Sunday, June 11, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Several months ago, US Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada decided that US involvement in Iraq is illegal and immoral. Like so many of us, Watada concluded that intelligence was manipulated to "justify" the invasion. Unlike so many of us, he has had the courage to stick his neck out and pay the price for resistance.
We should, I suppose, give the neck its due. It is a pleasant thing - a convenient connection between head and torso. We do not risk it out of caprice. But if there is nothing for which we will risk that neck, then it has become our idol. And necks are not worthy of this status. Finally, an active duty US Army officer has refused to engage in that kind of idol worship.
No publicity seeker, Watada earlier this year quietly submitted a request to resign from the Army. The request was denied. He then refused to deploy to Iraq with his unit this summer, and is prepared to face prison rather than violate his conscience. Meanwhile, he fully expects the kind of ostracism encountered by those few Army enlisted men who objected to the torture at Abu Ghraib. In what might well be the understatement of the month, Watada says he may be "the most unpopular person at Fort Lewis."
... and a Gift for Dan Berrigan
Watada may not realize this, but he has presented a pearl of great price to long-time war resister, Jesuit priest and poet Dan Berrigan, who celebrates his 85th birthday this weekend in New York. Facing ridicule and ostracism for acting on their principled opposition to the war in Vietnam, Dan and his late brother Phil were no strangers to prison - or to profound disappointment at the dearth of those willing to witness in the way of Watada.
In No Bars to Manhood, Dan wrote:
"Of course, let us have peace," we cry, "but at the same time let us have normalcy, let us lose nothing, let our lives stand intact, let us know neither prison nor ill repute nor disruption of ties ... " There is no peace because there are no peacemakers. There are no makers of peace because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war - at least as exigent, at least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison, and death in its wake.
Dan Berrigan will be encouraged by Watada's resistance. And so, I hope, will Faiza Al Araji, one of the courageous Iraqi women who came to the US in March to give first-hand testimony to the suffering of the Iraqi people. Executive manager of Arab Water Treatment Co., Faiza is a highly educated engineer who took a month off to appeal to US citizens to do something to end the tragedy of her people.

The above, noted by Larry, is from Ray McGovern's "The Courage to Face the Consequences" (Truthout). I'll assume everyone knows Father Berrigan but if not, you can listen, watch or read Democracy Now!'s "Army Lieutenant Becomes First Commissioned Officer to Refuse Deployment to Iraq" from last Thursday. And if you don't know Watada? Well you've just woken from some long nap. **CORRECTION: This is the story for Berrigan "Holy Outlaw: Lifelong Peace Activist Father Daniel Berrigan Turns 85" -- I'm leaving the Watada one. Thanks to Janie for e-mailing me about my error. *** Emily steers us to Rachel Ensign's "First Officer to Refuse Iraq Duty Speaks Out" (Citizen Soldier):

1st LT Ehren Watada knew that once he completed his officer training with the 3d Stryker Brigade (armored vehicles) of the Second Infantry Division at Ft. Lewis, WA it was highly likely that he would receive deployment orders for Iraq. Anticipating this, he told his commanders in January 2006 that he would refuse to deploy because he believed US military operations in Iraq violated international law. He didn't file for discharge as a conscientious objector (CO) because he remains willing to fight in lawful wars that are in defense of the nation.
Following this, he was told that he could submit a request to resign his commission. He was notified in May that this request had been denied by his command.

Vic notes Virginia Rodino's "U.S. anti-war movement supports resisters" (Rabble News):

The anti-war movement has become the majority of Americans, as polls unquestionably show. We support the troops, as they are our brothers and fathers, mothers and daughters, sisters and sons, neighbours and friends. We want our National Guard members, our Marines and soldiers, to be brought home immediately, and we want them to be taken care of when they are returned.
We hold up as beacons for the movement the powerful voices of
Gold Star and Military Families Speaking Out, Veterans For Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War. Perhaps particularly moving are the voices of those who have been at the front line in Iraq and are now repenting for carrying out the orders they followed, or those who caught a glimpse of the carnage, refused to fight, and were granted conscientious objector status, or those who were refused CO status and instead chose to serve time in jail rather than participate in the pillaging, plundering, rape, and murder of Iraq and its people.
There is another group of unspeakably courageous men and their families who have refused to kill in our name.
According to the
War Resisters Support Campaign, there are known to be about 20 former soldiers and Marines of the U.S. military, who, as over 50,000-100,000 of their forefathers from the Vietnam era did, are seeking sanctuary in Canada for themselves and their families. They estimate between 150 and 200 more are living under the radar in Canada. Desertion from the U.S. military now numbers 8,000 according to most sources, although this is considered a conservative figure.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, desertion carries the death penalty in time of war.
Also among the 13 other offenses punishable by death is the disobeying of a superior commissioned officer's orders.
Following the Second World War, the Nuremberg Tribunal set out important principles of international law. Those principles established that soldiers have a moral duty, not a choice, to refuse to carry out illegal orders. During the period of 1965-1973, more than 50,000 Americans made their way to Canada, refusing to participate in an immoral war. At the time, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said:
"Those who make a conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war... have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism."
The Canadian government's present acts of aggression in Afghanistan and Haiti notwithstanding, tens of thousands of Canadians, including several hundred former resisters from the Vietnam era, have been petitioning their government to provide refuge for this new generation of conscientious objectors.
With Vietnam still reverberating in the hearts and minds of many Canadians, the empathetic relationship between the Canadian anti-war movement and the war resisters is very strong and reciprocal.

What was Sunday like in Iraq? James in Brighton highlights Thair Shaikh's "Briton hurt after al-Qa'ida warns of 'large-scale' offensive in Iraq" (Independent of London):

Dozens of people were killed yesterday as violence continued across Iraq. In Baquba, a suicide car bomber crashed into a security checkpoint, killing at least eight people and wounding four others. The explosion occurred near a checkpoint erected just a day earlier to provide security in the aftermath of a US air strike on a house being used by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the al-Qa'ida in Iraq terrorist group, who was killed in the blast.

In addition a car bomb killed at least six and wounded over forty.

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 2475. Right now? 2492, eight away from 2500.

The war drags on and on. Some people get serious about it . . .

Others . . .

Yes, I read the e-mails, I'm almost caught up, finally -- and only thanks to the help of Shirley, Martha and, always, Ava and Jess. A supposed left magazine wants to waste all of our time with a valentine to Veronica Mars. How long has it been since they've addressed Iraq? The Tom Hayden article? The David Lindorff one which led to him being stabbed in the back? Someone needs to explain to them, maybe being in the midst of an identity crisis has left them confused, they aren't a glossy magazine. No glossy paper. No one has a need to pick it up and read lifestyle crap. More importantly (and circulation demonstrates this), no one wants to read the current incarnation.

I've read the laughable e-mails forwarded by members full of excuse from the magazine on Lindorff. They're petty at best, character assassinations at worst. Those who forwarded them were told I would wait until June to decide whether the magazine had anything to offer.
In an e-mail I read today (but one written several days ago, my apologies) Lynda noted the Mars article and noted: "As a feminist, I'm done with that magazine." I hear you, Lynda. (Ava and I noted the show twice, once about how laughable it was, again when they decided the really 'hot' plot twist would be that Veronica Mars wasn't raped -- after marketing her to young women, for over a year, as a sign of empowerment because she survived rape.)

We'll stand with Lindorff. We won't stand with useless crap. And if they think crap like "How to turn your Red State Blue" is in any way why anyone ever picked up the magazine in the first place, no wonder they're confused. They used to be hard left, now they're mushy and lifestyle.

For that reasons (and other) they're off the links. If Naomi Klein has an article or Tom Hayden in the magazine (probably only slightly more likely than Lindorff rejoining the magazine), we'll note it. But gone are the days of their breaking stories or grappling with real issues. Now they just bore -- which is why someone with a New Republican byline can rave over Veronica Mars. They don't have anything to offer on the war and they already have someone commenting on pop culture (in fact, they have two people) so the need for White Male to waste everyone's time raving over a tired and objectionable show is beyond useless. They've made themselves useless. In November, I said we'd wait and see (we added Lindorff in November and noted we were in Lindorff's camp). We've waited. We've seen. It's now about as hard hitting as Teen People and, since we don't highlight Teen People, why continue to link to the identity-crisis magazine?

When Lindorff was stabbed in the back, it was cowardly (and we noted that here). It was also true that they were facing the death of a founder and trying to keep the magazine going. They've had several months to offer anything of value. Instead, they've wasted time and paper. From a bi-weekly, to a tri-weekly, to a monthly. (With nothing offered to those who paid for twenty-six issues a year but an announcement that they were switching publication intervals, it should be noted.) If it next ceases publication, well, it won't be a tragedy.

They seem to have confused themselves with The Progressive. That's not meant as an insult to The Progressive which has a direction. But the other mag, the revamped one, now tosses around the term constantly as though they're running from their socialist roots. I have no idea why. But they offer up the term all the time now. Such as in this sentence: "Progressives have an annoying habit when it comes to pop culture." Having decided that they are "progressives," they now want to speak to stereotypes (or possibly invent them) as though they've been using the term for years.

There's something truly sad about a grown person (male or female) hyping a bad teen melodrama as "progressive." Especially long after it turns out the lead character cried false rape -- I guess that was "progressive" too? The easiest way to address that "I was raped" season one (only to have it turn out that she wasn't, season two) is to ignore it, which may be the only thing the "reviewer" ignores in his rote recap of everything that's ever happened on the show.

Writing in a manner (you can't call it a "style") which can't be characterized as informative or humorous but can be termed plodding, the would-be-reviewer can't bother to note that the "progressive" main character is surrounded by males (even her mother's gone!). She's for the boys, that gal is for the boys. (A counterpoint to Jody Watley's "For The Girls"?) Issues of race aren't addressed either. (Asexual supporting characters are of color. Leads are white and, not only sexually active, active in the storylines. All that's missing from the Afican-American portrayals are their carrying trays and saying, "Yes, Miss Veronica.") (It honestly makes Gary on What I Like About You seem like a breathrough character.)

What's offered isn't a "progressive" view of the show. What's offered is a a standard recap. It wouldn't pass muster on a fan site for the show but that's what they want to cover. So they're gone. Along with raving over Mars (basically providing a two-season synopsis), they explore the big screen, the Cartoon Network and a few would-you-believe stories. They can do whatever way they want. We can link to people we disagree with (and do) if they're attempting to address something, to grapple with it. Synposis passing off as a review isn't addressing anything. It's taking valuable print space away from issues that matter.

To close out this topic, Lindorff will be a guest this coming weekend on RadioNation with Laura Flanders. Charlie notes Riverbend's "Zarqawi..." (Baghdad Burning):

So 'Zarqawi' is finally dead. It was an interesting piece of news that greeted us yesterday morning (or was it the day before? I've lost track of time…). I didn't bother with the pictures and film they showed of him because I, personally, have been saturated with images of broken, bleeding bodies.
The reactions have been different. There's a general consensus amongst family and friends that he won't be missed, whoever he is. There is also doubt- who was he really? Did he even exist? Was he truly the huge terror the Americans made him out to be? When did he actually die? People swear he was dead back in 2003… The timing is extremely suspicious: just when people were getting really fed up with the useless Iraqi government, Zarqawi is killed and Maliki is hailed the victorious leader of the occupied world! (And no- Iraqis aren't celebrating in the streets- worries over electricity, water, death squads, tests, corpses and extremists in high places prevail right now.)
I've been listening to reactions- mostly from pro-war politicians and the naïveté they reveal is astounding. Maliki (the current Iraqi PM) was almost giddy as he made the news public (he had even gone the extra mile and shaved!). Do they really believe it will end the resistance against occupation? As long as foreign troops are in Iraq, resistance or 'insurgency' will continue- why is that SO difficult to understand? How is that concept a foreign one?
"A new day for Iraqis" is the current theme of the Iraqi puppet government and the Americans. Like it was "A New Day for Iraqis" on April 9, 2003 . And it was "A New Day for Iraqis" when they killed Oday and Qusay. Another "New Day for Iraqis" when they caught Saddam. More "New Day" when they drafted the constitution… I'm beginning to think it's like one of those questions they give you on IQ tests: If 'New' is equal to 'More' and 'Day' is equal to 'Suffering', what does "New Day for Iraqis" mean?

Susan asked that we note this:

[A raid], in a village not far from the spot where Mr. Zarqawi was killed, appeared to cause a number of civilian deaths.
[. . .]
[. . .] General Caldwell said [t]he soldiers arrested 25 people and killed one [. . .].
That account was disputed in a village north of Baghdad, where Iraqis said American commandos killed five civilians in a Friday morning raid.
In Ghalibiya, near the scene of Mr. Zarqawi's death, a local Iraqi interviewed by telephone said American commandos dressed in black had raided the hamlet around 4 a.m. The Iraqi, a farmer named Mustafa Muhammad, said a group of local Iraqis, standing guard to protect their predominantly Sunni village from Shiite death squads, fired their guns into the air.
"They thought the Americans were a death squad, dressed in black," Mr. Muhammad said.
The American commandos threw a hand grenade in response, he said, killing five villagers.
"The people were saying that the Americans were looking for Zarqawi loyalists," he said.
Mr. Muhammad said a group of American soldiers wearing regular Army uniforms came to Ghalibiya later in the day to apologize. They promised to provide compensation for the dead Iraqis, he said.

It may be the only thing of value Dexy's ever put his name to ("U.S. Says Zarqawi Survived Briefly After Airstrike") -- of course he buries it within another tale of Zarqawi (or "Zarqawi").
We noted it here Saturday and The Third Estate Sunday Review noted it as well but Susan wrote that she was surprised most people don't seem to have noticed the incident.

Blogger/Blogspot is still going in and out and I've tried to catch up on all the e-mails (failed, but tried) as opposed to just searching for highlights for this entry. Point? We're winding down with the next highlight. Pru notes Jonathan Neale's "Crisis for George Bush: what will happen if the US is forced out of Iraq?" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

We are reaching a turning point in history. The US is caught in a military stalemate in Iraq and most Americans have turned against the war. The prospect is now opening up that the US may be forced to leave Iraq. And such a political humiliation would have enormous consequences across the world.
But most Europeans, even those on the left, can't see what is happening. They believe the US empire is too strong to be broken. They also think Americans are naturally right wing and unable to change their government's policy. All these beliefs are mistaken. This article tries to explain what is really happening and what it will probably mean.
Politics in the US is changing rapidly. For some years the country has been deeply polarised between right and left. The attacks of 11 September 2001 made the right stronger -- but that advantage has now been frittered away on the sands of Iraq.
In Britain, the main lie to justify the invasion was weapons of mass destruction. In the US it was that its troops would be welcomed by Iraqis with open arms. Americans are kept ignorant, but they are not stupid. They now know they were lied to.
In the 2004 presidential election, aides to the Democratic candidate John Kerry kept telling him their polls said he would win -- providing he came out against the Iraq war. Kerry refused, loyal to his class, the rich -- and lost.
Now a large majority of people in the US think the war was a mistake. They do not all support immediate withdrawal, but they want it and expect it in the next two years.
In response, George Bush’s administration says it will reduce the number of troops in Iraq this year. But such a move would send a signal to every Iraqi politician that the US was weakening and the resistance getting stronger.
Remaining US troops would be reluctant to risk their lives for a lost cause. And the danger of a real defeat would increase. So Bush has talked of reductions -- but not delivered them.
This political climate has made the military crisis worse for the US in Iraq. Half the US troops there come from the National Guard and National Reserves. These men and women did not expect to go to war. They are older, and have families, and when they return to the US they leave the army.
Recruitment to the Guard and the Reserves has largely dried up. Regular recruitment is falling too, partly because parents are dead set against it. The Pentagon is relaxing the entrance requirements to include people with mild learning difficulties. But with a deeply unpopular war, they cannot bring back conscription.
The generals can see all this. It is clear from their private briefings to the press that senior US and British officers want out. So do the soldiers and their families.
Now the discontent in the US is spilling out more broadly. In April I marched against the war with 350,000 people in New York. One carried a home-made placard that read, "Name one single government policy that benefits most Americans". Of course, there isn't one.
People are fed up with government by and for the rich. The disaster in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina last year was the moment when most people understood Bush’s attitude to his people.
Then there is the movement for immigrant rights. The same weekend I marched in New York, a million marched in Los Angeles, and many more across the country. Two weeks before that, half a million people marched in Dallas -- the most right wing city in Texas.
This movement began with Hispanics, but now includes immigrants of all nationalities. Hispanics are now a larger proportion of the population than African-Americans were in the heyday of the 1960s civil rights movement.
Their movement talks of strikes, unions and class. They are the first group of immigrants to speak their own language in the second generation, and the first to bring a hatred of the US empire from home.
This does not mean everything has changed. But the ruling elites can feel the ground moving beneath them.
In the last 100 years, US mass movements -- the unions, civil rights, the anti-Vietnam protests and women's liberation -- have won major victories. They have not done this by winning elections, but by forcing politicians to give them what they want.
This happens when movements reach the point where the elites are afraid they will lose control of the minds and behaviour of ordinary people. At that point, they concede.
The same could well happen over Iraq. The US ruling class is deeply split about what to do. They can't win in Iraq -- but the consequences of a public defeat will be terrible for them.
If the US leaves Iraq, it will lose control of Iraqi oil. The dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Egypt are widely hated by their own people, who are seen as creatures of the US. With a US defeat, Saudis and Egyptians could well rise up and bring Islamist opposition movements to power. The US would then lose control of all Middle East oil.
It would be many years before the US government could make ordinary Americans tolerate another serious invasion in the Middle East or anywhere else. All this would mean a serious weakening of US power. That, in turn, would threaten US dominance of the world economy.
It is also possible that some countries and corporations would move their reserves into euros, and the dollar would no longer be the world currency. This may well not happen, but the US elites are worried that it might.
But the effects of humiliation in Iraq would go beyond the US economy. Israel is dependent on US military backing and financial support. New governments in Arab lands would threaten Israel and the US military could not come to the rescue.
That is why the Israeli government is desperate to break the Palestinians right now, building new borders and pushing for the US to bomb Iran. They are desperate and willing to risk all.
That's just Israel. More importantly, the economics of neo-liberalism has come to dominate the world.
Neo-liberalism has meant privatisation all over the world, the contract culture, fees for public services, pension cuts, unions broken and working lives made harder.
Neo-liberalism is not a frill for the corporations and governments. During the late 1960s and 1970s profit rates for the global elite declined. Neo-liberalism is the strategy of the world’s rich to get those profits back up.
This is a matter of corporate survival. The fact that most ordinary people cannot envisage an alternative to the market is a key weapon in the hands of the rich.
But defeat in Iraq will raise that possibility. In most people's minds, the power of the market and the power of the US have become closely related. If the empire cracks, the domination of the market inside our minds will crack too.
Moreover these effects will be amplified precisely because most people don’t believe it can happen. If the Iraqis can win, people will say, then we can take on our government -- or our supervisor, or the head teacher. Every manager in the world will lose some confidence.
A defeat in Iraq will open the floodgates -- and the US ruling class knows this. But they cannot talk that way in public. Many of them cannot imagine intellectually what defeat would be like, or even allow themselves to think about it. But they can sense it. Inside themselves, they know.
The rich and powerful in other countries are also worried. They don't like US power and would like to compete with it. But a global weakening of neo-liberalism would be an attack on them too. In Italy, Greece, India and many other places you can see them beginning to rally to the US’s side.
I am not saying that the US is sure to be defeated and then the global social movements will triumph. Our side is strong in passion, but weak in understanding. Their side may well react with terrifying savagery. We can easily lose.
But I am sure that the US empire is facing crisis -- and that neo-liberalism is therefore under threat. The rich and powerful know this, and are having an agonised debate about how to react. And the space for struggle from below is opening up month by month.
Jonathan Neale is the author of What's Wrong With America and The American War: Vietnam, both available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop. Phone 020 7637 1848 or go to
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