Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Democracy Now: Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre, Peter Kornbluh; Stan Goff, Nick Turse, Rory O'Connor

Canadian Teen At Guantanamo to Face Military Tribunal
The Pentagon filed war crimes charges against five more detainees at Guantanamo. Those charged include Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who has been held by the US since he was 15 years old. Khadr's attorney Muneer Ahmad protested Monday's decision saying "Through torture, abuse, and three years of illegal detention, this government has robbed Omar of his youth... The fact that this Administration has seen fit to designate a child for trial by military commission is abhorrent." The Bush administration has refused to provide assurances that they will not seek the death penalty against him. Khadr was detained in Afghanistan allegedly after throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier.

Five U.S. Soldiers Charged With Beating Iraqi Detainees
The military announced Monday five U.S. soldiers had been charged with punching and kicking detainees in Iraq. The beatings occurred two months ago.

U.S.-Led Assault on Syrian Border Continues
In Iraq, a major U.S.-led air and ground offensive along the Syrian border has entered its fourth day. U.S. warplanes have been firing Hellfire missiles and dropping 500 pound bombs. The U.S. military has said it has killed 36 in the assault and claimed they were all insurgents.

IRS Warns Church For Anti-War Sermon
The Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California's largest churches it could lose its tax-exempt status because a priest gave a sermon criticizing the Iraq war two days before last year's presidential election. The IRS has sent the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena a warning that the federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections. The IRS has issued warnings to other non-profits, including the NAACP, for issuing statements deemed critical of the president.

The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Joan, Ned, Abhilasha and Denise. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for November 8, 2005

- France Uses Colonial-Era Law To Impose Curfews
- President Bush: "We Do Not Torture"
- Supreme Court To Rule on Guantanamo Military Tribunals
- Canadian Teen At Guantanamo to Face Military Tribunal
- U.S.-Led Assault on Syrian Border Continues
- Iran: Debris From U.S. Spy Planes Found
- IRS Warns Church For Anti-War Sermon
- Record Spending Seen in Many of Today's Race

U.S. Broadcast Exclusive - "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre" on the U.S. Use of Napalm-Like White Phosphorus Bombs

Democracy Now! airs an exclusive excerpt of "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre," featuring interviews with U.S. soldiers, Iraqi doctors and international journalists on the U.S. attack on Fallujah. Produced by Italian state broadcaster RAI TV, the documentary charges U.S. warplanes illegally dropped white phosphorous incendiary bombs on civilian populations, burning the skin off Iraqi victims. One U.S. soldier charges this amounts to the U.S. using chemical weapons against the Iraqi people.


Today marks the one-year anniversary of the U.S. assault on the Sunni city of Fallujah when U.S. and Iraqi military forced out the town's residents, bombed hospitals and buildings, attacked whole neighborhoods, and denied entry to relief workers. In a North American broadcast exclusive, we bring you an excerpt from a new film that accuses the U.S. of using white phosphorus as a weapon in the Fallujah attack.

10,000 buildings were destroyed, with thousands more seriously damaged. At least 100,000 residents were permanently displaced, over 70 U.S. soldiers were killed, and the Iraqi death toll is unknown. Independent journalist Dahr Jamail was a one of the few un-embedded, independent reporters in Iraq at the time. On our program, he first reported U.S. troops were using chemical weapons in Iraq.

  • Dahr Jamail, speaking on Democracy Now!, November 2004:
    "I have interviewed many refugees over the last week coming out of Fallujah at different times from different locations within the city. The consistent stories that I have been getting have been refugees describing phosphorous weapons, horribly burned bodies, fires that burn on people when they touch these weapons, and they are unable to extinguish the fires even after dumping large amounts of water on the people. Many people are reporting cluster bombs, as well. And these are coming from the camps that I have been to, different people who have emerged from Fallujah anywhere from one week ago up to on through up toward near the very beginning of the siege."
Almost one year after these allegations came to light, a new documentary claims to provide fresh evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Fallujah. In the film, eyewitnesses and ex-US soldiers say white phosphorus bombs were used in Fallujah. Rai says this amounts to the illegal use of chemical weapons and says they were used indiscriminately against civilian populations.

A Debate: Did the U.S. Military Attack Iraqi Civilians With White Phosphorous Bombs in Violation of the Geneva Conventions?

We speak with a former U.S. soldier who witnessed orders being given to drop white phosphorous bombs over Fallujah; a Pentagon spokesperson in Baghdad who admits such bombs were used but denied they were used as a chemical weapon; and the news director of RAI TV, the Italian TV network that produced “Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre.”

Covering Up Torture? At Pentagon's Request the Washington Post Refuses To Report on Location Of Secret CIA Jails in Europe

We speak with Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archives on the paper's decision to abide by a Pentagon request not to name which European nations house these secret facilities. Kornbluh compares this decision to the New York Times' refusal to report on details of the U.S. invasion of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in 1961.

On this anniversary of the slaughter of Falluja lets note the embeds who keep us over there. Not just Dexter Filkins (but he's one of them and I'd rank him first), let's note Ron Harris. Harris is trashing Jimmy Massey. Why? To save his own ass. (Dexter Filkins, note Harris' strategy in case you later need to utilize it.) We'll note an article in a moment on this, but let's note Harris's April 1, 2004 report "On the Road From Fallujah to Ramadi" first.

The ultimate embed:

"We're on a dangerous stretch of road . . ."

"We're"? Harris and a press pool? No, Harris thinks he's part of the military.

"It's our first time down this road, but not for . . ."

The embed still thinks he is a troop.

"Everyone is relieved. We dismount, and put our fears and concerns behind us, at least until tomorrow. That's when we have to go back onto that road to make our way to the next town, another long ride."

Again, Ron Harris was supposed to be there as a reporter. Now maybe the fact that this crap ran on April's Fool Day (should all of Harris' reporting be published on April Fool's Day) justifies it. But Harris was a reporter (or supposed to be). Instead, he's one more gung hu war cheerleader. Harris, like Dexter Filkins will need to answer for "reporting."

On this topic, Lynda e-mails to note Stan Goff's "Ambush Journalism" (CounterPunch):

Researching other stories done by Harris over 2003 and 2004, the guerrillas hiding behind civilians becomes a recurrent topic. He was also as enamored of florid prose as Shacochis. That's what happens when you are writing about those you love.

The problem was, according to former Marine Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey, who was interviewed at the Boston Veterans for Peace Convention in 2004, Harris' description was heavily embellished. Contact that day was thin and sporadic.

"As his Marine unit entered Iraq it came upon empty Iraqi military bases with weapons lying on the road. 'We shot it up with everything we had, and we were laughing and having a good time. The Iraqis let us in the country; we didn't take it.'

"Upon entering Baghdad his unit came upon an unarmed pro-Saddam demonstration. His unit killed several of the demonstrators. 'I knew that we caused the insurgency to be pissed off because they had witnessed us executing innocent civilians.' Massey told us how the U.S.-embedded reporter, Ron Harris, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote that there was a ferocious battle between his unit and the Iraqi military, but it never happened. The reporter was writing what the Marines wanted him to write."

Readers need to note the date of this publication: September 4, 2004. This was when Ron Harris was described as an embedded reporter doing precisely what PR experts said embedded reporters are designed to do.

If I were Ron Harris and I read that on the internet, I'd be madder than hell--even if I were guilty as hell. This is not a good time to be seen as an embed, what with the exposure of New York Times hack Judith Miller as a virtual employee of Rendon Group and its pet Iraqi embezzler, Ahmed Chalabi. "Journalists" these days are seen about as credible as Texas Republicans.

Jimmy Massey didn't meet Harris that day, or ever, because while Harris was embedded with Lima Company 3/7, Jimmy was assigned to Weapons Company. In fact, Ron Harris has never so much as called Jimmy Massey on the telephone or attempted to send Jimmy Massey an email until he called several weeks ago to tell Jimmy to retract all his claims or be "exposed." The reason I bring that up is that two days ago, Harris published an ambush piece on Jimmy Massey, a year and a half after Massey dissed Harris on his Resheed battle story, and just one month after the release of Massey's devastating book, Kill Kill Kill, relating his experiences in Iraq, and naming names.

Don't look for the book here. American publishers ran from this book like it was a rabid skunk. It has only been published in France in French. That's why Jimmy Massey is pretty sure that Harris hasn't read it.

Harris hasn't read the book nor has he called Jimmy Massey except once to demand he retract his claims, but that didn't deter him from writing his hit-piece--about which I will write more further down--nor did it deter him from getting on CNN yesterday morning and claiming that Jimmy is making mad money from lies on the jimmymassey-dot-com web site, where Jimmy is said to be vigorously hawking $100 copies of his story on CDs.

CNN, by the way, had Jimmy in an Asheville studio yesterday waiting for his opportunity to answer Harris. But, alas, Harris had his day and Jimmy was sent home without so much as ten seconds of airtime to respond to Harris' accusations.

So let's set the record straight. http://www.jimmymassey.com/ is not owned or operated by Jimmy Massey, but by filmmaker Nancy Fulton, who posted the following message yesterday on her web site:

"Ron Harris, of the Washington Post-Dispatch has (apparently) volunteered to promote this set of DVDs for us in print and on CNN. It is worth noting that total revenues to Jimmy Massey from this project have been around $250 and 10 DVDs. This domain is registered to the owner of Metropole Filmworx LLC, which are the producers of the Back from Iraq documentary which will feature several soldiers discussing their service in the war in Iraq. Ron Harris didn't contact us to find out who owned the JimmyMassey.com website or to determine our financial relationship with Jimmy Massey.

"This means Ron's reporting on the 'Jimmy Massey' story is living up to the 'high standard' of his reporting in Iraq which failed to mention so much. If you want to know what Jimmy Massey has to say, we recommend that you purchase this set of DVDs. We consider Jimmy a leader in the pro-soldier/antiwar movement. Watch the DVD's then determine for yourself if a man accusing himself of murder is actually executing some clever ploy for fast cash. -- Nancy Fulton, Metropole Filmworx LLC."

Oops! Ya messed up there, Ron.

Billie e-mails to note "Passing the Torch" (The Nation):

Katrina vanden Heuvel, who has served as editor of The Nation since 1995, has been named the magazine's publisher and general partner. She succeeds Victor Navasky, who came to the magazine in 1978 as editor and became publisher and general partner in 1995.

Vanden Heuvel is the latest in a long line of Nation publisher-owners, from Freda Kirchwey in the 1930s and 1940s and Oswald Garrison Villard, who took over from his father in 1918, to Navasky. She is currently the only female editor-publisher of an American political weekly.

She takes Navasky's place at the helm of The Nation LP, a limited partnership composed of more than 160 investors. Navasky now becomes publisher emeritus and a member of the magazine's editorial board, and continues to be one of the magazine's major shareholders, along with Paul Newman, Peter Norton and Alan Sagner. Teresa Stack, president of The Nation, continues to oversee the day-to-day business of the magazine.

"The Nation, America's oldest weekly magazine, founded in 1865, the year the Civil War ended, is one of the country's cultural treasures. Katrina vanden Heuvel has an invaluable understanding of the role of the opinion magazine in general and the mission of The Nation in particular," Navasky said. "I believe she is the ideal steward to carry forward The Nation's extraordinary tradition. She has the trust and the confidence of the Nation community.

"As editor of the magazine for the last ten years, Katrina has defined The Nation's voice in the aftermath of the cold war and in the traumatic post-September 11 years. The magazine, under her leadership, has clearly staked out the intellectual and political alternative to the Bush Administration's extremist agenda, and done so much to mobilize our readers and the country against the misbegotten war in Iraq," he added.

"This is an extraordinary responsibility and honor," vanden Heuvel said. "I believe that in these remarkable political and cultural times, the need for The Nation's independent voice is greater than ever. I will insure that the magazine plays an even more influential role in shaping the public debate in the turbulent years ahead. I am privileged to work with such extraordinary writers and contributors, and with such a seasoned and skillful team, who care so deeply about the magazine, its impact and expanding readership."

Joan e-mails to note Nick Turse's "Who Had the Real Intel on the War" (Mother Jones):

On November 2, 2005, I found myself in a familiar situation -- at a protest. This time, it was the New York version of the World Can't Wait nationwide protest on the first anniversary of George W. Bush's reelection. In some ways the scene was typical. Heavy police presence for the rally. Lots of police vans. The ubiquitous metal barricades. And that vestigial gift of the August 2004 Republican National Convention in the Big Apple: the NYPD scooter brigade -- complete with flexi-cuffs informally used to weaponize the scooters by lashing billy clubs to them.

The police had been called out in force because the kids were out in force. While I saw many of the usual suspects (including my rapidly aging self), the day belonged to throngs of high-school and college kids -- some of whom walked out of class, braving suspensions. Many were too young to vote or buy alcohol, though not to enlist in the military. (Go figure.) It was a fired up, diverse crowd that grooved to the excellent musicianship and furious lyrics of the genre-bending Brooklyn quintet, Outernational, and gave it up for speakers ranging from fiery City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez to former diplomat Ann Wright, who called on the crowd to spend Thanksgiving with her and other hearty activist souls at Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas.

Then they took to the streets. Carrying a creative mélange of signs, clad in "Resist Or Die!" t-shirts, and wearing green stickers bearing the words of their signature chant -- "Drive out the Bush Regime, The World Can't Wait!" -- they commenced a two-mile march through Manhattan to Times Square. They yelled or sang familiar call-and-response chants. "Whose streets? Our streets!" "What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!" They implored passersby to join the march -- and I even saw an elderly man do so. Many drivers in cars smiled or honked horns in support, while office workers in windows above flashed peace signs, cheered, or gave thumbs-up. Then there was the fellow, high above in dress shirt and tie, who held his own home-made sign to a window: "Get a job." He was met by the expected opprobrium and a chant just for him: "Get a clue! Get a clue!"

Finally, he mouthed back -- at least it looked that way to me -- "You, get a clue!" And I was reminded of something that is almost never mentioned anymore. I remember well the huge rallies and marches in New York, Washington, and elsewhere as the Bush administration rushed headlong into war, claiming the need to find weapons of mass destruction that were never there and strangle a threat that never existed. It should make you think about who had a clue, and who needed to get one.

We'll note Rory O'Connor's "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Do Evil" (Media is a Plural, Media Channel):

You may recall recent (albeit short-lived) press attention paid to the role that Yahoo played in the imprisonment of Chinese journalist Shi Tao, sentenced in April to ten years for 'divulging state secrets abroad' after posting data on a US-based web site. Detailed information regarding his email account, supplied to Chinese authorities by Yahoo, led to Shi Tao's arrest. Yahoo managers defended the firm's collaboration with Chinese state security by explaining that they were simply conforming to Chinese law.

The Yahoo action may have been legal - but was it ethical? After all, this isn't the first time Yahoo has collaborated with the Chinese regime in its unceasing efforts to censor the Internet. Nor is Yahoo alone. Questions are also being raised about the complicity of other online titans such as Microsoft, Google, Sun Microsystems and the aforementioned Cisco. Microsoft, for example, has acquiesced in the censorship of its Chinese blog tool, which automatically rejects such dangerous words as "democracy." And Google has agreed to withdraw news media that Beijing considers 'subversive' from the Chinese version of its search engine.

Reporters Without Borders began writing, long ago, to the management of companies supplying the technology Chinese authorities need to monitor and punish people like Shi Tao. The first letter to Yahoo, for example, was sent three years ago. To date, said Pain, there has been no answer.

Unhappy with the lack of corporate response, frustrated with episodic and fickle news coverage of the issue, and anxious to help change the situation, Reporters Without Borders decided to try a new approach - partnering with socially minded investment managers to put direct shareholder pressure on the firms. Two investment management firms -
Boston Common Asset Management and Domini Social Investments
- stepped up to meet the challenge, and have since been joined by two dozen other groups, which collectively represent more than 21 billion dollars in investment.

And it's Rory O'Connor. Mia e-mailed to correct me on that (I mispelled it Sunday night. I'll correct that this evening, thanks Mia.)

And we'll close with Dahr Jamail and Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! a year ago ("U.S. Accused of Using Poison Gases in Fallujah"):

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about further knowledge of phosphorus weapons?

DAHR JAMAIL: Well, it's, weapon very similar to napalm, essentially a flammable weapon mixed with jet fuel where it dropped in a bomb, at least refugees I interviewed about this said it was a bomb that exploded and covered huge areas with fire. And then anyone that, of course, was hit with it was burned usually beyond recognition and then the fires continued to burn on the ground and if anyone went up and had any contact with the material, then they would catch on fire and people were unable to put them out.

AMY GOODMAN: Dahr Jamail speaking to us from Baghdad. And the places you are going to interview the victims?

DAHR JAMAIL: There are several refugee camps now, all around central Iraq, as well as many in Baghdad. One was conducted in a refugee camp at Baghdad University near a small mosque there. This camp, in fact, I was there just the other day, in the afternoon and one of the sheiks in the refugee camp said that day at noon, U.S. military had shown up with Iraqi National Guard, went through their camp looking for wounded fighters in order to detain them. Of course there were none there and he complained that all of the women and all of the children were terrorized, why are the Americans doing this? First they completely destroy our city, now when we are refugees; they terrorize us in the camps. Why are they doing this to us?

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