Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

Iraqis Stunned as Blackwater Mercs’ Case Thrown Out

01.01.2010 (10:58 pm) – Filed under: Iraq,Military ::

Relatives of the 17 Iraqis killed by American mercenary forces employed by the Blackwater corporation (now called Xe after months of bad press) were stunned to learn that the case against the mercenaries was thrown out.

Sahib Nassir’s 26-year-old son, Mehdi, a taxi driver, was shot in the back and died during the incident. He said he was stunned to hear that the charges had been dismissed because he had been preparing to testify at a the trial. “How could they release them?” he asked. “There is evidence. There are witnesses.”

One such witness was an Iraqi police officer on duty that day:

Ali Khalaf, a traffic police officer who was on duty in Nisour Square when the Blackwater guards opened fire and aided some of the victims afterward, was furious.

“There has been a cover-up since the very start,” he said. “What can we say? They killed people. They probably gave a bribe to get released. This is their own American court system.”

That’s highly unlikely. While Khalaf’s anger is understandable and probably righteous, America is not Iraq.

If anything, the injustice in this case is first and foremost about maintaining a standard of high standard of law in this country, something that should be the goal in every nation, particularly those in which the expectation of bribery being behind any unexpected outcome is natural and justified.

A secondary issue with the case is its misuse of civilian courts to punish military offenses. Like it or not – and I do not like it one bit – Blackwater was effectively a branch of the U.S. military in its operations in Iraq. Its personnel should, therefore, be held to military-level standards of conduct and violations of these standards dealt with by the military justice system.

From a civilian perspective it seems likely that a travesty of justice will be the result in this case. Personally I have a belief that the Blackwater mercenaries acted inappropriately and that they killed 17 Iraqis for no good reason. But it’s certainly possible that they were fired upon. Such attacks still happen in Iraq even now.

Yet the truth is my perspective, like that of almost all Americans, is limited by the very nature of the safety that our comfortable, secure lives provide. We have no ability to understand what it means to be in mortal danger simply driving along a city street or highway and no knowledge of what it’s like to pass vehicles burning in the street as a result of terrorist actions. Passing judgment on men who have to live with and work under such a threat for months on end can never be the business of a civilian court.

What is within the purview of the American people is the use of mercenary companies in the stead of the United States military. The Blackwater incident in question is not the only such instance of misbehavior by the company and others like it, merely the most egregious.

Should American force be projected abroad in the form of hired guns? I think not. Better by far to recruit the needed personnel into the legitimate military where standards of training and behavior can be dispensed and enforced using a well-defined system. It may cost more to do so, but the price of war must be paid if one is to be executed.

Iraqi Gays Murdered By Their Own Tribe

05.04.2009 (8:11 pm) – Filed under: Gay Rights,Iraq ::

The latest news about the repression of homosexuality in the Islamic world comes from Iraq where 6 gay men were murdered by members of their own tribe after members decided in a group meeting to kill them.

For all the hand-wringing about alleged repression of homosexuals in the U.S. and other western nations, this news, which is not particularly uncommon, ought to be a reality-check.

Iraq Votes Peacefully and Properly

31.01.2009 (11:50 pm) – Filed under: Democracy,Iraq ::

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Iraq’s provincial council elections went off smoothly under the watchful eye of the military, the BBC reports, and the country’s Sunni minority turned out in force this time after boycotting similar elections in 2005, losing political representation as a result.

The head of the Iraqi electoral commission in Anbar province – a centre of the Sunni resistance to the US occupation – said he was expecting a 60% turnout.

Security was tight as voters had to pass through stringent checks.  Aiding the effort were thousands of Iraqi women who helped ensure traditional garments could not be used to disguise explosives.

Reports indicate that while some irregularities took place the election was for the most part run smoothly.  Even so, some Iraqis still have reservations about the process:

A Shiite lawmaker, Nassir al-Saadi, also found the election process generally good, but noted the real test is yet to come: how the major political bloc perceive the outcome.

“The only real gauge whether the election is credible or not is the results,” he said. “If the results are fair then we can say the election was fair.”

Superficially that may seem true.  However, the fairness of an election has nothing to do with whether parties, whether large or small, are happy with the outcome, a lesson some Iraqis evidently still need to learn.  That at least some of those are elected officials themselves is a little disheartening.

On one level it’s thrilling to see democracy taking hold in a country that’s never had a legitimately representative government.  On another, a nation isn’t truly free and functioning until such elections can be held without the presence of soldiers at polling places.  That’s the measure of how far Iraq still has to go.

Iraq Partnering with U.S. Universities

29.01.2009 (1:17 pm) – Filed under: Education,Iraq ::

Iraq and the United States recently announced a cooperative education agreement that will allow Iraqi students to study at universities here in the U.S.  The goal?  Sending 500 Iraqi students to universities overseas as part of that country’s ongoing effort to educate its citizens.

Larry H. Dietz, [Southern Illinois University Carbondale] SIUC’s vice chancellor for student affairs, and John S. Jackson, a visiting professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, returned Thursday morning from ceremonies in Baghdad launching the Iraq Education Initiative.

Dietz said Iraq’s initial goal is to send 500 Iraqi students abroad this fall to universities as a pilot project. The Iraqi government will use oil revenues to pay for the full scholarships, according to published reports.

Education infrastructure, instructors, and even students were all targeted by murderous Islamic radicals in Iraq’s post-Saddam non-civil war three years ago.  Now it appears as though the country is stable enough to begin thinking about a real future, one in which college-level education is relevant again.

Moreover:

Minister Abed Theyab says an agreement has been reached with Texas A&M University, North Carolina State University and Ohio State University for professor and student exchanges.

Teaching the teachers is an important step in bootstrapping the local education system in Iraq, so I’m glad to see that it hasn’t been overlooked in these negotiations.  TAMU, my alma mater, and the other schools mentioned are top-flight public institutions that can provide great resources to Iraqi citizens if the program is utilized to its utmost.

Minister Theyab:

“We don’t want to see tanks and weapons (in Iraq), instead there will be a scholarly exchange,” Theyab told reporters at a joint press conference with the U.S. Embassy counselor for public affairs.

Good for them.  Far from being anyone’s enemy, the U.S. has, for all of its faults and mistakes, always been willing to partner with any nation willing to work for good in the world.  That may sound simplistic and even sappy, but I think it’s true.

People will be arguing about whether the invasion of Iraq was justified or a good idea – two different things – for a long time.  Frankly that discussion is irrelevant.  The U.S. has an obligation to do what it can to set Iraq on the right path.  Sticking with the military solution was the right idea in 2006 and shifting to a peace-time rebuilding in 2009 is likewise the right thing to do.

What It Means to be Free

16.01.2009 (6:13 am) – Filed under: Iraq,Politics,Society ::

Freedom isn’t an easy thing to handle.  That’s a fact lost on many westerners and most of the rest of the world.  Freedom brings with it responsibility and difficult choices, many of which – if made using proper moral and/or ethical filters – constrain the array of possible actions down to a bare few, if that many. 

Such was the case for President Bush 7+ years ago, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist killings in New York and Washington D.C. and in the skies above Pennsylvania.  Good options were few and far between, as the informed – and honest – will remember.  America’s strike into Afghanistan was one positive action the administration took.  Another was to look deeply into the darkness that is the deranged mind of radical Islamic terrorists and make the decision to learn what other massacres they might have planned for Americans, Spaniards, and our British friends, no matter the cost.

President Bush and his administration were far, far from perfect.  But the fact remains that American has remained free from terrorist attacks during his time in office.  God willing, Barack Obama will be able to say the same thing 4 years from now.

The Bush legacy will not be a good one, I believe.  The bloodbath in Iraq circa 2006 will not be quickly forgotten, enabled as it was by our policies on the ground in that country.  In 2009 Iraq looks to be on the way to becoming a functioning member of the world community for the first time in decades.  That too is a result of the Bush administration’s actions and something that should be remembered longer and more clearly than its failure to police Baghdad while an Islamic civil war raged outside the Green Zone.

Nor will W’s fiscal policies be looked upon favorably by history.  There is no excuse for an unbalanced federal budget during a Republican administration short of a rebellious, liberal Congress.  Yet the national debt has skyrocketed during the last 8 years due to Republicans’ poor stewardship and Bush’s failure to reign his party in.  Moreover, the new MediCare drug plan has as much potential to bankrupt America as any legislation in recent memory.  Fiscal conservative rightly feel betrayed by the man they helped elect.

The home mortgage crisis of 2008 cannot be blamed on the Bush administration, not if the truth is to be observed.  It’s roots go far deeper, back to policies drawn up during the Clinton administration that were designed to help Americans own their own home, whether they could pay for it or not.  These policies put lenders at risk by forcing them to choose between compliance and sound investment strategy and Americans took advantage by taking out loans that they were doomed to default on.  This after years of abusing personal credit cards and racking up vast sums of “negative equity”, as one financially inept friend once put it.

When viewed from a distance, the current economic malaise is entirely symptomatic of misused freedoms, the watchword of the Bush administration’s time in office.

I am occasionally challenged about my policy views, most often on the question of legalizing drugs for semi-regulated consumption.  It’s not an easy position for a Christian to take, it should be understood.  But ultimately that question, like so many others, comes down to personal freedom, responsibility, and the right to make one’s own choices.

Or it ought to come down to that.  Modern liberalism has projected the government into too many areas of private life.  While not in the top 50 concerns of mine, one such area is that of casual drug use.  A promise I can keep is that I will never use any kind of drug, legal or otherwise, without medical necessity.  Still, it is none of my business – or the government’s – if another adult chooses a different path.

The classic counter-argument is that it’s for the good of the people that certain activities are made unlawful.  That is no argument at all but rather a resort to a platitude that, whether correct or incorrect in its implementation, has no force of reason behind it.  Drug laws may well save lives.  But I feel that they are still wrong in that they violate personal rights in an overly intrusive, unnecessary way.

The point is that decisions made by leadership are often difficult ones with good arguments on either side. 

President Bush was not afraid to make tough decisions, even when they were unpopular, as in the decision to send more troops to Iraq to finish the job there.  That was a correct decision, as it turns out, one that I did not support in print as I should have, and one that drew on our nation’s experience with the weak-willed war effort in Vietnam. 

Lest we forget, our early abandonment of that country lead directly to more than 1 million deaths in Vietnam, Cambodia, and surrounding countries.  President Bush did not make that mistake, thankfully, despite the strident hue and cry of those who will take over administration of our country in 5 short days. 

Hopefully the heavy burden of leadership will weigh appropriately on the shoulders of Barack Obama and the Democrats.  I suspect that it will, not because their fundamental ideals are correct – they are not – but because the acceptance and execution of the duty of leadership is simply what American presidents and congress people ought to do.

That’s perhaps the best definition of what it means to be free – the acceptance of our personal responsibilities and obligations, no questions asked.

Kurdish Girls Suffer Sexual Abuse, Mutilation

30.12.2008 (12:00 pm) – Filed under: Iraq ::

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The Washington Post reports that more than 60% of Kurdish women in the northern part of Iraq have had their clitoris “circumcised” as part of what some Kurdish women consider a cleansing procedure demanded by Islam.

Is there a more vile crime a woman could inflict on another woman?  Usually it takes a man inflict such horror on a young girl.  Whenever I read about the mutilation of young girls like these I am reminded of Black Wine by Candas Jane Dorsey, a fantasy novel in which a woman recounts how her mother-in-law had her clitoris removed because she enjoyed sex too much.  “She cut out the heart of my love,” she says, giving very apt description of the practice.

The mother of a just-cut Kurdish girl might be speaking for Islamic women everywhere when she gives her reasons for tricking her daughter:

“This is the practice of the Kurdish people for as long as anyone can remember,” said the mother, Aisha Hameed, 30, a housewife in this ethnically mixed town about 100 miles north of Baghdad. “We don’t know why we do it, but we will never stop because Islam and our elders require it.”

Kurds do have two reasons for the practice, though.  First, it helps women control their sexual desires.  Second, it purifies their spirits and allows others to eat the food they prepare.  This from an elderly village woman:

“I would not eat food from the hands of someone who did not have the procedure,” said Hurmet Kitab, a housewife who said she was 91 years old.

Kitab, who lives in the village of Kalar in Kurdistan’s eastern Germian area, where female circumcision is prevalent, has had the procedure done on herself and all her daughters. When asked if she would have her 10-month-old granddaughter Saya circumcised, Kitab said “Of course” and explained that the procedure is painless.

“They just cut off a little bit,” she said, flicking her finger at the top part of a key, which she then dropped on the floor.

Starve then, crone, and just deserts to you.

Contrary to modern belief systems, some acts are objectively wrong and cannot be rationalized by perspective or cultural history.  Female genital mutilation is such an act.

Consider the rape of a woman by a man.  In the aftermath of such a devastating personal invasion there is, however remote and/or distant in time, the possibility of recovery and the resumption of a normal sex life.  Not so for these innocent young girls in Iraq and elsewhere, maimed as they are by their culture and their elders’ religion.

Islamic Honor Killings On the Rise in Iraq

01.12.2008 (8:06 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Iraq,Islam ::

Iraq has a Ministry of Human Rights that is working to end gender discrimination in that country.  That’s a tall order in a country in which Islam-inspired honor killings – the ultimate form of misogyny – are common and on the rise.  The Guardian reports that 81 known honor killings have occurred in Basra alone in 2008.  That there’s no honor whatsoever in killing your daughter or wife is lost on these fools.  One interesting tidbit is that Iraqi men, lacking the courage of their perverse morality, have begun to turn to murder for hire in these killings.

So far this year, 81 women in the city have been murdered for allegedly bringing shame on their families. Only five people have been convicted.

During 2007 the Basra security committee recorded 47 ‘honour killings’ and three convictions. One lawyer in the city described how police were actively protecting perpetrators and said that a woman in Basra could now be murdered by hired hitmen for as little as $100 (£65).

The figures come despite international outrage which followed The Observer’s coverage of the death of 17-year-old Rand Abdel-Qader, who was murdered by her father last April in an ‘honour killing’ after falling in love with a British soldier in Basra. The 4,000 British troops stationed in the city since the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 withdrew to the airport last September.

Rand Abdel-Qader was killed after her family discovered that she had formed a friendship with a 22-year-old infantryman whom she knew as Paul. She was suffocated by her father then hacked at with a knife. Abdel-Qader Ali was subsequently arrested and released without charge.

Rand’s mother, Leila Hussein, who divorced her husband after the killing, went into hiding but was tracked down weeks later and assassinated by an unknown gunman.

I’m curious what apologists for Islam have to say about honor killings.  Murder of women who allegedly bring disrepute on their families is, if perhaps not in the mainstream, certainly all too common in Islamic society, whether in Iraq, Europe, or America.

Honor killings are reprehensible acts of childish, malformed men with no moral center worthy of the name.  Their only value whatsoever is to act as a gauge of Islam’s progress toward moderation.  On the day when honor killings disappear from the Muslim lexicon, then we can say that one important criteria of a moderate, civilized social order has been achieved.

What possible justification is there for the cold-blooded murder of one’s loved ones?

That’s a serious question and I’d like to have real, truthful answers to it on the record.  If anyone has a position that you would like to attempt to defend, let me have it.  Give it to me straight – I really want to hear it.

Iraq Thankful for American Troops

27.11.2008 (10:03 pm) – Filed under: Afghanistan,Iraq,Military ::

Perhaps thankful is too strong of a word.  Or perhaps not.  80% of Iraq’s parliament voted for a security pact that will keep American troops in that country for three more years – sounds like they’re glad to have us there.

After the madness that’s been happening in Mumbai over the last 2 days and the massive, brutal Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence of 2 years ago, it’s not hard to understand why Iraq’s leaders want to keep the the troops responsible for the progress of the last year plus in country.

It’s also clear that the U.S. has an obligation to keep our troops in Iraq until that country is ready to stand on its own.  Despite the recent successes, that time may be beyond the 2012 timeframe specified in this latest agreement.  Regardless, the moral imperative of “we broke it, we bought it” can’t be ignored. 

That’s true even for Barack Obama who, while elected on the promise of change and troop withdrawals, will find his ability to keep his allies on the far left happy constrained by the realities of his new responsibilities.

Hopefully the U.S. will continue to be able to draw down troop numbers in Iraq and shift the theater of war back to Afghanistan where our focus is needed.  And hopefully our former allies in Europe will re-commit themselves to the pacification of that country, work with us to secure its border with Pakistan, and help create an economy based on something other than opium.  And hopefully the U.S. will be able to establish long-term working relationships with the governments in both Iraq and Afghanistan and build military bases in those countries similar to those in Japan, South Korea, and other allied nations.

True, that’s a lot of hoping.  But our successes in Iraq have created the opportunity to hope for more favorable outcomes.  That’s something to be thankful for.

The Left’s Claim to Value Life

12.10.2008 (9:46 pm) – Filed under: Abortion,Iraq,Liberalism,Politics ::

One of the American left’s great lies is that they value human life.  This claim is manifested primarily in their opposition to the practice of executing violent criminals and the prosecuting of wars against evil nations and their rulers.  There are reasons for thinking people to take these positions; however, for a liberal American to then support unfettered access to abortion, a mandatory position in liberal circles, is nonsensical.

Abortion is probably the greatest evil of all time.  Tens of million American babies have been sacrificed on the alter of easy abortion and with them a portion of the soul of this country.  The left, abortion’s champions, deny this obvious truth. 

In logical terms it’s unthinkable for a supporter of partial birth abortions to oppose the war in Iraq on humanitarian terms given the vast disparity in the number of lives lost to each cause.  Yet they do and demonstrate their lack of critical thinking.

At Comments From Left Field, Kathy proudly flouts the absence of this trait in her latest post, an attempt to cut Sarah Palin down for her moral beliefs, specifically her rejection of abortion.

For Palin, it’s not human life that’s precious — it’s innocent human life. And “innocent,” of course, is defined in this context as “not born yet,” or, stretched to the definition’s limits, just born.

This is what makes it possible for her, and others like her, to blather about the “right to life of the unborn” while ignoring or, worse, denying, the right that every human being on this planet has to their own life. Just consider, for one moment, how extraordinary it is that someone who calls herself “pro-life” could utter a sentence like the above: “In times like these, with wars and a financial crisis, it’s easy to forget even as deep and abiding a concern as the right to life.” I mean, it almost robs me of the power of speech (not quite, though). Could it be any clearer that Sarah Palin thinks of “the right to life” as a subject separate from war, unrelated to it?

Actually, yes, it could be quite a bit clearer.  It’s impossible that Sarah Palin – or George W. Bush, for that matter – considers war to be without consequence.  But the numbers, Kathy!  Have you considered them at all?

There is also the question of innocence.  To my way of thinking there were many innocent lives lost in Iraq.  That needs to be stated up front to dispel the obvious anti-war retort.  But it’s ridiculous to put those deaths at Sarah Palin’s feet.  Neither are they the responsibility of President Bush, though it’s certainly true that his misjudgment provided the killers in Iraq the excuse and opportunity to implement their murderous plans.  Most of the dead in Iraq belong to the Muslim terrorists who choose to execute them to further their vile agenda of civil war in that country.

Returning to the subject of abortion, is there any doubt that the most innocent lives among  us belong to the youngest?  No.  By definition the termination of such a life is the most abhorrent.

This logic too the left often seeks to evade by attempting to place the beginning of life at the first breath of air, an transparent falsehood, as demonstrated by the survival of premature babes the world over.

The most honest among them will admit that abortion is the cold-blooded ending of a human life, most often done for the convenience of the mother.  But this position, while completely truthful, is not one that can hope to garner support with the populace at large, hence the subterfuge.

Kathy calls Sarah Palin’s support for the war in Iraq truly deplorable given her call for the right to life.  But she, like so many of the liberal left, leaves the truth and consequences of her own beliefs unexamined, thereby missing the true evil that such relativistic values allow to come into the world.

Obama on the Iraq Troop Surge

04.09.2008 (8:01 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Iraq,Politics ::

Barack Obama told Bill O’Reilly as much of the truth about Iraq last night as any Democrat not named Leiberman is likely to:

“I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated…I’ve already said it’s succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”

Yuval Levin:

Nobody anticipated the surge would succeed in these ways? Why does he think McCain supported the surge, and Bush pursued it?

Surely a few people anticipated the surge’s success; otherwise, it wouldn’t have been undertaken.  I’d like to gloat but the truth is that I was dubious too, lulled into a false sense of doom by the constant negativity of the news media.  My support was based on our very real obligation to the Iraqi people more than on a sense that the surge would work as it did.

Contrarily, Obama refuses to admit that he was wrong about the troop surge.  How can he?  He’s locked into step with the Reid-Pelosi Withdrawal Brigade and can’t break free despite the fact it’s hurting his campaign in a big way.

We hear a lot about the American troops who die in overseas fighting and rightly so.  The young men and women fighting for our safety and Iraq’s stability deserve to be remembered in life and in death.

Nevertheless, with regard to the true number of casualties involved, the amount of news coverage and its vehemence, ne Olbermann, et al, are both massively out of proportion when compared to the harsh facts of life in inner-city America.

Witness Chicago, Barack Obama’s home city.  Nearly twice as many people were shot and killed in the Windy City – do you think it’s called that for a reason, Mr. Obama? – this summer as compared to U.S troop deaths in Iraq:

In May, cbs2chicago.com began tracking city shootings and posting them on Google maps. Information compiled from our reporters, wire service reports and the Chicago Police Major Incidents log indicated that 123 people were shot and killed throughout the city between the start of Memorial Day weekend on May 26, and the end of Labor Day on Sept. 1.

According to the Defense Department, 65 soldiers were killed in combat in Iraq.

Not to minimize the importance and valor of these soldiers’ sacrifice, but it’s clear that the media has failed to accurately portray the dangers of our situations both at home and in Iraq. 

If Barack Obama was to tell the whole truth I think he’d have to admit, plain and simple, that the Republicans were right and the Democrats were wrong.  But where would that leave him?