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Basra Bizarre: SAS Commandos Arrested and Sprung

Basra Bizarre: SAS Commandos Arrested and Sprung
by C. L. Cook
An oddity in Iraq yesterday. Two British members of the elite SAS arrested by Iraqi police following a gun-fight at a checkpoint are now back in British hands after a dramatic jail break pulled off by fellow soldiers.

Two British commandos, members of the secretive SAS were arrested by Iraqi police yesterday in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. The two men, dressed in Arab garb and driving an unmarked car, drew the attention of police. As the car was approached, shots were fired.
[Before the inglorious British retreat from Basra, the city endured a vicious "sectarian" bombing campaign.  What the BBC didn't tell you about was the role played by their Tommy's in the field. This is another oldie from the Iraq occupation file.- lex]
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Afghanistan Fatalities: "We Didn't Want Canadians to be Aware"

Afghanistan Fatalities: "We Didn't Want Canadians to be Aware"
by C. L. Cook
Brigadier-General Mike Ward, the head of Canadian Forces operations summed up Canada's continued involvement with American wars in the Near East yesterday, telling reporters Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2), a secretive commando unit, had killed and captured Afghani "insurgents."
"We didn't specifically want Canadians to be aware that special operations were operating abroad." - Brigadier-General Mike Ward on Canadian involvement in Afghanistan. (Sept. 20, 2005)
[With news of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan today, Jan. 17, 2008 suffering the third of three bombing attacks against patrols in the past week, (one confirmed killed and seven wounded) a look back to the point where the Canadian ship of state changed course, taking a distinctly more militaristic tack to the occupation in that country is warranted. - lex]

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Guantanamo as a Symbol
by Ramzy Baroud
11 January marked the sixth year anniversary of the establishment of the Guantanamo detention camp. Mere months after the start of the 2001 United States invasion of Afghanistan, a large cargo plane landed in a US military base in Cuba's Guantanamo Bay, bringing in a group of hunchbacked, orange-clad, blindfolded, "terrorist" suspects, apparently representing the worst of the worst. They included children and aged men, charity workers, journalists and people who were sold to the US military in exchange for a large bounty.

The debate over this notorious prison has ever since been marred by easy reductionism. The fact is that Guantanamo is neither a warranted compound holding "bad people" -- as explained by the ever straightforward President Bush -- nor is it a dark spot in the otherwise luminous US record for respecting human rights, rules of war and international treaties.
If anything, Guantanamo is a mere extension of a long list of untold violations practised by the Bush administration, which condenses the camp to being a symbol of widespread policy predicated on nonchalantly undermining international law.

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Return Journeys: The Slave Ship

Little Ships of Horror
by Christopher Leslie Brown
"Every man condemns the [slave] trade in general," wrote the abolitionist Thomas Cooper, of Manchester, England, in 1787, "but it requires the exhibition of particular instances of the enormity of this Commerce, to induce those to become active in the matter, who wish well to the cause upon the whole."Those accounts of the trade that present "particular distress, with its attendant circumstances," are best "calculated to excite compassion."
Such were the principles of the British campaign against the slave trade at the end of the eighteenth century, as historian Marcus Rediker explains. And this emphasis on itemizing particular instances describes just as well the approach that guides Rediker's breathtaking new book on the eighteenth-century Atlantic slave trade.

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On Success, the Surge, and the Baghdad Morgue Queue

The Corpse on the Gurney: The "Success" Mantra in Iraq
By Tom Engelhardt
The other day, as we reached the first anniversary of the President's announcement of his "surge" strategy, his "new way forward" in Iraq, I found myself thinking about the earliest paid book-editing work I ever did.
An editor at a San Francisco textbook publisher hired me to "doctor" god-awful texts designed for audiences of captive kids.
Each of these "books" was not only in a woeful state of disrepair, but essentially D.O.A. I was nonetheless supposed to do a lively rewrite of the mess and add seductive "sidebars"; another technician then simplified the language to "grade level" and a designer provided a flashy layout and look.
Zap! Pow! Kebang!

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Ending a Culture of Impunity

Ending a Culture of Impunity for Contract Soldiers
by Scott Horton
Today, Human Rights First released its report “Private Security Contractors at War: Ending the Culture of Impunity”(4MB PDF), which I helped write and edit. The report’s focus is not on the misdeeds of private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rather it focuses on the United States Government, and particularly the Department of Justice.
The Bush Administration has crafted a culture of impunity for contractors in Iraq. This can be seen in a number of acts and in a policy of official indifference towards violent crime involving contractors.
The victims of this policy are Iraqi civilians, coalition military, and members of the contractor force themselves. As a senior general in Iraq recently told one of my colleagues: “The three biggest threats faced by American soldiers in Iraq are IEDs, al Qaeda fighters, and unaccountable contractors.”
Repeated hearings and demands for action from Congress are ignored by the Justice Department.

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To Those Who Follow in Our Wake

Brecht ‘To Those Who Follow in Our Wake’
by Scott Horton
Wirklich, ich lebe in finsteren Zeiten!
Das arglose Wort ist töricht. Eine glatte Stirn
Deutet auf Unempfindlichkeit hin. Der Lachende
Hat die furchtbare Nachricht
Nur noch nicht empfangen.
Truly, I live in dark times!
An artless word is foolish. A smooth forehead
Points to insensitivity. He who laughs
Has not yet received
The terrible news.
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Canadians 'Too Thick' to Support Afghanistan Mission

Canadians Too Thick to Support Afghanistan Mission
by C. L. Cook
By way of getting to know his new subjects, freshly minted Conservative Defence Minister, Gordon O'Connor summed up what he sees as his greatest challenge: How to get through to the sixty-two percent of Canadians who don't believe the country should be involved with the worsening occupation of Afghanistan.

"The population out there doesn't really understand right now why we're there and what we're doing. You have to say the thing five, six, seven, eight times before it really gets through to a large number of people." - Defence Minister O'Connor instructs the foreign press.
[This comes from 2006. The minister has since departed his post. - lex]

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A Predictive History of George Bush's Second Term

Deceits to Come: A Predictive History of George Bush's Second Term
by C. L. Cook
Before the New Year gets out of its diapers, and in the spirit of pre-emption lately so fashionable, I think it fitting to sketch out a few of the inevitable crimes, and misdemeanors George W. Bush must commit during his second illegitimate term if he is to complete the creation of the nightmare project that is his New American Century. 
[I wrote this in the early days of 2005, those halcyon years when war was young and... - lex]

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Liberty’s Light and Independent Views

Extinguishing Liberty’s Light and Independent Views
by Paul Craig Roberts
What was the greatest failure of 2007?  President Bush’s “surge” in Iraq?  The decline in the value of the US dollar?  Subprime mortgages?  No. The greatest failure of 2007 was the newly sworn in Democratic Congress.

The American people’s attempt in November 2006 to rein in a rogue government, which has committed the US to costly military adventures while running roughshod over the US Constitution, failed.  Replacing Republicans with Democrats in the House and Senate has made no difference.  

The assault on the US Constitution by the Democratic Party is as determined as the assault by the Republicans.  On October 23, 2007, the House passed a bill sponsored by California Democratic congresswoman Jane Harman, chairwoman of a Homeland Security subcommittee, that overturns the constitutionally guaranteed rights to free expression, association, and assembly.

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Canadian Nuke Watchdog Fired Hours Before Testimony

Nuclear Safety Watchdog Head Fired for "lack of leadership": Minister
by CBC News
Federal Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn defended his decision to fire the head of Canada's nuclear safety watchdog Wednesday, arguing she lost the government's confidence over the way she handled the shutdown of a medical isotope-producing nuclear reactor late last year.

The former head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Linda Keen, will remain a member of the commission. (CBC)
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission president Linda Keen was let go hours before she and Lunn were set to appear before a House committee in Ottawa on Wednesday. Keen subsequently backed out.

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