Water for the worthy

I held off on posting about this story on the hope that it was nothing more than urban legend, but it appears that it’s true.

First, the story itself: Apparently Army Chaplain Josh Llano has somehow managed to finagle control of 500 gallons of washing water, but it only allowing soldiers to bathe if they first agree to be baptised by him.

”It’s simple. They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized,” he said.

And agree they do. Every day, soldiers take the plunge for the Lord and come up clean for the first time in weeks.

”They do appear physically and spiritually cleansed,” Llano said.

First, though, the soldiers have to go to one of Llano’s hour-and-a-half sermons in his dirt-floor tent. Then the baptism takes an hour of quoting from the Bible.

Extortion, clear and simple. Disgusting, offensive, opportunistic extortion.

Thankfully, this story got enough people up in arms as it made its way around the internet, that the Army is now launching an investigation:

A chaplain from Houston assigned to the Army V Corps support unit in Iraq is now the focus of an Army inquiry for his practice of offering soldiers a dip into his 500-gallon pool if they agree to be baptized.


[Lt. Col. Eric] Wester said, “As I’ve read the article and discussed with other chaplains, the implication of the story is this was a kind of situation of coercion or bribery.”

There’s a part of me that is still holding out hope that this is merely wartime legend blown out of control. However, if it’s not, this guy needs to get busted. Hard.

(via Charles Kuffner, via Atrios)

We're not done yet, folks

Okay — so everyone on the ‘net is linking to the pictures of Saddam’s statue in the middle of Baghdad getting yanked down by Iraqi citizens, helped by U.S. Marines.

Yes, it’s wonderful. It’s a high point for the campaign. Many Iraqis are thrilled. But this isn’t the end.

This exchange between Doc Searls and Shelley Powers, and this post from Phil capture my feelings on this precisely. What happened today was certainly a momentous and important event — but things won’t be “over” for a long time to come.

Protest music links

Continuing in the protest music theme I’ve been trying to keep up with lately, today brings us a MetaFilter discussion started by a post opining that, well, to be honest — most modern protest songs suck.

Honestly? While there’s a few gems out there, I can’t say that I entirely disagree. Still, at least people are trying.

The importance of dissent

There’s an excellent posting from Dru Blood today entitled “The Importance of Dissent“.

Many people are tempted to stop protesting now that the war is in full swing. Many other people debate the effectiveness of the usual protest tactics — what does bocking traffic or holding demonstrations here in U.S. cities do to stop the conflict in Iraq? However, these are important issues, and shouldn’t stop, for two reasons.

Firstly, we must continue to express our discontent with the tactics undertaken by our goverment. To stop now, to shrug our shoulders and go home, is just admitting defeat. We can’t change anything by staying in our homes and ignoring it, and when our government isn’t truly representing us anymore — well, to quote the Declaration of Independence, “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall most likely effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Secondly, if we do nothing, we’re giving up our right to assemble, and in a day and age when more and more of our rights are disappearing, that’s a dangerous thing to do voluntarily. From Dru:

What protestors are doing is very important to the preservation of free speech. It might be annoying, it might be condemnable, it might even piss people off. But, damnit, it’s absolutely crucial that people continue to exercise their right to assemble and agitate peacefully as much as possible. If no one did, how easy would it be to erode that right and/or take it away altogether? In fact, many people say that there has already been a great deal of erosion in the right to assemble, considering protestors are forced to get parade licenses and have to work with the government and the police prior to being “granted” the right to assemble. There’s actually a great deal of red tape involved in exercising your right to assemble peacably, and that, I’m pretty sure, is different from the way it was during the Viet Nam war….which was the last time that protests were as large and as coordinated as they are now.

So… brave freedom fighters ? I guess that’s open to interpretation. However, protestors of any ilk are certainly doing a very important thing for the continuation of democracy. We are exercising muscles that, if left unused, could very possibly atrophy, leaving our democracy damaged and ineffective.

Things are changing these days

The mother of one of the members of politically conscious band Spearhead was recently questioned by Army officers about her son’s “un-American” activities. During the interview they displayed photos of her son at peace rallys, records of his travels, a list of people he worked with at the band’s management office, and revealed that her daughter — currently serving in the military, and deployed in the Gulf — had had her CD’s confiscated.

“She’d spoken in an interview about her daughter who has been deployed in the Gulf, and her son who is in this band Spearhead,” says Spearhead frontman Michael Franti. “They showed her a picture of her son wearing a t-shirt that said ‘Unfuck the world’ on the front, and ‘Dethrone the Bushes’ on the back. They told her that was an un-American statement. She said, ‘That’s free speech,’ and they said, ‘Well, things are changing these days.'”

(via RandomWalks)

By the numbers

Snippets from the Toronto Star’s Iraq War Index:

  • \$850 billion: Estimated military spending in the world in 2002.
  • 50: Percentage spent by U.S.
  • 0.0015: Percentage spent by Iraq.
  • 1 in 6: Chance the U.S. bombed Iraq on any given day last year.
  • 98: During the first Gulf War, the reported “success rate” (or percentage of accurate strikes) by Tomahawk cruise missiles.
  • 10: Pentagon’s estimated “success rate” after the war ended.
  • 92: Between Sept. 14, 2002 and Feb. 7, 2003, percentage of news stories airing on NBC, ABC and CBS that originated directly from White House, Pentagon or State Department.
  • 236,202: The number of times Osama bin Laden was mentioned in international media reports between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 11, 2002.
  • 57, 667: The number of times Osama bin Laden was mentioned between Sept. 11, 2002 and today.
  • 66,648: The number of times Saddam Hussein was mentioned between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 11, 2002.
  • 225,147: The number of times Saddam Hussein was mentioned between Sept. 11, 2002 and today.
  • 13: Percentage of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 who could find Iraq on a map prior to the war.
  • 1: Number of countries that have used nuclear weapons against another country.

(via Stavros)

Top three

Most of the political camps have released their fundraising numbers, and Daily Kos has posted a quick summary:

  1. Edwards: \$7.4 million
  2. Kerry: \$7 million
  3. Gephardt: \$3.6 million
  4. Lieberman: \$3 million
  5. Dean: \$2.6 million

The rest of the candidates are too embarrassed to release their numbers until they absolutely have to (April 15th).

Lots of interesting back and forth in the comments thread to that post, too. From the looks of it, the three top contenders right now are (in no particular order) Dean, Edwards, and Kerry. So far, between Dean and Kerry, I’d definitely go for Dean, but I really should take a closer look at Edwards to see what I think of him.


  • Dean managed to beat his fundrasing goal by around 70%. Very impressive showing.
  • Kerry’s site doesn’t seem to load in Safari. Might impact the “mac vote” (which, I’m sure, is a demographic that all the presidential contenders are worried about).

A nation of sheep

Wasn’t one of the major reasons for attacking Iraq because they had all these hidden Weapons of Mass Destruction, and it was our God-given duty to go find them? And now, weeks into the war, we’ve still found absolutely no evidence that any of these weapons actually exist?

Apparently that doesn’t matter.

A growing majority of Americans believe the war in Iraq is justified even if the United States does not find weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, public optimism about the progress of the fighting has surged as recent gains on the battlefield have eased fears that the allies will become bogged down in a long and costly war, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

As long as we’re winning, then anything’s justified. The ends justify the means — or even the motives — and the ends, of course, are determined by the propaganda we’re fed by our government and the media.

(via Daily Kos)