Thursday, July 06, 2006

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

IPS contributor Alaa Hassan was killed on his way to work last Wednesday. He was 35 years old. He is survived by his mother, five brothers, five sisters and his wife who is pregnant with their first child.
Alaa was not killed for being a reporter. Indeed, he had only just begun helping IPS gather news. When fighters ambushed him and machine-gunned his car, it was simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time -- one of so many people killed seemingly for no reason in Iraq each day.
The same day Alaa was killed, Reuters reports 11 other violent incidents in Iraq -- including the car bombings of day labourers in Baquba 50km north-east of Baghdad, and of shoppers in the Shia Qadamiya district of Baghdad.
At least four Iraqi policemen and a U.S. soldier died in separate attacks across the country. In Baquba, the U.S. military admitted to killing a "non-combatant" during a raid on a civilian home.
Most of the people killed Jun. 28 (along with the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians who have died over the last three years) will remain only numbers. Because we knew Alaa so well, we can tell his story.
Alaa lived in al-Tajiyyat neighbourhood in northeast Baghdad. He managed the inventory of a stationery store in Baghdad's famed book market on Mutanabe Street.
He lived near the Tigris river in housing that had been reserved for employees of the ministry of industry when Saddam Hussein was president.
He lived next door to what was once an electronics factory and across the street from the former building of the Institute of Arab National Oil Studies. Both were looted after the U.S. invasion. After that, the U.S. government turned them into military bases. So Alaa's neighbourhood was regularly attacked by insurgents.
The only way from his neighbourhood to central Baghdad was to cross the al-Muthana bridge over the Tigris river, a regular spot for insurgent attacks. Because of an Iraqi police checkpoint and a bend, every car passing over the bridge has to slow down. Killings occur here many times a week.
When Alaa crossed the bridge Jun. 28, gunmen sprayed his car with machine-gun fire, killing him with six bullets. A second passenger was seriously injured.

The above is from Aaron Glantz' "A Story We Never Wanted to Tell" (IPS via Common Dreams). We're noting it again because Bonnie wanted it noted and wrote: "It's not going to be noted in a lot of places. I just checked Reporters Without Borders and couldn't find anything on it. If he worked for a broadcast network, even cable, or a big daily newspaper, it would be deemed news. I think we need to note it at least one more time because, to throw your words back at you, we can't control what others do. We can take responsibilty for ourselves." Well said.

Before we go further, there's an announcement of an event and I want to note that:

Katie Joaquin, smartMeme STORY Program (Oakland, CA)>, 415.255.9133
Doyle Canning, smartMeme STORY Program (Burlington, VT)> 802.860.1155
Lovella Calica, Iraq Veterans Against War (Philadelphia, PA)>, 989.621.1934

Generation Y Puts a New Face on the Peace Movement
Youth Anti-war Organizers & Young Iraq Vets Talk Strategy On Ending The War
New Market, TN -- As the death toll of US troops in Iraq tops 2,500, and the nation turns 230, a diverse gathering of Americans under 30 will gather to strategize about building their generations' movement to end the war in Iraq at the historic Highlander Center in rural Tennessee. From July 7-9, young members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, student peace activists, and youth leaders from across the nation will meet together at the historic Highlander Center, site of key leadership gatherings of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. Representing more than 20 key progressive youth organizations, participants in the "STORY Collaborative to End the War" are working to redefine what their "peace movement" looks like. Building diverse alliances led by youth and young Veterans, these savvy young activists are using new media, digital story telling, and cultural strategies to send their peace message.
"Young people today are up against some major challenges, including putting an end to this illegal war that is morally and fiscally bankrupting our country, and impacting our entire generation," said Katie Joaquin, an organizer of the STORY Collaborative from Oakland, CA. "We are converging at Highlander to share our stories – from personal accounts of Fallujah to kicking Army recruiters off our campuses - and, as young people who are inheriting the 'war on terror', we are strategizing about how to build a real future of peace and justice."
The STORY Collaborative is a partnership of Iraq Veterans Against the War, the War Resisters League, and the Student Farmworker Alliance, convened by the STORY program (Strategy, Training and Organizing Resources for Youth) at smartMeme­a progressive multi-issue strategy organization.
This unique alliance has tapped into diverse youth based constituencies from coast to coast and is using new communications strategies to organize the next generation of the peace movement. Participants are coming from California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, North Carolina, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts,

and Puerto Rico.
Through digital story telling strategies, and using personal media tools like ipods, myspace, and cell phone camcorders, STORY Collaborative participants are documenting their experiences on the y(our) story online blog pages at As the collaborative convenes, youth and young veterans will be using this web space to continue their dialogue and share their insights and stories with their peers.
"We are the echo-boom, Millennial generation and we are online, networked, and have a lot to say about the atrocity that is the war in Iraq," said Stephen Funk, a young Conscientious Objector from San Francisco. "We are students, war resisters, veterans, artists, visionaries, media makers, bloggers, bike riders, baristas, and storytellers. We are part of military families. We are part of Immigrant families. We are the new face of the peace movement and we are getting together to, talk strategy, share our stories, make music, create and collaborate to end the war in Iraq."
The STORY Collaborative to End the War strategy retreat runs July 7-9, 2006. More information at:
<> .
To give:
<> .

That came into the public account and I'm for anything that puts Gen Y front and center. As I've noted before, they get a really lousy rep from the press. They're out there doing things and taking part. They deserve their credit for that and the above conference sounds exciting and creative.

I'd already decided to include it but I had an e-mail from a member who noted how Mike has been down yesterday and today and she expressed that she felt the same way. Mike's written about why he's down. In a way. He hasn't written (online) about the big reason.

He wrote about it in Polly's Brew. His disgust, rage and disappointment that so many took a pass on noting the fact that the US government admitted they are keeping body counts on Iraqis and no one wants to cover that.

I understand his distress. It's news in and of itself. The program appears to have been publicly acknowledged to have been in place prior to Bully Boy's using the low ball figures (from that Iraqi Body Count site) to the press. Why did he use those figures when the US should have had more reliable ones? Why aren't those figures being made public to the American people?

So let's take a look at last Thursday's US troops fatality count, since we have that. Last week at this time it was 2529. Tonight? 2540.

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)

War drags on . . . while we let it. I'm amazed by the e-mails (upbeat, depressed and angry) because people are making the war a part of their lives. Even when the media doesn't, even when everyone else drops the ball, members are doing their part.

That's the good news. The bad news is that we have to do even more.

The war drags on. We have to find more ways to protest, we have to find more conviction to speak with and we have to do the job for ourselves because, frankly, not a lot of people are doing their job. You can't control that.

It's disappointing, but that's reality. You can get depressed about it or you can see it as a gift that strips away illusions. Mike's very depressed (members know why) and he needs to explore that. If you're depressed, you need to as well. But in the end, you're better off knowing that some will take a pass on reality to jerk off with nonsense -- repeatedly.

What's getting serious? How about protesting outside a military base? Fort Hood in Texas. Sally's highlight, Linda Foley's "North Texans Join In Code Pink's 'Troop Home Fast' at the Gates of Fort Hood, Texas" (North Texas Indymedia):

My observations during this action:
The soldiers are young. Many look like they are still in high school. Many of them drive really nice cars. There were many family groups driving into the base. We did not get anywhere near the level of harrassment that I had anticipated. We got many more displays of support than I had expected. Very few stopped to ask questions or get any information or fliers from us. Most of what they will know about the group will come from the limited news coverage like this story in their local paper. Maybe some of them will look at the
CodePink website and learn more.
I think that our presence there provided support to those who may have been wondering about their military mission and military service, it made others think about our message regardless of whether they agreed or not, and it told the general public that there is a contrary opinion about the war, and that we were not afraid to express that opinion at the very gate of the war machine.
Mission accomplished.
Go to the
CodePink website for a link to participate in the Fast, then sign on so we can find you on the list. There was also an action in San Antonio in front of the Alamo yesterday.

What can we do? We can focus on addressing the war. Ellen Goodman's always said that she can't be expected to have an opinion on everything (it's why she avoids the TV chat & chews). It's a wisdom others would do well to embrace.

Some people are doing their share and then some. And some are doing so despite threats, repression and arrests. Braeden highlights Chris Geovanis' "Cops Arrest Seven Peace Activists at Taste of Chicago" (Chicago Indymedia), written Sunday July 2nd:

CHICAGO -- Members of a number of peace projects, including Code Pink Chicago, the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism, the AFSC’s Chicagoland Coalition Opposed to the Militarization of Youth, and the Latino counter-recruitment project CAMI -- an acronym for Contra Antimilitaricion -- were arrested today for handing out flyers and talking to the public near a military recruiters' booth at the Taste of Chicago this afternoon.
Peace activists have routinely collected signatures, handed out counter-recruitment brochures and talked to members of the public at and around military recruiting sites for literally decades. But beginning last month at the Blues Fest, the Chicago Police began an aggressive campaign of pushing back and threatening this kind of activity, which attorneys for the activists argue is constitutionally protected. Since then, Chicago police have specifically singled out anti-war activists for harassment and arrest at public gatherings. Cops have insisted that peace activists must retreat to a 'protest pit' area, while allowing other forms of commercial and free speech to proceed at gatherings like the Taste of Chicago unmolested.

Notice who stands and who sits. (Or, rather, sits out.) Becky notes Eli Sanders with a few comments. "He's defended Cantwell before if you can call someone a drunk and call it a defense. He appears to have come to his senses with his latest." From Sanders' "Friendly Fire" (Seattle Stranger -- or, as I prefer to think of it, "Pity the Poor War Hawk"):

It was supposed to be a pep rally, an election-year excuse for getting Washington State's junior senator, Maria Cantwell, on stage with one of the Democrats' most popular figures, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. The advance press materials said the topic of the day was education, but for a few tense minutes on Saturday, the otherwise well-scripted Cantwell campaign event was upended by an antiwar ambush.
Protesters unfurled a smuggled-in banner that read "Maria Can't Say No to War," and began shouting at Cantwell just as she rose to address the large crowd in the Garfield High School gym. The senator tried to talk over the protesters, but appeared both flustered by their interruption and embarrassed at having brought her superstar Senate colleague all the way across the country just to suffer an uncomfortably off-message moment.
King County Executive Ron Sims jumped in, rescuing the floundering senator by leading the audience in a counter-chant of "Cantwell, Cantwell." But as Cantwell's handlers worked to hustle the protesters out of the gym, it became clear that the woman who won her Senate seat by a slim margin in 2000 has a Seattle problem on her hands as she tries for a second term.

On a similar note, Maria notes David Corn's "Lieberman To Go Indie? And Why Hillary Should Care" (The Nation):

Here's something that Hillary Clinton should care about: Senator Joe Lieberman announced July 3 that if he is defeated in the August 8 Democratic Party primary he will run as an independent to seek his Senate seat.
Why should HRC care? Lieberman is being challenged in Connecticut by Ned Lamont, an antiwar multimillionaire Democrat whose campaign is based almost entirely on his complaint that Lieberman has been a cheerleader for George W. Bush's war in Iraq.

The indy Lieberman, costumed in flannel and Doc Martins. Grunge Joe. FYI, Maria notes that
Stephen Cohen isn't listed in the media notes of The Nation (a run down of who's on what). He was on KPFA's Against the Grain Wednesday discussing Russia and you can use the link to go to the archives for the interview conducted by C.S. Soong.

Lastly, Toby notes Cindy Sheehan's "Starving for Attention: Troops Home Fast, Day One" (Common Dreams):

I was particularly impressed by a very slick and professionally made sign that the Freepers had. It was a large pinkish sign with white letters that read: Cindy Sheehan is Starving for Attention."
Yes, that is why I am embarking on this fast. It is not because our nation with the complacent, if not intellectual, approval of most of our citizens is waging a war crime of mammoth proportions in Iraq. It's not because our soldiers are committing atrocities on an innocent population who never asked for our lethal interference. I am not fasting because our soldiers should not be dying or killing for Exxon and Halliburton. I am not sitting here with mild hunger pangs because our leadership condones and orders others to commit cruelties on my fellow human beings in such brutal places as Guantanamo. I am not fasting because the wrongfully, illegally, and immorally detained men in Guantanamo are going on their own hunger strikes and committing suicide to call attention to the fact that they are human beings who do not deserve to be tortured and tormented. I am not fasting so no other mother has to drop to her knees screaming in agony because her child is dead for nothing.
On the contrary, I get plenty of attention and our troops are still in Iraq. I am doing it precisely for all of the reasons above. Maybe people have to ascribe nefarious motivations to our actions because they can't conceive of leaving their comfort zones for another member of humanity.
The people of Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering so miserably. Our soldiers want to come home. Our country wants them to come home. The world wants them to come home. The people of Iraq want our soldiers to leave. Generals are recommending time tables. We fasters figure that we can sacrifice something in solidarity with the suffering in the Middle East. What we are giving up is so insignificant compared to what our soldiers and the people they are oppressing are giving up. It's about time BushCo recognizes that staying a reckless and murderous course is inherently disordered and they should turn around and order our troops to come home.

The fast is ongoing. There are some members who are still doing it. (I am but I'll probably be off by Saturday.) (My promise was stomach pains I can live with, chest pains, no.) (I've had liquids: water, tea and alcohol on the Fourth.) Congratulations to all the members who participated (and those still participating). Gina, Krista and I worked on a cutting for some of the Fourth stories that will run in the round-robin tomorrow. People kept the war front and center. Great job.

Bonus: If you're a KPFA listener, you're familiar with David Bacon (he provides the labor report on KPFA's The Morning Show). Santa Cruz IMC has photos and audio from a recent event where he discussed his book The Children of NAFTA.