“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, March 25, 2013

“The girl, she was about 15…Tight…She hadn’t been touched yet… She was fucking prime… He started pimping her out for $50 bucks a shot…By the end of the day, he made $500 before she hung herself.”

Facing Up to US War Crimes
March 24, 2013

By glorifying or sanitizing war, U.S. officials and a complicit news media may insist they are shielding “the troops” from unfair criticism. But real democracy and simple human decency require that citizens know the full and often ugly truth, as Michael True notes in this review of Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves.

By Michael True
The title of Nick Turse’s brilliant history, Kill Anything That Moves, was a commanding officer’s response to a soldier’s question, “Are we supposed to kill women and children?”
In contrast, an army criminal investigator’s response to a veteran, who revealed that American soldiers were abusing and killing Vietnamese civilians, was: “The United States has never condoned wanton killing or disregard for human life.”
Turse’s readable, indispensable, and, yes, deeply disturbing book may be the most important among thousands of books about the Vietnam War. A major achievement is its explaining how and why “atrocities perpetrated by US soldiers have essentially vanished from public memory.” In authenticity and power, it compares favorably with earlier accounts, such as Tim O’Brien’s novel, The Things They Carried, and Bruce Weigl’s poems, Song of Napalm.
Titles of chapters of Turse’s book convey a general sense of the grim and tragic accounts of the war: “A System of Suffering,” “Overkill,” “A Litany of Atrocities,” and “Unbound Misery.”  In the process, the author documents a commander’s standard operating procedure, including burying bad news, concealing violations of military law, and papering over miscarriages of justice.
In training before going to Vietnam, soldiers were taught to regard the Vietnamese as inferior, even inhuman, referring to them not as “the enemy,” but as “gooks” or “dinks.” This practice reflected the contempt with which the country was regarded by President Lyndon Johnson, who called Vietnam “a piddling piss-ant little country,” as well as Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who referred to it as a “backward nation.”
In a representative account of civilians victimized by the troops, a mother returning home came upon the bodies of her son and two others riddled with bullets. They had been tending the family ducks, while their mother was away for a brief period. Encouraged to raise the body count in this way, one soldier amassed an estimated 1,500 “enemy killed-in-action,” by planting Chinese communist grenades on bodies so that they would be counted as enemy dead.
A particularly chilling, though not unrepresentative, account of an “industrial-scale slaughter” involved a two-star general. As field commander in the Mekong Delta, he “made the killing of civilians into standard operating procedure.” In an early briefing, he announced his plan “to begin killing 4,000, then 6,000 a month of these little bastards” then went on from there. As an associate said of another officer, for him, “body count was everything.”
Reasonable estimates account for 3.8 million violent war deaths, combatant and civilian, according to reports by Harvard Medical School and an Institute for Health Metrics and Education report. An official 1995 Vietnamese government report estimated more than 3 million deaths, a million of them civilians. Civilian victims of the war included 8,000-16,000 South Vietnamese paraplegics, 30,000-60,000 South Vietnamese left blind, and 83,000 to 166,000 South Vietnamese amputees. These estimates do not include the tens of thousands of Americans and North Vietnamese dead and wounded.
Some information about atrocities, though  “prematurely closed and buried,” was assembled by “Conduct of the War in Vietnam,” a task force established by the top commander in Vietnam and later Army Chief of Staff, General William Westmoreland. In what Turse describes as a “whitewash of a report,” it concluded that “criminal acts that occurred during General Westmoreland’s tenure in Vietnam … were neither wide-spread nor extensive enough to render him criminally responsible for their commission.”
More recently, other government officials have re-branded or dispatched the Vietnam War to the dustbin of history. Their re-writing of history perpetuates misleading accounts by reporters and irresponsible editors who ignored or withheld essential information from the beginning of American involvement in 1965.
In spite of efforts to silence them and to deprive the public of an accurate account of the war, many veterans, at considerable risk, gave detailed accounts of their own involvement and the policies that led to various war crimes. In 12 years of research, reading files and interviewing witnesses, Turse documented their testimonies. It included Jamie Henry’s testimony, at a press conference in 1970, that the murders at My Lai was only one of similar incidents that occurred “on a daily basis and differ from one another only in terms of numbers killed.”
The perspective that Turse brings to this history is truly a gift to public discourse. “Never having come to grips with what our country did during the Vietnam war,” he says, “we see its ghost arise anew with every successive intervention.”
In the conclusion, he asks questions that offer a means to our understanding its full implications, and other wars that followed: “Was Iraq the new Vietnam? Or was that Afghanistan? Do we see ‘light at the end of the tunnel’?  Are we winning ‘hearts and minds’? Is ‘counterinsurgency’ working? Are we applying ‘the lessons of Vietnam’? What are those lessons anyway?”
An obvious answer to these questions might be that those responsible for U.S. foreign policy never met a war they didn’t like. In spite of that fact, as Andrew Bacevich said, the Pentagon hasn’t won a war since 1945.
One wishes that every American citizen might read Kill Everything That Moves, and take to heart its account of a brutal, unnecessary war and the evil that we were responsible for. Sadly, we continue to be lied to about the full implications of U.S. foreign policy that undermine democratic governance.
Michael True is emeritus professor, American literature, Peace, Conflict, and Nonviolence Studies, Assumption College, and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.


  1. The video is posted on:

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  3. Replies
    1. Yes, it is, as is also slavery.

      The Koran is obscene, with its commandments to jihad.

    2. The Christian gospels have a command, to take the 'good news' to all the people everywhere, in peace, sacrifice, mutual suffering and sharing.


    3. In the United States, the obscene, slavery, was finally overcome with the obscene, war.

      Let us all now live in peace.


    4. .

      An obvious answer to these questions might be that those responsible for U.S. foreign policy never met a war they didn’t like. In spite of that fact, as Andrew Bacevich said, the Pentagon hasn’t won a war since 1945.


    5. Jesus Christ endorsed slavery, so obviously, to a Christian slavery cannot be obscene.
      The namesake of the religion enshrined the practice.

      The God of Abraham has no problem with slavery. Or the Babylonians would not have had their moment in the Biblical history.
      The God of Abraham has no problem endorsing genocide, either.

    6. .

      Jesus Christ endorsed slavery, so obviously, to a Christian slavery cannot be obscene.
      The namesake of the religion enshrined the practice.

      Frankly, the question is somewhat moot given that Christ was purported to be more concerned about a person's soul than his body; however, I am rather interested in the processs by which the statement evolved.

      Are you saying that because it was never recorded that Christ ever made an overt declaration that slavery was bad that he therefore endorsed slavery, a comment similar to some here that argue that if you say something negative about one of our major political parties it means in fact that you support the other? Or have you got a biblical reference to support your claim?



    7. Quirk is right.

      There is no biblical reference to support that claim.

      In St. Paul the claim can be made, but there the situation is more complex. St. Paul urges the slave owner to think of the slave as something of a brother, and be treated as such.

      He is following the rabbis here, I think, as slavery in Israel at that time was less severe than among other groups.

      I believe the Judeo/Christian influence has been instrumental in ridding much of the world of slavery, and here too,.


    8. The founding myth is an escape from slavery, the escape from Egypt. This is why it has resonated so much with repressed peoples.
      The Bible is a long, involved document, written by many. After they escaped to the desert, alas, they entered the 'Promised Land', and descended into slavery again, to their own Kings. It has to be read with a little understanding, good will, and, humor too. Much of it is propaganda from a particular point of view. Much like here. It evolved over time. And has been interpreted and reinterpreted by their rabbis that I can't imagine.

      It can be read, as Blake did, as an escape from of one's senses, to a higher world, then a his view Christ was another upsurge. I have read one way to interpret the Jewish view of it, excluding the gospels, which they do not accept, is with a question mark at the end.


      What is the future of the Jewish people and their longings now?


    9. War is obscene. Almost as obscene as the pathetic Desert Rat.

    10. I think the issue of the story of Abraham and Isaac as endorsement of human sacrifice is totally wrong. It is not that. I have read of it as an endorsement of total faith. Or, as an old tale marking the end of human sacrifice among these peoples.

      Genesis 22

      King James Version (KJV)

      22 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

      2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

      3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

      4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

      5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

      6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.

      7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

      8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

      9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

      10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

      11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

      12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

      13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

      14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.

      15 And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,

      16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:

      17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

      18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

      19 So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.

      20 And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor;

      21 Huz his firstborn, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram,

      22 And Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel.

      23 And Bethuel begat Rebekah: these eight Milcah did bear to Nahor, Abraham's brother.

      24 And his concubine, whose name was Reumah, she bare also Tebah, and Gaham, and Thahash, and Maachah.


    11. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.;

      It is not a story of human sacrifice. It is a story of something else but that.


    12. The Greeks told a more believable (and entertaining) tale.

    13. WHICH Greeks, and WHICH tale?????

      Cause..................... they were all..................... OVER THE MAP!!!!!!!!!!!!



    14. Plato basically designed a POLICE STATE in The Republic. Which Quirk is warning us about. I hope we don't adopt that here. I think it was in reaction to the chaos he saw around with democracy.

      He told too great tales of 'the other world' and many 'laughed him out of town'.



    15. The Middle Ages in Europe can almost be seen as Platonic, what with the Philosopher Kings in the Holy Palace, and the Princely 'guardians', and the peasants obeying rules for their 'own good', like my ancestors.


      God Bless America!!!!!


    16. Did you read that in your holy book? I have some bad news for you. You All holy books are as holy as toilet paper…

    17. AnonymousMon Mar 25, 06:02:00 PM EDT
      In the United States, the obscene, slavery, was finally overcome with the obscene, war.

      Let us all now live in peace.


      Isn’t it remarkable that every other country in the Americas ended the obscenity of slavery without the obscenity of war except the great genius and world class killer, Abraham Lincoln.

  4. (ASIAN TRIBUNE) In March 2006 four US soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division gang raped a 14 year old Iraqi girl and murdered her and her family —including a 5 year old child. An additional soldier was involved in the cover-up.

    One of the killers, Steven Green, was found guilty on May 07, 2009 in the US District Court of Paducah and is now awaiting sentencing.
    The leaked Public Affairs Guidance put the 101st media team into a “passive posture” — withholding information where possible. It conceals presence of both child victims, and describes the rape victim, who had just turned 14, as “a young woman”.

    The US Army’s Criminal Investigation Division did not begin its investigation until three and a half months after the crime, news reports at that time commented.

    This is not the only grim picture coming out of Iraq U.S. forces being accused of using rape as a war weapon.

    The release, by CBS News, of the photographs showing the heinous sexual abuse and torture of Iraqi POW’s at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison opened a Pandora’s Box for the Bush regime wrote Ernesto Cienfuegos in La Voz de Aztlan on May 2, 2004.

    Journalist Cienfuegos further states “Apparently, the suspended US commander of the prison where the worst abuses took place, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, has refused to take the fall by herself and has implicated the CIA, Military Intelligence and private US government contractors in the torturing of POW’s and in the raping of Iraqi women detainees as well.”

    Brigadier General Karpinski, who commanded the 800th Military Police Brigade, described a high-pressure Military Intelligence and CIA command that prized successful interrogations. A month before the alleged abuses and rapes occurred, she said, a team of CIA, Military Intelligence officers and private consultants under the employ of the US government came to Abu Ghraib. “Their main and specific mission was to give the interrogators new techniques to get more information from detainees,” she said.

    At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

    Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.
    Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

    Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

    Allegations of rape and abuse were included in his 2004 report but the fact there were photographs was never revealed. He later confirmed their existence in an interview with the Daily Telegraph in May 2009.

    The London newspaper further noted “graphic nature of some of the images may explain the US President Obama’s attempts to block the release of an estimated 2,000 photographs from prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan despite an earlier promise to allow them to be published.”
    Maj. Gen. Taguba, who retired in January 2007, said he supported the President’s decision, adding: “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.

    “The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it.”

  5. Some really bad stuff happens in War. That being said, most of this stuff is bullshit. Urban Legends.

    Interestingly, these legends were propagated not among the Vietnamese, but among the Americans.

    The consensus among the Vietnamese that I worked with was that the Americans would lose the war because "They Were Too Kind."

    For instance, can you imagine the uproar if some dogface actually claimed credit for killing 1,500 VC in a 12 mo. tour? Ludicrous.

    1. I think Rufus is right on this.

      I do not know why Deuce puts up crazy propaganda day after day.

      To what purpose?


    2. Because it is wrong and the same crowd wants to get it on again in Syria and Iran.

    3. John Kerry: US will ‘empower' Syria opposition

      US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Riyadh Monday that Washington will work to "empower" Syria's opposition, while warning arch-foe Iran that time for talk on Tehran's nuclear ambitions could run out.

    4. I hope Rufus is right.
      ...for a change.

  6. Former Khmer Rouge leader and defendant at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Ieng Sary, died at the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital in this capital last Thursday morning. He was 87.


    Many have complained at the slow course of justice and the general failings of the ECCC. Since its inception in 2005, the court has spent $150 million, yet has only passed one ruling.

    It has been criticised for not being transparent and there have even been calls on the governments of Japan, Germany, France, the US and the UK to stop funding them.

    1. The lovely Khmer Rouge killed a million or two.

      Some were 'educated in Paris'. Followers of Sartre, and others.

      The Vietnamese finally intervened.


    2. In March 1970, Marshal Lon Nol, a Cambodian politician who had previously served as prime minister, and his pro-American associates staged a successful coup to depose Prince Sihanouk as head of state. At this time, the Khmer Rouge had gained members and was positioned to become a major player in the civil war due to its alliance with Sihanouk. Their army was led by Pol Pot, who was appointed CPK's party secretary and leader in 1963. Pol Pot, born in Cambodia as Solath Sar, spent time in France and became a member of the French Communist Party. Upon returning to Cambodia in 1953, he joined a clandestine communist movement and began his rise up the ranks to become one of the world's most infamous dictators.

      Aided by the Vietnamese, the Khmer Rouge began to defeat Lon Nol's forces on the battlefields. By the end of 1972, the Vietnamese withdrew from Cambodia and turned the major responsibilities for the war over to the CPK.

      From January to August 1973, the Khmer Republic government, with assistance from the US, dropped about half a million tons of bombs on Cambodia, which may have killed as many as 300,000 people. Many who resented the bombings or had lost family members joined the Khmer Rouge's revolution.

      By early 1973, about 85 percent of Cambodian territory was in the hands of the Khmer Rouge, and the Lon Nol army was almost unable to go on the offensive. However, with US assistance, it was able to continue fighting the Khmer Rouge for two more years.

      April 17, 1975 ended five years of foreign interventions, bombardment, and civil war in Cambodia. On this date, Phnom Penh, a major city in Cambodia, fell to the communist forces.

    3. .

      Lying liars lie. Nixon and the Lavelle affair.

      John Daniel Lavelle (September 9, 1916 – July 10, 1979) was a United States Air Force general and commander of Seventh Air Force, with headquarters at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. Lavelle was removed from his position in 1972 and forced to retire due to alleged misconduct over bombing missions during the Vietnam War while serving as the Seventh Air Force commander. Since the ranks of general and lieutenant general are temporary and linked to their corresponding position of assignment, federal law requires senatorial approval for an officer to retire at these higher ranks. Due to these allegations the Senate refused to confirm Lavelle's retirement as a four-star or three-star general. Lavelle was reverted and retired at his permanent two-star rank of major general.

      On August 4, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Lavelle posthumously for promotion back to the grade of general on the Air Force retired list in light of the release of declassified information that showed that Lavelle had been authorized by President Richard Nixon to conduct the bombing missions.[1] Further, the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records found no evidence Lavelle caused, either directly or indirectly, the falsification of records, or that he was even aware of their existence.[1] Once he learned of the reports, Lavelle took action to ensure the practice was discontinued.[1] The nomination to restore his four-star rank was recommended by the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Air Force.[1][2] However, the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to vote on the nomination, allowing it to expire without action at the end of the legislative session.[3]

      Even after his death, and though the truth is known, Lavelle's reputation is not restored. The boys in the Senate must have been too busy with the election.

      The Lavelle Affair


    4. .

      And just to show there is no particular bias and that the Dems are just as bad as the GOP,

      LBJ tapes indicate Nixon tried to sabotage the Vietnam peace negotiations of 1968, that Johnson knew but was reluctant to bring to light his own crimes in the affair.

      It begins in the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign.

      He therefore set up a clandestine back-channel involving Anna Chennault, a senior campaign adviser...

      In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris - concessions that would justify Johnson calling for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was exactly what Nixon feared.

      Chennault was despatched to the South Vietnamese embassy with a clear message: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal.

      So on the eve of his planned announcement of a halt to the bombing, Johnson learned the South Vietnamese were pulling out.

      He was also told why. The FBI had bugged the ambassador's phone and a transcripts of Anna Chennault's calls were sent to the White House. In one conversation she tells the ambassador to "just hang on through election"...

      In a series of remarkable White House recordings we can hear Johnson's reaction to the news.

      He orders the Nixon campaign to be placed under FBI surveillance and demands to know if Nixon is personally involved.

      When he became convinced it was being orchestrated by the Republican candidate, the president called Senator Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader in the Senate to get a message to Nixon.

      The president knew what was going on, Nixon should back off and the subterfuge amounted to treason.

      Publicly Nixon was suggesting he had no idea why the South Vietnamese withdrew from the talks. He even offered to travel to Saigon to get them back to the negotiating table.

      Johnson felt it was the ultimate expression of political hypocrisy but in calls recorded with Clifford they express the fear that going public would require revealing the FBI were bugging the ambassador's phone and the National Security Agency (NSA) was intercepting his communications with Saigon.

      So they decided to say nothing.

      The president did let Humphrey know and gave him enough information to sink his opponent. But by then, a few days from the election, Humphrey had been told he had closed the gap with Nixon and would win the presidency. So Humphrey decided it would be too disruptive to the country to accuse the Republicans of treason, if the Democrats were going to win anyway.

      Nixon ended his campaign by suggesting the administration war policy was in shambles. They couldn't even get the South Vietnamese to the negotiating table.

      He won by less than 1% of the popular vote.

      Once in office he escalated the war into Laos and Cambodia, with the loss of an additional 22,000 American lives, before finally settling for a peace agreement in 1973 that was within grasp in 1968.


  7. U.S. B-52 bombers are diverted from their targets in South Vietnam to attack suspected communist base camps and supply areas in Cambodia for the first time in the war. President Nixon approved the mission--formally designated Operation Breakfast--at a meeting of the National Security Council on March 15. This mission and subsequent B-52 strikes inside Cambodia became known as the "Menu" bombings. A total of 3,630 flights over Cambodia dropped 110,000 tons of bombs during a 14-month period through April 1970. This bombing of Cambodia and all follow up "Menu" operations were kept secret from the American public and the U.S. Congress because Cambodia was ostensibly neutral. To keep the secret, an intricate reporting system was established at the Pentagon to prevent disclosure of the bombing. Although the New York Times broke the story of the secret bombing campaign in May 1969, there was little adverse public reaction.

  8. In March 1970, while Sihanouk was traveling abroad, he was deposed by a pro-American general, Lon Nol. The Nixon Administration, which viewed Sihanouk as an untrustworthy partner in the fight against communism , increased military support to the new regime.

  9. 1965 - Sihanouk breaks off relations with the US and allows North Vietnamese guerrillas to set up bases in Cambodia in pursuance of their campaign against the US-backed government in South Vietnam.

    1969 - The US begins a secret bombing campaign against North Vietnamese forces on Cambodian soil.

    1970 - Prime Minister Lon Nol overthrows Sihanouk in coup. He proclaims the Khmer Republic and sends the army to fight the North Vietnamese in Cambodia. Sihanouk - in exile in China - forms a guerrilla movement. Over next few years the Cambodian army loses territory against the North Vietnamese and communist Khmer Rouge guerrillas

    Cambodia Year Zero

    Khmer Rouge forces entered Phnom Penh in 1975 after a months-long seige
    1975 - Lon Nol is overthrown as the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot occupy Phnom Penh. Sihanouk briefly becomes head of state, the country is re-named Kampuchea.

    All city dwellers are forcibly moved to the countryside to become agricultural workers. Money becomes worthless, basic freedoms are curtailed and religion is banned. The Khmer Rouge coin the phrase "Year Zero".

  10. We will do a better job in Syria. Please don’t pay attention that Iraq, Afghanistan any Libya didn’t work quite as advertised. Syria and Iran will be back to back slam dunks, practically pay for themselves.

  11. AL QASR, Lebanon — Each evening, Ali Jamal and other men in this border town grab their Kalashnikov assault rifles, jump on their motorbikes and ride across the irrigation canal into Syria to protect their homes.

    The enemies are Sunni rebel "terrorists," he says, who target Jamal and his neighbors because they are Shiite Muslims.

    "Imagine, these people used to be our neighbors," said the 40-year-old farmer, perplexed by the transformation. "Now they want to kidnap and kill us."

    Tensions gripping the villages along the border here between northeastern Lebanon and Syria illustrate the increasingly sectarian nature of the 2-year-old Syrian conflict and the risks it poses for the entire region.

    The predominant narrative of the Syrian war is that of a tyrannical government largely run by members of a Shiite sect, the Alawites, brutalizing a people yearning for freedom.

    However, in the largely Shiite towns and villages of Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, people who have fled Syria tell a different story. They speak of an "ethnic cleansing" campaign carried out by rebels intent on creating an Islamic state run by Syria's Sunni majority.

    In the face of rebel attacks, Shiites in dozens of villages just inside Syria have fled here to a part of Lebanon dominated by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, the villagers and Hezbollah representatives say. Those who have been displaced credit Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., with providing shelter and security.

    Hezbollah counts Syrian President Bashar Assad among its staunchest allies, along with longtime patron Iran. The three players make up what they call the "axis of resistance" against the United States and Israel.

    The Shiite militants' alleged involvement in the Syrian war has become a major topic of contention and one more reason for those pushing the West to arm the Syrian rebels, who have their own baggage, including the presence of Al Qaeda-linked Sunni militants.

    Hezbollah has acknowledged training, arming and providing logistical support to Syrian Shiites with family ties to Lebanon, who it says face attack from Syrian rebel forces. Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Syria, but they were defending towns along the border and were not deployed alongside Syrian troops, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said.


  12. {…}

    A visit to the border area arranged with Hezbollah representatives provided a glimpse into a war raging along the Orontes River basin in towns and villages near the city of Qusair, just a few miles from the Lebanese frontier.

    The largely agricultural area, with snowcapped peaks in the distance, is of considerable strategic importance. Rebel forces covet it as a transit corridor for fighters and weaponry, a flow the Syrian military is trying to choke off.

    Shells allegedly fired by rebels have been landing here in Al Qasr, so far without casualties. The rebels counter that Syrian government bombardment has targeted the nearby Lebanese area of Arsal, a mostly Sunni border zone where residents sympathize with the rebellion and where arms and personnel are reportedly smuggled to opposition brigades.

    In Al Qasr, unmarked Hezbollah units in trademark black SUVs maintain a discreet security presence. Here and in the neighboring town of Hermel, posters bear heroic likenesses of Assad, fallen Hezbollah members and Iranian political and religious figures such as the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    The isolated zone is reached via an Iranian-built blacktop highway featuring light posts powered by solar panels, a jarring site in a zone where most roads are of the washboard persuasion.

    Hezbollah representatives say those fighting the rebels inside Syria are Shiite townsmen defending their homes across the border, not on-duty party militiamen.

    "My loyalty is with Hezbollah, but I am not controlled by them," said Jamal, a father of four.

    He spoke outside a house in this Lebanese border town where, he says, four Shiite families totaling 29 people — 21 children and 8 adults — from the Syrian village of Zayta, two miles away, have relocated because of rebel attacks. Hezbollah pays the rent.

    "Before this war, we all got along, no one cared about sects," said Jamal. "Now everything has changed completely."

    He said he sold a pair of cows to purchase two AK-47 assault rifles for about $2,000 each, and keeps them stashed near the border. Each evening, he, his brother and other men from Zayta cross and set up guard to protect their homes and property in Syria. Their wives and children remain in Lebanon.


  13. {…}

    Jamal and others interviewed here said Sunni rebels, many of them from neighboring villages, have attacked Shiites, chasing people from their homes and in some cases shelling and setting fire to their enclaves.

    His home was shelled last year, Jamal said, and he moved his family to Lebanon. He has Lebanese citizenship, a lingering consequence of how borders were drawn after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago.

    "Why should I be forced to leave my home by armed groups?" he asked. "We don't have much to fight with, just our rifles, but we will defend what is ours."

    Near Al Qasr's main mosque, bedecked with yellow Hezbollah flags, a shattered stone fence marks a spot where residents say a mortar shell landed in February. "It would have blown up the entire mosque if it had exploded," said a Hezbollah militiaman, Khader, who declined to give his last name for security reasons.

    Nearby, a concrete irrigation ditch marks the border. Across the way, relaxed Syrian troops, including several in sneakers, staff an observation post as farmers tend to wheat fields and olive groves. They were the only Syrian soldiers visible during the visit to the border area.

    Standing at the irrigation canal, another militiaman showed a reporter a grisly cellphone video in which a man said to be a Syrian rebel appears to use a machete to decapitate a captive. Such videos circulate freely on all sides of the divide. The Hezbollah fighter, who gave his name as Mehdi, claimed the victim was killed because he was a Shiite.

    In the adjacent town of Hermel, Ali Haydar Kheyr Din, 46, recounted how he was kidnapped by rebels on a Syrian road and held for four days. His captors went through his cellphone contacts one by one and accused him of being a Hezbollah operative, said Din, who says his family owns a factory in Homs.

    "You're Shiite, of course you're Hezbollah," said one of the captors, according to Din. He said he was blindfolded for most of the time he was captive. "Tell us how you get the arms into Syria," the rebel interrogator demanded at the home where he was held.

    Din denied involvement with Hezbollah. He doubted from the beginning that he would get out alive, but the rebels didn't abuse him physically and an associate in the area managed to get him released, he said.

    "I didn't want to be maimed, to have an eye gouged out or a leg cut off with a power saw, because I had heard that kind of thing happened to some people," he recalled. “I/ told them I preferred it if they just sprayed me with a machine gun and get it over with quickly.”

    Bulos is a special correspondent.

  14. When they won, they marched everyone out of the cities to 'the killing fields'. When this slaughter was over, they starved.

    "If I was not a Buddhist, I would commit suicide because the end of my life is full of shame, humiliation and desperation of the national order," he said in late 1997.

    Happy times


  15. We had to go into Afghanistan. We were attacked from there. The vote was unanimous. We went into Iraq, the vote was closer. In Libya the French led the way, for their own purposes, we helped, without a vote at all, courtesy of Barky and friends. Who is the War Party?


  16. Who is the War Party?

    Who are their members?

    State them clearly.

    Was it not LBJ,a democrat, who ruined our inner cities, who led us into Vietnam?

    Who is the War Party now?

    You have said there is a War Party.

    I think your whole take on this discussion is misplaced.


  17. .

    No one wins in war.

    You merely end up with some who lose less.


  18. Alameda County rewards boss: $400k…for life

    Alameda County supervisors have really taken to heart the adage that government should run like a business — rewarding County Administrator Susan Muranishi with the Wall Street-like wage of $423,664 a year.

    For the rest of her life.

    According to county pay records, in addition to her $301,000 base salary, Muranishi receives:

    – $24,000, plus change, in “equity pay’’ to guarantee that she makes at least 10 percent more than anyone else in the county.

    – About $54,000 a year in “longevity” pay for having stayed with the county for more than 30 years.

    – An annual performance bonus of $24,000.

    – And another $9,000 a year for serving on the county’s three-member Surplus Property Authority, an ad hoc committee of the Board of Supervisors that oversees the sale of excess land.

    Like other county executives, Muranishi also gets an $8,292-a-year car allowance.

    Muranishi has been with the county for 38 years, and she’s 63. When retirement day comes, she’ll be getting a lot more than a gold watch.

    That’s because, according to the county auditor’s office, Muranishi’s annual pension will be equal to the dollar total of her entire yearly package — $413,000. She also has a separate executive private pension plan, for which the county chips in $46,500 a year.

    To find out more about how Muranishi wound up being the highest-paid county administrator in California, read here.