Thursday, September 07, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

He was a tough kid and determined to take what they could give him, but the dirty needle was too much.
Join the Marines, spit up blood.
Talk about a military that's strained to the breaking point. They're enforcing stop-loss orders, calling up the reserves, extending the enlistment age (in a recent spoof of a recruitment ad on "The Daily Show," doddering oldsters were lured to sign up with the phrase, "Remember, when you have a gun in your hands, they have to listen to your stories"). This is the paradox of waging an unpopular, morally ambiguous war.
What happened to 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Matt Solowynsky at the beginning of this year shows another aspect of the strain. The process of dehumanizing the enemy -- the sine qua non of every war in human history, and crushingly obvious when a war grinds on without a clear strategic objective -- sooner or later backs up on itself.
Part of the toxic waste of war embeds itself in the emotions and the soul of the combatants. That Guantanamo energy, that gusto to terrorize helpless detainees, to humiliate unarmed civilians, isn't so easily contained, and begins corrupting the whole system. When a designated enemy isn't available, anyone -- a new recruit, say -- will do.
"He didn't do anything but be a gung-ho Marine," said Tod Ensign of Citizen Soldier, the organization that eventually came to Solowynsky's aid. Indeed, he was the highest ranked recruit in his class when he graduated from Marine Corps Basic Training last September. How odd that, a few months later, he was AWOL, fleeing Camp Pendleton, Calif., as though he were a POW.
The psychiatrist he saw a short while later called his flight "by far, his most responsible option." And, according to his lawyer, Louis Font, Solowynsky was well within his rights, under the Universal Code of Military Justice, to do what he did. If he has a court-martial trail -- he surrendered to the Marines at Quantico, Va., on Aug. 22 -- his defense will be his right to leave an abusive situation.

The above is from Robert C. Koehler's "SEMPER WHY?" (Citizen Soldier) and was noted by Jonah. A face to the war and the damage it does. Another face was requested by Skip and Nora, from The Autralian's excerpts of the statement Ben Kovco read for his family at the hearing into the April 21st Baghdad death of his step-brother Jake Kovco:

"Given the current evidence of Jake's roommates, at the time officers in Iraq would have very soon after the incident been aware that neither could, or was willing to say, how Jake was killed. Under these circumstances, even the most ill-informed, indeed an individual who had never before investigated a potential crime scene, would know better than to allow the only potential witnesses to wash their clothes and themselves, return to their daily duties and then allow the clothing of the deceased to be destroyed.
"Trained military officers and MPs have no excuse. They are not new to this environment. It is hard to imagine what the NSW Police officers must have thought, arriving to a fully stripped, effectively sterilised room with a couple of blood stains on the carpet and a hole in the ceiling. "Hearing the testimony of the soldiers directly involved with Jake on April 21st was frustrating in the extreme. To touch on the absurdity of their evidence, we have Jake killed by a gunshot wound while in very confined quarters with two other individuals, soldiers 17 and 19. Soldier 19 claims to be looking away from Jake when he heard the gun shot yet says he reacted and turned quickly enough to see Jake falling to the floor. Soldier 17 openly admits to have been facing Jake, sitting so close that he was almost in bodily contact, yet saw nothing. In fact, the claim is that he heard the gun shot and was completely unaware of an imposing six-foot tall man falling to the floor practically on top of him. Difficult to stomach from professional soldiers, whose training equips them better than most to observe and report. "Soldier 14 is then unable or unwilling to adequately explain the presence of his DNA in larger quantities than Jake's own DNA on the weapon that killed Jake ... He also offers an account of Jake supposedly mishandling his pistol the week before his death, accounting in detail an event that has been demonstrated in the inquiry to be physically impossible. Furthermore, Soldier 14, via his legal representative refuses to co-operate with the NSW Police.
"Soldiers 14, 17 and 19 have provided all this to the board as their sworn testimony, but as conscious individuals, it is absolutely insulting to have this evidence put to us as the full and honest truth. Perhaps these soldiers can live with the decisions they have made and the effect it may have on finding the truth about Jake's death. Likely, it will play on their minds for the rest of their lives. I hope they can live with that because we cannot. Not knowing exactly what happened to our son and brother will haunt us for the rest of our lives. "Though we would like to believe otherwise, it is very difficult to move beyond the undesirable idea that the ADF and its representatives have gone out of their way to destroy as much evidence as possible in an attempt to protect the organisation and its personnel from any implication of wrongdoing. The actions described above (among many others) coupled with the disturbing inability of the witnesses to the event to provide any credible account of what happened, makes it very nearly impossible to reach the truth of what occurred in room 8 and in this the ADF is solely responsible and their actions have almost ensured that the truth may never be found.''

One suffered under the US government, the other's families suffer under the Australian government. That's a lot of suffering and there's little indication that either government gives a damn. With Jake Kovco, his family was asked not to speak to the press. Why do you think that was? When Brendan Nelson, Australia's Defence Minister, wasn't concerned about his own speaking to the press, why do you think that was? If there was any respect for the contributions either man made, short of sloganeering, don't you think things would have been handled differently?

Slogannering's all you get about sacrifice. Bully Boy compares paying taxes to sacrifice and it's no surprise that someone like that (someone who couldn't even keep his pledge to give up sweets for as long as the war lasted) would start an illegal war.

Let's 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 Thursday, the American troop fatality stood at 2641. Tonight? 2666. (The mark of the Bully Boy?) That's twenty-five more than last Thursday and again we have to ask, "Where is the coverage?"

In the "Oh My God! It's a handover!" (on a timetable) you don't get that. Where is the coverage? We're thirty-four away from the 3,000 mark. Remember when it was sold as a "cakewalk"? (One more lie in a long list of lies.) Some might argue about the figure. It is true that the US military snuck in two from the month of August yesterday. That's their fault. No one else's. They knew the figures for August. They tried (as they usually do) to low ball it in time for the first of the month look back coverage (which really didn't take place in most outlets). 2,666.

Does the number disturb you because it doesn't appear to disturb the media, big or small. Who is serious about this war? Again, we're left the question of: Do the War Hawks want this war more than the rest of us want to stop it?

It seems that way. After a summer largely free of Iraq coverage, it certainly seems that way.
From Pauline Jelinek's "U.S. force in Iraq now 145,000, highest since December" (Associated Press):

The number of U.S. troops in Iraq rose to 145,000 this week, the highest since December and 15,000 more than a month ago.
Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Vician said Thursday the increase is temporary, and that it owes to a routine rotation of forces -- that is, a bump in numbers. Such a shift lasts for a matter of weeks, he said, as replacement troops arrive and overlap with troops ending their tours and preparing to leave.
The number stood at about 130,000 in the final days of July, when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld temporarily extended the tours of some 3,500 Americans in effort to stem escalating sectarian violence in the capital city of Baghdad.

Now let's drop back to something we noted this morning, the Associated Press' "More Minnesotans headed for duty in Iraq:"

Another group of about 160 Minnesota National Guard troops have been ordered to active duty in preparation for deployment in Iraq, the guard announced Wednesday.
The troops are with Company B, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor, based in East St. Paul and headquartered in Brainerd. The company includes soldiers from the Twin Cities, Brainerd, Duluth, Little Falls and Moorhead areas.

Maybe the 'magic number' (that makes people care) will be the number on the ground?

But then there's little reason for the likes of Alex Pareene & co. to care about anything. The chin-challenged, college drop out is in charge of Wonkette these days. We didn't link to that site when all it wanted was to be Cindy Adams with just a hint of nipple (the AMC days) and we don't link to it today. But the man who would be Cindy Adams (if she were a really ugly woman who couldn't write) can't stop slamming Cindy Sheehan and that puzzles some. It shouldn't puzzle you. Just don't give him the pennies he gets with each click. Then he might have to attempt to get a real job. While the likes of Pareene swirl through the sewers, there are a few things worth reading online.

Such as? Tonya notes a piece by Fernando Suarez Del Solar entitled "Messenger of Peace: How a Marine turned his father into a one-man army against war" (Pasadena Weekly):

The death of my son on March 27, 2003, marked the start of my activism in the United States, a country to which I had migrated only a few years earlier. My life here, until then the life of a common worker and provider, suffered a violent alteration after being notified of my son’s death in Iraq.
Marine Lance Cpl. Jesus Alberto Suarez Del Solar Navarro died of a bullet wound to the head, or so I was informed at 8:15 a.m. the following day by three uniformed men who came to my house looking for my son's young wife. Apart from the intense pain that overwhelmed me, I also felt intense anger that my son was lost in a war in which I never believed. In front of the cameras, that same day, I blamed President Bush publicly for my son's death, even without knowing that I was being lied to as to the true cause and circumstances of my son's death.
Three or four days later, I received a call from a reporter from the San Diego UnionTribune who told me the paper had access to information regarding my son's death that was very different from that officially delivered by the authorities. The reporter told me my son had died in an accident.
That same day, Bob Woodruf, an anchorman for ABC in Iraq, telephoned me and told me my son had not died from a bullet wound to the head but from friendly fire, stepping accidentally on a piece of explosive artillery -- illegal in any war, according to the Geneva Convention and the United Nations, but widely spread on Iraqi soil nonetheless by US military forces. With this information, I proceeded to contact people in the Marines and my own congressman to ask for an explanation. To this day I have not received any response.
On April 9, when my only son’s body finally arrived in Escondido to be buried, I disobeyed an order to not open the casket. Against the wishes of the United States government, I imposed my right as a father and demanded that the four soldiers guarding the casket leave me alone with my son’s body. They were forced to yield due to my firm insistence. There, alone with my son's corpse, I opened the casket and was able to confirm that my son did not die of a bullet wound. His head was, in fact, intact. His wounds were located in his feet, legs and abdomen.

One more parent lied to. Maybe the sewer types can find something funny in that as well?

But the reality is the bottom feeders and War Cheerleaders continue to write about Iraq. It's the left that's playing war-got-your-tongue. Going through the e-mails this evening and finding one after another expressing disappointment/disgust with the fact that there is little to no Iraq coverage it becomes more and more obvious how little Iraq is on the radar still. Those hoping that after their "summer vacations" media -- big and small -- would return to addresing Iraq have seen those hopes dashed.

I was going to work this in any way because I like (and know) Robin Morgan, she's an important voice and members aware of her work value it. (Maggie did an entry on her here in 2005.) For those who are having trouble placing the name, just know that in a world that took a pass on Abeer, Morgan stepped up to the plate and wrote about it ("Their Bodies as Weapons: Rapes in conflict zones result from the idea that violence is erotic, and it pervades the US military"). Marcia passed on this e-mail/announcement which we'll post in full:

Ms. is pleased to announce that Robin Morgan, our global editor and a founding editor of Ms. magazine, has just released her book of non-fiction, Fighting Words. The publishing date is September 28th, but we wanted to give you a chance to pre-order at a special low rate!
Fighting Words, Robin Morgan has assembled a toolkit for debate, a "verbal-karate guide"--sound-bite accessible, carefully sourced historical facts, quotes, and resources--that resurrects the Founders as the revolutionaries they were: radical freethinkers, Deists, agnostics, Christians, atheists, and Freemasons, revealing what they (and other leading Americans) really believed--in their own words:
"Question with boldness even the existence of a god."--Thomas Jefferson
"My own mind is my church."--Thomas Paine
"I doubt of Revelation itself."--Benjamin Franklin
"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind."--James Madison
Advance Praise:
Fighting Words is the indispensable Little Red (and White and Blue) Book for reclaiming our country, a 'Quotations from Chairman Jefferson'--plus Washington, Madison, Franklin, Stanton, Anthony, and many more. Funny, eye-opening, accessible, smart, and best of all really useful for combating the 'theocratizing of America.'"--LILY TOMLIN and JANE WAGNER
"Here are the real words of our Founding Fathers (and Mothers), free of the prison of right-wing distortion--and we've never needed them more!"--GLORIA STEINEM
"A crucial, must-have book!"--BARRY LYNN, Executive Director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State
This is the book to give and to keep, to study, to quote.
Fighting Words reacquaints us with our proudly secular roots, inspiring us to honor them--and to take back our country!
For equality,
Katherine Spillar

Executive Editor
Ms. Magazine

Those who are interested in the book, there's no attempt to guilt anyone. Kat hates ordering through the mail as does Elaine. Both of them live for the in-store purchase. If you're interested in the book, read it however it's best for you. (Which does include utilizing your local library.)

Community notes. the gina & krista round-robin for tomorrow will go out at midnight EST tonight. Gina is going on vacation. So she's not slammed on her return, Dona, Wally, Rebecca and I are going to be helping Krista with next week's. Any member wanting to help out should e-mail Krista at her address included in the round-robin. Ty says a number of people are e-mailing The Third Estate Sunday Review to ask if this Sunday's edition will be focused on Iraq. We discussed some ideas tonight (and actually throughout the week). Iraq will figure in but it will not be the focus of Ava and my TV thing. As usual, somethings will be worked on and won't make the cut and something's will never get worked on so it's very hard to say this 'far ahead.' (Remember also that the print edition of last Sunday's edition runs in the gina & krista round-robin in full.)

Back on topic, we'll close by noting this from United for Peace & Justice:

It's time to answer fear with courage, to step out of our personal comfort zones and take bold action to end the Iraq War.
Join us in a week of nonviolent action, including civil disobedience, from September 21-28, and in pressuring pro-war politicians all this fall through the Voters for Peace pledge.

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