"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Friday, February 04, 2005

Bitch-slapped Punk Marine

The Marine Corps commandant yesterday urged a three-star general to choose his words "more carefully," after the general told a San Diego conference this week it was "a lot of fun to shoot" the enemy.

Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, who commanded the 1st Marine Division in the 2003 Iraq invasion, drew the subtle reprimand after making the remarks at a panel discussion Tuesday on lessons of the Iraq war. While many U.S. military commanders speak with blunt bravado about killing, Mattis's remarks sparked criticism from military ethicists for creating the impression that he relished the act.

"Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. . . . It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling," he said at the forum in San Diego.

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," he added. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

At the Pentagon yesterday, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, also obliquely chastised Mattis. "All of us who are leaders have a responsibility in our words, in our actions, to provide the right example all the time for those who look to us for leadership," he said in response to a reporter's question. Pace added that Mattis has proven his leadership ability in recent combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marine Corps Commandant Michael W. Hagee also praised Mattis in a written statement as "one of the country's bravest and most experienced military leaders," who led his troops "brilliantly."

"While I understand that some people may take issue with the comments made by him, I also know he intended to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war," Hagee said. "Lt. Gen. Mattis often speaks with a great deal of candor. I have counseled him concerning his remarks, and he agrees he should have chosen his words more carefully."

The NBC affiliate in San Diego videotaped Mattis's remarks and posted a transcript on its Web site yesterday.

While some Marine officers played down Mattis's remarks as off-the-cuff and in keeping with his brusque style, military ethicists sharply criticized them for showing poor leadership.

"Clearly for an officer from any service to say that publicly is unprofessional and inappropriate and sends a terrible message" to subordinates, said Jeff McCausland, director of the Leadership in Conflict Initiative at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., and a former dean of the Army War College. "Those kinds of comments can translate into horrific events like the Marine who shot the wounded Iraqi," he said, referring to a Marine who was captured on video shooting an unarmed Iraqi prisoner at close range during the campaign to recapture Fallujah last November.

Mattis, who is commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico, declined an interview request yesterday. His remarks have raised eyebrows at the Pentagon before. When his troops captured an airstrip in southern Afghanistan in November 2001, he declared: "The Marines have landed, and we now own a piece of Afghanistan."

Before leading the 1st Marine Division back to Iraq in 2004, he wrote his troops a letter stating: "You, my fine young men, are going to prove the enemy wrong -- dead wrong."

Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 4, 2005; Page A05

The “Oil-for-Food” Smokescreen

Are you familiar with the big “shock” that neoconservatives have experienced over the financial scandal arising out of the infamous “oil-for-food” government program, which was the subject of an investigative report issued Thursday by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker?

The oil-for-food program was the socialist program established in 1995 by U.S. officials and UN officials to alleviate the horrific suffering of the Iraqi people arising out of the brutal system of sanctions that the U.S. government and the UN imposed against the Iraqi people in 1991 and which lasted for more than a decade.

The ostensible goal of the sanctions was to “disarm” Saddam Hussein of the weapons of mass destruction that the United States had furnished him during the 1980s. The real reason for the sanctions was to oust Saddam from power and replace his regime with one more palatable to the U.S. government.

After months of investigation, Volker has concluded that the oil-for-food program was “riddled with political favoritism and mismanagement,” which apparently has shocked and outraged people within neoconservative circles. The neocons are surprised to learn that Saddam Hussein was a corrupt dictator, one who misused the money that U.S. officials and UN officials entrusted to him in the oil-for-food program. They are shocked to learn Saddam actually violated the trust that U.S. officials and UN officials placed in him by misappropriating the oil-for-food monies rather than using them to buy food and medicine for the many children who were dying as a result of the sanctions.

However, there’s an interesting oddity that has recently developed. It turns out that after the U.S. government ousted Saddam Hussein from power in the recent invasion, finally achieving the regime change that the sanctions had failed to achieve, and took over the running of Iraq through what was called the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. government itself brought about the “disappearance” of some $9 billion in Iraqi monies. Yes, that’s “billion” with a “b.” Poof! Gone! Vanished! Nine BILLION dollars! Tell me: How does anyone lose 9 billion dollars?

Yet, for some odd reason, the neocons don’t seem as shocked, outraged, and appalled over the disappearance of that money as they are over Saddam Hussein’s “waste, fraud, and abuse” in the oil-for-food scandal. Why, they even seem to be ignoring the distinct but uncomfortable possibility, if you’ll excuse me for being blunt, that a few of those billions have been used as bribes to line the pockets of U.S.-installed Iraqi officials who are now touting the U.S. military line calling for an indefinite U.S. military occupation of Iraq.

Here’s what the Los Angeles Times reports about the missing $9 billion:

The Coalition Provisional Authority may have paid salaries for thousands of nonexistent employees in Iraqi ministries, issued unauthorized multimillion-dollar contracts and provided little oversight of spending in possibly corrupt ministries, according to the report by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer, the U.S. government man in charge of the CPA “acknowledged that financial systems in Iraq were weak” but said that the problem of the missing money arose from the urgency of turning Iraq over to the Iraqis. That’s an explanation for $9 billion in missing Iraqi monies? Not surprisingly, the Pentagon “also disagreed with the report’s conclusions, saying Sunday that the agency had implemented reforms to improve accountability.” That explains the $9 billion in missing Iraqi monies?

Pardon me for asking what might be uncomfortable questions, but why is the “waste, fraud, and abuse” under both regimes in Iraq — the Saddam regime and the U.S. government regime — not equally corrupt? Why aren’t U.S. neoconservatives as outraged and upset over the disappearance of large sums of money under the control of U.S. officials as they are with those under Saddam? Isn’t corruption corruption?

Let’s face it: The U.S. government should never have imposed the brutal sanctions system against the Iraqi people as a way to force them to oust their dictator from office or even as a means to persuade their dictator to “disarm” Iraq of the infamous WMD that the U.S. government had furnished him just a few years before to use against the Iranian people. Why should the people of Iraq, who lost hundreds of thousands of children due to the sanctions, have been forced to pay the price for their dictator’s supposed intransigence?

Moreover, when Saddam did disarm in the early 1990s and when it became clear that the use of sanctions to achieve “regime change” had failed, U.S. officials and UN officials should have immediately lifted the sanctions that were continuing to squeeze the life out of Iraqi children rather than implement a socialist oil-for-food program that placed U.S. government trust and oil-for-food money in the hands of what everyone knew was a brutal and untrustworthy dictator.

The truth, albeit painful, is that all the hullabalooh about the “waste, fraud, and abuse” in the infamous oil-for-food program is nothing more than a smokescreen to avoid focusing on the moral culpability for the massive number of deaths of the Iraqi children arising out of the brutal sanctions that the U.S. government and the UN enforced against the Iraqi people for more than ten years and the horrible “blowback” arising from a brutal and morally corrupt U.S. foreign policy.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation

The Senate and Mr. Gonzales

The confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general yesterday was depressing. The president deserves a great deal of leeway in choosing his own cabinet. But beyond his other failings, Mr. Gonzales has come to represent the administration's role in paving the way for the abuse and torture of prisoners by American soldiers and intelligence agents. Giving him the nation's top legal post is a terrible signal to send the rest of the world, and to American citizens concerned with human rights.

The 60-to-36 vote for confirmation was also preceded by a depressing debate. There was the usual comic opera of these Senate votes, with the president's party piously denouncing all opposition as outrageous politicking and the opposition piously denying it. But this debate had a sinister overtone as well: in a ham-handed way, the Republicans tried to portray a vote against Mr. Gonzales as an act of bigotry.

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, declaring that "I love the Hispanic people," warned that Hispanic Americans were "sensing there's something unfair going on." Using that "more in sorrow than in anger" tone that senators reserve for their most blatantly political comments, he added, "I suspect there's more than politics being played here."

Mr. Gonzales has the kind of life story that all Americans should admire, and that many can find in their families. The value of diversity in the cabinet is indisputable. But it is also irrelevant here. Mr. Gonzales was a bad choice for attorney general because of his record, not his ethnic background.

It was Mr. Gonzales who asked for the original legal advice from the Justice Department on the treatment of prisoners in the "war on terror." There was no need to go through that exercise; the rules were clear. But Mr. Gonzales gave the president the flexibility he wanted, first in the Justice Department memo outlining ways to make torture seem legal, and then by offering the Orwellian argument that the president can declare himself above the law and can order illegal actions like detaining prisoners without a hearing and authorizing torture.

Republican senators made much of the fact that the White House repudiated the original memo on torture - after it became public. But this is not just a matter of historical interest. Mr. Gonzales testified that he agreed with the substance of the original torture memo, and he still takes the view that the president can declare himself to be above the law. In written responses to senators' questions, Mr. Gonzales argued that intelligence agents could "abuse" prisoners as long as they did it to foreigners outside the United States.

Republican senators argued that it was unfair to say Mr. Gonzales was personally responsible for the specific acts of torture and degradation at Abu Ghraib. That would be a fair defense if anyone were doing that. The Democrats simply said, rightly, that Mr. Gonzales was one of the central architects of the administration's policy of evading legal restrictions on the treatment of prisoners. He should not have been rewarded with one of the most important jobs in the cabinet.

NY Times Editorial
Published: February 4, 2005