Thursday, July 13, 2006

And the war drags on (Indymedia Roundup)

But she vows to continue being in the president's face. "I respect the office of the presidency," she says, "but I never worship at the shrines of our public servants. They owe us the truth. They owe us peace. America should never be a country that starts wars; Iraq has reminded Americans of that. We do not have the right to attack anyone we think it a potential enemy."
"The Washington press corps has the privilege of asking the president of the United States what he is doing and why," she continues. "We don't go into journalism to be popular. It is our job to seek the truth and put constant pressure on our leaders until we get answers. We threw in the towel after 9/11. But I think -- I hope -- we're more skeptical now. The press is coming out of its coma."

The above is Helen Thomas speaking to Ann McFeatters, from "Thank You, Ms. Thomas" in the Summer 2006 issue of Ms. The latest issue focuses on a number of issues and to cover what we can in this entry, we'll also note Martha Burk's cover story, "Crude Awakening: How U.S. War Policies Sell Out Women In Favor Of Big Oil" (it's avaible online) which traces the US embracing of the Taliban in the late nineties in the interest of Unocal and a pipeline. Though it's easy to forget now (as Nicky demonstrates repeatedly), feminists were speaking out publicly in the United States against the Taliban long before September 11th made the Bully Boy (who made his own overtures to them) suddenly an interest. Burk notes that, under Bill Clinton, the State Department announced it would begin relations with the Taliban because, as Glyn Davies (spokesperson for the department) announced, there was "nothing objectionable" about them.
Burk writes:

Only a concentrated effort led by Feminist Majority, NOW and allied groups prevented the Taliban from being recognized as the official government of Afghanistan, and kept the U.S. from sanctioning the abolishment of women's basic human rights in the service of the petroleum industry. (But then, once the oil-happy Bush administration came into power in 2000 -- both the president and the vice president are former oil executives -- it re-established talks with the Taliban about the pipeline.)
This is perhaps the starkest example of why the politics of oil is a feminist issue.

Burk goes on to take a look at various oil rich regions and the US' attitudes towards them as well as noting the realities of Afghanistan (another failed 'liberation'):

Meanwhile, four years after the U.S.-led war to remove the Taliban, the group is on the rise again in Afghanistan. Women who criticize local rulers or who are merely active in public life as political candidates, journalists, teachers or NGO workers face increasing threats and violence. Many women are still in the burqa, afraid to take it off because of the returning Taliban and the lack of security, and unable to travel without a male relative. Vicolence against women and girls remains rampant, including domestic and sexul abuse and forced marriages. According to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, over 300 girls' schools have been burned or bombed. In five southern Afghan provinces, at least 90 percent of school-age girls do not attend classes.

The reality that must never rain on the Operation Happy Talk parade.

Pumped up with false notions of success in Afghanistan, many of the American people were perfectly willing to 'kick some butt' in Iraq. The deterioration in both countries is only a surprise to those who bought the happy talk and those who feed it. (Thomas Friedman tries his con-job approach in Friday's paper as Betty's already noted in her latest chapter: "The War Paint Council.") As Thomas notes in the excerpt at the top, the towel was thrown in after September 11th.

Happy talk goes on today. Waves of it on Iraq, less so on Afghinstan. (There's very little talk of Afghanistan to begin with. The discarded first flame.) And everyone wonders which new war the Bully Boy was start next? Iran? North Korea? Venezuela?

Ms. has the result of their latest poll (1,023 respondents, "conducted May 19-22") and the news isn't good . . . for the Bully Boy. 67% of women and 57% of men "oppose the U.S. taking preemptive, unilateral military action." On Iraq, 55% of women and 43% want US troops withdrawn "immediately or in the next year." If Congress was as representative of the people as it's supposed to be, possibly the Kerry-Feingold measure could have found more than 13 senators to support it? (For those doing the math, 100 senators in the Senate so that means while the public supports a withdrawl by over half, the Senate supports it by only a little over 10 percent.) (The poll also found that 53% of women and 35% of men "consider themselves feminists.")

So then the war's over, right?

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 Thursday, the American military fatality count was 2540. Right now? 2546. Which leads some like the AP to gush about the 'small' number. Yeah, things are peaceful. (The Washington Post went with at least 50 Iraqis dead from Sunday's violence and at least 45 from Wednesday's. At least 31 Iraqis dead today, as noted by The KPFA Evening News. Happy Talkers might want to rethink singing, "It's getting better . . . so much better . . . getting better all the time.") Those not trumpeting the 'small' number (of Americans, of course, it's a fish-out-of-water film to read much of the coverage) note reality.

One example is Cindy's highlight, Ruth Rosen's "The Hidden War on Women in Iraq" ( via Common Dreams):

Abu Ghraib. Haditha. Guantanamo. These are words that shame our country. Now, add to them Mahmudiya, a town 20 miles south of Baghdad. There, this March, a group of five American soldiers allegedly were involved in the rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza, a young Iraqi girl. Her body was then set on fire to cover up their crimes, her father, mother, and sister murdered. The rape of this one girl, if proven true, is probably not simply an isolated incident. But how would we know? In Iraq, rape is a taboo subject. Shamed by the rape, relatives of this girl wouldn't even hold a public funeral and were reluctant to reveal where she is buried.
Like women everywhere, Iraqi women have always been vulnerable to rape. But since the American invasion of their country, the reported incidence of sexual terrorism has accelerated markedly. -- and this despite the fact that few Iraqi women are willing to report rapes either to Iraqi officials or to occupation forces, fearing to bring dishonor upon their families. In rural areas, female rape victims may also be vulnerable to "honor killings" in which male relatives murder them in order to restore the family's honor. "For women in Iraq,"
Amnesty International concluded in a 2005 report, "the stigma frequently attached to the victims instead of the perpetrators of sexual crimes makes reporting such abuses especially daunting."
This specific rape of one Iraqi girl, however, is now becoming symbolic of the way the Bush administration has violated Iraq's honor;
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has already launched an inquest into the crime. In an administration that normally doesn't know the meaning of an apology, the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad and the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. both publicly apologized. In a fierce condemnation, the Muslim Scholars Association in Iraq denounced the crime: "This act, committed by the occupying soldiers, from raping the girl to mutilating her body and killing her family, should make all humanity feel ashamed."
Shame, yes, but that is hardly sufficient. After all, rape is now considered a war crime by the International Criminal Court.

It is a war crime. Even if the bulk of the coverage treats it as if it's not. (Are we supposed to buy the few bad apples yet again? How many bad apples are there in Iraq, anyway? Or, more to the point, it's that an illegal war built on lies never bears 'good' fruit?)
31 people today

There's the cost paid in blood (by the Iraqis and the US) and there are other costs as well. Tom notes John Murtha's "What the Iraq War is Costing Us" (CounterPunch):

We are spending $8 billion a month in Iraq. that equates to 2 billion dollars a week, or 267 million dollars a day, or 11 million dollars an hour.
Attached are some comparisons between what we are spending in Iraq as we "stay the course" indefinitely and what those funds could be used for instead.
I've been fighting for our military to get out of Iraq because I'm concerned about the loss of our troops and the future of our military and also because I believe they have accomplished their mission there and the Iraqis must resolve their internal conflict themselves. However, I also wanted to demonstrate what these expenses mean to domestic policy in the United States and give you an idea of just some of the things that what we could accomplish with this amount of money.

Use the link for the breakdown of where the money's going and where it could be going.
So what stops the useless war? I agree with Ann Wright's comments on The KPFA Evening News, upping the ante. How so?

Remember this from CODEPINK:

TROOPS HOME FAST! On July 4, we launched an historic hunger strike called TROOPS HOME FAST in Washington, DC in front of the White House. While many Americans expressed their patriotism via barbeques and fireworks, we're fasting in memory of the dead and wounded, and calling for the troops to come home from Iraq. Read an interview with Diane Wilson to learn more. We're inviting people around the world to show their support for this open-ended fast by fasting for at least one day. Please sign here to to support us and encourage your friends to do the same. Click here to view photos of our latest actions, including July 4 arrests!

That's only one example. But on The KPFA Evening News, there was a report (actually two, one by Sandra Lupien and one by Katie Heim) on the ongoing fast in DC. The report discussed how some members of Congress, including Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney and Lynne Woolsey took part in a one-day fast today, joining the fasters in DC and the 3700 worldwide.

Ann Wright stated, "Most of us, this is the first time we've fasted and it's been a real interesting physical and psychological time. . . . The only reason we fast is to force us to remember what's going on here. That innocent Iraqis are dying every day, Americans are dying every day. We need to get this war ended. So, yeah, we're going to up the ante.

Diane Wilson intends to continue fasting until the troops come home and spoke of how some "People that think that you're going to stay on it 'till you die are thinking, in no way is that going to happen, the troops aren't going to come . I have a very strong faith that our committment here in Washington, DC and the thousands of people that are joining is going to be a catalyst for change."

It was noted that Wilson has prepared a will prior to starting the fast and that she would refuse feeding even if she passed out.

I'm amazed by their willpower. I'm going off after Friday. I may go back it on again, a point that needs to be made. If you want to take part for a day, you're free to do so. If you did a day and want to do another, that's fine too. You can start up now, this is an ongoing fast. You don't have to sign up at CODEPINK, that's just a way for them to keep track. If you're doing it, one point is to have an impact on the world around you and yourself. Again, signing up does allow a way for a count to be done, but that's up to you.

Take your face out of your hands
And clear your eyes
You have a right to your dreams
And don't be denied
I believe in a better way
-- "Better Way" written by Ben Haper, from the CD Both Sides of the Gun.

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