Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Not In My Name

It seems to me that no people ever like to admit shame or culpability concerning atrocities committed by their government in their name in times of war. To do so, to be willing to step back and view the carnage and say aloud that it is not acceptable for a civilised people to knowingly engage in acts that target innocent bystanders (especially as a form of intimidation to the survivors and neighboring areas) would be seen as unpatriotic and sympathetic to the enemy. As we all know by now, you can't win a war no one likes. You can't win a war that turns a populace's stomach.
It's been said in many quarters that one of the primary reasons we did not leave victoriously from Viet Nam is because of the international TV coverage carried out on the front lines with the grunts in which the international audience saw the realities of war. Specifically, the US audience saw what what was being done in its name to and by its military and government.
Therefor, it comes as no surprise to most that in the ensuing wars/conflicts/police actions the US engaged in a program of embedding journalists as a counter to a free and unfettered public through the media lens. By embedding journalists with certain divisions or brigades, the government could more effectively control the dissemination of information to the public.
War is not pretty (as someone once said). And certain things done in the name of freedom are better left unseen (as someone probably never said). However, certain things done "in the name of freedom" during the Viet Nam war were condemned and it was agreed they should never be repeated. I refer at this time to Napalm.
The immediate effects of Napalm were seen repeatedly by US citizens and it turned them off to what was being done "in our name". The number of innocent casualties greatly outweighed those of certified enemies. And the pain inflicted by it, the utter physical agony it thrust on a victim was abhorrent by all standards. And so it was that the USA eventually signed international agreements to never use it again in times of war/conflict/police actions on any populace in any manner (one might argue that the agreements contain the word "indiscriminate", but it is universally held that Napalm cannot be use "discriminately"). And, so far as I can find, our government has fairly managed to uphold its end of the bargain.
Until recently.
While perusing and following threads and links on my usual list of political news sites I came across this and this.
According to a major UK newspaper, the US lied to the UK in 2005 about use of a chemical weapon called MK 77. While it is not Napalm exactly in its makeup it evidently brings the same results---a chemical which attacks flesh, air and water, causing them to ignite. It bypasses clothing for the most part, but it burns to the bone. In one sense, it is more discriminate than Napalm. Napalm burned clothing as well. MK 77 is a respecter of fashion.
The site to which I travelled in order to find the above links has a documentary that speaks directly to the use of a Napalm-like chemical on the city of Fallujah when US forces attacked it. On the documentary are interviews with two US soldiers (one of whom confirms the use of white phosphorus as well, which is another chemical that burns through flesh on contact), two Italian journalists, an Iraqi journalist and a former UK parliamentarian. It runs 27 minutes and should be viewed only by those with strong stomachs. Perhaps the most chilling video clip is that which arrives at the very end of the piece as we watch US snipers take out three suspected terrorists and their trucks. And the most chilling audio is that of the soldier stating that all of the soldiers were told that anything moving in Fallujah was to be considered a target. Anything and anyone.
But there is ample video evidence that Napalm or something like it was dispersed at large over the population of Fallujah. And the US's denials that no civilians were killed during this "operation" can now be seen to be utterly without merit and, indeed, a bald faced lie.
War is, indeed, not pretty. No one should ever live under the delusion that combat can be anything other than uncivil. In war, soldiers do things that we civilians would find repugnant, but they are mostly responding to any given hostile situation with the only means they have: weapons and adrenaline. They respond to deadly force with equally deadly or dominant force. It is their urge to survive that creates what we sometimes see in hindsight as unnecessary mayhem.
But to use Napalm or anything akin or white phosphorus defines premeditation. It signifies that our government and our military commanders authorized its use. Otherwise, it would not have been included in the arsenal taken to that city.
War is not pretty, it is Hell (as someone, again, once said).
But, while war is not pretty and should never be illused as such, even more horrendous and barbaric and without conscience or any semblance of moral defense is a "civilised" country's indifference to the welfare of those it is claiming to protect as it carries out mass murder in order to intimidate those who watch.

Monday, February 25, 2008

60 Minutes Blacks Out Part of Its Story

Interesting. Part of 60 Minutes' broadcast was blacked out in a couple areas of Alabama last Sunday night. But only the parts dealing with the story about Don Siegelman were affected. Don Seigelman, as you may not know, is the former governor of Alabama who was imprisoned for bribery and conspiracy. There are allegations of vote count changing during his failed bid to retain the governorship in 2006 as well as allegations that Karl Rove (you know, Turd Blossom) was at the heart of the vote count change that may or may have not occured at a very late hour of that voting night and at the heart of the campaign by the Justice Department to convict Siegelman of whatever it could (at the very least, to tarnish his name enough so that his bid to get back into the Alabama State House would fail).
A Republican operative/lawyer involved in some of Rove's crimes (I mean shenanigans) even came forward to present evidence to Congress about the attacks made on Siegelman. Subsequently, her house burned down in a fire and she was run off the road by an unknown driver (I say subsequently, but both of these events happened in the weeks leading up to her testimony).
But I must ask WTF!?! is up with 60 Minutes? Only Alabama was affected by the blackouts? And 60 Minutes' parent company (CBS) is located in New York? How does a technical gaffe in New York only affect those in the very state being discussed and only during that particular segment? Someone find me a statistical dweeb and get me the odds on that. Because I think it would be in the area of Not Possible:1.
CBS's 60 Minutes story is here and I would urge you to read it.

P.S. For an update, this article from Harper's Magazine states that it was the local CBS affiliate that blacked out the story and told viewers it was New York's fault. According to New York, they had no transmission difficulties. Plus, the story is written by someone who was interviewed multiple times for the story itself so he has inside knowledge of a lot.