Friday, March 17, 2006

Democracy Now: Michael Gordon, Bernard Trainor; James Clancy and more

US Launches Largest Air Assault Since Iraq Invasion
US and Iraqi troops have launched what the military is calling the largest air assault in the three years since the Iraq invasion. In a press release, the army said over fifteen hundred troops and fifty aircraft have been deployed in a "suspected insurgent operating area" northeast of Samarra. Operation "Swarmer" is expected to last for several days. No casualties have been reported so far.
Over 500 Events Planned For Events Marking Third Year of Iraq War
And as the invasion and occupation of Iraq reaches the three-year mark this Sunday, activists are staging anti-war events around the world. At least 500 protests are being held in the US this weekend alone. United for Peace and Justice has organized actions in all 50 states. Some began earlier this week. A veterans march for peace, which began in Alabama Tuesday, will end in New Orleans. According to USA Today, a new poll shows 60 percent of Americans believe the war was not "worth it." In London, the Stop the War Coalition will stage a protest Saturday to demand the withdrawal of US and British troops from Iraq. Similar demonstrations are to be held in cities in Iraq, as well as in Mexico, Japan, and other parts of Europe.
Student Demonstrations Grow to Over 260,000 in France
In France, students are continuing to turn out in massive numbers to protest a new employment law that will make it easier for companies to fire young workers. Police say the demonstrations have grown to nearly 260,000 people. Organizers put the numbers at over half a million. Scattered violence has been reported around the country. In Paris, police used teargas and water cannons against protesters at the end of a march outside the University of Paris-Sorbonne on the Left Bank. Several cars were set ablaze and store windows were smashed during the unrest. Police have made over 200 arrests. According to the Education Ministry, two-thirds of France's 84 Universities have been affected by strikes and sit-ins.
Poll: 46% of Americans Support Feingold's Censure Measure
In other news, a new poll shows a majority of Americans support Democratic Senator Russ Feingold's measure to censure President Bush for authorizing the no-warrant domestic surveillance program. According to the American Research Group, 46% of Americans favor the measure, while 44% oppose it. Feingold's widely-publicized effort stalled after it failed to attract the support of Senators from either political parties.
The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Liang, Michah, Susan and CedricDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for March 17, 2006

- US Launches Largest Air Assault Since Iraq Invasion
- US, Iran Signal Agreement to Discuss Iraq
- Student Demonstrations Grow to Over 260,000 in France
- Iraqi Kurds Storm Monument in Anti-Government Protest
- British Drug Test Leaves 2 in Critical Condition
- Audit Shows Millions Wasted on Post-Katrina Contracts
- U. of Miami Announces Wage Increase for Striking Workers
Michael Gordon and General Bernard Trainor on the Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq

Almost three years to the day the war started, a new book takes a look at the inside story of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. "Cobra II," by co-authors Michael Gordon, the chief military correspondent for The New York Times, and retired Marine general Bernard Trainor, the book is based on interviews with a wide range of officials as well as a classified report based on interrogations of more than 110 Iraqi officials and officers and 600 Iraqi documents. [includes rush transcript - partial]
New York Times Chief Military Correspondent Michael Gordon Defends Pre-War Reporting on WMDs

Michael Gordon, the chief military correspondent for The New York Times, discusses his reporting on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in the run-up to the invasion.
If you missed the broadcast, use the links.  You don't want to miss it.
Last night I noted:
(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.)
Listen, watch or read and you'll be singing, "I-I-I-I love to loathe you, bully."  Amy Goodman doesn't fluff for Gordon.  It's obvious that's something of a shock for him.  This is the man, insider gossip, that some say fancies himself the new Bill Keller.  (No, the old one isn't gone.  But most insiders cast Gordon as Iago.)  So for that reason, or to see a "we got it all wrong" liar forced to face that the questions aren't going to fade away, check out today's broadcast.
At the end of the broadcast, Gordon (in one of his many blathering moments) says to Amy Goodman, "You have a one track mind.  I thought we were going to talk about the Iraq war."   First, the question has to do with the war.  (Gordon just wanted to talk 'strategy' -- just like a war pornographers.)  But yes, she is focused on getting to the bottom of the facts and, if Gordon weren't so lazy, he might be able to appreciate it.  Instead, he wants to minimize his own part in the lead up to the invasion.  There's no accountablility at the Times and Gordon's performance recalled some of Judith Miller's most laughable defenses.  We'll probably note this again but I'm rushing (this is a dictated entry) so we'll leave it at that for now. 
First off, community note.  If you're trying to visit Cedric's Big Mix, you are out of luck.  That's not Cedric's fault.  He blogged yesterday (on Feingold). There's a comment that someone left to Tuesday's entry that Cedric was hoping to highlight (a way to show support for Feingold).  He couldn't read it yesterday.  People can't read his site today, instead you get this note: 

Blog under maintenance

This blog is temporarily not viewable.

I've told Cedric that if and when his site is readable, we will cross-post his entries here. 
We're focusing on activism for the highlights. First Vic notes, James Clancy's "Mr Haper goes to war" (NUPGE):
The truth is that Canadian forces are now involved in a war which was never debated or voted upon by the House of Commons. I absolutely concur with those who believe that before we further risk the lives of our men and women in uniform this entire endeavuor must be subjected to public scrutiny. Failure to do so debases our democracy. I also think it sells short the capacity of Canadians to make informed decisions on such matters.
March 18th marks the third anniversary of the commencement of the U.S.-led war on Iraq (see Canadian Peace Alliance
website for events marking the anniversary). When the war began, Canada decided not to take an active role. Canadians supported that decision and their judgment has been vindicated.
[. . .]
The National Union was among the many organizations that spoke out in opposition to the war in Iraq. With protests being planned to commemorate the third anniversary of the war, I look back on what we said as a union at the outset and I believe our assessment remains as valid today as it was then. Not in our name - March 2003
We have no qualms about standing firmly behind the position we took then and doing so in open and public debate. The question to be asked now is: Will Prime Minister Harper allow that debate to take place?
A footnote concerning war resisters
I want to bring to your attention the situation of U.S. war resisters in Canada.
Two of these men, Jeremy Hinzman, 27, and Brandon Hughey, 20, have taken a deeply felt moral position against fighting in the Iraq war. These two young men, whose cases for asylum are before a Federal Court, faced a decision that many of us will never have to confront. They have, in my opinion, demonstrated exemplary courage in choosing to leave family and friends behind and come to Canada rather than fight.
Their biggest mistake, it seems, was being born into the American working class -- and wanting to pursue the American dream for themselves. The U.S. army offers one of the few avenues for many American youth to go to college. Promised an opportunity to improve their lot in life, they signed up. What they did not foresee was being made pawns in an illegal war.
In the past, Canada has provided a refuge for U.S. citizens who decide not to support their nation's military follies overseas. Another Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, took a clear stand in support of a generation of U.S. war resisters during the Vietnam era.
The statement Trudeau made at the time remains just as valid today: "Those who make the conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war ... have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism."
The National Union absolutely agrees and joins the demand for the federal government to take whatever steps are necessary to allow US war resisters to stay in Canada.
Clancy is the president of Canada's National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).  Kyle notes "France Attracts More US 'Refuseniks'" ( via The Journal of Turkish Weekly):
Anti-Iraq war France has become a favorite destination to US Iraq war "refuseniks," who resorted to the western European country to start a new lease of life.
Hart Viges was the last ex-US Marine who found peace of mind and heart in Paris, hoping that he might lay to rest painful memories and the nightmarish Iraq experience.
"The US military is committing war crimes in Iraq," Viges told an anti-Iraq war Paris gathering organized by French rights groups Movement for Peace, Action Against War and Anti-War Call Alliance.
The groups launch Thursday, March 16, a multi-leg French tour during which anti-war activists will hold seminars on the illegal US-led war on the Arab country.
Viges will lead Iraq war refuseniks in delivering their hands-on experiences in the war-torn country.
The tour is aimed at marking the third anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, which falls on March 21.
The trio has appealed to the European and French parliaments to support and provide for US soldiers refusing to serve in Iraq or those fired for defying overseas orders.
[. . .]
In his testimony, Viges said that the US army adopted a shoot-to-kill policy in Iraq.
The traumatized ex-Marine said that shooting civilians has become the rule in occupied Iraq.
He said was ordered by officers higher up the chain of command to shoot at any taxi in Baghdad as a potential target.
He said some soldiers did not buy it and mocked the commander's justification as "April Fool's Day."
Viges said similar incidents have convinced him of the absurdity of the US war on Iraq.
Jimmy Massey, a former US Marine, took the lid off the US rights violations in Iraq in his book "Kill! Kill! Kill!", issued in the French capital, Paris.
In his book, Massey writes that at one point he told an officer that the US military campaign "resembles a genocide" and that "our only objective in Iraq is petrol and profits."
"I ask the Iraqis and Muslims to forgive US practices in Iraq, especially during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan," Massey told in an exclusive interview last October.
In December of last year, Massey along with his paratrooper Jeremy Hinzman applied for political asylum in Canada in protest at the "atrocities" committed by the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In graphic testimonies to a Canadian tribunal, the former Marine Sergeant and Hinzman have argued that they could not tolerate killing innocent civilians in Iraq.
From Canada and France, we turn to the United States for Cindy's highlight of the ongoing march.  From Samantha Gonzaga's "Peace March treads through Long Beach" (Long Beach Press-Telegram):
A peace march that began in Tijuana, Mexico, last Sunday wound its way through Long Beach streets on Thursday in protest to the war in Iraq.
The walk, modeled and coinciding with the 76th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's "Salt March" in British India, will conclude in San Francisco's Mission District on March 26. In addition to voicing opposition to the war, the march also sought to call attention to the war's impact on the Latino community, where it's not uncommon for youth to use the military as a way to improve their quality of life, said Pablo Paredes.
"We're so targeted, and I really don't want to make this a race issue, but while other minorities' rates of enlistments have gone down, ours have not," Paredes said. The 24-year-old former Navy weapons control technician has been vocal about his opposition since being court-marshaled in March 2005 for refusing to board a ship bound for Iraq.
He was among those who marched the north-south axis of the city to cross Compton and Maywood, and spoke at the rallies in Houghton Park in North Long Beach and PUMA (Padres Unidos de Maywood) Community Center in Maywood. Protesters were joined and assisted by local groups such as Centro Cha, the Orange County-Long Beach chapter of Military Families Speak Out and the League of Latin American Citizens.
Want more?  We have it thanks to Maria's highlight.  From Armando Ramirez's "Cheers, whistles greet Latino march for peace" (People's Weekly World):
The "Peregrinacion por la Paz" (March for Peace) began March 12 at Centro Cultural de Tijuana, just south of the California border. From here, this long trek will go all the way to San Francisco. In the lead are peace activist Fernando Suarez del Solar and war resisters Pablo Paredes, Camilo Mejia and Aidan Delgado.
As we approached the U.S. border, Border Patrol guards came out to meet us. They had seen our signs and banners and were concerned that we would create an incident. Fernando assured them that our intentions were peaceful. They gave us a special escort that speeded us through the checkpoints.
After crossing the border, we were joined by other war protesters. All together we numbered about 40. Others would join us along the way.

Picking up on news we noted last night, Malcolm Kendall-Smith, Olive notes Ian McPhedran's "RAF doctor's Iraq stand" (The Advertiser of Australia):
AN Australian-born Royal Air Force doctor is facing a court martial for disobeying orders after he refused to return to Iraq because he regards the war as illegal.
Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, who was born in Australia and raised in New Zealand, faced a pre-trial hearing at the Aldershot military base in England on Wednesday.
His lawyer Philip Sapsford, QC, told the hearing yesterday that Flt-Lt Kendall-Smith, who has already served two tours in Iraq, believed that because Iraq had not attacked the UK or her allies, there was no lawful reason to invade.
He stands accused of failing to comply with five lawful orders regarding his pre-deployment training for his third tour to Iraq.
The 37-year-old made his decision after reading all the published material relating to the legal advice given to the Blair Government before the March, 2003 invasion.
Six months after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast, taking many lives and forever changing many more, NOW is proud to be part of the Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign, joining with our congressional allies, the Hip Hop Caucus, Rainbow/PUSH and others in demanding that the federal government end the deadlock and start providing answers and assistance to the survivors.
First, we want housing for every evacuee. For thousands of Katrina survivors in temporary housing, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has made their lives a roller-coaster of eviction threats followed by last-minute extensions. Now there is another eviction threat, and those from the Gulf Coast who are here with us today could be homeless when they return. And FEMA's message to them? "You're on your own." And our message to FEMA? They're not alone -- we're here to fight beside them.
Second, we want fair elections in New Orleans, and real voting rights for New Orleanians. In less than six weeks, general elections are scheduled that will help decide the fate of their city. Yet more than 300,000 Katrina survivors may be deprived of their right to vote unless there is immediate action.
Third, we want a plan, and the funding to carry it out. A rebuilding plan must focus on survivors, not developers; and must include temporary and long-term housing assistance; jobs and education; family reunification; funding for quality public education; health care (especially mental health care and reproductive health care); recognition that Katrina assistance is not welfare; and preference for local businesses and labor in rebuilding contracts.
Finally, the Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign supports the passage of HR 4197: the Hurricane Katrina Recovery, Reclamation, Restoration, Reconstruction and Reunion Act of 2005. This bill would provide housing vouchers, community development block grants, counseling and absentee ballots for survivors. Local businesses would receive incentives to return to the Gulf Coast and rebuild. This bill is imperative for progress in the area, but it has been stalled in Congress.
The survivors cannot wait any longer, and they shouldn't have to.
Also on New Orleans, Carl notes Bruce Dixon's "Walkin' to New Orleans: Uphold the Right to Return, Rebuild and Remain Progressive Forces in Motion" (Bruce's Beat, The Black Commentator):
This week, another of the grassroots relief and advocacy efforts stepped off on a 70 mile march from Mobile, Alabama through Pascagoula, Mississippi to New Orleans.  Along with the contingent of students who lend their youthful energies to every such worthwhile undertaking, the Veterans Gulf March significantly includes representatives of active duty military families and vets of both Gulf Wars.  Paul Robinson was a principal actor in the grassroots Katrina relief efforts BC highlighted back in September 15, 2005.  The recent founder of Mobile's all-black chapter of Veterans For Peace, he is a leading participant in this effort, along with author, activist and former US Army Special Forces Sgt. Stan Goff
[. . .]
The march will reach New Orleans this weekend.  Along the way, and at their destination vets, survivors and volunteers will participate in the building of homes and community centers.  There's a lot of building to be done.  We encourage BC readers to keep up with the progress of the Vets Gulf March through this weekend via the regular bulletins on their web site, and to donate to defray its costs.
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