Archive for May, 2007

Calvin and Hobbes: How Come We Play War?

May 14th, 2007

Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes (1986)

John Bruhns: We were told we were there to liberate these people. They were shooting at us.

May 12th, 2007

Here is a video of John Bruhns’ statement against the war in Iraq, an advertisement recorded for Political Action.

John Bruhns, US Army Infantry Sergeant. Baghdad 2003 – ’04:

One day there was a riot in the Abu Ghraib market area.

We had 2,000 people from the community protest our presence in their country. These were not terrorists.

We were told we were there to liberate these people. They were shooting at us.

To keep American soldiers in Iraq for an indefinite period of time, being attacked by an unidentifiable enemy, is wrong, immoral, and irresponsible.


Support our troops. Bring them home. Political Action, which produced this video, writes: George Bush keeps saying that he’s the one who supports the troops and those of us who want to end the war don’t. Someone has to take him on for that. In order to do that, they are asking for small donations to help buy airtime so that John Bruhns’s statement, and other ads based on statements by veterans of the Iraq War, can be aired on television. You can make a personal contribution online.

Unearthed in Colombia

May 6th, 2007

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) – Forensic teams have unearthed 211 bodies buried in dozens of mass graves near a single town in southern Colombia in the past 10 months, a legacy of fierce fighting in this coca-rich land.

Chief prosecutor Mario Iguaran told a news conference Saturday that investigators exhumed 105 bodies alone on Friday near La Hormiga, 340 miles (540 kilometers) south of Bogota in the province of Putumayo. Most of the victims, who investigators believe were killed between 1999 and 2001, had been dismembered before burial.

Historically a key region for growing the coca plant that is used to make cocaine, the Putumayo jungles near the border with Ecuador are the scene of almost daily fighting between leftist rebels, far-right paramilitaries and state security forces.

Iguaran said that based on information from local residents, authorities suspect both the paramilitaries and the rebels were responsible for the killings. Both sides regularly kill civilians they believe to be aiding their enemies.

Investigators have been digging for the mass graves in Putumayo since August of last year.

Forensic teams have found hundreds more shallow graves in recent months, as demobilized paramilitaries confess their crimes as part of a peace deal with the government.

Iguaran’s office estimates 10,000 murdered Colombians lie in unmarked graves across this South American country, now in its fifth decade of civil conflict.

Toby Muse, Associated Press (2007-05-06): Colombia Finds 211 Bodies in Mass Graves

Press reports have only told a little bit of the story behind the mass graves discovered in Putumayo. They mostly do not mention that it has become increasingly clear that the paramilitaries have been covertly sponsored and encouraged by powerful men within the Colombian government–possibly including President Alvaro Uribe himself–as a clandestine part of the military and drug war projects heavily underwritten by the United States government’s Plan Colombia.

The long, cozy relationship between Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the US Congress is over. Washington has spent billions on the Plan Colombia policy to combat terror, increase security and economic development, and stymie the drug trade with little to show for it. Ongoing investigations into links between Colombian leaders and former paramilitary commanders have revealed close ties. For the Democratic leaders in Congress this has become hard to ignore, especially when discussing a possible free trade agreement (FTA) or continuing the financing of Plan Colombia.

… Beyond perceptions of human rights atrocities and the killings of union leaders, the reality is that paramilitary forces for many years have been the law of the land in rural areas where the Colombian state had little to no presence. Before Plan Colombia took flight, the 1990s was a decade when paramilitarism was seen as a viable solution to confront the spread of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The shady nature of the relationship between Colombian leaders and paramilitary commanders allowed the latter to operate beyond the law with impunity. Such latitude, combined with profits from selling cocaine to the US market, allowed the paramilitaries to quickly grow beyond the control of their rural landowner masters. And one of them, it seems, might have been Alvaro Uribe himself.

Yet through his connections, Uribe sparked a process of disarmament that has led Colombia down a path that, among other unintended destinations, has taken Colombia into a phase of truth telling whereby Colombian leaders from the military, Congress and the president’s office, have been forced to reckon with their past.

While the so-called para-politico scandal continues and Uribe has managed to avoid direct scrutiny in Bogota, leaders in Washington don’t want to be seen as having supported the Colombian president when the scope of his past involvement with the paramilitaries is in question, despite the argument that such ties were necessary.

Sensing a climate change, Uribe hired a lobbying firm with known close ties to Democrats, The Glover Park Group, at US$40,000 a month to help improve his image in Congress.

His first stop in Washington was the White House, where US President George W Bush showed open-ended support for Uribe’s US$700 million request for Plan Colombia.

It is very important for this nation to stand with democracies that protect human rights and human dignity, democracies based up the rule of law, Bush said.

Uribe’s next meeting took him to the offices of Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the subcommittee that oversees congressional spending on Plan Colombia. In April, the subcommittee froze US$55.2 million in military aid to Colombia, citing accusations that paramilitary groups had infiltrated the Colombian government and military.

Leahy and Uribe likely discussed this as well as the fallout after the mid-April speech Colombian Senator Gustavo Petro gave his country’s Congress during which he presented a list of some 2,000 names of individuals closely tied to paramilitaries. One of those names was Santiago Uribe, the president’s brother.

Sam Logan, Spero News (2007-05-05): Uribe’s reality check

It is also increasingly clear that paramilitary groups, which have repeatedly murdered peasant activists and union organizers, have been backed by United States corporations.

Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe headed to Washington this week, hoping to contain the fallout from an ever-widening scandal linking some of his closest allies to right-wing paramilitaries — a scandal that is threatening a key free-trade agreeement and future military aid from the U.S.

The trip puts Uribe under the spotlight of a Democratic-controlled Congress, some of whose legislators have expressed concern over the light sentences awaiting confessed paramilitary leaders under a deal negotiated by the Colombian government.

But Washington has made its own deal with at least one backer of the Colombian paramilitaries: Under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in March, banana giant Chiquita Brands International acknowledged it had paid $1.7 million to Colombia’s paramilitary groups. The company said it had made the payments to protect its employees, but about half of the money was paid after the paramilitary federation in question, the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, had been placed on Washington’s list of foreign terrorist organizations in September of 2001.

… Still, Chiquita continued to make monthly payments to the AUC until February 2004, even after disclosing the situation to the Justice Department.

… Chiquita spokesman Michael Mitchell said that the company had felt obliged to make the payments to protect its employees. “We believe they saved people’s lives,” he said. However, during the time Chiquita was making the payments, thousands of people across Colombia died at the hands of the AUC, which expanded its power. In the banana belt alone between 1997 and 2004, right-wing paramilitaries are blamed for 22 massacres in which 137 people were killed, according to government figures.

Sibylla Brodzinsky, TIME (2007-05-02): Terrorism and bananas in Colombia

An Appeal to Conscience to Those Who Would Bomb Iran, by Ann Wright

May 2nd, 2007

This was printed in Truthout in February 2007, and also reported in Feminist Daily News (2007-02-26). Emphasis has been added.

Bombing Iranian facilities by the US military will cause the cycle of violence to begin again. If the US attacks Iran, by international law Iran has the legal right to defend itself from aggressive action by another country. The world will be watching carefully to see if the US provokes an incident whereby the Iranian military is forced into action against US forces. The Gulf is filled with US military ships which may, by the actions of the Bush administration, become legitimate targets.

While we are on the topic of history and aggression, after World War II, the United States executed German and Japanese military officers who were convicted of crimes against peace (wars of aggression) and for violations of the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Principles.

The Nuremberg Principles provide for accountability for war crimes committed by military and civilian officials.

Principle IV of the Nuremberg Principles states: The fact that a person acted pursuant to an order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

Principle VI of the Nuremberg Principles: The following crimes are punishable as crimes under international law:

a. Crimes against peace: i. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; ii. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

b. War Crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

c. Crimes against humanity: Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done, or such persecutions are carried on in execution of, or in connection with any crime against peace, or any war crime.

Attacking Iran will be a crime against peace, a war crime. Those conducting military operations will be violating the Nuremberg Principles, the Geneva Conventions and the Laws of Land Warfare. Prosecution for commission of war crimes is possible.

I appeal to the conscience of US Air Force and US Navy pilots and military personnel who command cruise missiles and pilot bombers and those who plan the missions for the pilots and missile commanders. I ask that they refuse what I believe will be unlawful orders to attack Iran.

Accountability for one’s actions is finally becoming possible under the new Congress. While refusal to drop bombs may initially draw punishment and the loss of one’s military career, those who refuse will save their soul, their conscience and will prevent another criminal action in the name of our country by the Bush administration.

US Army Reserves Colonel (retired) Ann Wright, (2007-02-13): An Appeal to Conscience to Those Who Would Bomb Iran

Further reading: