Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Black Jails of Afghanistan

“The black jail was the most dangerous and fearful place,” said Hamidullah, a spare-parts dealer in Kandahar who said he was detained there in June. “They don’t let the I.C.R.C. officials or any other civilians see or communicate with the people they keep there. Because I did not know what time it was, I did not know when to pray.”

The New York Times reports, KABUL, Afghanistan — An American military detention camp in Afghanistan is still holding inmates, sometimes for weeks at a time, without access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to human rights researchers and former detainees held at the site on the Bagram Air Base.

The site, known to detainees as the black jail, consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each illuminated by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day. In interviews, former detainees said that their only human contact was at twice-daily interrogation sessions."

The articles goes on to say, "The jail’s operation highlights a tension between President Obama’s goal to improve detention conditions that had drawn condemnation under the Bush administration and his stated desire to give military commanders leeway to operate. While Mr. Obama signed an order to eliminate so-called black sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency in January, it did not also close this jail, which is run by military Special Operations forces."

This action taken by President Obama, strange as it was, was much reported on. It was a centerist way of saying that he wants to keep his military commanders happy. It couldn't have been written any better by Aaron Sorkin. Let's face it all is not well in an Obama administration but it is miles, ok, thousands of miles better than what a Bush administration was. But all these acts of torture will come back to haunt us and it probably already has.

Chris Mansel

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Free From Hostile Invaders

The New York Times publishes this ominoius photo today. The story speaks of the re-surgence on the Taliban in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, President Obama is considering a troop surge of 40,000 troops. In the american mindset it seems an obscene act. But for a moment consider the opinion of many Iraqi's who wish we had never toppled Saddam. They agree he was a ruthless dictator but they clearly state they were better off then than they are now in their country. They get no argument there.

Thge stories coming out of Afghanistan say that the Taliban will force their way into homes, towns etc and take what they want. They will kill and plunder and their is nothing anyone can do about it. Doesn't this sound familiar? Perhaps it would have been better if the English, Columbus, Vikings would have never laned on these shores we call home? Acts of genocide up for discussion? A comparison?

What state was Afghanistan in before we came in looking for Osama Bin Laden? Would it have been in the state its in now if we had just gone into Afghanistan and not into Iraq? We'll never know.

Chris Mansel

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Dobbs Campaign

The New York Times is reporting that Lou Dobbs, you remember him right? CNN's former answer to Fascism, is mulling a run for governor of New Jersey as an "intermediary" step for a presidential run.

As my good friend Bob Kincaid says, "Get out the bucket of lye..."

Let's imagine a campaign rally for Mr. Dobbs.

Spokesman: (dressed in a Tucker Carlson hoodie) Okay, Tea Baggers you guys need to group up over here and did you remember your signs that say, NO Medicine for the Indigent?" Ok, good. Now, minutemen...No, locked and loaded is not a good cheer at the beginning but after the speech feel free to chant it outside.

Tea bagger: Is Mr. Dobbs going to mention the money we could save on Healthcare by using organs taken from the illegals shot by the minuetmen?

You can just imagine.

Chris Mansel

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Conflcied and Taking His Time

The Washington Post is reporting that America, lo, a certian section of Minnesota is conflicted over the war in Afghanistan. Well, welcome to the game. With the question of 40,000 more troops looming over the political head of President Obama, which the New York Times says he is taking his time in deciding, the troops avoiding roadside bombs meanwhile don't have the luxury of being conflicted. Nor do they have the convience of "taking their time".

Private John Doe, report for you're 4th tour of Afghanistan on January 11, 2010.

Gee, I don't know Lt. I'm kinda conflicted and I would like to take my time.

Private Doe, you will serve X amount of time in Levenworth.

Meanwhile, the events of Washington go merrily on as Private Doe is no longer conflicted. He is, rather decidely focused upon each waking moment of his new sentence he is now serving.

Chris Mansel

The State of the Union: Molly Ivins

The Diocese Vs The Rule of Law

If it wasn't enough to simply move them around the country or the world from one place of oppurtunity to another, pay anything to prevent a trial, the Catholic Church's subjects are going through the court system to at least offer support for some of their own who have sexually abused children. Perhaps they should produce some Public Service Announcements with famous Catholics. No? Rats leave the sinking ship in times of crisis? - Chris Mansel

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) -- The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington is obligated to pay retirement benefits to six priests who are confirmed pedophiles, church officials argued in a bankruptcy court filing seeking permission to keep making the payments.

After filing for Chapter 11 protection last month, the diocese agreed not to make payments to priests accused of sexual abuse without court approval. That agreement was made after objections were raised by attorneys for alleged abuse victims who now sit on a creditors committee.

In a filing submitted late Thursday, attorneys for the diocese now seek authorization to provide pensions, housing costs and medical coverage to six confirmed child abusers. They cited an obligation to care for retired clergy, including priests dismissed from public ministry and facing laicization, or defrocking.

"Only the Vatican has the power to laicize clergy," the diocese said. "Thus, while several priests have been dismissed from the public ministry and have laicization proceedings pending against them, for the time being they remain clergy whom the debtor supports, and must continue to support."

(laicize -to remove the clerical character or nature of; secularize: to laicize a school; to laicize the office of headmaster. -

Beck to the Future

It was just after dawn when Glenn Beck strolled back into his New Canaan, Conn. home. He had just spent almost an entire night listening to a tape of his television show at top volume with a gun across his lap and threatening anyone within shouting range to ask him to turn it down. Occassionly firing into the air and cursing the name of Obama as only a devout christian who has many followers can do, Beck, now inside his home reaches for his copy of the current Rush Limbaugh newsletter and performs an unspeakable act.

Chris Mansel

Monday, March 17, 2008

American Prosthesis

Part 1

Hospital tile and a sense of responsibility, that's what hit me when I first walked into a Veteran's hospital. I had been in triage situations in combat and hospital ships, Army hospitals in Germany, but this was different. This is the place where politicians come to be photographed and soldiers to be ignored. Any time day or night you can walk down the hallways and see blood trickling onto the floor or hear a voice crying out for help. After a while you start to wonder if all of the missing limbs aren't gathered somewhere in a room in the hospital, perhaps on another floor waiting to be reissued to another body.

It's not like the recruiting letters say, it's not like the news footage will show you. There are some who do want to return to battle but only to return to their buddies who they have fought beside for what seemed like an eternity, and there are some who want to go back and kill something, anyone. Their minds are twisted from fatigue and now their bodies deformed by gunfire or an explosion sit and drool staring at the television screen. They are never photographed with a visiting dignitary, that traffic is led away from the more troublesome rooms.

On my first visit there I saw a young Army private fall out of his room into the hallway screaming as his prosthetic limb gave way. He hit the floor hard and he swung his crutch at anyone who tried to help him up. He was crying uncontrollably. He started to shake and couldn’t stop his anger until another patient, a young black man with the lower half of his arm missing got down on the floor and took hold of him and held him as best he could until he calmed down. For a few minutes they were both cussing and yelling. The sounds they made went through the walls and out into the open, through the pressure built in the interstate by the hospital and into the neighborhoods they grew up in that would never except them back in the shape their mangled bodies were in now.

Napoleon Bonaparte said, "Go Sir, and don't forget that the world was made in six days. You can ask me for anything you like, except time." Strange words from a ruthless dictator but most of the patients in Veteran's Hospitals are here suffering from the words of ruthless dictators in one way or another. One day while touring the hospital and interviewing soldiers I came upon a young man who had lost his right arm and both legs. His demeanor was about what you'd expect. He greeted me with, "What in the hell are you and what in the hell do you want?"

I told him how sorry I was that he was in the condition he was in and I only wanted to ask him some questions. He snapped back, "Any goddamn answers you could want got blown off with my legs, man!" I backed out of the room quietly and started back down the hallway and heard him shouting back at me, "Hey, you giving up that easy, you just ain’t got it man, just ain't got it!" I stuck my head back in his doorway and he threw a glass of water at me just missing my head.

"Incoming!" He laughed loudly.

I said, "So I guess you want to talk, huh?"

His eyes cut through me as I entered the room; the rage in his voice was troubling
But it could be understood. He looked at my clothes and back up to my eyes and said, “Ever been there?”

I answered back, “Yea, four weeks ago as a matter of fact.”

“Four weeks ago…” He let the words fill the room before he spoke again. Embedded?

“No, we were doing freelance work.”

He lowered his brow, “We? You had someone else with you? Couldn’t handle it on you own?”

“Not exactly, my partner was there with me. He’s in town right now just not with me right now.”

“What he didn’t want to come in here and look at us?”

“What do you think?” I asked him this with a look to let him know the answer. We seemed to have wandered off the subject but I figured I would just let him talk. He was quiet for a few minutes and when he finally spoke again it wasn’t about my partner.

“You get hit, or Blackwater tuck you in at night like a good little mama’s bitch?”

I told him the story of Jack Random and myself and the family we helped to escape the private security forces, about the major and the redneck Army guy. He didn’t seem surprised.

He smiled and smiled a sad smile, “You think that was anything special?”

He reached down and lifted his blanket and scratched at his hip so nonchalantly that I don’t think he even realized he was doing it. The scar he revealed was hideous. I could tell he hadn’t been to long in recovery. I had seen wounds in his state before and I could tell that he had still to see several stages of draining of the wound which meant a few more times in surgery which meant more mental strain on his already fragile ego.

“Questions, like what questions? How I got my legs blown off, my arm, what? Tell me?” He asked impatiently.

I replied that I was curious about his experiences with his fellow soldiers and Iraqi civilians. I explained that I didn’t write for any major publication and I didn’t have an agenda.

He faced away from me and all the color went away from his face and said, “Well, I don’t know what to tell you man, I’m dead, just dead.” Tears began streaming down his face in a continuous flow to a point where they would not stop. He took a gun that I didn’t see and put it in his mouth and looked around the room and I thought he was going to pull the trigger. I jumped up from my chair and he fell out of the bed and I screamed: I just couldn’t help it. His face twisted with rage. I jumped back against the wall as several orderlies came to the door quickly and he took the gun out of his mouth and yelled for them to shut the fucking door.

His eyes were directly at me now and he put the gun back in his mouth and I must have gone pale because the orderlies at the small glass window in the door disappeared for a moment and came back with an older man who I guessed was a doctor I hadn’t seen before. He held up a piece of paper that had written on it a short message, “Do you have any medical conditions?”

For a moment I forgot about my safety and concerned myself with that short note. Here across from me sat a young man who had lost both his legs and one of his arms in the service of his country who now had a gun in his mouth and all they were worried about were getting sued by a journalist.

Saliva began to pour out of his mouth and the tears stopped. I felt so sorry for him but I was afraid to say anything. I had been in situations similar to this before and I had learned from experience to allow the individual to calm themselves down in their own time.

Outside the door I could hear the rustling and panic in the hallway. I could sense the sirens, the news vans, and every cliché you’ve ever seen. This was after all a Veteran’s Hospital in Washington D. C., the nation’s capital. The home of whoredom and the constant leaking ship of news that forever set sail on the putrid waters of suffering that wouldn’t for a second pass an opportunity to cover a story like this. I wondered to myself if the young man had thought past putting the gun in his mouth, if he had organized in his mind what he wanted to say or if he was so traumatized he could even see past the door of the room in his mind or with his eyes.

For a moment I looked over at him and he took the gun out of his mouth. He started to say something and raised the gun back up to his lips and squeezed the trigger a little, my eyes were so focused on his finger I could hardly breathe. But then he took the gun away from his mouth and rested it against the side of his head and said one word, “Gunship.”

There was a loud banging on the door and a voice from the other side said, “Marine you have a hostage in there, you’re a hostile force! Relinquish that weapon!” The Marine screamed out, “Perkins get the fuck away from here before I shoot you instead, asshole.”

As I watched this terrified young man, and he was young, barely over the age of twenty, I thought that grace be beguiled then it is a dishonor to the living and to the dead. The room quieted down again, almost instantly. There was an eerie silence and in the hallway as well. I wondered what kind of circus was going on outside this small room but mainly I was focused on the young man across from me, I wasn’t as much worried about my life as I was this young man getting the help he needed, surely a healthily young man wouldn’t be holding a gun to his head or in his mouth.

He spoke sooner than I thought he would, and as he began to speak there were knocks at the door which he ignored. I honestly don’t know if he heard them or not.

“If you line up three marine snipers and tell them to aim at the kneecaps of three Iraqi’s standing in the middle of twelve other Iraqi’s by the fourth shot you can be sure that only one weapon if that will be aimed at the spot where shots are coming from. There’s more danger there defending these fuckers from themselves than there is checking out for your buddy beside you.”

He looked at the floor and followed an imaginary spot across the wall up to the door to the small glass window and put the gun back in his mouth. He did this slowly and I knew then he wasn’t serious about shooting himself, I had seen this kind of hysteria before in a standoff with a police officer in Georgia. Maybe he would feel more comfortable having someone to speak through, especially in this situation. After all this was Washington and they didn’t take to having their Military Industrial Establishment being bad mouthed in print. I could vouch for that personally.

One thing that started to occur to me was the fact that this had to be exploding across the screen of CNN by now taking the attention away from the Presidential campaign and Jack had to be somewhere outside trying to get in. I had no idea if my name had been released or if he knew I was involved but he did know I was coming here today. It wasn’t too long ago we had escaped a shootout in Iraq but this was different, Jack would be running towards the weapon in question.

- Chris Mansel