Posts Tagged ‘iraq


Firing Shoes at the Faces of Empire: From Baghdad to Montreal

A written commentary will follow in the next post, but for now, two videos that I made pertaining to Saturday’s rally in Montreal (see the announcement on this blog), organized by Block the Empire, in solidarity with imprisoned Iraqi journalist, Muntadar al-Zeidi (yes, the famous shoe thrower). On Saturday, we were all shoe throwers.

First, a video summary of the protests and march through Montreal:


Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “SHOES AGAINST BUSH and HARPER, MONTRE…“, posted with vodpod

if that does not work for any reason, here it is again…

Second, a remixed compilation, with guest appearances by George W. Bush, produce for some added “context”:


Also, see the great photos of the event taken by Anirudh Koul, on his flickr page.


Spectroscopic Survey of Imperial (De)formations

Breaking down the White Light of Empire,

This report starts at the big blue end of the spectrum:

Afghanistan, Iraq, held low under the high water of 1492,
By an oversized 227 year old man of war.
A down swinging empire of rising fear, meets its boomerang,
With the lies told abroad only believed at home.

Choreographed leadership to reconcile the world to American supremacy.
Fist bumps of hope capture celebration, news of massacred wedding guests escapes indignation.
Empire’s hypocrite calls out: “People of the world, look to” – Abu Ghraib (?)
Boasting democracy with Guantánamo, that shit stain of torture on Cuba‘s indigenous territory.
Looking over butt pyramids of Freedom, refusing to name the obscenity for what it is,
As minute men torture truth from the mouths of babes in tribute to the
Founding Fatherswaterboards of liberty.
As a Winter Soldier’s tattoo boasts of foreign adventure.

Überanthropological terrain, better targeting for a global kill chain:
Cluster bombs
of liberation unleash a fury of fantasy on a cocktail napkin.
A rendezvous of fear and opportunity calls for lipstick and pearls,
They spray on Eau de la mort for their private function,
Racing to the doctrinal command’s members club,
The “SS” party crew bears a gift of plagiarized information.
Pepsi shows up in the trash, is danger at hand?
Luckily Abu Muqawama stands guard outside,
As Amatu Al-Muntaqim creeps nearer from surrounding jihad fields.

Toward fortunate, harmonious, stable, traveled,

Something tepid this way ambles:
Middling middleman strolling the middle road from Middlebury where he middle manages
Cosmopolitan common grounds in a senior common room.
While the middlebrow irony man poses for an ad for a war on terror,
Counter-hope of continuity masked by vain audacity,
Tiptoeing on eggshells with a 50 caliber machine gun on his back.
Shifting to the centre, seeking a middle ground, avoiding vengeful anger.
Besides…what about Zimbabwe? And what about Sudan?
We are Nobel imperialists, not uncompromising by paying no regard to the sentiments of Others.

Yellow, aging deceit

G-8 jabbering jowls ceaselessly chattering hegemonic gibberish.
The nobel‘s privileged view from the centre of the world.
True monsters fondly fondling their shriveled pedagogy,
Under silk hotel sheets hiding
That Naipaulian civilized Eurocentric eroticism
That “hates black men, but loves black cunt.”
“Africans need to be kicked – that’s the only thing they understand.”

Ending dead on the dread of red

Red ants.
Zero hour.
Out of the night, J’ouvert’s red awakening.
Recreating a ’68 convention will see unconventional action.
As a monkey, left speechless by all the deathpower, promises to smash heaven,
As the long awaited chickens come home to roost,
As unbearable rage ensures that some will push back.
As it will be, because He Promised the Fire Next Time.


A Shift Toward the Center (of Fascism)

In “shifting to the center,” Barack Obama has now established himself as the other war candidate — pity those of us who maintained some glimmer of hope that this man’s touting of hope itself, and change, would have meant some conclusion to this latest round of imperial expansion. Pity those of us who thought that because Hillary Clinton made him look good, that he was good. While Obama can profess that the seas will stop rising because he, Obama, is the presumptive nominee (and this election for Obama is all about Obama), he cannot break with nearly 200 years of uninterrupted American war, nor will he be second to Gerald Ford in being the only other president in a century not to have ordered troops to war. Not even this man, god-like messiah of his own audacious subtext, can stop war…but he can stop seas from rising. I do not think this is the “audacity of hope,” nor even the “audacity of vanity;” it looks like just sheer audacity.

Barack Obama has asserted recently that the war in Afghanistan is one that “America” has to “win.” For determined opponents of U.S. power, this is a kind of “good news,” since this further steeping of a declining hegemon in a war-without-end will surely speed its geopolitical decline. And look at where Obama is choosing to concentrate: Afghanistan — the unconquerable Afghanistan. This Afghanistan, now at the center of the epic struggle of world imperialism, can look forward to chalking up another superpower to its name, yet again. Yet another superpower will be leaving its helmeted skull in Afghan sand, and one can almost hear Russian war veterans laughing in disbelief at the sight of history repeating itself as farce. And note how many “jihadists” from across Asia seem to have heard Obama’s message and have realigned and reoriented their energies in a shifting focus to Afghanistan, having had invaluable live-fire training in Iraq, and note how the violence always escalates in Afghanistan, even to the point where the U.S. has to abandon one of its forward camps, while the international media broadcast footage of an American solider being shot to pieces and rolling lifelessly down the hillside.

While Afghanistan serves as the black hole of imperialism, imagine being one of those American troops left in the last brigade to leave Iraq, as part of a “phased withdrawal,” outmanned, outgunned, hated, removing itself under the eyes of those who wish to inflict a final humiliation. In fact, there may not even be any such withdrawal if you listen to Obama, who has adopted some doublespeak of his own: he will withdraw “combat troops” from Iraq, he acknowledges that Iraqis do not want an open-ended U.S. presence … and in almost the same breath says U.S. troops will remain in Iraq to protect “diplomatic” and “humanitarian” missions (which in U.S. doublespeak can mean just about anything), to train Iraqi forces, and to conduct counter terrorism. Not “open ended,” he says. Suddenly, the other war candidate has become the two war candidate. The question Obama needs to answer is the one John Kerry failed to: if Americans want a war making right winger for a president, why would they not vote for the one person who is honestly just that?

[Update: This is what “withdrawal of the troops from Iraq” looks like in Obama’s world: a news story just released quotes his campaign advisers as saying that 50,000 troops would remain in Iraq. In George Orwell’s 1984, “2+2=5” at least seemed more plausible than 0 = 50,000. Also, keep in mind that the figure of 50,000 troops in Iraq, beyond 2009, was part of a plan first offered by the Bush administration.]

As if challenging the incredulous to climb to greater heights of disbelief, Obama threatens to widen the war into Pakistan as well, a nuclear power. This is the height of audacity, and maybe only in “America” could one make a promise like this:

“The greatest threat to that security lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train and insurgents strike into Afghanistan. We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary, and as president, I won’t. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO to secure the border, to take out terrorist camps and to crack down on cross-border insurgents. We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.”–Barack Obama.


Dave Sirota, July 18, 2008


Washington’s pundits and politicians have waged an ongoing propaganda campaign to pass off crazy, fringe politics as reasonable and mainstream.

In the asylum that is American politics, beware a candidate like Barack Obama when he is lauded for moving to “the center” — because usually that means he is drifting away from it.

Over the last month, the Democratic presidential nominee has backed a measure to permit warrantless wiretapping and protect telecom companies when they violate customers’ privacy; sent conflicting signals about whether he will reform the NAFTA trade model; and threatened to revise his timetable for ending the war in Iraq. Universally, reporters have billed this dance as a move to the middle. As the Associated Press claimed in a typical description, Obama’s shifts are designed “to appeal to the center of the electorate.”

However, empirical data proves “the center of the electorate” is exactly the opposite …continue


Mike Whitney, July 21, 2008

Obama’s candidacy is over; kaput. He’s already stated that he has no intention of stopping the war, so he has disqualified himself. That’s his prerogative; no one put a gun to his head. His op-ed in Monday’s New York Times just removes any lingering doubt about the matter. What Obama proposes is moving the central theater of operation from Iraq to Afghanistan. Big deal. Why is it more acceptable to kill a man who is fighting for his country in Afghanistan than in Iraq?

It’s not; which is why Obama must be defeated and the equivocating Democratic Party must be jettisoned altogether. The Democrats are a party of blood just like the Republicans, they’re just more discreet about it. That’s why people who are serious about ending the war have to support candidates outside the two-party charade. The Democrat/Republican duopoly will not deliver the goods; it’s as simple as that. The point is to stop the killing, not to provide blind support for smooth-talking politicos who try to mask their real intentions. Obama made his choice, now he can suffer the consequences. …continue


Ron Jacobs, July 20, 2008
The Adventures of the Parasite Army: WHY AFGHANISTAN IS NOT THE GOOD WAR

It’s the perennial thorn in the colonialist’s side. It’s the war that won’t go away. It’s a wasp sting that swells, slowly choking the life out of the sting’s recipient. It is the nearly seven-year old occupation of Afghanistan by the United States and various NATO allies. Nearly forgotten by most Americans, the situation in that country has taken headlines away from the occupation of Iraq because of the resurgence of the anti-occupation forces. …continue


Corey D.B. Walker, July 18, 2008
Getting Beyond the Either/Or Choice: A KINDER, GENTLER IMPERIALISM?

Both major party presidential candidates have been sparring over the focus, scope, and reach of the Bush Administration’s self-proclaimed “War on Terrorism.” Each, in their own way, look to tweak the grand designs of imperial power to properly and correctly align it with their particular ideological proclivities and vision of American global hegemony.

Whether it is Senator McCain’s continuation of the war in Iraq or Senator Obama’s intense focus on the theatre of conflict in Afghanistan (and extending into Pakistan), both candidates have chosen not to challenge the underlying foundational assumptions that have informed American foreign policy and national security policy since the events of 11 September 2001.

Both candidates agree with the deeply flawed language and logic that our nation is at “war.” As military historian Sir Michael Howard opined almost seven years ago, “[T]o use, or rather to misuse the term ‘war’ is not simply a matter of legality, or pedantic semantics. It has deeper and more dangerous consequences. To declare that one is ‘at war’ is immediately to create a war psychosis that may be totally counter-productive for the objective that we seek. It will arouse an immediate expectation, and demand, for spectacular military action against some easily identifiable adversary, preferably a hostile state; action leading to decisive results.” In this respect, Senator McCain will have us “win” in Iraq and Senator Obama will have us “win” in Afghanistan. …

In several significant ways, the foreign policy differences between the two candidates can best be understood as two competing visions for the enhancement and perpetuation of American imperialism. …continue



“You can’t shoot kids … but you can pound them” — How insurgents are made

This is the last video in this series, the previous one being “Why can’t we shoot these kids?” For those of us who are not, and have not been in Iraq, this is one of the few ways we have of “seeing” events on the ground.

This is a group of British soldiers — when and where in Iraq is not specified — and it seems that they are responding to some protesters. A group of young boys is dragged into what appears to be a base, and then pummeled. A large group of fellow troops return from the streets and walk past, and nobody interferes. It may not meet some definitions of “savage brutality” (in which case, pardon me for saying this, but someone needs to get their nuts kicked by an army boot) but I doubt this will “win hearts and minds.” For a young boy, one can imagine that this experience will leave a lasting impression. We also do not know what happens after the video ends, whether the boys are released, or further detained, etc.

Unlike the last related post, I should not neglect to mention that there is little someone like myself can do to verify this video, to contextualize it, to interview the troops, and to figure out if the cruel narrative of a man who seems to be having an orgasm at the sight of vanquished boys was added after the video was made by someone who was not present. Personally, I have been given no reason to doubt its authenticity, but one can never be absolutely certain with materials posted on YouTube. Having said that, I thank RAIM for bringing my attention to this video.

And in Canada today, the release of the Guantanamo interrogation tapes of Omar Khadr, captured as a young boy in Afghanistan and abused. This is Canada’s continuing scandal of neglect and participation in the violation of the same international laws it claims to hold sacred.


“Why can’t we shoot these kids?”

I do not actually go looking for videos of abusive American troops in Iraq, first because there are too many and I would not be able to choose which to post here without flooding the page, and secondly because I prefer to come across them randomly through others since this suggests a network of interests and circulation of these videos which gives them added weight as more common reference points.

Here we are then with a video of U.S. forces in Iraq complaining about not being allowed to shoot children who throw rocks — a new policy, by a new sergeant, if I heard correctly. These “liberators” are being showered with rocks by a gauntlet of persistent and fearless children. One of the children shows us which English words he has learned from U.S. occupiers, and is thus able to shout “FUCK YOU” at the troops, if you listen carefully. Let’s watch the video before I comment further:

One must ask: just how many videos of how many instances such as these are needed before one hears people beginning to at least doubt or lose some enthusiasm when urging others to “support the troops”? One can hear this cheering more often in Canada too, with reference to Canadian occupiers in Afghanistan. My question is: no, why must I support them? Were they drafted? Did they have a choice in where they went? And when considering the possibility of being sent to someone else’s country, to kill the locals there, what was their motivation? Rather than support the troops, I would prefer: “troops, explain yourselves.” There is a less polite slogan I would prefer to that, but I am relenting today. [NOTE: Regarding these first three paragraphs, it would be good if readers consulted the discussion below for some important counterweights to these characterizations and the assumptions behind my initially posting these comments.]

Secondly, when some “anthropologists,” such as the disreputable media star wannabe, Montgomery McFate and her Human Terrain System, advocate for embedding social scientists in the military, they take at least two things for granted (in fact they take much more for granted, such as the fact that they never expected to be exposed and criticized as viscerally as some of us have done, but I focus on two points for now):

(a) That they are entitled to be in Iraq and Afghanistan. The notion that these places belong to others, supposedly the people they claim to be studying and whose rights they claim to respect, is simply never voiced. Since U.S. forces are in these places, then they, as American “social scientists” are therefore entitled to be there. That is buying into the very logic of occupation itself. There is absolutely no point, as McFate did through her sock puppet identity on Savage Minds (“Dee”), in saying “we also thought the invasion was a bad idea, but…” — invasions and occupations are inseparable, one does not get the chance to nuance one’s way out of taking responsibility for one’s actions. One supports the invasion by endorsing the occupation that follows from it, and by supporting the objectives of that occupation. One cannot then protest about the lack of “measured judgment” from critics when one’s lack of scruples is what mandates the search for alibis. It is not the job of the critic to defend the indefensible, nor to defend McFate.

(b) That they can help to lessen the chances of innocent civilians being killed by U.S. forces. Do they know what is a ‘sure fire’ way of totally eliminating any possibility of U.S. forces murdering kids who throw rocks? By getting their unwanted backsides out of Iraq. They pretend to be unaware of this “option”, because advocating for that would mean, first, no salary from BAE Systems, and second, joining the anti-war forces. What their argument does is to engage in pure emotional blackmail: either you support us, or these goons go back to the heavy firepower and murdering civilians (remember, the same goons we were urged to support). Read McFate’s own words to the San Francisco Chronicle:

“My fear is that … he’s [General David Petraeus] going to go over there and it’s going to be too late, and he’s going to fail. And the whole thing is going to be delegitimized: the counterinsurgency doctrine, non-kinetic force, delegitimized,” she said softly. “And then what’s the Army going to do? It’s going to fall back on what it had before … technology and firepower.”

Blackmail. Either we get our Human Terrain System and our share of the tax pie wasted on the occupation of Iraq, or the killing begins again in earnest … except that the killing never stopped, and the notion that it has lessened is a fabrication of creative statistical analysis, that “this month was less deadly than last.” If one chooses a short enough timeline, then almost any argument becomes feasible, and no less absurd.

So what’s a good American anthropologist to do? These individuals, such as McFate and the small minds at the “Small Wars Council” claim noble and humanitarian aims (even while chastising the rest of us for being “moral” and “self-righteous”, which really speaks to their actual sense of self in damning ways). Their claim is to want to lessen the killing of innocents. But they do not, not under any circumstances, wish to criticize the war, when now most of their fellow citizens and the majority of the planet has shown open revulsion to the war. They think that they can “anthropologize the military.” But that never happened on the many previous occasions detailed in David Price’s publications, and will likely not happen. Moreover, what does it really mean to “anthropologize” the military? In my view, it would effectively mean getting the military to disarm itself and seek informed consent before entering another country. I have no idea of the extent of the distortion of “anthropology” that has unfolded in McFate’s mind since her moment of genius on a cocktail napkin:

Despite her return to American shores, McFate found herself still grasping for purpose until one night in 2002 when she ended a long talk with her husband about their futures by scribbling a sentence on a cocktail napkin: How do I make anthropology relevant to the military?

“It’s one of those times where you get goose bumps all over your body,” she said.

Absolutely, one can understand the excitement, especially as the honest side of the napkin read, “How do I make myself useful to the military?” The quote above says as much: looking for purpose, talking about their futures. There is no notion of changing the military here, which is why it is important to scrutinize the psycho-pathology of McFate’s discourse, especially since she has elected to project herself as the headline-grabbing spokesperson of the Human Terrain System.

Now if one really wanted a culturally sensitive military, non-lethality, and work against naked aggression against nations that never attacked the U.S., does one do that by putting on a gun and a uniform? Some may object to “hand on hip” poses of anthropologists, while seemingly advocating “hand on holster.” At every turn, the proponents of embedding anthropology undo their own stated arguments — they are the most awfully conflicted individuals it seems, with an unstable set of shifting narratives.

Never does it occur to them that there are other ways of training people to be more humane and better informed. For example, better educating Americans so that they do: (a) not vote for war mongers; (b) not buy into hate mongering; (c) not ignore the costs of their lifestyle for the rest of the planet; (d) learn about other cultures from young, and a learn some basic respect and ways of interacting with people of other cultures; (e) work toward serious job alternatives, without this desperate narrow-mindedness that it’s either Walmart or the Marines; (f) learn to question the state, state power, and the reasons why militaries exist in the first place.

Anthropologists against lethality, invasion, and bald adventurism have choices that do not reduce to one: join the military. Their primary aim ought to be helping Americans to escape American culture, a culture of violence if there ever was one.

(And for once, please stop resorting to facile myths and silly caricatures and stereotypes about academia being safe and easy, an insult that McFate often likes to repeat: many if not most academics these days are temporary, underpaid workers. Safe? Two floors below mine, four faculty members were shot dead. Two other shootings have occurred at post-secondary institutions in Montreal itself, one a small massacre. The U.S. has plenty of its own. Anybody who claims these institutions are “safe” … is probably someone who is ringed by armed men in uniform who serve to protect her overpaid hide.)


In the world of the mercenary, colonialism is past, present, and future

On one day alone, three top news stories appear in the Associated Press and on the cover page of Yahoo! that deal with mercenaries:

U.S., Iraqis discuss Blackwater’s status
BAGHDAD – U.S. and Iraqi officials are negotiating Baghdad’s demand that security company Blackwater USA be expelled from the country within six months, and American diplomats appear to be working on how to fill the security gap if the company is phased out.

The talks about Blackwater’s future in Iraq flow from recommendations in an Iraqi government report on the incident Sept. 16 when, Iraqi officials determined, Blackwater guards opened fire without provocation in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square and killed 17 Iraqi citizens.

The Iraqi investigators issued five recommendations to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which has since sent them to the U.S. Embassy as demands for action.

Point No. 2 in the report says:

“The Iraqi government should demand that the United States stops using the services of Blackwater in Iraq within six months and replace it with a new, more disciplined organization that would be answerable to Iraqi laws.”

Sami al-Askari, a top aide to al-Maliki, said that point in the Iraqi list of demands was nonnegotiable….

Ex-French mercenary Denard dies at 78
PARIS – Bob Denard, a mercenary who staged coups, battled communism and fought for French interests and his own across Africa for more than three decades, has died, his sister said Sunday. He was 78.

Denard died Saturday in the Paris area, said his sister, Georgette Garnier. She declined to say how he died, but he had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular problems.

A fervent anti-communist who had worked for several dictators and monarchs, Denard was among a group of postcolonial French mercenaries known as “les affreux” – the horrible ones. He claimed he had the backing of Paris, but was never given official support.

Denard was twice convicted in France for his role in an attempted coup in Marxist-controlled Benin in 1977, and a later short-lived coup in the impoverished Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros Islands in 1995. He received suspended prison terms in each case.

Denard was perhaps best known for controlling the Comoros behind a figurehead leader for most of the 1980s following a coup he led in the country.

Bob Denard was one of about a dozen aliases that he assumed during his colorful career. His real name was Gilbert Bourgeaud.

Denard was born in southwest France on Jan. 20, 1929, the son of a noncommissioned officer in the French colonial army. Garnier described him as a lifelong military man who was “adored by his men” – dozens of whom were former European soldiers.

After serving in the colonial army in French Indochina in the 1950s, Denard became a hired gun in 1961 when he moved to the Belgian Congo to help train government troops. From there, he took part in uprisings in Nigeria, Angola and Rhodesia, the British colony that later became Zimbabwe.

Denard also served the Shah of Iran and trained royalist troops in Yemen. He claimed he worked with British intelligence there, and with the CIA in Angola – where he once led a group of mercenaries into the country by bicycle.

Namibia deports US security employees
WINDHOEK, Namibia – Authorities have ordered the deportation of two Americans working for a security firm that was trying to recruit Namibians to work as guards at U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, a government minister said.

The Namibian Cabinet also recommended the closure of the local branch of the Nevada-based security firm, Special Operations Consulting-Security Management Group (SOC-SMG), which was set up earlier this month, Information Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said Friday.

The firm had been targeting Namibians over the age of 25 as well as veterans of Namibia’s lengthy war with South Africa for independence. The company is reported to have held meetings with some increasingly disaffected war veterans, who have been campaigning for hefty pensions and gratuities from the state for their roles in the guerrilla war.

A sparsely populated desert country, Namibia presents an easy option for companies hoping to operate under the legal radar. The country also presents an alternative to neighboring South Africa, where controversial anti-mercenary legislation has been introduced which will clamp down on citizens wanting to work in security and military sectors abroad.

An estimated 2,000 to 4,000 South Africans worked in Iraq last year, helping guard oil installations, hotels and foreign residents. Thousands more are in other countries like Nigeria and Afghanistan. Many of them are white former members of the apartheid-era armed forces.



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