Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Maureen Dowd as Rorschach Test

This post is written in response to a post by Jay Rosen over at PressThink

I will gladly confess to my share of culture war exchanges in your comments section (most of them a year or two ago by my calculation), but from my perspective (self-analysis of course always being potentially distorted) this was not a very classic case. I thought of it much more as an incidental pretext for debate than a "weigh in on this topic because the opposition has jumped in" situation. It was a comment that said, "I think there may be another side to this that maps it more clearly in relation to the culture wars," but I believe I did so in a relatively conversational and unthreatening tone.

I do agree with your premise that Dowd was a pretext of sorts, ultimately of only incidental concern, but I certainly didn't see her remarks as taking place on a stage cast with characters that demanded any sort of reflex response on my part because they are agents of an opposed party.

I had mentioned in the previous thread that I have no use for Dowd and at the head of comment #1 that I generally have contempt for her. In the comment itself I described her as "mumbling" and characterized her remarks as suggesting the interpretation I was laying out "to the degree they were intelligible at all." So I probably was not very accurate when I described myself as "defending Dowd."

In a way, our discussion of Dowd's Meet the Press appearance, was very much like a debate over the meaning of a blob on a Rorschach test. I was responding to a combination of the Dowd blob and your very brief remark about it.

I think of myself as agreeing with you about as often as I disagree with you, so I hardly jumped in to defend Dowd's remarks because of "the identity of her attackers." Since I have so little emotional investment in Dowd, I actually didn't even see you as attacking her. My characterization of her as mumbling and nearly unintelligible demonstrates basic agreement with you on that point.

I saw myself as simply disagreeing with your reading of the Dowd Rorschach test. You shook your head at her general incoherence and incompetence and how sad it was that she seemed to imagine this might be some kind of critique in terms of economic class.

In essence, in my frustration with the continual failure to seriously address class in major US media I tried to interpret Dowd's gesture toward Bush's compulsive denial of privilege and inherited economic class (we all know he's pretty good at cultural class) as expressing my own personal view which I proceeded to lay out in post #1. I overinterpreted Maureen Dowd's rambling in such a way that I could find my own voice expressed there (at the time I thought I actually found a hint of it there), as a pretext to have an exchange with you over the point.

I read your remark as suggesting that absent sociological or economic analysis, serious discussions or class-based critiques can't happen, therefore what Dowd was spouting was bankrupt.

I was approaching it from the perspective of someone like Thomas Frank. From this perspective, a cardinal principle of the conservative culture war is to refuse economic categories and replace them with talk of personality, morality, and religion. I don't have you pegged as necessarily on one side of this issue as opposed to the other, so I did not respond to you as a marked opponent "on the other side" that I must reflexively oppose.

I understood myself to be saying, "Your remark here suggests you were not registering awareness of a culture war trap that seriously concerns me. Doesn't an alternative reading of Dowd's remarks raise this issue?"

Rather than attacking you, I saw myself presenting an alternative direction to go with it. I was thinking of it as a conversation rather than a smack down.

The second post didn't actually involve any further examination of what Dowd said or seeing footage of the debacle. It resulted from my gradually registering the obvious fact that Maureen Dowd would be constitutionally incapable of making the argument I was making and that even to imagine she suggested such a thing was wishful thinking.

The wishful thinking part of the post then, was to so desperately want to hear a voice in the MSM desert express a point I would like to hear expressed that I was temporarily willing to imagine that EVEN MAUREEN DOWD might accidently have suggested something along those lines.

I think it was pretty clear from my first post alone that I believed it could only have been accident or chance that Maureen Dowd happened to suggest something worth defending. I meant to defend the idea she suggested to me at the time, not Maureen Dowd.

I'm willing to wager my desperation to hear my own voice reflected in the MSM debate even if it required turning Maureen Dowd into a ventriloquist 's dummy IS related to how the culture wars play out at some level.

My willingness to jump to conclusions about what your brief comment about Dowd may have implied is probably also part of the picture, but seizing on moments like that is really part of how conversation works in any context. If my response misinterpreted you so badly as to be mistaken or simply irrelevant, my jumping to a conclusion should clarify that pretty quickly. I do think comment threads make this unremarkable part of the average conversation sound much more antagonistic than the very same words would in person.

I don't see my post as being particularly connected to your assumption that I was jumping in to oppose a marked opposition. I meant to be debating an idea rather than a person and I didn't register anyone else commenting on the thread at the time as particularly or actively promoting an opposed idea.

I suppose the other deep way in which this experience intersects with the culture wars is simply the sheer range of ways publicly posted remarks can be taken up and responded to, often times without the remotest connection to the intention with which they were originally offered. Hopefully this post maintains at least a remote connection to your intention of thinking through contemporary press culture and our rapidly evolving interface with it.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Operation Iraqi Freedom to Be Tortured American Style


On their day off people would show up all the time. Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC tent.1 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, a metal bat. He was the fucking cook. He shouldn’t be in with no PUCs.
— 82nd Airborne sergeant, describing events at FOB Mercury, Iraq
If I as an officer think we’re not even following the Geneva Conventions, there’s something wrong. If officers witness all these things happening, and don’t take action, there’s something wrong. If another West Pointer tells me he thinks, “Well, hitting somebody might be okay,” there’s something wrong.
— 82nd Airborne officer, describing confusion in Iraq concerning allowable interrogation techniques

Residents of Fallujah called them “the Murderous Maniacs” because of how they treated Iraqis in detention. They were soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, stationed at Forward Operating Base Mercury (FOB Mercury) in Iraq. The soldiers considered this name a badge of honor.2

One officer and two non-commissioned officers (NCOs) of the 82nd Airborne who witnessed abuse, speaking on condition of anonymity, described in multiple interviews with Human Rights Watch how their battalion in 2003-2004 routinely used physical and mental torture as a means of intelligence gathering and for stress relief. One soldier raised his concerns within the army chain of command for 17 months before the Army agreed to undertake an investigation, but only after he had contacted members of Congress and considered goingpublic with the story.

According to their accounts, the torture and other mistreatment of Iraqis in detention was systematic and was known at varying levels of command. Military Intelligence personnel, they said, directed and encouraged army personnel to subject prisoners to forced, repetitive exercise, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness, sleep deprivation for days on end, and exposure to extremes of heat and cold as part of the interrogation process. At least one interrogator beat detainees in front of other soldiers. Soldiers also incorporated daily beatings of detainees in preparation for interrogations. Civilians believed to be from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) conducted interrogations out of sight, but not earshot, of soldiers, who heard what they believed were abusive interrogations.

All three soldiers expressed confusion on the proper application of the Geneva Conventions on the laws of armed conflict in the treatment of prisoners. All had served in Afghanistan prior to Iraq and said that contradictory statements by U.S. officials regarding the applicability of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan and Iraq (see Conclusion) contributed to their confusion, and ultimately to how they treated prisoners. Although none were still in Iraq when we interviewed them, the NCOs said they believed the practices continue.

The soldiers came forward because of what they described as deep frustration with the military chain of command’s failure to view the abuses as symptomatic of broader failures of leadership and respond accordingly. All three are active duty soldiers who wish to continue their military careers. A fax letter, e-mail, and repeated phone calls to the 82nd Airborne Division regarding the major allegations in the report received no response.

When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in April 2004, senior officials in the Bush administration claimed that severe prisoner abuse was committed only by a few, rogue, poorly trained reserve personnel at a single facility in Iraq. But since then, hundreds of other cases of abuse from Iraq and Afghanistan have come to light, described in U.S. government documents, reports of the International Committee of the Red Cross, media reports, legal documents filed by detainees, and from detainee accounts provided to human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch. 3 And while the military has launched investigations and prosecutions of lower-ranking personnel for detainee abuse, in most cases the military has used closed administrative hearings to hand down light administrative punishments like pay reductions and reprimands, instead of criminal prosecutions before courts-martial. The military has made no effort to conduct a broader criminal investigation focusing on how military command might have been involved in reported abuse, and the administration continues to insist that reported abuse had nothing to do with the administration’s decisions on the applicability of the Geneva Conventions or with any approved interrogation techniques.

These soldiers’ firsthand accounts provide further evidence contradicting claims that abuse of detainees by U.S. forces was isolated or spontaneous. The accounts here suggest that the mistreatment of prisoners by the U.S. military is even more widespread than has been acknowledged to date, including among troops belonging to some of the best trained, most decorated, and highly respected units in the U.S. Army. They describe in vivid terms abusive interrogation techniques ordered by Military Intelligence personnel and known to superior officers.

Most important, they demonstrate that U.S. troops on the battlefield were given no clear guidance on how to treat detainees. When the administration sent these soldiers to war in Afghanistan, it threw out the rules they were trained to uphold (embodied in the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation). Instead, President Bush said only that detainees be treated "humanely," not as a requirement of the law but as policy. And no steps were taken to define what humane was supposed to mean in practice.4 Once in Iraq, their commanders demanded that they extract intelligence from detainees without telling them what was allowed and what was forbidden. Yet when abuses inevitably followed, the administration blamed only low-ranking soldiers instead of taking responsibility.

These soldiers' accounts show how the administration's refusal to insist on adherence to a lawful, long-recognized, and well-defined standard of treatment contributed to the torture of prisoners. It also shows how that policy betrayed the soldiers in the field—sowing confusion in the ranks, exposing them to legal sanction when abuses occurred, and placing in an impossible position all those who wished to behave honorably.

* * *

The officer and NCOs interviewed by Human Rights Watch say that torture of detainees took place almost daily at FOB Mercury during their entire deployment there, from September 2003 to April 2004. While two of the soldiers also reported abuses at FOB Tiger, near the Syrian border, the most egregious incidents allegedly took place at FOB Mercury. The acts of torture and other cruel or inhuman treatment they described include severe beatings (in one incident, a soldier reportedly broke a detainee’s leg with a baseball bat), blows and kicks to the face, chest, abdomen, and extremities, and repeated kicks to various parts of the detainees’ body; the application of chemical substances to exposed skin and eyes; forced stress positions, such as holding heavy water jugs with arms outstretched, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness; sleep deprivation; subjecting detainees to extremes of hot and cold; the stacking of detainees into human pyramids; and, the withholding of food (beyond crackers) and water.

According to Army Field Manual 19-4 covering enemy prisoner of war operations, Military Police have responsibility for safeguarding, accounting for, and maintaining captives. The soldiers interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that established procedure was violated by having frontline soldiers guard and prepare detainees for interrogation, instead of speeding detainees to a rear area where they would be looked after by trained Military Police.

Detainees in Iraq were consistently referred to as PUCs. This term was devised in Afghanistan to take the place of the traditional designation of Prisoner of War (POW), after President Bush decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply there. It carried over to Iraq, even though the U.S. military command and the Bush administration have continually stated that the Geneva Conventions are in effect. Although not all persons captured on a battlefield are entitled to Prisoner of War (POW) status, U.S. military doctrine interprets the Geneva Conventions as requiring that all captured persons be treated as POWs unless and until a “competent tribunal” determines otherwise.5

Detainees at FOB Mercury were held in so-called “PUC tents, which were separated from the rest of the base by concertina wire. Detainees typically spent three days at the base before being released or sent to Abu Ghraib. Officers in the Military Intelligence unit and officers in charge of the guards directed the treatment of detainees. Soldiers told us that detainees who did not cooperate with interrogators were sometimes denied water and given only crackers to eat, and were often beaten. There was little done to hide the mistreatment of detainees: one of the soldiers we interviewed observed torture when he brought newly captured Iraqis to the PUC tents.

The torture of detainees reportedly was so widespread and accepted that it became a means of stress relief for soldiers. Soldiers said they felt welcome to come to the PUC tent on their off-hours to “Fuck a PUC” or “Smoke a PUC.” “Fucking a PUC” referred to beating a detainee, while “Smoking a PUC” referred to forced physical exertion sometimes to the point of unconsciousness. The soldiers said that when a detainee had a visible injury such as a broken limb due to “fucking” or “smoking,” an army physician’s assistant would be called to administer an analgesic and fill out the proper paperwork. They said those responsible would state that the detainee was injured during the process of capture and the physician’s assistant would sign off on this. Broken bones occurred “every other week” at FOB Mercury.

“Smoking” was not limited to stress relief but was central to the interrogation system employed by the 82nd Airborne Division at FOB Mercury. Officers and NCOs from the Military Intelligence unit would direct guards to “smoke” the detainees prior to an interrogation, and would direct that certain detainees were not to receive sleep, water, or food beyond crackers. Directed “smoking” would last for the 12-24 hours prior to an interrogation. As one soldier put it: “[the military intelligence officer] said he wanted the PUCs so fatigued, so smoked, so demoralized that they want to cooperate.”

The soldiers believed that about half of the detainees at Camp Mercury were released because they were not involved in the insurgency, but they left with the physical and mental scars of torture. “If he’s a good guy, you know, now he’s a bad guy because of the way we treated him,” one sergeant told Human Rights Watch.

The soldiers with whom Human Rights Watch spoke had served as guards in Afghanistan and had observed interrogations at FOB Tiger in Iraq, and said that civilian interrogators at those locations had also used coercive methods against prisoners. These interrogators were always referred to by the U.S. military abbreviation OGA, which stands for “Other Government Agencies.” It was assumed that such persons were with the CIA, but because OGA also includes other civilian agencies, the soldiers with whom Human Rights Watch spoke said they could not be sure.

Soldiers generally had less direct access to OGA interrogations, in part because OGA personnel often took detainees to an isolated building and were generally more careful about being seen. But the soldiers who had watched OGA interrogations in Afghanistan said that soldiers applied in Iraq some of the techniques they learned from the OGA, including forced stress positions, sleep deprivation, and exposure. At FOB Tiger, the officer said, he heard the sounds of physical violence coming from rooms where OGA interrogations were being held, but without being present in the room could not know whether the sounds were real or simulated. The soldiers said that civilian interrogators sometimes removed prisoners from detention facilities and took the paperwork that indicated a detainee was being held, apparently “disappearing” that detainee.6

The officer who spoke to Human Rights Watch made persistent efforts to raise concerns he had with superior officers up the chain of command and to obtain clearer rules on the proper treatment of prisoners. When he raised the issue with superiors, he was consistently told to keep his mouth shut, turn a blind eye, or consider his career. When he sought clearer procedures from general officers, he was told merely to use his judgment.

Altogether this officer said he spent 17 months trying to clarify rules for prisoner treatment while seeking a meaningful investigation. He explained at length how he openly had brought his complaint directly up the chain-of-command, from his direct commanding officer, to the division commander, to the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) office, and finally to members of the U.S. Congress. In many cases, he was encouraged to keep his concerns quiet; his brigade commander, for example, rebuffed him when he asked for an investigation into these allegations of abuse. He believes he was not taken seriously until he began to approach members of Congress, and, indeed, just days before the publication of this report he was told that he would not be granted a pass to meet on his day off with staff members of U.S. Senators John McCain and John Warner. He said he was told that he was being naïve and that he was risking his career.

Human Rights Watch welcomes reports that the Army has agreed to investigate the abuses discussed in this report. We are concerned however those investigations will only focus on low-level soldiers and officers, instead of looking as far as necessary up the chain of command. We are also concerned that military personnel who come forward to report abuses will find their careers suffer, as their commanding officers implied they would, rather than be commended for doing their duty.

If FOB Mercury is not to become one more in an expanding series of U.S. detention facilities associated with brutality and degrading treatment, further tarnishing the reputation of the U.S. armed forces, the policy failures must be faced head-on and the most senior responsible officials held accountable.

Accordingly, Human Rights Watch urges the following:

  • The U.S. Attorney General should appoint a special counsel to investigate any U.S. officials—no matter their rank or position—who have participated in, ordered, or had command responsibility for war crimes or torture, or other prohibited ill-treatment against detainees in U.S. custody.7
  • The U.S. Congress should create a special commission, along the lines of the 9/11 commission, to investigate the issue of detainee abuse by U.S. military and civilians personnel abroad, including the incidents described here, as proposed in legislation sponsored by Senator Carl Levin.
  • Congress should enact legislation along the lines proposed by Senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and John Warner, which would prohibit any forms of detainee treatment and interrogation not specifically authorized by the U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation, and not consistent with the Convention Against Torture. Such legislation must cover not only military units but also civilian agencies involved in interrogations, such as the CIA.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense should conduct a thorough investigation of the allegations made in this report at all levels of the chain of command. Such an investigation must not be limited to lower-ranking enlisted personnel and officers, but must include higher-ranking officers and civilian officials linked to policies that directed, encouraged or tolerated such abuse. Measures should be taken to ensure that soldiers who bring forward credible allegations of detainee abuse are not in any way punished for their actions.
  • The 82nd Airborne Division should implement measures to ensure the immediate investigation of credible allegations of detainee abuse.

Note on Presentation of the Soldiers’ Accounts

All three accounts below consist of direct quotes from the soldiers. Each of the soldiers was interviewed more than once. For the sake of clarity and to avoid repetition, Human Rights Watch has edited and rearranged specific passages in the accounts.

[1] “Person Under Control” or PUC (pronounced “puck”) is the term used by U.S. military forces to refer to Iraqi detainees.

[2] FOB Mercury is located approximately 10 miles east of Fallujah, a center of the insurgency at the time. U.S. forces came under intense attacks in and around Fallujah, placing them under constant pressure and at high risk in daily combat. As soon as the 82nd pulled out of FOB Mercury in April 2004, the U.S. Marines that replaced the 82nd undertook a major offensive against insurgents in Fallujah.

[3] See Human Rights Watch, “Getting Away with Torture?: Command Responsibility for the U.S. Abuse of Detainees,” A Human Rights Watch Report, April 2005, Section II (A World of Abuse), available at: hrw.org/reports/2005/us0405/4.htm#_Toc101408092. See also, International Committee of the Red Cross, “Report on the Treatment by the Coalition Forces of Prisoners of War and Other Protected Persons, February 2004, available at: http://www.health-now.org/mediafiles/mediafile50.pdf (describing detainee abuse in locations across Iraq, including sites in Baghdad, Al-Khaim, Tikrit, Ramadi, and at Abu Ghraib, at p 7); Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt, “The Conflict in Iraq: Detainees; U.S. Military Says 26 Inmate Deaths May Be Homicide,” The New York Times, March 16, 2005 (describing cases of detainee homicide occurring in areas across Afghanistan and Iraq). On Afghanistan-related abuses, see Human Rights Watch, “Enduring Freedom: Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan,” A Human Rights Watch Report, March 2004, available at hrw.org/reports/2004/afghanistan0304/; Human Rights Watch to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, open letter, December 13, 2004, available at: www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/12/10/afghan9838.htm. On Iraq-related abuses, see Major General Antonio M. Taguba, “Article 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade,” March 2004 (describing “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib prison, constituting “systematic and illegal abuse of detainees,” at p. 16); Major George R. Fay, “Article 15-6 Investigation of the Abu Ghraib Detention Facility and 205th Military Intelligence Brigade,” (Documenting 44 allegations of war crimes at Abu Ghraib). On Guantánamo-related abuses, see also Human Rights Watch, “Guantánamo: Detainee Accounts,” A Human Rights Watch Backgrounder, October 2004, http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/usa/gitmo1004/. See also, Paisley Dodds, “Guantánamo Tapes Show Teams Punching, Stripping Prisoners,” Associated Press, February 1, 2005; Neil A. Lewis, “Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo,” The New York Times, November 30, 2004.

[4] See Timothy Flanigan, written responses to questions submitted by U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, following Flanigan’s confirmation hearing to be Deputy Attorney General of the United States on July 26, 2005. Flanigan, who was Deputy White House Counsel when President Bush issued his order requiring “humane treatment” of detainees, stated: “I do not believe the term ‘inhumane’ treatment is susceptible to succinct definition.” In a further exchange with Senator Durbin, Flanigan stated that: “I am not aware of any guidance provided by the White House specifically related to the meaning of ‘inhumane treatment.’”

[5] Maj. J. Berger, Maj Derek Grims, Maj Eric Jensen (Eds.) Operational Law Handbook, International and Operational Law Department, Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, Charlottesville Virginia, 2004, p. 26.

[6] According to the U.N. Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (1992), enforced disappearances occur when:

persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government, … followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.

[7] To allow the special prosecutor to have full authority to investigate and prosecute both federal law and Uniform Code of Military Justice violations, the Secretary of Defense should appoint a consolidated convening authority for all armed services, to cooperate with the appointed civilian special prosecutor.

Why Immediate Withdrawal Makes Sense

Michael Schwartz:
That we are in a military quagmire in Iraq has become a fact of life among Americans of all political persuasions. Though Administration officials still sometimes speak of troop reductions in early 2006, and some top military men clearly no longer endorse "staying the course," the muted voices of reason within the military and the State Department still talk in terms of a three-to-five year drawdown of forces followed by the "sustained presence of a large American contingent, perhaps 50,000 soldiers," to be housed in the huge permanent bases the U.S. is continuing to construct and upgrade in Iraq. In addition, Gen. John P. Jumper, the Air Force Chief of Staff, recently told New York Times reporter Eric Schmitt that U.S. air power would be flying combat missions inside Iraq "more of less indefinitely."

Many in the anti-war movement, despite the high-intensity moments generated by Camp Casey and Cindy Sheehan's demand that President Bush at least meet with her "before another mother's son dies in Iraq," also seem increasingly resigned to a long-term military engagement with Iraq. While most continue to advocate the "immediate withdrawal" of American troops, such calls are uttered with little sense of hope. In fact, there appears to be a growing feeling that any form of "immediate" withdrawal will prove a thoroughly unsatisfactory option, destined only to intensify the present chaos in Iraq, trigger a civil war, and/or unleash a round of ethnic violence that could escalate to levels of near-genocidal mass murder. Instead, ever more critics of Bush's Iraqi adventure are proposing "phased" withdrawal scenarios that could keep American troops at the ready for years to prevent the Iraqi pressure cooker from blowing its top.

Many of these cautious withdrawal scenarios are advocated by staunch opponents of the war. I am thinking, in particular, of Juan Cole, the most widely respected antiwar voice, and Robert Dreyfuss, a thoughtful critic of the war who publishes regularly at the independent website Tompaine.com as well as in the Nation and Mother Jones. Both have offered forceful warnings against a hasty American withdrawal, advocating instead that U.S. forces be pulled out in stages and only as the threat of civil war recedes. Dreyfuss expresses the thinking of many antiwar activists thusly:

"They worry that if the United States withdraws from Iraq, the result will be an all-out civil war among three major ethnic and religious blocs. (It's facile to argue that Iraq is already wracked by civil war; yes, there is widespread terrorism, a guerrilla war against the U.S. occupation forces, and periodic clashes between Sunnis and Shiites. But it hasn't reached anything like civil war proportions yet, and it might: Things could get far, far worse.) Maybe it's too late for the United States to be able to do anything to prevent the outbreak of such a catastrophic civil conflict. But because there is so much at stake, it's worth a try."

Cole captures the same logic in a phrase: "All it would take would be for Sunni Arab guerrillas to assassinate Grand Ayatollah Sistani. And, boom"

And they are right. Black Wednesday, September 14, with its 12 Baghdad car bombs, killing at least 160 Iraqis, and wounding upward of 600, offered a flash of civil-war-level violence. Ordinarily, Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence accounts, on average, for fewer than 100 civilian deaths a week. This was true even during the car-bomb offensive just after the January elections. If a Black Wednesday occurred every week, the death toll from such violence might reach 15,000 per year, and we could start talking about a real civil war. So things could indeed get much worse.

But where Dreyfuss and Cole are mistaken is in concluding that U.S. forces can be part of an effort "to prevent the outbreak of such a catastrophic civil conflict." Despite the plausible logic of this argument, the U.S. presence doesn't deter, but contributes to, a thickening civil-war-like atmosphere in Iraq. It is always a dicey matter to project the present into the future, though that never stopped anybody from doing so. The future, by definition, is unknown and so open to the unexpected. Nonetheless, it is far more reasonable, based on what we now know, to assume that if the U.S. were to leave Iraq quickly, the level of violence would be reduced, possibly drastically, not heightened. Here are the four key reasons:

1. The U.S. military is already killing more civilian Iraqis than would likely die in any threatened civil war;

2. The U.S. presence is actually aggravating terrorist (Iraqi-on-Iraqi) violence, not suppressing it;

3. Much of the current terrorist violence would be likely to subside if the U.S. left;

4. The longer the U.S. stays, the more likely that scenarios involving an authentic civil war will prove accurate.

American Violence in Iraq

In listing the problems faced by Iraqis ("widespread terrorism, a guerrilla war against the U.S. occupation forces, and periodic clashes between Sunnis and Shiites."), Dreyfuss is succumbing to the reportage of the mainstream press, which rarely mentions the immense toll that American forces are taking every day inside Iraq.

In fact, the best estimate is that the occupation has been killing about 40,000 Iraqi civilians each year. These figures were first published a year ago in a path-breaking, yet largely neglected, study published in the British medical journal the Lancet by a mixed team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Iraqi universities; but careful vetting of war reports indicates that something close to these rates seems to have been maintained ever since. That helps explain why even the distinctly limited numbers collected by U.S. and Iraqi official sources (when released at all) almost always report that American (or other) occupation forces account for at least two-thirds of all civilian deaths in military actions, with an unknown proportion of the remainder due to the actions of the Iraqi government, not the resistance.

There are four main ways American forces in Iraq accomplish such mayhem.

First, there are the hundreds of checkpoints around Baghdad and in other contested cities, sites of numerous violent incidents. Because of the danger created by the threat of suicide bombers, those guarding the checkpoints are ordered to fire at suspicious activity. The following account of the death of Reuters reporter Waleed Khaled, offered by Major-General Rick Lynch based on an official U.S. Army investigation, makes clear why even the most savvy Iraqi is risking his or her life approaching a checkpoint:

"Lynch said soldiers reacted when they saw the car traveling ‘forward at a high rate of speed. That particular car looked like cars that we have seen in the past used as suicide bombs. It wasn't a new car, it was an older model car... And there were two local nationals inside the car. Our soldiers took appropriate measures. We mourn the loss of life of all humans... But our soldiers are trained to respond in those situations. Put yourself in the place of the soldiers, knowing that the insurgents, who have been known to use suicide bombs, suicide car bombs, suicide vests, to attack innocent civilians, will always have an attack and then respond to that attack when the first responders come forward. So our soldiers took appropriate action on that particular case.'"

With some 600 checkpoints in Baghdad alone, and as many as 100 cars approaching each checkpoint during a non-curfew daylight hour, there are upwards of 250,000 chances each day for an Iraqi driver to fail to slow down soon enough, or, distracted, fail to see the checkpoint in time, or do something to make jumpy soldiers jump. If only one out of 40,000 drivers makes this mistake that still would produce perhaps 6 lethal incidents a day -- in which case about 2,000 Iraqis would meet Waleed Khaled's fate each year, although without the benefit of news coverage and a U.S. Army investigation, however perfunctory. (Note that, at this point, we have just about no way of knowing in any of the death situations discussed here and below how many Iraqis are dying, so these are the crudest of figures.)

Second, American troops are constantly patrolling contested areas in Iraqi cities under instructions to use "overwhelming force" in firefights with actual or suspected resistance fighters. If they encounter sustained resistance, the rules of engagement call for demolishing buildings occupied by snipers, and treating all inhabitants of such buildings as the enemy. Among the several hundred patrols or more each day around Iraq, it appears that about one in ten result in lethal firefights. Even if fewer than half of these firefights produce a single collateral civilian death, this tiny percentage would yield perhaps 15 deaths on an average day or close to 5,000 civilian deaths a year.

A third staple of the occupation is entering houses in search of suspected insurgents, either because they have been identified by informants, or as part of house-to-house searches after IED or other guerrilla attacks. U.S. statistics indicate that no fewer than 75% of all entered houses do not contain an insurgent, but the army rules of engagement require that soldiers enter without knocking and by crashing through doors in order to retain the element of surprise, and thus prevent either an ambush or an escape by suspects. Lethal force is used at the first sign of resistance or attempted escape --to preempt attacks with weapons that suspected insurgents might have hidden nearby. (The army argues that, while more humane treatment might create less anger among the tens of thousands of non-resistant families whose homes are invaded, such restraint would also expose the soldiers to many more casualties from the occasional resistance fighter. Military philosophy in this and other settings is to protect the lives of American soldiers "even if those methods do not always win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi populace.")

With several hundred such missions undertaken each day, and such patrols entering as many as a dozen houses on a patrol, American troops enter something like 2,000 Iraqi homes on an ordinary day. If only one of every one hundred entries results in violence, and far less than half end in a dead civilian, these home invasions can still account for 10 or so deaths per day, or another 3,500 per year.

Fourth and finally, we come to American air power. When American patrols, large or small, encounter violent resistance, their rules of engagement call for the use of overwhelming fire power to eliminate the enemy. Where their immediate response fails to destroy the enemy, an air assault is often ordered, with either gunships or bombers. Air assaults are also ordered against suspected insurgent "safe houses."

Although they are rarely reported, such air assaults are the most terrifying and ferocious forms of American violence. Virtually all of these strikes occur in highly populated areas, sometimes destroying whole houses, or even whole groups of houses, and (where the inhabitants haven't fled) they sometimes kill whole families in the process. The New York Times recently reported such an attack in the border city of Husaybah, which "destroyed three houses in an area that has experienced intense fighting." Unlike most such news items, this one also contained an Iraqi Interior Ministry report of casualties. Based on local hospital reports, the Ministry claimed that the air strikes "had killed more than 40 civilians, mostly members of an extended family who had sought shelter from the bombings." (American officials, as is their general practice, said they "knew of no civilian casualties.")

American officials do concede that they average about "50 close air support and armed reconnaissance missions every day." These occur at all of the familiar urban hotspots: Baghdad, Falluja, Mosul, Tal Afar, Ramadi, Samarra, as well as numerous smaller towns. If only one in five of these missions produces civilian casualties, and if the average death toll is only four instead of 40, then 15,000 Iraqi civilians die every year from U.S. air attacks.

The depressing total of these very rough calculations is over 25,000 civilian deaths each year, more than five times the number caused by car bombs and other Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. (And remember, we're not even figuring in major American military campaigns against the insurgency.) To add to the levels of mayhem, keep in mind that, at any given moment, the U.S. military keeps perhaps another 12,000-15,000 Iraqis locked in its prisons, holding areas and interrogation centers. Numbers like this, or even lower versions of the same, explain why in a country with a population of only 25 million, so many Iraqis see the Americans as the main source of the daily violence they endure, and why 60% regularly tell even American-sponsored pollsters that they want an American withdrawal immediately, if not sooner. This also explains why the primary condition for a cease fire set by the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS, the political arm of the Sunni resistance) was an American "troop pullout from most urban areas and an end to military checkpoints and raids." AMS leader Isam al-Rawi explained:

"The Americans and British must leave all residential areas…This is very sensitive for our feelings. When they retreat to military bases outside the major cities, the Iraqis will no longer be meeting military tanks and trucks in the streets and highways, and they will no longer be afraid their homes will be invaded at night."

Iraqi-on-Iraqi Violence

The prospect of a civil war is, of course, horrendous, but the ongoing American violence is massive enough that it would take several Bloody Wednesdays every week to match it. This, of course, is a possibility, but a more reasonable guess would be that, in a trade-off between the end of U.S. violence and an escalation in the civil war, the result would actually be a decline in civilian casualties in Iraq.

But a quick U.S. withdrawal would be less likely to produce a civil war than leaving American troops in place as a barrier against such a development. The killing and imprisonment policies of the occupation itself are the main generating and sustaining force for the rising levels of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. The sooner the occupation ends, the sooner Iraqi civil violence is likely to begin to subside.

To grasp this point, it is necessary to understand that there are -- broadly speaking -- two tendencies within the Sunni resistance against the U.S. occupation. While they share the goal of expelling the Americans, their strategies and tactics are fundamentally different. One tendency, which many Iraqis designate the "nationalist resistance," seeks in the short run to expel the Americans from their local communities by attacking American patrols and checkpoints with roadside explosives and hit-and-run attacks. An operation is a success when it ties down American troops and therefore prevents them from manning checkpoints, marching through neighborhoods, or conducting house-to-house searches. While their attacks often kill innocent bystanders, they do not usually purposely target civilians, and often condemn those who do, calling them terrorists and outlaws.

The other tendency, designated the "jihadists" by many Iraqis, fights to weaken the resolve of the Americans and of Iraqis who, by their definition, help the occupation. For the jihadists, an operation is a success when it inflicts either a huge toll in casualties or scores a propaganda victory against the occupation or its supporters. Their tactics are designed to intimidate and demoralize their opposition. They therefore try to mount spectacular attacks on U.S. forces, the Iraqi military and police, Iraqi government officials, and also Iraqi civilians they feel are aiding the Americans, attempting to intimidate them away from voting in elections, participating in local government, or joining the police force or the new Iraqi military.

Beyond this immediate terrorist purpose, the leadership of the jihadists, most notably Abu Musab al Zarqawi, seeks sooner or later to create a mega-state among all Sunni Arabs in the Middle East. Zarqawi and others of his persuasion believe that Shiite Muslims are the main barrier to such a state and that, in the long run, they must be defeated. They therefore focus their terrorist attacks on the Shia, who, they believe, support the American-installed Iraqi government (rather than on the Kurds, who support that government far more avidly than any Shia group). In this way, the jihadist leadership hopes simultaneously to undermine Shia support for the American-sponsored government and to weaken the Shia in what they consider to be a larger, longer term confrontation.

Numerically, the jihadists represent a tiny minority of resistance fighters in Iraq (certainly no more than 10%). The vast majority (probably well over 90%) of the 70 or so attacks each day are conducted by the nationalist resistance. But the jihadists are responsible for the high-profile car bombings and the spectacular attacks against Shia mosques and other "soft targets." These account for the vast majority of all the civilian casualties inflicted by the resistance.

Given this situation, how might a speedy American withdrawal affect the levels of Iraqi-generated violence? Most obviously, it would eliminate the presently predominant form of Iraqi violence -- the 65 or so guerrilla attacks against American forces every day, (though many guerrilla units might redirect their attention to the Iraqi army, insofar as it chose to conduct American-type patrols in disputed neighborhoods). And it would also obviously eliminate the jihadist attacks against American troops and bases.

But those fearful of civil war worry that the American absence would remove the main deterrent to terrorist attacks and simply free-up jihadist resources from anti-American operations to unleash further mayhem. The full jihadist effort could then be concentrated on attacking the Shia.

Violence after an American Departure

What this assumption ignores, however, is a simple (though not obvious) fact: The terrorist offensive against the Shia is largely a consequence of American brutality in Iraq. Despite Abu Musab al Zarqawi's oft repeated desire to launch a holy war against the Shia, his success in doing so is directly linked to a continuing U.S. presence. His primary appeal in Iraq, after all, rests on the claim that the occupation is "being aided by their allies from Shia." Moreover, because, he claims, "the Shia sect has always spearheaded any war against Islam and Muslims throughout history," he insists that they can never be brought into a movement to oppose the occupation and therefore have to be treated like the enemy. It is this appeal that, in Sunni areas, has allowed him to recruit supporters for his anti-Shia campaign.

University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape, author of Dying to Win, the definitive book on suicide terrorism, spoke for virtually all terrorism experts, when he made this very point to the American Conservative magazine, asserting that every suicide bombing campaign "is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. The [American ] operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life."

Thus, while Zarqawi is seeking a holy war against the Shia, the real question -- as Pape puts it -- is whether "anybody listens to him." In other words, his success depends on his ability to recruit new martyrs (inside and outside Iraq) to undertake suicide missions. This recruitment, in turn, depends upon two factors: the level of mayhem the occupation creates, which generates the anger that creates his volunteers; and the credibility of his claims that the Shia are allies of the Americans.

On both accounts, the military occupation of the country, by its very presence and its actions, continually pours more gasoline on an already burning fire, and cannot help but continue to do so as long as it attempts to pacify the resistance. After all, the daily mayhem in Baghdad and other cities, and the spectacular American assaults on cities like Falluja and Tal Afar, are broadcast across Iraq and the entire Muslim world (even if they are often largely ignored in the American media). These increase support for both the nationalist guerrillas and the jihadist terrorists.

In addition, under the strain of an exhausted army and a fractured budget, the Bush administration is seeking to "Iraqify" the occupation by replacing American troops with Iraqis. In 2004, after Sunni police and military units melted under fire or defected to the guerrillas, the U.S. began relying more heavily on Shia recruits (as well as Kurdish militiamen, or Pesh Merga) in their battles with the Sunni resistance. The brutality of the American military plan for pacifying the country, now being enacted by ever more Shia and Kurdish soldiers, has convinced increasing numbers of Sunnis that Zarqawi's claims about the Shia are all too correct, and so has allowed him to recruit increasing numbers of willing martyrs, both in Iraq and in neighboring countries.

Just before Bloody Wednesday, at Tal Afar, Shia (as well as Pesh Merga) soldiers were given frontline responsibility for lethal house-to-house searches, spearheading the wholesale destruction of individual homes, many with residents still inside, and whole neighborhoods. It was no surprise, therefore, when, a few days later, Zarqawi declared that Bloody Wednesday was the beginning of the "battle to avenge the Sunni people of Tal Afar," and also the beginning of a "full scale war on Shiites around Iraq, without mercy." Here again, American action exacerbated rather than suppressed internal Iraqi friction.

This constant and escalating provocation only swells the reservoir of willing martyrs and increases the plausibility of Zarqawi's claim that the sole route to "liberation" involves direct attacks on Shia citizens.

On the other hand, history indicates that once the provocation of foreign troops is removed, the reservoir tends to quickly drain. Terrorism expert Robert Pape reports that, in recent history, it is almost unknown for suicide bombings to continue after the withdrawal of the occupying power:

"Many people worry that once a large number of suicide terrorists have acted that it is impossible to wind it down. The history of the last 20 years, however, shows the opposite. Once the occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of the terrorists, they often stop--and often on a dime."

American withdrawal is therefore the cornerstone of any strategy that wants to maximize the hope of avoiding civil war. It would, at one and the same moment, remove the major source of Iraqi civilian deaths -- and remove the primary flash point that leads to the car bombings. It would certainly mean as well the withdrawal of Shia and Kurdish troops from Sunni cities -- the key to Zarqawi's ability to convince (some) Sunnis that the Shia are willing pawns of the occupation and so their eternal enemies.

The clock is ticking however. With each new American attack, more Sunnis are convinced that their hope for liberation lies with Zarqawi's strategy. And with each new terrorist attack, Shia anger -- already at a high level, given the degrading nature of the American occupation and two years of American-style "reconstruction" -- is likely to become ever more focused on the Sunni community that appears to be harboring the terrorists. Recently there have been growing signs of violent Shia retaliation. If the terrorist attacks continue unabated, then increasing numbers of Shia may adopt an attitude complementary to Zarqawi's -- blaming the entire Sunni community for the terrorist attacks. If this occurs, Zarqawi will have succeeded in his personal goal of "dragging them into the arena of sectarian war," and a raging civil war may truly develop.

Zarqawi's plan will be in danger of collapsing, however, if the U.S. withdraws.

American withdrawal would undoubtedly leave a riven, impoverished Iraq, awash in a sea of weaponry, with problems galore, and numerous possibilities for future violence. The either/or of this situation may not be pretty, but on a grim landscape, a single reality stands out clearly: Not only is the American presence the main source of civilian casualties, it is also the primary contributor to the threat of civil war in Iraq. The longer we wait to withdraw, the worse the situation is likely to get -- for the U.S. and for the Iraqis.

Michael Schwartz, Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook has written extensively on popular protest and insurgency, and on American business and government dynamics. His work on Iraq has appeared on the internet at numerous sites, including Tomdispatch, Asia Times ,MotherJones.com, and ZNet; and in print at Contexts, Against the Current, and Z Magazine. His books include Radical Politics and Social Structure, The Power Structure of American Business (with Beth Mintz), and Social Policy and the Conservative Agenda (edited, with Clarence Lo). His email address is Ms42@optonline.net@optonline.net.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Four Years Later and Bush has got Doodley-Squat

Juan Cole

Sunday, September 11, 2005

9/11, 7/7 and 8/30

On the fourth-year anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks on the US, it is important that we take stock of where we stand. We do not stand in a good place. The US military is bogged down in an intractable guerrilla war in Iraq, which most Muslims view as an aggressive neo-imperialism. Afghanistan is still unstable. The major al-Qaeda leaders are still at large, and recently struck London. Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans on 8/30 have demonstrated that the US government is unprepared to deal with major disasters, and that Bush administration priorities have often been capricious.

There have been no further major acts of terrorism in the United States. There are many theories for why this should be. It is certainly the case that there are al-Qaeda members who would like to hit the US again. But al-Qaeda is only interested in what might be called theatrical terrorism, an attack that takes a big toll of dead and wounded and makes an impact on the enemy's economy. Such attacks are not easy for a tiny organization like al-Qaeda, which lacks the backing of a state, to carry out. Al-Qaeda used up its really capable people on 9/11 and is now left mostly with incompetents and marginal personalities. The US is a long way from the Middle East or Europe, and security measures have made it difficult for al-Qaeda operatives to get here or to do damage without being discovered first. The American Muslim community is on the whole fairly well integrated into American society, and clearly all but a handful are loyal Americans who wish to see the country they live in flourish. It was the American Muslims who turned in the Lackawanee five, Yemeni-American young men who had been in an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. One group of Muslim American associations pledged $10 million for Katrina relief efforts. Still, an al-Qaeda attack on a dam or on a nuclear plant is still plausible, and there is no room for complacency.

Al-Qaeda simply hasn't been a priority for Bush. His first priority, all along, has been cutting taxes on his rich friends. The American public is so innumerate that they cannot seem to figure out that if you exclude from taxes another 5 percent of a man's income who pulls down $10 billion, you are talking about $500 million on which he doesn't have to pay taxes every year. But if you exclude the same percentage from taxes for someone making $20,000 a year (and there are a lot of those), then you are only saving her from paying taxes on $1000 a year. That the government could cut taxes on the low-income earners, and not cut them on the super-rich, doesn't seem to occur to the middle class that is so eager for a few crumbs from Bush that they are willing to sell their birthright to government services. Because Bush cut taxes so deeply, and therefore reduced government income and produced a big chronic deficit, he had to steal money for Iraq from various places. The government he appointed to run Iraq for a year (which never had any legal charter) essentially stole Iraq's petroleum income to use on its projects. Billions of dollars are unaccounted for. It is well documented that Bush stole money from Louisiana ear-marked for improving the levees at New Orleans, and also that he sent Louisiana national guardsmen to Iraq.

The Bush administration has put enormously more resources into its problematic Iraq War than it ever did into the fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates. That they have not succeeded in capturing Usamah Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri is a sign of extreme negligence or lack of seriousness. Likewise, the US government appears to have had no inkling that the March, 2004, bombings in Madrid or the July, 2005 bombings in London were in the offing. Given that a very large number of CIA personnel are in Iraq, it is no wonder that they hadn't been able to penetrate or monitor the radical Muslim terrorists in Western Europe.

The danger of leaving Zawahiri out there to plot against the West was made crystal clear by the July 7 bombings in London and the July 21 attempted bombings. As I noted at the time, the statement released at the time of the July 7 bombings in London seemed to come from an Egyptian. Little did I realize at the time that it was probably written by Ayman al-Zawahiri himself. In the videotape released in early September and shown on al-Jazeera, Zawahiri uses phraseology similar to what was in the announcement posted on 7/7 to an internet site. The surprise for me was that Zawahiri had managed to use a Pakistani jihadi group, the Jaish-i Muhammad, to recruit 3 British young men of Pakistani heritage plus a Carribean to blow up the London underground. Zawahiri clearly had the copy of Muhammad Sadique Khan's last statement, which he bundled with his own screed. I don't personally believe there is any question whatsoever that 7/7 was an al-Qaeda operation of the old sort, with Zawahiri actually involved in comand-and-control (unlike in Spain, where an independent Moroccan group with no direct al-Qaeda ties was responsible). It is still unclear if the second bombing attempt, on July 21, was an inept copycat operation or if it was also run behind the scenes by Zawahiri. Its perpetrators included 3 East Africans and a Carribean and used the same explosive (which luckily had gone stale).

In the UK critics of the Blair government concentrated on the question of whether the bombers were inspired to their hatred for their own country by Western atrocities in Iraq. Of course they were. They talked incessantly of what they saw as massacres at Fallujah, and the torture at Abu Ghraib. Blair had been warned by his own intelligence people in 2004 that the Iraq War could well provoke terrorism against the UK. But that debate missed the key question of why Zawahiri is still at large and able to blow up London, four years after he helped blow up New York and Washington.

The Bush administration has dropped the ball on al-Qaeda, big time. The Iraq War has created a new recruiting ground for al-Qaeda and its soul mates among the Sunni Arabs of Iraq. In Haifa Street in Baghdad and in Samarra, there have actually been crowds wearing al-Qaeda insignia. Contrary to what the Bush administration would have you believe, Iraqis had had virtually nothing to do with al-Qaeda before the American invasion. Iraqi Sunnis had once mostly been secular Arab nationalists. But the American destruction of the Baath Party has made religious fundamentalism attractive to them as an alternative political identity. The US has succeeded in pushing 5 million Middle Easterners away from secular nationalism and toward the arms of al-Qaeda. Operations such as Fallujah and Tal Afar, involving the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, the damaging of a majority of buildings in the city, and the deaths of thousands, will not soon be forgotten by the country's Sunni Arabs. Some have spoken of taking revenge by finding a way to hit the American homeland. Things are not going well.

On top of the failures in the fight against al-Qaeda and the quagmire in Iraq, the US suffered a major blow with Hurricane Katrina and the Great Flood of 2005 in New Orleans (or what used to be New Orleans). The blow was not primarily to the US economy, which is resilient and enormous ($13 trillion?), and which will recoup-- though the economic recovery may slow. The blow was psychological and political. The abysmal job that Bush and Co. did in responding to the disaster, which cost so many lives, will not soon be forgotten. What, many security experts are asking, if this had been a terrorist strike? Unpreparedness of this epochal sort could sink the government.

Bush has given us the worst of all possible worlds-- a half-finished job against al-Qaeda, an Iraqi imbroglio that could still explode into civil or even regional war-- and which serves as an al-Qaeda recruiting tool--, a government starved for funds, an enormous windfall for the rich at the expense of the middle class (which saw average wages actually fall recently), and an inability to respond effectively to a major urban catastrophe.

Four years after September 11, al-Qaeda's leadership should have been behind bars or dead. Four years after September 11, Afghanistan should have been stabilized. Four years after September 11, the government should have been ready to save lives in an urban disaster.

Bush recently started likening his poorly conceived and misnamed "war on terror" to World War II.

What his handlers have forgotten is how long World War II lasted for the United States.

Four years.

In four years, Roosevelt and allies defeated Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. In four years, Bush hasn't managed even to corner Bin Laden and a few hundred scruffy terrorists; or to extract himself from the deserts of Iraq; or to put the government's finances in good order so that it can deal with crises like Katrina.

Four years. I think about the victims of 9/11, and now 7/7. We have let you down.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

If You Think to Be a Muslim is to be a Terrorist, I Think You, Like Winston Churchill, are a Fascist

This is a copy of an e-mail forwarded to me by a relative over the last couple of days. I'm sure there must be quite a few more links to this chain across the country. I was pretty appalled by the fundamental equation of terrorists and Muslims, as if all Muslims are natural born terrorists and anything ever done by any terrorists was essentially an expression of the Islamic faith. This standpoint clearly takes the acts of violent individuals to express the intent of unconnected members of an international religion, as if Christian KKK members meant Mother Theresa should be put on a terrorist watch list because they are both Christian. Are bad acts by Christian nations Christian terrorism? It makes just as much sense to describe them as acts of Christian terrorism as it does to label terrorism by non-EuroAmericans as Muslim terrorism. Enjoy the family atmosphere of the exchange.

The E-mail:
Subject: New Postage Stamp
How ironic is this??!! They don't even believe in Christ and they're getting their own Christmas stamp, but don't dream of posting the ten commandments on federal property?

USPS New Stamp
This one is impossible to believe. Scroll down for the text. If there is only one thing you forward today.....let it be this!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of PanAm Flight 103!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the military barracks in Saudi Arabia!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the American Embassies in Africa!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the USS COLE!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001!

REMEMBER all the AMERICAN lives that were lost in those vicious MUSLIM attacks!

Now the United States Postal Service REMEMBERS and HONORS the EID MUSLIM holiday season with a commemorative first class holiday postage stamp.

REMEMBER to adamantly and vocally BOYCOTT this stamp when purchasing your stamps at the post office. To use this stamp would be a slap in the face to all those AMERICANS who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors.

REMEMBER to pass this along to every patriotic AMERICAN you know.

My Reply:
Those of you can't tell the difference between a Muslim and a terrorist might as well stop pretending and fly the swastika while you call for extermination of all the subhuman Muslims.
Should we call Winston Churchill a Christian terrorist? Was this the accidental final solution?

Here is Winston
on using poison gas against the Iraqis in the 1920s:

Winston Churchill, as colonial secretary, was sensitive to the cost of policing the Empire; and was in consequence keen to exploit the potential of modern technology. This strategy had particular relevance to operation in Iraq. On 19 February, 1920, before the start of the Arab uprising, Churchill (then Secretary for War and Air) wrote to Sir Hugh Trenchand, the pioneer of air warfare. Would it be possible for Trenchard to take control of Iraq? This would ential "the provision of some kind of asphyxiating bombs calculated to cause disablement of some kind but not death...for use in preliminary operations against turbulent tribes."
Churchill was in no doubt that gas could be profitably employed against the Kurds and Iraqis (as well as against other peoples in the Empire): "I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against uncivilized tribes." Henry Wilson shared Churchill's enthusiasm for gas as an instrument of colonial control but the British cabinet was reluctant to sanction the use of a weapon that had caused such misery and revulsion in the First World War. Churchill himself was keen to argue that gas, fired from ground-based guns or dropped from aircraft, would cause "only discomfort or illness, but not death" to dissident tribespeople; but his optimistic view was mistaken. It was likely that the suggested gas would permanently damage eyesight and "kill children and sickly persons, more especially as the people against whom we intend to use it have no medical knowledge with which to supply antidotes."
Churchill remained unimpressed by such considerations, arguing that the use of gas, a "scientific expedient," should not be prevented "by the prejudices of those who do not think clearly." In the event, gas was used against the Iraqi rebels with "excellent moral effect" though gas shells were not dropped from aircraft because of practical difficulties...
Simons, Geoff. Iraq: From Sumer to Sudan, (London: St. Martin's Press, 1994), pp.179-181