Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Proud To Be An American

Seriously, words fail me as I try to convey my sheer disgust and contempt for the subhumans involved in this nauseating shit:

When reading an Egyptian blog a few weeks ago, I stumbled onto a bulletin board site called (NTFU), which started out as a place for people to trade amateur pornography of wives and girlfriends.

According to the site's owner, Chris Wilson, who lives in Lakeland, Fla., but hosts the site out of Amsterdam, the site was launched in August 2004 and soon became popular with soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. When female soldiers started to appear in the nude on the site, the Pentagon blocked access to the site from military computers in the field, according to the New York Post.

But the story gets more twisted. Wilson said that soldiers were having trouble using their credit cards in Iraq to access the paid pornographic content on the site, so he offered them free access if they could show that they were actually soldiers. As proof, some sent in G-rated photos of traffic signs in Baghdad or of a day in the life of a soldier abroad. Others sent in what appear to be Iraqi civilians and insurgents who were killed by suicide bombs or soldiers' fire.

Now there's an entire forum on the site titled "Pictures from Iraq and Afghanistan - Gory," where these bloody photos show body parts, exploded heads and guts falling out of people. Along with the photos is a running commentary of people celebrating the kills, cracking jokes and arguing over what kind of weaponry was used to kill them. But the moderators will also step in when the talk gets too heated, and sometimes a more serious discussion about the Iraq war and its aims will break out.

Digby has been doing diligent work in trying to suss out just what weird turn our society and culture have taken, where we can just let shit like this go on, or worse yet, have military men who will defend it:

I couldn't verify whether these gory photos were taken recently in Iraq by soldiers. But the U.S. military is currently looking into the site and trying to authenticate the photos -- and take appropriate action if soldiers are involved. "We do have people who are specifically looking at that website, and I will talk to my colleagues and my bosses here and get back to you," said Staff Sgt. Don Dees, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command (Centcom) in Baghdad.

Two people posting gory photos to the site responded to my e-mail query into their motivations for doing it.

"I access [NTFU] from my personal computer, the government computers are strictly monitored," one person wrote to me. "I would never try to use this site or anything like it on a government computer. To answer your question about posting the gory pictures on this site: What about the beheadings filmed and then put on world wide news? I have seen video of insurgents shooting American soldiers in plain day and thanking God for what they have done. I wouldn't be too concerned what I am doing on a private Web site. I'm more concerned of what my fellow soldiers and I are experiencing in combat."

Another person whose e-mail identified him as David Burke was defiant about posting gory photos and said it was a tradition of all wars.

"Yes I have posted kill photos on other forum sites," Burke wrote me in his e-mail. "The computers are military financed if not owned by the military. I think that with all the service members who are over here it was obvious that photos of dead insurgents would surface as time went on and it is not a new occurrence. There have been pics from all wars of the fighters standing over the bodies of the enemy. The insurgents are more than willing to showcase our dead and wounded so if people have issues with what's shown on this site then they need to stay away and quit bitching about things they know nothing about.

"I made it real clear in most if not all of my posts how I feel about the Iraqi people in general and that feeling has not changed a bit in my time here. I [put] a good friend of mine [in a body bag] just a week ago and that really clinched it for me and my teammates. We will always shoot first and ask no questions, period. The military brass will always try to sanitize the effects of war, no matter when or where, and yes if it was possible they would censor all media coming out of this country, pics and stories."

Disgusting, and creepy as all hell. And hey, remember Abu Ghraib? Turns out there are more bad apples:

"On their day off people would show up all the time," the sergeant continues in the HRW report. "Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC tent. In a way it was sport. The cooks were all U.S. soldiers. One day a sergeant shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a mini Louisville Slugger that was a metal bat. He was the cook."

So let me get this straight -- was Abu Ghraib an aberration, the work of a few warped souls working in concert, unbeknownst to the rest of the entire military? Well, let's walk that one back a bit -- if it really was just a few "bad apples", which by definition means that everyone else around them realizes that it's morally repugnant and criminally indefensible, then why has it taken so long for these incidents to come out? Why has the Pentagon dragged its feet every step of the way? Why have they not been more proactive in weeding these psychopaths out of the armed forces? And why have they not been more forthcoming with relevant facts and information (not to mention why they've steadfastly resisted the release of the second -- supposedly worse -- round of Abu Ghraib photos for the public to see exactly what the hell has been going on) regarding these abuses?

Right from the very first revelations of Abu Ghraib, and now into this "war porn" shit, there is a very strange and disturbing conflation between sadistic, forced sex and extreme violence. What sort of person gets off on breaking a man's leg with a baseball bat, or forcing him to perform oral sex on fellow prisoners, or anally raping him with a glow stick?

And what sort of cultural mindset inculcates and protects that shit? What sort of jackal wears a "club Gitmo" shirt like they're fucking proud of that shit? Oh, we can all feel a little bit better because that smirking inbred baboon Lynndie England got convicted. But think about it -- the only reason she and the rest of her crew got caught is because one man stepped up. One. So again, we have to take what we're used to hearing about the discipline and moral decency of the military code of honor and ethics, and filter it through the stark fact that only one person gave enough of a shit to let the world know what the hell was going on there.

For now, obviously the military is going to take whoever they can, but if we ever get out of this mess, there needs to be a top-down re-tooling of procedural enforcement. This will not stand -- either we're better, or we're not. Being better means more than just telling everyone over and over again, it means holding yourselves to a higher code of conduct.

And if it really is just a few dozen loose screws in the machinery, then it shouldn't be such a problem to weed them out. Presumably the other 99% which maintains its moral values understands just how much these incidents embarrass and disgrace the good name of this country and its people. Either they take such things seriously or they don't. There's just no middle ground on letting Army cooks blow off steam by beating prisoners with baseball bats.

As far as how the war itself is going, well, try to look past the body counts for a second -- if you can -- and focus on a more quotidian metric. It's impossible to win over an occupied populace whose very ability to just lead an everyday life has been denied them:

And more than two years after flowers and water cascaded onto the arriving Americans, what's being thrown on Karrada's streets, and who is throwing it, has changed as well.

Mohammed, a courtly, gentle-mannered man, carefully chose the harshest word he could think of for urine.

In Karrada this summer, Mohammed and the neighborhood watched as American soldiers on patrol grew irritated at an Iraqi who had left his car in the street to run inside a store on an errand, blocking their armored convoy.

The Americans took one of the empty plastic water bottles they use to relieve themselves when on patrol, Mohammed said. When the Iraqi driver ran out to move his car, an annoyed American plunked him with the newly filled bottle and rolled on, Mohammed said.

"He started crying," Mohammed said of the Iraqi driver, humiliated in front of the neighborhood.

Mohammed, who said he had been one of the happiest people in Karrada to see the Americans when they came in April 2003, retrieved the bottle and handed it to the weeping man.

"I said, 'Give this to the Iraqi government,' " Mohammed said. " 'Tell them this is the sovereignty the Americans have brought us.' "

Urine is very haram in Islamic culture; apparently men urinate sitting down to prevent even a drop from splashing on their garments. Plus the universal masculine hang-up with outsiders punking you in front of the whole neighborhood. Think you might be a little radicalized if you were in that poor bastard's shoes, and got pegged in the head with a bottle of pee?

The breakdown in order and the dismissal of Iraq's security forces unleashed a crime wave that still lingers. Daylight kidnappings and robberies are common. Parents hire armed guards for their children's school buses. Boys and girls in middle-class neighborhoods routinely fight off strangers who attempt to shove them into the trunks or back seats of cars and take them away for ransom.

And three summers into the U.S. occupation, Kareema and her sisters and sisters-in-law cloak themselves in black and wear black gloves when they go out, a neighbor who knows them said. But these days, the neighbor said, the sisters seldom go out.

When the Americans came, they protected only a few public buildings from looters, said Nagham Emad, 23, a university student lingering in a Karrada ice cream shop, spooning up her frozen sundae slowly to put off the return to a dark, hot home.

One of the buildings was the Oil Ministry, Emad said. The others were Saddam Hussein's marble-and-gilt palaces, which the Americans took over for their offices. Now, when power outages darken the rest of Baghdad, she said, massive generators make the barricaded, highly guarded palaces of the Americans glow.

The lack of electricity, like the lack of security, remains one of the two biggest complaints among Baghdad's 6 million people.

The Americans had underestimated the problems with Iraq's infrastructure, a U.S. official in Baghdad said on condition of anonymity. A U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, said a large part of Baghdad's electricity problem is that even as supply increases, it is being inexorably outstripped by demand.

And that's what the citizens of Baghdad see day after day after scorching day -- they get an average of 8 hours a day of electricity, while the liberators go 24/7. Truly I boggle at these folks that don't get why some Iraqis might not be buying into our empty rhetoric. They don't want to hear the mushmouth-in-chief babble on endlessly about "freedom" this and "democracy" that. They want lights to come on when they flip the switch. They want to have a job, and be able to go to that job without wondering if they'll make it back home. They want their kids to be able to attend those freshly repainted schools without having to worry about kidnappers and killers. Imagine that.

For the most part, they had those things under Saddam and his psychopathic mafia family. They do not have those things anymore. Happy words babbled incessantly do not change that simple fact.

As for the original war -- you know, against the fuckers that actually did 9/11 -- we're still there, fighting a Taliban insurgency that, while diminished, has adapted and is gathering strength:

In the four years since the fall of the Taliban government, there have been many moments when it appeared that the Taliban insurgency had breathed its last breath. But this year was different. The Taliban have launched a series of attacks that has raised this year's death toll - 1,200 civilians and military personnel so far - to a wartime high. Their attacks show increasing sophistication, US and Afghan officials say, and a UN report now warns that the Taliban may be receiving tactical training from jihadists returning from Iraq.

With an apparently revitalized Taliban insurgency, the American military and its NATO allies must now decide whether their strategy needs retooling, and American diplomats could have increasing difficulty convincing NATO allies to take over leadership of the Afghan counterinsurgency campaign. It could be a hard sell, indeed. Even US military commanders say it is too soon to count the Taliban out.

"I'm not ready to sign up to the fact that Taliban are crumbling," said Gen. Jason Kamiya, operational commander for the US-led Combined Forces Command, at a recent press conference at Bagram Airbase. "There still will be an enemy insurgency next spring."


Yet, US and Afghan intelligence sources suggest that the Taliban have shown recent signs of confidence - or desperation. Roadside bombings have increased 40 percent this year over last year, according to a report by the UN. These bombings have become increasingly effective, using "shaped" explosives used by Iraqi militants against US forces there, set off by sophisticated remote-control devices.

Perhaps more important, the Taliban are sticking around to fight US forces after they detonate roadside bombs, using heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and Kalashnikovs to pin down US troops and increase casualties.

When they are captured, the Taliban often carry high-tech radio equipment, and are even wearing new sneakers, all signs that the insurgents have found new financial support.

The article goes on to state that funds are coming from zakat, Muslim tithing. How much you want to bet that the majority of the mosques who are kicking upstairs to these thugs are in Pakistan, followed closely by Saudi Arabia? I bet Iraq's mosques are fifth at best.

But we are where we are, with no plan, no opposition party, a fragile economy that's about to go down the poopchute, and a governing party that couldn't care less, so long as gays can't get married and we're cracking down on porn.

Maybe Nader was right; maybe things had to get way worse before we'd come to our senses and care enough to turn it around. Let's hope it's not too late. Some of the things we're doing in our Noble Cause, that we're largely indifferent or indignant about, seem symptomatic of a larger cultural malaise. Maybe we're just intellectually flabby. Whatever the case, it's gotta end soon, or we're sunk. Talk about slouching toward Gomorrah, we're whipping feces at the city walls like a band of crazed chimps.


Craig Heath said...

This is why human beings (using the term to make the point) must do everything possible to avoid the destabilization of society in the first place. "War is a last resort" - bullshit. We whip it out like a pocket knife anytime we want.

And once it is out of the box, it all goes to shit - no one will ever be able to stop it. We fucked with Muslims for a hundred years, so they blow up buildings. So we invade their country, kill their children and grin into the camera like fishermen standing next to a dock-hung shark. So they chop off our heads on video. So we clusterbomb their neighborhoods. So they car bomb our checkpoints. So we assfuck them with flashlights, again grinning into the lens like frat boys who tattooed the sleeping drunk.

It never stops. It will never stop. If Americans were "better than that", we would have stopped it long ago. But we're not - the only difference is that we're mostly rich chimps and they're mostly poor chimps. Oh yeah, and they're a bit browner than us.

Same shit, different pleistocene era. You show me a kid who digs Faces of Death and "think[s] slappin' bitches is foreplay" and I'll show you a chimp in desert cammo and kevlar humpin a ruck and an M4 in Sadr City, photos of his kills in his pocket like the scalps of yesteryear.

The first myth that needs to be blown to shit is that we're different, better, unique. That idea is what gets us into this crap in the first place (American Exceptionalism). If we can ever bust that bullshit balloon, we might stand a chance to change things. Until then, whether we believe we're better because we bring salvation to the natives, or because we don't fight dirty, we'll never really look in the mirror and see ourselves for the fucked up apes we are.

And that concludes my little rant.

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Yeah, we have managed to entangle ourselves in a very ugly and dangerous game of one-upmanship. We have already lost, because even if we "win" (by whatever metric we choose), we have done it by mercilessly squashing a far weaker opponent. And obviously that hasn't happened, nor will it, now that we have essentially lost the good faith of the general populations of both Iraq and the US. We're done; the only question now is how to go through the kabuki of "peace with honor" and leave as little of a bloodbath behind us as possible.

And it didn't have to happen this way. Remember the Bali bombing, the summer after 9/11? That event should have sealed the deal for re-inventing the geopolitics of Central Asia -- out of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Recall that that bombing, aimed as it was at primarily Australian tourists, was in direct retaliation for the West's liberation of Catholic East Timor from the brutal clutches of Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation. This should have been a slam-dunk to drive home the point that what we were dealing with was a psychotic death cult -- not Saddam Hussein, and not poor, downtrodden Muslims. We were dealing with disaffected, radicalized, middle-class college students who had been led astray by a lunatic with visions of a medieval caliphate.

We could have completely reset the balance and direction of geopolitical power in the region by just sticking with Afghanistan, helping them out, building roads and schools, creating all these "opportunity zones" we're now hearing about in terms of rebuilding New Orleans. Giving Halliburton the no-bid contract for such a worthy project would have been okey-doke by me. And it would have cost probably 5% of what we've dumped into the failed effort in Iraq.

It is to our ongoing shame that we allowed Perle and Feith and the rest of the neocons retards to conflate a very real ideological struggle with a nakedly cynical political power grab. I think we know it, deep down inside, and I think it accounts for a good measure of our collective cognitive dissonance.

Regardless, as far as the subject at hand is concerned, it is truly a stain on our national character, and is going to dog us for the next generation, as East Asia passes us by and gives us the finger. Apparently the superiors of the whistleblower in the current scandal actually had the gall to tell him that going public would bring dishonor to unit, as if their conduct hadn't done just that already.

No matter. The Army has since decided to drop the investigation for now. People are distracted, not enough people give a shit about anything but themselves and their toys, and the country has much larger problems looming on the horizon. They're letting these psychopaths off the hook because this myth of the infallible character of the military is all they have left to hang their hats on.

I hear Costa Rica has very nice beaches, an abundance of exotic wildlife, and a reasonable cost of living. Plus the largest English-speaking populace in Central America. Because our government has long ago decided that they have no accountability to us, and American citizens are doing a very strange and unsettling dance of cultural encirclement, that may very well lead us all down some strange highways. Losing and going broke does some serious shit to a national psyche. And the more gutless the Democrats persist in being, the more opportunity there is for the rise of a fascist movement in populist clothing. If "immigration reform" does indeed turn out to be the hot-button issue for the midterms, start worrying.

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