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At least some in US Congress recognise toxic culture of mercenaries in war zones

Posted: 28 Jul 2011

As we learn that the US has wasted tens of billions on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, few American politicians are opposed to this explosion of privatisation.

Here’s a statement by Bernie Sanders, US Senator from Vermont:

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) today introduced legislation that would phase out private security contractors in war zones. 

This legislation recognizes that the United States increasingly has relied on private contractors to wage our wars, wasting taxpayer money, damaging military morale and hurting our reputation around the world.

“The American people have always prided themselves on the strength, conduct, and honor of our United States military.  I therefore find it very disturbing that now, in the midst of two wars and a global struggle against terrorism, we are relying more and more on private security contractors – rather than our own military – to provide for our national defense,” Sanders said.

“Our continued reliance on private security contractors endangers our military, damages our relationships with foreign governments, and undermines our global priorities,” said Schakowsky. “Though we have the finest military in the world, we continue to outsource our security to private contractors, who answer to a corporation rather than a uniformed commander.  When Senator Sanders and I introduced this legislation last year, we had 22,000 armed private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today, we have 28,178.  We need this bill now more than ever. “

There are 155,000 contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan today, but only 145,000 uniformed service members.

About 28,000 of the contractors are performing mission-critical functions such as training troops and police, guarding convoys, repairing weapons, administering military prisons, and performing military intelligence. 

The Stop Outsourcing Security Act would restore the responsibility of the military to perform such functions. The bill also would require that all diplomatic security be undertaken by U.S. government personnel. The White House could seek exceptions, but those contracts would be subject to congressional oversight.

The legislation is a strong and necessary step toward restoring the international reputation of the United States.  Military officers in the field have said that private contractors operate like “cowboys,” using unnecessary and excessive force uncharacteristic of enlisted soldiers. In 2007, guards working for a firm then known as Blackwater were accused of killing 17 Iraqis, damaging the U.S. mission in Iraq and hurting our reputation around the world. Later that year, a contractor employed by DynCorp International allegedly shot and killed an unarmed taxi driver.  Incidents like this demonstrate that we should leave warfare to the military rather than delegate it to private corporations.

This legislation would also save money.  High pay for contract workers in war zones burdens taxpayers and saps military morale.  While some soldiers who risk their lives for their country struggle to support their families, private security company employees are often paid two or three times as much as U.S. military personnel doing the exact same work, sometimes pocketing as much as $1,000 a day.  By some estimates, every position converted from a private contract to federal employment saves on average $44,000 per year.

What Breivik’s manifesto tells us about his hatred of our way of life

Posted: 27 Jul 2011

Jeff Sharlet is the American author of the bestselling book The Family and expert on Christian fundamentalism in the US.

He speaks on Democracy Now! about the massacre in Norway and the details of killer Anders Behring Breivik’s manifesto largely ignored by the corporate media:

AMY GOODMAN: What were you most shocked by, Jeff Sharlet, as you tweet your way through this manifesto, sharing what you are learning? For example, talk about Spencer. He mentions him, what, more than 150 times throughout the pages.

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, and already—”apologists” seems like too strong a word, but these conservatives are going and saying, “Oh, that’s not fair to draw a connection”—will say, “Oh, he doesn’t mention Spencer. People he’s quoting mention Spencer,” particular, another popular anti-Islamic blogger named Fjordman, who he quotes extensively. But that’s the nature of this text, and that’s—and Breivik is not a stupid man, and he talks about that, how he’s collaging this text, so he’s constantly coming back to Spencer as his sort of dominant authority on what Islam is. And, you know, if you depend on—if you believe Spencer’s understanding of Islam, other people might be taking up arms, too. It’s a little bit like reading Leviticus and then saying, “Oh, well, I know what Christians are all about, and all Christians are off hunting for witches, literally, and killing people.” I mean, it’s—the irony of Robert Spencer is he takes an absolute literalist and kind of ahistorical examination of Islam and then builds up this great monster, and that’s what Breivik goes to for his authority. And not just Spencer, but Pamela Geller, Rich Lowry from the National Review.

He’s really—what struck me most about this document is just how American it is in every way. I mean, a huge amount of it is from American sources. The ideology, he himself will sometimes describe as American. He’s a great admirer of America, because he says United States, unlike Europe, has retained its Christian identity, and that’s why he’s going to these sources. He says America has the kind of Christian identity he would like for Norway to have.

AMY GOODMAN: The manifesto also provides detailed instructions for preparing physically and mentally for what Breivik describes as a coming “civil war” between patriotic nationalists and “multiculturalists” who are, wittingly or not, destroying European civilization. He writes, “Once you decide to strike, it is better to kill too many than not enough, or you risk reducing the desired ideological impact of the strike. Explain what you have done (in an announcement distributed prior to operation) and make certain that everyone understands that we, the free peoples of Europe, are going to strike again and again.”

He also says, “This is the big day you have been looking forward to for so long. Countless hours and perhaps years of preparation have rewarded you with this opportunity. Equip yourself and arm up, for today you will become immortal.”

One more quote: “For the last three years I have been working full time on a cultural conservative work which will help to develop and market these political ideas.”

And finally, “The time for dialogue is over. We gave peace a chance. The time for armed resistance has come.”

Jeff Sharlet, comment on these.

JEFF SHARLET: You know, you mentioned that marketing line, and there’s another line, and he says, “I’m not only a one-man army, I’m a one-man marketing agency.” That’s how he describes himself. And what’s interesting is he analyzes what he thinks the media reaction is going to be. And so, he predicts correctly that, you know, a lot of mainstream media is just going to dismiss him as a madman, as insane. “You can use that to your advantage,” he says, “because they’re not going to take you very seriously.” And he says, but the other thing is, he says, a lot of cultural conservatives, like Pat Buchanan, he said, they will be forced to condemn what I’ve done. They may, in fact, genuinely condemn what he’s done, he says, but they’re going to read my manifesto, and they’re going to find in it this great document, this wake-up call, as Pat Buchanan has described it, “wholly accurate,” as American Christian right leader Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association has described it.

So when you look at—you know, one of the things that comes out of that, all that sort of rhetoric about preparing for battle is terrifying, but even more terrifying is his really sort of correct assessment of how conservatives would use it. And so far, they’ve been playing pretty close to the script and condemning the violence but saying, “Hey everybody, this is—you know, we really do need to fight the Muslim menace,” and so on, which sort of starts to lead you in this kind of circular logic where you get back to, ultimately, atrocities like the one Breivik has committed.

AMY GOODMAN: Throughout his manifesto, Breivik blames the feminist revolution for Europe’s downfall. He says he even tried to measure the relative decadence of each European country by determining how willing women were in each country to have one-night stands. In one part of Breivik’s manifesto, he writes, “Fact: 60-70% of all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists are women. This partly explains why the gradual feminist revolution is directly linked to the implementation of multiculturalist doctrines. These feminist cultural Marxists do not only want more benefits and rights for themselves. They want it all, and have more or less been awarded with everything they could ever dream of achieving. They now have complete matriarchal supremacy domestically and exercise substantial influence in politics.”

He also writes, “Females have a significantly higher proportion of erotic capital than males due to biological differences (men have significantly more prevalent sexual urges than females and are thus easily manipulated).”

Jeff Sharlet, how does this fit into his overall ideology?

JEFF SHARLET: It’s really—I mean, this has been one of the things that hasn’t been commented on enough: how central his critique of feminism is to the whole manifesto. You know, you get into long sections where he’s really picking up all these sort of talking points of the American Christian right. And he goes a little further. He goes as far as sort of the far edges of the American Christian right, saying that women should not pursue advanced degrees. And he really gets into this kind of—this sort of breeding frenzy, described by my friend Kathryn Joyce in her book, Quiverfull, which is a great source on this, this American Christian right movement that sees Christian women as somehow—and American and European women—as somehow not doing their job by having enough babies to compete with the Muslims. And, you know, as crazy as that seems—as, you know, I’ve written in another book—there’s plenty of U.S. congressmen who endorse this idea. He reproduces a long article by an American named Phillip Longman on this idea of restoring the patriarchy, that this is what’s necessary to fight Islam.

And, of course, it gets into, as with so many of these kinds of texts, this constant sort of description of women’s sexual morality. He says you can measure the weakness of Western countries’ ability to fight Islam, as you said, by counting one-night stands, which he claims to have done with his group of buddies by traveling around Europe and seeing, you know, how many people they could sleep with. So there’s, I mean, this sort of very—that sounds crazy, but then you start looking at the sources he has. And right from the very beginning, he’s constantly returning to this idea that feminism, that women’s rights, are at the heart of the kind of sort of fifth column attack on Western strength in response to Islam.

Note to Zionists; it’s a civil duty to protest companies complicit with occupation

Posted: 27 Jul 2011

Which is why this story in Murdoch’s Australian – fair and balanced as usual, presuming that simply protesting outside a company with ties to the IDF is anti-Semitic by definition – is so revealing. There’s fear that BDS is taking off globally and what do critics do? Allege anti-Semitism and desperately hope that nobody talks about why; Israeli society and its policies are abouthumiliating Palestinians:

A group of prominent Australians met for a hot chocolate last night in a peaceful protest against violence in front of a Jewish business that was recently targeted as part of an anti-Israel boycott.

Labor MP Michael Danby, Australian Workers Union secretary Paul Howes, former Labor Party president Warren Mundine, comedian Sandy Gutman, aka Austen Tayshus, and journalist Jana Wendt were among those who spoke out against a violent protest on July 1 outside the Max Brenner chocolate shop in Melbourne in which three police officers were hurt and 19 protesters arrested.

Mr Danby, who organised last night’s meeting and is one of three Jewish federal MPs, said the violent protest had been a reminder to him of the need for vigilance against anti-Semitism, and it was worrying that Greens senator Lee Rhiannon was a vocal supporter of the boycott.

“The impetus was an ugly, violent demonstration in Melbourne and Senator Rhiannon’s determination to take this boycott further,” he said. “She would like to see it introduced into the Senate and into politics.

“We remember the precedence of the 1930s; my father came from Germany, and (at) any sign of this kind of behaviour we have to draw a line in the sand.”

Senator Rhiannon has said that she still supports the Israel boycott – known as BDS – but federal Greens leader Bob Brown says he does not support it and the boycott would not become Greens policy. The BDS is still part of NSW Greens policy.

Mr Howes said the far-left protesters were “mimicking the behaviour of the Nazi thugs” and it was necessary to “nip this in the bud”.

“I would say the bulk of the people who are voting Greens have no understanding of the xenophobic, extremist and abhorrent policies they are voting for,” he said.

Wendt said she felt the tolerance of Australian society was under threat if people did not learn from history.

“As the daughter of refugees whose lives were critically affected by both fascism and communism, I’m grateful for what Australia has to offer,” she said.

“It is a truism, but we can’t afford to ignore the lessons of history.”

Mr Mundine said the boycott was “not anti-Israel but anti-Jewish.”

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