Thursday, September 28, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

We're starting out this evening's entry a little different than usual. First an announcement from Ms.:

Before the new Ms. comes out on October 10, we’re doing a last push to get signatures on our "We Had Abortions" petition. With our right to choose in danger, we at Ms. think it’s important for us to take a stand now for abortion rights. We’d love to have your help!

Focusing on Iraq (as the community wants) means something's don't get covered very often. (And something's not at all.) But this is a very pro-choice community. If you haven't signed the petition and are able to, please do so. If you're concerned about your personal information, you can leave fields blank. Abortion rights are under attack. The hybrids, such as Unity '08, won't help anyone with this issue. In addition, as members have noted and I've noted, the Democratic Party appears to not only be watering down their position on abortion rights (on all reproductive rights) but backing away from it. (Well, they walk "toward" the right and call that the "center." All polling disputes that notion.).

When women do not control their rights (and their bodies), there is not full equality. Early on (we're doing ancient history here), Ms. was criticized by some who felt they weren't acknowledging that some women had painful experiences when they decided to have an abortion. Ms. had acknowledged that (and continued to do so throughout the magazine's life up to today). But somehow this became a talking point for some that every woman who has an abortion regrets it. That's simply not true. Sometimes it is the only answer. Kat addressed this when Sandra Day O'Connor stepped down with "I Had An Abortion."

To hear the talking points of some waffling politicians, it's the worst thing in the world. That kind of distortion is exactly what many feared would happen and has happened. It's an attempt to shame women and the next time a politician who supposedly supports abortion rights makes another one of those generalized statements, they should be greeted with loud boos.

You do not have to believe in abortion as an option (even one you'll never excercise if that's the case) for yourself to support the right of women to control this basic decision. Rights are being stripped away and those who can remember the battle for this issue know it wasn't handed out (it was won) and it didn't come in a day, a week, or a year. Just as the battle wasn't won overnight, the defeat is not coming overnight. The groundwork for it has been laid bit by bit over the years. With the new makeup of the Court it is even more important that a message be sent. Ms. was and is a leader on reproductive rights so if you're able to sign the petition, please consider doing so. Those who've already signed it, thank you.

We're now moving into Iraq, but let's note that, prior to the US invasion, Iraq had women's rights. It wasn't the equivalent of the US but it was advanced for its area. As Riverbend has noted repeatedly at her site (Baghdad Burning), that's no longer the case. A secular government has been replaced with a religious one and Iraq's looking more and more like Afghanistan (where, despite Laura Bush's lofty claims of liberating women, little changed for women). An e-mail this week asked why, in the Iraq snapshots, I tend to stop a quote and add "police officer" outside of quotes? There apparently are no police officers that are female in Iraq now. There are many jobs they can't hold. They need a male to drive the car. They need their heads covered. This wasn't true prior to the illegal invasion, it is true now.

From Riverbend's "Summer of Goodbyes..." (Baghdad Burning):

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.

With regards to Iraq, and all the reporting that's come out of Iraq, it's amazing how little attention has been given to the continued destruction of women's rights in that country. Is it because it doesn't fit with the narrative of so-called 'liberation'? Or is because you've got far too many 'manly' men providing the 'coverage' (especially the go-go boys who, if the complaint lodged with the Guild is to be believed -- saw Iraq as their own Boys Gone Wild In The Green Zone)?

Ruth Rosen's "The Hidden War on Women in Iraq" remains one of the few articles to explore the realities for women in Iraq today. (For those who missed it and prefer or need an audio link, Rosen discussed the article with Andrea Lewis July 18th on KPFA's The Morning Show and you can access the archives to listen to that -- free of charge.)

It doesn't fit with the Bully Boy's pontificating about freedom, so it's apparently to be swept under the rug. Just like we're supposed to look the other way when reports on the polls showing Iraqis want the US out of their country are released or commented on. On that topic, Tracey (Ruth's granddaughter) notes Katrina vanden Heuvel's "A Sovereign Iraq?" (The Notion, The Nation):

In Wednesday's Washington Post, reporter Amit Paley reveals what the Iraqi people want from their sovereign state: "A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers."
The State Department poll shows that 65 percent of Baghdad residents favor an immediate pullout. And polling by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland indicates that
71 percent of Iraqis want U.S. led forces out within a year. Even 57 percent of Sunni Muslims -- who might fear reprisals from a Shiite majority -- favor a U.S. withdrawal within 6 months.

Iraq is the topic of The Nation's latest editorial, "Iraq and Reality:"

Reality can be inconvenient. It can get in the way when politicians are busy with bamboozlement. George W. Bush and his comrades-in-spin have for years pitched their Iraq misadventure as the central front in the "war on terror." We must fight them there to prevent them from fighting us here, goes their grade-school-level argument, cooked up to replace the WMD argument (which lost its utility in the absence of WMDs). But the recent disclosure of a classified National Intelligence Estimate, first reported by the New York Times, has undercut that justification. The NIE, finished in April, noted that Bush's invasion of Iraq and the subsequent--inept and brutal--occupation has led to a rise in Islamic radicalism that has increased the threat posed by global jihadists. "The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause celebre' for jihadists," the NIE says, "breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement." To be blunt: Bush & Co. got it exactly wrong.

Eddie noted the above. For those wanting word on the peace movement, you'll have to go elsewhere. The KPFA Evening News today reported on the Declaration of Peace activities going on around the country in the last few days and spoke with Leslie Cagan (United for Peace and Justice) who stated these actions were intended to raise the war in communities and that these activities are part of a larger peace movement. On the topic of KPFA, tomorrow on The Morning Show (7:00 am to 10:00 am PST), Arianna Huffington will be a guest and, later in the day, one of Kris Welch's guests on Living Room will be Daniel Ellsberg (airs noon to 1:00 pm PST). United for Peace and Justice's next scheduled event is:

Oct. 10 - Nov. 7: National Youth and Student Peace Coalition Call to Action -- A Month of Education, Organizing, and Action!

Before that happens World Can't Wait stages their October 5th mass resistance action. One day this week, probably Tuesday when I was groggy from surgery, The KPFA Evening News reported on the smear tactic attempting to dilute the power of the organization and the call to action. When you've got nothing else to do, what do you trot out? "Communist." The speaker rightly noted that the group is a diverse group with people from the right, the left and the center working to end the war. It's sad enough that those kind of scare tactics worked during McCarthyism, it's even sadder that some think they can gain traction with them today. If you're able to participate, please do so. (My intention is to do so. That is dependent on a speedy recovery.)

CODEPINK is asking for action (and celebrating their fourth anniversary -- hard to believe, with all they've accomplished and done, that they're only four years old):

Give Peace a Vote! What if millions decided to vote their conscience and said 'No More War Candidates'? The Voters Pledge makes visible a powerful political force, the peace vote, a force that politicians cannot continue to ignore. It sends a clear message to the hawkish minority that leads both major parties to end the occupation of Iraq and to end unprovoked attacks on other nations. Join Yoko Ono, Kate Hudson and Samuel L. Jackson in signing the Voters Pledge and ask at least 10 of your friends to sign as well. Let's put PEACE at the top of the ballot in 2006! Click here to see latest action photos!

That's what some people are doing. That's not all. (And we'll note another organization in an excerpt later in this entry). That's what needed, that and much more. What's not needed? We'll get to that. But for now, let's focus on what is being done, what has been done and what needs to be done to bring the troops home.

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 2694. Tonight? 2710. When does it end? When people say "Enough."

And many people are doing just that. Those people don't tend to get covered by the media (big or small) and, when they are covered, someone's got to get a slam in. Case in point, noted by Keesha, Michael Socolow's "War Protests: Ardent Elders, Unaware Youth" (Philadelphia Inquirer via Common Dreams) which gets in a slam at the "youth." Now let's be clear that between fifty-two and college students (or younger), there is a huge middle. But what we see is yet another attempt to slam the students for their supposed inaction. Maybe Socolow hopes that his column will light a fire. If so, there have been many columns that can be seen as attempts to do that and they all seem to focus on the students as though the 30 year olds, the 40 year olds aren't an issue.

The reality is that students are out there. There numbers are growing and have been growing since the start of the illegal war. That's reality. The sixties generation didn't have American Idol, Socolow is correct there. They did have American Bandstand and an artist like Phil Ochs' could appear on the show performing "I Ain't Marching Anymore." You think Murdoch's show is going to allow an anti-war song to be performed by their "singers"? Think again. The war movement was fueld by the civil rights movement. More importantly, the peace movement was covered. You could see it on TV, in the mainstream media. You could see it on a talk show. You don't get that today, you don't even get a peace column in any of the left magazines covering the peace movement.

Don't throw it off on the students. As someone who's gone around since Feb. 2003 speaking to students, there numbers continue to grow. In DC, the biggest issue was how -- how can they act, what can they do? It's real easy to forget that not only did the media cover the peace movement in the sixties (defined here as from the death of JKF to the fall of Nixon), but junior high students saw high school and college students acting. They saw their brothers and sisters acting. They heard it from the music scene. They didn't have to search out an artist like Michael Franti (to name only one), it was there on radio. Pre-Green Day, MTV had no interest in the war (other than in cheerleading it). They really haven't supported any statements since.
(Stephen Smith-Said's "Why Neil Young Is Wrong" addresses that for those new to the topic).
I know what I see, and I've visted 49 of the states repeatedly (I haven't gone to Alaska). I've spoken to groups that I belonged to in college and I know students are struggling to get the word out, struggling for news of Iraq and struggling to find new ways to speak out against the war.

It's really easy to sit there and praise the sixties generation. But Vietnam was embedded into the culture. Not just by musicians doing 'political' songs but by the majority of them. Cass Elliott, John Phillips, they didn't shy from discussing the war. I use them as examples because the Mamas & the Papas weren't Jefferson Airplane. But you had an entire youth culture that big business wanted to tap and the message got out. What you have today is a less diverse media environment, no chance in hell of anyone not doing a play-sex song making most playlists, artists who are too often scared to speak out. There is a world of difference in the environment that today's students live in and the one that the sixties generation did.

And it's not just mainstream media. The peace movement does not get the coverage it needs or deserves from little media either. Medea Benjamin (had she been a man in the 60s) would have been a nonstop guest, expected to write columns, you name it. She's one of the biggest names in the peace movement (that's not to single her out and underplay the accomplishments of others, but she is out there week after week) and ask yourself how often you read of her, hear her or see her in/on small media? Not that often.

Do we want to be really harsh? Let's be really harsh. Cindy Sheehan got covered by big media this summer. Where was little media? Off covering Israel. There's no excuse for that. When even the peace mom can't get coverage, there's a problem. Independent media needs to address that and they need to do it quickly because Darrell Anderson returns to the United States Saturday, Ricky Clousing has been charged with desertion, Mark Wilkerson awaits news on whether he will be charged or not, Ehren Watada awaits the military's verdict on the finding in his Article 32 hearing, Jeremy Hinzman awaits word on his appeal to be granted refugee status by the Canadian government, Carl Webb awaits word on whether, having been basically dismissed by the Texas National Guard, he's going to be pulled into another group and expected to go to Iraq.

Now if you've written about any of the above, then by all means take your slams at those students you see as apethetic or lazy. But the truth is, most people haven't written about it or covered it in any real depth and they just want to ego stroke the sixties one more time. Great time, no question. But that's not going to end today's war.

And this "Baby cried the day the circus came to town coverage" (see The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Talk") isn't helping. These one day stories where you pat yourself on the back because you got your "get" and then you move on to something else aren't cutting it either.
The reality is that a slogan was thought up (and thought up under Poppy Bush by a p.r. firm) to clamp down on dissent. That slogan had to be tackled. Another issue is the fact that indepedent media seems only concerned with the war in terms of the military. Look at the new issue of The Nation. What's the cover? General revolt!

Is the war going to come to an end before The Nation puts the peace movement on the cover? The sixties generation grew up in a period of time where it was "cool" to join the peace movement. Why was that? Because the peace movement was covered. The coverage gave it cachet. The coverage gave it "cred" (to use a more recent term). Now I've subscribed to The Nation for some time, renewed my subscription not that long ago, but their coverage of the peace movement has been largely non-existant. When they did cover campuses, instead of covering students who were actually doing something, they went with Alex Keaton clones (and fools -- you don't brag about how you tricked people on your campus into supporting something in a story that will come out months before the final vote) who were funded by left think tanks to move towards the middle. Don't offer that up and claim you've covered campus movements. All you've done is go where the money is, not where the silence is.

Last week, Elaine wrote "Should The Notion be finger-pointing?" and it's a good question. If you're not there covering what is going on for a non-slam piece, maybe a slam piece isn't really the best way to open. Here, we've stated for some time (well over a year now) that The Nation needed to do a peace column, a column on the actual peace movement. They don't offer that, no one does. Nor is their an alternative radio program (that I'm aware of) which focuses on Iraq. Not covers Iraq and some other things, focuses on Iraq. The war's going to hit the four year mark in March and there's still not a program devoted to Iraq?

Don't slam the peace movement. It's out there. It's out there whether the coverage is there or whether (more likely) the coverage is no where to be found. The peace movement has grown "peer to peer" more than it has from coverage because there's so little interest in covering Iraq.
More often than not, programs seem to ask, "Did we do our Iraq story this month?" And it's interesting that CounterSpin can note that the mainstream media undercounts protests or doesn't report on them, but they can't interview a guest from a peace organization to talk about that. It's reduced to a headline. If the show's going to examine the way mainstream media portrays things, isn't it past time that they regularly checked in with the peace movement? With this week's actions, shouldn't first on the list be a guest who participated discussing the coverage the actions received or didn't receive?

It's really easy to do these "general says" articles. And it might have looked brave in 2003. Now it just seems like someone's trying to couch their argument on the military. The military wants more bodies. They want more troops in (US troops) in Iraq. That's not the aim of the peace movement but that argument goes unstated and I think, frankly, that too many hide behind the military to make their arguments. This is supposed to be democracy. The military is no higher than civilians in a democracy -- in fact civilians control the military in a democracy. So this notion of 'bravery' doesn't entail hiding behind the military. (The Nation's doing the cover article because it's news. It's a development. That needs to be covered; however, the fact that the peace movement doesn't qualify as news is a question the magazine needs to address.)

Today, you've got a lot of "even Bob Woodward" says . . . When I was on the phone with a friend at CBS news, they were pitching that. How is that news? Bob Woodward always reports what the military says. He's got a new book to sell. He's getting the attention he's built his career around (as opposed to actual reporting which fell off the radar even before Wired). But we're all supposed to be overjoyed that he's switched his devotion from the Bully Boy to the military. There's a reason for the switch and it includes more than a desire to sell books (though don't understimate that factor).

Woodward is, as always, presenting what we used to call "the establishment" and their view. The establishment has turned on the war. The think tanks have turned on the war. The support Bully Boy needs is not there. The people have turned against the war. You've got all the elements present to end the war. But the war's not ending and I don't point the finger at students.

It's lazy and an easy out. Those old enough to remember the "establishment" being bandied about in conversations are old enough to remember the counter, the anti-establishment. Where has the coverage been of that? You had a counter-culture in the sixties. You don't have that now. Rolling Stone, once desiring to be the bible of the counter-culture, hides behind the military, offers foolish cover stories on foolish pop tarts (most recently Justin Timberlake), insults readers of a music magazine by presenting crap schillers as "artists," and generally embarrasses itself with each new issue. (I have friends at Rolling Stone who will dispute that harsh assessment. I have friends who left the magazine years ago and will agree 100%. I'm not really concerned with "tone" ever but if I come off especially harsh tonight, I'm trying to avoid taking medication for the pain. The only I've been "under" is the day of the surgery -- to speed up the recovery process.)

Instead of whining about today's "youth," try buying a clue. Try grasping that there is action and it doesn't get coverage. And as long as A is not being covered but B is, the latter will get the bulk of the attention. Quit blaming students for attempting to navigate uncharted territory. This goes to a lack of media diversity, a general disinterest on the part of media (big and small) with Iraq, an inability to cover the peace movment and quite a bit more.

Darrell Anderson returns to the United States Saturday. He's stated that he believes the anti-war movement is more alive in the US than in Canada. If he means people, I think he'll be happy with what he finds. If he means media, he better prepare himself for the fact that, being Iraq-related, he will take a back seat to every other issue and that, when the focus is on Iraq, military trumps all and those in the military criticizing strategy (as opposed to the illegal war) rush past everyone else. That's the reality in the United States today.

The reality isn't that students aren't doing things to stop the war. They are. Their numbers continue to grow. They do things every week that never get covered and then comes someone who wants to compare them to people over 52. If the hope is to light a fire, forget it. The New York Times had a piece that could be have seen that way awhile back. It didn't "speak to" students, it turned them off. It did that because it was insulting to them and because of the fact that the writer appeared to know very little of what they were doing. The same response will greet the piece at Common Dreams. Students, in the sixties, had role models, had coverage, and had examples. Until media, big and small, is willing to provide them with that, writers should stop slamming the students. You come off tired and out of touch (baby, baby, you're out of time -- as the Stones once sang). You're like the man boring Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate with the plastics speech.

It probably feels good to write those things. Maybe it's the left's version of Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation. But outside of generation stroking, it serves no purpose and takes up space that could have gone to what's actually happening today.

Now for a highlight. Lucy noted this earlier this week and then Carl noted it tonight, Allison Hantschel's "A tale of two war memorials" (Daily Southtown):

The Washington version of Camp Casey was, when I saw it, a collection of rain-soaked tents beneath which people gathered to talk about how to get Bush out of office. Speakers talked about 9-11 or impeachment and sang old protest songs, and Japanese tourists snapped pictures of a giant Bush puppet wearing prisoner's stripes.
But beside those tents was the true memorial: row on row of white tombstones, cardboard cutouts meant to signify the war dead. They lay in the shadow of the Washington Monument, blank, a few leaning in the early autumn wind, ready to blow away.
The president gave no lofty speeches here about the greatness of America -- perhaps not surprising since the war is ongoing. However, if this is a sign of how this war is regarded, as something not to be discussed above whispers, or only by those who are outraged over its course, it does not bode well for the treatment of those who return from it, for any sign in later life that we honored their sacrifices. Photographs of the coffins returning to Dover Air Force Base were banned early on in the war, our leaders afraid that images of the sacrifices of our troops would undermine support for the war. Those attending the coffins later passed photos of their own on to the press, wanting the dead honored, their loss recognized by a nation that too often acts as if the war is a television show.
To Cindy Sheehan, the president said little. To the nation, about the war in Iraq, he says things like "stay the course," never mentioning what course or where such a course might lead. So far it's led to this patch of mud and grass beside the National Mall, these rows of dead.
A group of men, clearly old friends, approached the World War II memorial clustered together, one leaning on a cane, the others shuffling or slouching. But when they reached the monument's curved marble entrance, they straightened, looked at one another, and in their faces were the men they had been 60 years ago, young and full of hope.
At the other end of the mall, tourists walked past the white tombstones as if they didn't exist.

For anyone wondering why Lucy's noting it didn't get it included before tonight, she e-mailed the public account. Members really need to use the private accounts. When things are busy (the weekends) or during rough spots (like this week with the surgery), I'm going to focus on the private e-mail accounts and ask that everyone helping me with the e-mails do so as well. As of right now, we're caught up with the public e-mail account. The previous highlight touched on Cindy Sheehan, Dallas notes Cindy Sheehan's "Lift Your Head" (BuzzFlash):

It has always been our birthright and absolute imperative to peacefully protest our government and to hold them accountable to represent us the way that we want to be represented. Through the Clinton years, when we thought we were peaceful and apparently prosperous, we were lulled into a comfortable complacency. After 9/11 we have been bullied into being fearful of the boogey-man and our now-vindicated toiletry items that can rejoin us in airplane cabins.
Those of us who spoke out against George and his war were marginalized and demonized. Phil Donahue was fired for being too outspoken, Mrs. Joe Wilson was outed, Gen. Eric Shinseki was forced to retire, vile accusations were leveled against weapons inspectors who dared to say that Saddam had none; etc., etc. Even if we disagreed with the impending invasion, many of us were terrified to say anything or be reduced to "focus groups."Now it appears that people are not terrified to stand up for peace and justice. I am so proud of America for not buying into the bull crap that if you oppose the illegal occupation of Iraq, then you are exactly like a "Nazi sympathizer." (Who wants to be equated with Georgie's grand pappy, Prescott Bush). It makes me proud to be an American because we are putting our bodies on the line for peace.
It is now the time to stand up and be counted and tell this out of control government of ours that we are withdrawing our consent to be governed by them.
[. . .]
Please support
Rep. Jim McGovern's HR 4232 that calls for immediate de-funding of the killing in Iraq.
Come join
GSFP and the Camp Casey Peace Institute in Washington, DC on election day to show BushCo that we are withdrawing our consent to be governed my torturers and killers.

If I've mispelled more than usual, my apologies, as well as for anything that's missing a link. I'm about to relate a story from an e-mail and I may screw it up. Diana's oldest son wrote to say Antonia Juhasz spoke to his evening class. (I believe this was Tuesday, my apologies if I have the day wrong) She spoke for about a half-hour and he's since purchased her book at his local Border's (he wasn't aware that she was coming to speak to his class or that books would be avaible -- he writes that they were twenty dollars in class and "she autographed them" so he wished he'd known ahead of time). (THE BU$H AGENDA is her book and the link will take you to upcoming dates on her book tour.) He encourages everyone to "see her speak if she comes to your city." Tonight, before class (that's why I believe she spoke to them on Tuesday), he says people were "really talking about what she'd said." Juhasz is hopefully aware of the impression she made, but if she isn't, she planted a seed in that government class. He'd never participated in any activity until the May immigration demonstrations (which he participated in with his entire family and Diana shared her thoughts on that here) and now he writes about seeing the need for that kind of action on the war. Juhasz was out there, she was planting seeds. Probably would have been easier to have sat at a desk and written a slam piece on students. Instead, she's out there talking about what's going on and what needs to be done.

Lastly, in military news, Hal Bernton 's "Soldier charged for refusing to go to Iraq with unit" (Seattle Times) notes that Suzanne Swfit has been charged with "with missing a troop movement and being absent without leave." Swift self-checked out due to the abuse and harrassment she suffered in the military. Of the three charges she made, the military was able to confirm one (which is one more than I'd bet most of them would cop to). One might think that confirming one of the three incidents would make the military attempt to move quickly to discharge Swift; however, instead they prefer to charge her. (This story was also noted today on The KPFA Evening News for those wanting or needing audio.)

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