'The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does the Westerner,' [U.S. commander, General William] Westmoreland famously said. 'Life is plentiful, life is cheap in the Orient.'
Having spoken to survivors of massacres by United States forces at Phi Phu, Trieu Ai, My Luoc and so many other hamlets, I can say with certainty that Westmoreland’s assessment was false.
Decades after the conflict ended, villagers still mourn loved ones — spouses, parents, children — slain in horrific spasms of violence. They told me, too, about what it was like to live for years under American bombs, artillery shells and helicopter gunships; about what it was like to negotiate every aspect of their lives around the “American war,” as they call it; how the war transformed the most mundane tasks — getting water from a well or relieving oneself or working in the fields or gathering vegetables for a hungry family — into life-or-death decisions; about what it was like to live under United States policies that couldn’t have been more callous or contemptuous toward human life.
Not to be missed reporting by the NYT’s intrepid C.J. Chivers…
"Guilty Until Proven Innocent." An Escapee’s Tale.
On the NYT, the account of an American freelance photographer held for seven months in jihadi rebel prisons in Syria. Matthew Schrier, 35, (above, not long after his escape) was robbed, tortured, beaten and accused of working for the C.I.A. by men who then assumed his identity on-line. Kidnapped in Dec. 2012, he escaped on July 29. He returned home to New York this month, with a firsthand jailhouse account of prisons run by Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamist group aligned with Al Qaeda.
Mr. Schrier’s detention is one of more than 15 cases of Westerners, mostly journalists, being abducted or disappearing in Syria this year. The victims range from seasoned correspondents to new freelancers, like Mr. Schrier, who was covering his first war.
Some were abducted in 2012, others a few weeks ago. Many are thought to be held by two Al Qaeda-aligned groups. At least one is believed to be a captive of Mr. Assad’s intelligence services.
For many cases there are few leads. The victims have vanished — a pattern that makes Mr. Schrier’s account exceptional and rare.
His experience also suggests the difficult choices for foreign governments that in principle support the rebels’ goal of overthrowing a dictatorship accused of using chemical weapons against civilians, but in practice fear aiding opposition factions that embrace terrorist tactics, intolerant religious rule or the same behaviors — abduction, torture, extralegal detention — that have characterized the Assad family’s reign.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPH
By U.S. State Department consular services in Turkey. The photo was used in Mr. Schrier’s replacement passport, with which he recently flew home.
U.S. Plans Base for Surveillance Drones in Africa - NYTimes.com
This “new drone base in northwest Africa would join a constellation of small airstrips in recent years on the continent, including in Ethiopia, for surveillance missions flown by drones or turboprop planes designed to look like civilian aircraft,” writes Eric Schmitt in today’s New York Times. He continues: “If the base is approved, the most likely location for it would be in , a largely desert nation on the eastern border of Mali. The American military’s Africa Command, or Africom, is also discussing options for the base with other countries in the region, including Burkina Faso, officials said.”
Ideally, the 66,000 American troops would already be leaving, and all of them would be out as soon as safely possible; by our estimate, that would be the end of this year. The war that started after Sept. 11, 2001, would be over and securing the country would be up to Afghanistan’s 350,000-member security force, including the army and police, which the United States has spent $39 billion to train and equip over a decade.
But there is a conflict between the ideal and the political reality. Mr. Obama has yet to decide how fast he will withdraw the remaining troops, and the longer he delays, the more he enables military commanders who inevitably want to keep the maximum number of troops in Afghanistan for the maximum amount of time.
This is a dark, dark tunnel. There is no good ending to this. Assad believes he is winning.
JOSHUA LANDIS, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, on a speech in which President Bashar al-Assad of Syria defended a crackdown and sought to rally supporters.
Ex-Officer Is First From C.I.A. to Face Prison for a Leak - NYTimes.com
John Kiriakou is the first CIA officer to go to prison for America’s War on Terror torture program. But John Kiriakou didn’t torture anyone. His crime? He told members of the press about the CIA’s torture program.
Read the New York Times' account here. And for more (and in my opinion, better) context, read this piece by State Department whistleblower Peter Van Buren here.
Every night until dawn, after people in apartment buildings and houses put out their sorted and bagged garbage for pickup from the sidewalks, the waiting piles are quietly picked over by some 5,000 scavengers called “canners.” In the dark, they loom as silhouettes carrying giant plastic sacks to cart away countless soda cans and bottles, redeemable for 5 cents each.
Among Top News Stories, a War Is Missing - NYTimes.com
Wars? What wars? The New York Times reports that, in examining end-of-the-year lists of 2012’s top news stories, the Pew Research Center found that “the public’s interest in news stories showed such a low level of interest that the overseas conflicts didn’t make the organization’s list of the year’s top 15 stories.”
A vitally important piece by the New York Times' intrepid C.J. Chivers on the effects of cluster munitions on civilians in the small Syrian town of Marea.
I’ve personally witnessed the effects cluster munitions have on the human body and talked to parents who have lost children to them. One word describes both: devastating.
Thankfully, as Chivers writes, “use of cluster munitions is banned by much of the world.” But “much” isn’t all. He further notes that “Syria, like the United States, is not party to that international convention.”
Read the full article at: “Syria Uses Cluster Bombs to Attack as Many Civilians as Possible” - NYTimes.com