Thursday, September 08, 2005

Indymedia focus on Iraq

Just four days before the 2004 presidential election, a prestigious British medical journal published the results of a rigorous study by Dr. Les Roberts, a widely respected researcher. Roberts concluded that close to 100,000 people had died in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Most were noncombatant civilians. Many were children.
But that news didn't make the front pages of the major newspapers. It wasn't on the network news. So most voters knew little or nothing about the brutal civilian impact of President George W. Bush's war when they went to the polls.
It's just one of the big stories the mainstream news media ignored, blacked out or underreported over the past year, according to Project Censored, a media watchdog group based at California's Sonoma State University. Every year, project researchers scour the media looking for news that was never really recognized as such. The stories involve corporate misdeeds and governmental abuses that have been underreported, if not altogether ignored, says Sut Jhally, professor of communications at the University of Massachusetts and executive director of the Media Education Foundation.
The results are published in a book --this year, it's titled Censored 2006. "If there were a real democratic press, these are the kinds of stories they would do," says Jhally, who helped judge Project Censored's top picks. For the most part, he adds, "stories that affect the powerful don't get reported by the corporate media."

The above is from Camille T. Taiara's "Project Censored! Important stories ignored or underreported by mainstream media" (Vermont's Seven Days). Lyle e-mailed on that (and it's an article you'll see in a number of alternative weeklies).

Project Censored produces a great collection, year after year.

And we're going to note it's number two story because this our entry on Iraq and there's not a lot on that in the e-mails.

From Project Censored's top 25 picks for 2006 ("Civilian Death Toll Is Ignored"):

The illegal, heavy handed tactics practiced by the U.S. military in Iraq evident in these news stories have become what appears to be their standard operating procedure in occupied Iraq. Countless violations of international law and crimes against humanity occurred in Fallujah during the November massacre.
Evidenced by the mass slaughtering of Iraqis and the use of illegal weapons such as cluster bombs, napalm, uranium munitions and chemical weapons during the November siege of Fallujah when the entire city was declared a "free fire zone" by military leaders, the brutality of the U.S. military has only increased throughout Iraq as the occupation drags on.
According to Iraqis inside the city, at least 60 percent of Fallujah went on to be totally destroyed in the siege, and eight months after the siege entire districts of the city remained without electricity or water. Israeli style checkpoints were set up in the city, prohibiting anyone from entering who did not live inside the city. Of course non-embedded media were not allowed in the city.

From Project Censored's "Media Coverage Fails on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Deathtoll:"

Over the past two years, the United States has conducted two major sieges against Fallujah, a city in Iraq. The first attempted siege of Fallujah (a city of 300,000 people) resulted in a defeat for Coalition forces. As a result, the United States gave the citizens of Fallujah two choices prior to the second siege: leave the city or risk dying as enemy insurgents.
Faced with this ultimatum, approximately 250,000 citizens, or 83 percent of the population of Fallujah, fled the city. The people had nowhere to flee and ended up as refugees. Many families were forced to survive in fields, vacant lots, and abandoned buildings without access to shelter, water, electricity, food or medical care. The 50,000 citizens who either chose to remain in the city or who were unable to leave were trapped by Coalition forces and were cut off from food, water and medical supplies. The United States military claimed that there were a few thousand enemy insurgents remaining among those who stayed in the city and conducted the invasion as if all the people remaining were enemy combatants.
Burhan Fasa'a, an Iraqi journalist, said Americans grew easily frustrated with Iraqis who could not speak English. "Americans did not have interpreters with them, so they entered houses and killed people because they didn't speak English. They entered the house where I was with 26 people, and shot people because [the people] didn't obey [the soldiers'] orders, even just because the people couldn't understand a word of English." Abu Hammad, a resident of Fallujah, told the Inter Press Service that he saw people attempt to swim across the Euphrates to escape the siege. "The Americans shot them with rifles from the shore. Even if some of them were holding a white flag or white clothes over their head to show they are not fighters, they were all shot." Furthermore, "even the wound[ed] people were killed. The Americans made announcements for people to come to one mosque if they wanted to leave Fallujah, and even the people who went there carrying white flags were killed." Former residents of Fallujah recall other tragic methods of killing the wounded. "I watched them [U.S. Forces] roll over wounded people in the street with tanks… This happened so many times."
Preliminary estimates as of December of 2004 revealed that at least 6,000 Iraqi citizens in Fallujah had been killed, and one-third of the city had been destroyed.
Journalists Mary Trotochaud and Rick McDowell assert that the continuous slaughter in Fallujah is greatly contributing to escalating violence in other regions of the country such as Mosul, Baquba, Hilla, and Baghdad. The violence prompted by the U.S. invasion has resulted in the assassinations of at least 338 Iraqi's who were associated with Iraq's "new" government.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq, and more specifically Fallujah, is causing an incredible humanitarian disaster among those who have no specific involvement with the war. The International Committee for the Red Cross reported on December 23, 2004 that three of the city's water purification plants had been destroyed and the fourth badly damaged. Civilians are running short on food and are unable to receive help from those who are willing to make a positive difference. Aid organizations have been repeatedly denied access to the city, hospitals, and refugee populations in the surrounding areas.
Abdel Hamid Salim, spokesman for the Iraqi Red Crescent in Baghdad, told Inter Press Service that none of their relief teams had been allowed into Fallujah three weeks after the invasion. Salim declared that "there is still heavy fighting in Fallujah. And the Americans won’t let us in so we can help people."
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour voiced a deep concern for the civilians caught up in the fighting. Louise Arbour emphasized that all those guilty of violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws must be brought to justice. Arbour claimed that all violations of these laws should be investigated, including "the deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, the killing of injured persons and the use of human shields."
Marjorie Cohn, executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists, has noted that the U.S. invasion of Fallujah is a violation of international law that the U.S. had specifically ratified: "They [U.S. Forces] stormed and occupied the Fallujah General Hospital, and have not agreed to allow doctors and ambulances to go inside the main part of the city to help the wounded, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions."
According to David Walsh, the American media also seems to contribute to the subversion of truth in Fallujah. Although, in many cases, journalists are prevented from entering the city and are denied access to the wounded, corporate media showed little concern regarding their denied access. There has been little or no mention of the immorality or legality of the attacks the United States has waged against Iraq. With few independent journalists reporting on the carnage, the international humanitarian community in exile, and the Red Cross and Red Crescent prevented from entering the besieged city, the world is forced to rely on reporting from journalists embedded with U.S. forces. In the U.S. press, we see casualties reported for Fallujah as follows: number of U.S. soldiers dead, number of Iraqi soldiers dead, number of "guerillas" or "insurgents" dead. Nowhere were the civilian casualties reported in the first weeks of the invasion. An accurate count of civilian casualties to date has yet to be published in the mainstream media.

Brandon e-mails to note Jim Washburn with "Stop the War: I want to get off" (Orange County Weekly):

It used to be that you could pretty well count on Republicans to protect the flag and the cross. With Christian patriot George W. Bush at the helm, however, flag-dragging and cross-crushing have joined other new Republican pastimes such as outing CIA agents, raising record deficits, bloating government’s size and power, and, of course, denigrating the mothers of our war dead.
You've likely read about how one of Bush's conservative neighbors was so upset with Cindy Sheehan’s vigil on the periphery of Bush’s precious 300th-plus day of vacation that the Texan used his pickup truck to run over dozens of flags and crosses bearing the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. When authorities caught up with the guy, he was outside his disabled truck, which had a flat tire and a wooden cross stuck in its undercarriage. You’ve got to wonder if that’s covered by the manufacturer's warranty.
Events like this typically amuse the bejesus out of me, but not at the price tag Bush's nutty agenda carries: more than 1,860 American dead; thousands and thousands and thousands wounded; Christ knows how many Iraqi men, women and children dead or maimed; our security situation incalculably worsened; our reputation in the world besmirched; our values trampled; not to mention the hundreds of billions of dollars the war has cost.
I've lost count, and so evidently has the administration, since as much as $20 billion has gone missing in Iraq. What will it take to stop this war? You. And me. And a lot more of us.
The deal sucks: Bush's guys control all three branches of government. They own the media and practically everything else. Most news organizations scarcely report any real news, and most Americans don't watch or read even that, which is why two-thirds of them think Saddam Hussein slept with Paula Abdul. Even with a majority of Americans catching on now that this war was based on falsehoods, was mishandled and has made our nation less secure, Bush just goes bicycling along, unmoved by facts, public opinion or a mother's grief.

Emily e-mails to note R.L. Nave's "No child left unsolicited" (Illinois Times):

Local antiwar groups are focusing attention on a provision of the federal No Child Left Behind Act that requires public schools to provide military recruiters with contact information for juniors and seniors. Schools must comply with the provision, known as Section 9528, or risk losing federal educational funding.
Peace groups such as the Conscientious Objection Group of Springfield see the mandate as an invasion of students' rights to privacy while others suggest it's an underhanded way to boost enlistment during wartime.
The rationale behind Section 9528 is that recruiters for the armed services have as much right to contact high school students as do prospective colleges and employers.
By submitting an "opt-out" letter to school officials, Section 9528 does allow parents to place their children on a recruiting no-call list. But members of the Conscientious Objection Group, which is sponsoring a forum on the subject next week, complain that Springfield District 186 uses a confusing form that discourages parents from saying no.

Wally e-mails to note James Carlson's "Uncle Sam Really Wants You: What's it like to be a recruiters are getting desperate?" (Orlando Weekly):

When President Bush declared an end to major combat missions in Iraq in May 2003, every branch of the armed services was on its way to a full recruiting class. The military, after barreling through Iraq in 42 days with fewer than expected casualties, had no problem signing up America's youth for the fight.
But two years later the Army, the main provider of ground troops, is about to miss its fiscal-year recruiting goal for the first time since 1999. The Army National Guard, itself playing a more involved role in combat, is going to miss its recruiting goals for the third year in a row.
What happened? More than 1,800 troop deaths happened, dampening the rah-rah mood. Yes, we still "support our troops," but we're not sending enough of our sons or daughters, brothers or sisters anymore because post-Saddam Iraq, for all of W's planning (cough, cough), is not the safe place we thought it would be by now.
An overlooked consequence is that the Army business has suffered. Recruiters are having a hard time selling a life in the army that is more and more likely to end in death. Orlando Weekly wondered what recruiters would do to sign up a recruit during these enlistment shortfalls. Would they play it straight or go all car salesman?
I was enlisted to find out.
A bit about the ground rules of the story. I wanted to be treated like a potential recruit, not a journalist doing research, so I didn't tell the recruiters I talked to I was working on a story. Therefore, I feel it's only fair not to use their names. But I used my real name when I talked to them, and I used the real circumstances of my life at present: I recently graduated from college, I'm delivering pizzas for a living and I want to find out what the armed forces have to offer (somewhat true). So, no lies, but I didn't offer up more truth than needed, either.
The sergeant knew I was coming, and he shakes my hand as I sit down. He has a barrel chest, buzzed black hair and surprisingly warm brown eyes. "Let me ask you a question," he says, jumping right into his pitch. "Do you have student loans?"

Tammy e-mails to note Stan Goff's "An Open Letter to U.S. Troops in Afghanistan and Iraq" (Pulse of the Twin Cities):

I was a soldier for most of the time between 1970 and 1996. I signed out on my retirement from 3rd Special Forces in Ft. Bragg. I had also served in 7th Special Forces, on three Ranger assignments, with Delta for almost four years, as a Cavalry Scout for a while, and in the 82nd Airborne Division as an infantryman. I started my career in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade.I thugged around in eight different places in East Asia, Latin America and Africa, where I pointed guns at people. Like you, I was an instrument of American foreign policies--policies controlled, then as now, by the rich. In the course of that career, I heard everything you have heard and felt everything you have felt about "loyalty." Tricky thing, loyalty.

[. . .]
The United States military got to the point where it was no longer an effective fighting force because U.S. soldiers quit taking orders. It got to the point where an officer who was using his men’s bodies to chase medals might find himself on the wrong end of a Claymore mine. Now I’m not advocating that again, and I hope we can stop this before it goes that far.
The other thing many soldiers did was to become part of the political resistance at home. They looked at this question of looking out for their buddies and for fellow soldiers in the short term, while staying in a barbaric and immoral war. And they realized that the best thing they could do for their buddies--not as soldiers, but as human beings--was to enlist in the opposition to the war and bring it to an end.
In the process, many of them discovered that it took a lot more endurance and a lot more courage to oppose the war than it did to demonstrate that macho bullshit they were expected to display as they continued to do terrible things to those other human beings whose country they occupied. Here's how you can exercise a deeper loyalty to the troops there now, and to all those who will continue to go as long as this obscenity continues:
Do everything you can to stop the war.
Question every order, and base those questions on the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Land Warfare. Let them see you keeping a detailed journal of your experience. Send your stories home in letters. Open up discussions about the legitimacy of the war when you are in your billets, even if it does spark controversy. Spread information you get about the war from sources other than those loud-mouthed news-mannequins on FOX. And e-mail or mail your anonymous membership in to Iraq Veterans Against the War. The link is at the end of this letter.
The day this war stops and they put the last of you on an airplane home is when you will never again have to smell that fresh-blood smell that stays in your head for hours after you’ve loaded someone onto a stretcher or rolled them into that big Ziploc bag. The day will come when you all pull out, because this was a losing proposition from the outset, but Bush and his crew were too f**king stupid to know it.
The best thing we can hope for is that this war of occupation will end sooner than later, and as an exercise of loyalty to your own conscience, of loyalty to those who are there and those who may go there, and loyalty to the principle of human decency, you can find ways to hasten that day. You can find ways to bring closer the day when the Iraqis can get on about the business of taking control of their own destiny, and you and your buddies can sleep in security and comfort in your own homes, play with your children, make love with your partners, and walk down familiar streets unencumbered by the rattling luggage of war.
If bringing this day closer for all of you is the goal, how much more loyal can you get?
Yours for walking unencumbered,
Stan Goff

Cedric e-mails to note voice from the wilderness "What kind of organization does the antiwar movement need?" (Colorado Indymedia):

What kind of organization does the antiwar movement need?
An organization capable of overthrowing the system of imperialistrule cannot be built on a foundation of sand. Only principled, transparent and long-term collaboration between serious activists can:
(1) organize a decisive break from theconfinement of liberal-imperialist politics,
(2) mobilize the masses in their millions and
(3) chart the couse forward to a world without imperialist war or capitalist exploitation
Why do we need organization?
We need organization because without it we are powerless.
Individual activists, acting on their own, can do very little to overcome their isolation and effectively challenge the domination of the antiwar movement by the big coalitions which, in ways large or small, have allied themselves to liberal-imperialist political trends.
Only by combining our energies can serious, militant activistsdevelop a clear alternative to liberal lesser-evil politics andbring this alternative to the attention of activists everywhere.
The antiwar movement can never become a powerful social force until it breaks free from the straight jacket of the bourgeois politics which are promoted by a reformist social strata (ie: liberal-labor politicians, trade union bureaucrats, religious misleaders, poverty pimps, "progressive" media personalities and professional shapers of "public opinion") which is dependent on the bourgeoisie and in orbit around the Democratic Party.

Kathy e-mails to note CIMC "Draft of Proposed Iraq War Resolution in Chicago City Council" (Chicago Indymedia):

The City Council Committee on Human Relations will hold a hearing on the Resolution calling for an immediate orderly withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq. The hearing is scheduled for Monday, September 12th at 1:00 pm at CityHall, 121 N. LaSalle, in the City Council Chambers, 2nd Floor. The draft of the resolution is listed below
The City Council Committee on Human Relations will hold a hearing on the Resolution calling for an immediate orderly withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq. The hearing is scheduled for Monday, September 12th at 1:00 pm at CityHall, 121 N. LaSalle, in the City Council Chambers, 2nd Floor. The resolution was introduced into the City Council last July and currently has 40 co-sponsors. The lead City Council sponsors hope to have the committee vote to approve the resolution on that day. The resolution would then be referred to the full City Council for a vote on Wednesday, September 14th. Please make every effort to attend this important committee hearing.
The text of the resolution is provided below.
RESOLUTION URGING CESSATION OF COMBAT OPERATIONSIN IRAQ AND THE RETURN OF U.S. TROOPS WHEREAS, The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 was passed by the U.S. Congress on October 11, 2002, and that Public Law 107-243 cited Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction as a primary reason for the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq; andWHEREAS, On January 12, 2005, President Bush officially declared an end to the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; and WHEREAS, The United States initiated combat operations in Iraq on March 19, 2003; and WHEREAS, Hundreds of thousands of members of the United States Armed Forces have served with honor and distinction in Iraq; and WHEREAS, More than 1,700 members of the United States Armed Forces have been killed and more than 12,000 members of the Armed Forces have been wounded in substantially accomplishing the stated purpose of the United States of giving the people of Iraq a reasonable opportunity to decide their own future; and WHEREAS, The United States military occupation of Iraq has placed significant strains on the capacity of the United States Armed Forces, both active duty and reserve and the National Guard.
WHEREAS, The armed forces of Iraq number more than 76,000 troops as of June 8, 2005, and are growing in number and capability daily; and WHEREAS, The forces of the Iraqi Interior Ministry number more than 92,000 personnel as of June 8, 2005, and are growing in number and capability daily; and WHEREAS, More than $200 billion has been appropriated by Congress to fund military operations and reconstruction in Iraq, and Chicago residents' share now exceeds $2.1 billion; and WHEREAS, The funds spent by Chicago taxpayers on the war and occupation in Iraq could have provided Head Start for one year for 238,056 children; or medical insurance for one year for 1,076,242 children; or 31,147 public school teachers for one year; or 16,183 additional housing units, according to the National Priorities Project; and WHEREAS, The war and continued occupation have resulted in the devastation of Iraq's physical and social infrastructure and led to widespread and continuous resistance to U.S. occupation that threatens the lives of Iraqi civilians and the men and women who compose the ranks of U.S. and other occupying forces; and WHEREAS, The presence of United States forces in Iraq and the alleged torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other facilities have inflamed anti-American passions in the Muslim world and increased the terrorist threat to United States citizens, both at home and abroad; and WHEREAS, Polls show that less than half of the American people support the war; andWHEREAS, Illinois Congresspersons Rush, Lipinski, Emanuel, Davis, Schakowsky, Jackson, Gutierrez, and Costello joined more than 100 other Congresspersons in voting for a House resolution on an Iraq exit strategy; and WHEREAS, On January 2003, the Chicago City Council passed a resolution 47-1 opposing the war in Iraq prior to its commencing in March 2003; now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED, That the City Council of the City of Chicago, on behalf of the citizens of Chicago, urges the United States government to immediately commence an orderly and rapid withdrawal of United States military personnel from Iraq; andBE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the City Council of Chicago, recognizing that the stability of Iraq is crucial to the security of the citizens of Chicago and to all Americans, urges the United States government to provide the people of Iraq with all necessary non-military material aid as shall be necessary for the security of Iraq's citizens and for the rebuilding of Iraq; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the financial resources used to prosecute the war be redirected to address the urgent needs of America's great urban centers and the most vulnerable portions of our population, including health, education, and homeland security; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That a suitable copy of this resolution shall be sent to George W. Bush, President of the United States, and the members of the Illinois Congressional delegation.

Jonathan e-mails to note Josh Malle's "Citizens to School Board: Recruiters Out!" (Seattle Indymedia):

The Seattle School Board meeting was on the front lines of the struggle against the war in Iraq Wednesday night as the Board heard citizen comments and voted on a district-wide policy on military recruitment.
As the occupation drags on, peace activists nationwide are increasingly turning their attention to the high schools and colleges in which the military recruits.
More than 50 community activists attended the School Board meeting to support greater restrictions on the activities of military recruiters in Seattle high schools. Several of the speakers were members of organizations working together as the Opt-Out, Walk-Out Coalition, which calls for a comprehensive ban on military recruitment in Seattle schools, and demands that the school board make it as easy as possible for students to "opt out" of having their contact information provided to the military.
The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act makes federal education funding contingent on schools providing equal access to military recruiters and also requires schools to automatically provide contact information to the military unless parents or students complete and submit an "opt-out" form. Washington State also gives the military access to students' WASL test scores, family income, race and Social Security number and state law also requires schools to grant access to military recruiters.
Several speakers alleged that the military targets economically disadvantaged youth and minorities, and that that recruiters exaggerate the educational and vocational opportunities available through the military and de-emphasize the hard facts of military life: soldiers are much more likely to be killed or injured and to kill others than their civilian counterparts, and having once enlisted, a soldier cannot freely quit the service.
"We disagree with military recruitment in schools," said Jeff Rice, a student speaking on behalf of a Philippine student organization, "because it tends to affect poor people of color."

Doug e-mails to note Ralph Hutchison's "District Attorney to Drop Charges Against Tennessee Peace Activists" (Tennessee Indymedia):

District Attorney James Ramsey has informed Mary Dennis Lentsch and Pam Beziat that his office will drop the charges against them rather than proceed to a jury trial. Fifteen people were arrested for blocking the road leading into the Y12 National Security Complex on August 6, 2005. Of the fifteen, eleven remained in Anderson County Jail over a long weekend, appearing before Judge Ronald Murch in General Sessions Court in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Maurizio Conti, Jack Hoefer, Andy Weatherly, and Martin Stephens were eleased on recognizance on August 6 after they appeared before the Judge on Tuesday morning, August 9 and entered pleas of "no contest" or "Best Interest." They were found guilty and sentenced to $25 fine + costs (total $218). The judge allowed only statements related to sentencing. When Jack Hoefer asked "May I tell the court why I resorted to radical action?" the judge answered, "No, sir."
Maurizio Conti told the court he is he son of a police officer and a father who has tried to teach his daughter to respect the law. "It was not easy to be arrested," he said. "Not long ago I stood in a courtroom and took an oath to be a good citizen. I felt it was my responsibility to make this country better, safer. So I went to Y12, a good citizen trying to create public awareness of the dangers of nuclear proliferation."

Andrew Weatherly told the judge that he is a 5th grade school teacher, a YWCA coach who chaperones church trips and teaches American history. His students learn that good people stood up when morally repugnant things happened.
"With all due respect," he told the judge, "I have to stand and set an example for my children and other children."
The remaining eleven appeared in the afternoon session, shackled at the hands, waist and feet, men wearing prison green jumpsuits, women wearing Navy blue and bright keds sneakers.
Glenda Struss Keyes, Beth Brockman, John Heid, Bonnie Urfer, Dan Lombardo, Judy Burkhardt, and Tom Lewis pled no contest or best interest. Judy Burkhardt was sentenced to five days in jail (second offense). Glenda Struss Keyes was sentenced to fifteen days in jail (third offense). The others were released with $25 fines and time served. Defendants were given 30 days to pay their fines and costs.
John Heid spoke to the court, noting that it was Nagasaki Day, and that a nuclear cloud still hangs over the community of Oak Ridge-- The judge ordered him to stop, saying it had nothing to do with sentencing. John argued it has everything to do with sentencing; the judge ordered him again to stop. John said he wanted to be clear with the court that he would not pay fines or court costs; that he would be willing to make a donation to OREPA in lieu of fines. The Judge said he had thirty days to pay; John wished the judge peace.
Tom Lewis indicated his financial status would prohibit payment of fines and costs; the judge said he would review the matter on September 7.
Shelley Wascom and Berta Lambert pled not guilty and requested bench trials before Judge Murch. Trials were held that afternoon.
In the end, the Judge delivered guilty verdicts, fined Berta and sentenced him to time served sentenced Shelley to fifteen days in jail (third offense).

The e-mail address for this site is In a perfect world, we'd have time to address the New York Times coverage of Iraq tonight or this morning (it's already this morning as I type). I'll try to do that Saturday morning in our first entry.