News, 1st March, 09, Birds with Toxic Feathers

The tide is turning, or at least appears to be, in American military circles with two US soldiers convicted of savagery beyond their remit, in the last week, for crimes committed in Iraq. A court in Fort Campbell, Kentucky showed that morality can overcome patriotic fanaticism, when faced with the case of Michael Behenna, who shot dead Ali Mansour Mohammed last year when interrogating him about a roadside bombing.
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Behenna the butcher

Behenna’s defense counsel has asserted that the soldier had acted in self defense though the court, after examining the evidence, found that the soldier was guilty of assault, though pre-meditated murder could not be proven. His attorney, Jack Zimmerman, explained that his client had been suffering from acute stress and anxiety after losing two members of his platoon to the roadside bomb. Yet, military prosecutor, Capt Jason Elbert, countered this claim with a conclusion that the accused had “controlled the whole situation as an officer of the US Army, armed and protected and under no threat”. Several days before the trial, another US soldier gone berserk, Sgt Michael Leahy Jr, was convicted of the murder of four Iraqi detainees, after they were interrogated, executed then dumped in a canal. The army medic had taken part in the interrogation of the unfortunate suspects of an attack on US soldiers in Baghdad. Despite the likely harsh methods deployed to extract the information required, the investigative team could not find enough evidence to charge the detainees. Rather then allow them to leave their custody, the men were blindfolded, gagged then shot from close range in the head. Leahy will get a life sentence in jail coupled with a dishonorable discharge from the armed service. The others involved in the crime are to be tried over the coming weeks.

I watched an interesting documentary last week, created by Channel Four’s (English terrestrial station) Dispatches team, which tried to explain what has happened to the $US22bn of Iraqi money that the US took hold of after the toppling of Saddam. It was a horrifying yet unsurprising tale involving theft on a unprecedented scale, and complicity of the government. Invoices supplied by US companies involved in the rebuilding work were found to be often astronomical inflations of the real costs, and in many cases tantamount to plain theft. Bundles of cash were literally handed out and rarely accounted for.

Cheney’s old buddies at Halliburton, recently accepted that they had made a few minor errors with their calculations for work done in Iraq, overcharging the CPA group responsible for the allocation of Iraqi funds by $US7m. That is the tip of an iceberg of war profiteering that has left much of the country far worse off than before ‘liberation’. Anyone who thinks that the US has improved Iraq is mistaken. Their health system prior to the US led invasion, was heralded as a shining example of what could be achieved in the region, yet now, after much of that $US22bn has been apparently given to the health services, the state of the Iraqi health system has degenerated to what is expected of a third world country with basic supplies unavailable to most hospitals and the work carried out under the supervision of US companies botched, or simply not completed. One of the first of several sweeping changes made to the Iraqi health service during the early months of the rebuild, was the dispensing of services of ALL ba’athists involved in the sector, including the doctors. The majority of these people were medical staff with no affiliation to Saddam other than sharing an ideology based on the principle foundations of the Ba’athist movement. (founded in Damascus in the 1940s by Michel Aflaq, a Syrian intellectual, as the original secular Arab nationalist movement, to unify all Arab countries in one State and to combat Western colonial rule that dominated the Arab region at that time. In Arabic, baʿath means renaissance or resurrection(wikipedia) ). Taking these people out of the system was strongly condemned by the British, but the Yanks thought better. Unfortunately, there weren’t the necessary skills in place in the non-ba’athist communities to replace those dismissed, hence a hole appeared in the expertise offered by the health service. But that is merely one area that was due massive investment but received very little, if anything at all…There are plenty of others vying for the unwanted title of ‘Parts of Iraq most fucked over by the US…Sewage plants, electricity supplies, gas refineries, roads, bridges…all of these areas should have been improved, repaired. But the money was stolen. And when questioned about this, the US government refused to listen, preferring instead to smile for the cameras and talk big numbers for the crowds, hoping to persuade everyone that what they had done, and were doing, was RIGHT.

There was a huge amount of money available for the reconstruction of Iraq. But the majority of these monies were dispensed with neither financial efficiency or a desire to improve the war ravaged country. Its easier to make sense of this horror show when the fact that the highest chain of command running the Coalition Provisional Authority, was the Pentagon. Indeed, those skilled in the art of destruction not reconstruction. How could this happen*** I screamed…but the answer revealed itself before the end of the program, a final nail in the coffin of hope…The Pentagon controlled CPA decided, that for the good of Iraq:>
‘American law was suspended’. Iraqi law was suspended. And Iraq basically became a free fraud zone, ‘says Allan Grayson, a Florida-based Attorney who represents whistle blowers trying to expose corruption. ‘In a free fire zone, you can shoot anybody you want. In a free fraud zone, you can steal anything you like’.
Its a fucking disgrace.

“The CPA did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial and contractual controls to ensure that [Development Fund for Iraq] funds were used in a transparent manner,” said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., director of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, in late 2006. His investigation found that $8.8bn had gone missing from the Iraqi money given to the CPA. That isn’t merely shoddy invoicing but theft.

But that story isn’t why I regurgitated that bullshit routine. I was reminded of the above story by the report I read about the convicted soldiers. Because the reporter in Iraq working for Channel Four’s Dispatches, during the course of filming, was awoken in the night by his daughter screaming, and gunshots ripping into the walls of his building. Soon after, the front door was smashed down, American soldiers barged in, beat the hell out of his uncle and father, forced his face into the floor, then dragged him off in shackles for interrogation. If it wasn’t for the British Ambassador making emergency demands for his release, he may well have followed the same sorry exit route from life of those that Captain Leahy Jnr and his buddies ‘interrogated’. The reporter was freed from captivity the next day, shaken, battered, bruised, and determined to remove his family from Iraq, because of the Americans. They had no suspicions of his status as a reporter, or of the nature of the documentary he was making for Channel Four. It was merely a surprise random search for insurgents. Finding neither arms nor fanatics, the soldiers had to take someone in for questioning, as justification for destroying a building, traumatizing children and just for added measure, using civilian’s cars for bazooka target practice. Had they known of his documentary, they probably would have killed him, and his family for good measure…

The remainder of the money entrusted by the UN to the CPA was given to the Iraqi government once it had formed, but in the weeks leading up to that handover, CPA officials were told by their superiors to spend as much as they could as quickly as they could. Liberation indeed.

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Power to the CHavez, the latin american robin hood.

Venezuelan Emperor Hugo Chavez has continued his trend of recovering national assets and resources out of the hands of foreign companies by ordering the army into the rice fields in order to ensure that fair prices are set for domestic suppliers. First it was oil, then construction, and now basic food supplies. Chavez, who famously declared at a UN summit in 2006 that George Bush is ‘the devil’, reacted to criticism of his recent attempts to provide basic necessities for the poorest of his people with this statement:
“This government is here to protect the people, not the bourgeoisie or the rich.”. Producers of rice failing to meet the government imposed tariffs will face expropriation, a measure which will further inflame particularly US businesses who have major holdings in the Venezuelan markets. And with the huggable Hugo winning the chance to campaign for a third term in office, the policy is likely to be extended to other areas of industry.

The British Ministry of Defence has unveiled plans to develop prototypes of new technologies, with the pick of the bunch:
TELEDYNE-
A device which can scan terrain, unhindered by snow, dust, clouds or smoke, which is set to make future Teledyne equipped military aircraft safer for landing purposes in hostile regions.

SATURN-

Sensing and Automotive Tactical Urban Reconnaissance Network. The system is a fusion of Unmanned aerial and unmanned ground technologies and will extend the abilities of troops to scan areas prior to human entrance, for threats. It should be able to distinguish between civilians and combatants and presently is unarmed. Other abilities include noting open windows, flying close enough to buildings to peek inside if movement is noted, climbing stairs if accessible from the ground and taking snapshots of key exit and entry points.
INVISIBLE TANKS-
Research and development is continuing for a machine which can camouflage tanks or other vehicles with images of the surrounding terrain making the target appear invisible to the enemy. A soldier at the most recent trials said
“This technology is incredible. If I hadn’t been present I wouldn’t have believed it. I looked across the fields and just saw grass and trees – but in reality I was staring down the barrel of a tank gun.”

Lets leave Man’s war on Man alone now and focus instead on the less vicious beasts with whom we share the planet…After a year of planning, scientists have finally ventured into the lost world of previously untouched deep jungle in Papua New Guinea. There aim is to find enough proof of valuable nature to support legal proceedings to ensure the area is protected for future generations to study, learn from and hopefully leave as pristine as possible. Their finds so far include:
Friendly Tree Kangaroos…
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Having never seen humans before, these critters were more intrigued than scared. So inquisitive of their guests, that they were happy to be picked up, cradled like toys and photographed.
Assassin Bugs
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To capture this beast on film, photographer George McGavin suffered greatly. Before entering its lair, he knocked his head on a spiked vine, fell to the rocks tearing a hole in his flesh, regained his composure, pushed on, fell again, this time splitting his skull on a stalagmite, but still continued, and emerged from the gloomy cave with the beast on camera and blood pouring from his head, triumphant…

Dragon-like Monitor Lizards
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This sneaky bastard took a while to capture. Near their camp, the intrepid explorers had noticed a large nest of eggs, which seemed to diminish in number far quicker than the natural order of hatchings. Setting up the camera over night nearby, they caught this thieving monitor, 4 feet long, stealing the eggs under the disguise of darkness.

One of the expedition party concluded, after the end of the third day en route deeper into the undergrowth,
“In base camp, we too have come under attack; not from the lizards, or the crocodiles we’ve seen in the river, or even the highly venomous snakes we’ve encountered on the trails, but from a host of other tropical nasties.
These include: multiple vicious wasp stings, poisonous catfish, birds with toxic feathers and fungal foot rot.
The jungle is moving in on us and it’s full of parasites, predators and poisonous animals.

Writer of the week

William Burroughs. The homosexual intellectually electric absurdity responsible for my favourite anti-hero of all time, the belligerent Kim Carsons. Kim isn’t in the Burroughs book I read recently, and am quoting from today, but he most definitely is worth hunting down in The Place of Dead Roads, which is part of a colourful, violent trilogy containing some of Burroughs’ finest passages…

The following quotes are taken from The Adding Machine

“ A moment’s introspection will demonstrate that we are not the same as we were a year ago, a week ago. This opens many doors. Your spirit could reside in a number of bodies, not as some hideous parasite draining the hos, but as a helpful little visitor: ‘Roger the Lodger…don’t take up much room…show you a trick or two…never overstay my welcome…’”

“consider a species that can live on the sea-coast, watching ships come in day after day, year after year, and still believe that the Earth is flat because the Church says so; a species that can use cannonballs for five hundred years before the idea of a cannonball that explodes on contact blossoms in the barren soil…I could go on and on. So why has the human artifact stayed back there with the flintlock* I am advancing the theory that we are not designed to remain in our present state, any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole forever…”

“we now see that another essential factor in control, is to conceal from the controlled, the actual intentions of the controllers”

“I have come to doubt whether writing can be taught. Its is like trying to teach someone how to dream. So now I teach creative reading”

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