Sunday, August 27, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Ty and Jess here guesting for C.I. who had a business/social function this evening. We'll start out by noting Jeffrey St. Clair's "What I'm Listening to this Week" (CounterPunch) because we borrowed (with credit) that for a feature at The Third Estate Sunday Review some time ago. When Dona is hollering for a short feature so we can (ha ha) meet the deadline for each Sunday's edition, we'll frequently do one and it's popular enough to be requested from time to time by our readers. So we'll again note that we borrowed the idea from St. Clair and, most weekends, you can find a playlist at CounterPunch. We're always curious what will make the list and enjoy reading it whether or not we know all the songs or only some. It's a way to connect, a way to share and we think music matters. Especially at a time when most people seem more determined to compile a list of "funnies" because they have "grown out" of music listening. We have nothing against chuckles, but we'd argue in these times we could use more music.

Kristen Breitweiser, most prominent of the 9/11 widows who became known as the Jersey Girls, voted for Bush in 2000. Her late husband, Ron, idolized Cheney. But in her new autobiography, Breitweiser recounts the fear that overtook her while watching the 2004 Republican National Convention. "I heard the expressions 'war for a lifetime' and '9/11' repeated endlessly," Breitweiser writes in "Wake-Up Call." "I started thinking about Caroline and her future. I started getting scared about her safety. I didn't want to hand her a war for the next hundred years. That wasn't my job as a mom."
If we now are embarked on a contemporary hundred years' war, what will historians say was its cause? Certainly 9/11 was the watershed event, but before that was the founding of Israel in 1948 and before that, the carving up of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. What separates Bush from other world leaders who have tried to contain the centrifugal forces of the Middle East is not a lack of historical information or sound advice or allies who seek the same goals.
It is his own distorted thinking, a trait that is personal and not political, and has put the United States on a path that runs through darkness.

That's from Maria Cocco's "Iraq: a War About Nothing" (Common Dreams) and Molly noted that. Molly notes that Cocco's writing about Monday's press conference the Bully Boy held and how he said "Nothing" when asked what Iraq had to do with 9-11? Molly also notes this from
Ava and C.I.'s "TV: Make Room For Bully peters out" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):

In Monday's episode Bully Boy was blathering on about Iraq and how "The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East. They were -- " Which led to a day player interrupting.
Day Player: What did Iraq have to do with that?
Bully Boy: What did Iraq have to do with that?
Day Player: The attacks upon the World Trade Center.
Bully Boy: Nothing.

It was a promising moment and the exchange appeared to be going somewhere. But then the writers had Bully Boy states: "Nobody's ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq."
We waited for the Day Player, or any of them, to challenge that assertion because, certainly, real reporters would, right?
We can remember two reporters challenging this link in September of 2003,
Dana Priest and Glenn Kessler in The Washington Post:
In making the case for war against Iraq, Vice President Cheney has continued to suggest that an Iraqi intelligence agent met with a Sept. 11, 2001, hijacker five months before the attacks, even as the story was falling apart under scrutiny by the FBI, CIA and the foreign government that first made the allegation.

Molly writes, "It's not enough that his 'Nothing" is commented on. People need to remember that the "Nothing" comes after constant attempts to link 9/11 and Iraq ad infinitum." Molly's right. Bully Boy's late admission needs to be covered but it needs more than "He admits there was no link between Iraq and 9-11"; it needs reporters noting that this admission comes after the administration repeatedly used that false link to scare us and to frighten us into an illegal war.

Brandon notes this from Reuters via Truthout on the war so many want to ignore:

Baghdad - A bomb blew apart a minibus in central Baghdad on Sunday, killing nine people, the day after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki again called on ethnically and religiously divided Iraqis to reconcile to end the bloodshed.
The blast, which sent thick black smoke billowing into the sky, followed a car bomb attack on the offices of Iraq's best-selling newspaper, the government-owned al-Sabah, which killed two employees and damaged the building extensively.
The blasts occurred despite a major security operation by thousands of American and Iraqi troops to bring peace to the capital. Sectarian and insurgent violence claimed the lives of more than 3,000 Iraqis in July alone.
Police said 20 bodies had been found in various districts of Baghdad on Saturday. Some bore signs of torture and most had been killed by gunshots to the head, a typical feature of the communal bloodshed between the Shi'ite and Sunni sects.

Sing 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 Sunday, the American military fatality count in Iraq stood at 2607. Tonight? 2624. When C.I. told us this afternoon that the count had gone up, we thought it would be 2618 or so. When we just looked we said, "Holy f**k!" That's seventeen. Where the hell has the Iraq coverage been? While we were working on the edition last night, Jim and C.I. both noted that the count for the month had risen to 44 but it now stands at 47. Let's repeat, where's the coverage?

____ has a new book coming out and we can't think of one damn reason to pick it up. She has dropped the ball on Iraq since the end of June (when her program ignored Nancy A. Youssef's article about the American military keeping a body count of Iraq civilians who'd died -- and keeping it for over a year now -- blew the lid off the lie "We don't do body counts"). Iraq fell out of the coverage because a decision was made that it didn't matter, that it could wait. We don't support that call, we don't endorse it and we don't support who make it.

So we have no use for her at present and we have no use for the upcoming 'cause.' The Iraq war still drags on. People still die. We have no use for media, independent or mainstream, that treats war as an after thought -- to steal from Mike. Francisco notes Cindy Sheehan's "A Mother's Pain" (Common Dreams):

I am still here in Texas recuperating from my surgeries and hoping to be back on my feet next week to go and protest George with Mayor Rocky in Salt Lake City and be up and about when he comes back to Crawford for the Labor Day Weekend. Apparently George Bush is a "regular guy" who meets with his constituents, so I am looking forward to finally getting the meeting with him that I have been asking for all year long.
I want the meeting to call George on his many deceptions. If he or the other greedy neocons never said the exact words: "Saddam ordered 9/11," they made the connections over and over and they also told us that Saddam had WMD and that he was trying to buy yellow cake uranium from Niger. I want the meeting with George so I can express to him in very human and emotional terms how painful it is to bury a part of oneself. Even if it is not for lies, it is not natural or normal to bury a child. I want the meeting with George to demand that he bring our other children home from the nightmare of Iraq even while the war mongers are activating more Marines to go to the Middle East and stop-lossing other troops who just want to come home.
I want the meeting because I don't want another mother to feel such unnecessary and unrelenting pain. Even though some people try to demonize me and assign sinister motives to my quest for peace, this is my basic goal. Not one more.

But many more will die unless people getting serious about ending the war. That doesn't mean you can spend your time dabbling to endorse a new war -- but that's what some are doing. And while they beg their beloved Bully Boy to send troops into Darfur, Bully Boy's got his eye on Iran. After you beg on your knees to Bully Boy to send troops to Darfur, if he does, will you be so grateful that you look the other way when he goes to war on Iran?

So many people are hopeless because they choose to be. They have no focus. And so you get the "We must beg the Bully Boy to act on Darfur" movement. You beg him, you blow him. We're trying to end a war, not trying to start new ones.

From Reuters, the forgotten war led to 16 people shot dead in Khalis today and 25 wounded, car bombs killed nine and left 22 wounded in Kirkuk while a truck bomb killed a guard and injured 16 people, in Basra a bomb killed seven and left ten wounded, three civilians were shot dead in Mosul, in Abara three men were shot dead ("two brothers and their cousin"), in Numaniya a man was shot dead, and in Muqdadiya "a lieutenant colonel in the Iraqi army" was shot dead. That's 41 dead in Iraq today but we aren't finished yet. In Baghad, from Reuters still, a US soldier was killed by gun fire today and yesterday a US solider was killed by a bomb, a minibus bomb killed nine people and wounded 20 more, and a car bomb "outside the offices of the state-run newspaper al-Sabah" left two dead and 18 wounded. Counting the one US soldier who died today in the count, that's 53 reported dead in Iraq today. But like the twenty corpses discovered yesterday in Baghdad, you can be sure more died and their deaths were unknown.

That's reality and acting like it isn't while you play the Red Cross rushing from crisis to crisis doesn't end the Iraq war. Running in circles like a chicken with your head cut off doesn't end the war in Iraq. Begging and pleading and swallowing for Darfur doesn't end the war in Iraq. The pathetic state of so much independent media doesn't end the war in Iraq.

At The Third Estate Sunday Review, we again emphasized Iraq (third week in a row). Here's what you may have missed:

Editorial: If what Watada's standing up for matters, treat it like it matters - Oh yeah, Ehren Watada, remember him? We don't think independent media does.
TV: Washington Weak - hilarious commentary on Washington Week by Ava and C.I. Who's The Bobble Headed Pundit? Read it and find out.
Denis Halliday said what? - Where was independent media during Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing? On a smoke break? Apparently. You need to know what Denis Halliday's testimony was about and why it was cut off -- maybe you'll understand then why the media (mainstream) didn't cover it.
It's not just Camilo Mejia, or Brandon Hughey, or Jeremy Hinzman, or Pablo Paredes, or . . . - Carl Webb's a name you should know.
Courage to Resist's latest alert on Ehren Watada - Ehren Watada. While indymedia was leaping around the globe for topics last week, they again, with few exceptions, ignored Watada. Yeah, that's how you end the war, ignoring it. As C.I. would say, that was sarcasm.
A public relations coup gone awry? - Jake Kovco, a soldier who died in Baghdad. After his death, were things made worse by a War Hawk eager to spin into Operation Happy Talk with lots of press coverage?
How to be a print pundit - Some "die" long before they die.
TV: Make Room For Bully peters out - the second of three TV commentaries by Ava & C.I. They knocked themselves out this week. Jim wanted this and they agreed it needed to be addressed (Bully Boy's p.r. conference).
How do you say, "We're abandoning the base in 24 hours"? - It's amazing how few know that the British abandoned a base in Iraq. Where were you independent media?
Books: Sadly from Paul Bremer, Every Picture Tells A Story - Don't suffer through the mind numbing text, Bremer's story of self can be told just by looking at the pictures.
TV: Vanishing - the third Ava & C.I. TV commentary. Jim had asked for the press conference and for this. Though the reaction to the two weeks prior of Iraq coverage had been positive, Jim wanted to be sure that if we did a third week, the 'calling card' -- Ava & C.I.'s review -- offered up a TV show. He didn't want readers getting antsy. It was a lot to ask them to do three reviews and we all think they did them wonderfully. So do most who've e-mailed already.
In war and pain, 13 albums - our playlist during the writing of the edition.

Get the word out on Ehren Watada this week. Really work hard.

Pru is back from her vacation and has a highlight but also notes that back from vacation means back to doing her column in the gina & krista round-robin. Tonight, she highlights "Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef on 'bullet censorship'" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Acclaimed Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef spoke to Jonathan Maunder the about his life and work, and about the current state of politics and poetry in the Middle East
Saadi Youssef is one of Iraq's best known poets. His work is renowned throughout the Middle East and beyond. He has translated numerous writers into Arabic, including George Orwell, Federico Garcia Lorca and Walt Whitman. Saadi fled Iraq in 1979 after Saddam Hussein tightened his hold on power. He now lives just outside London.
With the recent Israeli onslaught on Lebanon in mind, I asked Saadi about the time he spent living in Beirut during Israel’s 1982 invasion of the country.
"I was there for three months of the siege," he said. "In that situation you can't be safe for a moment. There is constant fear -- one time I was walking on the street and a mortar bomb landed 50 yards from me.
"Writers and poets played a very important role at the time. There were many journals that would publish work by poets in Beirut.
"These would be sent out to those on the front line resisting Israel, so they were very influential in this sense.
"The Lebanese Communist Party printed a daily newspaper. During the siege many poets played a crucial role in maintaining it, as many of the journalists were out fighting. Writing poetry was a way of maintaining hope at a time of great horror."
How does he view the recent Israeli offensive? "I think that what is going on at the moment is similar to what happened in 1918, after the First World War and the collapse of the Ottoman empire. The whole region was redrawn and colonised by the West.
"Today I think we are seeing something similar, an attempt to colonise the region again. It's not just the US, but the Europeans too. The French could be going back into Lebanon -- just as they did in 1918!"
Saadi started writing poetry in his late teens. I asked what caused him to start writing.
"People, especially poor people in Iraq, appreciate poetry,” he said. “It started for me as a political expression -- but after a while poetry reaches a kind of independence of artistic form. You can't sacrifice art to politics".
The natural environment of southern Iraq -- its date palms, birds, marshes -- is a major influence on Saadi's poetry, but he finds it hard to separate this from political realities.
"I can be observing a tree, watching how it is blown by the wind, how it looks. But then I can hear the sound of war planes overhead. I believe nature repairs what war does to you.
"So it is hard to separate out my poetry and politics. On a surface level they are separate, but I think in a deeper sense they are very interwoven.
"Personal experience is the normal way of beginning any work of art. When I write poetry, sometimes it can mean meditating on an idea for a few days and then writing, or it can be writing first and then developing it.
"People need poetry. It helps people who maybe cannot get to a theatre or cinema to get in touch with an artistic form -- poetry is accessible".
Why does he think poetry is so central to Middle Eastern culture? "The oral tradition is very important. Partly this stems from censorship. The first thing to be searched for at Arab airports is not drugs or guns, but books!
"But poetry you can smuggle across borders. Novels can be censored easily, but poetry stays in the head.
"People respect poets more than politicians, who are usually corrupt."
We talk about his life in Iraq. "When I was in secondary school in Basra in the 1940s around a third of the students in my class were Jewish.
Later, when Israel was created in 1948, the Israelis did a deal with the Iraqi government to transfer the Iraqi Jews to Israel.
"Half a million were transferred. The Iraqi government got a £5 commission for every ticket they sold to an Iraqi Jew to go to Israel.
"Today the young generation in Israel aren't taught about their roots in the Arab world, even though their grandparents may have come from there."
"I went to study at the University of Baghdad in the mid 1950s. Cultural life in Iraq was rich then.
"I and many other students were also very active in political life. There were many strikes at that time, which we helped to lead.
"I was a member of the Iraqi Communist Party, as many of the youth were. It was a major political party at that time.
"All the trade unions and peasant organisations were led by Communist Party members. There were a number of famous clerics who were also in the party. But in the late 1960s the US assisted the Baathists in destroying the party."
Where does he see Iraq going under the occupation? "Under the Ottoman empire Iraq was divided into three separate regions. The current talk of sectarian division is to prepare the ground once again for the division of Iraq.
"In terms of access to oil, a federal structure is easier to manipulate than a central government. But Iraq has no history of sectarian division.
"There is 'bullet censorship' in Iraq at the moment. Two women Iraqi writers who I know and respect have recently fled, one a novelist, the other a journalist.
"There's a reign of terror going on. The occupation is turning a blind eye to it. As in the old days, the fight for political and artistic freedom is the same."
Alongside military and economic colonisation there is cultural colonisation, Saadi notes.
"Recently there was a gathering of important Iraqi cultural figures in Jordan who have links to the occupation. There was top security and a very small audience.
"I think the majority of Iraqi poets are against the occupation, but there is no real organisation between them. There is a need for a central, organised opposition to the occupation."
He says of the US, "There is much I love about America, like jazz culture for example.
"I have great respect for the American people, I just oppose the American war machine."
This is reflected in his poem "America, America", where he condemns the first Gulf War but also writes about the feelings of a US soldier disillusioned with the fighting.
I finish by asking him about the future of poetry in the Middle East. "There are a lot of younger poets today who send me their work, from North Africa as well as the Middle East.
"For the last 20 years this poetry has had a gloomy atmosphere, expressing feelings of dislocation and frustration. But when politics gets hotter, the poets will come out of their cocoons."
A personal song
Is it Iraq?
Blessed is the one who said
I know the road, which leads to it;
Blessed is the one whose lips uttered
The four letters:
"Iraq, Iraq, nothing but Iraq."
Distant missiles will applaud;
Soldiers armed to the teeth will storm us;
Minarets and houses will crumble;
Palm trees will collapse under the bombing;
The shores will be crowded
With floating corpses.
We will seldom see
Al-Tahrir Square
In books of elegies and photographs;
Restaurants and hotels will be our roadmaps
And our home in the paradise of shelter:
McDonald's, KFC
Holiday Inn;
And we will be drowned
Like your name,
O Iraq,
"Iraq, Iraq, nothing but Iraq"*

* The line is from the poem Unshudat al-Matar (Rainsong) by the pioneering Iraqi poet Badr Shakir al-Sayyab (1926-64)
Thanks to Sabah Jawad and Anne Alexander for their help in arranging this interview. Without an Alphabet, Without a Face: Selected Poems by Saadi Youssef is translated by Khaled Mattawa and published by Graywolf Press.
© Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place.

The public e-mail address for visitors is Ty and Jess filling in for C.I. and the opinions expressed in this entry represent on our thoughts and may or may not represent the thoughts of others. (And Keesha e-mailed to note an Emmy win and that Ava & C.I. called it in May. We know, we got in the Emmy pool on that one.)