announced deaths away from the 3800 mark.

Finally, the
CBS Evening News' Armen Keteyian looks into the missing weapons "the U.S. military could not account for" (190,000 of them) and discovers a large number of the Glock pistols have ended up in the hands of the Iraqi resistance: "According to an intelligence source, the U.S. contractor in charge of the Glocks somehow lost track of an entire shipment. That mysterious disappeance is now part of a massive military bribery investigation centered around a contracting office run out of a small trailer at a military base in Kuwait. Eighteen federal investigators are digging into the actions of dozens of high-ranking U.S officers and military contractors."