Thursday, March 16, 2006

And the war drags on . . . (Indymedia Roundup)

When the media watch group FAIR conducted a survey of network news sources during the Gulf War's first two weeks, the most frequent repeat analyst was ABC's Anthony Cordesman. Not surprisingly, the former high-ranking official at the Defense Department and National Security Council gave the war-makers high marks for being trustworthy.
"I think the Pentagon is giving it to you absolutely straight," Cordesman said (Newsday, 1/23/91).
The standard media coverage boosted the war. "Usually missing from the news was analysis from a perspective critical of U.S. policy," FAIR reported (Extra!, Winter/91). "The media's rule of thumb seemed to be that to support the war was to be objective, while to be anti-war was to carry a bias." Eased along by that media rule of thumb was the sanitized language of Pentagonspeak as mediaspeak: "Again and again, the mantra of 'surgical strikes against military targets' was repeated by journalists, even though Pentagon briefers acknowledged that they were aiming at civilian roads, bridges and public utilities vital to the survival of the civilian population."
As the Gulf War came to an end, people watching CBS saw Dan Rather close an interview with the 1st Marine Division commander by shaking his hand and exclaiming (2/27/91): "Again, general, congratulations on a job wonderfully done!"
Chris Hedges covered the Gulf War for the New York Times. More than a decade later, he wrote in a book (War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning):
"The notion that the press was used in the war is incorrect. The press wanted to be used. It saw itself as part of the war effort." Truth-seeking independence was far from the media agenda. "The press was as eager to be of service to the state during the war as most everyone else. Such docility on the part of the press made it easier to do what governments do in wartime, indeed what governments do much of the time, and that is lie."
Variations in news coverage did not change the overwhelming sameness of outlook:
"I boycotted the pool system, but my reports did not puncture the myth or question the grand crusade to free Kuwait. I allowed soldiers to grumble. I shed a little light on the lies spread to make the war look like a coalition, but I did not challenge in any real way the patriotism and jingoism that enthused the crowds back home. We all used the same phrases. We all looked at Iraq through the same lens."

The above, noted by Ryan, is from Norman Solomon's "The Military-Industrial-Media Complex: Why war is covered from the warriors’ perspective" (FAIR). It's always worth noting but especially on the third anniversary of the invasion, at a time when the new effort appears to be "Only we can bring peace" (when the occupation had done anything but that in Iraq). And to get the public behind the latest efforts, what better to do than to spotlight generals who grumble about strategy? Generals who explain that someone was tying their hands.

It's the old argument, you heard it for years in the revisionary Vietnam histories, "We could have won! We could have! But our hands were tied, we weren't given what we needed, we . . ."
Blah, blah, f-ing blah. On the Times' dopey article (actually a two-parter) this week, we already noted that the authors (who will be on Democracy Now! tomorrow) weren't historians, weren't anything. They're part of the roll out (knowingly or not) for the, "Okay, we screwed up the occupation before, but now we're going to do things right!" b.s.

That the administration screwed up is not a surprise -- in any area. That they screwed up in Iraq is not news. Naomi Klein charted the intentional screw ups in Iraq back in September of 2004 with "Baghdad Year Zero" (Harper's magazine). Let's quote Klein to be sure no one's forgotten:

Looking at the honey billboard, I was also reminded of the most common explanation for what has gone wrong in Iraq, a complaint echoed by everyone from John Kerry to Pat Buchanan: Iraq is mired in blood and deprivation because George W. Bush didn't have "a postwar plan." The only problem with this theory is that it isn't true. The Bush Administration did have a plan for what it would do after the war; put simply, it was to lay out as much honey as possible, then sit back and wait for the flies.

They did have a postwar plan. It was to shut the Iraqis out of the process, privatize as much as they could, and haul off as much money as they were able to. Learning that the British were shocked that Bully Boy didn't do this or that military is besides the point.

That wasn't his aim. His aim was to lie us over there and then create, from the ground -- hence Baghdad Year Zero, the free market -- from scratch and a gun barrel.

Talking military strategy is b.s. That's all it is, that's all it ever will be.

Talk about what was done in Iraq. Talk about how we got over there. Hearing tales from high ranking military officials about how they wished they had more whatever (bombs? troops?) is nonsense. We shouldn't have been over there and trying to sell the hogwash that there could have been a "win" is nonsense, it's jerking off, it's fantasizing and it's attempting to tack on even more days to the occupation as Americans are told if-only's and led to believe that Rumsfeld can carry it off this time.

It doesn't need to be 'carried off.' It needs to be ended. It never should have started. For three years a lot of people have deluded themselves about the tensions (against the occupiers) in Iraq. As though we could trample around their country and impose our concept of "order" upon a people -- an intelligent people, not a group of ignorant children. We can't. If that's not obvious to people now, it never will be.

Fortunately for those who practice the religion of denail, the likes of Michael Gordon scribble badly written articles that let them think, "If only we'd fought this way or that way, we'd have peace now!" No, we wouldn't. When one country occupies another, you don't get peace. When the host country wants the occupiers to leave, you don't get peace. When you import workers from out of the country and deny jobs to Iraqis, you don't get peace. When you have a tag sale on their public goods, you don't get peace. When you make noises about taking away their food subsidies, you don't get peace.

Why take away their food subsidies? Especially if they don't want them taken away? Because it doesn't fit the "free market" model we've attempted to impose upon Iraq, that we've attempted to force onto the people.

That's not democracy. That's occupation. We're calling the shots, and Iraqis don't like it. That's not a surprise to anyone awake. And hearing about the grumbles from the leadership of the military doesn't begin to address reality.

To note Naomi Klein again:

At first, the shock-therapy theory seemed to hold: Iraqis, reeling from violence both military and economic, were far too busy staying alive to mount a political response to Bremer’s campaign. Worrying about the privatization of the sewage system was an unimaginable luxury with half the population lacking access to clean drinking water; the debate over the flat tax would have to wait until the lights were back on. Even in the international press, Bremer's new laws, though radical, were easily upstaged by more dramatic news of political chaos and rising crime.
Some people were paying attention, of course. That autumn was awash in "rebuilding Iraq" trade shows, in Washington, London, Madrid, and Amman. The Economist described Iraq under Bremer as "a capitalist dream," and a flurry of new consulting firms were launched promising to help companies get access to the Iraqi market, their boards of directors stacked with well-connected Republicans. The most prominent was New Bridge Strategies, started by Joe Allbaugh, former Bush-Cheney campaign manager. "Getting the rights to distribute Procter & Gamble products can be a gold mine," one of the company's partners enthused. "One well-stocked 7-Eleven could knock out thirty Iraqi stores; a Wal-Mart could take over the country."

That was the plan, that is the plan. The military were used as rent-a-cops to protect the tag sales and the corporations. They were dispensible. That's why there was no guilt on the part of the Bully Boy about hiding coffins, about not attending funerals, go down the list. They weren't his "base." They were the servants sent in to do the chores. That some generals want to whine about the feather duster they were given or not given is beside the point.

The only plan is, and was always, to take over Iraq. Not to spread democracy. Not to help the Iraqis. It wasn't just creating a "free market," it was about opening a "new market." One created with rules by the United States for the United States.

Which is why this isn't surprising (from Democracy Now!):

Top US General in Iraq Says Bases May Be Permanent
In other news, the top US military commander in Iraq has indicated the US may want to hold on to the several military bases it has built in the country. Appearing before a Congressional subcommittee Tuesday, General John Abizaid said the US may want to keep a foothold in Iraq to support regional "moderates" and protect oil supplies.

Rachel asked that we note it again. It's worth noting again.

Bring the troops home? Not when people are pushing the nonsense that we could have "won" if only we'd utilized this military option or that military option. It's the same nonsense, the same sell war b.s. we've gotten in the post-Vietnam era as the likes of Rumsfeld, et al, have committed themselves to overcoming the "Vietnam syndrome."

What was that "syndrome"? A realization that war has costs, that leaders lie (from both of the dominant parties in the United States), a realization that Americans should not be sacrificed at the whim of a leader. This wasn't a "syndrome," it was an awakening.

Brenda wanted us to highlight "Lessons of Iraq War start with U.S. history" (The Progressive Media Project, The Progressive) again:

On the third anniversary of President Bush's Iraq debacle, it's important to consider why the administration so easily fooled so many people into supporting the war.I believe there are two reasons, which go deep into our national culture.
One is an absence of historical perspective. The other is an inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism.
If we don't know history, then we are ready meat for carnivorous politicians and the intellectuals and journalists who supply the carving knives. But if we know some history, if we know how many times presidents have lied to us, we will not be fooled again.
[. . .]
Our leaders have taken it for granted, and planted the belief in the minds of many people that we are entitled, because of our moral superiority, to dominate the world. Both the Republican and Democratic Parties have embraced this notion.

It's that superiority that leads us to debate military strategies instead of the actual realities of how we got over there and of what we're doing over there.

Military porn, war lust, won't get to the heart of the problem. It's not even telling us anything useful. So some generals are unhappy that they couldn't do this or that, or some Brits were shocked by how we occupied -- so what? The issue is the occupation. The issue is why we are occupying.

But instead, we're encouraged to focus on the military 'strategy.' Why? Are we going to invade our own occupation? Hardly. But give people something to focus on other than reality and they'll go all dreamy-eyed. Many years ago, in a poli sci class, we had an assignment where we would be divided into five (or more) countries. Some would have the nuclear bomb and some wouldn't. If I'm vague on the assignment, there's a reason. I didn't participate. As the time for this major assignment (that would last two weeks) approached, you could just see people getting excited about having the 'bomb.' You could hear the jokes and see that the whole excercise was nothing but a war game and people were getting off on it. So I went to the professor and said that I couldn't participate. I was told my 'moral stance' was admirable but I might want to rethink it since I'd be getting a zero on that project. I took the zero. But before I left the office, I did ask what the objectives were? Not because I was on the fence, I'd already announced that I would be absent from two weeks worth of classes, but because I wanted to know exactly what was supposed to happen with the lesson. To raise awareness about the way nations relate, that was the goal.

Thing is, that's not what anyone got out of it. Not then, not since. (I spoke to ten classmates last weekend.) (The whole class participated, except for me.) What they got was how 'cool' it was to have 'power.' The ones with 'power' didn't have an understanding of the ones representing countries without 'power.' The ones in the latter category didn't come out with an understanding of how important diplomacy was or any sense of fairness/unfairness in the system. They just knew they needed to get the 'bomb' or represent another country the next time.

One of the people I spoke to was the strongest supporter (prior to and during) of the excercise. He said last weekend, looking back, the whole course seemed to exist just to "justify imperialism." It did that quite well.

And that's what military strategy discussions will do. If only we'd . . . Why didn't we . . . Never questions as to the actual right or wrong of the war itself. Just 'strategies.' And the administration's hope is that we'll get caught up in that 'game' and we'll lose sight of the fact that the occupation is as illegal as was the invasion, that Iraqis are dying, that troops in the so-called coaltion are dying. And maybe as we gear up for some sort of NFL fantasy war, we'll stop focusing on reality.

The invasion that was sold as a video game could become a game again! That's the hope.

The reality? That we're three years into the "cakewalk" that wasn't. That democracy wasn't the goal. That there was no interest in the Iraqi people as evidenced by the lack of interest the occupation has had in providing basics like running electricity and running water.

Here's some more reality, noted by In Dallas, "Rally and March, Downtown Dallas, March 19, 2006" (North Texas Indymedia):

On the third anniversary of the war, Sunday, March 19, 2006 a rally and march to Stop the War Now and Bring Our Troops Home will take place in Dallas at 2:00 p.m.
For those interested in bringing this war to an end, the rallying point will be:St. Paul United Methodist Church1816 Routh St. (downtown Dallas)
Participants will begin gathering outside the church at 1:30 p.m., and a rally consisting of speakers and music will start at 2:00 p.m.
The march immediately following will be to the Earle Cabell Federal Building.
People of all faiths are encouraged to show their support for Rev. L. Charles Stovall and his call for peace at St. Paul United Methodist Church. Morning services begining at 10:45 a.m.
For more information:
Walt Harrison, Camp Casey Dallas, (800) 490-8161 ext. 103,
Trish Major, Dallas Peace Center Communications Director, (214) 823-7793

Why is it important to be heard this weekend? Because the war drags on, within you, without you. Sing the song:

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

It's Thursday, indymedia roundup with a focus on Iraq. The third annivesary of the invasion is upon us. Three years. Make yourself heard or accept that the war will continue to drag on. Accept, embrace it and make yourself useless.

Ben notes Mark Jurkowitz's "Numbing carnage: Once an upbeat hit, Bush's Iraq show has jumped the shark" (The Boston Phoenix):

As the brutal onslaught of chaos and bloodshed in Iraq steadily erodes Americans’ patience, a number of pollsters and analysts assert that those blaming the media for instilling defeatism in the American public -- in a reprise of the so-called Vietnam syndrome -- are wrong on two key counts.
For one thing, they say, the track of the media's performance in Iraq suggests that coverage, rather than being inalterably negative, has focused on both the upbeat (such as elections) and the downbeat (such as violence), as events have dictated. And second, the evidence suggests that the American vox populi is genuinely responsive to actual events as they unfold on the ground.
On Monday, in another of his repeated attempts to reverse the slide of support for his policy, George Bush gave a speech that discussed a "hopeful future" in Iraq and told Americans that despite "images of violence and anger and despair," the Iraqi people have opted for "a future of freedom and peace."
But Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup poll, suggests that at this point the president is in the position of basically asking the public not to believe its eyes.
"Obviously, what Americans know about the war comes from the media, so their attitudes are crystallized by that, [and] their attitude toward the war reacts to what really happens."
"If I would talk to the administration," Newport adds, "I would say, 'Speeches don't do much anymore.' "

Durham Gal notes two items. First up, Patrick O'Neill's "Protests this weekend: March part of larger anti-war process" (Raleigh-Durham Independent):

Liz Seymour, a spokeswoman for the interim steering committee of the N.C. Peace and Justice Coalition, the main sponsor of the march, said this year more of the people working on the march are newcomers who became active because they were inspired after attending previous Fayetteville events.
Seymour said she knows Saturday's event will not make an impact on George Bush, but it will likely be part of an effort to build a comprehensive, long-range movement that goes beyond stopping the Iraq war.
"It's not about the right combination of programs and words to change the minds of the people elected to higher office," Seymour says. "The point is to broaden the movement, to give people direction toward their political goals. It's more about being in it for the long haul. It's more a demonstration of the way people are feeling the world could work."
Seymour says this year's gathering may be smaller than last year's crowd of more than 4,000 because several national groups, such as Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out, will skip Fayetteville to be involved in a march from Mobile, Ala., to New Orleans, linking Iraqi war victims with victims displaced by Hurricane Katrina. It was those families and veterans who gave last year's event a national focus.
The steady decline in Bush's approval rating is an indication that more and more people are linking objections to the war with objections to Bush's overall policies, such as the PATRIOT Act, illegal domestic spying and allegations of torture at U.S.-operated prisons, Seymour says.
"It's all part of a larger mess," Seymour says. "The movement is growing in people who are working on social justice issues and linking them to the anti-war movement."

Second item, same source and also same reporter, Patrick O'Neill's "Ray McGovern to speak at protest: Ex-CIA analyst leads charge against Iraq war:"

In his career as a CIA analyst, Ray McGovern was responsible for preparing the President's Daily Brief for Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. He was about as far from being an anti-war activist as you could get .
But this weekend he'll be in North Carolina speaking against the war in Iraq. And part of the former White House insider's message will be: George W. Bush is taking the United States toward fascism, and he must be stopped.
Impeachment will be a big part of McGovern's theme when he's the featured speaker at Saturday's anti-war march and rally in Fayetteville. He then speaks Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh.
"My general effort lately has been to challenge people to wake up and watch what's happening," McGovern said in a telephone interview.

[. . .]
Ray McGovern speaks Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh (3313 Wade Ave.) at 7:30 p.m. Info, 828-3499 or 942-2535.

Needing to hear some truth from Iraqis? Remember the CODEPINK tour is ongoing. Portland notes "News" from the Eugene Weekly which addresses one stop on the tour:

A member of a delegation of Iraqi women will be in Eugene next week speaking about daily life in Iraq and the possibility of an impending civil war. Eman Ahmed Khamas will speak at 7:30 pm Tuesday, March 21 at the Campbell Senior Center, 3rd and High. Suggested donation is $5-$10.
Khamas will talk first-hand about the escalation of violence that's occurred since the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra Feb. 22. Khamas arrived in the U.S. March 5 with a delegation of Iraqi women seeking to tell their stories to the American public and urge U.S. and U.N. officials to create a peace plan to end the escalating cycle of violence.
The delegation has been traveling throughout the U.S. promoting a Women's Call for Peace that was signed by 100,000 women around the globe. The peace petition was delivered to the White House March 8, International Women's Day, by a large group of women wearing pink and marching with the Iraqi delegation. The group met at the Iraq Embassy and walked to the White House, chanting "Money for heath and education, not for war and occupation."
The call urges a shift in strategy in Iraq, from a military model to a conflict resolution model. It requests the withdrawal of all foreign troops and foreign fighters from Iraq, negotiations to reincorporate disenfranchised Iraqis, full representation of women in the peacemaking process, and a commitment to women's equality in the post-war Iraq. The full text is available at
Khamas is a journalist, translator and human rights activist who lives in Baghdad with her husband and two daughters. She is a member of the Women's Will organization, which focuses on defining and defending women's rights outside of political party interests and opposing incarceration of women as hostages. Khamas regularly publishes articles on women's conditions in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, and has documented human rights violations committed by U.S. and Iraqi forces. She is also involved in mobilizing emergency relief (medicines, food and clothing) for victims of the war, especially women and children living in refugee camps.
Khamas is being hosted by Eugene CODEPINK, a small band of women from a variety of peace groups who believe the time is right for a new attitude to Eugene's traditional peace activist approach. Eugene CODEPINK founders Karla Cohen (Justice Not War Coalition), Pam Garrison (Justice Not War, Women in Black, WAND) and Aria Seligmann (WAND, Nonviolent Peaceforce) marched together in the Sept. 24 Peace Parade in Washington, D.C.

Need more reality? Not surprising if so. It's hard to come by in the big media. In full, here's an announcement of a new feature at Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches, "Translated Daily News Feeds from the Middle East:"

Dahr Jamail Iraq is happy to announce new daily video streams of translated Middle East News on line. The daily Mosaic streams, produced by LinkTV, features selections from daily TV news programs produced by national broadcasters throughout the Middle East. The news reports are presented unedited and translated, when necessary, into English. Mosaic includes television news broadcasts from selected national and regional entities listed on the right. These news reports are regularly watched by 280 million people in 22 countries all over the Middle East.
Thus, people unable to speak or understand Arabic or Persian are now able to get news directly from the Middle East. You are no longer forced to rely on people who can read Arabic to give you the information, as you can watch or read the news yourself and make up your own mind. Between the Mosaic and MidEastWire daily Iraq news feeds, is now a daily source of fresh news directly from major Middle Eastern news agencies, all translated into English.
How to watch Mosaic: Please watch the quicktime stream while reviewing the information about the broadcasters linked to from the Dahr Jamail Iraq website. Mosaic represents a diversity of media sources from state controlled to US funded to private networks affiliated with political factions. Mosaic is best understood, appreciated and digested within the context of the specific news outlets being watched.
You can see the News Broadcasts
And subscribe to our Mosiac RSS feed here

From reality to denial -- John Burns (New York Times) continues to disgrace his own reputation without even noticing. Candice notes Bonnie Azab Powell's "Top Iraq war correspondents discuss risking their lives to tell a truth that few want to hear -- or believe" (UC Berkeley News). We'll start by noting Jackie Spinner of the Washington Post:

"I went to Iraq not because I was for or against it, but because there was a war," Spinner said, adding she believes it is inappropriate for journalists to take sides publicly, as they are supposed to write from a neutral stance.

Burns, of course, continues to betray that "neutral stance" in all public remarks. (See this entry.) He tops himself. From the article:

The torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib by U.S. soldiers was unarguably the biggest single story of the war today, Burns said, calling it "an arrow in the back of every American soldier who goes to Iraq."

Burns goes on to talk feel-good stories, but focus on the above. It's a story that Burns and Dexter Filkins missed. (The article mentions a caller to a radio station noting the story was known for over a year before it broke. That is true.) And here's Burns, "international war correspondent" speaking. What does he say about Abu Ghraib? "Unarguably the biggest single story of the war today." And why is that? Burns puts it through the filter of "every American solider." The provencial "international correspondent" John F. Burns. There is your answer as to why Iraqis are reduced to bit players in their own drama when the Times manages to mention them at all. The prison scandal, the treatment of Iraqi's? Even when speaking of it, Burns renders the Iraqis invisible (while they hold their "bows" which may or may not be a slur against both Iraqis and Native Americans).

Need some reality to wash Burns' delusions down? How about this? Last Thursday, the American military fatality count was 2306. This Thursday? 2314. Toral for March? 17.

And while Tony Blair whistles "Let's Do It Again:"

His own anti-war Labour MPs will be joining a mass demonstration against the continued occupation of Iraq in London on Saturday. They will be calling for the troops to be brought home, but Mr Blair ruled out, "leaving a small minority who want terror and violence to overwhelm the majority who show they are prepared for democracy".

That was noted by James in Brighton and it's from "Blair on Iraq: 'I'd do it all again'" written by Colin Brown, Patrick Cockburn and Rupert Cornwell. While Blair can't stop cheerleading, Gareth notes one who is saying no more. From Richard Norton-Taylor's "RAF doctor refused Iraq return because 'invasion was unlawful'" (The Guardian of London):

The continuing presence of British troops in Iraq is as unlawful as the initial invasion, a military court hearing into the first British officer charged with refusing to serve in Iraq was told yesterday.
Moreover, members of the armed forces individually shared responsibility for complicity in these unlawful actions, the court heard.
The claims were made by counsel for Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, 37, an RAF doctor facing a court martial for refusing to return to the war-torn country.
"The flight lieutenant's case is that Iraq is and remains under occupation," defence counsel Philip Sapsford QC told an open pre-trial hearing at the court martial centre in Aldershot barracks, Hampshire.
Flt Lt Kendal-Smith, based at RAF Kinloss in Scotland, is charged with five counts of disobeying lawful commands in 2005 when he was asked to return to Iraq. Though he has served there before, he only later came to the view that the war was illegal, partly after reading the attorney-general's advice which raised doubts about the lawfulness of the invasion.

Malcolm Kendall-Smith's standing up. Will you? As the Bully Boy launches as massive air raid on Iraq (dubbed "Operation Swarmer"), will you be silent?

This week's song pick:

but what if the enemy
isn't in a distant land
what if the enemy lies behind
the voice of command
the sound of war
is a childs cry
behind tinted windows
they just drive by
and all I know is that those

that are going to be killed
aren't those that preside
on capital hill
-- "Roll With It," words and music by Ani DiFranco, available on the DiFranco CD Not So Soft as well as on Like I Said (Songs 1990-1991).

If you missed it (I did, I was on the phone participating in Gina and Krista's discussion for tomorrow's round-robin), tonight on ER, Parminder Nagra's Dr. Neela Rasgotra spoke out against the war. She was in a gathering with other people whose spouses are in Iraq and she refused to play rah-rah-rah. (One of her lines was supposed to be something like, she refused "to be brainwashed into falling in line with some psuedo patrictic vision.") That was one of two messages for peace onscreen this week. When even TV characters can speak out, don't you think you need to do your part as well?

The e-mail address for this site is (And I clearly loathe Gordon and Lt. General retired's New York Times reporting. I haven't read their book. If anyone can get a good interview out of the two it would be Amy Goodman. So make a point to check out Democracy Now! tomorrow as always.)