Shock – Shock! – but No Awe in Tillman Probe

November 9, 2006

Pat Tillman, the NFL player who gave up a multi-million dollar career to fulfill what he saw as his patriotic duty to his country, was killed by “friendly fire” in Afghanistan nearly three years ago.  Rather than tell the truth, the Bush regime sought to exploit his death for their benefit; nothing punches-up a national tragedy like putting a well-known human face on it.

As the details of Tillman’s death are uncovered, it’s becoming more and more apparent that his death and the lies surrounding it – while tragic and scandanlous – are very likely just one piece of a much larger puzzle of military corruption and incompetence rooted in Donald Rumsfeld’s and Dick Cheney’s failed “shock and awe” strategy.

According to the Accociated Press, Tillman’s fellow soldiers did not follow the most basic firearms protocols during the incident, essentially shooting at anything that moved with automatic weapons.  One of the soldiers had apparently only recently had eye surgery, and their squad leader apparently forgot our Afghan allies are armed with AK-47s:

One of the four shooters, Staff Sgt. Trevor Alders, had recently had PRK laser eye surgery. He said although he could see two sets of hands “straight up,” his vision was “hazy.” In the absence of “friendly identifying signals,” he assumed Tillman and an allied Afghan who also was killed were enemy.

Another, Spc. Steve Elliott, said he was “excited” by the sight of rifles, muzzle flashes and “shapes.” A third, Spc. Stephen Ashpole, said he saw two figures, and just aimed where everyone else was shooting.

Squad leader Sgt. Greg Baker had 20-20 eyesight, but claimed he had “tunnel vision.” Amid the chaos and pumping adrenaline, Baker said he hammered what he thought was the enemy but was actually the allied Afghan fighter next to Tillman who was trying to give the Americans cover: “I zoned in on him because I could see the AK-47. I focused only on him.”

All four failed to identify their targets before firing, a direct violation of the fire discipline techniques drilled into every soldier.

Keep in mind that this was an “elite” Army Ranger unit, not rank-and-file troops, and that in the nearly three years since the incident occured, the Pentagon has lowered the bar for incoming soldiers to the point where criminals, high school drop-outs, drug users, and avowed white supremacists are now accepted, processed, armed, and turned loose in Iraq and Afghanistan (yet decorated veterans – some of whom speak Arabic fluently – are still drummed-out of the service if they happen to be gay).

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Never Send a Contractor to do a Soldier’s Job

September 27, 2006

Nearly one year ago today, the Washington Post had this to say about the state of the Iraqi armed forces “rebuilt” by the current regime under the direction of Donald Rumsfeld:

The number of Iraqi army battalions that can fight insurgents without U.S. and coalition help has dropped from three to one, top U.S. generals told Congress yesterday, adding that the security situation in Iraq is too uncertain to predict large-scale American troop withdrawals anytime soon.

With that kind of negative press a year ago, why hasn’t the situation improved? Why has it gotten worse instead of better? Because of the fact that Donald Rumsfeld, with the blessing of the republican Congressional majority, is using Iraq as a cash cow for the only real constituency they care about – private military contractors.

Oh, how the worm has turned! Originally hailed for “training Iraqi soldiers, providing security, and – oh! – so much more,” they’re now another line-item embarassment in multi-billion dollar stop-gap funding bills that the “liberal media” is giving the shrub yet another free pass on.

Why is this an op-ed piece in last month’s Boston Globe instead of front-page news?

While Army privates died overseas earning $25,000 a year, David Brooks, the disgraced former CEO of body-armor maker DHB, made $192 million in stock sales in 2004. He staged a reported $10 million bat mitzvah for his daughter. The 2005 pay package for Halliburton CEO David Lesar, head of the firm that most symbolizes the occupation’s waste, overcharges, and ghost charges on no-bid contracts, was $26 million, according to the report’s analysis of federal Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Who’d have thunk it, what with the pro-military party of fiscal responsiblity in power? You know, the ones who haven’t held a single oversight committee meeting since this farce in the Gulf began.


More U.S. Generals, NIE Hate Freedom ™

September 27, 2006

Six months after the National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the war in Iraq is a ‘cause célèbre’ for Islamic extremists that has created a breeding ground for terrorist wannabees, only a single republican Congressman bothered to show up for the first of three days of testimony by an array of retired top military brass calling for Donald Rumsfeld’s ouster.

In extraordinary testimony from former senior military men during wartime, retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton said Rumsfeld “continues to fight this war on the cheap” and denounced him as “incompetent.” Retired Army Major Gen. John Batiste called the United States “arguably less safe now than it was on Sept. 11, 2001.” And retired Marine Col. Thomas X. Hammes compared the shifting of U.S. troops from one Iraq hot spot to the next to a game of “Whack-A-Mole.”

And where is the “liberal media”? Why, covering Fox “News'” prime-time smearing of Bill Clinton of course! Been there, done that, as so eloquently summarized by Michael Hirsch:

[F]or the record, the Bush administration barely paid attention to bin Laden before 9/11, as documented by the 9/11 Commission and other inquiries. On Jan. 26, 2001—six days after Bush’s inauguration—an FBI report for the first time conclusively tied the USS Cole bombing in Yemen to Al Qaeda. A few weeks later, CIA Director George Tenet raised the stakes, calling bin Laden’s global terror network “the most immediate and serious threat” to U.S. national security. Yet there was no retaliation for the Cole or any other Al Qaeda attack for eight months—the “principals” did not even hold a meeting on how to deal with the terrorist group—despite Tenet’s increasingly urgent warnings about an Al Qaeda attack in the summer of 2001.

The corporate media has a point that the current regime is going to try to make political points at its expense by “shooting the messenger,” but in the end they – and the American people – only have themselves to blame for giving the smirking chimp and his cronies another free pass.


Your Tax Dollars at Work

September 6, 2006

I just wanted to share that one of my guests here at True Blue Blog, in addition to the usual unsupported arguments, pot-calling-the-kettle-black accusations, and generally boorish behavior that’s the hallmark of most online neocons is also an employee at the Pentagon who apparently has nothing better to do with his time than surf the Web and troll progressive blogs.

Nice.

Thank God my friends and family who are deployed in Iraq right now have someone so dedicated to their mission to rely on.  And thank you, Roci, for serving your country and supporting your brothers and sisters in-arms so well on my dime.


Do They Actually Let Patriots Serve Anymore?

August 9, 2006

First came the ideological litmus test for the Pentagon brass (not to mention the State Department).

Then came the graft and corruption test, imposed by the smirking chimp himself (you had to be a devotee graft and corruption to keep your stars).

And what trifecta would be complete without a religious litmus test for cadets at the various military academies?

Meanwhile the military lowered the bar and started taking in Nazis, high school drop-outs, and people with “personality disorders” who are all about the signing bonus and “kill[ing] ’em all.”

Thank God they’re keeping the queers out, though!

Openly gay people are prohibited from serving in the U.S. military under a 1993 policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The military can’t ask if a service member is gay, but those who say they are gay are discharged.

The U.S. military argues that barring gays from the military is critical to maintaining a unit’s “cohesion,” the trust among service members crucial to combat effectiveness.

Harassment of gays, however, is prohibited. The
Pentagon, in a 2000 memo to the armed services and commanders, said “mistreatment, harassment, and inappropriate comments or gestures” based on sexual orientation were not acceptable.

On the Navy’s USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, for example, anti-gay statements and jokes are on display and have been incorporated into a video about the F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft, recently shown to reporters on the carrier.

Pilots on the Roosevelt sported T-shirts, also shown to reporters including a Reuters correspondent, that said, “I’m a Tomcat guy and you’re a homo.” The commander of the fighter squadron, in fact, wore the shirt.


Why Do So Many Generals Hate Freedom (TM)?

August 8, 2006

I wouldn’t have thought it necessary to blog about the unprecedented act of retired military brass taking a political stance and advocating the ouster of a sitting Defense Secretary, but when Lindsay Lohan being calling “firecrotch” gets more press than the former, I can’t help but jump in. Here’s the tally so far according to ThinkProgress.org:

And let’s not forget that a number of West Point Alumni Hate Freedom (TM), too!


A Few Bad Apples…

August 7, 2006

According to the BBC:

A US military hearing has examined testimony of how three soldiers took it in turns to try to rape an Iraqi girl aged 14 in Mahmudiya in March.

The girl and three family members were allegedly killed by four US soldiers. The four are alleged to have helped a former private – Steven Green, who has since left the army – plan, carry out and cover up the attack.

Mr Green has pleaded not guilty in a federal court and will be tried separately in the US. A fifth soldier is alleged to have lied to cover up for his colleagues.

On the day of the attack the soldiers had been drinking Iraqi whisky mixed with an energy drink and practising golf strokes at a checkpoint south of Baghdad, Mr Barker’s statement said. One of the soldiers, Steven Green, said he “wanted to go to a house and kill some Iraqis,” it alleged.

And just who is Steven Green? According to MSNBC and Newsweek:

Even before he went to Iraq, Steven Green scared people. Growing up in oil-rich Midland, Texas, a small community full of pumping jacks, pickup trucks and fast-food restaurants, Green was known as a petulant loner and a hard-drinking druggie. Mostly what people remember is his seething, seemingly random rage. In high school, Green would jump on other kids for offenses like wearing a green shirt, or using a white cigarette lighter—anything he’d arbitrarily claim to hate. His best friend, Mike, recalls remarking to Green once that he wanted to punch another kid standing nearby. “I’ll do it!” Green said, and ran over and socked the boy. Another friend remembers the time when they were hanging out at his place and Green wanted to play a Guns N’ Roses CD. When the others said they wanted to hear something else, Green put the disc on anyway, blasting the music at full volume until people left, one by one.

[T]he Army seemed to offer everything Green lacked: money, friends, a place to stay, possibly even fame. Boot camp, Green later told friends, was great. He bragged about being a part of the world’s most powerful military, and he was excited to get to Iraq. “He wanted to be a hero,” says Hugh Bailey, 54, a Vietnam-veteran Marine who befriended Green. When he enlisted in February 2005, Green exultantly told Mike and others, like the mother of one of his friends, Alma Thomas: “I’m gonna go over there and kill ’em all.”

Wow, what a great attitude to take to an allied country where we’re spreading freedom and democracy! So how did someone like this get into the Army in the first place? Again, according to MSNBC and Newsweek:

In 2005, about the time Green was accepted, the Army raised the limit on the so-called Category 4 recruits it would allow, the designation for soldiers with the lowest scores on its aptitude test. (Green’s score is not known.) The Army has also been handing out more waivers—including case-by-case exceptions for criminal offenses—which increased by 3 percent last year. Basic training has slipped as well. In years past, basic was geared to “wash out” those unfit for the stresses of military life. Now it has been reformulated to keep as many recruits as possible. “What you’re seeing is the reverse of what made the Army so effective,” says Sen. Jack Reed of the Armed Services Committee.

Well, at least they’re driving all the queer language experts out of the military at any rate.

A fish rots from the head down. Although his apologists will cry foul, this is Rumsfeld’s fault. And in the interests of being fair to the embattled Secretary of Defense, let’s not forget that he serves at the pleasure of the person currently occupying the White House.