In the United States, Cindy Sheehan has spent her second night back at Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas and announced she will take her vigil on the road next month, following President Bush in Washington. She said she would launch a bus tour from Crawford starting on September 1 that will converge on Washington, on September 24 in time for the major antiwar rally planned for that day. On Thursday, the American Friends Service Committee presented Sheehan with the boots of her son Casey who was killed in Iraq. His boots have been part of a traveling memorial to soldiers killed in Iraq called "Eyes Wide Open." Mark Andersen of the American Friends Service Committee presented the boots to Sheehan.
- Mark Anderson: "Too many people have died, both military and civilian. This travesty must end, and our brave and dedicated troops must be brought home and brought home now. Cindy, I want to know that it has been a profound privilege to care for these precious boots of your beloved son, Casey, and I now return them to you, so they may serve as a guiding light to carry your message forward, so that together we can continue the struggle to end this war."
Meanwhile, Cindy Sheehan is striking back at the smear campaign being waged against her by several powerful media personalities and the Bush administration. She directly confronted those who claim that her son would be against what she is doing.
- Cindy Sheehan: "I know my son. I know him better than anybody else. And, he wasn't married, we were very close. He called me everyday when he was at Fort Hood. We talked about all of his life, all of my life. And, I lost my best friend when I lost my son. But I know my son. And, I know he would say 'I don't want anymore of my buddies killed just because I am dead; I want my buddies to come home alive.' And I know when I get up to greet him, when it is my time, he is going to say 'good job, Mom.' He is not going to accuse me of dishonoring his memory. And, anybody who knows my son better than me, would like to come forward and tell me something different, I would be glad to hear their voices."
As Sheehan settles in at Camp Casey 2, which is closer to President Bush's property than her original location, prowar activists are making their way to Crawford for a rally on Saturday. Sheehan and other antiwar military families have invited prowar families of soldiers killed in Iraq to share a meal with them this weekend. One of those parents has challenged Sheehan to a debate, while others have set up a new site called "Camp Reality." Meanwhile, the Rev. Al Sharpton has announced he will travel to Crawford this weekend for a prayer service on Sunday.
Senators Demand Answers From Roberts on Guantanamo Bay Ruling
Two Democratic senators are calling on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts to explain before his confirmation hearings why he continued to judge a lawsuit against the Bush administration while being interviewed to be a justice. In that case, Roberts ruled in favor of the Bush administration on a case that said the Bush administration could deny Guantanamo prisoners constitutional rights they would theoretically have in US courts. Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin wrote a letter to Roberts, saying Roberts' answers will determine whether they bring the issue up at his confirmation hearings beginning Sept. 6.
Iraqi Constitution: the Stalemate Continues
The stalemate over Iraq's new constitution has intensified, as lawmakers failed for a third time to reach any agreement on the document. For more than a week, the major division over the constitution has served as a symbol of miscalculation on the part of the Bush administration, which had predicted the document would be done on time. The constitutional debates came to a halt after some senior Shiite leaders said they would bypass their Sunni counterparts, as well as Iraqi lawmakers, and send the document directly to Iraqi voters for their approval. The moves by the Shiites to ignore the Sunnis' request for changes to the draft sparked threats from the Sunnis that they would urge their people to reject the document when it goes before voters in a national referendum in October. The major division right now centers around the attempts by some powerful Shiite factions to establish a provincial confederation in southern Iraq that would lay special claim to that region's oil resources, reducing the Sunni Arab share.
- Iraqi Constitution: Stalemate Continues
- Bloodshed in Iraq: Violence Among Religious Factions
- Camp Casey Vigil Heads to Washington Next Month
- Israel: Five Palestinians Killed in Raid
- Librarians Challenge Patriot Act
- Senators Demand Answers From Roberts on Guantanamo Bay Ruling
- People for the American Way Officially Oppose Roberts
- Red Cross Negotiates Secret Deal to Free Italian Hostages
As reports emerge of a massacre of at least 20 civilians at a soccer stadium in Port-au-Prince, we go to Haiti for the latest as well as get an update on the condition of jailed Haitian priest, Father Gerard Jean-Juste, who is considering a run for the presidency.
We play a press conference from Camp Casey held by members of Gold Star Families for Peace with mothers and wives from around the country speaking about their opposition to the war and to President Bush's policies in Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of Emmett Till. He was beaten and shot near Money, Mississippi after he allegedly whistled at a white female store clerk. We speak with filmmaker Keith Beauchamp who produced "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till" and University of Missouri-Columbia professor Clenora Hudson-Weems. [includes rush transcript - partial]
In May 1962 the legendary folksinger Bob Dylan came by the WBAI studios in New York to perform his rarely heard tribute to Emmett Till. This is one of the earliest known live recordings of Bob Dylan.
PART 5BY THE END, FULLY DISAPPEARED: Yep! When forced to explain their cohort's misconduct, reporters can really come up with some doozies (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/25/05). We first noted this trait in the fall of 1999, when Howard Kurtz, to his vast credit, tried to make reporters explain the ongoing trashing of Candidate Gore--the "harsh coverage and punditry" that had begun that March, and would eventually send Bush to the White House (links below). To his vast credit, Kurtz raised this issue three times that year--once in a Washington Post report, and two more times on Reliable Sources. But when he asked high-ranking reporters to explain the odd treatment of Gore, his panelists were completely befuddled. No one could really think of a reason for the hopefuls obvious trashing. Finally, the New York Times' Melinda Henneberger had an idea. "There's no question that Gore has gotten much rougher treatment than [primary opponent Bill] Bradley," she said. Then, she "explained" why that was:
HENNEBERGER (11/27/99): I don't know if it's a pro-Bradley media but, you know, he--it's a new story. I mean Al Gore, people here have been covering him, you know--yes, Bradley was in the Senate, but this is a whole new thing. I think many reporters are charmed by his history as a basketball hero and--At that point, she was mercifully stopped. Henneberger had started to say that people have covered Gore a long time and were presumably bored by that fact. But then she realized that people had covered Bradley a long time too--so she began to say that the press corps was thrilled by his time in the NBA. And this was the best attempt, in two Kurtz panels, to explain why Gore was getting trashed--why the press corps had already spent eight months inventing fake stories about him. For the most part, Kurtz's panelists stumbled and fumbled, completely bewildered by their own conduct. But then, reporters are often struck dumb when asked to explain their own cohort's conduct. They produce no explanation at all--or they procedure an absurd one. They were trashing Gore because of Bill Bradley's jump shot. And oh yes--they trashed Bill Clinton because he told such corny jokes.
But that's what reporters constantly do when forced to discuss their own conduct. Understandably, therefore, reporters prefer a different approach. They prefer to avoid discussing their cohort; they prefer to pretend that their cohort's misconduct never occurred in the first place. To John Harris' credit, he acknowledges, at the start of The Surivivor, that the Washington press took a weird approach to the newly-installed President Clinton. But uh-oh! By the time he tries to explain Whitewater, the role of the press corps has been disappeared--a strategy he adopts in full by the end of his book, when he devotes an entire chapter to explaining Campaign 2000. (Chapter 38, pages 384-390.)
To his vast credit, Kurtz acknowledged, three separate times, that Gore was receiving weird coverage. But Kurtz did this in 1999, and the trashing of Gore continued. Indeed, the press corps' conduct became so strange that only one approach is now possible; the corps' conduct turned out to be so extreme that it has to be completely disappeared. And so, in Harris' chapter about Campaign 2000, the corps is simply never mentioned. All the fake tales they invented about Gore? All those fake tales have been disappeared. Instead, Harris follows the established press script--the script to which all pundits adhere. He presents a tale of how Gore blew the election through his odd and puzzling judgments--a tale in which the press corps' misconduct is, for all time, disappeared.
Last month, Americans were given a new and persuasive reason for objecting to the use of torture as a tool in administration policy; namely, its potentially harmful impact on any viable counterterrorism strategy that values information as essential in combating Islamic fundamentalist terror. This strategic concern was raised in a set of memos released by the government in its latest "dump" of documents into the public arena.
Since the spring of 2004, the government has been making public previously classified documents nearly weekly, often in response to Freedom of Information Act law suits (though the numbers of newly classified documents are increasing at a rate that more than nullifies any sense of transparency such releases might suggest). Many of these memos have been about torture -- whether to use it; how to use it; and, most of all, how to protect government agents and agencies against prosecution for using it. Among these documents have been memos from the Judge Advocate General's Corps (or JAG), written by military lawyers from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines, and these constitute a welcome oasis of sanity in a desert of compliance with the government's decision to use torture as a weapon in its "war on terror."
First brought to public attention in Senate debate on July 25, 2005, these JAG memos have seen the light thanks to a request from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. They were written in February 2003 as recommendations to a Pentagon working group on "interrogation policy." Collectively, they express a clear opposition to the use of the sorts of harsh interrogation techniques that White House lawyers had not only recommended but declared legally viable. Indeed, by August of 2002, lawyers for the administration had infamously suggested, as a basis for reducing legal culpability for the mistreatment of detainees, that the definition of torture itself be narrowed to include only ""[p]hysical pain ?equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."
The JAG memos, on the other hand, warned that abusive interrogation techniques -- contrary to the advice administration lawyers were generating ? might well be found illegal in courts of law: As one put it, "Our domestic courts may well disagree with [the administration's lawyers'] interpretation of the law." The courts, the JAG memos warned, might find that the use of torture, however redefined by the administration, violated not just international law, but domestic criminal law and the laws of the Uniform Code of Military Justice as well.
This is the summer of Bush's discontent. The more he tries to project that everything is just A-OK, the more ridiculous he looks. His bike ride with members of the press on his beloved ranch in Crawford, in which he said he had thought about Cindy Sheehan's request to see him but that now "it's also important for me to go on with my life," has moved alongside Tom Cruise's sofa-jumping as one of the summer's more embarrassing public moments. It then got out that while Iraqis missed the deadline for agreeing on a constitution, and more Americans were dying there, Bush was going to attend a Little League game, fish, hang with Condi and take a nap.
The Bush media management methods--speaking before only pre-selected audiences, stonewalling in the face of criticism, trying to change the subject by showing the president clearing brush--finally appear to be wearing thin. Some of this stems from long-simmering exasperation among journalists about Team Bushs media manipulation. But some of it is also "The Daily Show" effect, which has played a key role in moving us from a post-9/11 media environment to, for lack of a better term, a post-post-9/11 media milieu.
The post-9/11 era of cowed, ring-in-the-nose journalism lasted until the summer of 2003, when it was clear that "shock and awe" had not been a lasting success and no WMDs had been found. The major turning point may have occurred on May 1, 2003, when Bush flew in, Top Gun style, onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared an end to major combat in Iraq with the "Mission Accomplished" banner as a backdrop. It was too much--too obviously choreographed, down to the jumpsuit and the camera angles designed not to show how close the carrier was to San Diego. Like a magic trick that defies perception, the spectacle was so bald that viewers wanted to know how it was done--and thus it contained the seeds of its own undoing.
We've now reached the point where our millionaire pundits will spend entire segments on national TV discussing which candidate looks good in a flight suit. And don't fail to notice the slimy behavior when Hillary Clinton becomes the topic. A sad-but-true fact emerged long ago; Chris Matthews, at heart, is a thigh-rubbing man. When will Americans tell this strange man that he simply must stop discussing our female public figures in this slimy manner?
Two final points. First, we know who won't tell Matthews to stop. E. J. Dionne won't tell him to stop. Al Hunt won't tell him. Mark Shields won't tell him. Peter Beinart won't tell him. Jeff Greenfield won't tell him. Matthews has degraded our discourse for years; he lied and slandered all through Campaign 2000, for example. There isn't a chance on the face of the earth that his colleagues in the press corps don't know this. But have you ever seen a negative profile, anywhere in the mainstream press? The store-bought butt-boys who make up our "press corps" would rather eat live worms in hell than speak truth to power within their own cohort. They are extremely well paid--and plan to keep it that way. For example, how is it possible that the New Republic has never reviewed Matthews' ludicrous work? You know the answer as well as we do. The Beinarts will give you good policy work--and theyll angle for powerful jobs in the future. You will never read critiques of the "press corps" inside TNR's store-bought pages.
NOVAK: Well, I think he looks good in a jump suit. A lot of people dont, Tim. Maybe you and I wouldnt look that good in a jump suit as a fly-boy.
RUSSERT: Maybe an orange prison garb for you there, more likely.
The above exchange was noted by Bob Somerby in 2003, "Spinning Bush At War (Part1)! Pundits recalled a leader's war record. Their memory was weak -- but it served." May 5, 2003, by the way. Who knew Russert was a Miss Cleo?
America's controversial new ambassador to the United Nations is seeking to shred an agreement on strengthening the world body and fighting poverty intended to be the highlight of a 60th anniversary summit next month. In the extraordinary intervention, John Bolton has sought to roll back proposed UN commitments on aid to developing countries, combating global warming and nuclear disarmament.
Mr Bolton has demanded no fewer than 750 amendments to the blueprint restating the ideals of the international body, which was originally drafted by the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan.
The amendments are spelt out in a 32-page US version, first reported by the Washington Post and acquired yesterday by The Independent. The document is littered with deletions and exclusions. Most strikingly, the changes eliminate all specific reference to the so-called Millennium Development Goals, accepted by all countries at the last major UN summit in 2000, including the United States.
The Americans are also seeking virtually to remove all references to the Kyoto treaty and the battle against global warming. They are striking out mention of the disputed International Criminal Court and drawing a red line through any suggestion that the nuclear powers should dismantle their arsenals. Instead, the US is seeking to add emphasis to passages on fighting terrorism and spreading democracy.
Very quickly, Mr Bolton has given the answer to anyone still wondering whether his long and difficult journey to New York - President George Bush confirmed him to the post after the US Senate was unable to - would render him coy or cautious. Far from that, he seems intent on taking the UN by the collar and plainly saying to its face what America expects - and does not expect - from it.
With this shift, the US government has erased its last of its rhetorical rationales for the war, the claim that "liberty" and "democracy" and "womens rights" would be installed through armed persuasion in Baghdad. Now they are arguing that Americans should accept the emergence of a flawed Islamic state, just as similar Americans accepted slavery and disenfranchisement as the price of the original constitution.
There's a small practical problem with this revised vision. It is likely to intensify the war on two levels: Iraqis against the Americans and Iraqis against each other. I don't have a particular philosophical preference for centralized government, but the alternative in Iraq is a devolution to warring ethnic and religious fiefdoms under the control of the international market. [John] Yoo, [David] Brooks and [Peter] Galbraith are silent on this untidy aspect of their scenario, with Yoo even reminding Americans that we had to go through the "fiery experience" of civil war before becoming a nation. Leaving aside the fact that Americans threw the British out by force, that's a macabre future for Iraqis who were promised "liberation." Since the civil war will not be won militarily, the Administration will argue that the occupation must be permanent.
If this sounds mad, manipulative or both, what does it reveal about US intentions in Iraq?
It suggests that the American purpose has been to destroy Iraqi nationalism, as in the previous Baathist state and the continued de-Baathification policies.
It suggests that our "best and brightest" want to weaken any future possibility of a strong Iraqi state with control of its own enterprises and resources.
It suggests that the US has chosen to ally itself with Islamic fundamentalism rather than a secular state with a centralized government.
It suggests that civil war against the Sunnis and any other "diehards" is the US preference rather than a political settlement that brings the nationalist resistance, including the Sunnis, into negotiations rather than war.
When Till's body was exhumed from a Chicago cemetery last month for an autopsy, it divided members of his family. Those opposed didn't want to disturb his remains, believing nothing could be proved by exhuming the body. Others felt it was necessary to prove his identity once and for all since the defense charged that it wasn't him. Moreover, they believed the exhumation would lead to others who might have been involved in Till's abduction and murder.
This contention over Till's bones was soon resolved, but the debate between Clenora Hudson-Weems and Keith Beauchamp may take a while before either is completely satisfied. Hudson-Weems, who completed her dissertation on Till's murder in 1988 and is currently a professor at the University of Missouri, charges that Beauchamp's documentary ''The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till'' is ''preposterous.'' She contends that ''the newly emerging authority on Till absurdly proclaims'' that several Black men were involved in Till's murder.
''The fact of the matter is that the only crime of these men was that of being Black men in the South during the times when Blacks were under constant intimidation by white supremacy,'' Hudson-Weems wrote in an email.
Though a witness in Beauchamp's film alludes that other Black men may have been involved in the crime, it is not a point that is rigorously pursued. However, Beauchamp, in other interviews, has backed this claim and says that he is prepared to name who they are.
Cindy Sheehan, a grieving mother of 24-year-old son Casey, killed only days after joining his army unit in Iraq, is an ordinary woman with extraordinary bearings.
Two months after the untimely death of her son, in June 2004, she met President Bush, hoping to find comfort and answers to many daunting questions. After a disappointing meeting, she insisted on meeting him again to pose her simple, yet poignant and utterly consequential question: "Why did my son die?
Expectedly, this question has been asked by thousands of grieving American families and in fact millions of Americans, many of whom have finally realized the dishonesty and absurdity of Bush's aimless war. 54 per cent of the American public, according to an August 7, 2005 nationwide CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll feel that the US administration has 'made a mistake' in sending troops to Iraq.
But unlike the disapproving, yet largely hushed, or perhaps overlooked millions, the 48-year-old mother, Sheehan, hauled anguish beyond words and camped near Bush's Texas ranch. Initially, the White House completely ignored her pleas, simply devising alternative routes so that Bush wouldn't run into 'Camp Casey.' When Sheehan finally forced her story on to the media, Bush took notice, dispatching some of his officials to pacify the devastated mother with yet more empty rhetoric. She refused to leave. Her insistence drew nationwide attention, quickly crossing the line dividing the alternative media from that of the mainstream. Right-wing apologists swiftly inundated the media, desperately trying to control a narrative, so instinctively woven by an ordinary woman so incessant on challenging the meaning, or lack thereof, in her son's death.
Two TV stations out west refused to run an ad by Cindy Sheehan and Gold Star Families for Peace when Bush was visiting there.
In the ad, Sheehan addresses Bush directly and asks, "Why can't you be honest with us?
. . . You lied to us, and because of your lies my son died." And she calls on him to "admit mistakes and bring our troops home now."
While many stations ran the ad, a couple chose not to.
"Salt Lake Citys ABC affiliate, KTVX-TV Channel 4, refused," says a news release from Gold Star Families for Peace.
According to AP, the station sent out an e-mail that said: 'The viewpoints reflected in the spot are incompatible with our marketplace and will not be well received by our viewers."
The station also said that the ad "could very well be offensive to our community in Utah, which has contributed more than its fair share of fighting soldiers and suffered significant loss of life in this Iraq War."
Celeste Zappala, one of the co-founders with Cindy of Gold Star Families for Peace, objects to this decision.
"I was in Salt Lake on Monday," she says, "and I talked to people there, and I was very surprised to hear that reasoning because to me it sounded like the station was saying it was inappropriate for the people of Salt Lake City to hear questions about the war."
For a long time, the last refuge of scoundrels was "patriotism." Now it's "the war on terror."
President Bush and many of his vocal supporters aren't content to wrap themselves in the flag. It's not sufficient to posture as more patriotic than opponents of the Iraq war. The ultimate demagogic weapon is to exploit the memory of Sept. 11, 2001.
Next month, the fourth anniversary will provide the Bush administration with plenty of media opportunities to wrap itself in the 9/11 shroud and depict Iraq war critics as insufficiently committed to defending the United States. A renewed attempt to justify the war as a resolute stand against terrorism is well underway.
On Wednesday, eager to pull out of a political nosedive, Bush stood in front of National Guard members in Idaho and read from a script that was thick with familiar rhetoric: "Our nation is engaged in a global war on terror that affects the safety and security of every American. In Iraq, Afghanistan and across the world, we face dangerous enemies who want to harm our people, folks who want to destroy our way of life." And: "As long as I'm the president, we will stay, we will fight and we will win the war on terror."
Such presidential oratory has become routine. And anniversaries of 9/11 are occasions when the White House ratchets up the spin.
* Sunday, Aug. 28, at 11 p.m. ET
* (Repeated on Monday, Aug. 29, at 6:30 a.m. ET)
The program -- including Q&A -- lasts about 90 minutes. Audio from the event (which was a benefit for Global Exchange and Media Alliance) has been posted at: http://alternet.org/multimedia/24486
War Made Easy was published last month and has gone into a second printing. The book is doing well, despite the fact that only one daily newspaper in the country has reviewed it (the Los Angeles Times, review posted at http://www.coldtype.net/war3.html). Whatever you could do to let others know about the book would be very helpful. Excerpts and other information are posted at: www.WarMadeEasy.com
As always, my latest columns are at: www.normansolomon.com
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