Apr 30 2010

New CSPAN video library and its impact on blogging and research

I’ve been recording television news for over a decade. The greatest bulk of recordings are from CSPAN. With hundreds of hours of hearings, press conferences, speeches, and special presentations, CSPAN has kept my VCRs, DVDRs, and computers busy for so long I can’t fathom the time. What started as a need to gather actualities from public officials morphed into watching for the sparse moments of accountability.

Well CSPAN has really outdone itself with its latest offering. According to them, their entire video library is online. I’ve scanned it and let me tell you, it is quite impressive. Clearly this isn’t every video feed ever covered, but they have done a really good job at referencing important materials that are key to any research of public government and private voices about governance.
Try for yourself: CSPAN Library

Or if you type in a keyword like Rumsfeld, you can get over 400 videos so far:

As a blogger, a researcher, and a media hound, I have to be able to find relevant source material fairly quickly or I can either lose focus on the story, be interrupted with pressing current events, or lose leads on information. It is a relief that I am able to say to myself, “Ok, George Bush spoke about Abu Zubaydah on September 6, 2006, being a high value detainee”, and then deciding I need to go back and visit the words and account before compared to what is publicly known later.

There are times when the video record can completely change my understanding of older issues. I might notice a congress member for the first time, be reminded of one who is now gone (Tom Delay, Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy), or one who was grilled before our eyes, Alberto Gonzales.

I love that I can now search to precise moments in time where officials testified, spoke publicly, or were the subjects of other panel inquiry. We’ll be filling in several older articles with CSPAN video and creating a weekly archives visit to key moments in our history.

We’ll still be digitizing the tapes we have just in case CSPAN ever takes the library down, but we are deeply thankful and impressed with their efforts.
To Start us of this post, lets visit the speech George Bush gave to the CIA on September 26, 2001:

There are some videos that do not have embed tags, but you can watch them at CSPAN’s site and link to them from articles or your favorite social media pages. But when the videos can be embedded into a blogger’s page it helps the reader complete the picture with contemporary coverage by the only channel focused on watching U.S. government process and related politics.

Apr 29 2010

Conservative and Liberal Pillagers Master the Art of Pandering

By Morris Davis
Reprinted from AndyWorthington.co.uk

If it was a crime to misappropriate a word or phrase — to treat it like you own it and toss it around arbitrarily whenever it suits your purposes — then some prominent conservatives and liberals would be serving hard time. Of course there don’t seem to be any real consequences when there’s literal theft in the world of politics, so it’s a pipe dream to imagine there would be any consequences for pillaging the vocabulary, but it’s still a good thought.

Conservatives stole the word “patriot.” They hot-wired the ignition and drove it away like they had the title in their back pocket. Join the Tea Party and become a Tea Party Patriot. Go to the TPP website and “join the fight for liberty.” Buy Karl Rove’s book and read how Dick Cheney is a patriot. If you think Sarah Palin is wonderful and President Obama is a socialist then you’re a patriot, too. The clear message is that if you haven’t embraced the far right agenda then by default you have to be an unpatriotic liberty hater.

As a military veteran who spent a quarter-century in uniform, I take offense when people like Beck, Palin, Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, Gingrich, Cheney (Dick and Liz), Rove, Malkin, Coulter, and Dick Morris — a dozen chest thumping right wing war hawks who’ve amassed personal fortunes wrapping themselves in the patriot banner and stoking the anger of the base with their “you’re either with us or against us” blather, but who felt they had more important things to do when each of them had the opportunity to serve in the nation’s armed forces — imply that veterans who answered the call of duty but don’t ascribe to their hateful fear-based ideology are unpatriotic and something other than “real Americans.” It’s disappointing, too, that so many ordinary Americans are drawn to these PINOs (Patriots In Name Only) like mosquitoes to the alluring blue light in a bug zapper. There are patriots of all stripes who love this country. No one, and no one ideology, has the right to treat the word like it’s theirs exclusively.

Liberals like to throw around the phrase “rule of law.” Let the Iranians or the North Koreans do something we don’t approve of and we excoriate them for their lack of respect for the rule of law. President Obama goes on a secret trip to Afghanistan and encourages Afghan President Hamid Karzai to institutionalize the rule of law. The administration’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Dawn Johnsen, withdraws from further consideration for the post and the White House releases a statement praising her “commitment to the rule of law.”

The rule of law means everyone — let me repeat, everyone — is accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated. The Torture Statute, publicly promulgated federal law codified in the United States Code, says torture is a criminal offense. Likewise, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, to which the United States is signatory, requires the investigation of allegations of torture and the criminal prosecution of offenders. There is no opt-out provision in either statute that lets the government choose to ignore the law when it’s not politically expedient or might prove to be unpleasant.

So how can the Obama administration say with a straight face that the United States is the champion of the rule of law and others should step up and follow our example when the administration deliberately ignores criminal accountability for the torture of some of the detainees captured in the global war on terrorism? Susan Crawford, who until recently served as the head of the Defense Department’s Office of Military Commissions, told Bob Woodward in an interview published in the Washington Post in January 2009 why she refused to send charges against Mohammed al Qahtani, the alleged 20th hijacker, to trial. She said, “We tortured al Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture.”

Susan Crawford is no left-leaning human rights zealot; she was General Counsel of the Army during the Reagan administration, Dick Cheney’s Inspector General at the Defense Department, and she was appointed to her military commission post by Defense Secretary Bob Gates during the Bush-Cheney years. So what was the rule of law loving Obama administration’s reaction to this admission by a senior Defense Department official that our government engaged in torture?  Key the sounds of crickets chirping.

In an age when the public seems to have the attention span of a gnat, buzz words and trite slogans get traction. It doesn’t matter if there is any real substance behind the words so long as they stick. Maybe that’s acceptable in commercial marketing, but it’s not in democratic governance. We have a right to expect better from those who purport to pull the levers of power. When they’re talking the talk they should mean what they say. The two sides have pretty much succeeded in trashing our country; the least they can do is stop trashing our vocabulary.

Apr 27 2010

Center for Constitutional Rights- The Torture Team

This site is a must see for accountability resources. Thanks to the Center for Constitutional Rights for this work.

Apr 23 2010

Cheney’s best was “go f— yourself”

When Dick Cheney spouted off to Patrick Leahy, he accomplished the best thing he ever did. Who says so? Dick says so.

“That’s sort of the best thing I ever did.”, he exclaimed to Dennis “I lost my principles and backbone on 9/11” Miller. When put into perspective on the entirety of his career, his public activities and the consequences of his fanatical push to control as many parts of the world as he could…this was his finest hour.

Now, I know that Cheney was being rather silly here with Miller. It does show the level at which he operates. In his world, he’s absolutely sure of each of his decisions. He shows no remorse for any decision he’s asked about.

“Mr. Cheney do you regret that we didn’t find WMD?”, “No.”

“Do you regret that we tortured people?”, “Not at all.”

“Do you regret eavesdropping on American conversations and data so you could control everything in your little War on Terror?”, “No, we took appropriate action to save lives.”

“What was your finest hour?”, “Telling Patrick Leahy to go Fuck himself.”

What a testimony to this piss and vinegar draft dodger who talks tough but only puts others’ lives on the line. Dick, it is easy to talk tough when others do your fighting. Your finest hour wasn’t your military service for this country to match your military driven exploits later as a civilian bureaucrat. Your finest hour wasn’t found in an honest campaign to save American lives. No, your finest hour was walking through the halls of governance and telling a political opponent to go “fuck yourself” because he dared do his job of oversight.

Mr. Cheney, you’re an unindicted war criminal. I guess I don’t begrudge you reminiscing about your finest moment with a low level crow like Miller in your little echo chamber chit-chat. It fits you, well.

Apr 21 2010

A little bit of reality about Texas secession

I was born in Missouri. I’m not really someone who thinks about who I am in terms of Missouri when I consider the “show me” slogan, then I can say I like that I was born there. However, I grew up in Texas where the majority of my family was from. We have been living in this state, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas for about 7 to 10 generations on average. Many in my family were here before statehood, were in Oklahoma when it was “Indian territory”, and to this day I still find more and more information about my family and my wife’s family who is also deeply rooted for many generations from the first settlers in the Panhandle of Texas. Heck, even my brother worked in the Texas Senate as a staffer.

Now down here in Texas, we like things our way. This comes as no surprise to anyone because I’m sure that’s true just about anywhere. I’m sure there are some uppity Canadians near Calgary or some very territorial Arizonans near Tombstone. But I have to say that, in Texas, we really know how to build a myth and tall tale like few others.

The Lone Star State is more than a name; it is an attitude. Stand Alone, Act Tough, Be Independent, and most of all, don’t eat Salsa made in New Jersey

Having journeyed around the state I know that it is more diverse in land than people. But mostly it is a state that lags behind in many areas while doing pretty well in others. Our education system is a wreck. We were one of the few states to stay solvent during the crisis by having stored up reserves for a rainy day. And we have a part time legislature that meets, get this…on the second Tuesday in January of each odd-numbered year for a total of 140 days.

Move into the modern era? Not any time soon.

(Note: I grew up right next to NASA, with kids of NASA employees, and live in one of the most advanced cities when it comes to research, medical, and other…but those are not the rules of thumb for the state so don’t get distracted by exceptions.)

All of this greatness must come from a divine source, certainly. Texas must be so unique that it doesn’t really need the United States, right?

Well the Texas Legislature didn’t think so in March of 1866 when it voted to rescind the previous decision to secede and went even further to specifically declare the right to secede “distinctly renounced”. But today the Governor of Texas lies pathologically from a myth he wants to revive on top of the evidence that such a myth is settled law. Texas already said to itself, without need for the Supreme Court of the United States, we do not have the right to secede:

An Ordinance, Declaring the Ordinance of Secession Null and Void

March 15, 1866

“Be it ordained by the people of Texas in Convention assembled, That we acknowledge the supremacy of the Constitution of the United States, and the laws passed in pursuance thereof; and that an Ordinance adopted by a former Convention of the people of Texas on the 1st day of February, A.D. 1861, entitled “An Ordinance to Dissolve the Union between the State of Texas and the other States, united under the compact styled ‘Constitution of the United States of America,'” be and the same is hereby declared null and void; and the right heretofore claimed by the State of Texas to secede from the Union, is hereby distinctly renounced. Passed 15th March, 1866.


The Constitution of the State of Texas, as Amended by the Delegates in Convention Assembled, Austin, 1866. Austin: Printed at the Southern Intelligencer Office, 1866, p. 32.”

Now the reason I know this law so well is that every year we have a celebration if you will, or a memorial if you want, to Juneteenth. This is the day the Union soldiers under Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger (ironically his first ever battle was in Missouri) arrived and said:

“On June 19, 1865

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.“

Now mind you, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was to take effect on January 1, 1863, 3 years before Texas slaves would be finally freed. It would be another year before the Texas Legislature would codify the reality of secession on March 15, 1866.

The governor of Texas should know this. He has no respect for this because basically he’s a posturing political prick in the same nature as the posturing political prick before him, George W. Bush. He dresses the part as if he’s walked right out of a scene in “Maverick”. As a citizen of this state, I’m not going to let him go on this without at the least pointing out the history he ignores and the consequences of his ignorance.

Essentially he is ignoring some of the key reconciliation actions that took place at the end of the Civil War and the additional insult leaped upon slaves in Texas by not releasing them until the U.S. military arrived and made them do so. Each year we celebrate Juneteenth and his rhetoric flies in the face of this celebration.

But worse than that, Mr. Perry sets up a political stance that is based in lies while addressing national issues, state issues, and leading those who listen to him down a failed path of political nonsense. I happen to not want a national mandate. He says he doesn’t want a national mandate. I don’t want an inflated Federal system. He says he doesn’t want an inflated Federal system. I can do this without floating on myths about my state. He bathes in lies about the state, expresses his hypocrisy by taking Federal resources while pandering to Texas nationalists, and acts frequently as a unitary executive dictator. (SEE: HPV virus mandatory vaccinations, overturned by his own party and supported by Texas Dems.)

One need not lie about their history to stand for or against something. But to lie about my state, the State of Texas in order to make a political point, well…as we say down here, them’s may be fightin’ words.

UPDATE: For the couple of folks here who insist on some other “illegal government” claims or that somehow the March 15, 1866 order to rescind the previous secession claims aren’t settled law, feel free to call the Texas Legislative Library in Austin: 512-463-1252 and ask if there were ever any updates to this legal activity. They will clearly tell you that 1.) they get a lot of calls lately on this, and 2.) it has no updates since March 15, 1866. I do my research well in advance of print. As I said my brother worked in the Texas Senate so this isn’t all that hard to settle when you know who to call. Go ahead and ask them, settle it for yourselves.

Apr 21 2010

Worthington: Judge in Slahi case demolished US al-Qaida claims.

Andy Worthington has a new article:
Mohamedou Ould Salahi: How a Judge Demolished the US Government’s Al-Qaeda Claims

He points out the stack of cards that is the Bush/Cheney administration’s detainee terrorism policy. Basically, take in prisoners on bounties, give them no chance to hear what they are accused of,  arrange for them to be tried in the courts with the lowest level of evidential standards, then proclaim yourself the victor in “the war on terror”.

Worthington has done exhaustive research into the cases and backgrounds of most of the detainees. He has demonstrated very well that the government is resting the majority of its case on hearsay from detainees that were captured and sold to Americans for money.

Apr 21 2010

Mainstream news tortures readers over SCOTUS animal abuse video ruling

To read the many headlines this week on the Supreme Court decision regarding animal abuse videos, you’d think that the justices had personally stopped on little kittens and bunnies for their own sexual amusement. A quick scan of most of the headlines read:
-Supreme Court Overturns Animal Cruelty Conviction (NewsReleaseWire.com)
(Robert Stevens wasn’t convicted of animal cruelty. He was convicted of distributing videos which were collections of existing dog fighting videos from the 60s, 70s, and from Japanese videos. He was not charged in relation to any production of the original videos in any way. Additionally, the conviction had already been overturned, this was a decision that reviewed the appeal. This is called a Write of Certiorari, where SCOTUS calls on a lower court to review their decision)

-Supreme Court says fetish videos depicting animal cruelty deserve free speech protections
12:00 AM CDT on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 (McClatchy)
(Completely false. The court said no such thing.)

-Top US court protects animal cruelty images as free speech (AFP)
(Sweeping and thus misleading. The Court actually found that the language in the state was to broad to effectively prosecute without leaving too much in the hands of prosecutors to decide what constituted abuse, depiction, and the conditions under which the video was filmed or the animal was harmed related to the film.)

-The Supremes’ film review: 8-1, animal cruelty films are free speech (Justice Alito gives them a thumbs-down) (LATIMES OP-ED)
(Again, not the case. There was no such sweeping comment in the decision. The focus was on how broad some of the terms were in the statute and how the government asserted its case.)

-SCOTUS Strikes Down Animal Cruelty Law (AM Law Daily)
(Techinically correct, but doesn’t show why. This leaves the reader, if they don’t catch all or any of the article, to conclude that the decision was based on animal cruelty instead of broad language in the statute.)

Then there is the sort of neutral stance:
-Supreme Court overturns law banning animal cruelty videos
(Getting warmer. But the winner for best headline slug will need to be better than this.)

But then there was NPR:
Supreme Court Calls Animal Cruelty Law Too Broad – Nina Totenberg
(And this week’s winner is Nina Totenberg, though I might have missed some others like this.)

So…what’s the point? Only the NPR title actually tells you in one slug what the story is. The rest do not. They lead to a conclusion that is not inline with the actual case or opinion. I think the worst one in this list was “SCOTUS Strikes Down Animal Cruelty Law” because it didn’t even let you know there is a video tape side of this or that the court argued about language used to craft and prosecute under the statute.

These things matter when the public reads articles to learn what the courts decide. The irresponsible headlines are often the work of editors in position of power, so why would they dumb down the language to such an obscure level that renders a reader virtually inept to describe what happened? I had to completely rewrite this article because I started my view based on the collective articles. Even in the articles you can’t often tell on what grounds the court based its opinion.

All day yesterday my mail and my wife’s facebook (I don’t really facebook well) were filled with people upset that the Supreme Court was so willing to personally stop kittens, puppies and rabbits to death under with their black robed stilettos. Only Samual Alito appeared to be willing to stand up for the poor little animals.

I understand the court’s decision and even Alito’s dissent. But this story is about how the news media’s irresponsible headlines and narratives are preventing readers from understanding the case and thus the decision.

For those who don’t know, I’ll summarize the case. Robert Stevens made a film about pit bull fighting. It was found to have violated the 1999 law intended to make “crush videos” illegal. A ‘crush video’ features a woman in stilettos killing a small animal with them for some sick sexual pleasure. Clearly as a society we believe this to be highly criminal. But because of the way the law is actually written, Mr. Steven’s film was in violation because it too showed violence towards and among animals. He had not had any part on the original manufacture or production of these videos but had compiled videos from the 60s, 70s and older Japanese fighting videos.

He was convicted under the 1999 federal statute and the conviction was overturned by the Federal appeals court when (Roberts: “Stevens moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that §48 is facially invalid under the First Amendment.”).

Here’s the statute:

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 3 > § 48

Prev | Next

§ 48. Depiction of animal cruelty

How Current is This?

(a) Creation, Sale, or Possession.— Whoever knowingly creates, sells, or possesses a depiction of animal cruelty with the intention of placing that depiction in interstate or foreign commerce for commercial gain, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

(b) Exception.— Subsection (a) does not apply to any depiction that has serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value. (emphasis mine)

(c) Definitions.— In this section—

(1) the term “depiction of animal cruelty” means any visual or auditory depiction, including any photograph, motion-picture film, video recording, electronic image, or sound recording of conduct in which a living animal is intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed, if such conduct is illegal under Federal law or the law of the State in which the creation, sale, or possession takes place, regardless of whether the maiming, mutilation, torture, wounding, or killing took place in the State; and

(2) the term “State” means each of the several States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and any other commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States.

The Supreme Court then issued a writ of certiorari. This is a request sent to lower courts to review settled cases for constitutional concerns.

When Congress writes laws, the final bill is usually filled with the language and perspectives of the many lawmakers, staffers, and lobbyist who influence the bill. The bills usually follow discovery of some specific problem in our society, in this case the mutilation of animals in “crush videos”. Inevitably in every bill will be loopholes or areas where even in the most perfect moment of a purely noble intention the law will have side effects that were not realized during drafting. The Supreme Court exists entirely to review the constitutionality of these final laws and the execution by the executive branch.

In this case the argument is rendered by Roberts for the majority and Alito as the lone activist judge. If I had to summarize the two views in a single sentence, and thus the case, Roberts is saying, “words matter.” to Alito’s “we know what they meant, close enough.” approach.

Roberts points out that portions of the language in the bill are clear and unambiguous while others are not nearly as clear as you might think. And while the intent of the prosecutor was to end a terrible act, but put in the context of a case, they often gave too much subjective discretion in determining the “value” of what is expressed in these “depictions”:

“The Government thus proposes that a claim of categorical exclusion should be considered under a simple balancing test: “Whether a given category of speech enjoys First Amendment protection depends upon a categorical balancing of the value of the speech against its societal costs.”
“As a free-floating test for First Amendment coverage,that sentence is startling and dangerous. The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balanc-ing of relative social costs and benefits.”

The Government argued much of its case based on previous opinions from the court that seemed to categorize speech that wasn’t protected, one example is Chaplinsky which is the “fighting words” example. Roberts contends that the court has never created categories of First Amendment exempted speech but described their decisions  and such descriptions do not become law:

“But such descriptions are just that—descriptive. They do not set forth a test that may be applied as a general matter to permit the Government to imprison any speaker so long as his speech is deemed valueless or unnecessary, or so long as an ad hoc calculus of costs and benefits tilts in a statute’s favor.

When we have identified categories of speech as fully outside the protection of the First Amendment, it has not been on the basis of a simple cost-benefit analysis.”

To cut to the chase, Roberts points to Ferber and says in this case the government showed that child pornography videos were  “intrinsically related” to the crime itself and thus “an integral part of the production of such materials, an activity illegal throughout the Nation.” but that this decision does not “establish a freewheeling authority to declare new categories of speech outside of the scope of the First Amendment.”

Here’s the key portion, from my view:

“Our decisions in Ferber and other cases cannot be taken as establishing a freewheeling authority to declare new categories of speech outside the scope of the First Amendment. Maybe there are some categories of speech that have been historically unprotected, but have not yet beenspecifically identified or discussed as such in our case law.But if so, there is no evidence that “depictions of animal cruelty” is among them. We need not foreclose the future recognition of such additional categories to reject the Government’s highly manipulable balancing test as a means of identifying them.

III Because we decline to carve out from the First Amendment any novel exception for §48, we review Stevens’s First Amendment challenge under our existing doctrine. “

This law should be rewritten and the accepted assumptions examined by the staffers and reps. This is a great exercise in our democracy’s integral systems. In this case, the system worked. You might criticize Robert Stevens for his interest in dog fighting, but to prosecute him, you’ll have to write laws intended to stop dog fighting and not use some blanket law that can just as easily become precedent for other speech cases.

In the end, this is not as much a decision about dog fighting as it is about statutory language and free speech rights. The extension of concern in this case isn’t entirely about Stevens but how the government would be allowed to create a “free floating” standard for judging what it sees as offensive. Congress got close, even by the justices admissions, but too much was left unspecified that can create a conflict with Constitutionally protected expression.

If the populace cannot understand why the Supreme Court renders particular decisions, confusion arises, confusing policy clashes ensue, and time is wasted in outrage instead of a focused attempt to clarify the law with better language and model.

To read the stories, you’d think that these cold blooded justices just told us all, “its ok to kill little animals and film it because that’s free speech”, when nothing of the kind is in these opinions.

Congrats to NPR and others who got it right, and shame on the lazy, narcissistic news sources who yet again duped their own readers. No wonder people thought there was WMD in Iraq.

Apr 21 2010

Emptywheel: al-Haramain only on watch list because of illegally tapped conversation

For those of you who don’t know Emptywheel, you should. She’s done a stellar job at piecing together information for the last several years in order to help us understand what the government doesn’t seem so eager to share.

Today she wrote:
Full article

As al-Haramain has made clear from the beginning, what got the organization put on the terrorist list in the first place was probably a conversation in which one of its lawyers mentioned Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law. It’s likely, in other words, that al-Haramain Oregon is only on the terrorist list because of a conversation that was illegally wiretapped.

I mention Bin Laden in calls all the time because I’m covering these issues and it wouldn’t surprise me that an organization like al-Haramain might likely mention Bin Laden, his family members, or any number of people. If a conversation is enough to provoke putting you on a watch list, if you cannot know what got you on a watch list, and if you have to defend yourself from the phantom accusation, then how can anyone operate in this country without fear of government intrusion, misinterpretation, and inappropriate action?

As a result of the recent decision that stated the Bush administration’s wiretapping was illegal, we know that the efforts along the way by al-Haramain were not in vein. But what about current and future programs? Will we be willing to abide by our constitution in passing surveillance law? Are we willing to adhere to the existing laws? Perhaps more important, do we understand how we came to have the 4th Amendment and Habeas review?

We’ll stay tuned to the upcoming Holder hearings and will ask representatives and senators to probe into contemporary use of domestic surveillance and what actions the DOJ will take in response to the recent decision.

Apr 21 2010

An amazing letter from 2 Iraq war vets to Iraqi citizens

The ongoing mantra from war apologists is still, “war is hell”. This phrase sounds as if it is an inevitable part of life or we should simply accept that “war is hell”. What seems to be missing in this theme is human accountability for creating hell on earth. In the days following the Wikileaks video showing us all how inhuman our soldiers are trained to be while gunning down human beings, thus..liberating them. The savage attack wasn’t the most shocking part of the video. The part that shocked many people was the com chatter as a trigger happy gunner murdered people who were of no threat. Fog of war? No. This is a manufactured apologist response.

One way we can learn about what we’re doing to our soldiers and to civilians in countries we war upon.

Please read the following from:
Josh Stieber, former specialist, U.S. Army
Ethan McCord, former specialist, U.S. Army

From Current and Former Members of the U.S. Military

Peace be with you.

To all of those who were injured or lost loved ones during the July 2007 Baghdad shootings depicted in the “Collateral Murder” Wikileaks video:

We write to you, your family, and your community with awareness that our words and actions can never restore your losses.

We are both soldiers who occupied your neighborhood for 14 months. Ethan McCord pulled your daughter and son from the van, and when doing so, saw the faces of his own children back home. Josh Stieber was in the same company but was not there that day, though he contributed to the your pain, and the pain of your community on many other occasions.

There is no bringing back all that was lost. What we seek is to learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to tell others of our experiences and how the people of the United States need to realize we have done and are doing to you and the people of your country. We humbly ask you what we can do to begin to repair the damage we caused.

We have been speaking to whoever will listen, telling them that what was shown in the Wikileaks video only begins to depict the suffering we have created. From our own experiences, and the experiences of other veterans we have talked to, we know that the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how U.S.-led wars are carried out in this region.

We acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones as we tell Americans what we were trained to do and what we carried out in the name of “god and country”. The soldier in the video said that your husband shouldn’t have brought your children to battle, but we are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us.

More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.

Our government may ignore you, concerned more with its public image. It has also ignored many veterans who have returned physically injured or mentally troubled by what they saw and did in your country. But the time is long overdue that we say that the value of our nation’s leaders no longer represent us. Our secretary of defense may say the U.S. won’t lose its reputation over this, but we stand and say that our reputation’s importance pales in comparison to our common humanity.

We have asked our fellow veterans and service-members, as well as civilians both in the United States and abroad, to sign in support of this letter, and to offer their names as a testimony to our common humanity, to distance ourselves from the destructive policies of our nation’s leaders, and to extend our hands to you.

With such pain, friendship might be too much to ask. Please accept our apology, our sorrow, our care, and our dedication to change from the inside out. We are doing what we can to speak out against the wars and military policies responsible for what happened to you and your loved ones. Our hearts are open to hearing how we can take any steps to support you through the pain that we have caused.

Solemnly and Sincerely,
Josh Stieber, former specialist, U.S. Army
Ethan McCord, former specialist, U.S. Army