Dispatches From the Edge: Awards For The Year That Was

By Conn Hallinan
Friday January 05, 2007

Each year Dispatches From the Edge gives its annual IDBIAART (I Don’t Believe I Am Actually Reading This) Awards for the past year. The following are the Awards for 2006. 


Marching Together with Our Allies Award goes to the Bush administration for refusing to allow any U.S. military personnel to attend British inquests on the deaths of United Kingdom soldiers from “friendly-fire” in Iraq. In the latest incident, Lance Corporal Matthew Hull was killed when a U.S. pilot attacked a British convoy near Basra. The White House refused to allow the pilot to attend the inquest. 

British Justice Minister Harriet Harman told the Daily Mail “The families want to know how their loved ones were killed. They have got that right.” Harman went on to say that the “special relationship” between the United States and Britain “demands honesty and openness. They are our allies in Iraq and should respect the grief of the families and not hide from the court. If any of our soldiers were involved in American friendly-fire deaths we would expect them to attend hearings.” 

Harman dressed down the American ambassador over the Bush administration’s stonewalling of the inquest request. She apparently did so without clearing it with Prime Minister Tony Blair—“fresh evidence of the crumbling authority of the PM,” notes the Mail. 

The Justice Ministry had guaranteed that there would be no legal or financial sanctions against the U.S. pilot, but the White House refused to release the name of the airman or allow him to attend the inquest. 

Oxfordshire Coroner Andrew Walker, who conducted the inquiry, strongly supported Harman’s demand for an American presence. Walker also conducted the inquest on two Royal Air Force pilots shot down by a U.S. Patriot missile during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and he found that U.S. Marines had committed an “unlawful killing” when they gunned down British reporter Terry Lloyd during the invasion. 

Hull’s widow, Susan Hull, said, “The people who are left behind want some answers.”  

They are not likely to get them from this White House. 


Lt. William Calley Award goes to Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Knesset member, leader of the right wing, racist Yiseral Beiteinu Party (Israel is Our Home) and newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Affairs. Lieberman advocates the death penalty for Knesset members who talk with Hamas members, urges the destruction of all commercial centers, gas stations and banks in the occupied territories, and calls for expelling all Israeli-Arabs who do not take a loyalty oath to the state of Israel.  

Lieberman’s party has 11 seats in the Knesset, and Hebrew University political scientist Ze’ev Sternhell says he “is perhaps the most dangerous politician in the history of the state of Israel.” 

Asked what he thought should be done with the 10,000 Palestinians presently held without charge by Israeli authorities, he said that all of them should be taken to the Red Sea and drowned—and he, Avigdor Lieberman, would provide the buses to transport them. 


Honor Among Thieves Award goes to Ahmed Chalabi, the shady Iraqi exile who fed now-disgraced New York Times investigative reporter Judith Miller phony information about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction and pressured the U.S. to dissolve the Iraqi army and dismiss all members of the Baath Party.  

Asked by the New York Times Magazine why Iraq is now such a disaster, Chalabi replied “The Americans sold us out” and “The real culprit in all this is [Paul] Wolfowitz,” the neo-conservative former assistant secretary of defense and now president of the World Bank.  

What should the Americans have done? According to Chalabi, turn Iraq over to him and cleric Muktada al-Sadr.  


Adam Smith Privatization Award goes to the U.S. Coast Guard for turning over its $17 billion modernization program—lock, stock and barrel—to Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest arms company, and Northrop Grumman. The two companies turned out ships with hull cracks—a bad idea if you want to use them in the water—cutters whose engines don’t work, an Eagle Eye unmanned air vehicle that crashes, and radios that are not water proofed. The companies also produced a long-range High Altitude Endurance Unmanned Air Vehicle for use in Alaska.  

Unfortunately, the craft can’t operate in bad weather. Who would have thought that would be a problem in Alaska? 

While the Coast Guard easily won the award this year, word in the industry is that the Homeland Security Department will make a strong run at the crown next year. It has handed the Boeing Corporation $7 billion to plan, supervise and execute a strategy to tighten U.S. borders to stop illegal immigration. 

There is a possibility, however, that through a little inter-service cooperation, both organizations might share the award next year. For instance, Coast Guard cutters could be transferred to the deserts of the South Texas border region, where they are unlikely to sink.  


Historical Insight Award goes to George W. Bush for comments during his March visit to Pakistan. Asked by journalists if Pakistan would get the same nuclear technology deal that the White House had just signed with India, Bush replied, “I explained that Pakistan and India are different countries with different needs and different histories.” 

Apparently the Pakistanis had no idea this was the case. 

Bush’s award means that the President has won this laurel two years running. Last year he was the hands down winner when he told the Brazilian press: “Wow! Brazil is big.” 


Great Moments in Literature Award goes to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) which gave its annual journalism award to Michael Crichton for State of Fear, his novel debunking global warming.  

The book has come under heavy fire from climate experts—Stanford climatologist Stephen H. Schneider called it “demonstrably garbage”—although it was praised by the former chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, James Inhofe (R-OK). Inhofe, recently replaced as chair by Barbara Boxer (D-CA), calls global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetuated on the American people.” 

Oklahoma is a long way from the coast. 

AAGP Communications Director Larry Nation admitted that Crichton was not a journalist, and that State of Fear was fiction, but maintained the science fiction book “has the absolute ring of truth.”  


Rudyard Kipling Award to Brigadier General Edward Butler, commander of British forces in Afghanistan. Speaking about the recent upsurge in fighting, Butler said, “We knew it was going to be a tough fight. The Afghan has fighting in his blood.” 

The commander was speaking from Helmand Province, which Britain has occupied, on and off, for just short of 200 years. 


Hearts and Minds Award to the Third Battalion, Eighth U.S. Marine Regiment, in Ramadi, Iraq. A poster in the unit’s headquarters reads: “Be polite, be professional and have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”  

The runner up in this category was a slogan for a unit T-shirt in the same regiment: “Kilo Company: Killed more people than cancer.” 


Real Historical Insight Award (posthumous) to T.E. Lawrence for his 1919 dispatch from Iraq: 

“We have been led into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. We have been tricked into it by a withholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse that we have been told. Our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. We are today not far from disaster.” 


Lifetime Achievement Award to Stew Albert (Dec. 4, 1939-Jan. 30, 2006) for his courage and intelligence in the battle to end oppression. In the long fight ahead, he will be missed. Slan lan avic, Minstrel Stew. This harp shall praise thee. May we meet again in Tara’s hall.