Sunday, April 30, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

In a replay of the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction charade, neoconservative supporters of George W. Bush are pushing the U.S. intelligence community to take a more alarmist view about Iran's nuclear program -- only this time, the nation's top spy John Negroponte is resisting the pressure unlike former CIA chief George Tenet.
Tenet joined in Bush’s hyping of the WMD evidence about Iraq -- famously telling the President that the case was a "slam dunk." But Negroponte is defying hardliners who want a worst-case scenario on Iran's capabilities. Instead, he is citing Iran's limited progress in refining uranium and their use of a cascade of only 164 centrifuges.
"According to the experts that I consult, achieving -- getting 164 centrifuges to work is still a long way from having the capacity to manufacture sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon," Negroponte said in an interview with NBC News on April 20.
"Our assessment is that the prospects of an Iranian weapon are still a number of years off, and probably into the next decade," said Negroponte, who was appointed last year as the Director of National Intelligence, a new post that supplanted the traditional primacy of the CIA director as the head of the U.S. intelligence community.
Expressing a similar view about Iran's nuclear program in
a speech at the National Press Club, Negroponte said, "I think it's important that this issue be kept in perspective."

The above is from Robert Parry's "Target: Negroponte & Iran" (Consortium News) . Carol noted it and we're opening with it for a reason but hang back a bit and let's note Lynda's highlight first for some news of life on the ground in Iraq. From "Bomb kills US soldier in Iraq" (Al Jazeera):

In Saturday's worst violence involving Iraqis, the bodies of six handcuffed, blindfolded and tortured men were found in the Baghdad neighborhood of al-Dura, said police Captain Jamil Hussein. The area has seen frequent sectarian violence.
Also, gunmen kidnapped a Sunni policeman and his brother from their home in the Sunni-dominated town of Jurf al-Sakhar and shot them to death, said police.

We're moving back to the topic of Parry's article but we're walking slowing. Why? Conflicting reports. Polly notes the BBC's "Iran 'attacks Iraq Kurdish area':"

Iraq has accused Iranian forces of entering Iraqi territory and shelling Kurdish rebel positions in the north.
Iranian troops bombed border areas near the town of Hajj Umran before crossing into Iraq, the defence ministry in Baghdad said on Sunday.

She also notes that she's hearing questions about the alleged raid. Rob notes "Kurdish official denies Iranian forces' incursion in Northern Iraq" (KUNA):

A Kurdish official Sunday denied reports about Iranian forces' incursion into Northern Iraqi territories to hunt down Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) militants.
The official of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) said in press remarks the Iranian forces were doing routine military movements within the Iranian territories.

A Kurdish official denies it, Iraq's Defense Minister (who met with Condi and Rummy last week, by the way) says it's true. Which is it? Who knows. But we do know which narrative is pleasing to the US administration: Iran invaded and attacked. It seems strange that a Kurdish official would have reason to downplay the event were it true.

As the effots by Bully Boy and his backup singers to sing the old Iraq song (moments away from deadly weapons!) but dedicate it to Iran have failed, is this step two in the propaganda operation to march the United States into another war of choice? To lie a people into an illegal war?

It's possible.

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 week the American military fatality toll stood at 2376. Tonight? 2400. B-b-but, death tolls were just down, right? The press did offer a turned corner for the March tally, yes. But that wasn't reality. (And didn't acknowledge sidedeals made between the groups and a puppet government.) Maybe May, upon us tomorrow (remember the boycott -- not everyone supports it, I believe the community does, but I do -- don't work, don't buy to show your support for immigrant rights), will lead to press reports of another corner just waiting to be turned? It's not reality but they do love to trot out that narrative.

Reality? Gareth notes Ewan MacAskill's "Billions wasted in Iraq, says US audit" (Guardian of London):

A US congressional inspection team set up to monitor reconstruction in Iraq today publishes a scathing report of failures by contractors, mainly from the US, to carry out projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
In one case, the inspection team found that three years after the invasion only six of 150 health centres proposed for Iraq had been completed by a US contractor, in spite of 75% of the $186m (£100m) allocated having been spent.
The report says: "Fourteen more will be completed by the contractor, and the remaining facilities, which are partially constructed, will have to be completed by other means." The inspectors blame the failure in this instance on management problems and security concerns.
The danger facing foreigners in Iraq was highlighted yesterday when a roadside bomb 30 miles south of Baghdad killed three private security firm staff and wounded two others. One of the wounded is British, the Foreign Office said.
The detailed and lengthy report on work projects in Iraq has been drawn up by Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction (Sigir). Mr Bowen's office was set up after Congress expressed concern about the slow rate of reconstruction and the misuse of funds on a massive scale.

We've got news of an event next and anytime you have something, whether it's North Carolina or Australia, note it. It's important for everyone to be aware of what's going on. Wally lives in Florida (I'm not outing, that's known) and ___ might note an event in Boulder tomorrow. Wally probably wouldn't be able to go but it is worth him knowing about, it's worth all of us knowing about. That's the set up for this highlight. Vic notes a benefit in Canada being thrown for war resisters (even is this Tuesday):

Groove Not War:
A Little Peace of Jazz
a benefit to support US war resisters seeking refuge in Canada
with special guests including DJ Spinister of the 48:14 soundcrew
Tuesday May 2nd 2006

Lula Lounge$20 doors open 7pm, show starts 8pmdinner reservations guarantee seating
1585 Dundas St. W

(2 blocks west of Dufferin)
416 588 0307 or 416 598 1222
Critical acclaim for Brownman and the Electryc Trio:
"Remarkable writing and burning energy coming out of this young trumpetplayer."

John Scofield
NOW Magazine's "Toronto Jazz Artist of the Year" 2005
"Brownman's ELECTRYC TRIO is uniquely his own, yet echoes with the sounds of "Bitches Brew"’ and "In a Silent Way."

If you're not in Canada and won't be on Tuesday, what good is that? Well you might know someone who is or will be and you could give a heads up. There's also the fact that you now know that the issue the mainstream media (in all countries) isn't keen on reporting is still alive. Maybe it gives you hope, maybe it gives you motivation. You also know that Brownman And The Electryc Trio is a group that's supporting war resisters. I didn't know of the group until Vic's e-mail. Maybe you did? It's getting the word out.

And at a time when the majority of the e-mails complain (rightly) about the lack of coverage of Iraq in the news media this weekend, we have to get the word out. I'm beyond running on fumes, I'm pushing myself from behind (uphill) tonight with this entry. I'll also go in and try to fix "Music Roundtable" (Third Estate Sunday Review). I'm sure everyone else is asleep or about to be. There's a note in there somewhere (I haven't read it) that addresses the issue of a link causing three (or four?) attempts at publishing. Each time, the link turned every word into a link and knocked out words. I didn't type it (any of the times), just took notes as did Ava (when people were typing that up, Ava and I were working on our TV review). I don't have any notes with me. So my corrections will be by memory. Take it for what it's worth and if someone thinks the word I'm inserting isn't the word they used, they'll be correct.

"Where's the outrage over Iraq?" is what Brenda wonders. Good question. Iraq's always suffered from self-pleasing spin. That's self-pleasing spin that the US government has put out on Iraq and it's also self-pleasing and self-stroking pols and others have done on other topics that they're not doing a damn on and won't. But it does eat up attention. It certainly is right now, isn't it?

While I'm griping, the plane crash film that's out right now. I know two people involved with that film. I haven't seen it, I don't plan to. I think it was a mistake to make it. (As was the Jessica Lynch telefilm that was made.) Nothing's known. But there were four e-mails about the film, so I'll make these comments. 1) When someone is so confused as to what a director does and is responsible for, they probably aren't worth listening to in a review. (Trailers are not films. Trailers are commercials. The studio had control -- more control -- over the trailer. Don't confuse the studio's marketing with what the director's trying to do in a film. By all means, note the difference between what a film delivers and an ad promised, but don't be a fool and think the director was responsible for that trailer.) 2) Yes, it is strange that some of the same voices and outlets who trashed Oliver Stone's JFK are now rushing to push this myth as "the true story." Stone had mountains of research. With regard to the downed flight, no one knows.
Details (some) have emerged (in the mainstream press) since the film was shot. That's why I thought no one should make the film. It's like the telefilm of Jessica Lynch, a "true" story that blows up in everyone's face. 3) With no eyewitnesses alive, moments are created. "Inspired by" is stretching the connection to truth of the film. (Had it been billed as "based on conventional wisdom" that would have been more honest.) I realize that many are too young to remember the attacks on Stone. But he has a film due out shortly. Watch the way the press treats it and compare it to how they've treated the current flight of fancy that creates/invents moments inside a plane that there's no real way document. That's not a slam on the film. I have no interest in seeing it and thought making it was a mistake. If you accept that this is the attempt by some people to fill in many blanks, you can enjoy the film. I think that answered all the questions in the four e-mails.

Back to reality, Chris Floyd's "Hideous Kinky" (The Moscow Times):

In November 2002, we wrote here of another "opportunistic" endeavor: the Pentagon's plan to foment terrorism by infiltrating terrorist groups and militias and goading them into action -- i.e., committing acts of murder and destruction -- in order to "flush them out" for counterattacks or use them to advance U.S. policy in targeted states, including "justification" for military intervention or occupation.
Perhaps some of Rumsfeld's infiltrators were "riding with the bad boys" who struck in Dahab, Egypt, this week. With unrestricted black ops now ascendant, we can never know for sure. But we do know that each act of terror only enhances the power of the ever-expanding national security complex, entwining it in a mutually beneficial embrace with violent extremists everywhere.
Rumsfeld's "campaign plan" is itself a blueprint for state terrorism, an open license to break any and every law on earth and inflict human suffering on a global scale. Yet the only controversial aspect of this sinister program noted by the Post was the potential turf battles it might spark within the national security bureaucracy.
Not a single question was raised about the morality or legality of the undertaking; the Pentagon's assertion that only "bad guys" would be hit was simply swallowed whole -- despite the glaring fact that tens of thousands of innocent people have already been killed or falsely imprisoned in the so-called "war on terror."But this depravity passes without comment, without recognition. It's just normal, you see. It's the way we were raised.

But isn't it so much easier to express outrage over what others are doing or are alleged to be doing then confronting the abuses of your own government? (Yes, that's a reply to all the e-mails complaining about the topic that's pushed Iraq completely out of the news.)

Now there's an issue in Australia that's very important to members there. And I'll note that members in other countries have expressed interest in it was well. We've been noting this since last Sunday and had an update midweek. It's the story of Jake Kovco who died in Iraq. He was a member of the Australian military. The events surrounding his death are still open-ended. When his coffin was flown back to Australia, Defense Minister Brandon Nelson met with the family. To deliver more bad news. Kovco's coffin was present, his body was back in Iraq. They'd shipped the corpse of a Bosonian by mistake. (Has anyone attempted to identify that body? I'm sure his or her family is just as outraged as the Kovko's.)

Nelson made matters worse, in the family's eyes, by then taking to the airwaves to announce had Kovko had died. It is still not clear how Jake Kovko died. The Australian government is investigating that and how the coffin made it to Australia but Kovko's body did not.

Hopefully, that brings anyone who hasn't been following the story up to speed.

First up, Skip notes Shannon McRae's "Family backs Kovco" (Australian Herald Sun):

PRIVATE Jake Kovco's family has angrily rejected reports that he was under emotional pressure when he died.
His wife Shelley's parents, David and Lorraine Small, yesterday said the young couple had a strong, happy marriage and dreamed of a financially secure future after Iraq.
They believe his death was accidental and dismissed as rubbish suggestions the marriage was in trouble.
"Anyone who says there were problems in that marriage, I'd fight them to the death," Mrs Small told the Herald Sun.
Pte Kovco, 25, died in Baghdad on April 21 from a single shot from his military-issue Browning 9mm pistol to his head.
There has been much speculation and claims of a cover-up about the circumstances of his death.
Pte Kovco's parents yesterday were given the findings of an investigation into his death but were too distressed to talk about it.
An autopsy at Glebe morgue yesterday found Pte Kovco died of a single shot to the head.
Whether it was a suicide or accidental is still being investigated.
Pte Kovco's mother, Judy, last night told the Herald Sun she had the findings from the NSW Coroner but would not reveal the contents.
"I really just can't say anything any more, I'm just trying to keep living each day without my son," Judy Kovco said.
Late yesterday, her son's body was moved to Richmond RAAF base to be flown to Victoria for burial.

So, to underscore the point, not only has Kovco been smeared in his family's eyes, but there are now attempts to smear his marriage to Shelley Kovko. Surely the last thing she (or anyone else) needs at a time like this. Olive and Skip have the highlights but we had ten other Australian members weighing in with their own thoughts. (And any who want them to go up need only note that fact.) This is a big issue. Not just because how vile Jake Kovko has been treated in death but also because of how his grieving family has been treated.

Olive notes the next item and is outraged by it, "Nelson to attend Kovco funeral" (Australia's ABC):

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson will represent the Federal Government at the funeral of Private Jake Kovco tomorrow.
Private Kovko, 25, was the first Australian soldier to die during the Iraq mission.

Brendan Nelson who outraged the family by going to the media with an 'announcement' on Kovko's death (that had no backing and the investigation wasn't complete). (Judy Kovco, mother of the deceased, has been the most vocal, but not the only one.) A visitor e-mailed to say Shelley Kovco (the widow) supports the war. I'm aware of that. So are the Australian members. Jake Kovco is dead. Whether you support the war or oppose it (I oppose it), that doesn't change that fact. It also doesn't change the fact that the family has been treated like, my opinion, dirt. Australia has a healthy sized peace movement. Our community members from Australia are part of that. The fact that Shelley Kovco supports the war is not an issue to them, nor should it be. The issue is that she and the rest of Jake Kovco's family have been refused answers, have seen his body treated with disrespect and have seen themsleves smeared as some think that telling lies about the deceased makes for 'good cover' that will hide their own actions.

Australian members are offended by the way the family's been treated. Since we've addressed it here, other members have expressed their outrage as well. Visitors are welcome to weigh in but we take our cues from membership. What's been done to the family is vile and not all of it can be written off incompetence. We'll continue this while there are developments.

And other families suffer as well. Which brings us to our fianl highlight. As usual, Pru gets the last word and she steers us to "Soldiers' families: 'We are angry'" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Over 50 military families were set to lay a wreath at Downing Street on Wednesday of this week to show their anger at the war in Iraq and at Tony Blair's refusal to meet with the families of soldiers killed in Iraq.
The military families' campaign is growing all the time with more families getting involved. They include those who have lost family members in the war, those who have relatives currently serving or who have served in Iraq.
The families will meet with MPs in the House of Commons before walking to Downing Street to hand in a petition and lay a wreath in honour of those who have died in Iraq.
Three years into the war, many people who believed George Bush and Tony Blair's lies about the Iraq war are now angry about the continuing occupation.
One mother from the Midlands whose son is in the army and is due to be sent to Iraq in the next few weeks spoke to Socialist Worker. She said that she had believed the lies about weapons of mass destruction but now she felt betrayed by the government.
She said, "Nothing that this government says seems to have any basis in reality. They lied about how dangerous Saddam Hussein was so that we would back their war.
"And it turns out that not only were they after the oil, but they now won't leave and let the Iraqis get on with rebuilding their lives.
"The troops do little other than protect their own bases. It is plainly obvious that they are there for no other reason than oil. They aren't able to help the Iraqi people -- you can't force democracy on people."
Dave Corrigan served in Iraq as a paramedic at the start of the war. He told Socialist Worker that Wednesday was an important event for military families.
He said, "We have to make sure that Tony Blair knows that we are still angry. We are still waiting for him to take responsibility for this war and for the people who have died or had their lives ruined by his war.
"I think that military families have a special role to play. But it is important that campaigners from all walks of life come together to make sure we are heard."
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