Thursday, August 24, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

It is staggering. It is horrifying. But, then again, it isn't. It is what we have come to expect of this war and those who have misled our nation into it.
According to the Washington Post, the commanding officer of the battalion involved in the Haditha massacre last November told military investigators "he did not consider the deaths of 24 Iraqis, many of them women and children, unusual and did not initiate an inquiry."
And the New York Times reported last week on the felony assault conviction of
David Passaro, a CIA contractor accused of beating an Afghan prisoner for two days with "a flashlight and his fists" until the man pleaded to be shot and then died the following day.
These two stories reveal -- once again -- the lack of accountability and prosecution up the chain of command. Those who sit on high have attempted to erase such "quaint" legal restraints as the Geneva Conventions while blaming the lowest ranking soldiers for waging the war they have created.

The above is from Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Whitewash" (Editor's Cut, The Nation) and Maria noted it. Lack of accountability and prosecution up the chain of command is an issue, to be sure, it's also true that the 'few bad apples' tend to get slaps on the wrist. No one's being held accountable on any level.

And, as we noted this morning, from Josh White's "Marine Called Haditha Shootings Appropriate" (Washington Post), the person put in charge of the initial investigation didn't see anything worrisome about what happened (to Iraqis):

When asked if anyone ever hinted that the situation that day was considered inappropriate or if something bad had happened, Laughner answered: "No, just that a Marine died. That is the only bad thing."

That is the only bad thing. Well let's get to 'the only bad thing,' but first, the song:

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 2604. Tonight? 2619. Now that's not 'the only bad thing' about the illegal war. But it is a tragedy. And it's a tragedy that latest wave of Operation Happy Talk wants you to ignore. That's fifteen deaths in seven days.

But AP is reporting that General John Abizaidsay the violence in Baghdad has 'slowed' and that he and George Casey are "optimistic." Maybe Johnny and Georgie are just plain stupid?

As the AP article, Patrick Quinn's "U.S. Generals say Baghdad violence slows," notes:

But the bloodshed persisted with three car bombs in Baghdad and a series of bombings and shootings across the country killing at least 16 Iraqis and two U.S. soldiers on Thursday. Another U.S. soldier was killed the previous day, the military said.

This went on and it's not very optimistic. The count doesn't include the corpses that were discovered today. They died when? Not in the daily totals. But they will be part of the monthly total that led the United Nations to estimate a hundred Iraqis are dying each day.

Quinn notes that 12,000 troops were sent into Baghdad (in addition to the ones already there before the latest juiced version of 'crackdown'). Yesterday's The KPFA Evening News noted that we're back up to 138,000 American troops in Iraq. So the AFP's "Marines Call-up Reflects Deepening Strains on US Military" isn't really suprising. (Rebecca and Mike both discussed it in their posts today and The Third Estate Sunday Review noted it Sunday.)

The crackdown is nothing but Whack-A-Mole and no cause for excitement. As John McCain noted, it's pulling everyone into one area to address a 'crisis' and then, when that's calm (or something else flares even more violent), moving to the next one. It's not a strategy. Neither is "add more" (McCain's belief -- more troops on the ground). Three years and five months into the illegal war and there's no new plan by the Bully Boy, just more of the same. (Adding more troops on the ground is more of the same.)

Brenda notes Kat's "The fear push is coming" and Norman Solomon's "The Mythical End to the Politics of Fear" (CounterPunch):

Nearly five years into the "war on terror," it's still at the core of American media and politics.
Yeah, I've seen the recent polls showing a drop in public support for President Bush's "war on terror" claims. And I've read a spate of commentaries this month celebrating Bush's current lack of political traction on the terrorism issue, like the New York Times piece by Frank Rich last Sunday triumphantly proclaiming that "the era of Americans' fearing fear itself is over."
That's a comforting thought, hovering somewhere between complacent and delusional.
Reflexive fear may be on vacation, but it hasn't quit. The "war on terror" motif is fraying -- but it remains close at hand as a mighty pretext for present and future warfare.
The U.S. war effort in Iraq is, if anything, more horrific than it was a year ago. Back then, in late summer, Frank Rich wrote a Times column -- under the headline "Someone Tell the President the War Is Over" -- mocking Bush's assertion on Aug. 11, 2005, that "no decision has been made yet" about withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Responding in print days later, Rich concluded: "The country has already made the decision for Mr. Bush. We're outta there."
A year later, are we "outta there"? Only via the intellectualizing gymnastics of punditland.

We're not out of there. Bully Boy's announced that as long as he occupies the White House, the war will drag on. (Again, is he attempting to incite the impeachment drive?) During Vietnam, the figures climbed as high as the low 70 percentile. The country has turned against the war, the opinion continues to harden (it's not changing). The ever cautious New York Timid had a low ball figure this week but it was still large enough. It'll continue to grow higher. You'll see more protests, more standing up like Ehren Watada.

Bob Watada is speaking out to raise awareness of his son's stand. Liang notes Ben Hamamoto's "Bob Watada, Lt. Ehren Watada's Father, Comes to Bay Area, Draws Supporters" (Nichi Bei Times):

At his JCCCNC appearance, the elder Watada answered those who said his son should not protest, as he knew there was a war when he signed up for the Armed Forces.
"When he first went to Ft. Lewis," the elder Watada explained, "there was a striker brigade that was going to be leaving for Iraq in several months. He offered to join that unit."
According to his father, Lt. Watada was turned down and while he awaited assignment to a unit that would deploy, he was instructed by his commanders to "study everything you need to know about Iraq, because you owe it to your men... this is when he began to realize that the president was openly lying to the people." After undertaking such studies, the younger Watada came to the conclusion that "the military is being used by the Bush Administration simply to provide cover for the multi-national corporations to privatize large parts of Iraq."
In the end, it was the news of the abuse and killing of Iraqi civilians -- men, women and children -- that brought him to the conclusion that he would resist deployment.
Initially, the elder Watada opposed the idea. "It's not worth it," he told his son. He felt that as an artillery officer, the lieutenant could avoid combat entirely by staying in the "green zone."
The younger Watada opted not to do this and instead took what his father calls "the more courageous path."
To those who think the younger Watada simply wants attention, his father says he does not think his son would find personal fame alone worth the attacks on his character, the stress and the jail time he faces.
"There is a bigger story that Ehren wants to get out," he says. "No matter what happens to him, he wants me to go out and tell people what is happening in Iraq. He wants me to talk about the men women and children, the torture that people are going through... The story you see in the mainstream media is not the true story of Iraq."

We're going to again note the story NBC11 did today "Army Officer Could Be Punished For Refusing To Go To Iraq" -- and we're noting it again for a reason:

Watada may stand trial on charges of missing troop movement, conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt toward officials.
If Watada goes to trial and is convicted, he could face more than seven years in prison.

There's an article from an indymedia site (one we often note and by a writer we've noted before) that three members e-mailed about. Had we all missed it? Had a decision been handed down on the Article 32 hearing? No.

A program decided this week to cover (in a few sentences) Ehren Watada. Possibly it was too embarrassing to note that they were playing catch up. So they presented the story (and Rebecca and Mike both covered this in detail) as 'new.' It led to people thinking that a decision had come down on the Article 32 hearing. On Tuesday, we noted here: "Despite confusion in the e-mails, he has not been charged with anything today. (A program announced he had, they were covering Thursday's Article 32 hearing.) " No decision has been made. If one had been made on Tuesday, Bob Watada would have known. As we noted Wednesday, Philip Maldari interviewed Bob Watada that day (live) on KPFA's The Morning Show. Had a decision been reached, Bob Watada would have noted it. No decision has been reached. (Like Eric Seitz, Ehren Watada's civilian attorney, Bob Watada expects that the decision will be to move towards a court-martial; however, no decision has been announced yet.)

That news item (on the Tuesday program), all three sentences, presented Thursday's hearing in such a way that people misunderstood what was being announced. The members e-mailing on the indymedia story wondered if a decision had been announced? No. The indymedia journalist obviously got his information from the Tuesday program. That's too bad because he has written a piece that would be worth highlighting were it not for the fact that it claims a decision of court-martialing Ehren Watada has been reached. I don't feel the need to link to something that's incorrect.

Again, there has been no decision made from the Article 32 hearing yet. It will probably come down shortly (possibly as early as tomorrow). But as of yet, no decision. When you're led to believe that, someone's either misinformed or they're trying to present you with last week's news in a manner that doesn't call attention to the fact that last week they elected not to cover it.

If that's harsh (no member's going to complain, I know) that's toobad. You present yourselves as a news program than you need to present the news accurately. Rebecca's got the item at her site (and refuting it) so we'll borrow it and post it here (with no link except to Rebecca so save the e-mails of complaint, we're not linking, the community's been very vocal on that):

In an update in a story we’ve been following: First Lt. Ehren Watada has been charged with three offenses for refusing to fight in Iraq. In June he became the first US military officer to openly oppose the war in Iraq. He was charged with Conduct Unbecoming an Officer, Missing Movement, and Contempt toward Officials.

That left some people confused. It should have read:

In an update in a story we last covered some time ago: First Lt. Ehren Watada was charged with three offenses for refusing to fight in Iraq and, last Thursday, an Article 32 hearing heard testimony. No decision has yet been reached but it is expected to come shortly. Watada's civilian attorney has stated that he believes the military will move towards a court-martial. In June Ehren Watada became the first US military officer to openly oppose the war in Iraq. The charges the presiding officer in the Article 32 hearing is currently weighing are: Conduct Unbecoming an Officer, Missing Movement, and Contempt toward Officials.

To repeat, no determination has been made. Lt. Col. Mark Keith is expected to issue the recommendation shortly but has not yet done so (he could recommend that the charges be dismissed, he could recommend court-martial).

Though independent media largely ignored the story (we noted exceptions here) in real time, mainstream media did cover it. When the finding is announced, you can expect to see it noted by many of the same organizations (big or small) that covered it in real time.

In case a visitor is confused, we'll go to Melanthia Mitchell's "Hearing set for Fort Lewis soldier refusing to go to Iraq" (AP) written before the hearing started, running the morning of August 17th (the day the hearing began and ended but had not yet started when the story began making the wires) and I'll provide comments in brackets:

A lawyer for an Army officer facing possible court-martial for refusing to go to Iraq says he has lined up two witnesses to support the soldier’s claim that the war is illegal.
A hearing to determine whether 1st Lt. Ehren Watada will stand trial was scheduled Thursday at Fort Lewis, about 50 miles south of Seattle.
Watada, 28, of Honolulu, was charged last month [that would be July] with conduct unbecoming an officer, missing troop movement and contempt toward officials. [Those are the charges the program repeated as 'news' on Tuesday.] He refused to deploy to Iraq on June 22 with his Stryker unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division based at Fort Lewis.

Sadly, there was another article that we'll have to take a pass on as well because it also maintains that it's been decided to court-martial Ehren Watada. That's likely what will happen; however, that decision has not been announced. To repeat, Bob Watada spoke with Philip Maldari on Wednesday. He thinks the military will move towards court-martialing his son. But the decision has not been reached and anyone still confused should listen to Wednesday's broadcast of KPFA's The Morning Show (the broadcast is archived, there's no fee to listen to it -- the interview comes following the news headlines in the second hour of the broadcast).

Marcia notes "Recuriters struggle to meet lowered targets but gays and lesbians are still 'unfit'" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) as well as "As Marine Corps Gay Discharges Increase, Bush Issues Involuntary Recall to Bridge Recruiting Gap; 953 Marines Discharged Since 1993" (Common Dreams):

WASHINGTON - August 23 - As the Marine Corps' dismissal of lesbian and gay troops increases, President Bush has authorized an involuntary recall of Marine Corps Individual Ready Reservists (IRR) "because there are not enough volunteers returning for duty in Afghanistan and Iraq," according to a report from CNN. The recall, which is meant to bridge a recruitment shortfall of about 1,200 people, follows a report in May that the Corps' dismissal of service members under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian and gay personnel has increased for the first time since 2001. Since 1993, the Marine Corps has dismissed 953 men and women under the law.
"If President Bush is truly interested in boosting the manpower of our services, he should immediately endorse repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). "Every day, our armed forces lose at least two people because of the ban on open service. Those men and women are ready, willing and able to serve, but are prohibited from doing so because of an outdated law that has no useful purpose. Our closest allies in Iraq and Afghanistan already benefit from welcoming openly gay troops, and we should as well. Today's news is yet another compelling reason for Congress to lift the ban."
More than 11,000 men and women have been dismissed under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" since the law was implemented. According to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), more than 800 of those had skills deemed "critical" by the Department of Defense, including linguistic training, medical skills and expertise in combat engineering.
"Every day, the Marine Corps loses good men and women because of this law, and every day, others choose not to re-enlist because they are officially unwelcome in the services," said former Marine Sergeant and Iraq War veteran Brian Fricke. "The readiness of our armed forces should be our primary concern, not the bias and prejudice that keeps 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in place. Every American benefits when every qualified American who wants to serve is given the opportunity to do so."
A Congressional bill to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is now supported by 119 bi-partisan members of Congress. For more information on the law, visit

Lastly, the snapshot was tagged for Cindy Sheehan today but had no item. A friend passed on about her release from the hospital but there was no story on that yet. I had tagged the thing already and focused on the inquiry into Jake Kovco's hearing. When I finished that, I called around and still no story so I posted (and forgot Sheehan was in the tag -- those things are done in start-and-stops when I grab the time -- if they read disajointed to you, that's why). From the Waco Tribune's "War protester is on the mend, supporters say:"

War protester Cindy Sheehan was released from Providence Health Center today and is recuperating from surgery in a motel room in McGregor.
Depending on how she feels Friday, Sheehan may attend a news conference at her newly purchased property in Crawford. The conference is being held by Carlos and Mélida Arredondo of Roslindale, Mass., to commemorate the death of his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Alexander Scott Arredondo, killed in An Najaf, Iraq, on Aug. 25, 2004.
Sheehan, who first brought her protest of the Iraq war to President Bush's nearby ranch a year ago, has found this year's August peace vigil a trying one, marred by exhaustion, hospital stays, recuperation and Bush’s own altered schedule.

But she has fought on and Camp Casey III has gone on. She'll be taking part in the DC actions next month, she'll be in Salt Lake City August 31st to protest beside the city's mayor, Rocky Anderson, and others Bully Boy's speech. And of course, she started the month of August in Jordan with other peace activists as they met with Iraqis. August was also when, following doctor's orders, she had to go off the Troops Home Fast (after nearly forty days of fasting). The fast is on day 52 and 4,833 people were participating on Thursday. The mass action officially ends on September 21st (though some may continue) and those wishing to participate can grab a one-time, one-day fast, a one-day a week fast or a multi-day fast. Those grabbing a multi-day fast should seek consult with their health care provider/advisor before embarking on the action.

One more thing. A visitor responded to my comment that we weren't a court cite by noting the coverage of Jake Kovco. We cover Kovco because we have a lot of Australian members and they made it an issue for the community from the start. That's actually a military inquiry and not a civilian court case. If it was covered in the US media, we probably wouldn't cover it in the snapshot. We'd do excerpts in other entries. But it's not covered. For those late to the story, Jake Kovco died April 21st in Baghdad. He's the first Australian soldier to die on the ground in Iraq in this war. Before the wrong body was sent to Australia, we'd already been covering it. When the wrong body was sent back to Australia, I did think the US media might get on the story. That didn't happen. That's been true before the inquiry started and throughout the inquiry.

Did I think Kovco accidentally shoot himself? The visitor wanted to know that. I have no idea what happened. I don't think Kovco intentionally shot himself. After that, I have no idea. There is DNA from others on the gun. (One person has been identified but other DNA could not be called that person's.) The two roommates assert they don't know what happened. A soldier originally stated he heard a cry of "God Is Great!" before the gunshot. He's now retracted his statement. Witnesses testimony seems to contradict from one day to the next.

Assuming it was Kovco who (accidentally) shot himself, the procedures that should have been followed weren't and that goes to more than unloading the weapon at the end of a shift. There are some serious issues being raised in the hearing. (Australian members are no longer impressed with the media coverage they are getting now with few exceptions. They feel that it's too much, "Today . . ." that never bothers to examine how the testimony agrees or refutes earlier testimony.) I thank members for their e-mails and friends for taking my calls (despite the time difference) as I try to follow it. We cover it because big media didn't in the United States and because members in Australia take Jake Kovco very seriously (as does the rest of the communtiy thanks to their bringing the issue to the community's attention).

The visitor said he was tired of "the widow and his parents trying to use the guy for their anti-war beliefs." Shelley Kovco (Jake Kovco's widow and the mother of their two children) is not against the war. I don't believe Judy and Martin Kovco (Jake Kovco's parents) have issued any statement about the war. Jake Kovco's story should matter. Giving it the best possible outcome (it was an accident that involved no one else), the military created the environment in which it happened -- both the accident and the confusion that followed it -- and did that by ignoring procedures in place and not having procedures (such as the laughable 'we had a buddy-system!' no, you didn't). That's my opinion. We have members who would agree with that and we have members who are convinced that more went on. (And it may have.)

Olive was the first one to note Jake Kovco's death (the day after, I believe) and she included a copy and paste of a newspaper photo in her e-mail. I felt for him and his family then. (And do now.) But no, I didn't think we'd be covering it four months later. But that was dependent upon it being covered domestically (United States) and us being able to excerpt those highlights. Didn't happen. His story deserves to be known and we'll continue to follow the inquiry while it's hearing testimony and we'll note the final report they issue.

As for the Pendleton Eight, the visitor brought that up, we don't cover them "every day." We do pick up on something like Abeer because (as with Kovco) the coverage that should have been there wasn't. (We'll probably continue to cover that case when it moves to the US civilian court for Steven D. Green's case.) If, as you say, it bothers you, don't read it. We're not thrown to your doorstep and we haven't charged you anything to read. If the snapshot is "too much" for you then (a) don't read it and (b) consider asking yourself why you support the (illegal) war if you can't stomach the realities of it?

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