Sharon’s Dilemma

Well, let’s see. Sharon has bulldozed some more houses in Rafah, shot some stone throwing little boys, assaulted the Al Aqsa mosque with riot police, who even shot sound bombs into the mosque, had a shootout at a Palestinian mental hospital, and threatened to kill Arafat again. Still, no suicide bombers.

What’s a Man of Peacetm to do? Maybe another assassination?

How much longer can he stall on his proposed Gaza withdrawal without a retaliation? He was driven today to announce a cessation of new construction of settler pads in Gaza as a “step toward withdrawal!” What does he have to do? Actually stop building?

It’s a dilemma, for sure.

America’s Chemical Stockpiles

Before the House Armed Services Committee:

    Congressional investigators warned about the ballooning cost and missed deadlines plaguing the Army’s efforts to rid itself of 31,000 tons of chemical weapons. The Army has made little progress in the last six months and continues to fall further behind schedule to meet its deadline under an international treaty.

    About 31,000 tons of lethal chemical agents were slated for destruction under the Army’s supervision, either through incineration or through chemical neutralization …read more

You Have Questions, We Have Answers

From the new Warmongerz blog, a war FAQ:

    Q: How can destroying things and killing people be good for the economy?
    A: To see this, you have to look at the big picture. Sure, Johnny might not come home, but he’s just one person, and you can’t compare him to society, which is composed of everybody. All the people who don’t come home will no longer be taking up jobs, freeing those positions to people still alive and immediately relieving unemployment. More jobs are also created making the weapons of war, and repairing damage caused by bombing campaigns. In every war, and in every country at war, unemployment has been nearly zero.

    Q: Couldn’t you benefit the economy in the same way by making the same weapons and blowing up your own buildings?
    A: Now, that’s just silly. It would work at first, but to really get the benefit you have to kill people to reduce unemployment, and blow up the other country’s infrastructure so they won’t destroy your economy with cheap imported goods.

Liberation Update

The White House website has a page called “Renewal in Iraq” where it posts good news stories under the heading “Liberation Update.”

News accounts are painting vivid pictures of the joy and relief of free Iraqis, who are living without fear of Saddam’s brutality and beginning to enjoy freedoms unknown for decades. These voices have been silenced for too long, but now they are heard inside Iraq and around the world. For more personal stories of life under Saddam, visit Tales of Saddam’s Brutality.

Last update to this page: December 15, 2003. Has the White House given up trying to point out good news from Iraq? Maybe promoting the myths of the “liberation” became too hard to sustain in the face of contradictory evidence and they ran out of steam.

This page was pointed out by Micah Sify of The Iraq Reader, who has, besides this interesting nugget, an analysis of where things stand in Iraq that’s well worth reading.

“Humanitarian” Mercenaries?

One of the appeals currently being made by the warbots is an attempt to drum up sympathy for the Americans killed in Fallujah by casting them as humanitarian workers delivering food to the Iraqis.

As AntiWar’s Justin Raimondo points out when critiquing Peggy Noonan’s column in the WSJ yesterday:

What happened in Fallujah, as far as she’s concerned, wasn’t about Iraq, it was all about us: our goodness – the convoy, she points out, was bringing food to Fallujah – our altruism, our violated innocence.

Noonan: “The convoys carried food. They carried it to Fallujah.” Yeah, Nooners. They carried it straight to the American military garrison outside Fallujah.

Apparently at least one of the victim’s families was also told this falsehood:

Scott Helvenston, 38, a former Navy SEAL who was working for a consultant security company, leaves behind a grandmother in Ocala, his mother, Katey Wettengel, brother and other family in Leesburg, and two children in California.

“He’s a hero,” said his younger brother, Jason, in a telephone conversation from Leesburg. “He died supplying food to people who needed it,” he said.

Well, yes, the Marines do indeed need food. Unfortunately, guarding food convoys for an occupying army doesn’t sound quite as selfless and caring as delivering food to starving Iraqis.

An article in a local Greeneville, TN paper from March 30, 2004 sheds some light on the nature of Blackwater USA’s operations. I’ll post a couple of excerpts, but the entire, rather lengthy article is well worth reading. Speaking here is David Randolph, who describes himself as “in charge of a detachment of “more than 20” Blackwater security personnel who are based near the small Iraqi city of Fallujah.”

Fallujah, which is west of Baghdad, is located “at one corner” of the “Sunni Triangle,” the area mostly west and north of Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, where attacks on U.S. forces have been numerous since last year.

Randolph said the Blackwater USA personnel he supervises provide security for high-ranking U.S. military officers, U.S. State Department officials and employees of U.S. contractors involved in rebuilding the war-torn county’s infrastructure.
He said that their compound is attacked on many nights by mortar and rocket fire. Asked if the compound had good bunkers in case of such attacks, Randolph said that although there were bunkers, “We depend on their inaccuracy.”

He explained that the mortar and rocket fire unleased by the insurgents had been highly inaccurate for the most part. “After you’ve been here for awhile, you can judge pretty well when you’re in danger.”

After repeatedly failing in attacks on Blackwater USA personnel, Randolph said, insurgents in the Fallujah area recently have began focusing their attacks on Iraqis who drive vehicles that bring food, water and other supplies to Blackwater USA-protected work sites.

“We’ve lost three water truck drivers in the last week,” he said, noting that the Iraqi truck drivers are just trying to earn a living and improve their families’ lives. The former South Carolina police officer said he remains convinced that the casualties the United States has suffered in Iraq over the last year have been “worth the sacrifice.”
Blackwater USA personnel have been able to fend off most attacks by using tactics that make it difficult, if not impossible, for attackers to damage more than one vehicle at a time.

“They haven’t been very successful against us,” he said, “But they’re determined and keep trying.”

He also said that insurgents constantly try to draw Blackwater USA personnel and U.S. military forces into ambushes.

“They try to disable a vehicle and then attack you with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades when you dismount,” he said.

He said Blackwater USA personnel and their U.S. military counterparts counter the ambush threat by positioning their vehicles to cover each other and by avoiding attempts to draw them into traps.

Randolph was not among the four commandos killed on Wednesday.

Elsewhere Blackwater’s activities are described:

The former police officers and Special Operations soldiers who work for Blackwater USA in northeastern North Carolina find themselves playing an unprecedented, controversial and little-known role in the occupation of Iraq.

With the U.S. military stretched thin, they have lucrative jobs defusing roadside bombs, escorting food convoys, protecting visiting dignitaries and even guarding U.S. administrator Paul Bremer. Civilian security forces can earn more than $15,000 a month.

The truth of the matter is that Blackwater security personnel are hired by the American military and occupation authorities to take some of the pressure off the stretched-thin, crippled armed services. They are private commandos, mercenary soldiers, paid far more than the volunteers of the US military.

Currently there is practically no NGO humanitarian agency presence at all in Iraq because it is far too dangerous for them to operate there. To imagine that these highly trained, highly paid American security commandos were on a humanitarian mission “delivering food” is laughable.

UPDATE: For anyone interested in reading more about the issue of the Blackwater mercenaries, here are some good links.

Jeanne D’Arc on Body and Soul blog has written an interesting post on the mercenary subject referencing a post by Tacitus. Both are well written and very informative.

Phillip Carter at INTEL DUMP does a quickie post from an airport briefly discussing the issue and promising to elaborate more when he has time.

Why “pacify” Fallujah?

A couple of weeks ago, four American missionaries were killed in Mosul. Then, on March 28, a Briton and a Canadian mercenary were killed in Mosul.

After 4 mercenaries were killed in Fallujah, Kimmitt goes all ballistic and vows revenge and says he’s going to “pacify” Fallujah.

Isn’t this a little…inconsistent? Is it the Mogadishu-like desecration that got the American military all riled up? But that has happened before. In Mosul.