Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19: Actually, i'm starting this on Sunday, March 18, because... will be interesting to see how The Moncton Times and Transcript will present the story of Staff Sergeant Batles who has confessed to killing 16 people, mostly women and children. The TandT will surely, as usual, use Reuters. And it might provide an interesting example of how we don't get the full story.

The original, official version was that Bates was acting alone, and that he was suffering severe brain damage from a Hummer rollover in Iraq some two years ago. That was a story that never made sense.

He walked out of camp in the middle of the night with a rifle and a large quantity of something inflammable. He attacked two villages, murdered sixteen people, set fire to their bodies, took pictures, and was back in camp - all within an hour. Right.

Now, it's been modified. He was, it seems, a loving father and husband, one who his neighbours never dreamed would do such a thing.  Oh, and he had recently seen a comrade's leg blown off.

He may well have been a loving father and husband. But he also had a criminal record - one for assault, and another for fleeing the scene of a one-car accident. As his wife says, he has a serious problem with anger; and was once ordered into an anger management programme.

As for seeing a comrade's leg blown off, he was on his third tour of duty. He'd seen a lot of people horribly wounded. And there were many, many more Moslems who had seen their comrades mutilated by people like Sgt. Bates. But I've never seen the US army or our news media excuse that as a cause of terrorism.

Anyway, we have a man with mental problems that seem to begin well before the Hummer rollover. And, in fact, he had undergone treatement in an army psychiatric hospital.

So - the story now is that the US army sent a man with severe psychiatric problems and with a criminal record back into combat - as a sniper.  The last part of the story makes sense.  Snipers and special ops troops have to be people who really, really want to kill. Obviously, you are going to get quite a number of "special" people with angermanagement problems in their ranks. But there's more....

Reports from the Afghan government say that is wasn't just Sgt. Bates. It was fifteen to twenty soldiers. (Well, that explains how sixteen people could be killed, some by stabbing, their bodies burned, and photos taken, all in well under an hour. (Remember, in the full hour they were out, some time was used in walking to the villages and back.)

Witnesses tell of at least two women beinig raped before they were murdered.

Other sources say such attacks have been routine.

So how much will Reuters tell us?

Thursday: March 19.

Wow! The Moncton Times and Transcript didn't even carry the story - not in any version. Most North American news sources seem to have carried the sympathetic, US army version. But the TandT not even that.

Actually, it's kind of an important story, in any version. First, it signals the complete collapse of any possibilty of  victory in Afghanistan. (That's probably more important than the story that Mitt Romney won the GOP primary in Puerto Rico.)

It's also very, very bad for our reputation in the world. Yes, ours. Canada has publicly and actively supported the US every step of the way in Afghanistan. The rest of the world will see us and Americans as the same people - with the same viciousness and greed. That has consequences.

Ah, well, going back to the front page of the TandT, we find it has, as it is frequently does, a news story that is not a news story at all.

"Playing poker with Royal Oaks" is about the cancellation of a request  for rezoning. If it actually told the story about the cancellation, then it would be a news story. However, it doesn't tell the story. Instead, it's full of guesses, opinions (and propaganda) about what the cancellation means. It even accuses the opponents of moving MHS as being dishonest.

 That's not called news. It's called commentary. And in a real newspaper, it appears labelled commentary - often on a speical page such as op ed. (Actually, a REALLY good newspaper would call it propaganda, and wouldn't allow it on any page.)

Well, since Brent Mazerolle has called a person with my opinion about MHS and Royal Oaks dishonest, I'll call him unethical. I have an advantage here. I have taught journalistic ethics to working reporters. I doubt whether Mr. Mazerolle or anybody at the TandT knows what journalistic ethics are.

The lead story is about how New Brunswick is leading the way in Senate reform through demanding elected senators.

Mr. Alward. close your eyes real tight, and think real hard. If elected senators are to have power, where will that power come from? There's only one source it can come from - our elected mps in the House of Commons. You don't create new power that way. You simply shift it. You don't gain any repreentation at all. And it gets worse.

Running for Senate, covering the whole province, will be expensive. That money can come, as it does now, all or largely from corporations and the very wealthy. That's the problem you have now with elected mps and mlas. Electing senators won't change a thing - except to provide New Brunswick corporations with another good ol' boy in Ottawa.

You want us people to have more power? Simple. Get rid of a political system that puts politicians up for sale to the rich.

Alec Buce has the best column I've seen on the spectacular resignation of a senior executive from Goldman Sachs. It's funny - and it makes sense.

Norbert, Norbert, Norbert, except in the narrowest and most abstract of legal terms, a corporation is not a citizen. Neithr, for that matter, are houses, cars or roller skates. A citizen is a human.  A corporation is a thing owned by humans. If you want to get all mushy about rights, save them for humans.

.....unless, of course, you intend to propose putting corporations in prison for illegal behaviour.... that could be worth looking at. (Of course, we would then  have to consider building prisons for houses, cars and roller skates. Harper might be interested.)

To end where I started, the war in Afghanistan is lost. Seargent Bates has put paid to any lingering dream of a victory.  At least tens of thousands have died. There is no possible count on the crippled, or on those who are now starving even in the cities, of the immense sums of money spent on a war to.....what? Get even for 9/11? The Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11. Nobody even pretends that any more.

Because bin Laden was a bad man? a)he's dead  b)even if he was a bad man, how does that justify killing tens of thousands of innocent people.?

What was this war about? Why did we send Canadians to die in it? Who gained from all that?

The story of Staff Seargent Bates, whether you are for or against him personally, sums up the brutality, pointlessness and insane conceit of this war in Afghanistan. We might remember that before we rush forward to take part in the next war - coming your way soon.


  1. I know people who rationalize killing tens of thousands of innocent people by blaming the religion of Islam. The amount of hatred I see spewed through this filter makes me wonder if the same people, if they lived in 1930s Germany, would have been gleefully rounding up people and sending them to their deaths.

  2. Ben, this is quite a coincidence. that very subject has been on my mind all day, and I've been wondering how to deal with it.
    Right now, in another forum, many people are angry at me for saying that Naziism and Hitlerism are alive and well today. And it's not just on the other side.
    But people really don't want to hear that. It's difficult for us to see the reality.

    And I suspect that most Germans of the 1920s and 30s were very much like us.