Thursday, August 10, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

The possibility of saving Iraq as a viable Arab nation is in question, even if American public opinion forces the withdrawal of US troops. For some American hawks, a dismembered Iraq may not be ideal but would no longer be a strategic threat.
Those were the morbid impressions I formed after two days of discussions with Iraqis gathered in Amman, Jordan, at an unprecedented meeting initiated by
Code Pink and attended by Cindy Sheehan and a smattering of peace activists that included Iraq Veterans Against the War and United for Peace and Justice.
That so many Iraqi representatives wanted to meet with antiwar Americans was a hopeful sign. Attending were official representatives of the Shiite coalition now holding power, the minority Sunni bloc, the anti-occupation
Muslim Scholars Association, parliamentarians and torture victims from Abu Ghraib. Their broad consensus favored a specific timetable for American withdrawal combined with efforts to "fix the problems" of the occupation as the withdrawal proceeds. Recent surveys show that 87 percent of Iraqis hold the same views.
Dr. Habib Jabar, carefully balancing the divisions within his majority Shiite parliamentary bloc, stated that "we don't need American forces to protect us from each other. We have been here 1,000 years. My wife is a Sunni. I don't need the Americans to protect her from me." He is seeking a Shiite consensus to demand that the United Nations Security Council formally end its authorization of the US occupation when it meets this December. At the same time, the US-backed Shiite representative was diplomatically noncommittal on dissolving death squads or the
Badr Corps now operating with little or no restraint by the Interior Ministry. Nor did he acknowledge the plans of dominant Shiite leaders like Abdul Aziz al-Hakim for an autonomous Shiite region running from Baghdad south to Basra, which would require mass removals of the Sunni population.

The above is Tom Hayden's "Iraq Is Dying" (The Nation via Common Dreams). Now we've got another text story on this topic. (Hayden was noted by Jill.) But for visitors who feel there's been coverage of Iraq in indymedia, where is this story? Hayden could tell it. Could have told it at the start of the week. He didn't go on through the Middle East. Nor did Cindy Sheehan. Interviewing Sheehan at Camp Casey III about what happened during the peace movement would have gotten that story out as well as the fact that Camp Casey III is up and running. Too much isn't being covered in the zeal to turn Israel into the only story or whatever the topic de jour is.

The whole thing is like a Rogers & Hart song:

Sing Johnny One-Note,
Sing out with "gusto" and
Just overwhelm all the crowd
So sing Johnny One-Note, out loud
Sing Johnny One-Note
Sing Johnny One-Note out loud

It's been "Johnny One-Note" over and over again. It didn't just happen with the most recent armed agression by the Israeli government. And the Iraq coverage didn't stay strong before everyone went chasing after the one story.

When's the last time you heard of Suzanne Swift? (You can hear her and a discussion of the language used by commanding officers -- derogatory towards Iraqis -- as well as details of the harassment one woman had to endure in this week's The Progressive Radio Show hosted by Matthew Rothschild.) You didn't get discussions of Abeer Qasim Hamza. Everyone shifted the focus off Iraq.

On a slow news week, Iraq usually has to struggle for coverage in the mainstream. For it to have struggle in indymedia is embarrassing. Indymedia, for many, made its name, established its cred, via the Iraq war. When others went along with 'official sources,' indymedia challenged. Right or wrong, as the illegal war continues to rage/wage, people expect that indymedia, brave indymedia, is going to be there offering coverage. That's not the case.

Let's go back to what hasn't gotten radio or TV time, the peace meeting. Brandy notes
Geoffrey Millard's "US Peace Delegation and Iraqi Officials Open Dialogue" (Truthout):

Amman, Jordan - On the 9th of August, what began as the words to a bad joke ("A priest, a shrimp boat captain, an ex-diplomat, and an ex-soldier walk into a room of Iraqis ...") ended as a successful mission of diplomatic communication that found four of its members continuing on into Lebanon to do humanitarian work, including being human shields if necessary.
When CODEPINK co-founder and former shrimp boat captain Diane Wilson was confronted about the usefulness of the Troops Home Fast, she stated: "I got this deep faith, and sometimes you just got to believe, cuz ya'll never know what it will make for ya." In her simple southern way, Dianne somehow knew that this fast would bring something special, and on the day the New York Times published an op-ed on how hunger striking was simply not a successful tool for social change, the shrimper from Texas was packing her bags for Amman, Jordan, as part of a 12-person peace delegation that included CODEPINK co-founders Medea Benjamin, Jody Evans and Gale Murphy; former US Army colonel and US diplomat Ann Wright; ex-state senator from California Tom Hayden; United For Peace and Justice national co-chair Judith Le Blanc; an Iraqi-American, Raed Jarrar, of Global Exchange; Franciscan priest Father Luis Vitale; Congressional candidate against the war Jeeni Criscenzo (D-Calif.); businessman and peace activist Dal LaMagna; a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War; and others.
Not knowing the reactions of Iraqi parliamentarians to Americans caused some bit of nervous energy in the room as the first honored guest was awaited, but the excitement ran just as high knowing that this group was to embark on a road that the Bush administration was refusing to go down. This delegation of peace workers came across an ocean in order to find out what different Iraqi reconciliation plans existed and how they could best get the Iraqi people involved in the US discussion of their future. These plans differed in some details, but the overall objectives were clear: set a timetable for withdrawal of US troops, dissolve the militias, recognize the resistance as legitimate, strengthen the Iraqi army, repeal the Bremer laws, and rework the US-pressured constitution.

Where is indymedia? You want to know reality? (You may not. Stop reading if you're not interested.) Cindy Sheehan went into Camp Casey III with the mainstream thinking it might be a story. They don't think that now. Why? Because indymedia didn't even bother to cover it.
That's reality and that's responsibility. Indymedia didn't live up to its responsibility. By not living up, it let down the peace movement and it harmed Cindy Sheehan's ability to get national coverage. Is Cindy Sheehan a flavor of the month? No members feel that way, I don't feel that way; however, thanks to the lack of coverage from indymedia, a number in corporate media now express that her story is "over." "America's moved on" was one remark I got today.

Has America moved on or has indymedia dropped the ball?

Polls show that America has turned against the war. That's consistent. That's not one poll or two polls, that's a trend. One poll is meaningless. You're not looking for one set of results (someone break it to the Times), you're looking for a trend in opinion that is backed up by other polls and, when it's long term, opinion has hardened.

The country is against the war. It's too bad the country can't get coverage of it because the thought of covering Iraq and Israel was apparently too taxing for some in indymedia.

I'm saying "indymedia" and I'm really not talking about blogs. If someone's done something on Sheehan, the peace meeting or something similar and is offended -- don't be. This isn't about you. (But feel free to note that you wrote something on these topics and include the link and we'll try to note it here. While I'm tossing that out, I don't reply to reporters. Thanks for the invite to Baghdad, Jess and Ava laughed at your e-mail, I'm not replying to you. To be frank, I'm not even reading you. There are currently countless e-mails waiting to be read in the public account. You're no more special than anyone else there just because you have a "name" and are in corporate media. Climb off the cross and deal with reality.)

What's happened, for weeks now, is that events in Iraq aren't discussed. They aren't given the time or attention they deserve and that's dangerous. That's dangerous for Ehren Watada, it's dangerous for the September peace rallies, and it's dangerous for the country. If Iraq slides out of the coverage, indymedia's saying none of it matters. All the work the peace activists have done, all the work media (indy and corporate) have done, none of it matters.

The war isn't over. The troops aren't home. If indymedia says it's not worth covering, corporate media sees that. They follow that.

I don't know of anyone in this community who defends the Israeli government's actions. I don't know of anyone who thinks it's not a story. But I know members are sick of the wall-to-wall, non-stop coverage. They're noting other times this has happened to Iraq.

The reality is, it's happened over and over. Any story, regardless of the topic, can be turned into the must-tell story of the week and everyone chases after it while Iraq doesn't slip to second or thir place, it falls out completely.

This week we heard a discussion of Iraq where the host and the guest obsessed over the 50% of respondents who felt that Iraq had WMDs. The number had gone up. Why was that? The answer is right there in the poll numbers. The same poll found that over 70% of respondents felt life was better for Iraqis.

How could they think that? Because the coverage is start-stop, pick-up-and-then-drop. It's not consistent.

Now if you watch Fox "News," you probably get consistent. Which is the question we've been asking her over and over for two or three months now: Do the War Hawks want the war on Iraq to continue more than the left wants it to stop?

War Hawks and War Cheerleaders don't drop the topic. They're pushing it always. But the media (in all its forms) seems to think it can drop the topic. For indymedia, which is against the war or seen as being against the war, that's frightening.

The respondents to the poll aren't stupid. They're reacting to what's covered and what's not. When Santorum is falsely pushing WMDs, you don't wait until enough weeks have passed for a poll to address the subject in a lengthy discussion. You can't. You're allowing perceptions to form as the lie goes unchallenged.

The better question for the host (whom I enjoy listening to) would have been, "Why haven't we been covering this?" Not in a headline, but in a serious discussion.

Life on the ground in Iraq? Covered in the headlines. And it's just not enough. Forget the 50%. That people can self-delude about the past is only shocking to those who've never attended a class reunion. That they can self-delude about what's going on in front of them, daily events of violence and chaos? That takes real strength. And lack of coverage allows for it.

Abeer was a story that didn't get told. That's too bad. Maybe the thinking is, "I'll cover it if the four are charged" or "I'll cover it during Steven D. Green's trial"? You can't shove Iraq off the radar. It's not fair to Abeer or any of the many who suffer or suffered. Facts and figures only go so far. A face, a story can capture more attention.

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 2585. Tonight? 2597. As we noted earlier today, June 15, 2006, the Pentagon announced that 2,500 American troops had died in Iraq. That was June 15th. We're not even up to August 15th and we're three shy of a hundred.

Does the coverage convey that? (No, there's no indy coverage and most corporate outlets have shipped their reporters off to Lebanon and surrounding areas.)

What about Iraqis? How many of them have died? Oh, such a sore question with the community that remembers Nancy A. Youssef breaking the story that the US military was keeping an Iraqi body count -- remembers Youssef's story and realizes how little coverage it got. The government won't release that information. It's our's, the government works for us, we paid for it. There's no "national security" implications in a body count. But we can't get it. And what may be worse, we can't get indymedia to cover it (with few exceptions). For over a year now, the US military has kept a count. We don't know what it is. And without pressure, we never will. What we do know is that the UN estimated 100 Iraqis die each day in violence. How much does that register when it's not discussed?

How much does war resistance register when it's not covered? Kayla notes "Building an Intergenerational Movement:"

Joanne Sheehan, 58
Joanne Sheehan is the coordinator of WRL New England and the chair of War Resisters’ International. Her WRL/New England work includes counter-recruitment, supporting the empowerment of high school students through YouthPeace, nonviolence training, and organizing against war and merchants of death. Connected to WRL since she was 22, she served on the Executive Committee, started a local Norwich chapter, and in 1984 co-founded WRL/New England, which started the Stop War Toys Campaign. She has been on the WRI Council since 1983.
When you first joined the WRL as a young activist, did you feel intentionally supported and included? Or was it the strength of the movement at the time and general excitement that captivated you and brought you in?
It was a mix. There were so many young people coming into the movement at that time--there was a horrendous war and a draft, and it was affecting our generation directly. Sometimes I felt very supported and sometimes I didn't. I remember bitchin' and moanin' once in WRL around the Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice about how we needed more women and more young people represented. And David McReynolds turned around and said, "You can do it." And he said it not in a flippant way. And I thought, "No I can't!" So some of that is your own belief in yourself.
At other times there were real style issues. Some older folks had a real issue with activists being "too counter-culture." There were also issues around lesbian-identified groups doing activism. But I never felt that all the older people felt that way, and there were some older folks who had real respect for what you were bringing and not just as some token person under 25 or under 30. I never felt in WRL, “Oh, god, these young hippies!” I felt it in other places, but never WRL. And I was surprised that I never felt that.
Sometimes I felt more tension in gender dynamics than age dynamics. There was so much focus on the guys, because it was the guys who were getting drafted. And it was still early in the Second Wave of feminism. So I always felt it was somewhat harder for me as a young woman.
Within the organizational structure it was primarily young women who were pushing for a change in our process. Young feminists from both the East and West Coast were trying to get more of a participatory process going. There were older people at WRL who were not as supportive of those processes, or took a longer time to come to an understanding of those processes. But there were also older allies who helped develop those processes, and who gave a lot of support to the young people. So over the years the age thing changed as a more collective process was developed.

What's that from? WIN. What's WIN? "WIN Through Revolutionary Nonviolence:"

Welcome to WIN. This is the first issue of the War Resisters League's newest expression of our oldest practice: nonviolence. Although this latest incarnation is new, WIN magazine is not. The Workshop in Nonviolence (WIN), a direct action group in New York City and an affiliate of the Committee for Nonviolent Action and WRL, steadily produced a lively magazine from 1966 to 1983. In that time, a host of dedicated characters contributed to and helped produce WIN, many of whom still work closely with WRL. WIN magazine was full of beautiful artwork and articles covering everything from resistance to the Vietnam War to women’s liberation and gay rights to prisoner uprisings.
It is with a desire to remember the old WIN, and with the same commitment to radical nonviolence, that we introduce a new WIN for a new era of war resistance. Coming at you four times a year, WIN wants to be your movement manual--your organizing resource and your political inspiration--to be scribbled in, photocopied, shared, and talked back to. We want to see you often--in your local bookstore, community space, online, and (of course) on the streets.

There's so much that's not being covered. Even when indymedia and corporate media attempt to cover it, there's so much that goes uncovered. Markus notes Sara Rich "The Waiting Game" (Truthout):

It has now been 60 traumatic days since my daughter - who signed up with the Army as an MP, and after bravely serving one tour in Iraq, chose to go AWOL rather than engage in the two more tours to Iraq that awaited her - was forcibly taken from our home in handcuffs. Like many soldiers, she was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What we didn't know, what she couldn't tell us, is that she was also suffering military sexual trauma. Late the evening of Sunday June 11, 2006, PFC Suzanne Swift was taken to the county jail, where she was strip-searched and orifice-checked. She was denied medical care for an abscessed tooth until the following day. She sat in that cell for two and a half days, a veteran of Iraq combat, terrified that she may be sent back. Outside, supporters of Suzanne's plight lined the sidewalks. The mother bear in me rose up - and I swung into action. I am trying to save my daughter's life.
It has been a long 60 days. While Suzanne is still wearing her jail bracelet, she does so now at Fort Lewis, where she is awaiting her fate. She will continue to do so until she is free. Suzanne's mental health is starting to deteriorate as the Army continues to keep her without charging her. She is with a unit that is not her own. Shockingly, she still is subjected to nasty remarks and public humiliation by other soldiers and sergeants. Each time this happens she calls me in a panic crying her eyes out. One time she was sitting in the common area in the barracks. The other soldiers started taking about how much they despised Lt. Watada, the first officer to refuse deployment to Iraq on the grounds that it is an illegal occupation, and the nasty things they wanted to do to him. Suzanne has great respect for Lt. Watada, and listening to this conversation scared her so much she left the room panicked. She called me and I had to talk her down. It is saddening to Suzanne that the new unit, where she thought she was among honorable soldiers, is itself a place filled with men and women who speak with and act with dishonorable intentions.
Over and over again it is shown to us that being in the Army is no longer a safe place for Suzanne to be. Perhaps I was naive to think it ever was. My grandpa, who was a colonel in the Army, spent his life in the military. I grew up trusting that the military was a safe and fair place for people to work and be a part of. In this Army, men and women live with the threat and reality of sexual abuse and harassment - not from their enemies, but from their own. This is no longer my grandpa's Army.

With the central morgue in Baghad reporting the corpses count for July as being 1850, it's obvious that a great deal isn't being covered. It's also obvious that the so-called crackdown (which started around the time that the 2500 mark was passed), normal or 'juiced,' isn't accomplishing its aims. What is being 'accomplished' is death. Wounds. Injuries. For everyone.
Lily notes Stacy Hafley's "Open Letter to Congress from MFSO Member Stacy Hafley:" (Military Families Speak Out):

Dear Members of Congress,
People ask me every day "So is your husband home safe?"
I usually reply "Yeah, he got home from Iraq several months ago.”
What I really want to say and what's usually going through my head at that very moment is, "NO, HE IS NOT SAFE. HE IS NOT OKAY AND HE ISN"T EVEN THE SAME PERSON."
I understand that this is not an appropriate way to unload my fears and feelings on strangers so I don’t say it.
You don’t know my husband’s name (it’s Joseph Hafley), you don’t know our children (Kobe, Garrett and Jack). You didn’t sit beside me as I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, unable to drive and even stand on some days but still responsible for three small boys while my husband was away. You weren’t there when our house was condemned because of mold and I had to move my children, by myself, with no aid from the Red Cross, the Family Readiness Group or many of the associated soldier-centric agencies who are supposed to help families. It's likely you'll never hear of the constant small tragedies of life that military families must cope with when their loved one is deployed and when they return from combat.
Go to sleep tonight knowing that while you slumber there are mothers and wives crying and pacing in an attempt to console their grief and control their anger. Understand that while you sleep there are mothers rocking their inconsolable children trying to explain to them why daddy is gone. If you wake in the night, look over and notice that there is likely not a person next to you sitting up, sweatng and shaking remembering Iraq because they heard thunder and thought they were under fire. Remember as you have breakfast tomorrow that in thousands of households across the U.S. a family member is bearing the entire responsibility of the household while under the stress of wondering if their loved one has survived another day or reassuring their returned soldier who cannot find a job.
Can you (as our political body) and others see that there is an emotional war raging here not only as they face the front lines in Iraq, but upon their return?
Before you take your next vote on prolonging, funding or engaging in war, consult an Iraqi veteran and take a look at the faces of the soldiers and their families, not just at the numbers on a sheet of paper.
I have decided that from now on when people ask me if my husband is okay I am going to say "NO, he is tormented by the war daily. And until our Representatives here in the State of Missouri look at our husbands, wives, daughters and sons as people; living, beathing, loving, human beings not toy soldiers and focus on getting our troops home, he will continue to not be okay."
Advocating for troop withdrawal,
Stacy Hafley~ Wife of an Iraq war veteran
President, Missouri/Midwest Chapter, Military Families Speak Out

Blogger/Blogspot was down for some of this evening. I'm carrying over some thoughts to Sunday evening's entry. The e-mail address for this site is and corporate media, if you've got a whine, note it, a good laugh always make a day brighter. But trying climbing off that cross because, unless you nailed yourself to it, you're in danger of a nasty fall.