Sunday, May 14, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Keep in mind why this is happening. Iraq's bloody "regime change" was engineered in order to implement a thorough-going economic rapine plan drawn up for the Bush administration in early 2003 by the corporate consulting group BearingPoint, as Antonia Juhasz reports in her new book, "The Bush Agenda." BearingPoint, headquartered in the CIA company town of Maclean, Virginia, provided a detailed blueprint for opening up Iraq to predatory foreign "investment" on terms that allowed the wholesale looting of the nation's wealth while acing Iraqi companies out of the action.
Bush's appointed satrap, Paul Bremer, executed the blueprint faithfully during his dictatorial rule in Baghdad. His edicts were then incorporated wholesale, hugger-mugger and without negotiation into the new Iraqi constitution. They are now the law of the land. The dark heart of the scam is, of course, the oil laws. Now that a "sovereign" government has been established, these can be finalized at last. The plan is for 40-year "production-sharing agreements" that will give Bush's oil cronies a vast slice of Iraq's oil output at rock-bottom prices ("at cost"), as Chris Cook reports in the Asia Times. This windfall will make today's record-breaking oil company profits look like chump change.
Last week, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced that it is dispatching a "petroleum adviser" to Baghdad to help the new Iraqi government complete its "critical petroleum law," Dow Jones Newswires reports. The adviser is being sent at the request of the U.S. State Department, headed by former oil exec Condoleezza Rice. And the company contracted to supply the adviser is -- oh, you already guessed! -- BearingPoint Inc.So that's why Ahmad Khalil had to die, along with thousands of others, gay and straight, Sunni and Shiite, religious and secular, Iraqi and American. It has nothing to do with any of the grand abstractions employed by the apologists for empire to mask their complicity with the immoral dictates of raw power: national security, humanitarian intervention, the war on terror, Islamofascism, and so on. No, it's just a crude, brutal -- and no doubt temporary -- marriage of convenience between old-fashioned religious extremism and old-fashioned elitist greed. Both are committed to the destruction of Iraqi society in order to impose their own form of bondage in place of Saddam's tyranny.

The above, noted by Harrison, is from Chris Floyd's "Shotgun Wedding" (Moscow Times). That's the reality of it all. Some can look away.

Laura Bush can look away. She can laughably claim that she just knows the illegal, warrantless spying is done for good reasons (I just know that no one needs to see that sun damaged skin on her chest so she needs to do up several buttons on her blouse in the future when she goes before the camera). Do the faithful believe her? When they hear her then add that she doesn't believe the poll numbers, do they still believe her? We're not talking about one poll or two, which could and should be disputed. One poll proves nothing. Polling results matter when you see a long term trend -- which is exactly what we've seen with regards to Bully Boy.

On this Mother's Day, Laura Bush took the airwaves because what better way to celebrate Mother's Day than talking up illegal war, illegal spying? Isn't that what it's all about?

She doesn't buy into the reasons for which the day was created and she also rejects the commercialized celebration of it. Instead, she's working her own blood lust. What did Isaiah dub it? "Bully Boy's slipping in the polls? Send in the fembot!" Possibly, if Rove is facing indictment on Monday, he's a little too busy to pull any tricks out of new moves out of his clutch purse of dirty tricks.

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 official count for the American military fatalities in Iraq stood at 2418. Right now? 2439. The war drags on and on. Bully Boy has no doubts about it. He's apparently ready to send National Guard troops to the southern border of the United States (stupid move) but while he can send men and women anywhere, he's not real fond of bringing them back home. For Iraqis, of course, they are home. It's an occupied home currently. And the chaos and violence continues.

Vic notes Paul Schemm's "At least 16 killed in Iraq violence" (Mail & Guardian):

At least 16 Iraqis were killed in an upsurge of violence on Sunday, including five who died in a blast on Baghdad's Palestine Street that targeted a passing police patrol, Iraqi security officials said.The roadside bombing in the east of the capital missed the police patrol but killed the bystanders and wounded four others, a defence ministry source said. Al-Kindi hospital said two of the five dead were women.

As Iraqis continue dying in their own country (occupied by foreign fighters) so do the foreign fighters. And not just the foreign fighters Bully Boy sent over from the United States. Gareth notes Audrey Gillan's "Two killed and one injured in Basra bomb attack on UK troops" (Guardian of London):

Two British soldiers were killed and another injured in Basra when their armoured Land Rover was hit by a roadside bomb late on Saturday night.
The soldiers, from the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, were in the vehicle when the improvised explosive device detonated while they were on routine patrol north of Basra. The scene was cordoned off to prevent further attacks and a British military helicopter with an emergency team on board took the casualties to a military hospital at Shaibah logistics base. The soldiers' names are expected to be released today.

So what does it take to end the war? Action. Using your voice, speaking out, making the war an issue in your daily life. Eddie notes Manus McGrogan's "Anti-war protests in Brighton" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Around 100 people braved the pouring rain to attend a Don't Attack Iran rally in central Brighton on Saturday.
The rally was part of an international series of peace protests coming after heightened tension between the US and Iran. Iranian Bahram Souroush addressed the rally.
He made clear his opposition to any attack on his country, while calling on people in Britain to show solidarity with ordinary Iranians. Other speakers included local trade unionists and Abubaker, brother of Guantanamo prisoner Omar Deghayes.
The rally ended with a symbolic "die-in" led by a young school student, Shanee Vanstone, 10, of Stanford Junior School. He commented, "If a lot of people join us and go on marches, it might help stop the war."
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That's one of many actions that are needed. In the United States, there was a vigil in DC. Martha notes Karen Bradley's "Mother's Day Historic Vigil in Washington D.C." (CODEPINK) and note that there are wonderful photos with this piece:

The sky is suddenly blue and we lie on the green grass, threads of pink spell out "Mom says NO to War". We are the threads, hundreds of us, dressed in pink, with pink banners.
aerial photo will be released; taken from the top of the Washington Monument. We met people from Phoenix AZ, Jamica Plain MA, Camden ME, Baltimore and North Carolina. We were part of the "Y" in "says".
Moms shared stories of sons in Iraq; sons in college, sons lost, children and the future. Later, we will do the Karl Rove Indictment Happy Dance, but for now, the sheer joy of holding hands and dancing in the unexpected sun is enough.
Right now,
teach-ins are happening and we will head over there to see them and learn from each other, but for now, all of you are here with us. I will post as I can, or call into sparrow, DiAnne and the rest of the DCPers.
(It is nice to think about consternation inside those white walls, so cut off from our sense of mission and intent).

More coverage can be found here. And Democracy Now! noted the vigil Friday, "Mothers Say No To War: Peace Activists Plan Mother's Day Protest Outside White House:"

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about your son and why you'll be in Washington outside the White House this Mother's Day?
ELAINE JOHNSON: First of all, I'd like to say good morning, and thank you for having me on your show. My son was specialist Darius Jennings, and he was a mama's boy. And Mother's Day is Sunday, and every mother that lost a son would love for the son to walk in the door on Mother's Day and say, "Happy Mother's Day" with a bunch of flowers. That will never happen to me and a lot more mothers anymore, since our sons and daughters were killed over in Iraq.

[. . .]
CINDY SHEEHAN: And what this Mother's Day means to me, like what it means to Elaine, is the same thing every day means to me. My son was killed needlessly and senselessly. I will not get -- he used to send me funny cards on Mother's Day. I used to get phone calls from him every day but, you know, Mother's Day especially, and that is something that will be missing in my life for the rest of my life, because of George Bush and the neo-cons and, you know, it's just -- it's heartbreaking, but what Elaine and I want to do is stop this from happening to other mothers, before it's too late for them.

Amy asks if we can note something on a brave voice? Always. The people who've stood up need to be remembered. The New York Times can play the we-were-all-wrong nonsense but that's not reality. That nonsense is as destructive and as harmful to the future as a scheme by Bully Boy because it reinforces this idea that the illegal war "just happened." It didn't just happen. The administration lied. The media repeated it unquestioningly and people who spoke were attacked. One of those who spoke out regardless was Arundhati Roy. From Fakrul Alam's "Confronting Empire, Passionately" (Bangladesh's The Daily Star via Common Dreams):

It must have been in 1997--around the time when Arundhati Roy was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for her first and only novel The God of Small Things -- that I saw her on BBC's "Hardtalk." The man who was hosting the show then, he with the walrus smile, beamed a question at Roy that he no doubt felt had to be answered: "And so what is your next novel going to be about?" I remember Roy, at first glance waif-like but really self-assured and full of charm that she exudes without trying, smiling and shooting back his question at him: "But what makes you think I will write another novel? I may never write fiction again. If I write anything, it will be on something that I feel strongly about. And that may be anything other than fiction."
How could the tough-talking host of Hardtalk, or for that matter, any one of her fans admiring her on television sets and her readers worldwide expecting her to write another passion-filled masterpiece in the manner of
The God of Small Things know then that she was not being disingenuous and that her quiet determination to stick to what moved her most would take her away from fiction altogether and make her one of the leading activists of our time? Could anyone watching her in 1997 realize that this woman of immense talent and infinite charisma would soon become a fervent warrior against injustice in her country and abroad and emerge as a writer of ardent prose that rang with courage, conviction and rage against tyranny and empire?
In fact, within a year after winning the Booker Prize, Roy was earning notoriety among Indian right-wing politicians, nuclear/nationalist strategists and advocates of mega-development projects and multinational schemes by opposing such adventures as the testing of nuclear weapons or enterprises as the Narmada Valley Development projects and by writing scathingly in left-leaning and radical magazines about them. By 2001, her political writing had merited enough attention to enable her to collect them into the book published by Penguin India called
The Algebra of Infinite Justice. It was clear to anyone who read the essays that the woman who had composed that lyrical first novel had found it in her to write polemical prose that somehow managed to be poetic as well as outspoken and passionate as well as provocative.
It wasn't long after
The Algebra of Infinite Justice that the devastating September 11, 2002 strikes led the U. S. government to adopt a policy of preemptive and brutal assaults on suspected "soft," "terrorist" targets. The scapegoat that the Bush administration so needed at that time was found in Iraq. The destruction of Iraq has followed; this country obviously has to hemorrhage to death because of the American government's need for a bully that it can kick in the butt to demonstrate its capacity to beat into pulp anyone who dares to threaten America again.
Among the global chorus of voices in opposition to America's new policy of strident action against suspects to its security shield none has been louder than Arundhoti's Roy. This, at least, is clear to anyone who reads her latest book,
An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire, for it is nothing less than an indictment of the arrogance and folly of current American imperial policy. In this work--also a collection of essays, speeches, and polemical pieces like her previous book--Roy has once again turned her seemingly infinite capacity to expose injustice and to speak up for the downtrodden to write a book that is powerful, persuasive, and--the word seems to be inevitable when discussing her productions--passionate.

Roy and others who were there speaking out deserve to be noted. (And we discussed Roy's An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire at The Third Estate Sunday Review if you haven't read it and need more info on it.) The Tone scolds never take on The New Republic (of course not, one of them works at the war pushing rag) and thinks it's perfectly okay to joke about 'bunker buster bombs' and Roy. But then war's always a joke to them. They only worry when one of the wars they've cheerled blows up in their face in real time. (When it's one that people wake up to years later, they pull the "we were all wrong" nonsense.) What you're seeing a lot of are some people trying to act as though they didn't promote this war, they didn't cheerlead it and now they're trying to be anti-war voices. Why? Because it fits the mood of the country. And they're, honestly, a little frightened by the mood of the country.

They're gas bags and they seize on conventional wisdom just because it's popular. There are two pieces members have noted (not for highlights) showing up online in links and shout outs that are by two people that no one needs listen to. One vilified and lied about Al Gore so we should remember that. That one pushed Bully Boy all the way back in 2000 (while playing the "I'm objective!" game). The other pushed the war and doesn't appear to have anything to say now other than a bumper sticker slogan. (Matching the mood of the country, the new sticker says "Bring the Troops Home" but it's resting on top of a "Bully Boy - Cheney 2004" bumper sticker.)

The point isn't that people can't wake up. They can. And it's happened. But gasbags who want to play it like they've been against the war forever and weren't have nothing to offer. A number of them push the "we were all wrong" defense. We weren't all wrong. Buying that b.s. allows future illegal wars. Not examining what actually happened (and certain people being held accountable -- I'm talking outside the administration) allows us to never get beyond Bully Boy lied. Bully Boy did lie. He damn well lied. But anyone who really had their eyes opened (or had them opened long before) grasps that there was a reason he lied. The mainstream press doesn't seem interested in that story.

Telling that story might jeopardize future attempts to trick the nation into war. Historians can tell us about and we're to believe that was just something those silly past generations went through. It's not. It happens then, it happened now and pretending that "we were all wrong" is a lie that furthers illegal wars.

Highlight from Brad that I'm inserting here and hope fits, John Grant's "The Lessons of War That Few Have Learned" (Philadelphia Inquirer via Common Dreams):

As I exited the Staten Island Ferry recently for an antiwar demonstration of 300,000 people down Broadway, a young man next to me noticed my Veterans for Peace T-shirt.
"What war?" he asked.
"Thanks for your service," he said.
"The war never should have happened," I told him. "It's not something to thank me for."
"Thanks, anyway," he said as we parted.
As a veteran, you get "Thanks for your service" a lot. It always irritates me. I never quite know how to respond because I'm not proud of my service in Vietnam, and don't feel I should be thanked for it.
I was 18 when I joined. I spent the most influential year of my life in Vietnam. Then I came home and educated myself. If people want to thank me, let them do it for what I learned from the experience, not for going there.
The main thing I learned? U.S. military interventions since World War II have generally been dishonest and in support of quite vicious governments. There's Iran in 1953 and Guatemala the next year. And, of course, Vietnam.

Picking back up the thread, so people who spoke out in their own voices (however they spoke out) in real time do need to be noted.

That includes the Dixie Chicks who were on 60 Minutes tonight in a really bad interview that a friend asked Ava and I to do a heads up to but we refused to do at The Third Estate Sunday Review and I refused to do it here. I have no problem typing, "A friend gives a heads up to . . ."
And I certainly have no problem with the Dixie Chicks. But the interview? It's hard to believe, watching it, that the country's against the war because it played with only slightly less high drama than Diane Sawyer's infamous interview with the Dixie Chicks.

The three women looked wonderful, they spoke from the heart and good for them. But this nonsense of Natalie Maines said something out of bounds is just nonsense. Maines made that point at the start of the interview. She was correct. And you'd think, three years after, we could all shake our heads and ask, "What was the nation thinking?" But instead, the interviewer couldn't join in her saying, "You're right, it's not a big deal."

Her point was she said she was embarrassed Bully Boy is from Texas. That's not the worst anyone's said about him. It's not threatening, it's not dredging up his alleged cocaine use (past), or his alleged drinking (past and present), it's not calling for him to be put before a war tribunal, it's not, "Bully Boy, you have the blood of every dead Iraqi and American and 'coalition' troop on your hands."

She's embarrased Bully Boy's from Texas (by way of Maine). It's not that big of deal. It shouldn't have been in real time. But certainly now, there shouldn't be an attempt by a thinking journalist to try to act as though Maines channeled Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and anyone else you can think of all at once.

It was a plain spoken statement. Probably that's what bothered the ones launching the attack so. It was from the heart. But that interview was embarrassing, not for anything the Dixie Chicks did or said but because of the interviewer's attempt to explode a moe hill and call it a mountain while also imposing an angle that's not reality. The Dixie Chicks are going to now try to be crossover artists! Well, actually, they've been that for some time. It's why they were on the Runaway Bride soundtrack all those years ago (almost a decade). I could go through every point imposed on the interview that wasn't reality but I don't see the need to. Hopefully, if people watched, they walked away thinking the Dixie Chicks sounded great (they sang wonderfully), looked great, have a new album coming out and won't be shamed. (I refused to recommend it ahead of time and I won't provide a link to it now. Google "60 Minutes" and you can find a link if you're interested.)

The Dixie Chicks stood against the war at a time when others were cowards. Others in the music industry are still being cowards and if they think trotting out a golden oldie or wearing a t-shirt makes a difference, they're kidding themselves. I'm thinking of two who had (and have) ample airtime that they could use to make a comment, any comment. They don't. They have Grammys, they have names, they have collections that will sell no matter what else goes in their careers. But they're so busy playing it safe, that they are part of the problem that allows the war to drag on.

Julie found a thing on music and wanted to highlight this paragraph, from Conclave's "Music Memories: Folk, Rock, Jazz That Touch My Soul:"

I remember protesting the Vietnam War and singing protest songs. I saw Tom Paxton and Eric Andersen and Tom Rush and Judy Collins in little clubs in the Village. And I remember Bob Dylan in Newport when he first went electric. And Arlo and Pete too. I know I'm forgetting some. This Pete Seeger video is still sadly relevant today. Listen to the words and feel his passion.

I'm sorry that the copy and paste (Julie picked the quote and also provided the full post) doesn't seem to have an individual credited. But music does matter and it does reinforce and influence.

Neil Young came out against the war. I don't doubt his sincerity of belief. I don't think you can listen to Living With War and not comprehend what he thinks and why he thinks it. I don't support the push to act as though "Finally!" someone's speaking out. It's great that he's speaking out and he deserves credit for it but I don't think we get so lost in our enthusiasm that we forget the people who were speaking out when the country was filled with Bully Boy lovers who couldn't and wouldn't honor a dissenting opinion. Good for Neil Young, too bad a lot of others refuse to use their own voices.

So if Amy finds something, or if anyone does, that's a feature article on someone who stood up (from the start or now), we have time for that. We've noted probably three or four features on Susan Sarandon, we've noted at least two on Robert Redford and there's Jane Fonda and others as well. We can make time for that. But especially tonight we can. Most e-mails wonder where the war coverage is today? Good question. Where is it? As Polly noted in her editorial this morning (Polly's Brew) why can't the BBC provide more than one article online about Iraq a day? (And I think that's being generous, allowing that they have one new story a day, having done the "Iraq snapshot" Monday through Friday for several weeks.)

When the administration was pushing March as yet another 'turned corner,' in this country, the United States, the mainstream media went along with it. Apparently, there's not a great deal of difference between the mainstream media in most countries (other than accents). So we end up with a lot of members wondering where the coverage of the war is?

But whether that was the case or not, we can always stop to note feature reporting on someone who stood up and was counted when it wasn't popular or easy to do.

Which brings us to both Pru's highlight and the topic of Iran -- "Blair clears way to attack Iran" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Just how far Tony Blair is prepared to go was shown last week when he replaced foreign secretary Jack Straw -- because Straw was seen as too soft on Iran. A man who just weeks ago paraded US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice around north west England is now no longer regarded by Blair as being sufficiently enthusiastic about waging war alongside George Bush.
Despite Labour's disastrous poll showing, Blair made it clear this week that he is digging in at Downing Street. He said his successor would be given "ample time" to prepare for the next general election, but that suggests he may intend still to be there in a year, 18 months or even two years time.
Every day he remains means Britain will slavishly support Bush in his military adventures, it means more lives lost in Iraq and it means more free market madness at home.
Within hours of Straw being shuffled out of office, the new foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, was in New York, backing up US officials as they ratcheted up the pressure on Iran. Blair's appointee was asked whether she believed a military strike on Iran was "inconceivable", a word used repeatedly by Straw. She refused to say it was.
Blair has also made it clear that his domestic "reforms" will continue. The numbers of nurses being sacked continues to rise while Labour looks set to extend privatisation by giving the green light to the sell off of Royal Mail.
Blair is defying voters who decisively rejected his policies in last week's local elections. Overall only a quarter of the 36 percent who voted backed Labour, so just 9 percent of those eligible to vote backed the party.
Despite that, Blair has reshuffled the cabinet to surround himself with loyalists
committed to the same fanatical agenda. While the media focuses on conflicts between Blair and Gordon Brown the simple truth is that if a few dozen Labour MPs and union leaders found the resolve to call on Blair to quit then he would be gone. But few seem prepared to go further than moaning -- anonymously -- to the press.
We cannot wait for these people to muster a modicum of resolve. We need to step up resistance to any attack on Iran, health cuts, pension attacks and further privatisation.
We will have to fight just as hard over those issues if Brown is prime minister. But kicking out Blair would give strength and confidence to struggles against the other architect of New Labour.
Last week’s council elections show how Respect can offer an alternative based on just such a fightback.
Across the country we need to follow the lead from Birmingham, and the east London boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets in creating a popular, radical alternative that can offer hope to those of us who pay the price for each day Blair remains in office.
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