Sunday, March 26, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Brian Haw, the anti-war protester who has lived at a one-man peace camp outside Parliament since June 2001, was arrested yesterday on suspicion of obstructing the police.

Martin Hodgson's "Ant-war protester arrested at parliament" (The Independent of London). James in Brighton noted it and another item we'll highlight next (both from The Independent) but James in Brighton said if only one item was selected, he'd prefer it be the one on Brian Haw. We'll open with it because the need to spotlight the anti-war movement (or peace movement, take your pick) has been the topic of e-mails since Thursday's entry. As one member wrote, "If we don't work to highlight those voices, they may not get highlighted."

Violence in Iraq continues and James in Brighton also noted Kim Sengputa's "US soldiers kill 22 in attack on Baghdad mosque:"

US forces killed 22 people and wounded eight at a mosque in east Baghdad in an incident likely to lead to increased tensions with the Shia community. Police said the US troops had retaliated after coming under fire.
Videotape showed a heap of male bodies with gunshot wounds on the floor of the Imam's living quarters in what was said to be the Al Mustafa mosque. There were 5.56mm shell casings on the floor, which is the type of ammunition used by US soldiers. A weeping man in white Arab robes is shown stepping among the bodies.
Police Lt Hassan said some of the casualties were at the office Dawa, the party of the Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Haidar al-Obaidi, a senior Dawa official, said: "The lives of Iraqis are not cheap. If the American blood is valuable to them, the Iraqi blood is valuable to us."
The US military would neither confirm not deny the incident but the US army in Iraq has been strongly criticised over the past week for killing Iraqi civilians and falsely claiming that they were insurgents or caught in cross fire.

Peace comes to Iraq . . . when? Which brings us to Joan's highlight which is a mainstream news source but the story is worth noting. (And Joan's the one quoted above on the need for us to highlight the voices working for peace.) From Andy Davis' "Grieving mother seeking peace for self, others" (Arkansas Democratic-Gazette):

Wearing a bright yellow "Bring home the troops" T-shirt and capri-style jeans, sunglasses pushed up on her head, the small woman with shoulder-length black hair stood at a podium before an appreciative crowd of more than 500 in the city square.
The last of five speakers to take the stage at an anti-war rally Saturday, Dr. Barbara Porchia had a message that was intensely personal.
"I know I can't bring my son back," said Porchia, whose 19-year-old son, Jonathan Cheatham, died in Iraq nearly three years ago, "but I do not wish to see other families made to suffer in this manner."
Among those calling for an end to a war that has claimed the lives of 2, 299 U. S. troops, some of the most forceful voices have belonged to the mothers of the dead.
Porchia, a 49-year-old Camden podiatrist, stood with Cindy Sheehan outside President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch last August. She has made her case on Fox News Sunday and PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. She has joined the anti-war group Military Families Speak Out, which counts 3, 000 families as members, including 80 who lost loved ones.
"The truth has finally come out, and it has revealed that there were no weapons of mass destruction, no imminent threat and no connection to 9 / 11," Porchia said a week ago, during an interview in the red-brick house she has owned for about six years. "How would any parent feel that lost their child, after everything that has blatantly come out ?"

By the way, Molly noted that yesterday (Saturday) was the 37th anniversary of the start of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's seven day bed-in for peace. Molly found that out via The Progressive's "Hidden History" which notes an important event and "Hidden History" can also be purchased in calender form by using the link (currently on sale "for less than seven dollars" Molly writes). Why is history hidden? Because imagine the power the people would have if they weren't constantly reinventing the wheel, if they knew that change came not from some elected official, but from themselves and that this had been the repeated story year after year.
It's something to remember as the movement gathers more steam and more members. And we'll note that Lennon and Oko did that action in 1969. America didn't pull out of Vietnam in 1969 or in 1970 or in 1971 . . . Point? It is a struggle. Bully Boy and others will not wake up tomorrow and suddenly decide to end the illegal war. We have to make them and the way you make a politician do something is have the numbers (people) to worry a politician.

Condi Rice is all over the e-mails in copy & pastes of articles saying that some troops may come home this year. Of course some may: a) we may need them for another war of the Bully Boy's and b) it is an election year and the shock over Bully Boy's press conference remarks last week indicating that not only was there an immediate exit date, there was no concept of an exit date at all. (Certainly not while he was in office and "presidents" -- plural -- implies years and years from now.) So Condi wants us to get giddy with her latest Operation Happy Talk? Here's reality, California, a state that has seen 243 troop deaths in Iraq, is now sending forty-three more troops to Iraq for a one year tour. She can do the Operation Happy Talk chatter but it doesn't (and won't) change reality. The war drags on. As long as we let it by silence.

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)

Last Sunday, the total number of American troops who had died in Iraq was 2318. This Sunday? 2322. Iraqis? Gareth notes AC Grayling's "Bombing civilians is not only immoral, it's ineffective" (The Guardian of London):

No one knows how many civilians have died violently in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003. The most careful assessment, by the website Iraq Body Count, estimates at least 36,000. The true figure could be three times higher. The uncertainty is explained by General Tommy Franks' now-notorious remark, "We don't do body counts."
Three interesting facts nevertheless help shape a sense of the possibilities. One is that the US forces insist that they use precision techniques to minimise "collateral damage". The second is that the coalition recently and controversially admitted using phosphorus weapons in its attack on Falluja. The third is that one of the US marine air wings operating in Iraq announced in a press release in November 2005 that since the invasion began it had dropped more than half a million tons of explosives on Iraq.
The felt inconsistency between the first fact and the other two reminds one that ever since the deliberate mass bombing of civilians in the second world war, and as a direct response to it, the international community has outlawed the practice. It first tried to do so in the fourth Geneva convention of 1949, but the UK and the US would not agree, since to do so would have been an admission of guilt for their systematic "area bombing" of German and Japanese civilians.
But in 1977 a protocol was added to that convention at last outlawing civilian bombing, and the UK signed it. The US still has not done so. Because enough nations are signatories the protocol is now part of customary international law, putting the US out on a limb.
Looking at area bombing through the lens of the 1977 protocol explains why it has always been controversial. Even during the second world war there was a vigorous campaign opposing area bombing, most strongly supported in places such as London and Coventry which had themselves been "blitzed". One of the campaign's leaders was Vera Brittain, whose pamphlet Seed of Chaos caused an outcry in the US; not having been bombed, it was enthusiastic about flattening enemy cities and their occupants.

Vera Brittain, just FYI, was a feminist, socialist and much more. She was also a member of the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom. I'd guess-timate much higher than Grayling on the number of Iraqis killed in the illegal occupation.

But here are some hard numbers for Sunday, Lynda notes Al Jazeera's "30 beheaded bodies found in Iraq:"

As Iraq's political leaders remain deadlocked over a new government, the violence continues with 30 decapitated bodies found near Baquba.
The bodies were found on a highway near the restive Iraqi city 65km northeast of Baghdad.
The police said the bodies, which have not been identified, were tossed out on the side of the road near the village of Mullah Eid, about 30km southwest of the Baquba, notorious for its sectarian killings.

Roadside bombs went off Sunday as well and claimed many victims. (Including an Iraqi boy.) The war drags on, unless we use our voices. Lewis notes one voice speaking out, "Speech presented by MFSO Member and Gold Star Mother Stephany Kern at the Anti-War Patriots Conference held on March 21, 2006 at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island" (Military Families Speak Out):

Good evening; my name is Stephany Kern. I am the mother of Lance Corporal Nickolas Schiavoni; who served with the 2nd Marines 2nd Platoon, Golf Company.
Nicky was killed on November 15, 2005 in Iraq. An IED exploded right by his Humvee and he bleed to death somewhere outside of Falluja or near the Syrian border, which far very different locations. We don't know where it happened because the military continues to give us conflicting stories. I believe Nicky was near the Syrian border. Logically, I can't tell you why exactly, it's just a feeling that I have and I have learned to trust my feelings. There are many military families who do not know the location or circumstance of how their loved one was killed.
Nicky was on his 2nd deployment to Iraq and the first time he was shot in the arm. He earned a Purple Heart on that deployment. This time he earned another one. This time he was killed.
I wish all of you could have known my son. He was the type of friend who would quite literally give you the coat off his back. He was the type of brother who always wanted to know how his sister was doing and he loved to tease her like all big brothers do. He was the type of son who did not want his Mom or Dad to worry about him. He would always say to me, "I'm okay. Don't worry." He was a loving husband and oh he so loved his children Marissa and Alex.
It may be too early for me to speak in public but when Jackie [from the Rhode Island chapter of Military Families Speak Out] asked me I just could not say no. It's important to speak out about the cost of this war because we are paying for it with far too much of our children’s blood and far beyond my Child’s precious life.
Nicky was killed just after Veterans Day. Nicky's coming home, was followed by his wake and funeral. Then there was Nicky Schiavoni day, that will be every November 26th in Massachusetts as declared by Governor Romney who could not attend the funeral. Then there was Thanksgiving, and then Christmas and then Nicky's Birthday, which is January 7th. I will probably always say it IS January 7th rather than saying it WAS January 7th. There are thousands of Mothers that do that same thing. Saying "is" instead of "was". We still speak in the present tense some of the time when we are talking about our children who are our country's soldiers. They are our men and women who have been killed in this war. I'm sure that it's the same for the Mothers of the all the Iraqis, men, women and children that have been and are being killed in this war.
Nicky was my wonderful son. He was hardworking and fun loving. He ran with a very close-knit group of friends. This group of boys were close to him since early childhood. I remember one day in May, years ago, when they were all between the ages of 12-13, they all came running up from the cellar with bald heads. They were rubbing their heads each others heads and laughing. Nicky said “Ma, look what we did!” He had the clippers in his hand and I was just looking at them and what they had done. Trust me I was looking, with my mouth hanging open, and he said... "we did this for Mothers day"... and he was looking at me like I would completely understand...and I just shook my head up and down and said well that's nice, and I didn't really understand, and I was wondering if I was going to get a phone call from one of the other mothers...and then I told them they had to clean up the hair in the cellar before his father got home.

Don't let yourself be silent or be silenced. One of our permalinks, War Resisters Support Campaign, provides a brief introduction for some war resisters in Canada: Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Darrell Anderson, Clifford Dornell, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Ryan Johnson, Patrick Hart and Robin Long. Miranda saw that and passed it on. She hopes people will check out and put a face to the names.

News on a name we know comes via Polly who passes on news of Riverbend, "Blogger up for non-fiction award" (BBC):

An anonymous blog by a young woman in war-torn Iraq has been longlisted for BBC Four's Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.
Baghdad Burning, a first-hand account written under the pseudonym Riverbend, is one of 19 books in contention.
Others include Alan Bennett's Untold Stories, a biography of 19th-Century cook and author Mrs Beeton and a study of post-war US-Soviet relations.
The winner of the £30,000 prize will be announced on 14 June.

We're taking a side trip now to another issue and noting Olive's highlight "US judge takes stand on Guantanamo detainee rights" (Reuters via Australia's ABC) which is about a tape emerging of a March 8th speech that Anton Scalia, of the Supreme Court, gave in Switzerland:

"War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts," Justice Scalia said in the talk at the University of Freiburg, according to Newsweek.
"Give me a break."
Asked at Freiburg whether detainees at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have protection under international conventions, Justice Scalia replied, "If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs".
"I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son, and I'm not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial, I mean it's crazy."

"My army"? Anton's as loose on the facts as the Bully Boy. His son served in Iraq, not Afghanistan. ("That battlefield.") (By the way it is "Antonin," I always refer to him as "Anton." He's always struck me as the Susan Anton of the Court.) Scalia's objectivity, we're told is not in question because he didn't refer to a specific case. He doesn't have to. His comments go to his opinion on the cases of all Guantanamo detainees. Like Roberts, who excused himself because he already gave a Bully Boy a victory while sitting on the federal courts and ruling on this issue, he should excuse himself. When Roberts gave that victory on the Hamdan case to Bully Boy? He was meeting with the administration to discuss becoming a nominee for the Supreme Court.

Returning to the topic of Iraq, there are a number of articles about the three CPTs who were held hostage. (Tom Fox was the fourth hostage but he, tragically, did not make it out alive.) There are even more e-mails complaining about articles on the three with a special note of England's coverage which frequently blames the CPT for doing humanitarian work and, apparently, feels that, like other human rights organizations, they should pull out of Iraq. Bully Boy wanted to talk about how the good news just doesn't make the news from Iraq last week (at his press conference) but human rights organizations are still at risk as is everyone under the illegal occupation. Vic noted an article on James Loney of Christian Peacemaker Teams "'Great to be alive': former Canadian hostage" (Canada's CBC) that we can highlight (it's not blaming humanatarians):

"For 118 days, I disappeared into a black hole and somehow by God's grace, I was spit out again," Loney told reporters shortly after his arrival on Sunday afternoon.

And we'll close our highlights with Pru's pick which addresses the need to increase the activism:

"Anti-war movement must intensify pressure"
by Lindsey German
The magnificent demonstration last Saturday was the best possible answer to a warmongering government and its many allies in the media.
The mood was defiant, with a sense that the chief warmonger would not be in Downing Street for much longer. It reflected the majority opinion in Britain much better than the government with its refusal to admit any role in the disaster in Iraq or to sanction the only course which would improve the situation -- bringing the troops home.
Three years on and this government has learnt not a single lesson from the disaster it has created in Iraq. Tony Blair would do it all again. Defence secretary John Reid tells us that demonstrating against the war is only helping the terrorists.
He also tells us that most Iraqis support the occupation of their country, despite a poll conducted by his own ministry of defence which showed that 80 percent of Iraqis questioned wanted the troops to leave.
Even those who banged the drum for the war three years ago are falling out. Independent columnist Johann Hari has written saying his reasons for opposing the war were all wrong.
Francis Fukuyama, one of the original architects of the Project for a New American Century, has admitted the war in Iraq did not follow the crazed blueprint of the US and has been a mistake. Iyad Allawi, an Iraqi politician courted by the US, has said the country is descending into civil war.
The international anti-war movement has proved to be the only consistent opposition to this madness. Saturday shows the movement is growing again around the world. In Britain we have an especially important job to do. Blair is on the rocks and we need to intensify the pressure.
Next week there will be demonstrations against the visit of US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to the north west of England. Every Stop the War group should try to meet this week to discuss future activity. We need a barrage of action, debate and discussion in every locality. Groups should plan a programme of events for the next few months.
The response to the demonstration was very encouraging, with coaches filling up from towns and cities around the country. We are only scratching the surface of our support -- there were far more people who would have come on the demo if we’d been able to get to them. Our task in the coming weeks is to reach out to them.
Local Stop the War meetings should take place weekly or fortnightly. They should be constituted as broadly as possible with participation from across the coalition -- different political parties, peace groups, CND members, religious groups, ethnic minorities, trade unions, students and school students. Don't just depend on the regular activists, bring in the new supporters as well.
Plan local activity over the next month. Street theatre, local demos, protests at government ministers, protests to highlight the attacks on Iran, vigils, film shows, public meetings, debates, election hustings, are all potential means of mobilising and publicising our cause.
Try to hold a public meeting over the next few weeks to gather support in each locality and to make the case for the troops to leave Iraq and against an attack on Iran. Publicise the Stop the War Coalition conference on 10 June which will be a chance to get the movement together to debate the way forward and how we organise.
Sign the statement initiated by Tony Benn for a tribunal to investigate the legality of the war.
On Saturday we showed how the movement encompasses a range of issues from Guantanamo to Palestine to Venezuela and how it is capable of mobilising on a truly mass scale. We should reproduce that on a local basis because anti-war feeling is growing and because we may face an attack on Iran which will further escalate this war.
However much the commentators and politicians oppose the war, they will do nothing to stop it. Only the movement mobilised on the streets can do that. Saturday shows we have the power. If Blair is prepared to do it all again over Iran, we have to be prepared to do it all again too.
Lindsey German is the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition. Go to
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