Tag Archives: Iraq

The war comes home

Protestors outside One Police Plaza, 5/7/08

It’s easy to forget about how many Iraqis and Afghans are killed by the U.S. military each day – they’re halfway around the world and we can always change the channel if some nasty images pop up on TV.

Doing so is a bit harder when the chaos occurs in your own backyard, and is caused by the very people sworn to uphold the law and protect you. To add injury to insult, these same people can and do get away with murder.

On April 25, the three New York Police Department detectives whose 50 shots killed Sean Bell and wounded two of his friends were acquitted of all charges by a judge, having waived their right to trial. Although there was ample evidence to convict these detectives, the Queens District Attorney gave a sterling example of the courts’ complicity in police misconduct, subjecting dubious witnesses to cross-examination by the defense while refusing to call the three detectives to the stand for the same treatment.

There have been large, vociferous, and peaceful protests across the city following the verdict, and more are expected throughout a long, hot summer. There is a movement to press Albany to appoint an independent prosecutor for cases of police misconduct, and the Justice Department is deliberating a civil rights suit against the NYPD.

Some have argued it will be hard to prove the police intentionally set out to violate Sean Bell’s rights. Last time I checked, racial profiling was a violation of said rights, and the record number of stop-and-frisks conducted by the NYPD in the first quarter of 2008 back that record up.

Of course, Sean Bell’s murder does not exist in a vacuum. The increased militarization of American law enforcement, begun during the Reagan era as part of our failed War on Drugs (anyone who debates this point, please watch The Wire), has exacerbated this country’s long history of racism and placed minority communities in the firing line.

Take, for example, the beating of three unarmed black men by Philadelphia cop last week. Though not as close up as the Rodney King footage,  the events are no less savage. Police say they were suspects fleeing the scene of a drug-related shooting. No gun was found in the car and the men have yet to be charged with any crime, though officers claim a “fourth man” bailed out of the vehicle prior to their arrival (anyone remember the NYPD pulling the same stunt in court this winter?)

We get this sort of profiling and hair-trigger response coast-to-coast as well. Last Sunday, LAPD officers shot two unarmed 19-year-old black men in Inglewood whom they suspected of being involved in a nearby shooting. One, Michael Byoune, died. As it turns out, neither Byoune nor his wounded friend were involved in any such incident, nor was a gun found.

This is the end result when you combine America’s draconian attitude towards drug policy and the plight of its post-industrial working class with the post-9/11 decimation of our civil liberties. When the LAPD’s abuse of Rodney King aired in 1992, there were riots. If anyone tried the same thing today, the Air Force would drop cluster bombs on Queens or South Central. Something has got to give.

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Taxi to the Dark Side

An in-depth look at the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, focusing on an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan who was tortured and killed in 2002 – Get Informed.

Taxi to the Dark Side received an Oscar for Best Documentary/Features in  2008.

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Winter Soldier

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[photo courtesy of questionitnow.org]

No one is covering this – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Against the War speak out against the America’s imperial wars, and the hearings do not make a ripple in the corporate media.

Here are voices from the hearings, thanks to Democracy Now!

Part 1

Part 2 

Part 3

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“Family Values” My Ass!

I always ask myself why conservatives have enough supporters to get elected.  Those who benefit from having a conservative Republican in power are really an elite few — but the way they gain a large number of their supporters is via their platform for “family values.” Their call for family values is but a mask that they use so they can not only win the support of the wealthy and those in power, but also those who hold in high esteem a conservative moral standard. After some minor digging, anyone can see that their policies are not aimed towards helping our families or instilling a moral fiber into our nation, but achieving their own agendas to line their own pockets.  

~Abstinence-Only Education

Although Bush spent $10 million on abstinence-only education in Texas, the data proves that spending more doesn’t necessarily mean getting more. 

“During President Bush’s tenure as governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000, with abstinence-only programs in place, the state ranked last in the nation in the decline of teen birth rates among 15-17 year-old females,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Among this statement are findings from a congressional staff analysis concluding these federally-funded programs are presenting “false, misleading, or distorted information,” such as:

– “HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread as via sweat and tears.”

– “Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse.”

– “Touching a person’s genitals can result in pregnancy.” 

Denying our future generations the scientific truth should be a crime, and feeding them distorted “information” is not installing family values, but hurting our families in the long run.

~Drilling for oil in Alaska

It sounds quite impressive when someone states “If we start drilling in Alaska, we can potentially produce 1 million barrels of oil a day.”  It’s also easy to exaggerate with numbers. One million sure seems like a substantial amount of oil—but not compared to the 20 million the United States consumes each day.  Potentially destroying pristine wildlife areas will not reduce reliance on imported oil as this foolish venture will only  produce 5 percent of our “needs.” 

As for gas prices, this is not enough to make a dent-and also keep in mind that the rising prices in California, for example, were due to corporate markups and profiteering.

~”Clear Skies”

Just as we’ve seen how easy it is to toy with numbers, it’s just as easy to have a pleasing nomenclature.  Clear Skies sounds like a step towards a cleaner environment, but according to the Sierra Club, this act weakens many parts of the Clean Air act put in place by the Clinton Administration.  With Clear Skies, there is a loophole that exempts power plants from being required to install clean-up technology to reduce air pollution. 

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[Photo by Diego Cupolo]

If this doesn’t sound a bit backwards, take a look at the increase in toxins that are allowed to be released.  For example, we can expect a 68% increase in NOx (Nitrogen Oxide) –a major contributor to smog that is linked to asthma and lung disease.  Along with NOx, we can expect an increase in Sulphur Dioxide and Mercury—and to top it all of, Clear Skies “delays the enforcement of public health standards for smog and soot until the end of 2015.”  Boy that sure sounds like an administration that cares about the well being of families.

~War in Iraq

The United States has already spent half a trillion dollars in Iraq.  What does that mean for the typical family since the start of the war? $16,000 dollars per family since the war began—and that’s not counting the 700,000 Iraqi civilians killed, 4,000 US soldiers dead and 60,000 US soldiers wounded. 

I have to ask, where is all this money going to?  Of course, I’m expecting technologically advanced weaponry and transportation whether air or land to rack up the cost, but there are a few prominent places where our tax money is going and that’s into the pockets of the Bush administration’s friends. 

So how does one make money off of war?  Baghdad Burning author “Riverbend,” (who remains anonymous for her own safety) listed in her accounts the frustrating reconstruction process.  Once a building or bridge is destroyed, it must be rebuilt.  But instead of contracting Iraqi engineers (and Baghdad is very well known for its engineering schools) or employing Iraqi workers, the bid goes out to Bush and Cheney’s old time cronies, for example, KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton.  What does this mean? Instead of the job getting completed for half a million dollars, the job is contracted for hundreds of millions dollars. This not only fills the pockets of war profiteers, but it also leaves many intelligent and able-bodied Iraqi citizens without jobs and, therefore, without money to feed their families, which then in turn makes that large sum of money offered by insurgents ever so tantalizing.

If our government really cared about family values, they would send our mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, husbands and wives back to their families where they belong — and not overseas risking their lives for others’ profit.  If our government really cared about family values, it would realize that women who have walked the streets of Baghdad in jeans and a t-shirt and who have enjoyed full employment before this war now feel pressured to hide behind a veil and stay at home — for there is so much turmoil and despair in the streets that their safety is now at risk. 

~Abortion

One of the more touchy subjects that divide the population is the stance on abortion.  For anyone who has seen the tragic pictures of the aborted fetuses, this isn’t an issue of money or pollution but a human life.  Yet the subject isn’t so black and white when it comes to the issues that surround it.  One must always look at its history and the role that socio-economic status plays in order to make a sound judgment. 

Abortion was always available to women through predominantly discreet ways.  Women whose families had the monetary backing, would readily reply to sly advertisements for top health services listed in the local paper.  Less affluent women were forced to more extreme and dangerous methods in order to achieve the same results.  If you didn’t have $1,000 cash one hundred years ago, you were on your own to find the means—and risked greater injury and death.


[ An 1845 ad for “French Periodical Pills” warns against use by women who might be “en ciente” (French for pregnant)]

If abortion is once again outlawed, the definite crack running between the haves and the have nots will split further. Those women who have the means will still have the opportunity to receive a higher standard of services whether right here in the states or through services abroad.  Those without the monetary backing can only look forward to a higher possibility of damaged reproductive organs and a higher death rate.

Abortion always existed, and believe it or not, abortion will always exist, whether legal or illegal.  (By the way, keep in mind that there will ultimately be a social upheaval IF abortion is ever outlawed.) When it is legalized, it can be regulated to uphold a certain level of quality standards; if it is not, than it is the poor that are ultimately punished.

If you are against abortion—then great—don’t have one.  If one really wishes to make an impact on the number of abortions performed, then I highly suggest supporting social programs that help these mothers with both financial support and a federal-based program for free child care.  (It would also help if this society changed the way it views single mothers.)  Ironically, it just so happens that most conservatives are also against the same social welfare programs that help support these struggling mothers.

~”No child left behind”

Now this is completely backwards—it calls for giving money to schools that are performing well while withholding money from schools that are performing poorly.  How does this make sense?  Shouldn’t the struggling school receive more funds so that it could get back on its feet? 

In working for an adolescent literacy program, I’ve gotten to know the frustration teachers, principals and most importantly children experience over standardized testing that will determine whether or not their school will have a chance.  To add a second kick to the face, Bush’s latest proposal calls for a budget cut—approximately $300 million dollars—from after school funds and a drastic restructure of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs that would convert it to an unstable voucher program.  After school programs work—they keep kids safe, incite them to learn all while assisting working families.  I suppose our children’s education and their future in tomorrow’s workforce means nothing compared to the need for an unnecessary war.

So, remind me again how the conservatives are promoting “family values”?

– written by Elena Gaudino

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Zeitgeist: Tactical Myths That Control the World

A compilation of the most prominent myths that have misled our culture for centuries. An in-depth look at the world, exposing the abuse of power from the time of the Egyptians to the war in Iraq.

For more information visit www.zeitgeistmovie.com

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Two Years and Waiting

This video, from mid-December, features Jamie Leigh Jones on MSNBC recounting her nightmare.  While working for KBR in Baghdad, a former subsidiary of Halliburton. Jamie was drugged and gang-raped vaginally and anally by a group of co-workers.

It’s been two years since the event happened and still no suspects have been arrested.  As for Jamie, she was told right after the incident that if she reported the rape, she could kiss her job goodbye. Military doctors confirmed that Jamie had been raped but the rape kit “magically” disappeared once it was handed over to KBR security officers.

Ask yourself how many other scenarios like this are occurring that the public is not made aware of – Why this situation has not come to a conclusion–How many other US employees deployed over seas are mistreating, not only American women, but women all over the world.

We’re given this squeaky clean image of the US “Installing Democracy,” some even going so far as to saying the other countries are “lucky” for our intervention. This event is not even the apex–it is the slightly protruding head of a very large submerged iceberg.  We are not fed the truth, we are fed propaganda.  And when brave young women come forth as victims and speak up, their own moral fiber is questioned.

– written by Elena Gaudino

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