Sunday, August 06, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

The "word of mouth" and the contest of lawn signs speak victory for Ned Lamont over Senator Joseph Lieberman in the most closely watched Democratic Party primary in the country. The latest Quinnipiac poll has Lamont ahead by 54-41.
Journeying around this state of poor cities and prosperous towns, I found that the unyielding support of Bush's disastrous Iraq War by Mr. Lieberman is indeed the most compelling negative against this 18 year incumbent. Unyielding support for Bush and the war is the albatross around Mr. Lieberman's neck. Buttons depicting what appeared to be a Bush kiss and political embrace of Lieberman adds visual ridicule to the hot brew swirling around the once shoo-in Senator.
But there is more that has come together to weigh down the Senator. A number of chickens have come home to roost which add up to his low likeability rating and an image of selfishness.
Still on the people's mind in the "nutmeg state" was Lieberman's refusal to resign his Senate seat when he was nominated to be Gore's vice-president and allow a Connecticut Senate election which Democrat Attorney General Michael Blumenthal would have easily won. Instead, had Gore and he won (which I believe they did), the subsequent empty Senate seat would have been filled by a Republican nominated by Republican Governor John Rowland. People here do not forget that ego-trip.
Moreover, again and again Lieberman has done little more than lift a finger for other Democrats challenging Republican incumbents. He did very little to help Bill Curry's brainy run against Governor Rowland in 2002 either by way of raising real money or campaigning vigorously. Rowland was a friend of Lieberman and the Senator did not want to hear Curry's charges of corruption against the Governor. These charges were borne out after the election with Rowland's imprisonment.

The above is from Ralph Nader's "Hey Joe!" (CounterPunch) which Mia highlighted noting that Nader observed the same things that Brady did in his column for the round-robin about the mood on the ground in his home state (Conn.). Brady wrote as well to remind "anyone, member or visitor, that the election is Tuesday." If you're not in Conn., don't panic thinking you're unaware of impending election. This is their runoff. Cynthia McKinney has a runoff as well which Betty and Marlon both noted. If there's another election that a member wants noted, e-mail about it. And if you missed it, Glen Ford and Peter Gamble's "Cynthia McKinney: Our Brightest Light" (The Black Commentator) is suggested reading by Marlon. (It was noted last week at The Third Estate Sunday Review -- "McKinney v. Lieberman -- who you gonna root for?" -- there's an excerpt there. I'm not sure if you can still read it at the site unless you're a subscriber -- and they're on summer hiatus.) Obviously, members intend to vote for those who spoke out against the war in both races (Ned Lamont in Conn. and Cynthia McKinney in Georgia). Marlon's working very hard on getting his friends and family to turn out for this election. He'll be writing about that for this Friday's gina & krista round-robin. He asks that "If you can vote, show up and vote for the one [Cynthia McKinney] who was never silent about the war."

The war? Where is it? Not in the coverage. Tom notes Elaine's "Bully Boy on the run but the press is too busy playing Red Cross" on that and Jimmy Breslin's
"In Case We All Forgot, Americans Are Still Dying in Iraq" (Newsday via Common Dreams):

By the way, there are many American soldiers fighting in the Middle East.
In case you haven't noticed, they get killed. A lot of them get killed.
I was watching the endless television coverage of Israel and Hezbollah/Lebanon killing women and children and then picking up the papers to read almost exclusively of the same thing. I found no picture on television and almost no mention in newspapers of Americans dying.
The dead babies of Lebanon and those dismembered by rockets in Israel are considered to be glorious distractions that allow our government to stroll the hallways that appear to have no blood on the floors.
I made a call to the Defense Department: "How are our soldiers doing lately?"
"We've had a bad month," the man responded.
"How bad?"

How bad? You'd never know from the media coverage. Friday in the New York Times, they ignored Mosul which was saw anywhere from 17 to 20 deaths depending on the wire reports. Saturday and today, they didn't even offer the minor tidbits they had on Friday. Did the violence stop? Did the death and destruction stop?

No. It's just the damn coverage that stopped. There's no excuse for it -- and that's across the board, independent media or mainstream media. There is no excuse for the silence on Iraq. The war isn't over, troops aren't home and things aren't any better for Iraqis. But it sure gives the Bully Boy coverage -- the media (all the media) and their silence on Iraq.

It's disgusting, it's shameful and we shouldn't have to accept it. Marci e-mailed noting Ava and my review of Grey's Anatomy and thought the most important section from it was this:

On the latter, fortunately what passes for "news" on ABC can be readily enlisted to vouch for ABC product. For instance, on March 20, 2006, Nightline provided infomercial time for Grey's Anatomy. Clearly, product was the most important story in the world. It's not like it was the anniversary of the illegal war in Iraq, or that 45 people had died the day before (Sunday) in Iraq, or there weren't two press reports breaking over the weekend leading up to the Monday show about US troops allegedly killing Iraqis (Haditha and a village near Balad), or that former Iraqi prime minister (and puppet) Allawi had told the BBC the day before "If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is." Oh wait, all of that did happen. And Nightline was focusing on a TV drama/comedy/soap.
Instead of addressing those issues, Nightline attempted to Happy Talk it through the racial diversity Grey's Anatomy supposedly offers. Ourseleves, we see a lot of White. We see it in the patients, we see it in the extras, we see it in the cast. We see their "efforts" with regards to race representation only slightly better than their Texas casting. You have three African-Americans (one of whom has a love life that's portrayed on the show) and you have a Korean-Canadian. That's four people of color. Two more people of color than they have cast members from Texas. (Water Cooler Critics, we've told you for almost two years now that this is a trend!) (You also have a Latina that strikes us as a minor character.)

Marci thinks that's a perfect example of the media treatment on Iraq. That was Monday, March 20th of this year. And instead of covering the protests, or covering the violence in Iraq (with at least 43 dead), or the allegations of US troops killing civilians or Allawi's comments in a BBC interview that Iraq was in the midst of a civil war (again, that's March 20th for everyone still wondering "Is it a civil war?"), they want to blather on about a TV show. Now their hook is "race" but they don't explore race (a worthy topic to explore), they self-congratulate over the fact that a drama/comedy/romance almost -- almost -- provides a racially balance cast.

It's no cause for celebration and only the most superficial 'exploration' would act as though it was. But while (badly) covering that, they don't have time for other things. It's not just Lebanon (Gaza's gotten far less coverage -- par for the course) though, there's always something else to cover. We passed the three year mark and I'm not seeing that many cases where anyone's serious about providing coverage of Iraq. Big media, small media, they run after what they think is "hot."

The US declared war. The US went to war. The US is still at war. Where's the coverage? Don't give it to me in the newsbreaks and claim that you've covered it. You haven't. Big media's failing, independent's failing. Tom wondered what magazine Elaine was referring to with the double issues? The Nation. The Nation's done two double issues recently (I believe the "reading" issue is due shortly). Where's the single issue devoted to Iraq? Where is it?

There's a lot of talk. There's a lot of "I'm opposed to the war." Well where is the coverage? The war's not going to end its own. Bully Boy's comfortable leaving office and leaving it to the next occupant to take care of. So are you comfortable with that? If you are then continue the silence or treating (Mike's phrase) the war as an after thought. Ann Wright, speaking at the beginning of the Troops Home Fast, spoke of the importance of upping the ante. CODEPINK did that. But the coverage didn't up. In fact, mainstream media provided much more coverage. We've yet to see an article on the fast in any of the indy magazines. CODEPINK and Global Exchange sponsored the trip to Jordan where, Friday and Saturday, activists such as Wright, Medea Benjamin, Tom Hayden, Cindy Sheehan and Diane Wright met with Iraqis (including members of parliament). Where's the coverage?

Oh, we're going to cover it after the fact? Is that how it's going to be? The meeting's over.
We can find commentary on Joe Lieberman. We can all worship at the houses of Congress. Where's the coverage of the stuff that matters?

War as an after thought. Coverage comes after the fact. Why does it matter? Ehren Watada faces an Article 32 hearing on August 17th. Courage to Resist and are calling for a "National Day of Education" on August 16th, the day before Ehren Watada would be due to "face a pre-trial hearing for refusing to deploy to Iraq." That's ten days away, the National Day of Education. If we get coverage on August 18th, that's crap. If people wait to cover this until August 18th, it's not helping Erhen Watada. September 21st, there are big rallies planned against the war. That's a month from now. Where is the coverage?

There is none for the most part. So maybe if we beat the drums and beat the bushes, August 15th or 16th Ehren Watada's case can get a little attention and maybe on September 20th, the upcoming rallies can get a little attention? That's not good enough.

The peace movement works every day on ending the war. Independent media? Don't kid yourself. It's three years later and where's the independent media program (weekly, daily, whatever) that focuses just on the illegal war? There's a lot of talk, there's not a lot of coverage. Instead, Iraq has to fight for coverage and when it comes it's more likely to be about what went on in Congress or who's facing a tough election.

There are stories to cover but they're not getting covered. They might get mentioned, then they're dropped. That's no way to build an opposition and people need to quit kidding themselves that they're doing something great. The peace movement's working over time. The media? It's playing get that helicopter out to the OJ car chase. It's playing rush after this, rush after that, and what gives the most blood, gets the most coverage.

Or what they think gets the most blood. If the UN estimate is correct of at least 100 Iraqis dying each day (it may be higher, it may be lower -- I think it's a higher number), that'll be 3,000 for August. And we can't point the finger at Israel for Iraq. We can't point the finger at anyone but the US administration.

Now's a time when the coverage should be exploding. The people have turned against the war. Only the most desparate spinners (Dexy) still continue to try to hard sell the war. The War Hawks are flying elsewhere, ready to push the next war and giving up on Iraq. The troops could be home right now. We have that power. But we're not using it.

When I gripe to friends at newspapers or in TV news, they throw back independent media, they're quite aware of what's being covered and what isn't. Independent media's putting no pressure on them to cover Iraq. There are no feet to fire on this issue.

All I heard from friends (mainstream media) last week was how they're slammed by independent media for not following up, not going deep, and indymedia's not even covering Iraq. And it's true, they're not (with few exceptions -- we note two later in this entry).

The New York Times really isn't either. What it looks like is an addiction, the kind Chris Hedges wrote about. It doesn't play like coverage. It's, as Mike pointed out, war as an after thought.

So as indymedia has continued to ignore Iraq, the mainstream's felt less and less need to cover it. It's giving them an out. The week of July 4th, independent media could have poured it on about Nancy A. Youssef's article revealing that the US government was keeping a count on Iraqis who died, had been keeping a count for almost a year (it's now a year) and wouldn't release that figure or make it public. They could have impacted. They could have gotten that story out.

Didn't happen, then or since. With few exceptions (IPS, Aaron Glantz), indymedia ignored that story completely. It's one of many stories that's ignored. War resisters Jeremey Hinzman and Brandon Hughey will soon hear the verdicts on their appeals to remain in Canada.
But that wasn't a story either. It might be . . . after the verdict.

There's plenty of time to focus on Senators. Is that really what indymedia is supposed to be about? Isn't it supposed to bring you the stories of the non-powerful? Isn't it supposed to bring you stories that the mainstream won't cover? We hear a lot of talk about how that's it's goal. But we don't see that goal being put into place now. (We didn't when Mexico was being pushed by pundits.)

You've had a fast that's lasted more than a month? Did you read about it? Did you hear about it? Did you see it? You had the trip to Jordan. Where was the coverage? You have Ehren Watada. Where is the coverage?

It's been noted that there's less coverage of independent media here. That's partly because we're not doing mid-morning/mid-day highlights (we're doing the snapshots) but it's also because there's so little coverage of Iraq (which is our focus) from independent media.

So, back to Breslin's question, how bad is it?

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 American military fatality count in Iraq stood at 2578. Right now? 2591. Thirteen more US soldiers since we checked in last Sunday and have you seen any indy coverage that indicates that?

I think I've told this story before, but I'll offer it again. (I know Elaine's noted it at her site.) Right after the illegal war started, when the first fatalities (US) were being noted. I bumped into a semi-friend. It wasn't the bad, she said. I guess 13 wouldn't be that bad for her either. I'd argue any number is bad in an illegal war. But what I told her (our last conversation) was that this wasn't ending in a few weeks and those numbers were going to climb higher. They have. We'll obviously see a figure over 2600 by the time the protests in September roll around. And if we can continue to treat this war as an after thought, we'll probably be at 4,000 when Bully Boy leaves office.

With Vietnam, you saw that too. For a long time the numbers could be tolerated (by some). One success of the peace movement is that that the repulsion to this war didn't require hitting 10,000 or higher. (One of many successes.)

So let's do a quick look at some of today's events in Iraq. Let's start with Abeer Qasim Hamza, the fourteen-year-old murdered Iraqi girl who was also allegedly raped and raped & murdered by US troops. James Hider (Times of London) reports on the Iraqi medic who discovered her charred body (allegedly, she and the three other members of her family murdered were burned to cover the crime). From "Medic tells of finding Iraq girl's burnt body:"

He found she had been killed by a single bullet under her left eye. Her murderers had set her body on fire in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence of their crime.
In an adjoining room, he found her younger sister, Hadeel, had been shot through the head. The girls’ father, Qassim, and their mother, Fikhriya, had also been killed. He said that the scene made him sick for weeks.
The case is the fifth being pursued by the US military against its own troops in Iraq.
The five soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division are accused of drinking, changing into civilian clothes and abandoning their checkpoint in the so-called Triangle of Death to go to the house of the girl, whom they had seen walking past their position.

The medic was testifying in the Article 32 hearing regarding rape, murder and arson chrages against James P. Baker, Jesse V. Spielman, Bryan L. Howard and Paul E. Cortez ("rape, murder and arson") as well as dereliction of duty (failure to report the incident) against Anthony W. Yribe. Steven D. Green was arrested in the US for his alleged involvement in the rape, murder and burning (some press reports have painted him as the ringleader). This hearing is going on in **Baghdad**. Green, who had already let the military, will be tried in America.

On Sunday's proceedings, AFP notes:

An Iraqi army doctor has told of his horror at coming upon a dead teenager "naked with her legs spread" after the alleged murder of her family by a group of US soldiers.
[. . .]
Her five-year-old sister was found in an adjacent room. "She had been hit in the head, it looked like a bullet would. It looked like it entered the front of her face" and went out the back of her head, the medic said.
The girls' mother and father had also been shot dead: "The brain was on the floor and parts of the head were all over the place."
"I was feeling very bad. I was sick for almost two weeks," the doctor said.

AP reports that three US soldiers were killed today; an Iraqi police patrol was "ambushed" in Baghdad leaving two dead and five wounded; also in Baghdad, and a security guard was killed by a sniper. BBC reports that ten are dead in Tikrit -- they were attending a funeral when "[a] man wearing a vest packed with explosives" detonated the bomb, killing himself and ten attending the funeral while leaving 18 others wounded. Reuters reports: "Police said gunmen shot dead Sheikh Ali Hussein Shalash, a local preacher and member of the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars." Corpses? AP notes one found in Amarah and Reuters notes two were discovered in Dora and twelve were discovered in Baghdad.

And if you need more to grasph how out of control things are in Iraq, how much 'democracy' has failed, Lynda notes Riverbend's "Summer of Goodbyes..." (Baghdad Burning):

Residents of Baghdad are systematically being pushed out of the city. Some families are waking up to find a Klashnikov bullet and a letter in an envelope with the words "Leave your area or else."
The culprits behind these attacks and threats are Sadr's followers- Mahdi Army. It's general knowledge, although no one dares say it out loud. In the last month we've had two different families staying with us in our house, after having to leave their neighborhoods due to death threats and attacks.
It's not just Sunnis-- it's Shia, Arabs, Kurds-- most of the middle-class areas are being targeted by militias.
Other areas are being overrun by armed Islamists. The Americans have absolutely no control in these areas. Or maybe they simply don't want to control the areas because when there's a clash between Sadr's militia and another militia in a residential neighborhood, they surround the area and watch things happen.
Since the beginning of July, the men in our area have been patrolling the streets. Some of them patrol the rooftops and others sit quietly by the homemade road blocks we have on the major roads leading into the area. You cannot in any way rely on Americans or the government. You can only hope your family and friends will remain alive-- not safe, not secure -- just alive. That's good enough.
For me, June marked the first month I don't dare leave the house without a hijab, or headscarf. I don't wear a hijab usually, but it's no longer possible to drive around Baghdad without one. It's just not a good idea. (Take note that when I say 'drive' I actually mean 'sit in the back seat of the car' -- I haven't driven for the longest time.) Going around bare-headed in a car or in the street also puts the family members with you in danger. You risk hearing something you don't want to hear and then the father or the brother or cousin or uncle can't just sit by and let it happen. I haven't driven for the longest time. If you're a female, you risk being attacked.

Life on the ground. Maybe a story worthy of coverage if anyone would take the time. One that is trying very hard to cover Iraq is Truthout. They are offering original content when possible and providing as many outside pieces as they can find. Yolanda wondered if we were serious at The Third Estate Sunday Review on that -- yes, we were. The Gannett article they highlighted got very little attention in real time. It was worth noting again. Good for them for noting it and displaying it prominently. Yolanda notes they're running this AP story prominently:

Amman - "Peace mom" Cindy Sheehan, Tom Hayden and 13 other U.S. activists on Saturday joined Iraqi lawmakers in demanding a timetable be fixed for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.
"I'm optimistic that the majority of the American people want a withdrawal sooner, rather than later," Hayden, a former California state senator told reporters in the Jordanian capital after talks with seven Iraqi Shiite and Sunni lawmakers.
"It's going to be an important issue in the Congressional elections and the (2008) presidential campaign has already begun," he said.
About half of the activists will head to Syria on Sunday and Lebanon on Monday to "assess the humanitarian crisis" caused by the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah over the past 25 days, killing hundreds and displacing hundreds of thousands. Neither Sheehan, who returned earlier Saturday to the U.S., nor Hayden would be part of the team.
Hayden wondered whether the Lebanon conflict was "a desperate effort by the Israeli and U.S. neoconservatives to escalate their way out of defeat in Iraq before the November elections."
"Are they trying to scramble and subdivide the whole Middle East? Do they hope this escalates into a conflict with Syria and Iran which some of them want," he said.
The activists, representing the largest U.S. anti-war coalition, United for Peace and Justice; the national woman's peace group, CODEPINK; and Global Exchange, arrived in Jordan Thursday for two days of talks with the Iraqi members of parliament.

At least the AP is covering it. (And no, that's not backhanded to the AP either.) In addition to the above, Eddie notes Missy Comley Beattie's "One Year After the Death of Chase Comley" (Truthout):

This weekend marks the first anniversary of my nephew's death in Iraq.
August 6, 2005, is the date Marine Lance Cpl. Chase Comley was killed instantly by a vehicle-borne IED. My brother, Chase's father, received the news just after midnight, early on the 7th. "We regret to inform you." These are the words that shifted the earth's plates.
"Chase was killed in Iraq." This seismic sentence traveled the telephone lines, rocking the earth under all of us.
Even now, to think or say this, a year later, is unreal. It's as if our minds still can't grasp that Chase is dead. Something essential to understanding language is missing. Something necessary to understanding right and wrong is askew. Chase was 21 years old. There is nothing right about this, nothing noble, nothing we can look to in Iraq and proudly say, "Chase died for this."
Chase was killed in Iraq. There is no accepting it. Ever.
My 86-year-old father had bargained with God to take him, not Chase. He didn't tell my mother this, nor did he say a word to me. Nor did I tell them that I had a terrible feeling. Nor did my mother say that she, too, expected the worst. Nor did my brother, Chase's father, let on for a second that when he said goodbye to Chase, he knew that he would never see his son alive again. This was revealed after the shifting of the plates.
My mother still agonizes that maybe we didn't try hard enough to talk him out of enlisting. But we did try. I tell her this over and over. I remind her that Chase couldn't be dissuaded - that when I suggested the Coast Guard, he thought that would be settling for much less than first. The US Marine Corps would make him a man. My mother says it made him a dead man.
My brother Mark called yesterday. His voice was oozing grief. I think of him a year ago, when he received a call from his fiancée to come home. She mercifully told him she had a particularly bad migraine and needed him immediately. The Marines had come but wouldn't tell her anything. They hovered in the neighborhood, waiting for my brother to arrive. Mark loaded his equipment and began the drive back to their house. I imagine him as he pulled in front of their place. I see him as he got out of his car, walking in, and hearing her tell him to "sit down." I think of the ringing of the doorbell. I picture the look on my brother's face, his demeanor. It was in the middle of the night - a time for only bearers of words that are too horrible to hear.

Another working overtime is CounterPunch. (And note that both manage to cover Iraq and Israel's armed aggression as well as much more. It is possible to do.) Matt notes Michael Donnelly's "'Sir! No Sir!' The Story of the GI Anti-War Movement" (CounterPunch):

I watched a great "anti-war" movie the other day. No, not Grave of the Fireflies; Grand Illusion; Hearts & Minds; or Dr. Strangelove, though I highly recommend them all. The documentary I watched is on par with all of them, even more compelling (and certainly more honest) than Errol Morris' Oscar-winning Fog of War which appallingly made a hero out of the counterfeit contrition of the forever evasive Robert MacNamara.
David Zeiger's "
Sir! No Sir!" documentary chronicles the "seditious" Anti-war Movement of active duty GI's and their supporters during the Vietnam War. This lost, er, stolen, from our collective memory Movement had as much or more to do with the US Military Machine's eventual abandonment of its devastating multi-million corpse-creating SE Asian wet dream as did its civilian counterpart.
The film is populated with the GIs and supporters telling their story themselves --- no war criminals seeking to remake themselves; no "stars" except for a short take with Jane Fonda, who recently has been apologizing for that famous photo posing with a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. She certainly has nothing to apologize for concerning her, Donald Sutherland and company's brilliant and well-received FTA ("F**k the Army") counter-Bob Hope troop tours. The archival footage of those tours and the thousands of appreciative GIs in the audiences gives ample proof of FTA's and Fonda's true impact.

Sir! No! Sir! is a great film and now available on DVD (soundtrack is available as well). (As is Hearts & Minds. I can't speak for Fog of War, I wouldn't pay money to see Robert McNamara.)

If you read Polly's Brew this morning, you know there are things going on in England that aren't getting coverage as well. One of the topics for the roundtable (moderated by Polly, participants included Gareth, Pru, James in Brighton, Mara, Mike, Jim, Ava, Jess, Dona, Ruth and myself) was the news from last week that's really not been noted here. That topic (and it's a major story) is also the subject of Pru's highlight, "Military Families' demand for inquiry upheld" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Military Families last week won their appeal against the government’s decision to refuse a full public inquiry into the Iraq war.
They had argued that the war was illegal and based on lies. Their sons had died as a result of these lies.
There will now be a judicial review of Tony Blair's decision to not allow a public inquiry.
Since the beginning of the war in 2003, 114 British servicemen and women have been killed in Iraq.
Rose Gentle's son Gordon was killed in Iraq in 2004. She told Socialist Worker, "Gordon was in Iraq to fight for his country, but I now know he should never have been sent there. He died for nothing.
"I have done everything in my power to persuade Tony Blair to meet with me, but he refuses. Now I will finally get to see what the government has to justify its decision to invade Iraq, which most of the public believe was unlawful and counterproductive.
"My message to Tony Blair is -- you have refused to meet me in Downing Street, now you will meet me in court."
The families' solicitor Phil Shiner said "The government now have to produce evidence to a full hearing in the court of appeal.
"In particular, the government must finally explain how the 13-page equivocal advice from the attorney general of 7 March 2003 was changed within ten days to one-page completely unequivocal advice that an invasion would be legal."
The hearing is due to take place on 6 November.
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By the way, Cindy Sheehan is back at Camp Casey. That's made TV news, a number of members (including Billie, Tori and End Zone) note that an actual report aired this evening on their local news. They saw footage, heard Cindy Sheehan speak and more. Will indymedia do the same?

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[Note: Hearing taking place in Baghdad, not Tikrit as I wrongly wrote.]