Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Jeremy Scahill

AMY GOODMAN: Blackwater has remained relatively quiet in the face of its critics. But last week, the company’s founder, Erik Prince, wrote an article to the Grand Rapids Press in response to a series of articles in the paper on Blackwater. The paper had referred to Jeremy Scahill's book as putting Prince in the national media spotlight. I want to read some of what Erik Prince wrote.
He wrote, "Your story referred to Blackwater as 'arguably the world’s most powerful private army.' The Constitution does not permit the establishment of a private army, and Blackwater's team of highly motivated and capable security professionals serve at the request of the United States government. Furthermore, Blackwater professionals do not engage in offensive missions. You would be correct in calling them a team of bodyguards, but very wrong in using a description of them as a 'private army.'" Jeremy Scahill, your response.
JEREMY SCAHILL: You tell me what nation in the world has operatives deployed in nine other countries around the world, can boast of a force of 20,000 men to call on at a moment's notice, has a fleet of aircrafts. I mean, the nation of Costa Rica doesn't even have a military. So in the case of Blackwater, we're talking about a heavier force than some nation-states of the world.
But on the other issue about Erik Prince saying that they only engage defensive operations, I mean, give me a break. What is more offensive than invading and occupying of a country? Blackwater is at the vanguard of the US occupation of Iraq. They're protecting the people that the Bush administration has sent in to implement the White House agenda in Iraq. I mean, that is an inherently offensive operation.
AMY GOODMAN: In another part of the article or the letter that Erik Prince writes, he says, "Clearly the mercenary label is intended to polarize the discussion and craft the most negative image possible of Blackwater. The highest authority on rhetoric, The Oxford English Dictionary, however, defines 'mercenary' as 'a professional soldier serving a foreign power.'" Erik Prince goes on to say, "Blackwater does not now, nor has it ever, provided security services for or on behalf of any country other than the United States of America."
Jeremy, the title of your book is Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Even I'm actually glad that Mr. Prince put forward that definition of "mercenary." I mean, there's all sorts of definitions that one can apply to the term “mercenary,” but he says it’s a professional soldier serving a foreign power. Now, according to Prince's Op-Ed, it would seem as though Blackwater is just this team of patriotic Americans serving their country. But the fact of the matter is that Blackwater has recruited, hired and deployed mercenaries from countries like Colombia, Chile, Bulgaria, Poland, Fiji -- the list goes on and on.
In the case of Chile, this is a country whose home government is against the war in Iraq, refused to join that coalition of the willing. So the Bush administration was able to turn to Blackwater and the coalition of the billing, to go in and hire up Chilean mercenaries who are professional soldiers serving a foreign power in the employ of Blackwater USA, which is a mercenary company. Blackwater's founder gives the very definition of what Blackwater does. They hire up professional soldiers and enlist them to fight on behalf of a foreign power. So according to his own definition, Blackwater engages in mercenary activities.
As to the other part of it, where Erik Prince is saying that they haven't provided security services for any other country, he may be very narrowly talking about, we haven’t guarded a foreign official or something, but let’s be clear here. Blackwater has gone into Azerbaijan, a nation whose security forces have an atrocious human rights record. They’ve set up a ninety-man Azerbaijani unit with a training program modeled after the US Navy Seals. They set up a command and control center in Baku, which juts out into the Caspian Sea, in Azerbaijan. Blackwater has trained Jordanian attack helicopter forces. So, you know, I’m not sure how Mr. Prince is defining “security” here, but I would say setting up a ninety-man Azerbaijani unit in a country with a very questionable human rights record, that’s providing security services to another country.

That's from "Jeremy Scahill Responds to Blackwater CEO Erik Prince, Visits Blackwater Sites and Prince’s Hometown" on today's Democracy Now! and I want to go back and note Amy Goodman's opening one more time to be sure we absorb it:

He wrote, "Your story referred to Blackwater as 'arguably the world’s most powerful private army.' The Constitution does not permit the establishment of a private army, and Blackwater's team of highly motivated and capable security professionals serve at the request of the United States government. Furthermore, Blackwater professionals do not engage in offensive missions. You would be correct in calling them a team of bodyguards, but very wrong in using a description of them as a 'private army.'"

Is that not a private army? Yes, Prince knows that a private army is banned by the Constitution but what has he just described: "Blackwater . . . serve at the request of the United States government." That is a private army. And they need to be banned from American shores. Yes, their contracts need to be cancelled, no question, but they need to be banned. They are the equivalent of a terrorist training group if you ask me. True, their only belief is in cash, but they will attack anyone if the money is right and we don't need them being housed in our borders. Let me correct that, if federal authorities wish to put Prince behind bars, I'm all for his being housed in America while he serves out a lengthy sentence. Otherwise, he needs to decide whether he wants his company or his country because he shouldn't be allowed to run it out of the United States.

Now let's play fact check on Amy Goodman who needs one for a headline and I'll give her the benefit of the doubt that the mistake was an honest one.

Iran Urged to Release Jailed American ScholarFamily, friends and colleagues of a prominent American scholar imprisoned in Iran are appealing for her release. Haleh Esfandiari was jailed on May 8 after more than four months under virtual house arrest. She is the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Esfandiari is a dual U.S. and Iranian citizen. She went to Iran last year to take care of her 93-year-old mother. This is former Congressmember and Wilson Center director Lee Hamilton.
Lee Hamilton: "The Wilson Center's plea to the Iranian government is simple. Let Haleh go. Let her return to her husband, her family, and her work."

Did you catch the two mistakes? There are others but I'll focus on the two obvious.

1) She went to Iran last year to take care of her 93-year-old mother.

Did that happen? Yes, it did. But not quite the way that sounds. That sounds like Stupid or Spy Haleh is being held over a visit that began last year. That she's been in Iran this entire time. She left Iran in December (with a big incident) and then applied for a passport this year to return. Stating she went there last year makes it sound as though she's been there taking care of her allegedly ill mother. Allegedly because if you read the news today, you caught that her mother has dropped things off at the jail for her daughter so apparently she crawled out of her sick bed to do that?

2) Lee Hamilton: "The Wilson Center's plea to the Iranian government is simple. Let Haleh go. Let her return to her husband, her family, and her work."

Her husband lives in the US. Hamiliton is suggesting that Stupid or Spy would bring her big nose back to the US and stay out of other people's business. This builds on the illusion that she was arrested this month and held after having spent most of this year in Iran caring for her allegedly ill mother.

She was in Iran last year. ** Correction to my correction. C.I. informed today (5-25) that she has been in Iran since December. She did not leave and return. So I've corrected that. As noted yesterday, Lee Hamilton and Condi Rice and many others (others in the administration) serve with her at Woodrow and if her mother was truly ill, the woman could have gotten her into this country with no problem. Allegedly ill mother.

A nosy busybody wants to cause an international incident. She should be on her own. If she's stupid, well let it be a lesson. If she's a spy, you can be sure the US is working on a cover story and seeking her release.

I have no sympathy for idiots (or spies) that cause international incidents. I don't know that I'd even say, "Come back to the US." I think I might have to stress, "If you stick your stupid nose in any other country's business and get arrested, your on your own, you damn busy body."

You can read Cedric's "Busy bodies starting the next illegal war" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! SELLING THE NEXT WAR VIA BUSY BODIES!" for more on the topic. And please read Rebecca's "the gonzales cesspool continues to stink," "we don't stand up for cowards" and "the alberto news" which are wonderful all on their own; however, even more so when you grasp she's dealing with a newborn baby, recovering from giving birth and a host of other issues.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, May 23, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, on the 12th day that 3 US soldiers have been missing it appears 1 of the 3 may have been discovered, Democrats scramble in Congress, the US military announces the deaths of more service members, and a German professor feels the need to tell the American people how stupid they are when it appears the professor is the one with comprehension issues.

Today is day twelve since 3 US soldiers went missing following an attack that killed 4 US soldiers and 1 Iraqi translator. The US military has issued many statements that said very little (but what is there to say when it appears the attack took place as a result of where command stationed the soldiers and the time duration the soldiers were left in place). Though the search for the 3 continues today, one may have been discovered.
Steven R. Hurst (AP) reports that Iraqi police believe they have found one of the missing soldiers, that he is a corpse they found in the Euphrates River today. Paul Tait (Reuters) reports: "The half-naked body had bullet wounds and bore signs of torture. Captain Muthanna al-Maamouri, a police spokesman in the provincial capital Hilla, said there were wounds to the torso and shaved head of the body, which was wearing U.S. Army-issue pants and boots and had a tattoo on the left arm. 'This is one of the missing soldiers,' he said." The US military has yet to confirm that. Howard Schneider and Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) note that the body is now being examined by the US military.

Meanwhile, in the United States, Congressional Democrats attempt to deal with the fact that leadership has caved.
US News and World Reports observes that "their concession to the White House has angered anti-war activists and lawmakers, who are now expected to oppose the legislation." This is the legislation that, despite some denials from leadership, leadership crafted. It removes the non-binding, toothless calls for withdrawal and even the appearance of substance while giving Bully Boy everything he asked for and stacking up pork such as relief for those suffering from Hurricane Katrina, a slight spike in the minimum wage and funding children's health care. Nancy Pelosi is the US Speaker of the House so it's a bit hard to swallow many of her statements. Carl Hulse (New York Times) quotes her stating of the new legislation, "I would never vote for such a thing." Shailagh Murray (Washington Post) quotes Pelosi declaring, "I'm not likely to vote for something that doesn't have a timetable." Two questions here. First, how does a party push through legislation without the Speaker's approval? Second, why did she allow Steny Hoyer (House majority leader -- whom she outranks) to take to the airwaves yesterday declaring the sell out to be "an agreement"? US Senator Russ Feingold issued a statement yesterday and we'll note this from it, "I cannot support a bill that contains nothing more than toothless benchmarks and that allows the President to continue what may be the greatest foreign policy blunder in our nation's history. There has been a lot of tough talk from members of Congress about wanting to end this war, but it looks like the desire for political comfort won out over real action. Congress should have stood strong, acknowledged the will of the American people, and insisted on a bill requiring a real change of course in Iraq." As did Dennis Kucinich, US House Rep and 2008 presidential candidate, "If this is true, and I hope it is not, it tells American workers that the only way they will get an increase in wages is to continue to support funding the war which is taking the lives of their sons and daughters. First blood for oil. Now a minimum wage for maximum blood. Aren't the American people giving enough blood for this war without having to give more to have a wage increase? What's happened to our country? We are losing our moral compass. We're losing our sense of justice. We're losing touch with the difference between right and wrong. We do not have to fund this war. We must leave Iraq now. Support our troops and bring them home. HR 1234 is a plan to end the war and stabilize Iraq and give Iraqis control of their oil. We must take a new path. We must take a path of truth and justice." Kucinich will hold a press conference tomorrow (Thursday) on this topic at the Cannon Terrace and be joined by Antonia Juhasz and Denice Lombar (US Labor Against the War). Today, he spoke on the House floor about the privatization of Iraqi oil (from "This war is about oil. We must not be party to the Administration's blatant attempt to set the stage for multinational oil companies to take over Iraq's oil resources. The Administration set several benchmarks for the Iraqi government, including passage of the 'Hydrocarbon Law' by the Iraqi Parliament. And many inside the beltway are contemplating linking funding for the war in Iraq to the completion of these benchmarks, including passage of the 'Hydrocarbon Law' by the Iraqi Parliament. The Administration has once again misled Congress by mislabeling the draft law as an oil revenues distribution law, just as the Administration misled Congress about the Iraq war. The war in Iraq is a stain on American history. Let us not further besmirch our nation by participating in the outrageous exploitation of a nation which is in shambles due to U.S. intervention."

US House Rep Lynn Woolsey predicts much less support for this bill and believes leadership will have to count on cross-over votes from Republicans for it to pass.
She tells Mike Soraghan (The Hill), "The anti-war Democrats have reached their tipping point. It's going to take Republican votes to pass it."

As Democrats cave, those who stand up find themselves punished. From "
Legal Defense Fund for Adam Kokesh:"

Dear Friend of
Iraq Veterans Against the War,
My name is Adam Kokesh and I need your help. Because of my involvement in IVAW, I have been singled out and called for a military hearing to be made an example of for those of us who have spoken out against the war. I have been an active member of IVAW for a mere four months, but have already garnered enough attention to be perceived as a threat by those using our military to maintain political support for the occupation of Iraq.
I was honorably discharged after serving over six years, and two tours in Iraq, last November. I am part of the Inactive Ready Reserve until June 18, 2007, less than a month away. After my discharge, I moved to Washington, DC to get a Masters in Political Management at GWU, and joined IVAW. I have since appeared on behalf of IVAW speaking at concerts, universities, and high schools. I have written about my views on the occupation and my military experience for the IVAW website and on my
Most notably, I participated in Operation First Casualty on March 19th. This was a mock combat patrol through Washington, DC in order to bring home the truth of the occupation of Iraq, because the first casualty of war is the truth. I appeared in my uniform, without my name, without rank, and without the patch that says US MARINES. I received an email of warning about possible violations of the UCMJ for appearing in uniform at a political event. Instead of ignoring it like everyone I know who has received similar emails, I wrote a strongly worded reply admonishing the Major who was "investigating" me for wasting time on such trivial matters. The text of that email is posted
I soon received a package from the Marine Corps informing me of a separation hearing to re-separate me with an Other Than Honorable Discharge. A scan of the complete package can be seen here. I have sought private counsel for this hearing, as is my right. I intend to bring as many witnesses as possible to testify to both the character of my service and the nature of my involvement with IVAW. The Marine Corps only made it known to us today that the hearing will be held on June 4, in a mere 13 days. They have also decided to activate me for the hearing and hold it in Kansas City, home of the Marine Corps Mobilization Command.
This case is important because the intimidation of servicemen and women who speak out will suppress the truth about the Iraq occupation. With the help of IVAW, I intend to fight this to the end and stand up for the rights of all members of our armed forces. Please support this effort by mailing a check made out to IVAW with "Adam Kokesh Legal Defense Fund" in the memo to PO Box 8296, Philadelphia, PA 19101 or by going
here, clicking on "Donate Now" and including "Adam Kokesh Legal Defense Fund" in the Special Project Support window. Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments.
Adam Kokesh

Unlike Congress, Iraq Veterans Against the War are working to end the illegal war. And they continue to show support for resisters within the military such as Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

On a day when
at least 104 Iraqis were killed or found dead, ending the illegal war is more important then Congressional leadership appears to grasp.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack near the Al Bishara hospital the took 3 lives and left fourteen wounded, a mortar attack on Baghdad's National Theater wounded one person, a Baghdad explosion killed 1 Iraq solider and left 3 more wounded, a bombing in Mandali that killed 8 people and left twenty-four wounded and a mortar attack in Kanan that left three wounded. Reuters raises the death toll of the Mandali bombing from 8 to 20 and notes a Samarra bombing that claimed the lives of 5 police officers, a Mosul mortar attack that wounded eight people, a Jbela car bombing that killed 3 and left fifteen wounded, a Khan Bani Saad mortar attack in which 3 children lost their lives.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a clash between unidentified assailants and Iraq and US forces in Baghdad's Sinak market led to the deaths of 5 innocent civilians with seventeen more wounded, while Col. Talal Kareem was shot dead elsewhere in Baghdad, 2 Iraqi soldiers were wounded from gunfire in south Baghdad, Salim Hassan Abbas was shot dead "near the ministry of the Labor and Social Affairs," and a police officer shot dead in Al Muqdadiyah. Reuters notes a Kurdistan Democratic Party member and a police officer both shot dead in Mosul (the officer's wife was wounded).


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 30 corpses were discoved in Baghdad and 1 in Al Khalis. Reuters notes the corpse of an iman discovered in Sunni Arab Buhriz, 3 corpses discovered in Baiji, and five corpses discovered in Ramadi.

Today the
US military announced: "Two Marines assigned to Multi National Force-West were killed May 22 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." And they announced: "Two Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed in Baghdad Province, Tuesday when an explosion occurred near their vehicle." And they announced: "An MND-B Soldier was killed when his patrol was attacked with small arms fire in a western section of the Iraqi capital May 22." And they announced: "Three Multinational Division Center Soldiers were killed and two were wounded in action when their patrol was struck by multiple improvised explosive devices May 21. An interpreter was also wounded in the attack."

And why does the war drag on? Because of 'helpful' voices like Nivien Saleh who,
writing at CounterPunch, lectures in a way that may make Arizona institutions proud but should make those opposed to the war shiver. "Let me elaborate on these two points," the professor offers even though no one asked, "starting with the idea, at home in numerous Internet blogs, that Iraqis are to blame for their fate." Unlike the professor, I don't have all the time in the world to surf blogs. I'm focused on trying to end the war. But I don't need to surf to know where that 'logic' came from -- the White House, Congress, the laughable but much applauded by the press Hamilton-Baker Study (aka The Iraq Circle Jerk). Blogers make for easy strawmen and strawwomen, they are not the ones who advanced this argument. But it's quite a bit easier to tear into (unnamed) bloggers than it is to go after the true architects of the Blame Iraqis push. Saleh then goes on to share, "Well the number of those whose lives have been lost is far greater than 3,200." Yes, it is. And the total count for US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war is 3431. That is greater than 3,200. But Saleh, who apparent doesn't feel too concerned about getting the number of US service members who have died correct, wants to lecture about the number of Iraqis who have died and the number she elects to go with is the laughable "more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians" when the reality is that The Lancet Study last year revealed that it was over 655,000. While that is "more than 100,000," the professor's lecture is marred by the fact that she has little grasp on reality or the facts. The US military and administration originally announced that they would not keep figures on the Iraqi dead. That's the biggest reason that Americans have no idea how many have died. Now, as Nancy Youseff revealed the last week that Knight-Ridder was still Knight-Ridder, the US military does in fact keep a tally. That tally, like their salaries, are paid for with US tax dollars and there should have been a huge outcry that the government reveal those numbers. Instead, nothing. So many Americans have no idea how many have died. Many outlets back away from The Lancet's figures (in fact, the professor refuses to use them as well) and what you're left with is one mainstream outlet says X number have died, another says Y, another says it's impossible to estimate and the American public, as a whole, is left confused which, indeed, was the intent of the administration when they made the decision not to keep a public record of the number of Iraqis who have died. The professor misses that point as well but possibly we should all be grateful she didn't pin that on (unnamed) bloggers as well? The professor writes as someone late to the party, who brought no gift and is keen on ignoring most guests while she attempts to discern the power circle and cozy up to that. A student turning in such a paper could (and should) expect to have it returned heavily marked up for the various elements that her sweeping generalizations overlook. We'll get back to that in a moment. But, for now, let's make the very important point that when you go to any country and start making claims about the people of that country, you are in danger of stereotyping. The American people are not as dumb or as uncaring as the professor needs for them to be in order for her points to be accurate. As she tears apart the American people, while avoiding calling out the organs of power (White House, Congress, the press, think tanks, et al) who sold the war, you grasp that the strongest indictment of American in her paper may be the fact that Northern Arizona University considers her work to sufficiently academic. That, and that alone, is the only (indirect) indictment made in her explosions of words which, for the record, demonstrate that even those opposed to the war can traffic in Nazi symbolism in an attempt to make a point as evidenced by her opening paragraph.

The professor spews, "Washington's pundits, politicians, and bureaucrats, point fingers at each other, deflecting responsibility for the invasion from themselves towards their counterparts. As they do so, the various mistakes that were committed prior to the war are coming to light. The government and its neoconservative allies were war hungry. The CIA did poor research. Journalists that supplied the Washington, DC, 'beltway bubble' with news swallowed information that came from the White House without checking alternative sources. Members of Congress forgot the lessons of the Gulf of Tonkin and yielded decisions over war and peace to the president. Citizens failed to demand of their leaders and their media that they provide good analysis." Why should the media provide good analysis when the professor can't?

Originally airing two Fridays ago, an episode of
Bill Moyers Journal dealt with this when historian Marilyn Young (co-editor of Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam) debunked the lies of the administration and explained how the lies still got traction, all this time later. From Ava and my "TV: The 'boys' are back in town" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):

A clip is shown of The Charlie Rose Show where Condi Rice lies through her teeth and sidesteps every question while Rose allows one lie after another to go unchallenged. Moyers thought it was great journalism, Young didn't and pointed out that Condi continues to get away with lying in public "because she remains a person of authority; because she is absolutely amazingly implacable in her re-statement, statement and re-statement of half-truths and outright lies. And that kind of certainty in one's own authority and the correctness of one's own position can look very persuasive, especially on TV, especially when you're not pressed." (Our emphasis.)Moyers attempted to rush to his protege's rescue insisting, "Charlie did keep coming back to her, trying to get her to talk about this" but Young cut him off with, "What he came back to over and over again was an exit strategy. And she said, as they've all been saying, there is no plan B. We're going to succeed with plan A."

Who was right?


She brilliantly demolished every one of Condi's lies. The 'we were all wrong' myth sailed over Rose's head as Condi lied that "it wasn't just America's intelligence services, of course, that thought that he had weapons of mass destruction; this was a worldwide intelligence problem, because the UN thought he had weapons of mass destruction." Rose just sat there. Young noted (to Moyers), "The Germans looked into it and said, you know what? Your information is wrong, it's useless. So there were other intelligence services involved, but they disagreed with ours, which she didn't say. Then she said the U.N. thought there were WMD's. But that's for people with really bad short term memory loss. Because Hans Blix, who was in the U.N. as inspector, was quite persuaded that in fact, there were no weapons of mass destruction."

Condi told Rose, "The United States is in Iraq because the Iraqi Government asked us to be there and they asked us (inaudible) a UN Security Council mandate." Rose didn't challenge it. Young offered reality (to Moyers), "The most extraordinary one, though, the really one that just takes my breath away, is where she says we're in Iraq because the Iraqi government invited us there. And we're there under a U.N. mandate. Saddam Hussein certainly didn't invite us in. And the UN mandate that she refers to, it's a resolution, it's not a mandate-- it says, after all, we're all agreed that everyone should help in the reconstruction of Iraq. That's all. It's not a mandate for occupation, at all."

That goes to the reality of how the war was sold and how it still is sold and there's no need to rush to blame (unnamed) bloggers or the American people -- which the professor does while letting those in power off with a pass. Strangely, while arguing that the US places too much importance upon Americans, the professor starts off her essay noting a lamp shade made from Jewish skin but instead of exploring the Holocaust, she's off wondering about the German government, her grandparents, etc. Possibly, one who wants to lecture Americans on the importance of acknowledging the victims of war (something that many Americans do although they might not make the professor's TV screen), the professor shows no interest in the victims of the Holocaust. The above was addressed at the request of
Mike and his poli sci professor (thanks to both). And those wondering why this community does not rush to shore up the temporarily brave should refer to Rebecca's "we don't stand up for cowards."

antonia juhasz