Thursday, August 03, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

How widespread is opposition to the war in Iraq among the military?
We can't quantify how many soldiers are opposed to the war. We can find some, and some of them are spotlighting themselves and saying, "I am against the war." But they're telling me that they had all kinds of buddies in the service who were against the war, but who decided to just mark their time and try to get out in one piece. But unless you could survey all the members of the armed forces, there’s no way to know how many are against the war. One of the motivations I had in writing this book was to bring these stories together and show that there is a critical mass, even if we don't know how many there are. If you remember from Vietnam, this was slow-building. And the soldiers opposed to the war were a critical aspect of the antiwar movement. And this thing has not been going on nearly as long as Vietnam and, unfortunately, it seems it’s going to be going on for a while.
It struck me as I was reading your book that the issues raised by the conscientious objectors are not just the immorality of wars in general or of killing in general, but specifically the illegality of this war that's been based on lies.

There certainly are soldiers who are opposed to the Iraq war who are not opposed to military action per se or are not opposed to war. A really good example is Lt. [Ehren] Watada, who is the first officer to be spotlighted [in the book] as refusing to deploy to Iraq. This case just came up recently. He has said he would have no problem deploying to Afghanistan, but he believes the Iraq war is immoral and illegal.
How many conscientious-objector applications have been approved and how many denied?

It seems about half of the applicants are receiving CO status, but these are numbers from the Pentagon and I believe it really is important when numbers from this particular administration are looked at to be skeptical. This is an administration that not only has shown that it lies, it’s an administration that has announced that it will lie in order to further its policies. So when we see numbers that come from the government such as the number of soldiers who are AWOL, the numbers of deserters or the numbers of CO applications that are granted, I don’t think we should look at those figures as necessarily accurate.

The above is from Jill Kramer's "Why We Won't Fight" which is an interview with Peter Laufer about his new book Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq. (Where's the link to Kramer's article. It appears in the July 28, 2006 issue of Pacific Sun. Click on Pacific Sun and then click on "STORY ARCHIVES." This was Ellie's highlight by the way.)

Our focus is Iraq these days. Brenda found a highlight and wondered if it could be worked on? We're working it under the premise that wars, all wars, don't end as a result of silence. That's silence from the news media absolutely but there are others who are silent (for whatever reason) at any time. Silence equals death. With that in mind, Ruani Seneviarante Freeman's "I Am Deafend By Your Silence, Eli" (Common Dreams):

What however are American progressives doing for the innocents of the world?
Here’s what: support for Israel’s current onslaught (codenamed ‘Summer of Rain’) from all but eight members of the House; biased coverage from National Public Radio; which gave David Horowitz (Jerusalem Post) a voice, but no airtime for Palestinian journalists on the Lebanon issue; silence from MoveOn, the most efficient, well-oiled liberal machine in action, capable of galvanizing progressives from coast to coast to the tune of millions in a single day over its causes. As for the Democratic Party itself? Does it exist?
I have often consoled myself with that old saying that something is better than nothing at all, and there have been times where indeed I was grateful that I had been spared greater harm. But there comes a time when one is forced to take stock of all those “better than nothing” compromises.
That day has already dawned twice in my adult life. First, in 2000, then in 2004 when I could have fought harder for Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, or Howard Dean and instead acquiesced to the will of the Democratic Party. During these years, I also threw my support behind organizations that I felt were keeping the wolf from my door, or the feds from my phones. MoveOn topped that list. I wrote the petitions, I signed the checks, I attended the parties, I voted for the ads. I did these things because I believed that MoveOn – and by extension the Democratic Party -- was, by being better than nothing, quite possibly speaking for me.
I was wrong.
MoveOn, no less than the Democratic Party, has an agenda that conceals its racism and Judae-centrism under a veil of supposed commitment to egalitarianism.
MoveOn had, as a source of alternative analysis of US policies -- one would have to be a political neophyte to imagine that American foreign policy is separate from its domestic policy, and Eli Pariser is no neophyte – the obligation to use its power to move the masses of American progressives (who form the bulwark of its membership, may I add), to speak out against the war-fuelled hegemony of Israel.

Just as what gets said matters, it also matters what goes unsaid. The US administration and their lackeys grasped that. That's why they bullied and tried to do a clampdown on dissent. That's why the Dixie Chicks were Dixie Chicked. It's why, for instance, an idiot working for a "family company" could go on air and suggest Susan Sarandon needed to die. Her crime? Speaking out against the war. He still has his job and still schills for the adminsitration (does employment and schilling go hand-in-hand -- it seems that way for many in the "news" media).
During Vietnam, they tried to clamp down on dissent as well but it couldn't be clamped down on forever. Hopefully, we're getting to that point now. With a highlight that addresses how that period's protest is visible today, Liang notes Nicole Sperling's "'War Is Over Billboards Promote Lennon Film" (Reuters):

LOS ANGELES - In an effort to tap into anti-war sentiment, billboards will appear in New York and Los Angeles this month declaring "War Is Over! If You Want It."
The statement is not so much political as commercial: independent film distributor Lionsgate is using them to promote its documentary "The U.S. vs. John Lennon," set to open September 15 in both cities.
The billboards are a reproduction of those created and posted by Lennon and wife Yoko Ono in 11 cities in 1969 as a protest against the Vietnam War.
The documentary from filmmakers David Leaf and John Scheinfeld is a chronicle of Lennon's transformation from musician to anti-war activist and how the U.S. government sought to silence him, in the view of the filmmakers. Leaf, Scheinfeld and Lionsgate marketing executives spent a lot of time with Ono preparing the campaign.
"It's unfortunate that the world is at war" again, Leaf said. "I think a story about John Lennon, who was fearless in his campaign for peace, is particularly relevant in a time when fear seems to rule."

Fear has ruled and ruled for far too long. Take away the fear card and all Bully Boy has is his empty bluster. Reality seems to have stripped a great deal of power from Bully Boy's fear card.
America has grown weary of the illegal war, of the deaths and of the lack of accountability.

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 troop fatality stood at 2570. Tonight? 2585. That includes six this month so far. And as the illegal war and the death toll fail to lead to mass enlistments, USA Today notes the US military's decision to up the age of enlistment to 42. How many Iraqis? Ask the Bully Boy since the US is keeping a body count. What is known? How about the fact that AP is reporting that "Lance Cpl. Saul H. Lopezromo, Pfc. Derek I. Lewis, Lance Cpl. Henry D. Lever, Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas and Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr" have been charged in the April 26th kidnapping and death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania. Add that in to the general non-hearts and minds, non-liberation campaign that is Iraq. How bad is it? So bad that even War Hawk Hillary Clinton (whose latest polling demonstrate that she needs to come out against the illegal war) confronted Donald Rumsfeld today over "presiding over a failed policy" to which he could only reply "My goodness" and go autopilot. Clinton is saying Rumsfeld should resign but there's no accountability in the Bully Boy's cabinet. But at the thought of facing Cindy Sheehan, we do get "Bully on the Run."

Not everyone pays a price. (They never do.) For instance, some are paid and some are paid off. Heath notes Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Sticky Situations with Tony Blair" (Editor's Cut, The Nation) which offers one example of the financial rewards a poodle can reap:

Reports are that Rupert Murdoch plans to offer Tony Blair a prominent position in his media empire when Bush's poodle steps down as prime minister or Gordon Brown finally stages a coup. Now that's a Fox and Friends episode I'd like to catch.
Just imagine the possibilities…Murdoch could give Tony his own show.
Given the PM's involvement in the quagmire in Iraq, Fox News should call it: Sticky Situations with Tony Blair. Its focus: public figures who need to wriggle out of a mess of their own making. There would be no shortage of guests.

One example of the rewards that await some . . . while others pay with limbs and life. It happens now, it happened before. For a historical perspective, Jonah notes Judith Coburn's "How Not to Vietnamize Iraq" ( via Common Dreams):

Through a scrim of red, dry-season dust, the sign appeared like an apparition hanging low over the no-man's land of the South Vietnamese-Lao border: "Warning! No US Personnel Beyond This Point." Its big, white expanse was already festooned with grunt graffiti, both American and Vietnamese. It was February, 1971, the afternoon before the invasion of Laos, and the sign but the latest bizarre development in the Pentagon's campaign to "Vietnamize" the war in Vietnam. The journalists who had hoofed it all the way to the border found the sign so grimly funny that we lined up for a group photo in front of it.
It all started in late 1969, when President Richard Nixon announced the first withdrawal of American soldiers from South Vietnam and their replacement by South Vietnamese troops. The new policy was dubbed "Vietnamization" by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird and hailed as the beginning of the end of America's war in that land. But the North Vietnamese leadership in Hanoi wasn't fooled for a minute. The communists believed Vietnamization was only intended to de-Americanize the war, not to end it.
Hanoi was right -- more right than anybody at the time could have imagined. In the five-plus years of war that followed, more than 20,000 American soldiers would still die; Nixon would actually widen the war by invasions of both Cambodia and Laos; and brutal American bombing campaigns would kill over a million more Indochinese. In fact, more Indochinese and Americans would be killed or wounded during the Vietnamization years than in the war before 1970.
While comparisons to Vietnam and terms from that era like "quagmire," "hearts and minds," and "body counts" swamped the media the moment the invasion of Iraq began in March 2003, "Vietnamization" didn't make it into the mix until that November. Then, the White House, which initially shied off anything linked to Vietnam, launched a media campaign to roll out what they were calling "Iraqification," perhaps as an answer to critics who doubted the "mission" had actually been "accomplished" and feared that there was no "light at the end of the [Iraqi] tunnel." But the term was quickly dropped. Perhaps it resurrected too many baby-boomer memories of Vietnamese clinging to the skids of choppers fleeing the fruits of Vietnamization.
It seems, however, that there is no way of keeping failed Washington policies in their graves, once the dead of night strikes. I was amazed, when, in 2005, in
Foreign Affairs magazine, Melvin Laird resurrected a claim that his "Vietnamization" policy had actually worked and plugged for "Iraqification" of the war there. Soon after, journalist Seymour Hersh, famed for his reportage on the Vietnam-era My Lai massacre (and the Iraq-era Abu Ghraib abuses), reported in the New Yorker that the Vietnamization policy of the Nixon era was indeed being reclothed and returned to us -- with similarly planned American drawdowns of ground troops and a ramping up of American air power -- and I wondered if we could be suffering a moment of mass post-traumatic stress syndrome.
When General George William Casey, Jr. --
whose father, a major general, died in Vietnam in July 1970 -- announced in June 2006 that the Pentagon might soon begin the first American troop withdrawals from Iraq, I couldn't help wondering where the Iraqi version of that sign might eventually go up. In the desert? On the Iranian or the Syrian border? (The "withdrawals" were, however, rescinded before even being put into effect in the face of an all-out civil war in Baghdad.)
However it feels to anyone else, it's distinctly been flashback city for me ever since. One of the great, failed, unspeakably cynical, blood-drenched policies of the Vietnam era, whose carnage I witnessed as a reporter in Cambodia and Vietnam, was being dusted off for our latest disaster of an imperial war. Some kind of brutal regression was upon us. It was the return of the repressed or reverse evolution. It was enough to drive a war-worn journalist to new heights of despair.

Stopping that war required people leaving their comfort zones. We need to see more of that today. "Upping the ante" as Ann Wright has stated. That could come by taking part in the Troops Home Fast action. It could come by speaking out. Callie notes an article on those speaking out, from Herb Jackson's "Braving Heat to Protest the War" (

Accuweather said it felt like 97 degrees by 10 a.m. Tuesday, and it was only getting hotter.
But two moms visiting Washington from Bergen County were not heeding warnings to stay inside: They were under the sun near the Capitol, arranging rows of army boots. Each pair symbolized a soldier killed in Iraq since the House reaffirmed its support for the war in June.
Wearing T-shirts identifying them as part of Military Families Speak Out, they were joining Operation House Call, through which relatives of soldiers from around the country stand vigil and visit members of Congress to argue for an immediate end to the war.
"My son is in an illegal war that's based on lies," said Joann Sohl, a printer from Palisades Park. "He joined the Army before the war to protect the United States of America, but he's been lied to. So I have to be here to protect my son."
Sohl and Paula Rogovin, a first-grade teacher from Teaneck whose son is a Marine scheduled for deployment to Iraq soon, stood with a handful of other protesters outside the Russell Senate Office Building before heading to meetings with Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg, both D-N.J.
Lautenberg and Menendez were among just 13 senators who voted for a resolution last month calling for troops to be pulled out of Iraq over the next year. Rogovin said later that the meetings had gone well.

Military Families Speak Out (and Gold Star Families for Peace held their news conference today. But before we get to that, Keesha notes Military Families Speak Out's "172nd Stryker Brigade Tour of Duty in Iraq Extended;Family Members Speak Out Against the War:"

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Members of the 172nd Stryker Brigade were returning home, and Jennifer Davis, a member of Military Families Speak Out from Anchorage, Alaska, was preparing for her husband’s homecoming. He had served almost one year in Iraq. She just received a call she never expected. "My husband called to let me know in the best way that he knew how, that the Army was extending his deployment four more months, mere hours before he was to board a flight home," said Ms. Davis. "I am totally frustrated, disappointed and heart broken. Just when I thought we were going to be able to resume a ‘normal’ life. Just when I thought the nightmare was over, it was extended..... This war should never have started, and now I'm left wondering if it will ever end. My husband and all of the troops should be brought home now. "
Kathy Knowles, a member of Military Families Speak Out from Shorewood, Illinois was preparing to celebrate her son's 25th birthday next week with him after his deployment in Iraq with the 172nd Stryker Brigade – and she too received the call that he would not be coming home. "I am devastated -- I was so excited that he was returning to our soil and we could celebrate the victory that he had survived the hell of this war," said Ms. Knowles. "The President and Congress have truly let us down -- returning my son and so many others to combat in a war that should never have happened."
The 172nd Stryker Brigade is one of the units scheduled to return to the United States, but is instead being extended and kept in Iraq for several more months under orders from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Despite numerous promises of progress being made and milestones being accomplished, the war in Iraq is once again about "taking Baghdad." As the violence continues to escalate, fueled by the on-going U.S. military occupation, the burden of the failures of this Administration is again falling on the troops who have given so much and the families back home who love them.
Ms. Davis and Ms. Knowles are available for interview, to speak about the damage to families and to the troops that is being done by the war in Iraq and by the unscheduled extensions of service.

Leigh Ann Caldwell reported on today's news conference of Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families for Peace on The KPFA Evening News and Free Speech Radio News noting that, as Congress members return to their home districts during this Congressional break, so do activists, after a month long demostartion in DC, to continue to keep pressure on them. Caldwell also reported that John Warner (senator) indicated "Congress might not fund" a civil war in Iraq. (Cedric has more on Leigh Ann Caldwell's report -- specifically pertaining to John McCain.) Also reporting on the families opposed to the war was Wendell Harper on The KPFA Evening News. "Whose names are you willing to add to the growing list of casualities?" is the question. Stacy Bannerman stated: "Our argument is that the best way to support the troops is to make sure that when they're sent into combat, when they're sent into harms way, it is for a legitimate war, for actual, factual reasons and that there is a clear and compelling link between the threat to this nation and the evidence that is being presented to the American public."

More from Stacy Bannerman can be found (noted by Jill) in her "Fly the Flag, Forget the Dead" (Truth Out):

Carlos Arredondo spends most of his days traveling up and down the East Coast with a flag-draped coffin. He takes it to parades and protests, schools and state fairs. Today it's in front of the Russell Senate Building, next to 78 pair of combat boots representing the number of US troops killed since June 15, when Congress voted to "stay the course" in Iraq. One week later, Military Families Speak Out launched Operation House Call on the front steps of the Cannon House Building.
This week we moved to the Senate side, where two Capitol Hill police have spent the past twenty minutes going over our event permit and making calls to headquarters. The flag-draped coffin passed the security checkpoints on the National Mall, and got an initial "OK." Now that it has come to rest at the entry of the building where Senator John Warner (R-Va.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has his office, the casket is a problem.
Ten military family members, including three Gold Star parents, are gathered around the coffin, which has a photo of Carlos's son, Alex, on the lid. Alex was killed in Iraq in August of 2004. We watch as Carlos methodically removes his boy's boots from the lid and hangs his son's uniform, bedecked with the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, on the crossbars of the Operation House Call sign.

Additional lyric excerpt for this entry comes via Charlie who reminds that Elaine and Susan were paying attention to "Goodbye Blue Skies" from Pink Floyd's The Wall:

Did-did-did-did you see the frightened ones?
Did-did-did-did you hear the falling bombs?
Did-did-did-did you ever wonder
Why we had to run for shelter
When the promise of a brave new world
Unfurled beneath the clear blue sky?

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