More bad things I have a hard time understanding
There’s been a few stories out of Iraq in recent weeks that I wanted to address, and today’s the day. I’m for the most part trying not to dwell on what is going on there, but sometimes a story is so illustrative or terrible that I can’t ignore it. And with Iraq, often it’s both. For good or for ill, Iraq is a seminal event of our age. Our war there is far more than just the loss of our troops and the expense, a nation of 20 million in one of the world’s most volatile regions cannot be destabilized without far reaching consequences. In any event here are two recent grim stories from that ill conceived war.
The first story barely made a blip in the news, which speaks volumes itself. Reports have come out that American sniper teams in Iraq were placing “bait” for Iraqis to pick up. Basically items that could be used to construct munitions were left laying around, then if an Iraqi wandered by and picked it up, he was shot. On the assumption that an Iraqi picking up munition components must be an insurgent or insurgent sympathizer. In fact the stated assumption was that if an Iraqi picked up such an item, he intended to use it on US forces, and therefore was a combatant.
If civilians are shot because they picked up the “bait,” this would be a war crime. That bothers me, but what troubles me most about this story is the mind set. The people who set this up apparently think that insurgents are little more than stupid vermin, and that setting out bait for them will be effective in exterminating them. Um, insurgents aren’t stupid, many or most of the people picking up these items will be civilians, and if we act like the bad guys…people will think we are the bad guys. This program may kill a few insurgents…but it will also kill hapless civilians and be a propaganda bonanza for our enemies. Insurgencies are not a zero sum game, the guy with the highest kill total doesn’t win.
Sigh. Then we come to the far more covered story of the Blackwater massacre. For those who don’t watch the news, a convoy of Blackwater security guards opened fire in a crowded street, killing at least eleven Iraqi civilians. They say they were under fire,numerous investigations are under way. The Maliki government has asked that Blackwater suspend its operations in Iraq and pay millions in compensation for the dead.
What happened that day? I don’t know. The far more important issue, and one that is finally is seeing the light of day, is how the hell did the president get the money to hire 160,000 hired guns? Half of the armed American troops in Iraq are “private” security. More or less off the radar in the media, and more or less immune from either public scrutiny or legal sanctions. I know I called them American mercenaries in a previous post, but that’s not quite accurate. Mercenaries will fight for anyone, these guys are often American veterans and there is no chance they will work for our enemies.
No, these guys are more like a militia, a private American army working for the executive branch. Privatization is one thing, but this was taking it too far. I mean, having private contractors run the army mess halls makes some sense, having them take the place of armed soldiers is a whole other kettle of fish. Basically because the Bush administration didn’t want the political liability of starting up a draft, they made up for the desperate need for more troops by hiring security people at a vastly greater monetary cost and a terrible cost in public relations in Iraq, since these soldiers operate completely above and beyond the law and public scrutiny. The Bush administration and Congress have done the nation a great disservice by conducting a war with a private army.
A privatized war and occupation as it were. This was crazy, and it’s why I see zero difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. They have worked together every step of the way to bring us this war and conduct it in a dismal dishonest fashion. The result is what we have now, an expensive, counter-productive, jury rigged occupation in a country that hates us, where every day our troops are asked to do the impossible. Meanwhile private “soldiers” employed by security corporations with ties to the administration make more money than our troops, and create more ill will among the Iraqi population every day. I mean, if someone can explain to me how this makes sense or is going to be a recipe for anything but disaster, I’m all ears.
So I’m still going with my belief that things are still going to get worse before they get better. And I will be very happy if I’m wrong. There are ways we could get out of Iraq, but the people in Washington are too busy jockeying for the upcoming election, so I expect the situation there and in Afghanistan will continue to fester until after the election. And what a lovely mess that’s going to be for the the next administration to clean up.
And as a final paranoid note, October 15th is the conspiracy theory du jour about when the attack on Iran will commence, then or in the week following, during the recently announced Vigilant Shield 2008 global military exercises. The military will set off fake radiological bombs in the United States as part of this exercise, simulating a terrorist attack on the USA. The idea being, that is how Iran will respond to an attack on them, so we have to be prepared. I guess, I wish there was a bit more focus on preventing war instead of preparing for it. We don’t have to fight everyone who looks at us cross eyed, there’s a lot of cross eyed people in the world.
OK, two depressing posts in a row. Tomorrow I’ll go for three in a row and cover some more alarming global warming news. Heck, maybe I’ll go for broke this week and shoot for five depressing posts in a row. My cats are depressed too, one of them has moved back up onto the beam in the skylight. He stares down at me balefully as I go about my day, a black cat perched safely above the chaos below. I wish I had a nice safe beam to climb up onto some days.
(The above photograph precedes 1927 and is public domain under US copyright law. It is of British dead laying in a field after the First Battle of the Marne, World War One, France, 1914. There’s no particular connection to Iraq besides the obvious…so many wars seem to involve dead guys laying in some foreign field. Seems kind of pointless to me, nu?)