Ann Jones’ new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars: The Untold Story, is devastating, and almost incomprehensibly so when one considers that virtually all of the death and destruction in U.S. wars is on the other side. Statistically, what happens to U.S. troops is almost nothing. In human terms, it’s overwhelming.
Know a young person considering joining the military? Give them this book.
Know a person not working to end war? Give them this book.
Jones presents the choice before us in the clearest terms in the introduction:
Contrary to common opinion in the United States, war is not inevitable. Nor has it always been with us. War is a human invention — an organized, deliberate action of an anti-social kind — and in the long span of human life on Earth, a fairly recent one. For more than 99 percent of the time that humans have lived on this planet, most of them have never made war. Many languages don’t even have a word for it. Turn off CNN and read anthropology. You’ll see.
What’s more, war is obsolete. Most nations don’t make war anymore, except when coerced by the United States to join some spurious ‘coalition.’ The earth is so small, and our time here so short. No other nation on the planet makes war as often, as long, as forcefully, as expensively, as destructively, as wastefully, as senselessly, or as unsuccessfully as the United States. No other nation makes war its business.
Jones begins her book with that distinguishing feature of war: death. The U.S. military assigns specialists in “Mortuary Affairs” to dispose of the dead. They dispose of their own sanity in the process. And first they dispose of their appetite. “Broiled meat in the chow hall smells much the same as any charred Marine, and you may carry the smell of the dead on a stained cuff as you raise a fork to your mouth, only to quickly put it down.” Much of the dead is — like the slop at the chow hall — unrecognizable meat. Once dumped in landfills, until a Washington Post story made that a scandal, now it’s dumped at sea. Much of the dead is the result of suicides. Mortuary Affairs scrubs the brains out of the port-o-potty and removes the rifle, so other troops don’t have to see.
Then come, in vastly greater numbers, the wounded — Jones’ chapter two. A surgeon tells her that in Iraq the U.S. troops “had severe injuries, but the injuries were still on the body.” In Afghanistan, troops step on mines and IEDs while walking, not driving. Some are literally blown to bits. Others can be picked up in recognizable pieces. Others survive. But many survive without one or two legs, one or two testicles, a penis, an arm, both arms — or with a brain injury, or a ruined face, or all of the above. A doctor describes the emotion for a surgical team the first time they have to remove a penis and “watch it go into the surgical waste container.”
“By early 2012,” Jones writes, “3,000 [U.S.] soldiers had been killed by IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 31,394 wounded. Among the wounded were more than 1,800 soldiers with severe damage to their genitals.” Doctors treat an injured soldier’s limbs first, later their genitals, later still their brains.
Back in the states, two young parents and “two pretty adolescent girls,” step up “to sit on the padded platforms in the center of the room. They move with the tentative sobriety of shock. Aides wheel in a gurney that bears a bundle in a flannel sheet. They gather the edges of the sheet and swing the package over the platform into the very heart of the family. Carefully they lower it and then begin to peel away the wrapping. There, revealed, restored to the family, is the son, their boy, not dead, but missing both arms, both legs, and some part — it’s impossible to tell how much — of his lower torso. The director calls out a cheery greeting, ‘Hi Bobby! How are you doing today?’ Bobby tries to answer but makes no sound. He flops on the platform, an emaciated head, eyes full of fear, his chest all bones under a damp grey ARMY tee shirt…”
Be all that you can be.
In training you’re ordered into a poison gas chamber and exposed to a bit of it. If Assad trained his troops that way, we’d murder a half million Syrians to get even. But U.S. military training is training in blind subservience, usually properly resented when it’s too late. Up goes your chances of being dead, injured, guilt-ridden, traumatized, homicidal, and suicidal. Jones recounts the story of a soldier who murdered two Iraqi prisoners, came home convinced he was a murderer, laid out the two dead Iraqis’ dog tags, wrapped a hose twice around his neck, and hung himself. Twenty-two a day: that’s the count of U.S. veteran suicides according to the V.A. The rate is 4.7 times higher than normal, according to the Austin-American Statesmen’s investigation of Texas veterans. That doesn’t count recklessly crashed cars and motorcycles. And it doesn’t count the epidemic of overdoses of the drugs meant to solve the problem.
How to help such suffering? Therapists used to ask people to talk and now ask them to take drugs. In either case, they don’t ask them to honestly deal with their guilt. Between 2001 and 2007 homicides committed by active duty and veteran U.S. troops went up 90 percent. The military looks for problems in soldiers’ family lives to explain such troubles, as if they all suddenly began marrying the wrong spouses just when their country deployed them into the stupidest war yet waged. Jones tells the story of one Marine who killed his wife but kept her body on the couch to watch TV with him for weeks. “I killed the only girl who ever loved me,” he later lamented. Chances are good he had killed other people who were loved as well — he’d just done so in a context in which some people praised him for it.
One wounded warrior tells Jones he loves war and longs to get back into it. “Blowin’ shit up. It’s fucking fun. I fuckin’ love it.” She replies, “I believe you really mean that,” and he says, “No shit. I’m trying to educate you.” But an older Army officer has a different view: “I’ve been in the army 26 years,” he says, “and I can tell you it’s a con.” War, he believes in rather Smedley Butlerish fashion, is a way to make a small number of people “monufuckinmentally rich.” He says his two sons will not serve in the military. “Before that happens I’ll shoot them myself.” Why? “War is absurd,” he says. “Boys don’t know any better. But for a grown man to be trapped in stupid wars — it’s embarrassing, it’s humiliating, it’s absurd.”
Actually, it’s not so much that the U.S. and Israel are seemingly ‘obsessed’ with Iran, but more that the neoconservative’s of the U.S. and Israel’s right-wing Zionists are. However, this apparent obsession is only a deliberately created illusion. Israel’s real obsession is the creation of a Greater Israel and the destruction of those that prevent Israel’s expansionist dreams; Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon, both of whom are supported by Iran.
The stated casus belli for any Israeli/US attack on Iran will be that Iran is building a nuclear weapon with which it intends to ‘wipe Israel off the map’. The ‘Iran has a nuclear weapons program’ and the ‘wipe Israel off the map’ are two memes that have gone hand in hand in the propaganda and rhetoric of Israel’s Zionists and their neoconservative allies in the US and, indeed, around the world for years.
There are, however, a range of problems with these allegations. Firstly, there is, despite the constant barrage of assertions to the contrary, no actual physical evidence whatsoever that Iran actually has a ‘nuclear weapons program’. Time and time again, Israel and their allies have made the accusations but have never been able to support their allegations with any hard irrefutable evidence. All of the ‘evidence’ so far has been either vaguely circumstantial, hearsay based on statements from dissidents and defectors, straight out lies or simply conclusions based on wishful thinking and vivid imaginations.
Secondly, the ‘wipe Israel of the map’ meme is a deliberate mistranslation of a statement by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who said nothing of the sort. It was the neoconservative organisation MEMRI that was responsible for the deliberate mistranslation of the ‘wipe Israel of the map’ line which has been used extensively by neoconservatives and Israelis ever since to invoke hatred of Iran and to infer an existential threat against Israel from Iran. Still, though, Israel and the US insist that Iran is intent on producing a nuclear weapon that it plans to use against Israel and possibly even against America.
Which brings us to the third problem with the allegations ranged against Iran and that is; why would Iran, even if it did have a nuclear weapon, risk utter and swift destruction by US and Israeli retaliatory nuclear strikes if it were to ever attack Israel with a nuclear weapon? The answer, of course is; it wouldn’t – and the Israelis and the US are well aware of it. They are also well aware that in reality Iran has no nuclear weapons program.
So why then all the fuss? The hope is that with the aid of a compliant Western mainstream media, the propaganda memes of ‘Iran has a nuclear weapons program’ and wants to ‘wipe Israel off the map’ repeated over and over endlessly will eventually so influence public opinion that it will support an attack against Iran.
The ‘Iranian problem’ is presented to the world via the mainstream media in its most simplistic form. It runs thus: ‘Iran has a nuclear weapons program with which it wishes to wipe Israel off the map so the answer is to destroy its weapons making capabilities using military action’.
That’s the rhetoric and the propaganda.
The reality is this: Israel and the US have no real interest in Iran’s nuclear program; their real aim as far as Iran is concerned is to destroy the Islamic regime and replace it with one that is US and Israel friendly.
Attacking Iran and affecting regime change kills a number of birds with one stone. It puts an end to what Israel and the US regard as Iran’s influence in the region, but, most important as far as the Israelis and their supporters are concerned, is that an attack against Iran provides, so they hope the world will believe, a legitimate pretext for attacking Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon on the basis that the Israelis are pre-empting a strike by Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel in retaliation of Israel’s attack against Iran.
Since the only way the US and Israel will be able to affect ‘regime change’ in Iran without the use of an invasion and occupation – unthinkable considering that Iran is more than three and a half times the size of Iraq and has about two and a half times the population – is by bombing it into capitulation and surrender, one can expect a campaign that will be far more than a load of bunker-buster bombs aimed at Iran’s nuclear facilities. Much more likely is a campaign of significant attacks against Iran’s defence and governmental institutions as well as its nuclear facilities; attacks that will deliberately inflict significant ‘colateral damage’ on civilians as the Iranian authorities get accused of using their civilians as ‘human shields’. The hope always with this strategy is that the civilian population will then press their government to end the war by capitulating to their enemies demands.
The only problem with this strategy is that it rarely ever works. Usually when such all-out bombing campaigns are carried out with the view to getting the enemy to sue for peace, rather than suing for peace, a phenomenon known as ‘Kriegssozialismus’ sets in whereby people from all walks of civilian life spontaneously ignore their ordinary class affiliations and come together to help each other out in circumstances where all are suffering equally due to war, and, importantly, collectively stiffen their resolve to resist the enemies actions rather than cave into them. Short of using nuclear weapons to defeat Iran, the US and Israel stand no hope of defeating the people of Iran.
There is also a problem of logistics in attacking Iran. Over the years that the threat of attack has prevailed, there have been reports that have suggested that Israel will ‘go it alone’ if they feel threatened enough by Iran’s ‘nuclear weapon program’. One report recently even suggested that the US is “concerned that Israel will not warn them before taking action against Iran’s nuclear facilities”. This is all rhetorical nonsense dished up for public consumption. The reality is that it would be absolutely impossible for Israel to launch an entirely unilateral attack against Iran without US connivance.
In any attack they mount, Israel will use American aircraft which constantly require spare parts mostly from the US. They will also require ordnance which also mostly comes from the US; they will require vast quantities of military jet fuel, and, if Israel plans to attack Hamas and Hezbollah at the same time, it will also require massive amounts of diesel fuel to power up its ground forces. All of this comes from the US and, as was recorded in August 2010, Israel has already ordered that fuel which would by now have been delivered and stockpiled.
The other major logistic hurdle Israel needs to overcome is the one of getting to and from its target. Israel is separated from Iran by at least two other countries; Syria and Iraq or Jordan and Iraq. Either way, this amounts to a round rip of around 3000kms to bomb Bushehr and/or Qom, Iran’s two main nuclear facilities. The most likely route would be via Syria who would be unlikely to offer any resistance to Israeli overflights – especially if it came under attack itself. Then there is the question of overflying Iraq. The Iraqi government on its own is unlikely to allow Israeli aircraft to overfly their territory. Israel would need to be in cohorts with the US if it wished to get the US to convince the Iraqi government to allow Israeli aircraft into its airspace. And not only would Israel need to have Iraqi permission to pass through its airspace, it would also need to use Iraqi airspace for in-flight refuelling operations which the Israelis would need to utilise since their strike aircraft do not have the range to do the job in one round trip without refuelling.
The question then is; what exactly is Israel’s intended endgame in the event of an attack against Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah?
Such a massive attack against all of its enemies at once is a huge commitment on Israeli resources and one of very high risk. It will, therefore, need to be decisive in terms of meeting all of its war aims.
Israel will have learnt the lessons of its past failures. After years of attacks against Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, Israel has not been able to destroy Hezbollah or Hamas despite its efforts against Hezbollah in 2006 and against Hamas in 2008/2009. In the event of an attack against Iran, Israel is likely to simultaneously mount hitherto unprecedented attacks against both Hamas and Hezbollah. Such a strike will likely be opened up with a massive aerial and artillery barrage and then, since Israel does not have to commit ground forces to attacking Iran, it will be able to invade and occupy the Gaza Strip and south Lebanon up to the Latani River. At the same time, Israel is likely to fully occupy all of the West Bank in order to prevent any uprising by Palestinian resistance there and remilitarise the Golan Heights to prevent any backlash there.
In short, for Israel an attack against Iran and Israel’s other enemies on the pretext of pre-empting an immediate threat to its own existence will be the do or die action it will take in order to realise Zionism’s ultimate endgame; the creation of a Greater Israel.
The coming confrontation is not about Iran being a threat; it is about Israel ridding itself of all of its enemies in the places that it would like to annex as part of its realisation of creating a permanent Greater Israel nation abundant with fertile lands, its own water resources, and living space. War is its pretext.
Is Noam Chomsky an anarcho-syndicalist or proponent of the Federal Reserve? A fearless political crusader or defender of the Warren Commission JFK orthodoxy? A tireless campaigner for justice or someone who doesn’t care who did 9/11?
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A Loyalist from Northern Ireland becomes Jewish, he plans to move to Israel and settle and start a new life. He exclaims that Palestine was a “political invention” and tells Palestinians who have lived there their whole life “you have had a nice holiday, time to go home”. This is an extremely valid argument as this man has never set foot on the Land of Israel or Palestine. This Snippet was taken from the BBC documentary called Shalom Belfast.
Gilad Atzmon comments:
We are not dealing here with Jewish race or gene. Taking on the Jewish religion in this case introduces a set of supremacist non ethical beliefs. This is what Jewishness is all about.
Twenty-one countries, including US allies France and Mexico, have now joined talks to hammer out a UN resolution that would condemn “indiscriminate” and “extra-territorial” surveillance, and ensure “independent oversight” of electronic monitoring.
The news was reported by Foreign Policy magazine, which has also obtained a copy of the draft text.
The resolution was proposed earlier this week by Germany and Brazil, whose leaders have been some of the most vocal critics of the comprehensive spying methods of the US National Security Agency.
It appears to have gained additional traction after the Guardian newspaper published an internal NSA memo sourced from whistleblower Edward Snowden on Friday, which revealed that at least 35 heads of state had their phones tapped by American intelligence officials.
One of those is likely German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Earlier this week the White House failed to deny that her personal cell phone had been tapped in the past, though it claims that it no longer listens in on Merkel’s private conversations.
Other countries involved in the talks reportedly include Argentina, Austria, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Guyana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Norway, Paraguay, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay and Venezuela.
While the document does not single out the US as the chief electronic spy, its text seems to be a direct response to alleged NSA practices.
The draft says that UN member states are “deeply concerned at human rights violations and abuses that may result from the conduct of extra-territorial surveillance or interception of communications in foreign jurisdictions.”
Snowden’s leaks over the past months have revealed that NSA intercepts data directly from data cables stationed around the world. Internal documents also showed that American intelligence staff did not need a warrant or any other legal basis to freely spy on a non-US citizen.
The proposed document also claims that “illegal surveillance of private communications and the indiscriminate interception of personal data of citizens constitutes a highly intrusive act that violates the rights to freedom of expression and privacy and threatens the foundations of a democratic society.”
As opposed to the targeted spying of the past, where agencies would tap a specific phone or intercept letters addressed to a person, new technologies mean that almost all data that passes through the internet is saved onto the NSA servers. This includes private emails, web searches, and personal data of billions of people. NSA agents then fish out the needed information with precise searches.
The resolution, which is expected to be presented in front of the U.N. General Assembly human rights committee before the end of the year, turns NSA’s activities into an issue of fundamental rights as opposed to international politics, requiring the High Commissioner for Human Rights to present the world community with a report on the issue. The draft also asks to institute “independent oversight mechanisms” that would curb the untrammelled surveillance, though it does not specify how such a secretive activity could be effectively supervised.
The German Chancellor’s mobile phone has been on an NSA target list since 2002 and was code-named “GE Chancellor Merkel”, according to Der Spiegel. The paper also reports that President Obama assured Merkel that he did not know her phone was tapped.
The monitoring operation was still in force even a few weeks before Obama’s visit to Berlin in June 2013.
In the NSA’s Special Collection Service (SCS) document cited by the magazine, the agency said it had a “not legally registered spying branch” in the US embassy in Berlin. It also warned that its exposure would lead to “grave damage for the relations of the United States to another government”.
Using the spying branch, NSA and CIA staff were tapping communications in Berlin’s government district with high-tech surveillance.
The magazine says that according to a secret document from 2010, such branches existed in about 80 locations around the world, including Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague, Geneva and Frankfurt.
However, it is unclear, Der Spiegel reports, if the SCS obtained recorded conversations or just connection data.
President Obama, however, told Merkel that he was not aware that her phone was bugged, if he had known, he would have immediately stopped it, Der Spiegel reports as it also disclosed the recent conversation between the two.
The German newspaper cites the Chancellor’s office, which said that during Wednesday’s call Obama expressed his deep regret and apologized to the Chancellor.
Earlier, Barack Obama assured Merkel that his country was not monitoring her communications, but failed to confirm or deny the tapping took place in the past.
Speaking to her German counterpart, Susan E. Rice, the President’s national security adviser, also insisted that Obama did not know about the monitoring of Merkel’s phone, and said it was not currently happening. However, she also failed to deny it happened in the past.
Angela Merkel called President Obama over the German government’s suspicions the US could have tapped her mobile phone on Wednesday.
Following the call, US ambassador to Germany Steffen Seibert stated that Merkel had made clear to Obama that if the information proved trued it would be “completely unacceptable” and represent a “grave breach of trust”.
A few days earlier, the US President had to convince his French colleague of the same issues.
The Le Monde newspaper reported earlier this week that the NSA spied on the agency records of millions of phone calls of top French politicians and business people. Later The Guardian revealed citing former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the leadership of 35 nations was spied on; the list of countries however did not follow.
In response to allegations, Obama promised that the US secret service would revise its methods of working in order to both provide the security of citizens and not to interfere with their privacy.
Germany will send heads of its foreign and domestic intelligence agencies to Washington to hold talks with the White House and the National Security Agency in order to push forward” an investigation into allegations the US spied on its leader.”
“What exactly is going to be regulated, how and in what form it will be negotiated and by whom, I cannot tell you right now,” German government spokesman Georg Streiter told reporters.
German media citing sources close to the intelligence service reported on Saturday that the delegation will include top officials from the German secret service.
Earlier, Germany and France said they want “a no-spy deal” with the US to be signed by the end of the year.
The Foreign Policy reported on Saturday that 21 one countries are now participating in talks over a draft UN General Resolution aimed at holding back US government surveillance.
EU leaders say their relations with the US have been undermined by reports of NSA spying on European leaders and ordinary citizens.
A partnership with America should be built on respect and trust, they said in a joint statement on Friday.
“[The leaders] stressed that intelligence gathering is a vital element in the fight against terrorism,” the BBC cites the statement as reading. “A lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field of intelligence gathering.”
The European Parliament recently voted for the suspension of US access to the global financial database held by a Belgian company because of concerns that the US is snooping on the database for financial gain rather than just to combat terrorism.
However, anti-war activist Richard Becker doubted President Obama did not know the German Chancellor’s phone was bugged.
“These kinds of assertions are comical,” he told RT. “It shows that the US’ relationship with other countries is based on its notion of its “American exceptionalism.” There is in fact an American exceptionalism – no other country in the world spies on everybody else and all of the countries and feels free to intervene in all other countries,” he said.
Becker says the spying scandal shows “the nature of the relationships” between the US and other states.
“Even among the allies they are in contention and competition among each other and not to mention the kind of relationship that is carried out against those countries that the US considers its enemies,” he said.
A new report has revealed that US President Barack Obama was personally aware of the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
NSA director Keith Alexander had briefed President Obama on the mobile phone tapping against Merkel in 2010, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported on Sunday.
“Obama did not halt the operation but rather let it continue,” according to the paper citing a high-ranking NSA official.
The newspaper also said the US spying agency eavesdropped on Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schroder, after former US president George W. Bush launched the spying program in 2002, adding that Schroder’s refusal to support the Iraq war was a key reason behind the operation.
The new revelation comes one day after German magazine Der Spiegel said that the NSA’s Special Collection Service (SCS) had listed Merkel’s mobile telephone since 2002.
Washington’s ally has demanded explanations from the White House after disclosures about the huge and broad American electronic spying.
On Thursday, Germany summoned US ambassador John Emerson to discuss the tapping allegations.
“For us, spying on close friends and partners is totally unacceptable. This undermines trust and this can harm our friendship,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said. “We need the truth now.”
In a phone call with Obama on Wednesday, Merkel said that she “unequivocally disapproves of such practices and sees them as completely unacceptable. There should be no such monitoring of the communication of a head of government. That would be a grave breach of trust.”
The White House, however, rejected the allegations, saying “the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel.”
The global outrage over US government surveillance further spiked after The Guardian — citing a confidential memo obtained from American whistleblower Edward Snowden – revealed that the NSA is illegally eavesdropping on phone conversations of 35 world leaders.
The revelations have prompted Brazil and Germany to begin drafting a UN General Assembly resolution to restrain the NSA’s surveillance programs against other nations.