Forget the sterilized gun sight videos the Pentagon and cable news have fed you. Here's a look at the shocking reality of the Iraq War:

No wonder people hate us.

The Iraq war has reached new levels of absurd corruption.

The New York Times reports that the U.S. funded Iraqi government spent $85 million on plastic-coated cardboard divining rods to Ouija bombs and guns at checkpoints:

"The Iraqi government has purchased more than 1,500 of the
devices, known as the ADE 651, at costs from $16,500 to $60,000 each.
Nearly every police checkpoint, and many Iraqi military checkpoints,
have one of the devices, which are now normally used in place of
physical inspections of vehicles."

The paper reports that top Iraqi officials claim "the operator must walk in place a few moments to 'charge' the device, since it has no battery or other power source."

Is this what we wasted so many lives and so much money for?

The Oregonian has picked up on the story that EW first ran Thursday about Oregon National Guard soldiers' exposure to a highly toxic chemical in Iraq.

The Oregonian reported that as many as 52 soldiers were exposed to the hexavalent chromium. Two Indiana soldiers that were exposed have contracted cancer and one has died. The Oregonian cited a doctor saying that exposure to a concentration of "about the size of a grain of salt in about a cubic yard -- has shown a 50 percent increase in cancers."

After plans were drawn up that would extend the U.S. military presence in Iraq until 2011 while slowly withdrawing its forces, Iraqis (mostly Shias) staged a mass anti-US rally. "Hey," commented John McCain, "at least Moqtada Sadr's followers marched peacefully and nothing blew up." He didn't really say that, but given his rosy view of Iraq, he might have said that.

Under the agreement US troops would withdraw by 2011, and Iraq would have the right to prosecute Americans who commit crimes while off-duty.

Crimes committed while on-duty, of course, would still be referred to U.S. civilian courts, which have a tendency to acquit (because no fellow U.S. military personnel would willingly testify against his or her comrades).

Here's an old Herblock cartoon from 1970 when tricky Dick Nixon was escalating the Vietnam war despite campaign promises to end it.


Déjà vu?

So what would the caption be now? How about:

"You see the reason we’re dying in vain here in Iraq is so dying in Iraq will have some purpose."

Any other suggestions?

After Republicans blocked money for food stamps and unemployment benefits, it's worthwhile to think of the billions of dollars that they have spent, and continue to spend on the Iraq War.

Here's a video illustrating what all the hemorrhaging war money instead could buy:

tick, tick, tick....

Imagine what just a small fraction of all those wads of taxpayer cash dropped on Iraq could have done to fix local city, county and school funding woes. Maybe we need an insurgency in this country?

Calendar editor-Chuck gets notices of all the happening in town (and apparently insults that rhyme with his name), Molly gets books and music, the Teditor gets EVERYTHING and me, well my inbox fills up with . . . well, a lot of stuff that’s not really related to environmental reporting. Like yesterday, when I got a promo from a company called “Darf.” Darf is selling “Funagle: a board game people play with their dogs.”

The goal of the game, I kid you not, is to get points for getting your dog to “do an activity.” Like the Moonwalk. That’s their example. Right. My dog can give me five, play dead and do basic math problems, but I can guarantee you, she can’t Moonwalk. And she especially can’t do the Moonwalk when trapped in a room with four other idiot dog owners forcing their dogs to play board games.

But the point is less that this game is silly, and more that I get silly things in my inbox.

Before I proceed with my kvetching, don’t let this discourage you, by the way, from sending me story ideas. I love story ideas. I met a guy last week at a party in Seattle, who mentioned his recent grand jury subpoena. When I was clearly intrigued, he asked “if that interesting for a news story?”

Yup. Grand juries often make a good news story.

Lately my email account seems to have been added to a list that promotes Christian books. Now, I find the Bible fascinating. But I draw the line at Christian pop-fiction. Maybe I’m a snob, but poorly written pop-culture books with Christian themes don’t do it for me. And more importantly, pop-culture Christian books do not make environmental news. Not unless you’re printing on some kind of ultra-cool recycled paper or creating toxic residues with your printing. . .

At any rate, I’m not really sure why someone out there thinks the enviro reporter for the Eugene Weekly wants to report on: When The Wedding Ring Comes Off by Percy D. Gorham, which lifts, “the reader's faith as he points each mind to the sublime Holy Spirit in such a way people may not have known was possible.”

Huh. You’d think a book about infidelity would be less about the holy and more about the bodily. . .

Well, anyway, I’m all for people finding the sublime. But the scariest press release I got this week was this one: Iraq in My Eye: Memoirs of a Navy SEAL in which Chuck Bravedy of Canton, Ohio proposes a new way to deal with prisoners in Iraq: “I see substantial ground being made if we pull all Korans out of the cells and replace them with Bibles,” he writes.

Bravedy was apparently disturbed by the way troops provided prisoners with the Koran (his spelling, I tend to go with Qur’an) when they could be “indoctrinating” (his word choice) them by providing Bibles. Silly troops giving those darn Muslims freedom of religion. What are they thinking?

To quote directly from his press release: “Bravedy's dream is to assemble a team and return to Iraq for a year to minister in military
prisons teaching the men there that there is more to life than killing Americans and eradicating western influence.”

What was that old bumper sticker about the Army?

That’s right: Join the Army: Travel to distant lands; meet exciting, unusual people and kill them.

Military bludgeoning with the Bible. Well, maybe there's a story in there after all.

No, seriously, this is a short and unfunny one. Because sometimes the news ain't funny. OK, except for one.

1. Bombs kill. Death toll still rising after attacks. Oh, and although some (*cough*Britain*cough*) sort of want to get out of Iraq, France wants to become an "honest broker" in the country. Someone has to do something that doesn't involve killing, I guess. Because soldiers are psychologically conditioned to kill.

2. Republicans revel in making others grovel. I don't think that's just a Cali thing either.

3. Leaders like to be deciders. This means they sometimes rebel when their puppetmasters try to tell them what to do or how (or when) to do it.

4. Deciders don't like journalists. Especially after pro-democracy demonstrations.

5. Deciders don't like protesters. And have manuals on how not to see them.
Not that they're worried or anything. But the White House evidently leaves little to chance when it comes to protests within eyesight of the president. As in, it doesn't want any.

6. The funny one: Crocs are ugly! But popular! In case you hadn't noticed them, or all of those little things you can put in their holes, the Christian Science Monitor tells you all about the shoes and their devotees. (And their detractors.)

BONUS: "Dwarf's penis gets stuck to vacuum cleaner"

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