Monday, February 14, 2005

Democracy Now!: Ossie Davis' memorial service; Naomi Klein and Matthew Rothschild on Iraq

As always, while the New York Times so often falters, Democracy Now! remains steady and committed to news. Today's episode includes excerpts from Ossie Davis' memorial service Saturday.

Headlines for February 14, 2005
- Shiite & Kurdish Allies Of Iran Win Iraqi Election
- Election Results: "Not the Outcome that the U.S. was Hoping For"
- U.S.-Backed Politicians Fare Poorly At Polls
- Report: U.S. Secretly Flying Drones Over Iran
- Ex-Lebanese Prime Minister Killed in Car Bombing
- Verizon To Buy MCI For Nearly $7 Billion
- Howard Dean Becomes Head of the DNC
- Famed Playwright Arthur Miller, 89, Dies

Remembering Ossie Davis 1917-2005: Maya Angelou, Harry Belafonte, Bill Clinton Pay Tribute to the Famed Actor & Civil Rights Activist
On Saturday thousands of mourners filled Riverside Church in Harlem for the funeral of Ossie Davis. Davis died Feb. 4 while on location for a film in Florida. He was 87 years old. For five decades, Ossie Davis led a distinguished career as an actor, playwright and director. Along with his wife, Ruby Dee, he was a renowned civil rights activist and an unforgettable figure in the African American struggle for equality. Speakers at Saturday's funeral described the event as a state funeral for black America.
In his eulogy, Harry Belafonte said, "Among many gifts mastered, he was foremost a master of language. He understood the power of words and used them to articulate our deepest hope for the fulfillment of our oneness, with all humanity. Ossie Davis was born into a time of great promise. And guided by his fervent dedication to justice. He wasted no opportunity in defending the causes of the poor, the humiliated, the oppressed."
Poet Maya Angelou said, "He belonged to us. He exists in us. We can be, and be more, every day more. Larger, kinder, truer, more honest, more courageous, and more loving because Ossie Davis existed and belonged to all of us."
Former President Bill Clinton said, "[Ossie Davis] would have been a very good President of the United States."
We spend the hour hearing excerpts from the funeral service: Belafonte eulogizing Ossie Davis as well as tributes from President Bill Clinton, writer Maya Angelou, Malcolm X's daughter Attallah Shabazz, Davis' grandson Brian Day and a musical tribute by jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. [includes rush transcript]

Brendon caught last week's link to Naomi Klein's "Getting the Purple Finger" and asked that we highlight it again. Here are Klein's opening paragraphs:

"The Iraqi people gave America the biggest 'thank you' in the best way we could have hoped for." Reading this election analysis from Betsy Hart, a columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service, I found myself thinking about my late grandmother. Half blind and a menace behind the wheel of her Chevrolet, she adamantly refused to surrender her car keys. She was convinced that everywhere she drove (flattening the house pets of Philadelphia along the way) people were waving and smiling at her. "They are so friendly!" We had to break the bad news. "They aren't waving with their whole hand, Grandma--just with their middle finger."
So it is with Betsy Hart and the other near-sighted election observers: They think the Iraqi people have finally sent America those long-awaited flowers and candies, when Iraq's voters just gave them the (purple) finger.
The election results are in: Iraqis voted overwhelmingly to throw out the US-installed government of Iyad Allawi, who refused to ask the United States to leave. A decisive majority voted for the United Iraqi Alliance; the second plank in the UIA platform calls for "a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq."
There are more single-digit messages embedded in the winning coalition's platform. Some highlights: "Adopting a social security system under which the state guarantees a job for every fit Iraqi...and offers facilities to citizens to build homes." The UIA also pledges "to write off Iraq's debts, cancel reparations and use the oil wealth for economic development projects." In short, Iraqis voted to repudiate the radical free-market policies imposed by former chief US envoy Paul Bremer and locked in by a recent agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

And let's note Matthew Rothschild's "Beyond the Iraqi Elections:"

But as Naomi Klein has pointed out, the elections were a vote against the U.S. occupation and the free market economic model that Bush has imposed.
Yet whatever government takes shape, it is unlikely that the Iraqi people will get their way.

Nor are Sunni Arabs likely to be mollified. They stand to be vastly underrepresented in the new coalition government being born, with Sunni Arabs in one province turning out at only a 2 percent rate. Kurds in the North voted at a rate of about 85, and Shiites in the South at 71 percent, according to The New York Times.
Because the insurgents threatened to kill people who went to the polls and because many Sunni Arabs felt the election was going to be rigged by Washington anyway, they didn't show up to vote.
As a result, they have no stake in whatever new government takes shape.
Worse still, they feel they'll lose power because of it.

All the more incentive for them to help the insurgents, whose tactics are reprehensible.
The forecast, unfortunately, is more bloodshed ahead.
Despite the election, despite Cohen's upbeat assessment that "by a narrow margin, things are getting better in Iraq," the country remains ungovernable, the occupation unsustainable.