HAMMERNEWS- Michael Hammerschlag

Current Political Commentary by journalist Michael Hammerschlag; Thoughts on foreign policy, Republican outrages, liberal strategies, science by 8 year correspondent in Russia/Ukraine over 22 years and longtime commentator; Website: http://HAMMERNEWS.com

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Salon has an agonizing Rashomon-ish look at the (site-pass allows several hours of viewing after watching a 20 second ad) killing of Knight Ridder reporter/Iraqi doctor Yasser Salihee by an American sniper as he drove around another car before an unblockaded American checkpoint. Incredibly, reporter Phillip Robertson, a close friend of Salihee, who was the brother of Robertson's interpreter, managed to surreptitiously be embedded with the same unit and track down and interview the sniper who killed him. The sniper comes across as decent and honorable in what may have just been a tragic accident of war- but either he or Iraqi witnesses aren't telling the truth- whether Salihee was stopped or driving and how far away he was. Neither can be really believed: Sniper Joe has too much to protect and Iraqi witnesses blame America for every insurgent bombing.

These mobile careless unmarked checkpoints that people can't really see, on penalty of death, are the most disgusting murderous events in our occupation. US forces invariably asks why drivers didn't stop when they shoot the tires or engine, but someone being shot at doesn't want to present a stationary target to people trying to kill him- the human instinct is to floor it; and if they don't see the US checkpoint, the shooting could be from insurgents, terrorists, or robbers-hijackers. Sandbags and canned megaphone announcements in Arabic would go a long way to preventing these horrors and the 27-100 thousand US PTSD victims (excel. article) they created. As I said in FIRM of MIND before the war, "Being wounded or killed isn’t the only threat; one can be wounded by killing." "They just didn't understand what "STOP!" meant," said a deserter sadly about a blasted family. "Hey, I'm a hero- I did crazy stuff over there... but they wanted me to shoot women and children," said another American deserter in Canada. Not understanding English has always been deadly to the indigenous in US wars., and of course teaching troops 5 to 10 Arabic phrases is expecting too much.

From Nov 27 interview of NPR's Anne Garrels:
"On election day there will be no traffic between provinces ... [and] there will be no traffic in the city itself. ... If you're moving around by car, it's too dangerous. I got shot at last time."
Q:Who shot at you?
Americans and Iraqis, in January. It was a joint checkpoint, except that they were hiding in the bushes and I couldn't see the checkpoint. It was the day before the elections, and traffic actually that day was allowed. This is the sort of thing we face all the time. There are supposed to be checkpoints, but there was no visible checkpoint, they were hiding in the bushes."Q:How would you know to stop?"You don't, until you're shot."
Q:Did they shoot at every car that drove by?
"They said they had orders to shoot every car that went by. Now, we survived that episode, and I went on to the next checkpoint and there was an extremely good captain there, and I explained to him what had just happened. He got on the radio, because these were not the orders, it was just complete chaos on the streets. He was very good and actually helped me negotiate several checkpoints.

The new Steven Bochco FX series OVER THERE had a wrenching depiction of a US squad blasting cars approaching their checkpoint- but it cheats: the all-hero troops riddle maybe one innocent car of refuges before 2 or 3 that are part of a conspiracy to smuggle some insurgent out in their trunk, an absurd ratio (they know the insurgent is going to make a try through intelligence and have their own US interpreter who examines Iraqi identifications). If we are lucky, we shoot up one insurgent car for every 10 innocent, but I suspect the ratio is far far worse.

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION: This is the multiplier effect of the terrible Rummy-allowed looted IED's - that they make US troops so (understandably) jumpy and terrified that they cause routine arbitrary tragic executions. A US News+WR report has a breathtaking 250,000 tons of heavy ordnance (out of 650,000 tons total): aircraft bombs, artillery and tank shells catalogued before invasion and then allowed to be looted by our undermanned army through criminal incompetence at the top- equal to 1 million 500 lb bombs. At ten 500 lb. roadside mines or market closeouts a day, that's enough for 274 years of attacks.
---"During the fall of 2003, what you would see was Iraqis going in at night, individually and in trucks," US weapons inspector David Kay told U.S. News . "They would pull ordnances out and drive off." Security was so bad after Saddam Hussein's regime fell, Kay recalled, that his team was often shot at by insurgents when they went to inspect the sites: "There were just not enough boots on the ground, and the military didn't give it a high enough priority to stop the looting. Tens of thousands of tons of ammunition were being looted, and that is what is fueling the insurgency." -USNWR 11/8/2004

Worst was the Manhattan-sized weapons dump of Al Qaqa'a (Kakah-ah- which became an issue before the 2004 US election), loaded with 380 tons of HMX, RDX, PETN high explosives, so powerful they are used in nuclear bombs, and able to make undetectable IED's out of rubble (no metal). The 101 Airborne Div., who swept the area April 7-10, 2003, said they "did not receive orders to search and secure the entire facility or search for high explosive-type munitions." By May 27, it was stripped of all explosives by looters. A huge munitions dump only 2 miles south of the giant Annaconda US base was carelessly allowed to be looted, commanders ignoring repeated pleadings from intelligence officers.
---Ford told me, "No one seemed too interested in what I said about that stuff. I went out there several times after I told them and the place was still unguarded. The more times I went out there, the more stuff was missing. Marciello told me that he saw many such unsecured storage sites all over Iraq that were full of weapons and ammunition. "They were commonplace," he told me. "Nobody really cared about them." -- Salon

Even the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research facility was allowed to be looted under the noses of US troops, putting a lie to the entire WMD excuse for invasion. The First Rule of Occupation is: "disarm the population", but Rumsfeld knew better, wanting to test his faster lighter cheaper invasion theories, and blindly convinced we would be feted as liberators.

In a WashPost column contrasting withdrawal strategies, Henry Kissinger claimed the Iraqi insurgents are "lightly armed" compared to the North Vietnamese, though of course the proper comparison is to the Viet Cong, who didn't have 500 lb. bombs.


In finally returning the 40% of Gaza off-limits to Palestinians (in the most dense place in world) by Israeli settlements and security, Israel has made an overdue step, but I fear they will react by solidifying the West Bank occupation. 28 x 4 mile Gaza is larger than one thought- Gaza City at the north end had almost all the people, while Israeli settlements had appropriated choice land along the Southern beaches, and caused networks of hated checkpoints. "I felt like I was visiting a foreign country," said one Gazan who was visiting a town 1 1/2 miles inland from his for the first time in a decade.

The spectacular gentleness with which totally unarmed (not even nightsticks) Israeli soldiers treated religious extremists who had flooded the area from West Bank and Israel contrasted wildly with the harshness and brutality of the long and sad occupation, which has become a cancer on the Israeli soul. As Palestinian negotiator Michael Tarazi said memorably in a speech I saw, "The settlements are our suicide bombers." Israeli extremists madly claim God's authority in claiming this land from 3000 year old claims, not much different than the fanaticism of Bin Laden's beliefs. Try redrawing the map of the world based on 3000 year old claims (or 100), and one instantly realizes the idiocy of that position. Pundits are celebrating the "ease" which which operation was carried out, because settlers haven't used guns (yet, except on some West Bank Palestinians), but they threw acid, solvent, garbage and paint on soldiers and fought like banshees, though they're recieving up to $300,000 relocation expenses. 54 Israeli soldiers were injured: one soldier seriously when he slipped off a 2nd story deliberately soaked with oil. Of course the settlers were encouraged by government subsidies and policy to settle there by uh,... Sharon.

If you can't keep the dozens of sleazy scandals of the Bushmen straight, SALON has compiled a list of 34 from January- now up to about 40. Mark Ames, editor of gonzo Russian alternative mag The EXILE, lists the endless contradictory gibberish the administration has claimed over the years on the number of battle ready Iraq soldiers/police- from 8000 to 200,000. Former co-editor Matt Taibbi managed to get the editor fired at the New York Press with an amazingly lame and tasteless "52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope."

text Copyright 2005 Michael Hammerschlag (use permitted with link)


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