Friday, June 09, 2006

NYT: Everybody wants to be a war pornographer

When 27-year-old US Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada announced his refusal to deploy to Iraq yesterday, he did so surrounded by veterans, military family members, and members of the religious and anti-war communities. News of Watada's intent to refuse his orders to deploy to Iraq has galvanized anti-war communities around the country, many of which are already calling for a series of demonstrations in support of Watada's actions. And others they hope will be inspired to refuse deployment to Iraq as well.
At a press conference in Tacoma, Washington, Watada announced his view that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal, and his intent was to refuse to deploy to fight that war. Watada said, "It is my duty as a commissioned officer of the United States Army to speak out against grave injustices. I stand before you today because it is my job to serve and protect soldiers, the American people and innocent Iraqis with no voice." Watada went on to say that his participation in the Iraq war would make him party to grave moral injustice and war crimes.
While Watada may face a court martial for his decision to refuse to deploy to Iraq, he has also received significant support from veterans' organizations. Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, the War Resisters League, and many chapters of Veterans for Peace have all come to Watada's defense.
Ann Wright is a retired US Army colonel and US diplomat who resigned her position in 2003 in protest of the war in Iraq. She says that after spending 29 years in the military she understands how significant it is for an officer to disobey not just his direct orders, but also everything he has been trained to do. Wright says the entire military establishment is based on order and discipline, and for an officer to defy this system based on his personal beliefs takes an enormous amount of bravery. But she also says it's important for Watada, as a Lieutenant, to speak publicly. "People need to know there are these brave young men and women who are standing up and who are willing to go to jail because of what they believe." She says people in the US must understand that the military isn't united in its support for the war in Iraq.
Camilo Mejia is an Iraq war veteran who spent more than 7 years in the Army. When his conscientious objector status was denied in 2004, he spent nearly a year in prison rather than return to Iraq. He says Watada's public stand is admirable and should be commended. "The Pentagon recently reported 8,000 cases of desertion. These are people in the military who are saying 'no' to their units and the war, but where are they? It takes a special kind of individual to break the silence and risk all for a bigger cause."

The above is from Sarah Olson's "First Officer Publicly Resisting War Gains National Support" (Truthout) and we're leading with it and James' other highlight as well Marjorie Cohn's "First Officer Publicly Resists War" (Truthout):

Yesterday, US Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada became the first officer to publicly state his refusal to obey an order to deploy to Iraq. Lieutenant Watada said at a press conference in Tacoma, Washington, "The war in Iraq is in fact illegal. It is my obligation and my duty to refuse any orders to participate in this war." He stated, "An order to take part in an illegal war is unlawful in itself. So my obligation is not to follow the order to go to Iraq."
Citing "deception and manipulation … and willful misconduct by the highest levels of my chain of command," Lt. Watada declared there is "no greater betrayal to the American people" than the Iraq war.
The "turning point" for Lt. Watada came when he "saw the pain and suffering of so many soldiers and their families, and innocent Iraqis." He said, "I best serve my soldiers by speaking out against unlawful orders of the highest levels of my chain of command, and making sure our leaders are held accountable." Lt. Watada felt he "had the obligation to step up and do whatever it takes," even if that means facing court-martial and imprisonment.
Lt. Watada asked me to speak about the legality of the war at his press conference.
I cited the Nuremberg Charter, which set forth the three most serious crimes: crimes against the peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The US Army Field Manual 27-10, art. 28, incorporates the prohibition against these three crimes. The United States is committing a crime against the peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Iraq.

Again, it's important to start by emphasizing what matters.

In the category of "Has No Value"?

"Alex, the question is 'What is John F. Burns?'"

Burnsie makes it into print, in this morning's New York Times, with all his excess spilling out over his print-waistline and it's not pretty. "Al Leader Qaeda in Iraq Killed by U.S. Bombs" is the title and we dealt with it yesterday ("NYT: Angels in the outfield? No, idiots in the Green Zone"). The only thing we'll note for today is this:

But the American officials themselves offered an immediate warning against overstating the impact that the death of Mr. Zarqawi, the most wanted insurgent in Iraq, would have on prospects that American and Iraqi forces can gain the upper hand in the conflict.

Warned against overstating the impact? A warning Burnsie has failed to heed (two days in a row now). Burnsie's far from alone. Pistol packing Dexy Filkins (I'd suggest Angie Dickinson play him in a send up film except for two things: 1) no one can send him up any better than he already does himself and 2) Dickinson's far too nice to wish such a harsh fate upon) shows up twice.

Once to sing, in nasal whines that even Sonny Bono never dreamed of,: "And the insurgency goes on/ Yes, the insurgency goes on/ And the insurgency goes on . . ." (obviously Burnsie hopes to play the Cher to Dexy's Sonny and will -- just as soon as someone starts shipping Slimfast to the Green Zone); and also to team with Mark Mazzetti (whom Dexy deserves) and Richard A. Oppel Jr. (who is so obviously slumming -- didn't the Oppels ever give him a speech about picking your friends carefully?). The threesome contribute "Surveillance and Betrayal Ended Hunt" which is a form of war porn that must be giving Michael Gordon a severe case of war-on envy.

They write that the US military decided which house to bomb by tracking "'spiritual adviser,' Sheik Abd al-Rahman." It's cute the way they sneer at spiritual adviser by putting it in quotes. But, if you think about it too much (and there's no indication that any of the three writers did), it's a bit like trying to locate Oprah by tracking Gayle King.

The thing to note is that the Times gives you not one, not two, but three stories kind-of, sort-of from Iraq. And all it takes is a designated fall guy -- suddenly they almost remember that the country is at war. Their 'manly' priorities are showing. Never more so than in their refusal to address (in any way) the fact that the attack with two five-hundred pounds was not "precision" and that other lives were lost. In paragraph thirty-eight (check my math), the trio declares "Five others died in the airstrike: Mr. Rahman, one woman, one child and two other men, General Caldwell said. The identities of the four were not known." and, with that single sentence, they're back on the blood lust hunt.

What if they gave a war and only the cheerleaders showed up?

So three stories where little boys gets gleeful over GMCs and largely forget that they are in public (translation, get your hands out of your pants -- truly, did none of them grow up with parents?) and then Sabrina Tavernise contributes "Zarqawi Is Dead, but Weary Iraqis Fear the Violence Won't Subside" which may be the shortest of the four stories this morning. (I'm counting twenty-five paragraphs -- as always, check my math.)

Tavernise covers what Reuters did yesterday -- the town's opinion re: Zarqawi -- but strangely, Tavernise encounters none of the people (or more likely fails to quote them) who were so willing to state that they didn't believe Zarqawi was there. Mustn't dampen the cheerleaders' reporting. Which is probably why, when confronted with the very real reality that people died from those two five-hundred bombs, she trots out nonsense about kidnappings and killings.

"Nonsense"? There's a place for this story. No question. But it could have been reported on any day (check the daily news on Iraq on any day). It's offered today to mitigate the fact that US forces killed civilians yesterday. The topic the Times doesn't want to address. It's nonsense because while the 'boys' are raving over the 'kills,' Tavernise is pimping a "Oh look what the Iraqis do to themselves!" story. It's nonsense and it's really sad.

Brenda notes Rebecca's "flashpoints (dahr jamail was a guest)" which I wish I'd seen so we could have included it in last night's entry. Dahr Jamail was on Flashpoints and Rebecca's covering the interview (and other things). Jamail's comments are a perfect response to that "hard not to cheer" nonsense. Here's one section:

the displaying of zarqawi's photos reminded him of the person put up on the screen (in 1984) for the 'hate time.' he wondered, 'who will we blame the catastrophe of iraq on now?'

Rod passes on today's scheduled topic for Democracy Now!:

Psychiatrist and author Robert Jay Lifton on the Iraq War, war crimes and torture.

Martha notes Charles R. Babcock and Alice Crites's "Stepdaughter Of Lawmaker Got Money From PAC" (Washington Post):

A stepdaughter of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has been paid more than $40,000 since early last year by a political action committee funded substantially by donations from a lobbyist close to the congressman and from her firm's clients.
Lewis's stepdaughter, Julia Willis-Leon of Las Vegas, is listed as director of the Small Biz Tech PAC. She received $44,474 of the approximately $115,000 the committee has collected since it was set up in February 2005, federal election records show.

The lobbyist, Letitia White -- a former longtime Lewis aide -- is the largest donor to Small Biz Tech. She is also part owner of the $1 million Capitol Hill house that initially served as PAC headquarters.
Her firm -- Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White -- has come under scrutiny for its relationship with Lewis, according to sources close to the investigation. The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles has been sending subpoenas to some of the firm's clients.

No, it doesn't really fit with the rest of the entry but I'm not sure I've got a second entry this morning. War pornography tends to tax the heart and soul. I'll try to pull something together but if you don't see another entry, this is it until we note Democracy Now! later this morning.

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