Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The war on longevity and youth.

AP reports:

"The deaths of nine civilians, including a child, in a U.S. air strike south of Baghdad have raised fresh concerns about the military's ability to distinguish friend from foe in a campaign to uproot insurgents from Sunni areas on the capital's doorstep. Witnesses and Iraqi police said helicopters strafed a house Saturday after confusing U.S.-allied Sunni fighters for extremists in the deadliest case of mistaken identity since November."

Confusing Sunni fighters for extremists? No wonder the US is having such a problem distinguishing friend from foe; in Iraq alliances change so fast you need a program to keep up. I mean, weren't those Sunni fighters, who we're now calling "concerned citizens," the very same people planting IEDs that were killing our people just a few months ago?

But not to worry, AP reports that: "The U.S. military said only that a child and eight other civilians were killed and that three others, including two children, were wounded as U.S. troops pursued suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters."

Only a child and eight other civilians? I guess that's a pretty small number for collateral damage these days, I guess, nothing like the kill rate in the forgotten war, where AP reports:

"Afghan and foreign troops conducted two raids on the homes of suspected Taliban yesterday, leaving 10 people dead, including women and children, police said. In the Bakwa district of western Farah province, foreign and Afghan ground forces attacked the home of suspected Taliban member Mullah Manan, killing nine people, including two women and two children, district Police Chief Khan Agha said. In southern Helmand province, foreign troops raided the house of another Taliban suspect near the capital of Lashkar Gah, killing him and wounding his 8-year-old daughter, said provincial Police Chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal. A separate clash in southern Uruzgan province left nine suspected extremists dead."

Suspected extremists? Friends or foe?

No wonder the Germans have no stomach for the fight in southern Afghanistan. With their reputation they don't need the bad press like we're getting over there. Nevertheless, Sec Def Robert Gates asked the Germans to man-up and get into the fight.

David's Medienkritik Online reports:

"Gates specifically asks Germany to drop caveats limiting its troops to the north of Afghanistan and to send helicopter units, infantry and paratroopers that could join the fight against Taliban militants in the south... While all 26 NATO allies have units in Afghanistan, France, Turkey and Italy, as well as Germany, refuse to send significant numbers to the southern combat zone. . . Our American and Canadians friends can be rest assured that Germany will unswervingly stick to its commitment to verbally fight terrorism with all possible means, weekdays from 9 to 5. "

To sure-up the shortfall caused by our NATO friends, the US is sending 3,200 Marines to fill the gap.

Associated Content reports this deployment will bring the number of US troops in Afghanistan to their highest level since the 2001 invasion:

"The deployment also comes amid increasing calls for returning U.S. military forces to the United States in order to relieve some of the strain caused by prolonged conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as continued commitments in the Balkans, the Sinai, South Korea, the Horn of Africa, and the Philippines."

If we were really concerned about collateral damage and the effect it can have on hearts and minds, particularly in Afghanistan where the people there generally like us (unlike Iraq, where the Iraqis have every reason to think we're out to get all of them) probably sending in such a blunt instrument as the Marines isn't the best policy decision. Remember what happened the last time the Marines were in Afghanistan?

WaPo: (March 4 2007)

"At least eight Afghan civilians were killed Sunday in eastern Afghanistan when U.S. Marines traveling in a convoy were hit by a car bomb and responded by firing in a way that some witnesses called reckless. The incident, which the U.S. military said resulted from a 'complex ambush,' was followed by angry demonstrations in which hundreds of Afghans took to the streets, many chanting anti-government and anti-American slogans. . . The Associated Press quoted several wounded Afghans as saying that the Marines fired indiscriminately as they fled the scene. . . The incident is the latest to spark public outrage over the perception that foreign troops are not taking enough precautions to avoid civilian casualties. Last May, for instance, a U.S. military cargo truck lost control and struck 12 vehicles, killing one person and injuring six. A riot ensued in Kabul, the capital, and 20 people died, 160 were injured and dozens of buildings were damaged or destroyed."

Of course, there's no actual visual evidence of this incident because the Marines siezed video equipment from journalists on the scene. Shortly after this the Marines were withdrawn and the incident is still under "investigation."

Longevity costs money!

News item on why some of these casualties might be cost effective, if not so much from a PR stand point.


"Preventing obesity and smoking can save lives, but it doesn't save money for health systems, researchers reported yesterday. It costs more to care for healthy people who live years longer, according to a Dutch study that counters the common perception that preventing obesity would save governments millions of dollars. . . Ultimately, the thin and healthy group cost the most - $417,000, from age 20 on. The cost of care for obese people was $371,000, and for smokers, $326,000. 'This throws a bucket of cold water onto the idea that obesity is going to cost trillions of dollars,' said Patrick Basham, a professor of health politics at Johns Hopkins University who was unconnected to the study. Government projections about obesity costs are frequently based on guesswork, political agendas and changing science,' he said."

So eat all you want America! Smoke to your heart's content while W. is busy smoking out Osama bin Forgotten through the surgical use of Willy Pete and areal bombing with high explosives.

You know, the younger we get these terrorists the better (and more cost effective); they tend to eschew cigarettes and they're always starving. One such skinny kid, Canadian Omar Khadr, has been stuck at Gitmo since he was 15! Now 21, he's to stand trial in one of W.'s kanga-Yoo courts for killing Army Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer during a raging battle in the early days of the Afghan invasion.

AP reports Khadr's lawyers have presented exculpatory evidence that proves he:

"Had already been injured by shrapnel in his chest and was facing away from the fight when he was shot in the back inside an al-Qaeda compound, according to the unidentified U.S. fighter. Defense attorneys said the new details would help their case that Khadr should not be tried before a military tribunal, because his alleged offenses occurred in a combat setting - and therefore should not be considered war crimes committed by an irregular 'enemy combatant.'"

I've always wondered about how the US justifies putting people on trial who are basically engaged in combat. If we're going to start accusing soldiers of murder -- child soldiers at that -- then that sort of puts our people in a bit of a sticky wicket if they ever get caught by our enemies, present and future, doesn't it?

In places like Sierra Leone and Liberia they send their former child soldiers to school or try to find them jobs. The United States, on the other hand -- the great beacon of democracy -- locks them up and puts them on trial! According to cageprisoners.com there were 9 juveniles being held at Gitmo in 2005.

An article in Adelaide Now related to the Khadr case reports:

"A US Department of Justice attorney, arguing for the prosecution, said that if Congress intended to exclude juveniles from the Guantanamo war court, it would have explicitly written that, because lawmakers knew Mr Khadr could face charges. Instead, Congress wrote the law using the term 'person,' which legally refers to 'anyone born alive,' Justice Department attorney Andy Oldham said."

So Khadr's problem is that he was born alive, he doesn't smoke and he's not fat. Guily on all charges!

. . . "Canadian parliamentarians and law experts, as well as human rights groups, have all supported Mr Khadr's lawyers. 'UNICEF is concerned that such a prosecution, in particular in front of a military commission not equipped to meet the required standards, would set a dangerous precedent for the protection of hundreds of thousands of children who find themselves unwittingly involved in conflict around the world,'' the UN children's fund said."

Now, that's just crazy!


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