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A Joke

LibertarianInstitute - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 14:10

“What’s the difference between a Taliban outpost and a Pakistani elementary school?”

“Yeah, I don’t know either, I just operate the drone.”

A Joke was first posted on September 16, 2017 at 1:10 pm.

A Decade After Massacre, Blackwater Founder Buddies Up With President

Who What Why - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 13:57

It all started with a single gunshot from a Blackwater Security Company guard. A young man who was driving with his mother to pick up his dad from work was killed. His foot wedged against the accelerator causing his car to roll towards a Blackwater vehicle. Then, as one eyewitness recalled, “the shooting started like rain.” The young man’s car burst into flames after a direct hit by a grenade.

This was the scene when a Blackwater private security convoy opened fire in a busy square in Baghdad in the middle of the day, exactly 10 years ago, for no reason other than nervous trigger fingers.

Seventeen innocent Iraqis were killed and 24 injured in what came to be known as the Nisour Square Massacre. It contributed to the negative Iraqi public opinion toward the allied forces’ presence in their country, and to increased backlash and bloodshed.

Now the founder and ex-CEO of Blackwater (renamed twice — currently Academi Services) has the ear of the president of the United States.

Erik Prince is the brother of billionaire secretary of state for education Betsy DeVos. He and his family donated more than $10 million to GOP candidates and super PACs in 2016.

Prince was invited to an August meeting of military specialists at Camp David to finalize President Donald Trump’s strategy on Afghanistan. He had been making the rounds in Washington with a binder containing his proposal to embed advisors in Afghani forces and provide them with a private air force. All of this would be overseen by a commander, known as a “Viceroy,” reporting to Prince’s company.

“The privatization of security is not unusual,” says Robert Young Pelton — author, adventurer and war journalist whose coverage includes Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq. “But the privatization and provision of military level violence in conflict zones has proven to be a root cause of anger and distrust…The worst-case scenario is the self-financing of private armies so there is always skepticism of private plans to fight wars.”

There is nothing wrong with Prince’s strategic plan, says Pelton. “[It] was written by people with experience in the fundamentals of counterinsurgency concepts: air support, training of small commando groups and logistics.”

Erik Prince. Photo credit: Miller Center / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The problems began, says Pelton, “when Prince adds a level of bad history reading by integrating inflammatory concepts such as ‘Viceroy,’ ‘East India Company’ and of course the unsaid assumption that he seeks to profit from war.”

Despite a seeming inability to grasp how terms from the colonial past might upset present-day Afghans, Prince had clearly done his homework on President Trump’s fondness for flattery. He likened his master-plan for Afghanistan to Trump’s “turnaround” of a stalled ice rink in New York. Prince was so keen for this sycophantic reference to be highlighted in an interview he gave to the Atlantic that he told the writer: “Make sure to get the Wollman Ice Rink…Please be sure to use that in the article.”

Meanwhile, on August 4, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the only murder conviction of a Blackwater employee involved in the massacre; the Court also ordered the resentencing of three other Blackwater employees currently serving 30 years each on lesser manslaughter and firearms charges — ruling that these sentences constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Pelton does not fault the Appeals Court on this decision: “The State Department created the high-profile violent operating style of Blackwater, and events like Nisour Square were just the most egregious of many. But the trial was deliberately vindictive, [it] wrongly applied laws and was fraught with procedural problems.”

“Full focus should be on the US Government’s use of rented perpetrators of violence in order to conduct business in hostile regions,” Pelton says. “It was only a matter of time before an event of this type would occur in Iraq using these operating methods condoned by the State Department.”

Prince’s lack of regret or acceptance of blame for murderous mistakes by his employees is a matter of public record. In a congressional hearing less than a month after the Nisour Square massacre, he testified that his men had “acted appropriately at all times.” When pressed further by Illinois Democrat Danny Davis, Prince denied the company had ever killed innocent civilians.

Davis: “You do admit that Blackwater personnel have shot and killed innocent civilians, don’t you?”

Prince: “No, sir. I disagree with that, I think there’s been times when guys are using defensive force to protect themselves, to protect the packages, trying to get away from danger. There would be ricochets, there are traffic accidents, yes. This is war.”

Jeremy Scahill, in his book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, is dismissive of Prince’s unwaveringly defiant testimony.

“The assertion by Prince that no innocents had been killed by Blackwater was simply unbelievable. And not just according to the eyewitnesses and survivors of the Nisour Square shootings and other deadly Blackwater actions. According to a report prepared by [former Congressman Henry] Waxman’s staff, from 2005 to the time of the hearing, Blackwater operatives in Iraq opened fire on at least 195 occasions. In more than 80 percent of these instances, Blackwater fired first. These statistics were based on Blackwater’s own reporting. But some alleged the company was underreporting its statistics. A former Blackwater operative who spent nearly three years in Iraq told the Washington Post his 20-man team averaged four or five shootings a week, several times the rate of 1.4 incidents per week that Blackwater claimed.”

Trump’s announcement of his new strategy for Afghanistan was typically short on specifics. Whether Prince’s private army will form part of or inform all of it is not yet known. But given the bloody history of what is now the longest war in US history, the question arises: Can the US afford to send for-profit mercenaries with views aligned to Prince’s onto the streets of Afghanistan at the taxpayers’ expense?

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Erik Prince (C-SPAN) and Blackwater logo (Blackwater / Wikimedia).

The post A Decade After Massacre, Blackwater Founder Buddies Up With President appeared first on WhoWhatWhy.

Philippines' Duterte asks head of human rights agency: 'Are you a pedophile?'

Top Reuters News - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 13:41
MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday asked the head of the country's Commission on Human Rights (CHR) if he was a pedophile for focusing on the killing of teenagers in the government's bloody war on drugs.

Iraq forces seize IS outpost ahead of Euphrates push

MiddleEasteye - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 11:46
Language Undefined

The capture of Akashat, a former mining town in mainly Sunni Arab Anbar province, came just hours after the assault started

Former al-Qaeda vows to fight on, says Syria de-escalation deal is surrender

MiddleEasteye - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 11:25
Language Undefined

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham said the deal would 'end with restoring Bashar's rule' to rebel areas

Farewell to the Cassini Probe, America's Emissary to Saturn

RealClearPolitics - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 09:31
Jeffrey Kluger, Time
Cassini was a machine assembled at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., but in its completed form, it spent far more time as a thing of Saturn than a thing of Earth. It's fitting, then, that the molecules that made up the metal and silicon and wire and plastic that in turn made up spacecraft will never come home. They will, instead, mix and swirl through the atmosphere of Saturn, becoming part of the world they came to help study.

How I Believe Facebook Was Censoring My Speech

RealClearPolitics - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 09:31
Philip Giraldi, Am. Conservative
In the Summer of 2007 I traveled to China to speak at a conference concerning security preparations for the Olympic Games, which were to be held in Beijing the following year. While transiting Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport I noticed something odd. The internet sites that I checked every day would not open, to include The American Conservative and Antiwar.com. When I finally reached China, the same sites continued to be inaccessible and I also noted that writing emails had become problematic either at the airports in Hong Kong or Beijing or at the Sheraton Hotel in Shenyang. Some...

Egypt court sentences Morsi to 25 years in Qatar spy case

MiddleEasteye - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 09:28
Language Undefined

Morsi was overthrown in mid-2013 by then-general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, now the president of Egypt

ESPN Is Right to Stand Behind Jemele Hill

RealClearPolitics - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 09:26
Dave Zirin, Washington Post
The evidence for this hasn’t exactly been faint to the eye. It’s not just the president’s reticence to criticize torch-wielding Nazis wearing MAGA hats. It’s the man’s public life, a 40-year stretch that has spanned from being sued over racial discrimination, to creating a political base by denying the first black president’s citizenship and legitimacy, to the histories of his most trusted advisers, to the pardoning of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, to having his economic council disband because the CEOs thought he was too soft on Nazis. Not exactly...

Trump Kicks ESPN Where It Hurts

RealClearPolitics - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 09:04
Jason Schwartz, Politico
President Donald Trump’s Twitter attack on ESPN on Friday morning hit the sports network in a particularly sensitive area — its declining subscriber numbers, which Trump claimed was because of its too-liberal politics. Over the past several years, ESPN has faced a steady decline in subscribers, dropping from more than 100 million in 2011 to around 87 million today. The company has also undergone very public job reductions, cutting dozens of well-known faces in April. But does politics have anything to do with it?

Dispatch From the Resistance

RealClearPolitics - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 08:59
Charles Blow, New York Times
Good people of good conscience are seeking to do what Trump only gave lip service to, and in his way bastardized. We, patriots, will not stop resisting this destruction. It is we who will Make America Great Again by trying to limit the damage Trump can do to us until he feels the reckoning of the damage he has done to himself.

Democrats Must Stop Enabling Antifa Violence

RealClearPolitics - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 08:59
Ned Ryun, FOX News
While the violent misfits of Antifa proudly call themselves anti-fascists â?? and liken their attacks on anyone they oppose to the heroic fight by resistance forces that battled the Nazis in World War II â?? in reality Antifa is a domestic terrorist organization.

What 'Overregulation' Looks Like to a Truck Driver

RealClearPolitics - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 08:58
Matthew Garnett, The Federalist
Unless you own a business, when you hear pundits and politicians drone on about “overregulation,” the notion probably goes in one ear and out the other. But being a truck driver is similar to owning your own business. So next time you hear your Senator or your favorite radio show host decry government regulation and oversight, let me give you an idea of what “overregulation” looks like on the ground.

Cutting Taxes Will Be Harder Than Trump Thinks

RealClearPolitics - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 08:58
Michelle Cottle, The Atlantic
On most Tuesdays, known around Capitol Hill as “fly-in day,” House Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady holds a quickie media gaggle outside his office, providing reporters the chance to grill him about the coming week’s hot issues. Increasingly, that means one thing: tax reform. With the failure to repeal Obamacare, an overhaul of the tax code has assumed do-or-die urgency for Republicans. “Failure,” conference members are endlessly insisting, “is not an option.”

The Loneliest President

RealClearPolitics - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 08:58
Michael Kruse, Politico
He's increasingly isolated in the White House, but for Donald Trump, being alone is not a liability. It's where he's most comfortable.

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