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8 December 2004 - MiddleEast.Org - MER is Free
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British Empire Mesopotemia 1920 - American Empire Iraq 2004

Ghosts of Vietnam and
the "Evil Empire"

"Just like Apocalypse Now, except without the grass and acid,"
a US marine sergeant murmured...
"I got one... I didn't even
have to think about it... I took aim, saw two guys running, opened up and
one fell. I don't just think I got him -- I know it. Man, was that exciting."

"I...was briefed on special poisons and assassination
weapons that left no traces."

MIDDLEEAST.ORG - MER - Washington - 8 December: More and more even in Washington circles these days one hears...but in spoken whispers certainly not in the corporate print or TV media..."police state", "fascism", "Good Germans". As for Capitol Hill, it looks more like a "no-go-zone" these days -- beyond being 'Occupied Israeli territory' -- than the Congress of a free and brave democracy.

Most Americans of course are amazingly naive about the world they live in and the history of anywhere else other than their own 'God blessed' brave new land. But when this innocence becomes crusading imperialistic hubris on a worldwide rampage; and when the very social, political, and economic fabric of the country begins to noticeably weaken putting even the near future in doubt; the time for taking note and speaking up is now at hand for far more than before. But the forums for doing so -- especially anywhere near the corridors of power and influence -- are limited, credible forums even more so, potent forums almost non existent.

Under these circumstances some of the best commentary about what the Americans are really doing in the world, as well as to themselves, often comes from abroad these days. Foreigners away from American shores and the restrictions of the big corporate media and political propaganda machine are ironically often more able and more free to thoughtfully reflect on the ways of the American Empire than are its own. The following with echoes about Vietnam comes from Australia; and following that with echoes of the "evil empire" Soviet Union comes from Canada.

Iraq echoes an apocalypse past

The scene is Iraq and the Euphrates but it is
eerily similar to Vietnam and the Mekong of
yesteryear, writes Anthony Loyd

The Australian - 08dec04: THE ghosts of Vietnam drift through Iraq. Denied and dispelled by advocates of the war, they slink back in the "mission creep", "quagmire" and "bodybag" accusations of its critics.

On the north bank of the Euphrates river on Sunday they gathered again, chattering through the rotorblade throb of two overhead Hueys; whispering through the tall rush-beds dividing the paddy fields and irrigation ditches; lurking beneath the palm trees and shadows thrown by a fat orange sun; echoing the words of the young American soldier driving Bravo Company's commander to the starting line of the day's sweep-and-search mission.

"My father was in the Special Forces in Vietnam," said Private Scott Carlisle, 25.

"He did four tours there between 1969 and 1973. He was shot in the Mekong Delta, but survived, hiding beneath the body of one of his buddies after his platoon took 90per cent casualties and the VC went through them, finishing off the survivors.

"He was a great soldier. but a lousy husband and an even worse father. He died when he was 48. He lived life hard."

It was early morning. Private Carlisle and more than 100 other Bravo Company troops of the 44th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division -- backed by Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and Humvees -- were deploying on Operation Bear, a lengthy mission to search for the weapons caches of an otherwise invisible enemy.

Across the oily brown, slow-moving expanse of the Euphrates sat the city of Ramadi, obscured by a line of palms and thick vegetation.

A hotbed of insurgent activity, the area has taken the lives of 41 soldiers and wounded 300 more of the 5500 men in Private Carlisle's brigade since they deployed to Ramadi in September.

Dismounting from their vehicles, the American sappers moved forward in lines across the paddy fields, some bearing mine detectors, all laden with up to 27kg of equipment including their M16s, grenades, 9mm pistols and ammunition. The sun climbed and the heat bore down. Of combat-age Iraqi males, there was no sign. Instead, as the American searchlines converged on the few dismal farms, they found only women and children.

"Seen any suspicious activity in the area?" Captain Duncan Smith, a civil affairs officer whose father served twice in Vietnam, asked the women through an interpreter. The answers were identical: "No, nothing."

"Where are your menfolk?"

"Away at work."

"It's always the same," Captain Smith said. "Ninety-nine per cent of the time they tell you nothing, and the men have all skedaddled at the first sign of the military."

A child offered him an orange. He accepted it, smiled and turned away. "Better not suck it in case it explodes," he quipped.

Four Small Unit Reconnaissance Craft, crewed by marines and engineers, joined the operation. Bristling with mounted machineguns, the small boats careered across the river from bank to bank, their heavy wash slapping at the reed beds.

"Just like Apocalypse Now, except without the grass and acid," a US marine sergeant murmured as he watched the boats' progress.

One of the craft soon discovered a large weapons cache of mortar rounds and 130mm shells concealed on the bankside. They blew it up.

The blast reverberated up the river. A discussion ensued between the craft's crew and the sappers' commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Tommy Mize. "We usually sink all the Iraqi boats along the banks when we find a cache," a marine insisted. "Well, you're not sinking all the boats today," Lieutenant-Colonel Mize declared.

By late afternoon a brooding tiredness had settled on the soldiers. No longer were the searchlines straight.

Then, contact. A burst of gunfire, joined by another, then another, and the nought-to-ninety-in-a-second rip and roar of the adrenalin rush that momentarily leaves the mind cartwheeling in its wake.

Concealed insurgents, lying on both banks, had ambushed one of the craft and turned their fire on to Bravo company. In the boat, a sapper was hit and killed, another wounded.

The craft fired back and, in the turrets of two Bravo company Humvees, machine-gunners joined the fray. Beside his commander's vehicle, Private Carlisle dropped to the ground and raised his M16. He saw two men ahead of him and opened fire. An hour later, long after the gunfire had finished, confusion reigned still. As news of the casualties spread, the men's mood sank palpably, except for Private Carlisle.

"I got one," he exclaimed. "I didn't even have to think about it. We took fire, I dropped down, took aim, saw two guys running, opened up and one fell. I don't just think I got him -- I know it. Man, was that exciting."

Of the insurgents there was no sign. And the murmur of the Mekong whispered again.

Uncle Sam has his own gulag

Behaving like the Soviet secret police won't make
America safer, Eric Margolis says.

12/05/04 -- The Lubyanka Prison's heavy oak main door swung open. I went in, the first western journalist to enter the KGB's notorious Moscow headquarters -- a place so dreaded Russians dared not utter its name. When they referred to it at all, they called it "Detsky Mir," after a nearby toy store.

After interviewing two senior KGB generals, I explored the fascinating museum of Soviet intelligence and was briefed on special poisons and assassination weapons that left no traces. I sat transfixed at the desk used by all the directors of Stalin's secret police, on which the orders were signed to murder 30 million people.

Descending dimly lit stairs, I saw some of the KGB's execution and torture cellars, and special "cold rooms" where naked prisoners were beaten, then doused with ice water and slowly frozen.

Other favoured Lubyanka tortures: Psychological terror, psychotropic drugs, prolonged sleep deprivation, dazzling lights, intense noise, days in pitch blackness, isolation, humiliation, constant threats, savage beatings, attacks by guard dogs, near drowning.

Nightmares from the past -- but the past has returned.

According to a report leaked to the New York Times, the Swiss-based International Red Cross has accused the Bush administration for a second time of employing systematic, medically supervised torture against suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay, and at U.S.-run prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The second Red Cross report was delivered to the White House last summer while it was trying to dismiss the Abu Ghraib prison torture horrors as the crimes of a few rogue jailers.

According to the report's allegations, many tortures perfected by the Cheka (Soviet secret police) -- notably beating, freezing, sensory disorientation, and sleep deprivation -- are now routinely being used by U.S. interrogators.

The Chekisti, however, did not usually inflict sexual humiliation. That technique, and hooding, were developed by Israeli psychologists to break resistance of Palestinian prisoners. Photos of sexual humiliation were used by Israeli security, and then by U.S. interrogators at Abu Ghraib, to blackmail Muslim prisoners into becoming informers.

All of these practices flagrantly violate the Geneva Conventions, international, and American law. The Pentagon and CIA gulags in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan have become a sort of Enron-style, off-the-books operation, immune from American law or Congressional oversight.

Suspects reportedly disappear into a black hole, recalling Latin America's torture camps and "disappearings" of the 1970s and '80s, or the Arab world's sinister secret police prisons.

The U.S. has been sending high-level anti-American suspects to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and, reportedly, Pakistan, where it's alleged they are brutally tortured with violent electric shocks, savage beatings, drowning, acid baths, and blowtorching -- the same tortures, ironically, ascribed to Saddam Hussein.

Protests over this by members of Congress, respected human rights groups, and the public have been ignored. President George W. Bush just named Alberto Gonzales to be attorney general, his nation's highest law officer. As White House counsel, Gonzales wrote briefs justifying torture and advised the White House on ways to evade or ignore the Geneva Conventions.

Grossly violating the Geneva Conventions undermines international law and endangers U.S. troops abroad. Anyone who has served in the U.S. armed forces, as I have, should be outraged that this painfully won tenet of international law and civilized behaviour is being trashed by members of the Bush administration.

Un-American behaviour

If, as Bush asserts, terrorism suspects, Taliban, and Muslim mujahedeen fighters not in uniform deserve no protection under the laws of war and may be jailed and tortured at presidential whim, then what law protects from abuse or torture all the un-uniformed U.S. Special Forces, CIA field teams, and those 40,000 or more U.S. and British mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan euphemistically called "civilian contractors"?

Behaving like the 1930s Soviet secret police will not make America safer. Such illegal, immoral and totally un-American behaviour corrupts democracy and makes them no better than the criminals they detest.

The 20th century has shown repeatedly that when security forces use torture abroad, they soon begin using it at ho me,firstonsuspectedterrorists,thendissidents,thenonordinarysuspects.

It's time for Congress and the courts to wake up and end this shameful and dangerous episode in America's history.

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Source: http://www.middleeast.org/articles/2004/12/1229.htm