Tuesday, May 30, 2006

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A man of military bearing and a storied past, Mr. Kappes would become the first person since William E. Colby in 1973 to ascend to one of agency's top two positions from a career spent in the clandestine service. General Hayden has said that his return would be a signal that "amateur hour" is over at the C.I.A., which has seen little calm since Mr. Kappes's departure.
A no-nonsense former Marine officer who insists on addressing his elders as "sir," Mr. Kappes speaks Russian and Persian; served as the agency's station chief in Moscow and Kuwait during a quarter-century at the C.I.A.; and played a pivotal role in the secret talks with Libya that culminated in December 2003 in the agreement in which Col. Muammar el-Qadaffi agreed to give up his chemical and biological weapons program.

The above is from Mark Mazzetti's "Poised to Return to C.I.A., Former Official Has Become a Symbol" in this morning's New York Times, a piece that does more than just take up space, it stinks up everything around it. Is Stephan Kappes a "no-nonsense" fellow? If so, he's probably as embarassed as everyone else reading when Mazzetti goes into heavy lust with phrases like "miltiary bearing" and "storied past." The whole thing reads like something out of True Confessions. Is that magazine still around? If so, Mazzetti should probably consider leaving the Times and moving to it -- where his hand wringing dramatics and tortured prose (and worship) would be more suited.

At one point in the article, Milton A. Bearden tells Mazzetti, "I would suggest that we dismiss all of the breathless characterizations of Steve Kappes either from his critics or the people trying to counter his critics." Get the idea that Mazzetti nodded repeatedly and said, "Oh, I know!" without ever grasping what Bearden was talking about? (Me too.)

An anonymouse tells Mazzetti, "The really good people are happy he's coming back." The "really good people"? Not just the "good people," but the "really good people"? Oh that is so totally cool! (That was sarcasm.)

On Haditha, Martha notes Thomas E. Ricks' "Drone's Video May Aid Marine Inquiry: Footage Shot on Day of Iraq Incident" (Washington Post):

Military investigators piecing together what happened in the Iraqi town of Haditha on Nov. 19 -- when Marines allegedly killed two dozen civilians -- have access to video shot by an unmanned drone aircraft that was circling overhead for at least part of that day, military defense lawyers familiar with the case said in interviews.
[. . .]
Iraqis who say they witnessed the violence in Haditha have said U.S. troops shot men, women and children at close range in retaliation for the death of a Marine lance corporal in a roadside bombing. The two investigations -- one into the incident and another into allegations that military personnel tried to cover it up -- began this year after news reports challenged an early military statement that the civilians were killed in the bombing.
People familiar with the case say they expect that charges of murder, dereliction of duty and making a false statement will be brought against several Marines.

And remember, as Susan advises, Haditha may be getting the attention it deserves, but it's not the only incident. Susan notes Dahr Jamail's "Easily Dispensable: Iraq's Children" (Truthout via Iraq Dispatches):

Cherishing children is the mark of a civilized society.-- Joan Ganz Cooney
If, as I would like to believe, the above quote suggests all children and not merely those born in Western democracies, I am no longer certain that we live in a civilized society.
That women and children suffer the most during times of war is not a new phenomenon. It is a reality as old as war itself. What Rumsfeld, Rice and other war criminals of the Cheney administration prefer to call "collateral damage" translates in English as the inexcusable murder of and other irreparable harm done to women, children and the elderly during any military offensive.
US foreign policy in the Middle East manifests itself most starkly in its impact on the children of Iraq. It is they who continue to pay with their lives and futures for the brutal follies of our administration. Starvation under sanctions, and death and suffering during war and occupation are their lot. Since the beginning of the occupation, Iraqi children have been affected worst by the violence generated by the occupying forces and the freedom fighters.
While I had witnessed several instances of this from the time of my first trip to Iraq in November 2003, I was shaken by a close encounter with it, a year later, in November 2004.
In a major Baghdad hospital, 12-year-old Fatima Harouz
lay in her bed, dazed, amidst a crowded hospital room. She limply waved her bruised arm at the flies that buzzed over the bed. Her shins, shattered by bullets when American soldiers fired through the front door of her house, were both covered in casts. Small plastic drainage bags filled with red fluid sat upon her abdomen, where she had taken shrapnel from another bullet.
She was from Latifiya, a city just south of Baghdad. Three days before I saw her, soldiers had attacked her home. Her mother, standing with us in the hospital, said, "They attacked our home and there weren't even any resistance fighters in our area." Her brother had been shot and killed, his wife wounded, and their home ransacked by soldiers. "Before they left, they killed all of our chickens," added Fatima's mother, her eyes a mixture of fear, shock and rage. A doctor who was with us as Fatima's mother narrated the story looked at me and sternly asked, "This is the freedom ... in their Disney Land are there kids just like this?"

Turning to Guantanamo, we'll note the Associated Press' "75 Detainees Go on Hunger Strike" (Los Angeles Times):

The number of Guantanamo Bay detainees participating in a hunger strike has ballooned from three to about 75, the U.S. military said Monday, revealing growing defiance among prisoners held for up to 4 1/2 years.
Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand called the hunger strike at the U.S. naval base in southeastern Cuba an "attention-getting" tactic to step up pressure for the inmates' release and said it might be related to a May 18 clash between detainees and guards that injured six prisoners.

Durand gets even more laughable:

"The hunger strike technique is consistent with Al Qaeda practice and reflects detainee attempts to elicit media attention to bring international pressure on the United States to release them back to the battlefield," Durand said from Guantanamo Bay.

Al Qaeda and Ghandi, apparently, having the same techniques. Hunger strikes as terrorism? Sounds like Durand's been studying his Patriot Act.

Back in the real world, Zach steers us to Matthew Rothschild's "Bush at West Point: Vows Long Middle Eastern War, Spreads the Fallacy of the Cold War Analogy" (This Just In, The Progressive):

At West Point's graduation ceremony, President Bush gave a none too subtle hint that the United States will be waging war in the Middle East for years and years to come. And not just in Iraq.
"So long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place where terrorists foment resentment and threaten American security," he said. He added, a few sentences later, "The message has spread from Damascus to Tehran that the future belongs to freedom, and we will not rest until the promise of liberty reaches every people and every nation."
Since Bush delivers the promise of freedom by gunpoint and in a bomb crater, people in Syria and Iran ought to take note.
And we, as citizens of the United States, ought to take note, too, that Bush's appetite for war is not yet sated.
Neither has he curbed his penchant for distortion.
About his Iraq invasion to topple Saddam, Bush continued to dissemble.
"When the United Nations Security Council gave him one final chance to disclose and disarm, or face serious consequences, he refused to take that final opportunity. So coalition forces went into Iraq and removed his cruel regime."
Actually, Saddam had been cooperating, to a large extent, with the U.N. weapons inspectors. And he had no weapons of mass destruction to disarm. Weapons inspectors were begging the Security Council for more time, but Bush refused to give it to them. And Bush acted like was doing the Security Council's bidding by invading when, in actual fact, the Security Council refused to give its blessing to the invasion.
That's why Kofi Annan called it illegal.

And on the issue of immigrant rights and the internet, Dallas notes Ari Melber's "MySpace, MyPolitics" (The Nation):

In California's largest public school district, more than 100,000 students-- one-quarter of the middle school and high school population--boycotted class on the May 1 "day without immigrants." For national organizations spearheading the events, finding first-time student protesters is hard enough, let alone mobilizing them. Yet it appears that many young people found one another with little formal direction.
Many students got involved through
MySpace.com, a social networking website that lets people link to friends and create profiles with photos and music. With 70 million members, most of whom are teenagers, it is one of the top ten most popular destinations on the Internet. (MySpace and its parent company, Intermix Media, were acquired last year for $580 million by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, but the site does not share the politics of its corporate cousins, such as Fox News, because most of its content is produced by users themselves.) Students were already communicating about their lives through MySpace, so when immigration became a hot issue, why not that too? Sprinkled through the website's millions of pages, comments cropped up about the protests, the national boycott and how students felt about Congress trying to criminalize their parents' existence.
For example, "
May1--san anto against 4437," a page mobilizing San Antonio protests against HR 4437, the Republican immigration bill, attracted more than 400 "friends" in two months. The site is run by an unnamed 36-year-old woman in San Antonio who provides updates on legislation and local events; it is plastered with colorful fliers, protest pictures, editorial cartoons and snippets of conversation from visitors. "Hell Yeah!!!! Let's do this so that we can show them that we are human beings, not "illegals!!" wrote Denise, a 20-year-old who visited the site a few days before the student walkout. There are also comments opposing illegal immigrants and criticizing protesters for waving Mexican flags; the site even devotes a subsection to "hate mail" from anti-immigration factions. The week before the May 1 boycott, Carl Webb, a 40-year-old in Austin, posted an open request for related events in his area. Webb, whose page greets visitors with a recording of Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," says he learned about immigration events from MySpace, which he uses to discuss "working-class struggles" and to communicate with "hundreds of political types."

Carl Webb isn't identified as such; however, he is a war resistor and you can learn more about him, via Democracy Now!, from "Three U.S. Soldiers Refusing to Fight Speak Out Against the Iraq War" (March 15, 2005). From Lee Nichols' "Jail, Exile, or Iraq" (Austin Chronicle, August 6. 2004):

In a situation fraught with terrible irony, a local peace activist faces a call to Iraq -- as a member of the U.S. military. Carl Webb, 38, joined the Texas Army National Guard in August 2001, despite also having been active in the peace movement since at least a year earlier. He signed up for a three-year enlistment that would have been up on Aug. 22. But as part of the Pentagon's "stop-loss" program -- the same program that John Kerry derided in his Democratic presidential nomination acceptance speech as a "back-door draft" -- Webb's commitment is being involuntarily extended; he must report to Fort Hood on Aug. 15 and was told to expect mobilization to Iraq in November.

Karen passes on that the Haditha massacre and East Timor are two of the topics for today's Democracy Now! so remember to listen, watch or read.

Lastly, Joe notes Andrew Buncombe's "A New Protest Song: Joan Baez -- She Shall Overcome" (Independent of London via Truthout):

If the words of the song came easily to Joan Baez it was because she has been singing them most of her life. Standing in front of an ageing walnut tree threatened -- along with the land on which it stood -- by developers in Los Angeles, the veteran folk singer jammed her hands in the front pockets of her jeans and sang: "No, no, no nos moverán. No, no, no nos moverán."
For the mainly Hispanic farmers and gardeners hoping to prevent the 14-acre site known as South Central Farm from being sold to developers, the presence this week of the silver-haired Baez and her Spanish rendition of the protest anthem "We Shall Not be Moved" has boosted their efforts to save their community garden. For Baez, now aged 65, it is just the latest protest in a lifetime of demonstration and campaigning.
"At the moment it is absolutely extraordinary. It's one of those things that just take off," Baez yesterday told The Independent by telephone. "Two days ago it was very iffy - there were just a couple of people [here]. I thought it would either fizzle out or else take off and it's taken off. It's such a morale-booster - everybody is bustling to work."
Baez's twin-track career as a folk singer and outspoken campaigner has seen her involved in issues ranging from everything from civil rights, the Vietnam War, equal rights for gay and lesbians through to landmines and Live Aid. More recently, she has been involved in demonstrations against the ongoing war in Iraq, last year getting out her guitar and singing songs of protest at the peace camp established outside of President George Bush's Texas ranch by anti-war campaigner Cindy Sheehan.
In this, her latest protest, Baez and other campaigners have converged on the urban farm in an effort to save land that has been used for more than 10 years by around 350 farmers to grow fruit, herbs, cactus and vegetables. The farmers had failed in their efforts to raise sufficient funds to buy the land and on Wednesday night a judge approved an eviction order that will allow the authorities to remove the protesters -- Baez included.

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