Morning Report 12/9/04Stunning News


Shocking, but not surprising

Still stunned by the news that a lightweight administrator like Bernie Kerik was picked to hand out billions of dollars to defense contractors in his new role as the nation’s chief security guard, now we learn that his company’s Tasers were used to abuse Iraqi detainees. (See this BBC story.)

Couple that with George W. Bush‘s latest doctrine that anyone who doesn’t want his or her country to be occupied by another country’s soldiers is a “terrorist,” and I feel as if I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up. (See photo.)

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As if hit by a Taser, Bush’s terrier Barney lies stunned on the White House lawn after realizing that his master’s sweeping definition of “terrorist” may even include any dog breed whose name sounds like that dreaded word. (White House photo)

Today’s BBC story says four members of a U.S. Special Operations unit used the electric stun guns on prisoners and were disciplined for “excessive use of force.”

An AP story from late November notes that “orders are pouring in for the stun guns, which are made by Taser International,” the Arizona company on whose board Kerik sits. Reporter Anabelle Garay adds:

    The Scottsdale company even recently launched a metro Phoenix ad campaign urging private citizens to arm themselves with the weapons, which temporarily paralyze people with a 50,000-volt jolt.

    Yet while Taser’s stock has soared with the booming business, concerns are growing about whether the shock-inducing guns are truly as non-lethal as advertised.

The story elaborates:

    Taser officials bill the guns, which shoot two barbed darts whose current can penetrate up to two inches of clothing, as among the safest ways of subduing violent people in high-risk situations. Tasers have a range of up to 21 feet and can also shock on contact, like a cattle prod.

Well, maybe not exactly safe, as the story points out:

    While not opposed to stun guns in principle, Amnesty International wants law enforcement to stop using Tasers until scientific evidence can show they don’t kill. . . . Amnesty says at least 74 people have died in the United States and Canada in the past four years after being shocked with Tasers. The group also says officers have turned stun guns on the mentally disturbed, children, and the elderly.

    “Not only do we not know the impact of these weapons on human beings under various conditions, we are also concerned about the gratuitous use of these weapons,” said Gerald Le Melle, deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA.

The latest from Amnesty on Tasers is this report, which includes such details as this explanation of the weapon’s name:

    It is an acronym of Thomas A. Swift’s Electrical Rifle, based on the child’s novel Tom Swift and his Electric Rifle by Victor Appleton, published in 1911.

Speaking of juice, our little Napoleon just raked in the simoleons: Kerik has made millions off the stun guns by recently cashing in his stock options.

No one should be shocked by that.

Amnesty International is typically trying to interfere with the bidness affairs of one of America’s corporate citizens by proclaiming:

    [Amnesty] is reiterating its call on federal, state and local authorities and law enforcement agencies to suspend all transfers and use of electro-shock weapons, pending an urgent rigorous, independent and impartial inquiry into their use and effects.

It’s probably safe to do that, now that the newly powerful Kerik has already sold his stock in the company.

Go ahead and suspend the use of Tasers. Ve haff other vays of stunning Iraqis. Thousands of Fallujah refugees are still living in makeshift shelters across Baghdad, according to the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, whose story, by reporters Zaineb Naji and Hussein Ali, notes that “with only limited amounts of aid reaching them, they are increasingly angry with Coalition forces and the Iraqi government,” and adds:

    Twelve families are living in a temporary camp near the Baghdad International Fair, set up by the Humanitarian Aid Society (HAS), an Iraqi NGO. Conditions are primitive, with no running water available, and an average of nine people sleeping in tents designed to hold just three.

    “We’ve done our best, but we only have ten small tents, which aren’t enough for 100 refugees. Some people have even had to sleep in the open,” explains HAS director Saleem Abd al-Ghani.

    The charity, which has also been distributing foodstuffs to the refugees, says the majority of donations have come from ordinary Iraqis.

    “We deliver basic food like rice, bread, tea and sugar,” explained Ghani. “Additionally, we’ve received donations of clothes, and monetary contributions of around four million dinars, from rich Iraqis. On top of that, many ordinary people have just turned up at the camp with food they’ve cooked for the refugees.”

You mean there’s no electricity for these Iraqis? Send in a Special Operations unit to hook them up.