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The Balloonist

By MacDonald Harris and Philip Pullman

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Chris Hedges and the ‘Other War’

Posted on Aug 8, 2007

Camilo Mejía was one of 50 combat veterans interviewed for the article.

(Page 2)

Hedges: Having spent two decades in pretty hopeless situations, I’d love to buy into that American method of everything can be made better.  Sometimes it can’t be made better, and sometimes you do things that only make them worse.  I think that an American withdrawal is pretty clear would unleash a kind of bloodbath between competing factions: Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd.  I don’t see much good that’s going to come out of this.  I mean the repercussions within the region, because of our blunders, are going to be immense.  And counterproductive to American interests.  And very possibly leading to a kind of regional conflict, especially if the Bush administration, or the neocons in the Bush administrations, decide they want to start dropping cruise missiles on Iran.  You know, the tragedy of the war in Iraq is that the policy that was instituted after the first Gulf War, which was a policy of containment, was working.  The Iraqi military was a shadow of what it has been in 1991.  The regime was isolated and reviled.  Uday, the heir apparent, Saddam’s eldest son, was crippled and nearly killed in an assassination attempt.  Saddam was sitting in one of his many palaces writing bizarre romance novels. ...  That’s what so sad.  And the weapons inspectors, by the way, did their job.  I mean, there were no biological or chemical agents left after they destroyed all these artillery dumps which had shells that did have biological and chemical agents in them in the aftermath of the Gulf War.  So, we took a policy that was working and substituted for [it] a policy that doesn’t work.  And we’re all going to pay the consequences.

Scheer: Well, my point wasn’t that we could fix it in a week or two.  I just want to know if it’s a fixable problem in the next 50 years, 20 years, 100 years? 

Hedges: The short term doesn’t look good.  It depends on so much.  There’s going to be a scramble for resources, especially for oil resources.  There’s huge water disputes between Syria and Turkey.  There’s a lot that could go wrong.  And unless we can get some astute management in there pretty soon, both in terms of the United States, the industrialized countries, and the United Nations, things don’t look so good. 

Scheer: Now I want to ask another question.  You were the bureau chief for quite some time from The New York Times.  Do you think they would have printed this if you had given it to them?  What would their reaction have been?


Square, Site wide

Hedges: I think the story they would have printed.  Remember, there are no anonymous sources; these are all on the record.  Everything was taped.  That’s why it took seven months to complete.  Yeah, I think they, I mean, what we wanted was something that was just so transparent and so carefully done and so bulletproof that it just, you know, the sheer—the accuracy of it and the sheer weight of it would be impossible to refute.  So I’m certain the Times, you know, would have run; they might not have run it in quite this configuration. ... And they certainly wouldn’t have given me 15,000 words.  But I could see them running this.  I mean, the power of the piece is that it’s all on the record.

Harris: How about the soldiers?  Did they have any recommendations for what’s next?  Did they give you any indication about what they thought about the war in general now that they were home? 

Hedges: Well, I would say the vast majority not only oppose the war, but would want the troops to come home.  And that was the motivation for speaking with us.  In terms of policy recommendations, beyond that, that really wasn’t, they may have some, we didn’t ask them that; that really wasn’t our focus.  Our focus was really tightly controlled.  I mean, we wanted to know how convoys were run and checkpoints were set up and how suppressing fire worked, and that was really the focus of the interview.  We weren’t writing a policy piece, so those were questions, if they came up, they came up inadvertently.

Harris: “The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness.”  When is the book coming out?

Hedges: We are going to do a book. ...  I don’t know what percentage [of the material] got in the magazine, but it’s certainly somewhere between 5-10 percent, but there was just so much there and so much of it was so powerful that we do want to put it together for a book.  And we’ll bring it out hopefully at the beginning of next year.

Harris: Well, thank you, Chris, for joining us.  For Josh Scheer and for Truthdig contributor Chris Hedges, this is James Harris, and this is Truthdig.

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By John Borowski, September 17, 2007 at 1:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The dissertation by Kem Patrick #95871 confirms what I have always believed in. This is an evil and insane society on the cusp of nuclear extinction. If you think that human kind is made in the image and likeness of a god that should tell you what kind of god you believe in.

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By John Borowski, September 10, 2007 at 11:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Worry not about an attack on Iran. With the stock market in intensive care and the little guys (The smart ones) putting their money in their mattresses. Ignoring the fact some are heavy smokers; any attack will be postponed. That is all the stock market and the US economy needs, especially if the attack on Iran goes badly.

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By Douglas Chalmers, August 23, 2007 at 4:16 am Link to this comment

#Chris Hedges: Well, I think we have to be clear that there are different types of war….....

This is, of course, historically correct but, as Hedges shows us, is also relevant as far as the emotional impact on American troops is concerned. As invaders and usurpers, they soon lose what moral courage they have and then they soon being to lose their humanity.

That doesn’t keep them from the consequences of extreme and constant stress, though. Even when off-duty behind the walls of their compounds, they are subject to the pressures of the thoughts of what has happened, what will happen and what might happen.

A well- written story, an excellent interview (even if Scheer jr can’t pronounce Iraq) and further indication that Truthdig only understands politics as regards this illusory war and little else. Perhaps Scheer + Scheer should even produce a “Boys Own Annual” 1900-style of manly stories of empire and derring-do as their ultimate trip, uhh!?!?

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By joe46, August 22, 2007 at 9:06 am Link to this comment

Wars are good for arms merchants and undertakers.

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By Outraged, August 21, 2007 at 9:30 pm Link to this comment

RE: #95871 by Kem Patrick on 8/19 at 12:16 am

Excellent post. Thank you for being right on the mark and bringing more of this catastrophe to light.

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By Kem Patrick, August 19, 2007 at 1:16 am Link to this comment

The one crime of the two Gulf Wars that our American press seldom if ever mentions, for it is a no-no to mention it for some strange reason, is the type of weapons used in those wars. The United States government is guilty of the greatest crime against humanity EVER committed in recorded history. This crime will kill tens of millions of people within the next ten to twenty years and ‘forever’ steralize the lands of the Mid-East for safe habitat for any.

Those statements may sound dramatic, but they are absolutely factual and true, in fact they may be classified as under-statements. The use of depleted uranium in weaponry has assured, that anyone who has been to Iraq for even one day, is going to suffer from radiation poisoning and it will eventually kill them. The longer a person has been there the sooner the symptoms of the incurable disease will appear.

Here is just one example of many. In the year 1991, there were 32,000 cases of cancers in children in Iraq. In 1997, that figure had risen to 130,000. I do not have any statistics for the cancer rate in children after the year 1997, but last year, the radiation readings in Baghdad were 2,000 times the normal background readings. An increse of ten would be cause for concern, a rise of 2,000 is cause for stating, the U.S. is guilty of mass murder-genocide__ which still goes un-reported.

There are over one million sites avlaible on the web related to the subject of DU weapons. Some are spin put out by our government to hide the truth; why not do everything possible to hide such a crime? Here are some facts written by esteemed doctors and scientists on the subject of DU, that are un-arguable.

DU in a solid form, such as the ten pound warhead of the type used for an Abrams tank shell, is relatively harmless to handle, as is any depleted uranium in solid form. When fired however, the projectile burns and the resulting cloud of smoke, is filled with trillions of microscopic specks of deadly uranium #238. The wind will carry those specks of invisible death for miles and if inhaled, a single speck will insure lung or brain cancer.

Nano-particles of DU, smaller than one billionth of a meter, when inhaled through the nose, can cross the olfactory bulb and pass directly to the brain and cancer is assured. It may also effect the mitochondria and serious diseases such as Parkinsons, Hodgkins, Lou Gehrigs, and others can result. DU in the body will alter DNA, and attack the immune system. Inhaling a single speck of DU is a disaster for the body, if one is in Iraq for any length of time, they can bet they will inhale many more than just one.

Our government began testing DU weaons in the late 1960s here in the United States on military firing and bombing ranges. We have expended many thousands of tons of the atomic waste material since that time in our own country. One should keep in mind, there are five billion specks of the deadly dust in a single cupfull. There are trillions times trillions of specks drifting in our air from firing thousands of tons. Finally, DU is indestructable, only time will destroy it. DU’s half life,___ is 4.5 billion years.

Google depleted uranium and check it out. Please do not take my word, see what the experts have to say on the issue; beware of those who deny, they either have monetary or political reasons for denying or avoiding the issue.

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By againstneocons, August 14, 2007 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Quote - typical US poli-tick’n:
“Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney avoided Vietnam with his Mormon missionary work, and high draft lottery number. Last week, after delivering a speech in Bettendorf, Iowa, calling for a “surge of support” for our forces in Iraq, Romney was asked why none of his 5 sons had joined the military. “They are showing support for their nation,” said Romney, “by helping me get elected because they think I’d be a great president.” Romney’s net worth exceeds two hundred million dollars.”

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By richard kobzey, August 14, 2007 at 4:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris Hedges is boring.

How long has this thread been sitting here?

20 comments now…

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By againstneocons, August 13, 2007 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Was It Really Worth It, Mrs. Albright?

By Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair

What moved those kamikaze Muslims to embark, some many months ago on the training that they knew would culminate in their deaths as well of those (they must have hoped) of thousands upon thousands of innocent people? Was it the Koran plus a tape from Osama bin Laden? The dream of a world in which all men wear untrimmed beards and women have to stay at home or go outside only when enveloped in blue tents? I doubt it. If I had to cite what steeled their resolve the list would surely include the exchange on CBS in 1996 between [Bill Clinton’s (Zionist) Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright and then US ambassador to the United Nations and Lesley Stahl. Albright was maintaining that sanctions had yielded important concessions from Saddam Hussein.

Stahl: “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And you know, is the price worth it?”

Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price ­ we think

the price is worth it.”

They read that exchange in the Middle East. It was infamous all over the Arab world. I’ll bet the September 11 kamikazes knew it well enough, just as they could tell you the crimes wrought against the Palestinians. So would it be unfair today to take Madeleine Albright down to the ruins of the Trade Towers, remind her of that exchange, and point out that the price turned out also to include that awful mortuary. Was that price worth it too, Mrs. Albright?

Well, the typists and messenger boys and back-office staffs throughout the Trade Center didn’t know that history. There’s a lot of other relevant history they probably didn’t know but which those men on the attack planes did. How could those people in the Towers have known, when US political and journalistic culture is a conspiracy to perpetuate their ignorance? Those people on the Towers were innocent portions of the price that Albright insisted, in just one of its applications, as being worth it. It would honor their memory to insist that in future our press offers a better accounting of how America’s wars for Freedom are fought and what the actual price might include.


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By GrammaConcept, August 13, 2007 at 11:06 am Link to this comment

God Is Love; war is hell…Strive On…Strive On…Strive On.

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By Bill Abernathy, August 13, 2007 at 9:50 am Link to this comment

How can you tell which I am…I at least, unlike Chris Hedges, I know the difference between an imperialist and a fascist government like we have in the good-old u.s.a.

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By Outraged, August 13, 2007 at 12:44 am Link to this comment

Re: #94010 by Bill Abernathy on 8/11 at 11:51 am
(54 comments total)

“I agree with ardee on one point, there are diffirent kinds of Americans: there are those who are simpathic to individuals who are oppressed, and those who would exploit the oppressed in order to further their own personal agenda.”

Well said Bill! Although, it is painfully obvious which type of those “different kinds of Americans” you are.

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By ardee, August 12, 2007 at 3:26 pm Link to this comment

Look Abernathy, if you can even hear me on the
so-very high horse upon which you sit and preach, I may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier but I know a phoney when I read one, and you are it. Perhaps you are even Marshall in drag, who knows.

The US public has been shielded from the truth of this horrid little war from the very beginning, both in the press which reports little of the truth of things and by the refusal to institute a draft. These bastards running our nation and this for profit war know full well that a draft would bring home to everyone the impact of this war, so they ignore the necesity for such an instrument. Rather they destroy our army and national guard.

You may evade the points made by Non and others, you may insult my command of the english language or the number of, and use to which I put, my brain cells, but you can evade all you wish the key essentials of the argument put forward and convince noone of your sincerity, only of your massive ego and slanted perspectives.

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By Bill Abernathy, August 12, 2007 at 10:29 am Link to this comment

#94222 by ardee on 8/12 at 8:21 am
(443 comments total

Hello adree

I was going to address Chris Hedges on the issue of his mistaking moral subjectivism for moral universalism; however, given that so many of his Disciples suffer the handicap of knowing English only as a second language, and that you had entirely missed the point of a previous post- I thought it prudent to give you and Non Credo a lesson in English, and logic.

Abstract thought concerns the investigation and analysis of very general principles and concepts which rises to a level above particular instances. For instance, when this or that violent behavior is called “terrorism” we may ask, abstractly and generally, “What is terrorism?” and ask, for instance, what is the difference between terrorism and freedom-fighting, concentrating perhaps on the slogan, “One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” and ask whether that slogan is true? This may lead to the question of whether terrorism and freedom fighting are really, as the slogan suggests, mutually exclusive, so that the same individual or group cannot be both.

Now you and non credo make the same mistake; that is, you both lack the necessity of using Abstract thought; for example, you reply to the proposition, “Americans have no illusions about the atrocities and loss caused by war” only in the particular instance, and ignore it in the general sense…in spite of the example I offered.

Gentlemen…It follows that you’re both in need of instructions in the English language, logic, or you simply are anti-American propagandist.

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By ardee, August 12, 2007 at 9:21 am Link to this comment

#94010 by Bill Abernathy on 8/11 at 11:51 am
(48 comments total)

Holy Hanna Batman, this post should be archived and used in every college across the land as a perfect example of right wing crappola and double speak. What the F@#K was the point if any?

I will not ignore the words of Non Credo as will Abernathy, simply because those ignored words destroy Bill’s entire philosophy, and well done Non, well done indeed:

Abernathy writes:

“Americans have no illusions about the atrocities and loss caused by war.”

“Well, Bill, I don’t know how you can claim to know that. It would seem that the Bush administration doesn’t agree with you. Quite obviously, that’s why they go to great lengths to hide the coffins of the war dead from the public.”

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By Bill Abernathy, August 11, 2007 at 12:51 pm Link to this comment

I agree with ardee on one point, there are diffirent kinds of Americans: there are those who are simpathic to individuals who are oppressed, and those who would exploit the oppressed in order to further their own personal agenda.

Phrasemongers change the meaning of words; for instance like when Humpty Dumpty changes the meaning of words to what he wants them to mean when speaking with Alice i.e. `When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’

We can delineate the meaning of a noun and be right, but we cannot do away with the essence. For instance: The noun Spirituality may be used many ways, but with-out its essence, the intangible, its meaning can extend itself so far from the essence that we find ourselves talking non-sense.

I don’t define words, they have been defined. So far as spirit ual-ity: It is a derivative of the noun spirit. Which is an immaterial object, hence: intangible?

And so it is that Chris Hedges takes on the character of Humpty Dumpty when asserting that the Bush Administration is an “imperial presidency.”

I’ll just ignore Non Credo’s post since it is irrelevant.

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By Donna Bubb, August 11, 2007 at 11:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris Hedges knows well the horrors of war and has
done all of us such a good service in giving the
volunteer troops a chance to tell the truth of their
experiences, something those who sent them to war and those who support the war don’t really want to know.  But, these same troops are coming back to live among us horribly wounded in mind and body, as
witnesses to the stupidity of all the killing. How
will we ever understand them? When will no more
Americans go to war?
Would that Hedges would carry this over to Israel and show the horrible things Israeli soldiers are doing to themselves, to their country, and to the
Palestinians before their foolish leaders and the
AIPAC take us into Iran.

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By ardee, August 11, 2007 at 9:21 am Link to this comment

The good news is that for every Bill Abernathy, lost in his own world of greed ,corruption, torture is good and peace is the enemy, there are literally thousands of good solid American folks whose values are real.

For me, this piece can be summarized by this:

“Laila, interestingly enough, is an observant Muslim; wears a headscarf.  And we wondered at the beginning how they would react.  And what was fascinating is that the fact that she was an observant Muslim who wore a headscarf was an asset.  Because there was a deep desire on the part of many of these veterans to not only confess, but, I think, seek a kind of forgiveness or understanding and they, I would say, most of them found it moving to reach out to an observant Muslim.  So, yeah, these were emotionally laden, you know, these interviews—you listen to the tapes and it’s quite moving.  You know, long pauses while we wait for these people to compose themselves; you know, these people had real guts.”

There are, sadly, two Americas. The one inhabited by sad folks like Abernathy, whose entire philosophy can be summed up as selfish and greedy, anything goes as long as I benefit personally , and the other America, filled with decent hardworking, good hearted, charitable Americans who simply are guilty of believing the lies of those like Abernathy. Slowly the tide is turning as more and more are becoming sick at heart, not only by events but by the constant lies and distortions of the Bill Abernathy’s who stand in the way of the real American dream.

As case in point I refer to his ridiculous, almost sad defense of American military intervention in Iraq by comparing it to France’s assistance in the American revolution. I remember no destruction of infrastructure by France, no torture of civilians, no wholesale murders, no indirect building of enemy resistance by their actions during our war for independence. I do recall that it was economic self interest that caused France to side with the colonies, nothing more or less than that.

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By Bill Abernathy, August 11, 2007 at 8:16 am Link to this comment

I really don’t know what Chris Hedges is going on about; it is naive and smacks of dishonesty to suggest that Americans need reminded of what war is about.

Americans have no illusions about the atrocities and loss caused by war.

Unlike Chris Hedges like I won’t repeat the gory description witnesses gave of the death and mutilations that took place in the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

I can however assure you, Americans remember that as a sequel to the Attack on Pearl Harbor; both a disgrace and example of a Hyenas treachery rarely exemplified by humanity.

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By Outraged, August 11, 2007 at 1:19 am Link to this comment

Chris Hedges said it best about his work with Laila Al-Arian :

“Our focus was really tightly controlled.  I mean, we wanted to know how convoys were run and checkpoints were set up and how suppressing fire worked, and that was really the focus of the interview.  We weren’t writing a policy piece, so those were questions, if they came up, they came up inadvertently.”

Finally, we’ll be able to hear the reality of the situation from those who were there.  America does need to hear this.  Hopefully, more people will be able to grasp just what war really is, and how glorious it isn’t.  Maybe then they will begin to understand just how unnecessary THIS WAR was.

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By Bill Abernathy, August 10, 2007 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment

#93757 by Non Credo on 8/10 at 1:18 pm

“Oh right, Bill, we know, we know. Why don’t you summarize, instead leaving the underlying principle so vague?”

א  א א א א א א א א א א א א א
NC…You mean they still have a Dammed orchard left…give me the co-ordinates, I’ll see what I can arrange.

What is vague about America helping out the Iraqi Revolutionary Army? I mean France helped America gain its independence.


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By 1984, August 9, 2007 at 3:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

ask any vet. of korea or vietnam and they will most likely have had simular experiences.the iraqi vets are telling us direct i killed a woman and her child…i had to because ...any vets of viet. or korea will only tell these stories to other vets. the vets. from iraq are letting americans know this is what i am going to be haunted with for the rest of my life and i’m not going to edit it for anyone. this is the cost of war and even if i wasn’t physically hurt…i have nightmares that will not ever go away in my life. i want to hear that because americans need to know how our country does behave in these situations. i don’t want to hear it. but i think everyone needs to hear this. i commend these men and women who are willing to risk everything to speak. the vets. need to say this so that some poor kid is not deluded into thinking war is a hollywood movie or video game..

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By Bill Abernathy, August 9, 2007 at 10:12 am Link to this comment

More propaganda from phrasemongers and windbags, who distort facts, pass off friends as enemies, and enemies as friends are at it again. What Chris Hedges leaves out is that there is another kind of war, a just war….’Revolution’…. as is the case in Iraq, the overthrow of a vicious National Socialism, as opposed to a Social Democracy. Why does Chris Hedges miss this point, I don’t know, but that nevertheless is a different kind of war that he fails to mention. Whoever wants to seize and retain state power must have a strong army, and that is what America is doing, helping to train and build a Liberation Army.

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By TomChicago, August 9, 2007 at 6:07 am Link to this comment

More good sense from Chris Hedges.

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