The kill team

Since so many people are successfully selling us on the hagiography that is “American Sniper,” I thought I’d remind you of this film that came out last July: “Kill Team”. It was on PBS’ Independent Lens last night:

Kill Team is not just a video game anymore, not just the inevitable pairing of two of the most popular words in American English.  “Kill Team” is now a movie, and against the odds it’s not a celebration of killing, but a particular take on an actual series of events made widely known by Rolling Stone.

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan developed the practice of killing civilians for sport, placing weapons beside the bodies or otherwise pretending to have been attacked, keeping body parts as trophies, and celebrating their “kills” in photographs with the corpses.

For months, according to Rolling Stone, the whole platoon knew what was going on.  Officers dismissed complaints from the relatives of victims, accepted completely implausible accounts, and failed to help victims who might still be alive (instead ordering a soldier to “Make sure he’s dead.”)

A key instigator, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, arrived in Afghanistan recounting a successful murder of a family in Iraq and bearing tattoos recording his kills.  “Get me a kill” soldiers asked who wanted to participate in the kill team.  Killers were treated as heroes, and the widespread understanding that they were killing civilians who’d never threatened them didn’t seem to damage that treatment.

“Drop-weapon” has been a common term among vets returning to the United States from Afghanistan and Iraq for over a decade, referring to a weapon used to frame a victim.  “We’re just the ones who got caught,” says Pfc. Justin Stoner in the film.  He also raises an important question that the film does not seriously pursue, remarking: “We’re training you from the day you join to the day you’re out to kill. Your job is to kill. You’re infantry. Your job is to kill everything that gets in your way. Well, then why the hell are you pissed off when we do it?”

Eleven soldiers have been convicted of crimes as part of the kill team, including Gibbs who has been sentenced to life in prison.  Why were these kills crimes and others not, wonders Stoner. (I might add: Why are the murders committed by the “American Sniper” not crimes?)  It’s a question worthy of consideration.  The cover stories for the kills, including claims that people made some threatening movement, don’t seem enough to justify these murders even if they had been true.  What were the soldiers doing in these people’s villages to begin with?

That’s the question the movie opens with the soldiers asking themselves.  They’d been trained for exciting combat and then sent to Afghanistan to be bored, hungry for action, eager to test out their training.  This is a point often missed by those who advocate turning the U.S. military into a force for good, an emergency rescue squad for natural disasters, or a humanitarian aid operation.  You would have to train and equip people for those jobs first.  These young men were trained to kill, armed to kill, prepped to kill, and left to kick sand around.

They began premeditating the worst sort of premeditated murder.  They openly recount their conversations in the film.  They had weapons to drop, grenades that weren’t “tracked,” they’d pretend someone had a grenade and kill him. Who? Anyone. They saw everyone as fair game.

And they did as planned.  And they were welcomed back to the “FOB” as heroes.  And they did it again.  And again.
Continue Reading →

SOTU social justice bingo card

SOTU 2015 Bingo

INSTRUCTIONS: When the president speaks about a quality or policy that supports families and promotes politics of hope over fear, use our special Pope Francis BINGO pieces to cover that square. You can follow the endnotes to read the pope’s quotes. You get BINGO when you have five squares in a row—and people of faith and advocates for justice all win!

Oh dear, the Republicans are upset

PRESIDENT OBAMA ALL SET  FOR HIS STATE OF THE UNION  ADDRESS

I guess this SOTU stuff must have more impact than I thought, because why would they be so upset about proposals that can’t happen without Congress?

The White House previewed its tax messaging coming in the State of the Union on Tuesday — heavy on tax breaks for children and middle-class families, paid for by steeper taxes on investments, cutting a loophole benefiting the uber-wealthy, and a new fee on big banks.

Republicans did not see it as an olive branch.

“Slapping American small businesses, savers and investors with more tax hikes only negates the benefits of the tax policies that have been successful in helping to expand the economy, promote savings, and create jobs,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement.
Absent in the highlights provided by White House officials is one big area the parties agree on — a cut in the corporate tax rate.

President Barack Obama could still announce a detailed tax reform proposal, plans for negotiations with Congress and a deadline to get it done. But tax watchers are prepared to be disappointed.

Our jobs are still killing us

administration

It’s nice to know that, even if I ever get to retire, it won’t last long:

Maybe those of us who sit for long hours in meetings, on phone calls, and tapping away at keyboards should be getting hazard pay. New research that distills the findings of 47 studies concludes that those of us who sit for long hours raise our average risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and early death.

Even for those of us who meet recommended daily levels of exercise, sitting for long periods of time boosts our likelihood of declining health. (In fact, I just worked out intensively for 90 minutes, and am now risking life and limb to bring you this news. You’re welcome.)

To be sure, the latest research — published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine — finds that the risk of poor health “is more pronounced at lower levels of physical activity than at higher levels.”

Those who engage in regular physical activity but still spend a large proportion of their day in sedentary activity were found, on average, to be 30% less likely to die of any cause in a given period than were those who get little to no exercise. But even those who punctuate a long day of sitting with a vigorous workout were estimated to be 16% more likely to die of any cause in a given time than were those who do not sit for long.

People still want single-payer

Single Payer Healthcare Rally

Because what sane person wants for-profit medicine?

More than five years after the single-payer system was scrapped from ObamaCare policy debates, just over 50 percent of people say they still support the idea, including one-quarter of Republicans, according to a new poll.

The single-payer option – also known as Medicare for all – would create a new, government-run insurance program to replace private coverage. The system, once backed by President Obama, became one of the biggest casualties of the divisive healthcare debates of 2009.

The idea remains extremely popular among Democrats, with nearly 80 percent in support, according to the poll, which was shared first with The Hill by the Progressive Change Institute.
Continue Reading →

Bridge collapse in Cincinnati leaves one dead

They were doing demolition on the overpass when it collapsed:

CINCINNATI — An old bridge on Interstate 75 was undergoing demolition late Monday when it collapsed, killing a construction worker and shutting down a stretch of the interstate for what could be days.

The “catastrophic pancake collapse” happened about 10:30 p.m. as a crew prepared for demolition of the old Hopple Street overpass, according to a statement from the City of Cincinnati.

It was part of the old northbound off-ramp to Hopple Street. The new bridge is already open.

As the old bridge collapsed to the ground, a semi-tractor trailer driver crashed into the rubble, police said.

Site Meter