Thursday, June 29, 2006

And the war drags on . . . (Indymedia Roundup)

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the responses to your request, have they been saying that they have no material that meets your request or that they're precluded, in one way or another, from releasing it?
BEN WIZNER: No, we have not yet gotten the substantive request from the military saying that they don't have responsive material. Essentially they ignore us until a federal judge requires them to respond to us. But if we were in a functioning democracy, we wouldn't need FOIA requests to get to the bottom of what's going on here. The minute that report was leaked to NBC News, the minute NBC News reported that grannies and Quakers and people protesting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at law schools were in a Pentagon secret database, there would have been hearings the next week, and Don Rumsfeld and Stephen Cambone would have been dragged up to Capitol Hill, and there would have been a full airing of what was going on. And that really is what's needed here. I mean, we will find out more information through this FOIA, but Congress's silence here is really remarkable.
AMY GOODMAN: When you say if we were really functioning in a democracy, what exactly do you mean?
BEN WIZNER: What I mean is that we have not had any meaningful congressional oversight of any of these surveillance activities over the last five or six years. You know, I do know, Amy, I’ve been here on the program talking about what we've uncovered through our FOIAs against the F.B.I., F.B.I. surveillance of peaceful protesters. What's going on with the N.S.A. really is a constitutional crisis, and Congress has yet to play a meaningful role. The reason why the FOIA, the Freedom of Information Act, has taken on such great importance over the last four or five years is that there is no meaningful oversight whatsoever going on on Capitol Hill. And so, our only choice is to get this information, bring it before the public and hope that there's some pressure on the administration to change its policies.

The above is from Democracy Now!'s "Pentagon Spying on Gay, Antiwar Groups More Widespread than Previously Acknowledged" today. The Pentagon spying issue is a big issue. If you missed the segment you can watch it, listen to it or read it online (at Democracy Now!). (You can also check out their segment on "Former Bush Spokesman Urges Newspapers to Run Pro-War Stories by Former Vets With GOP Ties.") That's the good news.

The bad? Ruth called to say she'll cover Michael Ratner's speech and hopes CounterSpin has something on Iraq because otherwise, she has nothing to cover. If you heard a discussion, she's asking that you e-mail (put "Ruth" in your heading and we'll forward or use her private e-mail address that runs in the gina & krista round-robin on fridays and polly's brew on sundays). She's tried to find the Iraq coverage. She can't.

It's been a strange week. Nouri al-Maliki presented a so-called peace plan. Among the critics have been Dahr Jamail and Medea Benjamin. You could read them online. You couldn't hear about it on Pacifica. The news programs and the news break covered Iraq. Did anything else?
Ruth says no and I can say I didn't hear anything on KPFA.

So the peace 'plan' ('peace' 'plan'?) comes out and we're going to roll over into silence? That's how it's going to be? (If you're a Wakeup Call listener, WBAI, Mike's already passed on to Ruth that Deepa Fernandes and company have covered Iraq this week.) We've had coverage of Mexico's upcoming elections (and someone from the Zapitistas had to explain -- s-l-o-w-l-y -- the group's position which is rather obvious and has been for some time -- Dennis Bernstein covered this weeks ago). But the elections are coming up and apparently there's some betting pool reasoning for why there's a need for predicitions? Or maybe there are a lot of absentee votes that are expected to be mailed from the United States? I'm not talking about one segment. I'm not talking about two. Tomorrow we'll get the third or fourth segment on the impending elections.

And the coverage of Iraq?

The United States is occupying Iraq. As Jennifer Stone noted today (on her Stone's Throw), quoting Voltaire, tend to your garden. Or, as Joni Mitchell once sang (and wrote), "Wouldn't they like their peace, don't we get bored?"

There's a place for upcoming elections, there's a place for covering everything. But when it's at the expense of what your own country's doing, then there's a problem. For me, anyway. If Air America still had the archives, Ruth said she'd note Laura Flanders because she's covered Iraq and a great deal more. But she's focusing on Iraq and if other's aren't, she's not covering them in that week's report. So if you heard something on Pacifica that addressed Iraq this week (other than the news hours or news half-hours), drop a line, she's describing herself as "desperate" to find coverage of the war that the United States is in.

We're also at war in Afghanistan. We can't cover everything. I don't make the mistake of assuming that we can. Our focus is Iraq more and more. I wasn't a news consumer in WWII but did we take a week long break in the middle of that to note this happening there and that happening here? Considering that campaigning is over in Mexico, do we need all (three or four times this week, on one program, it's been a twenty minute segment) this pre-election coverage?

We hear that the peace movement isn't doing enough or doesn't have much impact. I disagree with both statements. But when we're turning on to listen and hear coverage of the war in/on Iraq and getting news on everything but, don't blame the peace movement. Don't you dare blame the peace movement.

Ehren Watada? There were demonstrations across the country. That wasn't worth a segment on any show I caught (news programs excluded). Pacifica may as well have been NPR this week as I heard about the environment and I heard about Mexico and I heard about this and that and hula hoops on "framining." I didn't hear about the war.

With or without coverage, the war will be a discussion as people gather with friends and families. It's a real shame that it hasn't been a focus on many of the programs we expect to hear of it on.

Dahr Jamail has an appeal, by the way. I'm not noting anymore appeals after this. Sorry. Not in the mood too. I've been happy to note it before but if others are in for something else, I'm not interested. Dahr Jamail's going back to Iraq. He's going to be unembedded (again). If you can give, if you can spare anything, please do. I'll say that for Dahr Jamail. I won't say for anyone else again. People's fundings are their only problems. Organization's fundings are their own problem. Dahr's going back to Iraq because it's obvious that the news from Iraq needs to get out. If you agree with that and you can spare it, please contribute. From his website:

June 28, 2006
Request for Support
Dahr Jamail will soon return to the Middle East to continue his independent reporting. As usual, reporting independently is a costly enterprise; for example, an average hotel room is $50, a fixer runs $50 per day, and phone/food average $25 per day. Dahr will report from the Middle East for one month, and thus needs to raise $5,750 in order to cover his plane ticket and daily operating expenses.
A rare opportunity has arisen for Dahr to cover several stories regarding the occupation of Iraq, as well as U.S. policy in the region, which have been entirely absent from mainstream media.
With the need for independent, unfiltered information greater than ever, your financial support is deeply appreciated. Without donations from readers, ongoing independent reports from Dahr are simply not possible.
All donations go directly towards covering Dahr's on the ground operating expenses.
You may donate with Paypal here
Or you may mail a check here:
Dahr Jamail

P.O. Box 90790
Anchorage, AK 99509

Do I sound frustrated? I am. I'm very frustrated. Has nothing been going on in Iraq? You might think that. But last week the American fatality count stood at 2510. 2529 tonight. Who knows how many Iraqis? The Baghdad morgue is stating they receive 30 corpses every day. But do you get that from this week's coverage? Excuse me, do you get that from this week's lack of coverage? No, you don't.

You get a lot of predictions about elections in Mexico, you get some good coverage of what's going on in Gaza and some bad coverage, you get a lot news about the way to vote. (Greg Palast says don't vote on absentee ballots, others say use them.) Rebecca's pointed out that Democracy Now! had time for AIPAC. They didn't have time to get a response to the spying scandal. I have no idea why that issue wasn't raised. If it can't be raised, don't bring the organization on. If they're brought on, they get asked about it.

It's basic.

Where is Iraq on indymedia? The question pops up in e-mail after e-mail. Ditto the weeklies. I have no idea. Apparently, though the war drags on, the topic's of little interest.

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)

On the body count, there was a revelation this week. Programs could have explored it. They didn't. Nancy A. Youssef broke the news that the United States government was keeping a body count on Iraqis. I wasn't surprised. When we noted it here, I heard from two right-wing visitors who've been quite vocal about how "stupid" or "dumb" I was to claim that the United States government was keeping a body count on Iraqis. They both, to their credit, admitted they were wrong. A little coverage of that from others and it might have gotten out. It might have been a story. Instead Nancy A. Youssef (Knight Ridder) broke one of the most important stories of the week and we're having to hear someone explain why this candidate (in Mexico) is or isn't a liberal (or "liberal"). I believe at least one program intends to explore that topic (again) tomorrow. Can't wait. Boy, am I being informed.

(Yes, that was sarcasm. I avoid chat & chews for a reason.)

Tom Hayden made a very strong point this past weekend. (We noted it here.) That an amensty plan has to be realistic. We made that point here and I got creamed for it as well. So obviously, it's not something that most people are aware of. (I think those who can remember the sixties are aware of it.) That's something that should have been aired. That's something that should have been discussed. It wasn't.

Hayden, Benjamin, Jamail and others weren't on the list of guests. Those on the list had other topics to discuss. There's nothing wrong with covering a variety of topics, but when you're covering everything but the war, there is a problem.

Was everyone on holiday?

I've read the e-mails, I understand the frustration, I share the frustation. Martha said she wished I had called her for a quote this morning because she had a great deal to say about the reporting in the Washington Post today. She thinks of any media, independent or corporate, it "not only did the best job, it really did the only job. I've never been more disappointed in independent media than I was this week."

Don't blame the peace movement. Not when the coverage is starts-and-stops, off-and-on. When we can be working towards the fourth year since the illegal invasion and we don't get coverage of it, don't blame the peace movement. Blame the media outlets (independent and corporate).

Maybe there's an attitude of "Oh . . . I don't want to talk about Iraq again!" Well, the Iraqis don't have that option, those serving in Iraq don't have that option. That a week can go by, I'll name it, it's one of my favorite shows, and KPFA's The Morning Show can't offer a single segment on Iraq but can offer multiple segments on elections in Mexico, that's a problem. That's also Ruth's favorite show (well, one of them, Law and Disorder is her favorite show) and when we were on the phone, she was talking around it. I didn't know if that was due to my admiration for the show or her own, but I finally pointed out the elephant in the room and said, "Like KPFA's The Morning Show?" Yes, exactly like that.

They've done a brilliant job covering Gaza. But where was Iraq? I'm not big on pre-election coverage, of US elections or anywhere else, but, according to the Baghdad morgue, since Sunday, you had at least 150 dead Iraqis, according to the Defense Department, you had 19 American soldiers die. Where was Iraq?

Sandra and Brian covered it in the news breaks. It never left the news break. (I checked with Kat and Ruth on that because I'm not always able to catch the full two hours each morning.) That's not the only show that didn't cover it. It's my favorite and I'll name it so I'm not accused of playing favorites.

Like Ruth, I'm so glad that Laura Flanders filled in for Mike Malloy this week because that's been it, outside of the official news programs, in terms of Iraq coverage, discussions, you name it. I love The Morning Show. If I don't hear at least part of it during the day, I jones for it. I think Andrea Lewis and Philip Maldari do a wonderful job. And I'm sure there have been other weeks where they didn't cover Iraq. But when that's happened, I could count on Against the Grain or some other program.

Gaza is a story. Flashpoints covers Gaza, it's one of their main focuses. I was not surprised that it would be their main focus this week. That is the area they specialize in (and do it quite well). But I can't believe I heard hour after hour of programming and never got a discussion of Iraq in any form on other shows. (Again, the news programming is exempted from this.) I heard about upcoming elections, I heard interviews with authors, I heard about the environment, I heard many things. Where was Iraq?

Maybe it's time to create a program that focuses solely on Iraq?

Zach noted Arianna Huffington's "Don't Be A Hack, Hillary" (LA Times):

Tuesday's Senate debate on flag desecration was emblematic of Hillary Rodham Clinton's ongoing attempt to rebrand herself as a red-state-friendly Dem by supporting a bill that would have criminalized flag descrcration, while still holding on to her liberal bonafides by voting against the Constitutional amendment banning that desecration. It was eating your patriotism cake and having it too.
Even if Clinton doesn't know what she stands for any longer, doesn't she at least read the polls? The latest analysis by Democracy Corps, a Democratic polling firm, couldn't be clearer: Democrats need to draw sharp distinctions between themselves and the GOP -- especially by stressing their opposition to the war in Iraq. Oh, that's right, Clinton doesn't see things that way. She wants to have it both ways on Iraq too.
"I do not think," she said earlier this month at a Take Back America conference, , "it is a smart strategy for the president to continue with his open-ended commitment, which I think does not put enough pressure on the new Iraqi government. Nor do I think it is smart strategy to set a date certain."
Is that not the second coming of "I voted for it before I voted against it"?
And will Democratic leaders ever learn that this kind of have-it-both-ways hedging on matters of war and security is electoral death? Voters have an instinctive aversion to it. Something in their guts tells them that if a leader can't take a stand and clearly speak her heartfelt beliefs on such life-and-death matters, she won't be able to keep us safe.

[. . .]
On Iraq, Clinton has told confidants that, as a woman, she cannot take a position against the war and still be electable. The debate over Iraq, Clinton says, is "a difficult conversation." Difficult for whom? The American people have already had this difficult conversation, and 62% of them in a recent poll disapproved of Bush's handling of the war.

Possibly that could have been a discussion? Arianna found it a topic worth writing on.

Another person who wasn't silent (and she was at a demonstration for Watada as well) was
Majorie Cohn's "Playing Politics with Timetables" (CounterPunch):

In another Woody Allen moment reminiscent of George W. Bush pinning the Medal of Freedom on disgraced ex-CIA Director George Tenet, a third George - General Casey - has taken a page from the Democrats' troop withdrawal playbook. After being prepped with the Pentagon's 74-page cheat sheet about "staying the course" rather than "cutting-and-running" from Iraq, the Republicans walked in lockstep for the past two weeks, shooting down the Democrats' calls for bringing our soldiers home.
Late last week, Casey, the US commander in Iraq, condemned the concept of a withdrawal timetable. "I don't like it," he declared. "I feel it would limit my flexibility. I think it would give the enemy a fixed timetable, and I think it would send a terrible signal to a new government of national unity in Iraq that's trying to stand up and get its legs underneath it."
At the same time, speaking out of both sides of his medals, Casey was secretly recommending that Bush drastically reduce our troop commitment, coincidentally, just before the November elections. How bizarre.
Maybe it wasn't Woody Allen who said, "When you're being run out of town, get in front of the crowd and make it look like a parade." But that's just what the un-indicted Karl Rove is best at.
Rove knows that the mess his boss created in Iraq will be on voters' minds come November. By pulling the rug out from under the (semi-unified) Democrats' strongest issue, he maximizes the chances of GOP retention of Congress.
Senator John Kerry, who finally admitted a couple of weeks ago he was wrong to vote for the war, said Casey's plan "looks an awful lot like what the Republicans spent the last week attacking. Will the partisan attack dogs now turn their venom and disinformation campaign on General Casey?" Unlikely, given the GOP's proclivity to goosestep to its commander in chief.

There were several interesting highlights from members who gave up after searching and searching the indymedia sites and the alternative weeklies for Iraq and finding nothing. Usually someone would write something to the effect of, "I know it's not Iraq, but it's the best I could find." I appreciate that. But I'm not noting it.

I don't see the point in rewarding those who can't cover Iraq. (Everyone appears to have given up early today -- if there's an alternative weekly that publishes later or an indymedia site you frequent that posted something late, e-mail and we'll note a few on Saturday.)

In all honesty, I don't expect that we'll be out of Iraq when this site shuts down (when it's planned for this site to shut down -- for those who get upset when I say that we're shutting down in November of 2008). I didn't expect it when that date was picked. I expect it even less now since we can apparently take whole weeks off from covering Iraq. It's not a "pressing issue" or maybe it's not a "hot issue" so don't expect to end by 2008. Not when people are being silent or chasing after this or that.

As I wrote last week in the r0und-robin, I didn't plan the "Iraq snapshot" as a way to avoid highlights. It's done because I'm sick of each wave of Operation Happy Talk. I'm tired of the corporate media following the talking points. With few exceptions. (Martha asked that we again note Joshua Partlow's "Iraqi Official Says Insurgent Cell Bombed Shiite Shrine.") It would be easier to do highlights and write the wrap around then scour for information on Iraq. (When it goes up late, that entry, it's sometimes because the press isn't interested that day in what's going on. So I delay the entry until news starts trickling out.)

I keep checking the e-mails as I write this, which delays it going up, hoping someone will e-mail with something they just found on Iraq. And it paid off. Brandon notes Tom Hayden's "Shifting Winds on Iraq" (The Nation):

Events in Iraq and Washington, DC, are changing by the day, offering the peace movement and Democrats new dilemmas--and new opportunities to take the antiwar initiative as the midterm elections approach.
It wasn't so long ago that Washington insiders were advising peace groups to expect no moves toward withdrawal during 2006. Both political parties, the activists were told, were locked into a Beltway consensus against any gestures toward peace. The Senate was particularly frozen, with only Senator Russ Feingold offering a flexible plan for gradual withdrawal. Feingold was unable to stir any sympathy in the Democratic caucus. A seasoned expert in one senior senator's office predicted the silence would continue. One reason was that unannounced presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the foreign relations committee, were posturing as hawks.
In the House of Representatives it appeared that the Out of Iraq Caucus was frozen at seventy members. Even after feisty ex-Marine John Murtha stepped forward with an immediate withdrawal plan in mid-November 2005, he was largely abandoned by his colleagues.

But as the quagmire deepens, peace sentiments are steadily rising. According to a June 16 CNN poll, 53 percent of Americans now favor a timeline for withdrawal of troops. A phenomenal 70 percent of Iraqis are demanding a deadline. A Zogby survey of American troops in Iraq shows the same pattern, with a majority supporting a one-year deadline and 29 percent favoring immediate withdrawal.

We're noting another section tomorrow. That's the section Brandon picked. It's a good section and we'll go with his strong choice. But I'm reading the copy and paste of the full thing and thinking there's another section to quote.

I don't mind cheerleading someone who's covering Iraq but I don't have time to waste on nonsense. I've heard (and read) a lot of nonsense this week. We noted The Nation had beefed up its coverage of Iraq last Thursday. Good for The Nation. (I'm not being sarcastic.) Ruth said, "My time's too important to me to waste. I'll do a Law and Disorder report from now on if people aren't going to cover Iraq." I don't blame her. I feel the same way. I'll start listening to music. I enjoy music. I'm listening to news programs and talk shows to be informed. If I'm not being informed, there are thousands and thousands of CDs I have that I could be listening to. They'd nourish me more than repeated segments on an upcoming election.

I did sort of renew my subscription to The Nation. It lapsed a bit ago and I let it lapse but took out a new one at a friend's address. (I don't subscribe in my name.) I get the issues on time now. (It was never a problem on The Nation's end.) But as other publications expire, I'm looking at them and seeing what they offer. Are they covering Iraq? If not, I'll save a tree and let them lapse. I don't have time for it.

There are two wars going, if people don't want to deal with them (Iraq and/or Afghanistan -- Iraq is our focus here), I don't want to pay for it. I

(Some magazines like Ms. have areas of interest. If Ms. can devote two issues to the war out of the last three, then no one else has an excuse. No one else can say, "Oh, but I've covered that already." No, you haven't. Ms. is stepping up to the plate, where are the others?)

(And no, I'm not referring to the lifestyle magazine we dropped. It's not interested in Iraq. They made their decision when they added someone who infamously wrote a stay-the-course piece when the Dems, MoveOn, et all lost interest in Iraq after the November elections.)

I don't need to read someone's handicapping of the races. I don't give a ___. The little secret they never tell: Everyone lies. They lie about how good their candidate is doing. They lie about whatever helps the campaign. The reason Judge (a Republican) and I can talk during elections is because we've always had a no b.s. rule. I don't think any of the "election experts" knows anymore than you do or I do. I don't need someone playing DC chat & chewer to waste my time, a tree and other things covering races. "This governor is a progressive!" I don't need it. I don't give a damn. I don't want to read a puff piece on some candidate who wants to play silent on the war.

In these pieces, it's always interesting what makes someone a "progressive." Usually, it's the environment and maybe some mealy mouthed statement on wages. We, apparnetly, don't factor in reproductive rights or what programs will help the poor (all boats lift at once! -- that's the lie, right?) or how they'll deal with racial discrimination or sexism. The Democratic Party isn't pushing those issues so the majority of the candidates being hailed as "progressive" aren't either.

Jonah wrote that he was so tired this week of looking for Iraq coverage and not finding it at the sites he visits or the programs he listens to. I hear you, Jonah, believe me, I hear you.

It's been a very disappointing week. With few exceptions, the coverage has been very, very disappointing. Does the right care about the illegal war more than the left does? It appears they do. It appears they're support for it is stronger than our opposition to it.

That's not what people feel, that's not what I hear from students (high school and students) but apparently it's more important to find a way to make a hideous candidate palitable (Casey Junior to cite but one example) than it is to really strengthen the dialogue on Iraq. This week, it wasn't just our Congress that couldn't address the topic. It's been a ___y week.

How I do these entries is I pull the copy and paste highlights from members and then write around it. In my comments, anything I add, I grab the link after the fact. But I'm not linking, I'm not filling in links, for those who didn't address Iraq. That means no link for The Morning Show, for instance.

I don't believe the subject of Iraq has been exhausted. There were plenty of developments this week, they just didn't get covered. And of course the peace movment remains largely uncovered. There were no heads up from most about the protests to support Watada. (Truthout and CounterPunch gave heads up and we linked to them in entries.) Common Dreams does a fine job of providing links to stories on Iraq (including the hideous Dexter Filkins article).

I've been weighing whether or not I should do an Iraq snapshot for this entry? I don't think so. I think the point is made strongest, of how little coverage there's been this week, by not doing the Iraq snapshot. Was the war ended? Apparently so to judge by the bulk of the coverage (or lack of it) this week. Frustrated, yes. Disgusted as well.

Lloyd had a highlight and Cedric did as well. I was intending to save them for tomorrow but to be sure those who are focusing on the war get the credit they've earned, we'll not them now (and don't expect much tomorrow morning). First up, Lloyd highlights Amitabh Pal's "Withdrawal from Iraq or political sleight of hand?" (The Progressive):

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, whose anger at the Bush people has reached an amazing intensity, recently laid bare the Bush Administration’s political chicanery.
"From the Bush-Rove perspective, General Casey’s plan is not a serious strategic proposal," writes Herbert in the June 26 Times. "It's a straw in the political wind."
Herbert points out the irony of Casey putting together his strategy around the same time that Republicans were excoriating Democrats in Congressional debates for supposedly suggesting to cut and run from Iraq.
Let's be clear: Even if fully implemented, Casey's proposal doesn't amount to a full American withdrawal from Iraq. But the fact that Rove and his fellow tacticians feel it necessary to offer even this concession to the American public shows how worried they are about the war's unpopularity and its effects on the Republicans' prospects in the fall and two years from now. Fleeting pieces of good news such as the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has done little to change recent public opinion on withdrawal. A USA Today poll released on June 26 shows that 57 percent of Americans want Congress to set a withdrawal plan, with 50 percent of the population wanting troops out either immediately or within a year.
Such numbers must be staring Rove in the face.
In comments that are laughable even by the standards of this crowd, the White House is trying to maintain that it is above gauging public opinion on the subject.

Yeah, remember that "plan"? That was a topic that could have been explored. (Credit to Pal for tackling it. But I'm talking an interview, a discussion, a debate.) Cedric highlights Shea Howell's "Lessons from Baghdad" (Michigan Citizen via The Boggs Center):

President Bush missed the city of Baghdad. He could not go to a market, a mosque or a home for the elderly. He could not walk down a street, visit a school or even review the troops in the Green Zone.
The harsh truth that Bush and his supporters want to evade is that civil relationships depend on the good will and cooperation of the people. All the guns, tanks, drones, helicopters or soldiers in the world cannot impose the intricate relationships necessary for peace.
For peace to come to Iraq we must first acknowledge that the global war on terror is a political fiction. The occupation of Iraq is a crime against a specific people, with a specific history. The Iraqi people are fighting against our overwhelming might with the only weapons they have, their bodies. We cannot kill them into peace.
Baghdad has been the heart of Iraq for more than a thousand years. It is home to Art, Science, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Medicine and Religious studies. It is a holy city that has welcomed people from around the world. And it is a city that resists occupation. In the late19th century 23 Ottoman- appointed governors were killed in a year.
Most never made it to the capital.
It is madness to believe we can create peace through war. Such illusions only take us down the road to more violence.

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