In recent days I've been thinking more and more about The Handmaid's Tale, a book by Margaret Atwood I read about five years ago (which is now a high school reading list book, thanks to the liberal conspiracy in our schools and libraries.) If you've never heard of it, it's set in an America where the state and the church are the same, and all events of state look a lot like the gilded blue-haired piety of Dr. Crouch and Benny Hinn (and the Rev. Creflo Dollar.)
Can't we all just get along?
Florida Women Disarm Intruder With Sandwich
And if not...
Catholic High School Girls Pummel Man Who Exposed Himself
Okay, on to the SCREED...it's protest again this Sunday in Palisades Park (thanks, Josh; good luck finding any parking):
Protest Against Israel's Apartheid Wall - SUNDAY NOV 9 in Santa Monica
Please go to www.stopthewall.org or phone 323-993-3322 for more information.
We have a commitment from Moustafa Barghouti to be a speaker.
BRING DOWN THE WALL!
DID YOU KNOW THAT ISRAEL IS BUILDING A 400-MILE LONG APARTHEID WALL?
This massive barrier, which runs deep into Palestinian territory, is made up of a series of fortifications 200 to 300 feet wide, including a 27-ft. high concrete wall, razor wire and electrified fences, roads and trenches, guard towers and electronic surveillance stations. (See attached photo & map.) The Wall:
* annexes nearly one-half of the West Bank
* steals Palestinian land and destroys families, lives, homes, farms and businesses
* divides cities, towns and villages, imprisoning Palestinians in their own country
* is an act of war - yet is falsely portrayed as providing security for Israelis
* creates an Israeli-defined border that makes agreement with the Palestinians impossible, in an attempt to make the illegal occupation permanent
* would be impossible without the active financial and political support of the US government
Join the International Day of Protest Against Israel's Apartheid Wall
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 9 ~ 12:30 to 3:30 pm
Palisades Park at Ocean Ave & Colorado in Santa Monica
Program includes Music, Poetry, Dramatic Readings, Performances & Speakers, including George Rishmawi, from Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem
For more information about this event or about Israel's Apartheid Wall call (323) 993-3322 or visit www.stopthewall.org www.wib-la.org or www.palestine-aid-society.org
And for those of you in the Bay Area:
"The Wall Must Fall"
The Bay Area Coalition Against the Wall
International Day of Action Against Israel's Apartheid Wall
Sunday, November 9
Washington Square Park
San Francisco (Stockton and Union)
12-2 pm: Theater, Song, Folkloric Dance, and Words of Resistance
11 am-5 pm: Outreach and Art Exhibition--See the Wall for Yourself!
Raise your voice against Israel's Apartheid Wall in Palestine and its Racist Policies. Demand an End to Israel's Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinian Land, Demolition of Homes, and the Forced Separation of Families. Stop US Taxpayer Funding of Israel's Atrocities
For more information contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org www.pengon.org www.stopthewall.org
I am encouraged to go to this protest by articles like this; it seems that the citizens of Israel and Palestine are way ahead of their leaders (typical) and are making their own peace agreement:
Headline: Unofficial peace push in Mideast
Byline: Cameron W. Barr Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
(JERUSALEM) Some Israeli and Palestinian public figures, increasingly convinced that their governments are unable or unwilling to make peace, are trying to do it from the bottom up.
On a completely different note...
I wanted to mention to those of you in New York City that one of my favorite duos, Ms. Gillian Welch and Mr. David Rawlings, are performing next week in your city:
November 13, Thu. New York, NY Bowery Ballroom
November 14, Fri. New York, NY Town Hall
Yes, it's comforting to feel that everyone hasn't lost their mind...
Dad Arrested After Pumpkin Attack
Or is blinded by the Light:
Maureen Dowd: With his eyes shut, Bush sees an improving Iraq
By Maureen Dowd
I mean, the Truth is Out There...right?
Blueprint for a Mess
By David Rieff
New York Times
Everything will be OK if we just think good thoughts...right?
A Wind of Panic Blows Through Baghdad
By Renaud Girard
Everybody loves democracy...right?
Baghdad Deputy Mayor killed in Drive-By Shooting
We've got to be careful, or our children will catch on to us:
Dutch Child Hands Out Heroin 'Candy' to Classmates
Or marvel at our clever hypocrisy:
Ad Showing Helium Inhaling by Giraffe Is Criticized
Speaking of hypocrisy, I was absolutely amazed by this speech, where the liberation of Iraq was compared to the liberation of the Philippines (from Spain, not from the Japanese.) The assumption is that people only have an attention span of ten years. "Oh, yeah, duh, the Philippines. They're a democracy." That's right, after they deposed the dictator we helped install (Mr. Marcos) who was a very good friend of Mr. Reagan; after we cancelled loans and grants when our military bases were evicted, and after the subjugation of the country in 1905, an incredibly brutal and murderous slaughter (don't believe me, read about it), one of the most racist wars this country has ever fought, which set the tone for later wars in Central America, the Caribbean, the Pacific, and Southeast Asia. I have seen newspaper articles about the guerrilla war in the Philippines that absolutely shocked me (and I am not, natch, easily shocked.) If you ever wondered why Teddy Roosevelt is so famous or why most Americans did not want us involved in World War I, learn about our "liberation" of the Philippines.
Yep, people are really smart.
** Rabbis back Israeli 'guard pigs' **
An organisation in Israel gains rabbinical approval to train pigs to guard Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
< http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/1/hi/world/middle_east/3221079.stm >
And finally, the new way to fight war, with hired guns. Wild West, anyone? Here's to American Democracy...I wonder what the ancient Athenians would think (thanks, Jennifer):
U.S. contractors form shadowy army
Critics say increased role of quasi-soldiers damages accountability
Several have been killed recently
ASSOCIATED PRESS (from Toronto Star - www.thestar.com)
In Iraq, private contractors do just about everything a soldier would do. They sling Spam in mess tents. They tote guns along base perimeters. They shoot. They get shot. Sometimes they get killed. And it's not just in Iraq, but around the world - in conflict zones from Liberia to Kosovo to Afghanistan - that the United States is putting hired help behind the front lines to ease the burden of its overworked armed forces.
By paying civilians to handle military tasks, the Bush administration is freeing up U.S. troops to fight. But the use of contractors also hides the true costs of war.
Their dead aren't added to official body counts. Their duties - and profits - are hidden by close-mouthed executives who won't give details to Congress. And as their coffers and roles swell, companies are funneling earnings into political campaigns and gaining influence over military policy - even getting paid to recommend themselves for lucrative contracts.
For the civilians handling these soldierly jobs, the risks are high.
A contractor near the Iraqi city of Fallujah died and an American engineer was wounded when their vehicles came under attack Monday - possibly by U.S. soldiers, said the British-based company, European Landmine Solutions. U.S. officials said their soldiers weren't responsible.
The chief military contractor in Iraq, Kellogg, Brown & Root, has had three workers killed in Iraq, two of whom died in ambushes.
Another top U.S. military contractor, DynCorp, saw three of its workers killed in an ambush by Palestinians in the West Bank this month.
In Afghanistan, two civilian contractors working for the CIA were slain in an ambush Saturday.
And in Liberia, contractors guarding the U.S. Embassy have fought like soldiers during rebel sieges, at times lifting guns from slain rebels, said Horacio "Hersh" Hernandez, a retired Marine with Intercon security in Liberia. He owes his job, he says, to post-Cold War defense cuts and a slew of new U.S. engagements.
"It's a massive business boom for the private security field,'' Hernandez said.
As the United States slashes the size of its standing army from 2.1 million in 1990 to 1.4 million now, the Pentagon began running out of soldiers to handle postwar violence in Iraq and Afghanistan and peacekeeping in Bosnia and Kosovo while facing threats elsewhere.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld argued wars could still be fought without boosting the number of soldiers by outsourcing just about everything except battlefield gunning.
Under U.S. employ in Iraq, American companies turn profits while operating missile defense batteries, piloting unmanned aerial vehicles and snapping satellite pictures of bombing targets.
The machine-gun toting guards who shadow Afghan President Hamid Karzai and L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, are private-sector workers, as are those who built and operate the cavernous white mess tent on the base of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Baghdad.
There, a $3 million contract with Kellogg, Brown & Root paid for the tent's construction and the Bangladeshi and Indian cooks who feed 4,000 troops daily. One soldier breakfasting inside the tent, a nine-year veteran, said she's been sent to patrol Baghdad since contractors took her job as a cook.
With Kellogg, Brown & Root handling everything from mail delivery to bug control on U.S. bases in Iraq and around the world, plenty of other soldiers are finding themselves on the front lines.
Peter W. Singer, a Brookings Institution military analyst, estimates there is one contractor for every 10 foreign soldiers in Iraq - 10 times the private involvement in the Gulf War.
Worldwide, private military companies earn about $100 billion in yearly government contracts, Singer believes. Ninety private military companies are listed on the Web site for the Center for Public Integrity. In comparison, the U.S. defense budget is about $380 billion this year, excluding emergency spending, and is expected to rise to more than $400 billion.
Some of the firms working in Iraq are huge, politically connected conglomerates like Halliburton - corporate parent of Kellogg, Brown & Root and formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. Others are little known, like Erinys, a security firm chocked with former South African special forces that will train 6,500 Iraqis to guard oil installations.
The world of military contracts is a murky one.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, important buildings in the capitals bristle with gun-toting Americans in sunglasses. They favor khaki photographers' vests and a few military accoutrements, but lack the name tags and identifying patches of a soldier.
Ask who they work for and one often hears "no comment" or "I can't tell you that.''
Contractors' deaths aren't counted among the tally of more than 350 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. No one is sure how many private workers have been killed, or, indeed, even how many are toiling in Iraq for the U.S. government. Estimates range from under 10,000 to more than 20,000 - which could make private contractors the largest U.S. coalition partner ahead of Britain's 11,000 troops.
Global Risks Strategies, a security firm with about 1,100 workers on the ground - mainly armed former Nepalese and Fijian soldiers - is among security companies that have more personnel in Iraq than some other countries taking part in the occupation, Singer said.
To the consternation of U.S. lawmakers, there is little or no Congressional oversight of contractors hired by the executive branch of government - whether through the State Department, Pentagon or the CIA.
Many, like San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp., which trains Iraqi journalists, police and soldiers, are privately held firms employing ex-soldiers and spies.
"We refrain from talking about things our customers don't want us talking about," said Science Applications spokesman Jason McIntosh. "That's just good policy.''
Some private contracts look like covert operations once handled by the CIA - such as cocaine eradication in South America now done by companies that fly crop-dusters in Colombia.
In September, a contractor's spray plane was shot down and its pilot killed in Colombia. Then in February, three employees of California Microwave Systems were captured by a rebel group when their plane crashed on a U.S. anti-drug mission.
Had those been U.S. soldiers, the public outcry and government response would have been sharp, said Deborah Avant, a political scientist at George Washington University.
The connection between companies and politicians in Washington raises the specter of executives lobbying for a hawkish U.S. foreign policy since they profit from war, Avant said.
Iraq contractors DynCorp, Bechtel and Halliburton donated more than $2.2 million - mainly to Republican causes like the 2000 Bush presidential campaign - between 1999 and 2002, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In the case of Halliburton, the U.S. government hired the company in Iraq without a competitive bid, after the company recommended itself in a study.
Contractors don't appear to be pulling personnel out of Iraq despite attacks - something that has chased U.S. forces out of hotspots before.
Vive le screed!
07 November 2003