Backtalk, October 2, 2005

England Sentenced to 3 Years for Prison Abuse

It is another national disgrace that Pfc. England has been convicted in her court marshal and none of the senior commanders, including the commander in chief, have been indicted.

I am a decorated/disabled Marine Corps veteran who served my country honorably in WWII and the Korean conflict. As a concerned American citizen, I have a few observations concerning statements made by military leaders and the present administration absolving senior military leaders of any blame or responsibility for the disgraceful conduct of our troops in the handling of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

As a Marine Corps veteran, it is hard for me to imagine how any unlawful act committed by enlisted personnel, on duty, could go unnoticed or unreported up the chain of command.

For any military commander, junior or senior, to take the position that they have no idea of what the on-duty troops under their command are doing at all times defies all military rules of conduct. For any commander to take this position indicates either a complete lack of military education or a total lack of command responsibility.

Abu Ghraib attracted media attention last April, after the photographs were broadcast on television. For a short time, it seemed as if the Bush administration might be called to account – not just for those horrific actions, but for reneging on the Geneva Conventions throughout the “war on terror.” But no accountability came. Even as election campaigns heated up the political climate last year, Abu Ghraib remained a non-issue. Today, Abu Ghraib is almost forgotten by most Americans, but many throughout the world remember.

May God give this administration the light to find a just punishment for all the commanders responsible these actions, and to restore our great nation to our rightful place as moral leaders in the world. We are the world’s greatest military power, and instead of maintaining that God is on our side, we should make sure that we are on God’s side.

~ George Shelby Edwards


Radiation Limits, Dirty Bombs, and Chaos

A friend sent me the link to this article, which I anticipated to be yet another in a series of nuclear-phobic diatribes seen all too often these days (not necessarily on your Web site, though). I was VERY pleasantly surprised to see a thoughtful, rational, and scientifically accurate assessment of what the true risks are if we were to be attacked by the over-hyped “dirty bomb.” The fact that radiation hormesis (the likely benefit of low doses over longer periods) was mentioned and not rejected out-of-hand was really remarkable; to me it seems that maybe we might be turning the corner in the radio-phobic environment of the last 50-plus years.

I am the radiation safety officer for a company that manufactures X-ray machines for laboratory use, and I manage the radioactive materials program at our facility. I train our workers in the safe use of our equipment, good practices in handling radioactive material, and generally understanding the risks of our business. I’ve been working in this business for about 26 years and have struggled for years trying to help folks understand that they should not link the mushroom cloud on the horizon to the very very small amount of radiation that might be received when a spent fuel shipment travels past their town on its way to a permanent storage facility. But that’s another story for another day.

Thanks for publishing this thoughtful and accurate article. Nice job.

~ Bob Westerdale, RSO, EDAX Inc., Mahwah, N.J.


The Joy of Schadenfreude

Just a quick and superficial correction to Raimondo’s article on the joy of schadenfreude. Hitchens, as a Trotskyist of the IS tradition, would not have referred to the Stalinist regime in Russia as a “degenerated workers’ state.” It would have been “state capitalism,” no more a workers’ state than the United States. The epithet “degenerated workers’ state” was the more common phrase deployed by orthodox Trotskyists, which is to say that for them regimes of the Chinese or Cuban variety still represent some kind of socialism. Hitchens has long since abandoned, as he calls it, “the game of socialism.” It is the absence of an international proletariat with muscle that presumably invites him to seek a liberatory force elsewhere – in U.S. imperialism.

~ Richard Seymour, London, England


Iraq Withdrawal Debate Gathers Momentum

Jim Lobe writes, “London is already planning a major drawdown next May, although Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted Sunday that ‘no arbitrary date has been set.'”

Blair volunteered to join Bush in his “war on terror”; he has been told, in no uncertain terms, that he is not in a position to be able to bail out whenever he pleases. Consequently, the British withdrawal will be determined by Bush and the neocons. Indeed, Blair was forced to sack his previous defense minister, Geoff Hoon, who was laboring under the impression that he had some say over how British troops are deployed.

~ Nicholas Johnstone, UK

Jim Lobe replies:

Right, but I think American generals are thinking the same thing as the Brits, and the fact that it was first leaked to the British media is not surprising.


Has the UN Let a Blacklisted Islamic Charity Roam Free in Kosovo?

Great article!

More on al-Haramain in Kosovo: Members of the Ashland, Oregon branch have been indicted for fraud and tax law violations when they tried to launder funds to the “mujahedin” in Chechnya. There were no references in this indictment to Kosovo or Albania. [See pdf file: here.]

But al-Haramain in Ashland had a Web site called the “Kosovo Relief Fund.” Both the Ashland branch and the main office in Saudi Arabia were listed as accepting donations to the “Kosovo Relief Fund,” with “reports” from al-Haramain in Albania dated April 1999. That was during the Kosovo war, when the CIA’s Kosovo Liberation Army really needed some “charity.” The original link for this Web site no longer exists, but the addresses, phone numbers, et al., are identical to listing for the “Alharamain Islamic Foundation” with a “Focus” of “Kosova (Kosovo)” in this “List of Muslim Relief Organizations in Alphabetical Order” from the Muslim Students Association.

Re: “Abu Omar admitted having fled Egypt ‘because he belonged to Jamaat al-Islamiya.'” He was abducted by CIA operatives in February 2003 near this mosque in Milan, which was Abu Omar’s base of operations in Italy. According to “Mosque denies link as terror incubator“: “After the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, U.S. investigators uncovered heavy phone traffic between the Milan mosque and the Jersey City mosque of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the spiritual leader of the terrorists who carried out the plot.” And Jamaat al-Islamiya is “the militant organization guided by Sheik Abdel Rahman.” Sheik Omar Abdul-Rahman was the CIA’s “valuable asset” during the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. He arrived in Brooklyn “on a much-disputed tourist visa issued by an undercover agent of the CIA” (“Blowback,” Atlantic Monthly).

Thanks for your good research and good articles!

~ Diane S.


Such a Blot

I appreciate very much and really enjoy your writing on issues related to the NPT and especially Iran. I admit to being educated by your articles. But I always have a few questions. First of all, why doesn’t any other media recognize that Iran has never pursued nuclear weapons? Second, why does the media not ask any U.S. agent where the proof is that they have done anything like this? Finally, on Iran’s actions, why do they not pursue a tactic of allowing any inspection at any time at any place the IAEA wants to verify no weapons activities? Have there been too many pokes in the eye to see straight?

~ Joe Bongiovanni, Harborton, Va.

Gordon Prather replies:

By voluntarily “cooperating” with the IAEA as if the Additional Protocol had been ratified, the Iranians are essentially allowing IAEA inspectors to go anywhere/see anything upon short notice.

As for why the media sycophants are sycophants, you’ll have to ask them. Don’t expect an honest answer. Why should they start being honest now?


Armed and Dangerous – Flipper the Firing Dolphin Let Loose by Katrina

I am so saddened by this, more than I have words for – of course I read The Day of the Dolphin, which was about trained dolphins turned to evil purposes. I wanted to say something about the subversion of nature, and how maybe our technology is in the wrong hands. Instead, I am sending these words by Mark Twain – maybe the beauty and innocence of the dolphin as observed by one of our finest writers will suffice to define the evil that is being done: from Following the Equator.

~ Adrien Rain Burke


Theater of the Absurd

Nebojsa Malic article states that the play is “a politically motivated product of Muslim leaders’ desire for linguistic distinction,” and he also states that the “play resembles the way modern Bosnian Muslim (“Bosniak”) identity has been constructed by politicians.” It’s a little bit hard to believe that, since the article written by Paul Arendt (Nebojsa used his link to describe the play) states that, “The Pasovic Hamlet is one of the largest co-productions the Balkans have seen for 20 years – artists from Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia are involved,” and also states, “Zagreb, Belgrade, and the British Council have all contributed funding.” So next time when you try to use quotes from somebody else’s article, don’t try to use just parts of it and write the rest based on your personal opinions, which are hard to believe since Belgrade is contributing funding toward the play and Serbian and Croatian actors are involved.

~ M. Pirija

Nebojsa Malic replies:

I would suggest to Mr. Pirija to reread the article. It very clearly says that the “Bosnian language” is a product of politically motivated desire for distinction – not the play itself. He also accuses me of selectively quoting Paul Arendt’s article from the Guardian, leaving out the information that the play was funded by the governments of Serbia, Croatia, and the UK, among others. But since I linked to Mr. Arendt’s article – and quite deliberately – such insinuation is nonsensical. Nor does the funding of the play by neighboring states detract in any way from my observation about the incongruity of Hamlet with an Islamic veneer. The governments in Belgrade and Zagreb have demonstrated on many occasions their ability to choose poorly; that they choose to spend their taxpayers’ money on what passes as “art” these days while those same taxpayers are struggling to survive is a rather clear indication of their competence.

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