Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Other Items

A member of the United States Army Corps of Engineers was arrested Friday at the Atlanta airport after a sting operation and is accused of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes from a Kuwaiti rental agent who wanted to provide expensive apartments for American military employees in Kuwait, the Justice Department said yesterday.
The Corps of Engineers employee is a 62-year-old civilian named Gheevarghese Pappen.

The above is from James Glanz's "Employee of Army Engineers Is Accused of Accepting Bribes" in this morning's New York Times. That may be the closest the paper of record gets to reporting from Iraq this morning. (Hard reporting, not "trend" stories that aren't.)

For news on Iraq, Mia notes Patrick Cockburn's "Death Squads on the Prowl; Iraq Convulsed by Fear" (CounterPunch):

Iraq is a country convulsed by fear. It is at its worst in Baghdad. Sectarian killings are commonplace. In the three days after the bombing of the Shia shrine in Samarra on February 22 , some 1,300 people, mostly Sunni, were picked up on the street or dragged from their cars and murdered. The dead bodies of four suspected suicide bombers were left dangling from a pylon in the Sadr City slum.
The scale of the violence is such that most of it is unreported. Iyad Allawi, the former prime minister, said yesterday that scores were dying every day. "It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. We are losing each day, as an average, 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more," he said. "If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."
Unseen by the outside world, silent populations are on the move, frightened people fleeing neighborhoods where their community is in a minority for safer districts.
There is also a growing reliance on militias because of fears that police patrols or checkpoints are in reality death squads hunting for victims.
Districts where Sunni and Shia lived together for decades if not centuries are being torn apart in a few days. In the al-Amel neighbourhood in west Baghdad, for instance, the two communities lived side by side until a few days ago, though Shias were in the majority. Then the Sunni started receiving envelopes pushed under their doors with a Kalashnikov bullet inside and a letter telling them to leave immediately or be killed. It added that they must take all of their goods which they could carry immediately and only return later to sell their houses.

And Cindy notes Anthony Arnove's "The Logic of Withdrawal" (Common Dreams):

We find ourselves in a remarkable situation today. Despite a massive propaganda campaign in support of the occupation of Iraq, a clear majority of people in the United States now believes the invasion was not worth the consequences and should never have been undertaken.
Likewise, people strongly disapprove of the foreign policy of Republicans and Democrats in Congress, particularly their position on the war in Iraq. In a September 2005 New York Times-CBS News poll, support for immediate withdrawal stood at 52 percent, a remarkable figure when one considers that very few political organizations have articulated an "Out Now" position.

The official justifications for the war have been exposed as complete fallacies. Even conservative defenders of U.S. empire now complain that the situation in Iraq is a disaster.
Yet many people who opposed this unjust invasion, who opposed the 1991 Gulf War and the sanctions on Iraq for years before that, some of whom joined mass demonstrations against the war before it began, have been persuaded that the U.S. military should now remain in Iraq for the benefit of the Iraqi people. We confront the strange situation of many people mobilizing against an unjust war but then reluctantly supporting the military occupation that flows directly from it.
In part, this position is rooted in the pessimistic conclusions many drew after the February 15, 2003,day of international demonstrations--perhaps the largest coordinated protest in human history--failed to prevent the war. This pessimism was exacerbated by some of the leading spokespeople for the antiwar movement, who misled audiences by suggesting that the demonstrations could stop the war. As inspiring as the demonstrations were, it would have taken a significantly higher degree of protest, organization, and disruption of business as usual to do so.
The lesson of February 15 is not that protest no longer works, but that protest needs to be sustained, coherent, forceful, persistent, and bold--rather than episodic and isolated. And it needs to involve large numbers of working-class people, veterans, military families, conscientious objectors, Arabs, Muslims, and other people from targeted communities, not just as passive observers but as active participants and leaders.

Rod passes on today's scheduled topic for Democracy Now!:

* Former top Republican strategist Kevin Phillips on his new book "American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century."

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