Dahr Jamail: Environmental Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico – The Escalation of BP's Liability

5 October 2011 — Global ResearchAl Jazeera – 2011-10-03

As oil, sickness and contamination persist, Gulf residents and lawyers file thousands of lawsuits against the oil giant.

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‘If you got caught humping another woman – [if] you’re both naked and caught in the act – you’d want BP to explain to your wife how it didn’t happen.’

This colorful analogy was proposed by Dean Blanchard, a seafood distributor on Grand Isle, Louisiana, to explain oil giant BP’s continuing machinations to evade liability in the aftermath of the April 2010 disaster.

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The Source of Our Despair in the Gulf By Dahr Jamail and Erika Blumenfeld

18 July 2010 — t r u t h o u t | Photo Essay

For the first time in 87 days, little or no oil could be escaping into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s Macondo well. The new capping stack was deployed on July 11 from onboard the Transocean Discoverer Inspiration.

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Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010
With a new containment cap atop the damaged well, many are hopeful.

But all is not well, after all.

National Incident Commander Thad Allen said Friday that the pressure within the cap is not increasing, as was expected.

Fending For Themselves By Dahr Jamail

4 July, 2010 — Dahr Jamail’s Dispatches

We drive south on Louisiana Highway 55 towards Pointe-au-Chien. The two-lane road hugs a bayou, like most of the roads leading south into the marsh areas. Incredibly green, lush forest gives way to increasing areas of water the further south we venture, until the very road feels as though it is floating.

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Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

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Trucking Toward Climate Change By Dahr Jamail

22 May 2010 — t r u t h o u t | Report

The tar sands mining project in Alberta, Canada, is possibly the largest industrial project in human history and critics claim it could also be the most destructive. The mining procedure for extracting oil from a region referred to as the “tar sands,” located north of Edmonton, releases at least three times the CO2 emissions as regular oil production procedures and will likely become North America’s single largest industrial contributor to climate change.

Most of the oil produced by the project will likely be consumed by the United States, a country that, along with Canada, is already heavily invested, on many levels, in the project.

The project is operated by Imperial Oil, whose parent company, ExxonMobil Canada, has a long-term production goal of more than 300,000 barrels of bitumen (extra heavy oil) per day. To do this, they will require new equipment to be shipped through the United States.

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All the (un)usual suspects. What is RT.com up to? By William Bowles

12 February, 2010

Full page ads in the London Independent? Though the word ‘Russia’ is nowhere to be seen, instead it’s RT.com. What we used to know as Russia Today is engaged in a no doubt expensive marketing and advertizing campaign here in the UK. But RT.com is a far cry from its crude beginnings four years ago as a mouthpiece for the Russian state. The question is, what kind of animal is it now? Continue reading

Veterans Group Calls on Soldiers to Refuse Orders to Deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq By Dahr Jamail

14 December 2009 — t r u t h o u t | Report

In response to President Barack Obama’s announcement on December 1 to deploy 30,000 additional troops to the occupation of Afghanistan, the organization March Forward!, with comprising both veterans and active-duty members of the US military, has called on all soldiers to refuse their orders to deploy.

“March Forward! calls on all service members to refuse orders to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq,” reads a press release from the group from December 3. “We offer our unconditional support and solidarity. Join us in the fight to ensure that no more soldiers or civilians lose their lives in these criminal wars.”

Michael Prysner, a former corporal in the Army who served from 2001-2005 and a veteran of the occupation of Iraq, co-founded the group with another Iraq war veteran, James Circello.

Truthout asked Prysner how he responds to those who believe a soldier should always follow orders, no matter what.

“In my experience the majority of people joining the military today join out of necessity, like money, jobs, help for their family, etc., so most don’t join for ideological or patriotic reasons. Most are driven into the military by economic conditions. We see this playing out now, as people are joining in droves because of the economy.”

Prysner added, “Yes, people do sign a contract to follow orders, but those orders are wrong and unlawful. We want to educate people to the fact that these are immoral orders, and they [soldiers] are being used as muscle for corporations, to colonize the developing world, and it’s not legitimate. People who join and take this oath seriously who think they are in [the military] to defend the US, this is not what we are being used for in the military today.”

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The Psychological Implosion of Our Soldiers By Dahr Jamail

7 December 2009 — t r u t h o u t | Report

US Army Specialist Lateef Al-Saraji, a decorated combat veteran, came back from the occupation of Iraq with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Saraji joined the military because he wanted to serve his country. He served well as a linguist and translator working under secret clearance with military intelligence, according to a letter of recommendation written by his commander following his tour in Iraq, “This letter is to inform you of my endorsement of SPC Alsaraji’s superlative performance and vital contributions to the command during our recent 15-month extended combat tour in Iraq.” Saraji is also a three-year trustee with American Legion Post 42 in Gatesville, Texas.

PTSD is often routed in one event, but more often, with the two ongoing occupations, it is rooted in multiple traumatizing events. While in Iraq, Saraji was horrified by discovering headless bodies of suspected spies caught by the Iraqi resistance, which were thrown in a canal near the building where he was based “so we would see them. I still have nightmares over the bodies in the water, all blue and foul-smelling,” he wrote of his experience.

When he got back to the US, it took him several months to get an appointment with a counselor on his base, who then referred him to an off-base psychiatrist, who diagnosed him with severe PTSD.

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U.S.: Army Sends Infant to Protective Services, Mom to Afghanistan By Dahr Jamail

13 November, 2009 — Inter Press Service

VENTURA, California, Nov 13 (IPS) – U.S. Army Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, a single mother, is being threatened with a military court-martial if she does not agree to deploy to Afghanistan, despite having been told she would be granted extra time to find someone to care for her 11-month-old son while she is overseas.

Hutchinson, of Oakland, California, is currently being confined at Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah, Georgia, after being arrested. Her son was placed into a county foster care system.

Hutchinson has been threatened with a court martial if she does not agree to deploy to Afghanistan on Sunday, Nov. 15. She has been attempting to find someone to take care of her child, Kamani, while she is deployed overseas, but to no avail.

According to the family care plan of the U.S. Army, Hutchinson was allowed to fly to California and leave her son with her mother, Angelique Hughes of Oakland.

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MidEast Dispatches: Where Will They Get the Troops? Preparing Undeployables for the Afghan Front

8 November, 2009

In a grim November 3rd Wall Street Journal piece (buried inside the paper), Yochi Dreazen reported record suicide rates for a stressed-out U.S. Army. Sixteen soldiers killed themselves in October alone, 134 so far this year, essentially ensuring that last year’s “record” of 140 suicides will be broken. This represents a startling 37% jump in suicides since 2006 and, for the first time, puts the suicide rate in the Army above that of the general U.S. population.

After eight years of two major counterinsurgency wars (and various minor encounters in what used to be called the Global War on Terror), with many soldiers experiencing multiple tours of duty, with approximately 120,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq and almost 70,000 in Afghanistan, with the Afghan War clearly in an escalatory phase, commanders in the field calling for 40,000-80,000 more American troops, and base construction on the rise, the military’s internal problems are clearly escalating as well.

As Dahr Jamail, author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Sarah Lazare report, under these circumstances, the Army is digging deep for deployable troops; in fact, it’s dipping into a pool of soldiers who have already been damaged or even broken by their experiences in our war zones — and that’s just to meet present deployment needs. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that Dreazen included this striking passage in his report: “At a White House meeting Friday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff urged President Barack Obama to send fresh troops to Afghanistan only if they have spent at least a year in the U.S. since their last overseas tour, according to people familiar with the matter. If Mr. Obama agreed to that condition, many potential Afghanistan reinforcements wouldn’t be available until next summer at the earliest.”

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U.S.: “War Comes Home” with Ft. Hood Shootings By Dahr Jamail

6 November, 2009 — Inter Press Service

PHOENIX, Arizona, Nov 6 (IPS) – While investigators probe for a motive behind the mass shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas Thursday, in which an army psychiatrist is suspected of killing 13 people, military personnel at the base are in shock as the incident “brings the war home”.

“Fort Hood is pretty much a ghost town right now,” Specialist Michael Kern, an active duty veteran of the Iraq war, told IPS by telephone. “Most units gave their soldiers the day off. Security is heightened all over. There are soldiers on guard everywhere. In my opinion, they are afraid of another attack.”

Kern, who is based at Fort Hood, served in Iraq from March 2007 to March 2008.

“We’re all in shock,” Kern added, “Every single person that I’ve talked to is in shock. I’m surprised this hits so close to home, but at the same time, I knew something like this was going to happen given what else is happening – the war is coming home, and something needs to be done.”

“Innocent civilians are being wounded and killed here at home by soldiers, and this is completely unacceptable,” he said.

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US Army Prisoners Isolated, Denied Right to Legal Counsel By Dahr Jamail

28 September, 2009 — T r u t h o u t

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The military's treatment of Army prisoners is "part of a broader pattern the military has of just throwing people in jail and not letting them talk to their attorneys, not let visitors come, and this is outrageous. In the civilian world even murderers get visits from their friends," according to civil defense attorney James Branum. (Photo: hiro chang / flickr)

Afghanistan war resister Travis Bishop has been held largely “incommunicado” in the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Lewis, Washington.

Bishop, who is being held by the military as a “prisoner of conscience,” according to Amnesty International, was transported to Fort Lewis on September 9 to serve a 12-month sentence in the Regional Correctional Facility. He had refused orders to deploy to Afghanistan based on his religious beliefs, and had filed for Conscientious Objector (CO) status.

Bishop, who served a 13-month deployment to Iraq and was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, was court marshaled by the Army for his refusal to deploy to Afghanistan. Given that he had already filed for CO status, many local observers called his sentencing a “politically driven prosecution.”

By holding Bishop incommunicado, the military violated Bishop’s legal right to counsel, a violation of the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution, according to his civil defense attorney James Branum.

The Sixth Amendment is the part of the Bill of Rights that sets forth rights related to criminal prosecutions in federal courts, and reads, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.”

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Afghanistan: Where Empires Go to Die By Dahr Jamail

17 September, 2009 — t r u t h o u t

On September 7 the Swedish aid agency Swedish Committee for Afghanistan reported that the previous week US soldiers raided one of its hospitals. According to the director of the aid agency, Anders Fange, troops stormed through both the men’s and women’s wards, where they frantically searched for wounded Taliban fighters.

Soldiers demanded that hospital administrators inform the military of any incoming patients who might be insurgents, after which the military would then decide if said patients would be admitted or not. Fange called the incident “not only a clear violation of globally recognized humanitarian principles about the sanctity of health facilities and staff in areas of conflict, but also a clear breach of the civil-military agreement” between nongovernmental organizations and international forces.

Fange said that US troops broke down doors and tied up visitors and hospital staff.

Impeding operations at medical facilities in Afghanistan directly violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which strictly forbids attacks on emergency vehicles and the obstruction of medical operations during wartime.

Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, a public affairs officer for the US Navy, confirmed the raid, and told the Associated Press, “Complaints like this are rare.”

Despite Sidenstricker’s claim that “complaints like this” are rare in Afghanistan, they are, in fact, common. Just as they are in Iraq, the other occupation. A desperate conventional military, when losing a guerilla war, tends to toss international law out the window. Yet even more so when the entire occupation itself is a violation of international law.

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Art as Resistance By Dahr Jamail

6 September, 2009 — t r u t h o u t | Perspective

“Throughout history, culture and art have always been the celebration of freedom under oppression.” – Author unknown

Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have tough truths to tell, and it has been well demonstrated that the establishment media does not want to broadcast these. Given the lack of an outlet for anti-war voices in the corporate media, many contemporary veterans and active-duty soldiers have embraced the arts as a tool for resistance, communication and healing. They have made use of a wide range of visual and performing arts – through theater, poetry, painting, writing, and other creative expression – to affirm their own opposition to the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The first Warrior Writers Project was led by veteran Lovella Calica. To help other veterans deal with their experiences in Iraq, she encouraged them to write. Those who were willing to do so were asked to share their writings with the group. An anthology of these compositions was produced as the book Warrior Writers: Move, Shoot and Communicate. Calica has since gone on to lead three writing workshops with veterans, and has published a second book, Warrior Writers: Re-making Sense.

The goal of the Warrior Writers Project is to provide “tools and space for community building, healing and redefinition … Through writing/artistic workshops that are based on experiences in the military and in Iraq, the veterans unbury their secrets and connect with each other on a personal and artistic level. The writing from the workshops is compiled into books, performances and exhibits that provide a lens into the hearts of people who have a deep and intimate relationship with the Iraq war.”

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Kill the Indian. Save the Man. by Dahr Jamail

2 July, 2009 | T r u t h o u t

Manifest Destiny

In 1845, an American columnist, John O’Sullivan, writing about the proposed annexation of Texas, claimed that it was America’s “manifest destiny to overspread the continent.” Later in the same year, referring to the ongoing dispute with Great Britain over Oregon, he wrote that the United States had the right to claim “the whole of Oregon.”

And that claim is by the right of our Manifest Destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent that Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.

The westward expansion did not originate with O’Sullivan’s theory. In 1803, the United States acquired 23 percent of its existing territory through the Louisiana Purchase. Seeing land as a source of political power, the government began to actively pursue aggressive expansion of its territories through the 19th century. The idea of Manifest Destiny was one component of the process which captured the popular imagination. This was further fueled by the discovery of gold and other minerals in the West attracting Easterners acting on their conviction in their right and duty to expand.

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Colonizing Culture By Dahr Jamail

27 May 2009 – t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Transgress

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The geo-strategic expansion of the American empire is an accepted fact of contemporary history. I have been writing in these columns about the impact of the US occupation on the people of Iraq in the wake of the “hard” colonization via F-16s, tanks, 2,000-pound bombs, white phosphorous and cluster bombs.

Here I offer a brief glimpse into the less obvious but far more insidious phenomenon of “soft” colonization. That scholars and political thinkers have talked at length of such processes only establishes the uncomfortable reality that history is bound to repeat itself in all its ugliness, unless the human civilization makes a concerted effort to eliminate the use of brute force from human affairs.

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Unfit for Combat By Dahr Jamail

12 May, 2009 – t r u t h o u t

This Monday at 2 PM Baghdad time, a US soldier gunned down five fellow soldiers at a stress-counseling center at a US base in Baghdad. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a news conference at the Pentagon that the shootings occurred in a place where “individuals were seeking help.” Admiral Mullen added, “It does speak to me, though, about the need for us to redouble our efforts, the concern in terms of dealing with the stress…. It also speaks to the issue of multiple deployments.”

Commenting on the incident in nearly parallel terms, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the Pentagon needs to redouble its efforts to relieve stress caused by repeated deployments in war zones that is further exacerbated by limited time at home in between deployments.

The condition described by Mullen and Gates is what veteran health experts often refer to as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

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Iraqi Doctors in Hiding Treat as They Can By Dahr Jamail

21 February, 2009 | Inter Press Service

BAGHDAD — Seventy percent of Iraq’s doctors are reported to have fled the war-torn country in the face of death threats and kidnappings. Those who remain live in fear, often in conditions close to house arrest.

“I was threatened I would be killed because I was working for the Iraqi government at the Medical City,” Dr. Thana Hekmaytar told IPS. Baghdad Medical City is the largest medical complex in the country.

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