Tag Archives: collateral damage

The Innocence of U.S. Foreign Policy

 

By Robert C. Koehler
COTO Report

The Saturday headline in the Wall Street Journal was: “Anti-U.S. Mobs on Rampage.”

The next day, a NATO airstrike killed eight women collecting firewood in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, an event that garnered virtually zero mainstream U.S. headlines.

Somewhere in the gap between these two phenomena — the overheated news about our violent, irrational enemies in the Middle East and the silence surrounding our war and occupation of the region — lies American politics, values, the presidential race, the national identity. Beyond that gap lies the truth about who we are, and only when we have access to it does the future turn into creative possibility and peace become possible.

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The Bad Apple

By Robert C. Koehler

So it turns out that mass-murder suspect Robert Bales once used a bad word in a Facebook conversation.

This is one of the more bizarre details of his life that has come breathlessly to light in the media, along with his big smile, arrest record and disastrous financial dealings. The word was “hadji” (misspelled “hagi”), which is the racial slur of choice among U.S. troops to denigrate Iraqis; and stories where I have read about his use of it fixate on it judgmentally, as though to suggest it might explain something: the tiny flaw that reveals a propensity for massacring children.

Something had to be wrong with him, right?

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Project Bugsplat

Holiday season cycles around again, and my book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound, could be a healing gift for anyone you know experiencing loss or grief. The book, of mostly personal columns reflecting on the miracle and comedy of life, has been reduced in price through the end of the year.  A purchase also helps me keep the column afloat.  More info below.

By Robert C. Koehler

“The Lakotah had no language for insulting other orders of existence: pest, waste, weed . . .”

But what about “bugsplat”?

That’s the word for the cop at UC Davis, walking up and down the line of students sitting with their arms locked, zapping them in the eyes with pepper spray. It’s the word for the Tunisian police and bureaucrats who humiliated Mohamed Bouazizi and destroyed his livelihood as a street vendor. It’s the word for anyone whose power exceeds his humanity.

And, according to a 2003 Washington Post story, it’s the name of a Defense Department computer program for calculating collateral damage; it’s also, apparently, casual terminology among Pentagon operation planners and the like to refer to the collateral damage itself . . . you know, the dead civilians. CIA drone operators talk about bugsplat. The British organization Reprieve calls its effort to track the number of people killed by U.S. drone strikes — in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen — Project Bugsplat.

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