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Archive for April 16th, 2015


Americans have yet to grasp the horrific magnitude of the ‘war on terror’

New report documents unspeakable humanitarian and political toll

April 10, 2015

Even as the U.S. expands its military involvement in the Middle East and delays the troop drawdown from Afghanistan, the staggering human toll of the U.S. “war on terrorism” remains poorly understood.

A new report (PDF), whose release last month coincided with the 12th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, attempts to draw attention to civilian and combatant casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Yet the study, authored by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and other humanitarian groups, barely elicited a whisper in the media.

Washington’s preoccupation with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other regional conflicts has largely obscured the humanitarian, economic and political toll of its “war on terrorism.”

But ISIL’s resurgence is Not unrelated to Washington’s military campaign.

“ISIL is a direct outgrowth of Al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion,” President Barack Obama told Vice News last month.

Until the U.S. comes to grips with the aftereffects of its counterterrorism policies, it will continue to pursue counterproductive strategies that cause incalculable damage.

The report estimates that at least 1.3 million people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan from direct and indirect consequences of the U.S. “war on terrorism.”

One million people perished in Iraq alone, a shocking 5% of the country’s population.

The staggering civilian toll and the hostility it has engendered erodes the myth that the sprawling “war on terrorism” made the U.S. safer and upheld human rights, all at an acceptable cost.

As the authors point out, the report offers a conservative estimate. The death toll could exceed 2 million.

Those killed in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere from U.S. drone strikes were not included in the tally.

Besides, the body count does not account for the handicapped, thewounded, the grieving and the dispossessed.

There are 3 million internally displaced Iraqis and nearly 2.5 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, and 4 million in Syria

The U.S. tracks its own military deaths and physical injuries in Afghanistan and Iraq. (Its involvement in Pakistan has been more sporadic and secretive.)

Unsurprisingly, there are no conclusive government statistics on casualties and deaths among enemy combatants and civilians. This omission is by design.

In fact, authorities have sometimes deliberately falsified details about the carnage that the U.S. has wrought.

This isn’t the first accounting on the suffering unleashed by U.S. counterterrorism efforts, but the American public remains woefully misinformed.

A 2007 poll found that Americans estimated the Iraqi death toll at 10,000.

And it is not just the body count that has been obscured.

A 2011 study by the University of Maryland found that 38% of Americans still believe that the U.S. uncovered clear evidence that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al-Qaeda, though the claim is patently untrue.

The failure to reckon with past miscalculations bodes ill for avoiding the same mistakes in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, where Washington is providing logistical support for the Saudi-led intervention.

The U.S. has evinced shocking indifference to the suffering its policies have caused.

The report admonishes policymakers and the public to avoid historical amnesia about the war’s costs — a phenomenon not unique to the recent past.

A flawed understanding of the toll of the Vietnam War still persists.

The death toll of 58,000 U.S. soldiers in Vietnam may be etched into our national consciousness, but those psychologically harmed from the war faded from view (It is reported that 60,000 veterans committed suicide).

And few can correctly cite the 2 million dead Vietnamese noncombatants, the lives lost and devastation from bombings in Laos and Cambodia or the war’s enduring legacy of health and environmental harms caused by defoliants. (Three generation later, Vietnamese are born with horrible disfiguring due to Orange gas)

There are other haunting parallels as well.

The Vietnam War had a destabilizing effect in the region that allowed the Khmer Rouge to thrive in Cambodia, where it committed genocide, for which there has been no real reckoning.

It is all too easy to dismiss the fighting in the Middle East as ancient and inevitable internecine conflicts that are wholly independent of U.S. intervention.

But that account precludes a reflective and critical assessment of how the region’s disintegration unfolded.

The “war on terrorism” is not over in Afghanistan.

In December the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported that 2014 saw the highest rate of civilian deaths and injuries in the five years the organization has kept statistics.

After announcing plans to wind down U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Obama recently said nearly 10,000 U.S. soldiers would remain in the country through the end of 2015.

The use of private military contractors, for which statistics are intentionally vague, clouds the full scope of the U.S. presence there. (Recently, the US court convicted 4 contractors to a life sentence for crimes in Iraq)

Obama maintains that the target date for the final drawdown remains unchanged, but anti-war activists who hoped his election would herald the end of the George W. Bush–era aggression have reined in their relief.

The “war on terrorism” costs the U.S. not only blood but also treasure.

The Costs of War project at Brown University estimated in June 2014 that the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan would cost taxpayers “close to $4.4 trillion, not including future interest costs on borrowing for the wars,” through the end of 2014.

Last year 18% of the federal budget, or $615 billion, went to defense spending.

About 27% of 2014 tax payments went directly to the military, and an additional 18% went toward paying for past military actions. Interest costs will be at least $7.9 trillion by 2054 (PDF), unless Washington changes the way it pays its war debt. (With increased preemptive wars)

Despite the costs and inefficacy of Washington’s military interventions, support for the use of force has grown:

In three surveys by the Pew Research Center over the last decade, fewer than 40% of Americans believed in the use of force as the best strategy to combat terrorism, but recent Pew poll found that nearly half the Americans surveyed believed that military force is the best way to combat global terrorism.

The threat of terrorism has not receded in the wake of U.S. interventions.

Sanitizing the effect of Washington’s past military campaigns leads to a flawed and inhumane cost-benefit analysis for future missions.

And it provides political cover for leaders who should answer for the turmoil the U.S. has engendered.

The failure to reckon with previous miscalculations bodes ill for avoiding the same mistakes in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, where Washington is providing logistical support for the Saudi-led intervention.

This will not only cause unspeakable human suffering beyond our borders but also may come back to haunt us once more.

Lauren Carasik is a clinical professor of law and the director of the international human rights clinic at the Western New England University School of Law.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

Andrew Bossone shared this link and comments on FB

The staggering civilian toll and the hostility it has engendered erodes the myth that the sprawling “war on terrorism” made the U.S. safer and upheld human rights, all at an acceptable cost.

As the authors point out, the report offers a conservative estimate. The death toll could exceed 2 million. Those killed in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere from U.S. drone strikes were not included in the tally. Besides, the body count does not account for the wounded, the grieving and the dispossessed.

There are 3 million internally displaced Iraqis and nearly 2.5 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.

See More

New report documents unspeakable humanitarian and political toll

New Words to Add in a Dictionary

We shouldn’t be explaining and describing complicated feeling and activities when a single world defines the entire meaning.

Reine Azzi shared an article on Bored Panda.

Some of these words are over-complicated but I’ll be using the ‘chairdrobe’ for sure!

When languages evolve, it’s important that scholars and dictionaries keep up.
Bored Panda

The internet has spawned a new crop of words for stuff, and while you may not like all of them, some of them are really clever combos that seem like they might actually be useful!

Many of these words come from, which is basically a dictionary of modern slang.

Their site is probably the most complete dictionary of modern slang, but it’s also full chock-full of nonsense.

Most of these words are portmanteaus, which are what you get when you mash both the sounds and meanings of two words together to get a new one.

Did you know, for example, that the word ‘smog’ is a portmanteau (smoke and fog)?

‘Brunch’ (breakfast and lunch) is another one that is becoming more and more popular, although it’s been around for a while.

And if you’re eating your brunch with a spork, then that’s a portmanteau double-whammy.

Can you think of any fun new words that real modern dictionaries should adopt? If so, add them to this list!

#1 Masturdating (n) going alone to a movie or a restaurant

#2 Askhole  Asking obnoxious questions

#3 Bedgasm  Euphoric experience when climbing in bed after a long day

#4 Chairdrobe or floordrobe: Piling up clothes on a chair

#5 Textpectation an anticvipation feeling when waiting for response to a texting

#6 Destinesia  Forgeting why you intended to go where you arrived

#7 Nonversation  a smart ass word for small talk

#8 Cellfish  On purpose talking on the cellphone to annoy people

#9 Errorist   A frequent error maker

#10 Carcolepsy  Falling asleep as the car gets moving (must exist a medical term for that ailment.)

#11 Hiberdating  Ignoring close friends as we find a girlfriend

#12 Youniverse  The universe revolves around their only person

#13 Internesting  surrounding yourself with pillows while using internet

#14 Columbusing  A white person claiming to have discovered what already existed

#15 Ambitchous  surpassing the normal bitch

#16 Dudevorce  Two brothers severing their friendship

#17 Unkeyboardinated  Frequent typing error making

#18 Unlightening  Becoming more dumb in what you’re learning

#19 Nerdjacking  Filling details to an uninterested and uninitiated person

#20 Afterclap  Last one to clap after everybody stopped. (The first one to clap when the music didn’t end?)

#21 Nomonym  Tasting the same for otherwise two different food

#22 Beerboarding  Extracting secrtets by getting someone drunk

#23 Doppelbanger  Having intercourse with someone looking like you

#24 Eglaf  A word that has no meaning to be substituted to a meaningless word



They passed away: Uruguay writer Eduardo Galeano and Gunter Grass (Nobel prize for literature in 2009

Uruguayan writer and journalist Eduardo Galeano, author of “Las venas abiertas de América Latina”, among other masterpieces, died today, aged 74, in Montevideo, where he lived.

His best-known works are “Las venas abiertas de América Latina” (Open Veins of Latin America, 1971) and “Memoria del fuego” (Memory of Fire Trilogy, 1982–86), which have both been translated into 20 languages and transcend orthodox genres, combining journalism, political analysis, and history.

The author himself has proclaimed his obsession as a writer saying, “I’m a writer obsessed with remembering, with remembering the past of America and above all that of Latin America, intimate land condemned to amnesia.”

 posted in July 23, 2013:

Most mornings it’s the same. At the breakfast table Uruguayan-born author, Eduardo Galeano, 72, and his wife, Helena Villagra, discuss their dreams from the night before.

“Mine are always stupid,” says Galeano. “Usually I don’t remember them and when I do, they are about silly things like missing planes and bureaucratic troubles. But my wife has these beautiful dreams.”

“There is a tradition that sees journalism as the dark side of literature, with book writing at its zenith,” he told the Spanish newspaper El Pais recently.

“I don’t agree. I think that all written work constitutes literature, even graffiti. I have been writing books for many years now, but I trained as a journalist, and the stamp is still on me. I am grateful to journalism for waking me up to the realities of the world.”

Those realities appear bleak.

“This world is not democratic at all,” he says. “The most powerful institutions, the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank, belong to three or four countries. The others are watching. The world is organised by the war economy and the war culture.”

And yet there is nothing in either Galeano’s work or his demeanour that smacks of despair or even melancholy.

While in Spain during the youth uprisings of the indignados two years ago, he met some young protesters at Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. Galeano took heart from the demonstrations.

“These were young people who believed in what they were doing,” he said. “It’s not easy to find that in political fields. I’m really grateful for them.”

One of them asked him how long he thought their struggle could continue. “Don’t worry,” Galeano replied. “It’s like making love. It’s infinite while it’s alive. It doesn’t matter if it lasts for one minute. Because in the moment it is happening, one minute can feel like more than one year.”

Galeano talks like this a lot – not in riddles but enigmatically and playfully, using time as his foil.

When I ask him whether he is optimistic about the state of the world, he says: “It depends on when you ask me during the day. From 8am until noon I am pessimistic. Then from 1pm until 4 I feel optimistic.” I met him in a hotel lobby in downtown Chicago at 5pm, sitting with a large glass of wine, looking quite happy.

His world view is not complicated – military and economic interests are destroying the world, amassing increasing power in the hands of the wealthy and crushing the poor.

Given the broad historical sweep of his work, examples from the 15th century and beyond are not uncommon.

He understands the present situation not as a new development, but a continuum on a planet permanently plagued by conquest and resistance. “History never really says goodbye,” he says. “History says, see you later.”

He is anything but simplistic.

A strident critic of Obama’s foreign policy who lived in exile from Uruguay for over a decade during the 70s and 80s, he nonetheless enjoyed the symbolic resonance of Obama’s election with few illusions.

“I was very happy when he was elected, because this is a country with a fresh tradition of racism.”

He tells the story of how the Pentagon in 1942 ordered that no black people’s blood be used for transfusions for whites. “In history that is nothing. 70 years is like a minute. So in such a country Obama’s victory was worth celebrating.”

All of these qualities – the enigmatic, the playful, the historical and the realist – blend in his latest book, Children of the Days, in which he crafts a historical vignette for each day of the year. (That’s exactly what Grass did for each year in the 20thcentury)

The aim is to reveal moments from the past while contextualising them in the present, weaving in and out of centuries to illustrate the continuities.

What he achieves is a kind of epigrammatic excavation, uprooting stories that have been mislaid or misappropriated, and presenting them in their full glory, horror or absurdity.

His entry for 1 July, for example, is entitled: One Terrorist Fewer. It reads simply.

“In the year 2008, the government of the United States decided to erase Nelson Mandela’s name from its list of dangerous terrorists. The most revered African in the world had featured on that sinister roll for 60 years.” He named 12 October Discovery, and starts with the line: “In 1492 the natives discovered they were Indians, they discovered they lived in America.”

Meanwhile 10 December is called Blessed War and is dedicated to Obama’s receipt of the Nobel prize, when Obama said there are “times when nations will find the use of force not only necessary, but morally justified.”

Galeano writes: “Four and a half centuries before, when the Nobel prize did not exist and evil resided in countries not with oil but with gold and silver, Spanish jurist Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda also defended war as ‘not only necessary but morally justified’.”

And so he flits from past to present and back again, making connections with a wry and scathing wit.

His desire is to refurbish what he calls the “human rainbow. It is much more beautiful than the rainbow in the sky,” he insists. “But our militarism, machismo, racism all blinds us to it. There are so many ways of becoming blind. We are blind to small things and small people.”

And the most likely route to becoming blind, he believes, is not losing our sight but our memory.

My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia. I wrote to recover the memory of the human rainbow, which is in danger of being mutilated.”

By way of example he cites Robert Carter III – of whom I had not heard – who was the only one of the US’s founding fathers to free his slaves. “For having committed this unforgivable sin he was condemned to historical oblivion.”

Who, I ask, is responsible for this forgetfulness? “It’s not a person,” he explains. “It’s a system of power that is always deciding in the name of humanity who deserves to be remembered and who deserves to be forgotten … We are much more than we are told. We are much more beautiful.”

Note 1: A post I published on Galeano.

Andrew Bossone shared this link on FB

To quote Oscar Guardiola-Rivera: veins are still open




April 2015

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