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Archive for the ‘Anti-War’ Category

‘Rich Man’s War – Poor Man’s Blood’

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I found this photo recently, taken 13 years ago on this day at an anti-war protest held here in Cork. I’ve re-touched the image only for effect and re-posted it below.

Rich Man's War...Back in 2003 we were being told that the US led invasion of Iraq was all about finding those “weapons of mass destruction”. On the other hand the banner suggests a different narrative to do with oil and greed. From the vantage point of 2016 I thought it might be worth it to take a quick look over what we now know. Here it is:

CNN ran an article on April 15th 2015 about the Iraq war. In Why the war in Iraq was fought for Big Oil the following was noted:

  • Before the 2003 invasion, Iraq’s domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies. A decade later, the same industry was largely privatized and utterly dominated by foreign firms.
  • ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell Oil all set up operations in Iraq once the war was ‘officially’ concluded.
  • A number of smaller American oil service companies are also doing business in Iraq.  One particular company that is busy there is Halliburton, a firm linked to Dick Cheney who was George W. Bush’s running mate in 2000 US Presidential election.
  • Also noteworthy is the fact that Western oil companies are now at the head of efforts to produce more oil from Iraq oil fields – considered to the among the largest and most lucrative in the world.
  • CNN notes that this did not happen by accident either. “Representatives from ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Halliburton, among others, met with Cheney’s staff in January 2003 to discuss plans for Iraq’s postwar industry. For the next decade, former and current executives of western oil companies acted first as administrators of Iraq’s oil ministry and then as “advisers” to the Iraqi government.
  • The Bush Administration also led the way in forcing through contracts in the Iraq oil industry hat are highly favourable to Big Oil. CNN again: These contracts “provide exceptionally long contract terms and high ownership stakes and eliminate requirements that Iraq’s oil stay in Iraq, that companies invest earnings in the local economy or hire a majority of local workers.”

What about the other side of the equation – Poor Man’s Blood. Business Insider, drawing on data from the Iraq Index [The Brookings Institute] and the Costs of War Project, reported as follows last year. To date:

  • 134,000 civilians have been killed directly due to the Iraq War.
  • 2.8 million persons remain either internally displaced or have fled the country.
  • 655,000 persons have died in Iraq since the invasion that would not have been expected to die if the invasion had not occurred. This particular piece of data has its origins in a study explained here and published by The Washington Post.
  • The cost of war has been estimated at $2.2 trillion. This figure referring to costs up to 2014 only. It is expected that they are will rise further.

Oh, and those “weapons of mass destruction”?  They haven’t been found… I guess you could say the protest banner was spot on.

Written by kfdoyle

March 8, 2016 at 3:17 pm

The “Drone Bomber” Arrives To A Warm Welcome From Our Glorious Leaders

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Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

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Hamid Mir, Editor with Geo News in Islamabad (Pakistan) recorded that there were 34 drone attacks in the Pakistan region between 2004 -2008.  Between 2008 and March 2009 the  number rose dramatically and there were 46 drone attacks alone in that 15 month period.  [Note, as confirmed in reports below, the number of drone attacks has risen further and sharply under Obama’s first office term.  See in particular this Google Map of the attacks]

Mir points out that there 80 drone attacks during the entire period referred to above.  In all of these attacks 513 people were killed.  Having checked all the records Mir has ascertained that of all these casualties only 14 were actually of alleged terrorists (names confirmed by US Defense Dept Press Releases). The remainder, 499 people, were all civilians.

Hamid Mir investigated 11 individual incidents of drone bombings.  In two of these, he found that two ‘low-level’ Taliban activists had been killed.  In the remaining 9 attacks only civilians were killed.  As he states in the second of the two you tube clips below this is violation Article 3 of the UN Human Rights Charter – among many other violations contrary to the conduct of war.

Today, our glorious leaders, will warmly welcome the Commander In Chief of the US armed forced responsible for these atrocities.

And Hamid Mir on Drone attacks in Pakistan.

Bradley Manning …Stop, spread the word!

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The video below, from German TV,  tells the story of one of the infamous war crimes committed by the US military machine in Iraq.  The brave individual who stood up and exposed this dreadful crime – Bradley Manning – has been targeted by those same authorities that gave the green light to this atrocity. Currently Bradley is under a 23 hour lockdown imprisonment in a high security military prison in the Quantico, Virgina in the United States.  His conditions of incarceration are harsh:

  • He is held 23 hours in each day in solidarity confinement.
  • His cell has no window and he is not allowed to see daylight at any time.
  • He is not allowed exercise.
  • He is allowed for one hour each day to walk in chains in an empty room.

The documentary explains that Bradley Manning is being punished severely for speaking out.  His situation is grave.  Recently, however, it worsened with the news that the US army had filed 22 additional charges against Bradley.  These include a new charges of “aiding the enemy” – a capital offense under Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

There are a few things that you can do.  Most of all, inform others about Bradley’s story and encourage them to do the same.  You can do this easily by sharing this video below and/ or by directing people to the web site for Bradley Manning.   There is further information here as well as an extensive What You Can Do section.

Don’t Mention The War at Frank O’Connor Short Story Festival

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2003 invasion of Iraq

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Sometimes the best way to get your hands on the cream of short story writing for the year is to get along to the Frank O’Connor Short Story Festival, held in Cork.  This year the short list of six writer (see below) for what is regarded by many as the most prestigious prize for the short story in the world, included five writers from the United States.

There is no doubt that the short story is a valued form in the States.  Publications such as the New Yorker have in particular promoted the discipline and must be credited for their support for the short story over the years.  Frank O’Connor himself benefited enormously from US patronage when he struggled to make a living here in Ireland all those years ago.  Furthermore we cannot easily dismiss writers of the caliber of Raymond Carver, Richard Ford, Jane Anne Philips and Annie Proulx – to name just a few of the accomplished writers who have penned stories from over in the States.

But – and here’s the thing – it stuck me forcefully this year, with the US having such a strong presence in the final shortlist, that there is something wrong.  The United States after all is at war.  Actually it is fighting not just one war but two – in Iraq and Afghanistan.   These wars, it must be underlined, are major conflicts.

In 2003 the United States led coalition invaded Iraq. It deposed the regime there and installed another one.  Massive civilian casualties were suffered and many atrocities occurred.  It was discovered that torture and the ill-treatment of prisoner by US forces was rife – recall the Abu Ghraib revelations.  In sum Iraq has been bombed into a relic of what it was once by the US war machine for dubious and long discredited objectives.  Then there is the war in Afghanistan.  Attacked in 2001 it has been in a state of crisis for nearly 9 years.  Again the casualties have been massive.  Torture has been rife and there is the ongoing plague of drone bombings which have in fact escalated in intensity since the Barak Obama’s election.  Significant numbers of civilians have been massacred.  We are talking here of outrages as serious as what Guernica represents to modern warfare.  Now however it seems as if atrocities of the scale of Guernica have become so commonplace that they are hardly commented on any more.  But they are still outrages and they are still happening.

What has all this got to do with the short story?   Well, for me, it is this.  Here, on this occasion in Cork, we have five US short story writers shortlisted for a prestigious international award.  These are very good writers – some are new and have produced debut collections while others like TC Boyle and Ron Rash are established.   But is there one significant story about the above wars in the collective output from these writers?  Well, so far, if it is there, I haven’t been able to find it.  And by the way if someone does find such a story, then do let me know.

The pat explanation of course is that stories or literature (and art), if you want, are above these base matters.  Or another generous explanation might be that the material for stories about these wars has yet to filter down through the great sponge that is contemporary life and civilisation.  In other words, with regard to US output these stories will come in time – as indeed they did when we look back at the invasion of Vietnam by the US.

The above points are indeed reasonable.  Or are they?  Do they explain the avoidance of these US wars – that’s the question? Or maybe avoidance is too strong a word – is it?   ‘Omission’ perhaps?  Lack of interest perhaps?  Well what then?  Why silence about such important and vital events?

I accept that this blog observation of mine is not a scientifically valid study of contemporary US fiction and it’s engagement with war.  Fair enough. Nor is it intended to be of course!  And perhaps there is an explanation, or part of one, in the process of selection for the Prize – from long list to short list even.  There were, I think, over twenty US writers on the long list so, maybe, along the way the writers of war stories were weeded out.  I don’t know if that is so.  And so maybe I am getting the wrong end of the stick here?

But my main point has been taken up elsewhere too.  The dearth of novels about the current US wars has already been previously noted.  US writer and small press publisher, Tony Christini has pointed out in a number of articles that there is serious lack of material emerging in the States to do with the current wars.  Tony Christini’s points to a number of reasons for the paucity of fiction relating to these wars.  Publishers are business people (as we all know – don’t we?) and as such they are uncomfortable with any rocking of the boat.  And on the writer side, a focus on these wars  can lead to the stigmatization of the writer as ‘political’ or as ‘having an agenda’.  Apparently such qualities are good for your career.  So is the issue censorship or perhaps more worrying still: self censorship?

Returning to the collections at this years prize, something else struck me though.  And this in some ways is the most disturbing thing.  It is not just that the collections concerned here don’t touch on the various wars now being waged by the USA.  Rather there is also the inverse problem: this indeed is even more damning of the state of writing in the US to my mind.  What I mean is: the picture that emerges of the Untied States from the collective output of the shortlisted US writers for this years Prize is of a society NOT at war.   Indeed the concerns of many of the characters is rather of a world not unlike our own.  (Note that Ireland is not currently at war or in the process of invading any other countries – that I know of anyway.) What I mean is that the characters obsess about normal and everyday concerns (mean neighbours; bad parenting and so on and so forth).  And perhaps this is the double injustice of the literary output from the States as exemplified by this shortlist.  In these times the ugly truth of a nation at war and a society driven by a voracious military-industrial complex is not only not being examined, it could even be argued it is being airbrushed from the picture we are being offered to see of that same society.

As a short short writer myself and as someone who has always admired Frank O’Connor’s engagement with the political, I must say I am unsettled by what I’ve read, and by this short list.  But lastly let me say a few words about the worthy winner, Ron Rash.  His stories in this collection are a cut above the others IMHO – going by the US entries anyway.  While I couldn’t find any stories in his collection, Burning Bright, about the current US wars, this in a way is not surprising since his work has a focus on the southern, US Civil War dynamic.  Fair enough I suppose.  Indeed Rash’s collection points out well the problems in what I am attempting to draw attention to here and I accept that. Burning Bright is very good in its own right and indeed all the collections are worthy.  It’s just as I say: how can you, you know… (… THE WAR).  It’s still on everyone, isn’t it?  Right now.

The Short List:

If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This (Picador UK, 2010) by Robin Black
Mattaponi Queen (Graywolf Press, 2010) by Belle Boggs
Wild Child (Bloomsbury, 2010) by TC Boyle
The Shieling (Comma Press, 2009) by David Constantine
Burning Bright (HarperCollins, 2010) by Ron Rash
What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (Dzanc Books, 2009) by Laura van den Berg

Note: TC Boyle had to withdraw from the final contest due to an his inability to travel to Cork for the Festival.

The Long List is here.  (Scroll to the end.)

Related Articles

Lest We Forget … Rachel Corrie and Palestine

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Democracy Now is a beacon of honest news reporting in this age of censorship.  Check it out…

At the moment they have a very informative (and for me, ultimately, a very sad) report online about the case of Rachel Corrie who was crushed to death in Palestine by the IDF seven years ago.  Rachel was there with the International Solidarity Movement.

At the moment the Corrie family and supporters are taking the State of Israel to court.  This audio report tells about the current state of play with that action and you can hear it  here.

Written by kfdoyle

March 10, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Bloodshed and ‘Togetherness’ in Afghanistan

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Commander Fire Now and Apologise Later Growing Up

A brief post: the war in Afghanistan.  Only last week (Feb 14th) NATO slaughtered a slew of civilians in a mis-aimed missile attack.  Children, men and women were blown to bits as they traveled along a road going about their business.  On the RTE news I heard the atrocity reported as a ‘set back’.   This Orwellian description was rejoined by a brief sound-bite interview with the US commander there – whose name I can’t recall but let’s for the purpose of this post call him Commander Fire Now and Apologise Later.  Commander Fire Now and Apologise Later informed us that the NATO campaign was still on track despite the murderous mistake that had been made.

All just spin – let’s face it.  Because it has now emerged that in the past week at least 60 (yes, 60!) more civilians have been slaughtered in various mistakes made by NATO troops.   When these atrocities happen it often takes quite a while for the details to filter out – so it may well be in a number of months from now that we get the full facts on these war crimes.   But as an example of the sort of thing that is now happening as a routine, check out this news article on a murderous NATO attack in December.

Anyway the point I want to get to is this.  We are not hearing much about this brutal war that is being conducted in Afghanistan.  It has grown bigger and bigger and more and more Afghanis are suffering (in order to ‘free’ them, of course.)

But for an interesting look into what is going on and why, and how the media side of ‘spinning’ this war is being conducted, see the current, excellent article from Media Lens entitled “War As PR – Operation Moshtarak, Meaning “Together”.  Media Lens is a small dedicated media analysis organisation who have done sterling work over the last number of years examining and reporting on the bias of the corporate media.  At the end of the Media Lens article there are various suggestions on what you can do with regard to the way in which the Afghanistan war is being reported.  None of these actions in their own right are going to change a whole lot but nevertheless it is vital that we make ourselves aware of the lies and slant that are being used to justify and brush over these crimes.  Read the article – inoculate yourself.

Written by kfdoyle

February 25, 2010 at 10:21 pm

the glove and the iron fist

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Does anyone believe this hand-wringing in respect to US atrocities in Western Afghanistan?

For the last few months there have been repeated massive bombardments in the area without any concern for the impact on the huge number of civilians caught up in the conflict.  A series of leaks from the latest US military report on this concedes as much stating that “dozens of civilians were killed in the air strikes in western Farah province” earlier last month.   Dozens?  It seems that the real number is more in the region of several hundred.  Note this: “In one case, a compound of buildings where suspected militants were massing was struck, even though it was in a densely populated area and there was no imminent threat, the New York Times said.” Indeed, a disregard for civilian casualties so that mission objective is achieved seems to be order of the day.

I drew attention to this in an earlier blog in February entitled The Obama Lie.  It seems that on the one hand Obama is keen and adept to present a caring image of his presidency.  But the reality for many ordinary citizens of this planet is much different: women, men and children have literally been bombed beyond recognition in what is a brutal and unrelenting assault in Western Afghanistan; that assault is all about securing US foreign policy into the future.

Few column inches are spared for the dead from these dreadful assaults by the US military machine.  Indeed we hear little about them and who they are; what they loved in life and who was near and dear to them.  Instead these hundreds of dead in Afghanistan are anonymous and will remain so it seems, discarded as mere numbers in the various reports which which casually allude to each atrocity as it happens.   Contrast that with, if you wish, the many column inches given to the awful killing of the traveller Edwin Dyer in Mali earlier this week.  The Guardian carried a good article about Mr Dyer – who he was and the fate that befell him.  It is a sorry, ugly story but in it we learn that Mr Dyer was ‘was well-respected in his community’.  A number of strongly worded condemnations of his murder also carried in the same article.  Such a report of course is important for his family and friends – granting them and the victim some respect in what is for them a tragic time.

But no such words and not even the names for the countless murdered by the US military machine.

Written by kfdoyle

June 6, 2009 at 7:14 am

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