December 08, 2005
People who "objectively" blog on news/politics should better be careful with their assertions
I do read Nur al-Cubicle's blog on a regular basis. She (I THINK it's a "she" - but maybe I let the fact that "Nur" is a female Arabic name mislead me) is providing an invaluable service to all those of us who either cannot read French/Spanish/Italian or just don't feel like slugging through all the newspapers ...
But I find some of her slants to be cheap, petty, & based on ideological assumptions as opposed to solid reasoning. And what is worse - while in being cheap & petty she is merely putting herself onto the same intellectual level as the rightwing assholes against whom she is trying to write - by letting her emotion-based ideology getting the better of her careful reasoning she is giving them ample ammunition to invalidate ANYthing that she says, just like Cindy Sheehan's antics have done a grave disservice to all those involved in bringing the number of casualties in Iraq to the forefront of public awareness in the U.S.
For instance: in a post titled "Let's Go Kill Us Some Innocent Iraqis" Nur refers to a video shot by members of the private security firm AEGIS. Just watch the video & then come back to this here post.
Seen it? O.K. Welcome back.
Now ... What can be gathered and concluded from this video is the following: The AEGIS men are driving along a highway (presumably the one from central Baghdad to the airport) & are using their weapons to ensure that no car can approach them from behind. My personal guess is that they are afraid of being rammed or blown up by a suicide car-bomb. As you can see in the video, as soon as a car approaches, they start shooting at the car. I suspect that they are aiming at the front (bumper and/or grill) or the engine. OF COURSE, while sitting in a moving vehicle, NOBODY can aim precise enough at another moving car to be absolutely CERTAIN that the driver or passengers of that other car do not get hurt or even killed. And thus, it is clear that the AEGIS men do not care if their shooting will harm/kill the driver/passengers of the vehicle they're shooting at.
But the assertion that the AEGIS men are on a ride to "let's go & kill us some innocent Iraqis" is crap. If they wanted to kill innocent Iraqis, there are simpler, easier ways to do that. (Yes, I KNOW this sounds horrible - but I'm staying within Nur's frame of reference here.) In addition (& as another proof of just how wrong Nur is),as you can see, the AEGIS men do not shoot at oncoming traffic, or cars that they are overtaking. They are clearly not on a "shooting spree".
Now, what Nur al-Cubicle, in her zealous attempt to present her readers with yet another case of "bad white guys commit an act of barbarism against innocent Iraqis", is completely missing is the general problem:
In an attempt to "out-source" the safeguarding of locations - like the Baghdad airport - to private security firms the powers-that-be are producing a situation where these armed people in civilian clothes are driving around in non-marked vehicles (both in order to minimize the danger of being targeted by the armed resistance), are obviously paranoid about being attacked, act according to a "better him than me" modus operandi, and get away with it.
Obviously, these guys might ALSO be racist and might even entertain notions of "let's go bag us some sandniggers" - but the video Nur al-Cubicle (& a host of other bloggers) cites does not prove this allegation. I personally think that the whole system of private security firms is intrinsically problematic and should be addressed as such, as many a publication (I remember reading this one on Salon last year) has done.
In my point of view, if private security firms ARE to be employed (& I have massive problems with that) & if then these guys want to go from one place to another (or even as "foreigners"), & are therefore afraid to drive unarmed in a civilian vehicle ... well, then they should hitch a ride on an army or police vehicle. And I haven't even addressed the issue that the Geneva Conventions apply to them as little as they do to "Al-Qa'idah in Mesopotamia" yet ...
As it stands, I say "move them out of Iraq".
BUT, dear bloggers/journos, please don't make assertions you cannot prove. Instigation of hatred towards "the West" is as bad as instigation to hatred towards "the East".
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Agreed, mate, agreed.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at December 8, 2005 01:01 PM
Good post. Nothing more to say.
Posted by: Baal Shem Ra at December 8, 2005 02:18 PM
wait, actually, I do have something to do.
why would the contractors film this? I have a hard time conceiving that they consider this video evidence will be exculpatory if they kill someone and get in trouble for it.
How can they expect other drivers to guess that an unmarked car contains contractors, especially considering that the point of travelling in an unmarked car is precisely so that no one will guess that it is transporting contractors? Just how much do they have to shoot on a journey?
Posted by: Baal Shem Ra at December 8, 2005 02:52 PM
I'd also observe that the video has been "doctored" by the addition of a bad country music soundtrack. This makes it impossible to hear what the people in the car are saying. Since this video has been edited to highlight shooting incidents, I can only assume that the audio would have been exculpatory.
Posted by: Anonymous at December 8, 2005 07:17 PM
why would the contractors film this? i am not contesting the assertion that it IS some sort of trophy video, but then ... people videotape all sorts of things. as for "exculpatory evidence" - from what i understand about the situation in iraq they do not have to fear much, even IF they are injuring/killing an iraqi.
as for the "how much can they guess ...?" - the shots are intended as warning shots, quite possibly even "disabling" shots (just like the u.s. army snipers are supposed to hit the engine block when stopping a car with a bullet). but you're right: it IS a catch-22. if the other drivers don't know you're a mercenary, then they don't know that it's dangerous to come close to your car -- if you DO let them know you're a mercenary then you're endangering yourself.
in the end, i'd stop the whole "military/security outsourcing". it blurs the lines between military and civilians (ask the humanitarian NGOs how they feel about armed men in civvies) and it creates a legal grey zone in which armed groups can establish their own rules & regulations without any functioning governmental oversight.
ps: i take it that L must either be very weak or heavy on black moroccan to be this nice. i'll enjoy it as long as it lasts.
Posted by: raf* at December 9, 2005 06:05 AM
Black Moroccan? What do you know about me JV?
And yes, I am weak. It's annoying. Very annoying and damned inconvenient.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at December 9, 2005 11:33 AM
in the end, i'd stop the whole "military/security outsourcing".
It'll never happen. "Security outsourcing" is filling the gap left by all the extra troops Rumsfeld swears are not needed in Iraq. If they got rid of private security troops, the administration would be forced to commit a bunch of extra military troops which they won't do as they've been swearing for years that they aren't needed.
Posted by: Anonymous at December 9, 2005 01:23 PM
Raf, I think somebody has made a conscious decision that "private" security forces are desireable in Iraq, precisely because they DO opearte in a gray area. I think it's a horrible idea. But I think it's not going to be changed at this late date, especially when the US is talking about withdrawal of what military forces we have in Iraq. So, the next best thing I guess (to disbanding the private contractors) is to try to figure out a way to make them accountable for their own actions.
Posted by: Craig at December 9, 2005 03:18 PM
dear anonymous & craig,
you don't know me. if you did, you'd never think that i seriously expect this policy to be changed. i'm not cynical, but i'm not naive, either ...
Posted by: raf* at December 10, 2005 12:00 PM
I actually rather like the content of your posts. While I don't necessarily agree with your analysis, I find it interesting and thought provoking. That, to me, is the most valuable thing I find on the internet.
Having said that, I'd like to request a personal favor: proper capitalization. The lack of proper capitalization sets up cognitive dissonance for me when I read your posts. Having said that, at least you do use proper punctuation. If you didn't, my head would probably explode!
Posted by: Anonymous at December 10, 2005 03:11 PM
i only do personal favors to persons. reveal thyself and your request shall be considered.
with all due respect,
Posted by: raf* at December 10, 2005 03:31 PM
Technically, the word 'internet' in that context requires a capital 'I' as exemplified in the sentence, 'The Internet is the largest internet in the world'.
Since you were referring to the former, then the capitalisation rule stands.
Posted by: Meph at December 10, 2005 04:50 PM
I really need to object to the over-use of commas in this whole discussion.
Posted by: Craig at December 11, 2005 04:16 AM
Some have dared question my capitalisation assertion (but obviously not on the site). Please do not make me stoop to pasting links, do your own donkey work.
Posted by: Meph at December 11, 2005 06:43 AM
Posted by: Baal Shem Ra at December 11, 2005 08:28 AM