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Propaganda & Prisoners…

When I heard about nine children being “mistakenly” killed in Afghanistan, I first thought of a drone or helicopter attack with rockets. 

The article cited a “Pentagon spokesperson” describing an accident by “NATO helicopters.”  I knew that was a deflection (NATO?  From what country?  NATO isn’t an independent force), but didn’t give it much consideration at the time.

How many times over the past 20+ years in prison have I read of an incident that I was witness to where the truth was almost never told?  A “prison spokesman” opining a believeable and convenient reason…burying the reality.

One incident that’s indelible in my mind was when I was on a chain-gang in Tennessee back in 1964-65, during my civil rights period.

Not much changed...

I was in an underground punishment “hole.”  I had refused to return to the rock-quarry given my medical condition (broken hand, severe burns, and open leg-shackle wounds).  I was convinced they were trying to kill me.  Given the record and brutality of the place, I had good reason.

In self-defense, I swallowed the handle (13.5cm) of a soup spoon (we were fed one regular meal every third day).  Given the media attention and politics of my case, they were forced to take me to the hospital.

I was given a gastrotomy operation to remove the handle from my stomach and was back in prison within hours.

The front-page headline of the Nashville Tennessean read:  “Plot Aims at Hospital Escape.”  It also carried a photo of the sheriff holding up the spoon and handle stating that “the inmates were trying to add iron to their diet.”  Joke time…

When I eventually got out, I set the media straight on the conditions in the prison.  (Back then, America had a fairly robust, independent news media.  Today, some 90+% are owned by a handful of corporations.)

After a series of weekend feature articles—being the last straw among other brutal incidents and state murders connected to the facility—it was placed under federal court receivership and the most brutal workgang, Gang #9 in the rock-quarry (where I served), was shut down.

These experiences helped lead me to become an investigative journalist myself, serving in the Middle-East, East-Africa, and other locales.  I learned the abiding need for a highly skeptical analysis.

In the case of the children in Afghanistan, it took an article published in Truthout to reveal that it was almost surely two US attack helicopters that gunned down the “suspected Taliban forces.”

It turns out that the two choppers found ten individuals out in the open in the Pech Valley.  They were boys, 9-to-13 years old, gathering firewood.  According to one 9-yr-old survivor hiding behind a tree, the ‘copters pursued and hunted them down one-by-one, brutally slaughtered them.

Given the vantage they had, and the high-resolution imaging equipment, how could children, beardless and bareheaded, be confused with armed, bearded adult men with headgear?  (And spare me their distance, etc.  I’m also a pilot.)

The reporter, Dave Lindorff, commented, “…it was no mistake, clearly.  The crews of the helicopters were shooting at fleeing human beings who made no attempt to return fire [nor had weapons]…”

As a prisoner, former soldier (101st Airborne), and journalist, I have a lot of questions.  You should, too.  Too many people are sacrificing too much to allow reactionary cowboys to commit crimes in our name…

I’ve more than learned to separate the person from the prejudice, and the warrior from the war

               Dr. Publico

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