It is the poor who fight

While in the United States, military recruiters for having a difficult time, according to this New York Times article which also appeared in the International Herald Tribune, recruiters are having a far easier time amongst the poor and patriotic in the Pacific Islands.

“It’s the benefits,” said Arnold Balisalisa, who took the aptitude test here in late June. Taking a break from his $3.25-an-hour job at a McDonald’s, he said: “It is better than staying on this island. There’s nothing going on here. I’m 19, and I have never even been to Guam.”

Apparently, in the Pacific islands, territories taken in the Spanish American War and in World War II, the minimum wage is only $3.05; the empire thus produces soldiers to fight to build more empire.

The per capita annual income is $8,000 in American Samoa, $12,500 in the Northern Marianas and $21,000 in Guam, all U.S. territories. In the Marshalls and Micronesia, former U.S. trust territories, per capita incomes are about $2,000. Per capita income in the United States in 2004 was almost $33,000.

The army’s minimum signing bonus is $5,000. Starting pay for a private first class is $17,472. Education benefits can be as much as $70,000.

These territories, though, have small populations.

While small in real terms, enlistments from Guam, Saipan and American Samoa are high per capita. Saipan, with a population of about 60,000 U.S. citizens and green card holders, has 245 soldiers in Iraq.

American Samoa, with a population of 67,000, has lost six soldiers in Iraq, most recently Staff Sergeant Frank Tiai of Pago Pago on July 17. Guam has lost three. Saipan has lost one.

“I see yellow ribbons everywhere,” Staff Sergeant Levi Suiaunoa said by telephone from the army recruiting station in Pago Pago, the capital of the territory. “‘Come home safely’ signs almost litter the streets.”

In March, the Christian Science Monitor reported on the use of soldiers from a larger but also poverty-stricken population–in Latin America, where they are hired by “private contracting companies, doing everything from the dishes and the driving to guarding oil installations, embassies, and senior personnel…. These recruits are joined by thousands of others – from the US and Britain, as well as from Fiji, the Philippines, India and beyond. Close to 20,000 armed personnel employed by private contractors are estimated to be operating in Iraq, making up the second largest foreign armed force in the country, after the US.”

One such company, Triple Canopy, hires “protective security specialists,” who must be “[a]ble to perform duties while wearing body armor, helmet, and equipment while carrying a rifle, for 12—14 hours per day in extreme heat.” It was 97 degrees at 8:50 tomorrow morning in Basrah, Iraq, and forecast to reach 120 degrees.

Coming soon to an airport near you: Dissent equals Terrorism

I missed this, honestly. But it cropped up on one of the e-mail lists I’m subscribed to, where a subscriber noted the Bush administration’s rhetorical shift from the “war on terror” to the “global struggle against extremism.” His comment–which he credited his students for recognizing “right away”–was that “Terrorism is a behavior; extremism is an attitude.” True enough.

He also cites Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) for their excerpt from a New York Times column, in which Thomas Friedman writes, in part:

When you live in an open society like London, where anyone with a grievance can publish an article, run for office or start a political movement, the notion that blowing up a busload of innocent civilians in response to Iraq is somehow “understandable” is outrageous. “It erases the distinction between legitimate dissent and terrorism,” [former State Department spokesperson Jamie] Rubin said, “and an open society needs to maintain a clear wall between them.”

The subscriber to this e-mail list asks, “Are we being prepared for an expanded list of thought crimes?” He is wrong only in phrasing this as a question. In my response, I wrote first on the shift in terminology:

Apparently, [the Bush Administration] can only go so far even with an amorphous war on terror that, as defined, could last indefinitely. This is a case where a shift preserves the urgency of the former terminology while expanding the “enemy” class to include — well, let’s get to the second part of this…

Then in response to the FAIR excerpt:

First, [Rubin, by way of Friedman] seeks a distinction between legitimate dissent and, by implication, illegitimate dissent. Second, he diverts attention from the fact that the U.S., first through UN sanctions, and then through its prosecution of the war in Iraq, has largely targeted civilians, most spectacularly, perhaps, in leveling Fallujah. We attack their civilians on their own home turf, we should not be surprised when they attack our civilians on our home turf. Finally, Rubin identifies “illegitimate dissent” with terrorism.

We have every reason to accept that Friedman is representing the administration’s view accurately, for Bush has consistently sought to suppress–by any means available–free speech which opposes him. That would seem to me, to remove any doubt, as to whether the “list of thought crimes” will expand.

But this need not involve criminal prosecutions. I’ll have to see if I’ve made the “no fly” list.

Karl Rove more than a source

Martin Schram argues that the journalists who promised Karl Rove confidentiality in the Valerie Plame case should not have promised to “not to link their source with the White House. But this was a story where agencies were accusing each other of screwing up. We shouldn’t trade the right to say where our source works for the thrill of talking to a top person _ especially when he wants desperately to talk to (see also: manipulate) us. When a source is a central player-plotter (like Rove), we have a special obligation to try to put his role on the record.”

Valerie Plame was undercover

Supposedly, a group of former CIA employees have sent a letter–the authenticity of which I cannot verify–explaining that even people with desk jobs at Langley may be undercover and thus need protection.

The disclosure of Ms. Plame’s name was a shameful event in American history and, in our professional judgment, may have damaged U.S. national security and poses a threat to the ability of U.S. intelligence gathering using human sources. Any breach of the code of confidentiality and cover weakens the overall fabric of intelligence, and, directly or indirectly, jeopardizes the work and safety of intelligence workers and their sources.

The letter also cites instances in which Republicans have tried to downplay this leak.

The chair of the Communication Department at California State University East Bay and I have a $5 bet on whether Karl Rove keeps his job through December. Dr. Terrell thinks Rove will soon be gone and that what may work with the White House press corps (I wish I’d gotten his exact words–his description of them was priceless) won’t wash when this comes before a federal judge. I think Rove will get himself a lawyer. We agree they probably won’t get Rove for violating the law on protecting undercover agents’ identities; Terrell thinks they’ll get him for obstruction of justice or perjury.

Graduate Program application on track

Apparently, the paper I wrote for my graduate program application was good enough, though I grow more dissatisfied with it by the day. The Department of Communication at California State University East Bay has provisionally admitted me to their graduate program. The admission is provisional because the university has not yet processed my application and because all my letters of recommendation are not yet in, from faculty who are now or have been on summer vacation.

It also appears that I will have completed my general education requirements at the end of this quarter, leaving only a couple communication classes to take to fulfill the agreement I have with the department on graduation. I’ve already registered for those classes for this fall. tries to excuse Judith Miller

It seems’s readers have been giving them a hard time about their support for Judith Miller, who is now in jail for refusing to reveal that Karl Rove leaked Valerie Plame’s name in retribution for her husband’s debunking of Bush administration claims that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium in Niger. Andrew O’Hehir has now taken two stabs at explaining this view held widely by journalists. The first was yesterday and pretty much repeated the same arguments, failing to convincingly refute the notion that if anyone in this story was a whistleblower, it was Joe Wilson, and certainly not Karl Rove. Many readers are furious with Miller, who played a large role in the Bush administration/Chalabi propaganda about weapons of mass destruction, but this is a separate issue, and journalists correctly distinguish between the two.

O’Hehir takes another stab at it again today, in which he cites “letter writers [who] have largely moved away from the emotional argument that Judith Miller belongs in jail because of her WMD stories” and to these arguments:

1) The First Amendment does not offer any blanket protection of journalists’ confidential sources, either in its explicit language or in judicial interpretations. 2) Whoever told Miller about Valerie Plame was committing a crime, so that source is entitled to no protection; Miller can and should be compelled to reveal his/her identity. 3) Only whistle-blowers who are leaking information about criminal (or perhaps unethical) behavior should be accorded legal protection; if the leaked information is self-serving or illegal or, for instance, part of a government propaganda operation, it merits no shield. 4) Miller was not acting as a journalist, but working inside the New York Times as a water-carrier or accomplice (or even “neocon mole”) for the White House agenda, and as such she has forfeited all First Amendment protection.

My arguments, based on those of Jim Naureckas on Democracy Now!, can be summed as #2 and #3. O’Hehir, taking the arguments in reverse order, addresses #3, saying:

This one is entirely subjective. The distinction between “protecting a whistle-blower and protecting a hit man” has become the mantra of the lefty blogosphere on the Miller-Plame case. It sure sounds good. But, hey — who gets to decide which is which? Readers of Salon and the Daily Kos? Or readers of, say, the National Review and the Wall Street Journal? Does the country get to vote on it? If so, how confident are you that the results will be gratifying? The Wednesday edition of the Journal, in fact, features an editorial titled “Karl Rove, Whistleblower” which opines that in leaking Plame’s identity to Time reporter Matthew Cooper, Rove exposed “a case of CIA nepotism” and “provided important background so Americans could understand that Mr. Wilson wasn’t a whistleblower but was a partisan trying to discredit the Iraq War in an election campaign.”

Actually, the distinction between whistle-blowers and hit men sounds better than good. When O’Hehir argues that “the distinction is almost always going to be political,” he makes an argument that sounds good, right up until you consider first, that the source being protected is Karl Rove, who has made a career of deception and media manipulation, and who was using Judith Miller in an attempt to suppress truth and manipulate the media; and second, that Joe Wilson, Plame’s husband, was telling the truth and exposing deception. It is still Wilson–despite anyone else’s attempt to paint it otherwise–who comes closest to deserving whistleblower protection in this case. When you consider that the Bush administration was using a false claim of an attempted uranium purchase to justify a war on Iraq, with an ongoing cost of dozens of lives daily (mostly Iraqi), Rove was engaging in a murderous deception that in addition to leading to death in unjustified war, supposedly placed Plame’s life in jeopardy.

As for argument #2, O’Hehir essentially argues that no crime was committed, as the applicable law was narrowly written. He goes on to criticize the left for making this argument when it has so often resorted to civil disobedience for expeditiously choosing which laws it wants enforced under which circumstances.

To sustain this argument, O’Hehir needs to equate the suppression of truth in the service of killing with its exposure in the service of seeking to preserve life. He can not; and in a reach for moral objectivity, his argument fails. This is a moral equivalence I cannot accept.

It was Rove

According to Newsweek:

[Karl] Rove’s words on the [Valerie] Plame case have always been carefully chosen. “I didn’t know her name. I didn’t leak her name,” Rove told CNN last year when asked if he had anything to do with the Plame leak. Rove has never publicly acknowledged talking to any reporter about former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife. But last week, his lawyer, Robert Luskin, confirmed to NEWSWEEK that Rove did—and that Rove was the secret source who, at the request of both Cooper’s lawyer and the prosecutor, gave Cooper permission to testify…. [Matt] Cooper wrote that Rove offered him a “big warning” not to “get too far out on Wilson.” Rove told Cooper that Wilson’s trip had not been authorized by “DCIA”—CIA Director George Tenet—or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, “it was, KR said, wilson’s wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip.” Wilson’s wife is Plame, then an undercover agent working as an analyst in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations counterproliferation division.

Robert Fisk on where wars are fought

Middle East Realities spared me the expense of paying to read Robert Fisk’s column today in the Guardian by including it in their e-mail newsletter:

“If you bomb our cities,” Osama bin Laden said in one of his recent video tapes, “we will bomb yours.” There you go, as they say. It was crystal clear Britain would be a target ever since Tony Blair decided to join George Bush’s “war on terror” and his invasion of Iraq. We had, as they say, been warned.

It is a useful reminder. We feel no outrage at the ongoing terror of the US-led occupation in Iraq, no outrage at continuing Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians, no outrage at the tens or hundreds of thousands of innocents killed to spread “American values.” Though we might not approve of Osama bin Laden’s choice of targets, this is a war which in his reckoning, began long before 9/11. It began with the Crusades, when Christian royalty determined to liberate “Holy Lands” from Islamic infidels. It is a war that was prosecuted with “the civilian deaths of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the children torn apart by cluster bombs, the countless innocent Iraqis gunned down at American military checkpoints? When they die, it is ‘collateral damage’; when ‘we’ die, it is ‘barbaric terrorism’.” It is also a war that was prosecuted with sanctions imposed on Iraq after the first Persian Gulf war, that enriched their putative target, Saddam Hussein and his family, at the expense of the Iraqi people–who in countless cases, paid with their lives.

I remember, crossing the Atlantic on 11 September 2001 – my plane turned round off Ireland when the US closed its airspace – how the aircraft purser and I toured the cabins to see if we could identify any suspicious passengers. I found about a dozen, of course, totally innocent men who had brown eyes or long beards or who looked at me with “hostility”. And sure enough, in just a few seconds, Osama bin Laden turned nice, liberal, friendly Robert into an anti-Arab racist.

Fisk thinks the target of yesterday’s bombing was the harmony between British Muslims and non-Muslims; this is another evil of war, to compromise those who would remain neutral, to force them to choose sides.

And yet, by the Bush administration definition, there may never be an end to the War on Terror. No end to the evil.

Columbia Journalism Review offers a better argument…

But still not good enough. Douglas McCollam asks, as others have, “How can it be that a reporter [Judith Miller} who never even wrote a story about [Valerie] Plame is in the cooler, while the prime instigator [Robert Novak?] is free to enjoy his martinis and prime rib?” It seems that Miller, villified by liberals for her coverage of nonexistent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and having served as a conduit for Chalabi’s claims about those weapons, never wrote a story outing Valerie Plame. It was Robert Novak who released her name.

McCollam partially answers his own question: “Law isn’t generally about equitable outcomes; it’s about enforcing the rules even if the outcome appears unjust.” The rest of that answer is that protecting sources is supposed to be a way to expose government wrongdoing. It is not supposed to be a way of participating in wrongdoing. Releasing Valerie Plame’s name did not expose government wrongdoing but was an act of wrongdoing in and of itself. If there was a whistleblower in this case, it was Plame’s husband, who criticized Bush administration propaganda–demonstrated to have no foundation whatsoever–on claimed Iraqi purchases of uranium in Niger. It is thus the husband, and by extension, his wife, who deserve protection in this case, not the Bush administration hack seeking retribution when, as has happened so often with this admininstration, the facts on the ground simply didn’t match Bush administration ideology. Yet it is that hack–possibly Karl Rove–whom journalists now rush to protect.

Would they be so anxious to protect this source if it were in a Democratic administration?