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Old 10-09-2007, 12:55 PM   #46
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Pentagon is pressed on killings of Iraqis
Lawmakers, ACLU want records on civilian deaths

By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff | October 9, 2007

WASHINGTON - The firestorm over the Sept. 16 shooting of more than a dozen unarmed Iraqis by members of Blackwater USA, a private security firm, has sparked renewed calls for the US military to release its own records related to the killing of Iraqi civilians at checkpoints or near convoys.

Many hundreds of Iraqi civilians have been killed or injured by US forces for getting too close to checkpoints or convoys over the past four years, according to US military documents and officials.

Private security contractors such as Blackwater and US soldiers are authorized to fire at vehicles that get too close to convoys or checkpoints, after giving a series of warnings known as "escalation of force."

US military officials say they have launched a successful effort to reduce the number of such shootings by training soldiers to give more visible warnings, but the Pentagon so far has declined to release data to back up the assertion. That refusal has sparked a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union seeking copies of military reports on such escalation-of-force shootings. Key members of Congress have also called for the release of the documents.

"Without these documents being released, we don't really know how well the military is doing," said Jon Tracy, a former judge advocate general in Iraq who now works for CIVIC, a Washington-based group that seeks to curb civilian deaths. "We don't know how often this happens, and when it does happen. We can't know if a soldier reasonably had fear or was the soldier was just trigger-happy?"

Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who has been an outspoken advocate of civilian victims in Iraq and Afghanistan, has renewed calls for the Pentagon to create a declassified database of civilian deaths.

"Such a database would assist in evaluating the effectiveness of the Pentagon's efforts to reduce civilian casualties and in determining appropriate compensation for the victims' families," Leahy said in a statement to the Globe last week. "It would also help to credibly refute inaccurate claims of civilian deaths."

Military officials who worked on the effort to reduce civilian deaths say that the information Leahy and the ACLU are seeking is classified. Military spokesmen reached in Baghdad said they would release statistics on escalation-of-force killings when they become available but did not provide statistics for this report.

Civilian shootings by Blackwater and other contractors have come under scrutiny since the Sept. 16 episode. Blackwater has reported involvement in 195 shootings since 2005, 80 percent of which were deemed "escalation of force incidents" in which Blackwater fired without being fired upon. But contractors are not required to complete the same rigorous investigations of shootings that the US military conducts.

Initial reports suggest that the Sept. 16 event was sparked when a driver unwittingly came too close to the Blackwater convoy and was shot by Blackwater personnel. As the dead driver's car continued rolling toward the convoy, Blackwater security reportedly continued to shoot, killing at least 14 people and sparking an uproar in the Iraqi government and on Capitol Hill.

Similarly, hundreds of shootings at US checkpoints and near convoys have ignited simmering outrage among Iraqis for years and taken hundreds of lives, although they have not gotten the attention in the United States that the Blackwater shooting has received.

"Many hundreds are killed and their cases are not even recognized," said Karzan Sherabayani, an Iraqi living in London who made a documentary about his struggle to find out what happened to his 75-year-old uncle, whose car was hit with more than 80 bullets when he tried to turn around at a checkpoint in Kirkurk. "I wanted to know if somebody had been given responsibility for this."

Of 500 claims for compensation filed by Iraqi families and released after an ACLU court action, 133 were allegedly killed for driving too close to a convoy, while 59 were allegedly killed at checkpoints.

Those cases include allegations that US soldiers, on several occasions, shot at random from convoys, killing bystanders; a case in which soldiers allegedly fired 200 rounds into a car that did not stop soon enough at a checkpoint, killing two parents and injuring their two young children; and an allegation that US soldiers had fired on a car carrying a pregnant woman who was on her way to the hospital to give birth, killing her.

In the vast majority of cases, soldiers were deemed to have acted within their rights to fire at the vehicles that they feared posed a threat. Soldiers were found negligent in only a tiny handful of cases. In many cases, the claims were denied because the event had not been reported up the chain of command.

Military officials say soldiers are under tremendous pressure at checkpoints and in convoys, and often have only a few seconds to decide if a vehicle is a threat. Sometimes, they say, soldiers err on the side of killing an innocent driver instead of risking death to himself and fellow soldiers.

"They are 19, 20 years old and we are asking them to make some pretty big decisions, and they are doing a great job," said Colonel Kent Crossley, former chief of Analysis and Integration at the Center for Army Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who served multiple tours in Iraq. Crossley cochaired a conference earlier this year on how to rewrite the handbook on "escalation of force" procedures in a way that could reduce civilian deaths.

He said the military was trying to give soldiers the tools to avoid such killings, including nonlethal tactics, and better, more visible signs which can be understood by Iraqis who do not speak English.

"Just because you have the right to use lethal force, it doesn't mean you should. That's what we are trying to teach these soldiers," he said.

When General Peter Chiarelli arrived in Iraq as the number-two US military official in 2006, he announced that every "escalation of force" shooting that resulted in a death or injury should be investigated and reported up the chain of command in what is known as a "15-6" report.

Within months, the number of reported checkpoint shootings dropped dramatically, from one per day to one a week, military officials said, heralding a major success.

But in July, the McClatchy news service reported that the number of "escalation of force" shootings had spiked with the increase of US troops in recent months, with 429 civilians killed or wounded in checkpoint and convoy shootings over the past year.
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Old 10-10-2007, 03:15 PM   #47
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Bush and Condi are on bended knee to Turkey


and we (The United States) are now subject to black mailing??



"Absolutely not, I would not call it that." she said.


Quote:
Bush to Congress: Don't cross Turks on Armenians
by Frank James

Much of the world acknowledges the genocide of as many as 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1923 , a genocide that's often called the first in a century of genocides--the 20th century.

But it's taboo to talk about the genocide in Turkey where many Turks deny the mass murders ever happened.

And apparently, because of increasing pressure from Turkey, it’s now taboo as well for the U.S. Congress to pass a resolution calling on Bush Administration foreign policy to take account of the Armenian genocide.

President Bush came as close as a president comes to publicly begging Congress not to pass the resolution.

House Resolution 106, which is to be considered this afternoon by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, starts thusly:


Calling upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide, and for other purposes.

That language seems straightforward enough. But the Turkish government so fiercely opposes the resolution that U.S. officials have clearly been warned that the resolution's passage could jeopardize Turkish cooperation on Iraq.

That would be disastrous for U.S. troops in Iraq since much of the materiel and oil that keeps them going passes through Turkey, the U.S.'s longtime and NATO member.

So worried is the Bush Administration, that President Bush appended some remarks about his opposition to the resolution to comments he made this morning on the South Lawn on a completely different matter, improvements to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act:

Bush said:


On another issue before Congress, I urge members to oppose the Armenian genocide resolution now being considered by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people that began in 1915. This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror.

To drive home the message he sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates out to underscore the difficulties that would be created for U.S. efforts in Iraq if Turkey decides to stop cooperating with the U.S.


SEC. RICE: We have just come from a meeting with the president and from a meeting with our team in Iraq and in the field, and we just wanted to make a brief comment about the Armenian Genocide Resolution that is before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee today. And we are all in agreement that the passage of this resolution would be very destabilizing to our efforts in the Middle East, very destabilizing to our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, because Turkey, as an important strategic ally, is very critical in supporting the efforts that we are making in these crucial areas.

I just want to note that General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker brought up the issue of this Armenian Genocide Resolution, as did Admiral Fallon, and ask that we do everything that we could to make certain that it does not pass.

I'm going to turn to Secretary Gates. But let me just say that this is not because the United States fails to recognize the terrible tragedy of 1915, the mass killings that took place there, that President Bush had spoken about this issue repeatedly throughout his presidency. We have encouraged the Turkish government to work with the Armenian government to put together a way to overcome and reconcile these horrible -- this horrible past and these terrible differences. We believe that there is some improvement in Turkish- Armenian relations.

So this is not to ignore what was a really terrible situation. And we recognize the feelings of those who want to express their concern and their disdain for what happened many years ago. But the passage of this resolution at this time would indeed be very problematic for everything that we are trying to do in the Middle East because we are very dependent on a good Turkish strategic ally to help with our efforts.

And maybe I could turn to Secretary Gates for a couple of comments.

SEC. GATES: Just a word or two. The reason that the commanders raised this issue as our heavy dependence on Turkey in terms of resupply in Iraq -- about 70 percent of all air cargo going into Iraq comes -- goes through Turkey; about a third of the fuel that they consume goes through Turkey or comes from Turkey. They believe clearly that access to airfields and to the roads and so on in Turkey would be very much put at risk if this resolution passes and the Turks react as strongly as we believe they will.

Just one other small fact is that, as you know, we're airlifting these MRAPs, these Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, right now into Iraq; 95 percent of those MRAPs going into Iraq right now are flying -- are being flown in through Turkey. And so our heavy dependence on the Turks for access is really the reason the commanders raised this and why we're so concerned about the resolution.


Since what's on the table in the House is a resolution that doesn't need a presidential signature, not a bill making law, the president can’t exercise a veto like he has recently on legislation he has found objectionable.

All he can do is jawbone Congress and raise the prospect of the U.S. military being punished if Turkey retaliates, which the administration clearly believes is likely judging by the urgency it attaches to this issue.

To many minds, the situation the U.S. finds itself in with Turkey is akin to being blackmailed.

"Is Turkey blackmailiing the U.S.?" a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino at today's press briefing.

"Absolutely not, I would not call it that." she said.
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Old 10-10-2007, 04:30 PM   #48
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Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
Six years after the September 11 attacks in the United States, the "war on terror" is failing and instead fueling an increase in support for extremist Islamist movements, a British think-tank said on Monday.
Fully agree with this.

I guess what frustrates me the most about all this is that people warned of problems such as this right before we went into Iraq. But noooooo, they were told to shut up and support the president, and how dare they criticize and make such claims? I'm glad people are finally realizing this was a big, BIG mistake. I just wish they'd realized it a lot sooner.

I'll have to check out that film people here are talking about sometime. It sounds good. Depressing, but good.

Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
"Going to war with Iran," he said, "will make matters far worse, playing directly into the hands of extreme elements and adding greatly to the violence across the region. Whatever the problems with Iran, war should be avoided at all costs."
Again, agreed (pray tell, just where the hell do you intend on getting the money and troops for such a war, Bush?). That's all a war does-it makes people angrier, it leads them to hold grudges, it just makes a situation even worse than it already is. Anybody who's even remotely glanced at history would know that.

This adminstration is seriously scaring the crap out of me and pissing me off so much. I cannot WAIT until the day when they're all out of here.

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Old 10-10-2007, 08:08 PM   #49
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Originally posted by deep
Bush and Condi are on bended knee to Turkey


and we (The United States) are now subject to black mailing??



"Absolutely not, I would not call it that." she said.



it passes

now what?

Quote:
Genocide measure passes in tight vote


Published: 10/10/2007


Seven of eight Jewish members on a U.S. congressional committee voted for a resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide.

The non-binding resolution, which recognizes the World War I massacre of Armenians by Turkey as genocide, passed the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday by a closer than expected vote, 27-21. The resolution is likely to go to the full House.

The only Jewish member to vote against was Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), who cited among other reasons Turkey's close relationship with Israel.

The measure was expected to pass by a much wider margin but faced a last-minute lobbying blitz by the Turkish government and the Bush administration, which marshalled all eight living former secretaries of state to oppose it.

Turkey has threatened to downgrade military ties with the United States if the measure passed, and intimated it would do so with Israel, too.

The closeness of the committee vote suggests it will be more difficult to pass the resolution when it comes to the House floor. Turkey's Jews have pressed U.S. Jewish groups to oppose the measure. U.S. Jewish organizations have held back from lobbying but some groups, including the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, have said a congressional resolution recognizing the genocide would be a strategic blunder.

Jewish congressmen who supported the resolution included the committee chairman, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the only Holocaust survivor in Congress. Others, including Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) and Ron Klein (D-Fla.), cited Holocaust remembrance as a reason for their votes.
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Old 10-11-2007, 10:10 AM   #50
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October 11, 2007
Marines Press to Remove Their Forces From Iraq
By THOM SHANKER NY Times

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 — The Marine Corps is pressing to remove its forces from Iraq and to send marines instead to Afghanistan, to take over the leading role in combat there, according to senior military and Pentagon officials.

The idea by the Marine Corps commandant would effectively leave the Iraq war in the hands of the Army while giving the Marines a prominent new role in Afghanistan, under overall NATO command.

The suggestion was raised in a session last week convened by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and regional war-fighting commanders. While still under review, its supporters, including some in the Army, argue that a realignment could allow the Army and Marines each to operate more efficiently in sustaining troop levels for two wars that have put a strain on their forces.

As described by officials who had been briefed on the closed-door discussion, the idea represents the first tangible new thinking to emerge since the White House last month endorsed a plan to begin gradual troop withdrawals from Iraq, but also signals that American forces likely will be in Iraq for years to come.

At the moment, there are no major Marine units among the 26,000 or so American forces in Afghanistan. In Iraq there are about 25,000 marines among the 160,000 American troops there.

It is not clear exactly how many of the marines in Iraq would be moved over. But the plan would require a major reshuffling, and it would make marines the dominant American force in Afghanistan, in a war that has broader public support than the one in Iraq.

Mr. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have not spoken publicly about the Marine concept, and aides to both officials said no formal proposal had been presented by the Marines. But the idea has been the focus of intense discussions between senior Marine Corps officers and other officials within the Defense Department.

It is not clear whether the Army would support the idea. But some officials sympathetic to the Army said that such a realignment would help ease some pressure on the Army, by allowing it to shift forces from Afghanistan into Iraq, and by simplifying planning for future troop rotations.

The Marine proposal could also face resistance from the Air Force, whose current role in providing combat aircraft for Afghanistan could be squeezed if the overall mission was handed to the Marines. Unlike the Army, the Marines would bring a significant force of combat aircraft to that conflict.

Whether the Marine proposal takes hold, the most delicate counterterrorism missions in Afghanistan, including the hunt for forces of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, would remain the job of a military task force that draws on Army, Navy and Air Force Special Operations units.

Military officials say the Marine proposal is also an early indication of jockeying among the four armed services for a place in combat missions in years to come. “At the end of the day, this could be decided by parochialism, and making sure each service does not lose equity, as much as on how best to manage the risk of force levels for Iraq and Afghanistan,” said one Pentagon planner.

Tensions over how to divide future budgets have begun to resurface across the military because of apprehension that Congressional support for large increases in defense spending seen since the Sept. 11 attacks will diminish, leaving the services to compete for money.

Those traditional turf battles have subsided somewhat given the overwhelming demands of waging two simultaneous wars — and because Pentagon budgets reached new heights.

Last week, the Senate approved a $459 billion Pentagon spending bill, an increase of $43 billion, or more than 10 percent over the last budget. That bill did not include, as part of a separate bill, President Bush’s request for almost $190 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senior officials briefed on the Marine Corps concept said the new idea went beyond simply drawing clearer lines about who was in charge of providing combat personnel, war-fighting equipment and supplies to the two war zones.

They said it would allow the Marines to carry out the Afghan mission in a way the Army cannot, by deploying as an integrated Marine Corps task force that included combat aircraft as well as infantry and armored vehicles, while the Army must rely on the Air Force.

The Marine Corps concept was raised last week during a Defense Senior Leadership Conference convened by Mr. Gates just hours after Admiral Mullen was sworn in as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

During that session, the idea of assigning the Afghan mission to the Marines was described by Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine Corps commandant. Details of the discussion were provided by military officers and Pentagon civilian officials briefed on the session and who requested anonymity to summarize portions of the private talks.

The Marine Corps has recently played the leading combat role in Anbar Province, the restive Sunni area west of Baghdad.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior Army officer in Iraq, and his No. 2 commander, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, also of the Army, have described Anbar Province as a significant success story, with local tribal leaders joining the fight against terrorists.

Both generals strongly hint that if the security situation in Anbar holds steady, then reductions of American forces can be expected in the province, which could free up Marine units to move elsewhere.

In recent years, the emphasis by the Pentagon has been on joint operations that blur the lines between the military services, but there is also considerable precedent for geographic divisions in their duties. For much of the Vietnam War, responsibility was divided region by region between the Army and the Marines. As described by military planners, the Marine proposal would allow Marine units moved to Afghanistan to take over the tasks now performed by an Army headquarters unit and two brigade combat teams operating in eastern Afghanistan.

That would ease the strain on the Army and allow it to focus on managing overall troop numbers for Iraq, as well as movements of forces inside the country as required by commanders to meet emerging threats.

The American military prides itself on the ability to go to war as a “joint force,” with all of the armed services intermixed on the battlefield — vastly different from past wars when more primitive communications required separate ground units to fight within narrowly defined lanes to make sure they did not cross into the fire of friendly forces.

The Marine Corps is designed to fight with other services — it is based overseas aboard Navy ships and is intertwined with the Army in Iraq. At the same time, the Marines also are designed to be an agile, “expeditionary” force on call for quick deployment, and thus can go to war with everything needed to carry out the mission — troops, armor, attack jets and supplies.

General Petraeus is due to report back to Congress by March on his troop requirements beyond the summer. His request for forces will be analyzed by the military’s Central Command, which oversees combat missions across the Middle East and Southwest Asia, and by the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. All troop deployment orders must be approved by Mr. Gates, with the separate armed services then assigned to supply specific numbers of troops and equipment.

Marines train to fight in what is called a Marine Air-Ground Task Force. That term refers to a Marine deployment that arrives in a combat zone complete with its own headquarters, infantry combat troops, armored and transport vehicles and attack jets for close-air support, as well as logistics and support personnel.

“This is not about trading one ground war for another,” said one Pentagon official briefed on the Marine concept. “It is about the nature of the fight in Afghanistan, and figuring out whether the Afghan mission lends itself more readily to the integrated MAGTF deployment than even Iraq.”
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Old 10-22-2007, 07:13 PM   #51
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Iraq's brutally wounded-a photo essay

http://www.alternet.org/story/65513/
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Old 10-22-2007, 10:47 PM   #52
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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Violence in Iraq has dropped by 70 percent since the end of June, when U.S. forces completed their build-up of 30,000 extra troops to stabilize the war-torn country, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.

The ministry released the new figures as bomb blasts in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul killed five people and six gunmen died in clashes with police in the holy Shi'ite city of Kerbala south of the Iraqi capital.

Washington began dispatching reinforcements to Iraq in February to try to buy Iraq's feuding political leaders time to reach a political accommodation to end violence between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs that has killed tens of thousands and forced millions from their homes.

While the leaders have failed to agree on key laws aimed at reconciling the country's warring sects, the troop buildup has succeeded in quelling violence.

Under the plan, U.S. troops left their large bases and set up combat outposts in neighborhoods while launching a series of summer offensives against Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, other Sunni Arab militants and Shi'ite militias in the Baghdad beltway.

Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf told reporters that there had been a 70 percent decrease in violence countrywide in the three months from July to September over the previous quarter.
http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSCOL24813120071022?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&rpc=22&sp=true
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Old 10-22-2007, 11:53 PM   #53
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^ setting up for a 2008 drawdown. just in time for the election (the American one).

we can't view the drop in violence as anything other than A Good Thing, but we also have to realize that "the surge" is only sustainable until March of 2008. so what's going to happen? some minor political event that will be be blown up in importance, then we'll talk about the "victory" over AQM, and then we'll say, "this time, Mission actually Accomplished," and then settle in for an attack on Tehran?
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Old 10-26-2007, 09:31 PM   #54
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U.S. ordering some diplomats to Iraq

By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 1 minute ago

WASHINGTON - The State Department said Friday it will begin ordering diplomats to serve in Iraq because of a lack of volunteers to work at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the first such large-scale call-up since the Vietnam War.

Beginning Monday, 200 to 300 diplomats will be notified that they have been identified as "prime candidates" to fill 40 to 50 vacancies that will open next year at the embassy, said Harry Thomas, director general of the Foreign Service.

Those notified that they have been selected for a one-year posting will have 10 days to accept or reject the position. If not enough say yes, some will be ordered to go to Iraq and face dismissal if they refuse, Thomas said.

"If someone decides ... they do not want to go, we will then consider appropriate action," Thomas said. "We have many options, including dismissal from the Foreign Service."

Diplomats who are forced into service in Iraq will receive the same extra hardship pay, vacation time and choice of future assignments as those who have volunteered since Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this past summer ordered Baghdad positions to be filled before all others around the world.

It is certain to be unpopular due to serious security concerns in Iraq and uncertainty over the status of the private contractors who protect U.S. diplomats there, particularly after a deadly Sept. 16 shooting in which guards from Blackwater USA protecting an embassy convoy were accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians.


The move to directed assignments is rare but not unprecedented.
In 1969, an entire class of entry-level diplomats was required to go to Vietnam.
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Old 10-26-2007, 09:42 PM   #55
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Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
Iraq's brutally wounded-a photo essay

http://www.alternet.org/story/65513/
That was heartbreaking...

I was in a waiting room the other day at a doctor's office and a couple (probably in their 40's) were looking at a magazine, and they had a similar photo essay, and I overheard the woman say, "I'm sick and tired of this liberal media, who cares about the damn iraqis. It's their fault they're losing limbs." It took everything I had not to bitch them out...

And this isn't the first time I've heard this type of sentiment. I just don't understand conservatives that support a war because "it will spread democracy" but hate the people it's spreading it to... So then what's the point, why do you support this war? You don't even know anymore except it's the conservative, patriotic, freedom loving thing to do...

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Old 10-26-2007, 09:48 PM   #56
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I think some people are just "haters".

they hate themselves
so it is very easy to hate "others".


I pity them,
the Iraqis,
my country
and myself.
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Old 10-26-2007, 09:49 PM   #57
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Originally posted by deep
I think some people are just "haters".

they hate themselves
so it is very easy to hate "others".


I pity them,
the Iraqis,
my country
and myself.
I agree 100%
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Old 10-27-2007, 01:48 AM   #58
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Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar
I was in a waiting room the other day at a doctor's office and a couple (probably in their 40's) were looking at a magazine, and they had a similar photo essay, and I overheard the woman say, "I'm sick and tired of this liberal media, who cares about the damn iraqis. It's their fault they're losing limbs." It took everything I had not to bitch them out...
. That's...charming.

(How the hell is it their fault they're losing limbs? They weren't the ones who started this war, lady)

Angela
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Old 10-28-2007, 09:56 AM   #59
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Wow, that's extremely depressing. But you certainly see a blaming the innocent victim mentality everywhere and about several issues. Obviously that's on a larger and more vicious scale, since it's about war victims who have nothing to do with this war. I just don't get how some people can be so heartless. I still hold onto the belief that the majority of people here would never have such a belief much less express it, but maybe that's hopelessly naive.
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Old 10-29-2007, 05:26 PM   #60
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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/blackwater_prosecutions


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