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What’s your opinion… are congressional legislators ethical?

According to a poll reported on by The Hill:

58 percent of voters think most members of Congress are “unethical,” while only 25 percent consider the majority to be principled. Seventeen percent are unsure.

Furthermore, those polled didn’t seem to trust one party over another… and 68% believe that ethical standards have declined among politicians in recent decades while only 7% thought they had improved.

The poll was taken three days after Weiner announced his responsibility for sending suggestive photographs of himself to women he didn’t know.

69% of those polled said they somewhat or strongly disapproved of the job Congress is doing,  25% said they somewhat approved and just 3% said they strongly approved. 33% said men in office are less ethical than women.

The figures are based on a national survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted by Pulse Opinion Research.

Here we go… Boehner announces new head of House Ethics Committee

This from TPM Muckraker:

Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the House ethics committee who reportedly ordered the Capitol Police to block the doors of the committee’s offices for a week during a dispute over the handling of the ethics case against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), will serve as chairman of the House ethics committee in the 112th Congress.

“The American people have every right to expect the highest standards of ethical conduct from their elected leaders, and it is important for members of both the majority and the minority to work together to ensure that such standards are observed and respected at all times within the institution,” incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said in a statement. “A functioning ethics committee will be central to that effort in the 112th Congress.”

The move almost certainly ensures that the Waters matter will be taken up in the next Congress, despite objections from a lawyer representing the California Democrat.

Read more HERE.

This from HuffPo: Republicans likely to kill the Office of Congressional Ethics…

Here’s part of the article:

With “transparency” and “accountability” the new buzz words amongst the incoming Republican lawmakers in Congress, one fixture that may ironically be on the chopping block is the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog set up to handle ethics complaints.

“Even as they outline institutional reforms, GOP leaders are gearing up to kill the fledgling Office of Congressional Ethics, which helps police ethics complaints,” reported the National Journal on Monday. “They are handpicking top aides, many of them old K Street hands, to staff key committees and Capitol Hill offices. Some tea party activists grouse that lobbyists and insiders are trying to ‘co-opt’ the GOP freshmen.”

John Boehner was one of the House members who originally voted against the establishment of the Office. Given

John Boehner
John Boehner

what the Republicans are known for, it is likely he’ll go after it again.

There was a great comment in the HuffPo post:

This is the primary Difference between Republicans and Democrats:

1. DEMOCRATS: They form an “Ethic Committee” and then prosecute their own members like Charley Rangle.

This allows the Republicans to Say: “See, Charley is Corrupt, so the Dems are corrupt.”

2. REPUBLICANS: They ban the “Ethics Committee” and then nobody gets prosectued.

This allows the Republicans to Say: “See, nobody has been prosecuted under our watch, so we’re not corrupt.

Ah, to know them is to love them.

Is it clear that we took complete advantage of smaller, weaker countries?

This article on the New World Perspective blog is chilling. Here’s part of it, but go in and read it all:

We gave Guatemala Syphilis

And Gonorrhea. But mostly just Syphilis.

In Guatemala from 1946 until 1948, Dr. John Cutler conducted a study under the approval of the US Health authorities and the Guatemalan government to test the effectiveness of penicillin in treating syphilis and gonorrhea.

By hopping over national borders into Guatemala, Cutler and US Health authorities were able to conduct their tests without drawing ethical issues. This a sickening example of US disrespect towards our southern Spanish-speaking neighbors during this era.

Susan Reverby, the historian who unearthed the reports at the University of Pittsburgh, found that they deliberately infected prisoners and mental institution patients without their knowledge or consent.

Their primary method of inoculation? Prostitution. They had infected prostitutes sleep with the patients.

Saying “sorry” fifty years later is too little, too late. It’s as if to say, “Oh by the way, Guatemala, you might want to get tested…our bad!”.

blog it

Another Democrat Faces Ethics Charges…

clipped from www.salon.com
A second House Democrat, Rep. Maxine Waters of California, could face an ethics trial this fall, further complicating the election outlook for the party as it battles to retain its majority.
People familiar with the investigation, who were not authorized to be quoted about charges before they are made public, say the allegations could be announced next week. The House ethics committee declined Friday to make any public statement on the matter.
Waters, 71, has been under investigation for a possible conflict of interest involving a bank that was seeking federal aid. Her husband owned stock in the bank and had served on its board.
Waters came under scrutiny after former Treasury Department officials said she helped arrange a meeting between regulators and executives at Boston-based OneUnited Bank without mentioning her husband’s financial ties to the institution.
Her husband, Sidney Williams, held at least $250,000 in the bank’s stock and previously had served on its board.
blog it
Waters’ spokesman has said Williams was no longer on the board when the meeting was arranged. She defended her role in assisting minority-owned banks in the midst of the nation’s financial meltdown and dismissed suggestions she used her influence to steer government aid to the bank.

“I am confident that as the investigation moves forward the panel will discover that there are no facts to support allegations that I have acted improperly,” Waters said in a prior statement.

This article from Truthout is one of the most disturbing pieces on the Iraq War that I have read…

Recognizing the Creative Commons Attribute on this article from Truthout, I am reproducing it in full.

I dare anyone to read it and not be ready to pull all troops out of the Middle East now.

This is disgusting.

– Bill T.

___________________________________________________________

Iraq War Vet: “We Were Told to Just Shoot People, and the Officers Would Take Care of Us”

Wednesday 07 April 2010

by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t | Report

photo
(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: The U.S. Army, K. OS, whiteblot)

On Monday, April 5, Wikileaks.org posted video footage from Iraq, taken from a US military Apache helicopter in July 2007 as soldiers aboard it killed 12 people and wounded two children. The dead included two employees of the Reuters news agency: photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh.

The US military confirmed the authenticity of the video.

The footage clearly shows an unprovoked slaughter, and is shocking to watch whilst listening to the casual conversation of the soldiers in the background.

As disturbing as the video is, this type of behavior by US soldiers in Iraq is not uncommon.

Truthout has spoken with several soldiers who shared equally horrific stories of the slaughtering of innocent Iraqis by US occupation forces.

“I remember one woman walking by,” said Jason Washburn, a corporal in the US Marines who served three tours in Iraq. He told the audience at the Winter Soldier hearings that took place March 13-16, 2008, in Silver Spring, Maryland, “She was carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading toward us, so we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher, and when the dust settled, we realized that the bag was full of groceries. She had been trying to bring us food and we blew her to pieces.”

The hearings provided a platform for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to share the reality of their occupation experiences with the media in the US.

Washburn testified on a panel that discussed the rules of engagement (ROE) in Iraq, and how lax they were, to the point of being virtually nonexistent.

“During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot,” Washburn’s testimony continued, “The higher the threat the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond. Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry ‘drop weapons’, or by my third tour, ‘drop shovels’. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent.”

Hart Viges, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army who served one year in Iraq, told of taking orders over the radio.

“One time they said to fire on all taxicabs because the enemy was using them for transportation…. One of the snipers replied back, ‘Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Fire on all taxicabs?’ The lieutenant colonel responded, ‘You heard me, trooper, fire on all taxicabs.’ After that, the town lit up, with all the units firing on cars. This was my first experience with war, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the deployment.”

Vincent Emanuele, a Marine rifleman who spent a year in the al-Qaim area of Iraq near the Syrian border, told of emptying magazines of bullets into the city without identifying targets, running over corpses with Humvees and stopping to take “trophy” photos of bodies.

“An act that took place quite often in Iraq was taking pot shots at cars that drove by,” he said, “This was not an isolated incident, and it took place for most of our eight-month deployment.”

Kelly Dougherty – then executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War – blamed the behavior of soldiers in Iraq on policies of the US government.

“The abuses committed in the occupations, far from being the result of a ‘few bad apples’ misbehaving, are the result of our government’s Middle East policy, which is crafted in the highest spheres of US power,” she said.

Michael Leduc, a corporal in the Marines who was part of the US attack on Fallujah in November 2004, said orders he received from his battalion JAG officer before entering the city were as follows: “You see an individual with a white flag and he does anything but approach you slowly and obey commands, assume it’s a trick and kill him.”

Bryan Casler, a corporal in the Marines, spoke of witnessing the prevalent dehumanizing outlook soldiers took toward Iraqis during the invasion of Iraq.

“… on these convoys, I saw Marines defecate into MRE bags or urinate in bottles and throw them at children on the side of the road,” he stated.

Scott Ewing, who served in Iraq from 2005-2006, admitted on one panel that units intentionally gave candy to Iraqi children for reasons other than “winning hearts and minds.

“There was also another motive,” Ewing said. “If the kids were around our vehicles, the bad guys wouldn’t attack. We used the kids as human shields.”

In response to the WikiLeaks video, the Pentagon, while not officially commenting on the video, announced that two Pentagon investigations cleared the air crew of any wrongdoing.

A statement from the two probes said the air crew had acted appropriately and followed the ROE.

Adam Kokesh served in Fallujah beginning in February 2004 for roughly one year.

Speaking on a panel at the aforementioned hearings about the ROE, he held up the ROE card soldiers are issued in Iraq and said, “This card says, ‘Nothing on this card prevents you from using deadly force to defend yourself’.”

Kokesh pointed out that “reasonable certainty” was the condition for using deadly force under the ROE, and this led to rampant civilian deaths. He discussed taking part in the April 2004 siege of Fallujah. During that attack, doctors at Fallujah General Hospital told Truthout there were 736 deaths, over 60 percent of which were civilians.

“We changed the ROE more often than we changed our underwear,” Kokesh said, “At one point, we imposed a curfew on the city, and were told to fire at anything that moved in the dark.”

Kokesh also testified that during two cease-fires in the midst of the siege, the military decided to let out as many women and children from the embattled city as possible, but this did not include most men.

“For males, they had to be under 14 years of age,” he said, “So I had to go over there and turn men back, who had just been separated from their women and children. We thought we were being gracious.”

Steve Casey served in Iraq for over a year starting in mid-2003.

“We were scheduled to go home in April 2004, but due to rising violence we stayed in with Operation Blackjack,” Casey said, “I watched soldiers firing into the radiators and windows of oncoming vehicles. Those who didn’t turn around were unfortunately neutralized one way or another – well over 20 times I personally witnessed this. There was a lot of collateral damage.”

Jason Hurd served in central Baghdad from November 2004 until November 2005. He told of how, after his unit took “stray rounds” from a nearby firefight, a machine gunner responded by firing over 200 rounds into a nearby building.

“We fired indiscriminately at this building,” he said. “Things like that happened every day in Iraq. We reacted out of fear for our lives, and we reacted with total destruction.”

Hurd said the situation deteriorated rapidly while he was in Iraq. “Over time, as the absurdity of war set in, individuals from my unit indiscriminately opened fire at vehicles driving down the wrong side of the road. People in my unit would later brag about it. I remember thinking how appalled I was that we were laughing at this, but that was the reality.”

Other soldiers Truthout has interviewed have often laughed when asked about their ROE in Iraq.

Garret Reppenhagen served in Iraq from February 2004-2005 in the city of Baquba, 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) northeast of Baghdad. He said his first experience in Iraq was being on a patrol that killed two Iraqi farmers as they worked in their field at night.

“I was told they were out in the fields farming because their pumps only operated with electricity, which meant they had to go out in the dark when there was electricity,” he explained, “I asked the sergeant, if he knew this, why did he fire on the men. He told me because the men were out after curfew. I was never given another ROE during my time in Iraq.”

Emmanuel added: “We took fire while trying to blow up a bridge. Many of the attackers were part of the general population. This led to our squad shooting at everything and anything in order to push through the town. I remember myself emptying magazines into the town, never identifying a target.”

Emmanuel spoke of abusing prisoners he knew were innocent, adding, “We took it upon ourselves to harass them, and took them to the desert to throw them out of our Humvees, while kicking and punching them when we threw them out.”

Jason Wayne Lemue is a Marine who served three tours in Iraq.

“My commander told me, ‘Kill those who need to be killed, and save those who need to be saved’; that was our mission on our first tour,” he said of his first deployment during the invasion.

“After that the ROE changed, and carrying a shovel, or standing on a rooftop talking on a cell phone, or being out after curfew [meant those people] were to be killed. I can’t tell you how many people died because of this. By my third tour, we were told to just shoot people, and the officers would take care of us.”

When this Truthout reporter was in Baghdad in November 2004, my Iraqi interpreter was in the Abu Hanifa mosque that was raided by US and Iraqi soldiers during Friday prayers.

“Everyone was there for Friday prayers, when five Humvees and several trucks carrying [US soldiers and] Iraqi National Guards entered,” Abu Talat told Truthout on the phone from within the mosque while the raid was in progress. “Everyone starting yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is the greatest) because they were frightened. Then the soldiers started shooting the people praying!”

“They have just shot and killed at least four of the people praying,” he said in a panicked voice, “At least 10 other people are wounded now. We are on our bellies and in a very bad situation.”

Iraqi Red Crescent later confirmed to Truthout that at least four people were killed, and nine wounded. Truthout later witnessed pieces of brain splattered on one of the walls inside the mosque while large blood stains covered carpets at several places.

This type of indiscriminate killing has been typical from the initial invasion of Iraq.

Truthout spoke with Iraq war veteran and former National Guard and Army Reserve member Jason Moon, who was there for the invasion.

“While on our initial convoy into Iraq in early June 2003, we were given a direct order that if any children or civilians got in front of the vehicles in our convoy, we were not to stop, we were not to slow down, we were to keep driving. In the event an insurgent attacked us from behind human shields, we were supposed to count. If there were thirty or less civilians we were allowed to fire into the area. If there were over thirty, we were supposed to take fire and send it up the chain of command. These were the rules of engagement. I don’t know about you, but if you are getting shot at from a crowd of people, how fast are you going to count, and how accurately?”

Moon brought back a video that shows his sergeant declaring, “The difference between an insurgent and an Iraqi civilian is whether they are dead or alive.”

Moon explains the thinking: “If you kill a civilian he becomes an insurgent because you retroactively make that person a threat.”

According to the Pentagon probes of the killings shown in the WikiLeaks video, the air crew had “reason to believe” the people seen in the video were fighters before opening fire.

Article 48 of the Geneva Conventions speaks to the “basic rule” regarding the protection of civilians:

“In order to ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and civilian objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.”

What is happening in Iraq seems to reflect what psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton calls “atrocity-producing situations.” He used this term first in his book “The Nazi Doctors.” In 2004, he wrote an article for The Nation, applying his insights to the Iraq War and occupation.

“Atrocity-producing situations,” Lifton wrote, occur when a power structure sets up an environment where “ordinary people, men or women no better or worse than you or I, can regularly commit atrocities…. This kind of atrocity-producing situation … surely occurs to some degrees in all wars, including World War II, our last ‘good war.’ But a counterinsurgency war in a hostile setting, especially when driven by profound ideological distortions, is particularly prone to sustained atrocity – all the more so when it becomes an occupation.”

Cliff Hicks served in Iraq from October 2003 to August 2004.

“There was a tall apartment complex, the only spot from where people could see over our perimeter,” Hicks told Truthout, “There would be laundry hanging off the balconies, and people hanging out on the roof for fresh air. The place was full of kids and families. On rare occasions, a fighter would get atop the building and shoot at our passing vehicles. They never really hit anybody. We just knew to be careful when we were over by that part of the wall, and nobody did shit about it until one day a lieutenant colonel was driving down and they shot at his vehicle and he got scared. So he jumped through a bunch of hoops and cut through some red tape and got a C-130 to come out the next night and all but leveled the place. Earlier that evening when I was returning from a patrol the apartment had been packed full of people.”

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