Saturday, October 21, 2006

Kyle Snyder, war resister, plans to return to the US

After arriving in Iraq, the heavy construction equipment operator was reassigned to a security detail. Kyle quickly realized that no reconstruction was taking place with the exception of military bases. "I can't take this anymore!' That's what I thought to myself." A survivor of string of foster homes since he was 13-years-old, Kyle joined the Army in 2004.
Faced with few job prospects and wanting to provide for himself and his family, "I was an easy target for recruiters, plain and simple," explains Kyle. "This is not what I signed up for and it’s not what’s being shown to the American public. So, why the hell should I fight?"

Kyle is Kyle Snyder and the above is from Courage to Resist. Kyle Snyder self-checked out of the military and went to Canada. Next month he returns to the United States. FluxView has videos of Kyle Snyder and other war resisters discussing why they went to Canada. I wrote about this last night at Kat's Korner.

It is news, it is important. Marci e-mailed about it and a few other things. (I'll add the snapshot. The link's there but apparently I spaced out and left out the text. I was just off a flight and just wanting to crawl into bed. I'll do one more entry here this morning and then go fix it.) I'm thinking Ruth's going to grab that topic (Kyle Snyder) for her report today so I'll move on to another question Marci had that also was a topic of Kevin, Lewis, Hannah and Kavette's e-mails which was Amara and specifically the way August is being reported. Markus noted AFP's summary:

British troops patrolled Amara until August, when they pulled out of a base on the outskirts of the city that was coming under regular mortar attack and handed over security duties to Iraqi forces.
Following the withdrawal the British base was looted and the Mahdi Army -- a loosely-organised militia force nominally loyal to Sadr, the leader of a radical Shiite faction -- declared victory over the "occupier".

That's the reality. If other outlets can't report it as such too bad, but that's reality. Elaine addressed the difference between reality and many of the press reports last night:

If you're a community member, you already knew Amara was out of control and that this was the reason the British pulled out in August. They did not "turn" their base over. They abandoned it. They gave 24 hours notice to the Iraqi authorities and got out. The base was not turned over, it was looted. Walls and doors were torn down within hours of the British driving off. There is no base, it was all looted. So when you read a report or hear or see one, if the report says that the British turned over their base, the reporter either doesn't know what he or she is addressing or doesn't think you deserve to know reality.

That is the reality. For some, they weren't covering Iraq then. They were all leaping on the one story they gave you for six weeks. Like the British forces in Amara, many press outlets in August withdrew in terms of their Iraq coverage. So now they show up this month and maybe it's hard to cover Amara because how do you explain the reality and explain that you're only now telling readers about it? (Or viewers or listeners?)

But there was an effort to pretty it up in real time by some who covered it. One example would be the New York Times which relied mainly on statements from the British flack. A friend who covered Vietnam for the networks referred to it as "a mini fall of Saigon." It was and it should have been covered. The decision to pull out was made because of the nightly attacks. The decision was made quickly and, as soon as they pulled out, the looting began. Everything was stripped. Saying that the base was turned over isn't reality. For some like the Times, it has a great deal to do with the reliance on statements from officials. But Amara in August is one of the incidents that military historians will write about over and over.

As for why we covered it the way we did, I honestly don't remember but am happy to give credit to others. The friend who called it right back then probably did so when the first snapshot was being written. I spoke to him this morning to get his take on it and he feels that post-1968, a similar situation could have been covered with reality but not prior to that. He pointed to the disgraceful re-writing of Michael Luo's report this week (by a Times writer in New York) and suggested that for all the progress that's been made this year in reporting from Iraq, it's still not been enough to allow for reality. He also agrees that, for outlets that didn't cover it Amara in real time (in any form), there's a level of embarrassment.

But when you "turn over" a base, you don't give 24 hours notice. No matter how you spin it or Happy Talk it, that's reality. And the reality of where the US press today is, in terms of the mainstream, is that they still have tip-toe around the issue of Iraq. And, as we saw with the rewriting of Luo's reporting (which, again, was straightforward, not controversial, just the type of reporting that the Times is supposed to do), the press is still willing to ignore eye witnesses (and their own reporters) when it's time to please the military.

My call, focusing on the Times, it's gotten better but it's still not good enough. To their credit, unlike other outlets, it's been awhile since they've run in print anything the US military has heavily shopped around. If the reporting they print (and note "they print," others can and do rewrite the original reporting before it makes into the paper -- though it's very rare they go to the steps they did with Luo's report which is why that was and is disgraceful) today had been the way they reported on the war in 2003 or 2004, a lot of people would have had a better idea of what's really going on in Iraq.

In an example of that improvement in reporting, I think (my opinion) you can look at Sabrina Tavernise's "Many Iraqis Look to Gunmen as Protectors" in today's paper:

Behind the maze of men with guns in Iraq is a very simple truth: their barrels offer protection, something Iraqis say the government has never given them.
On Friday, the web wound tightly around the southern city of Amara, where the two largest and best-armed militias, both made up of religious Shiites, were fighting for control of the city.
But when the prime minister speaks of disarming militias -- those mushrooming armies of men with guns that carry out most of the killing here -- Iraqi brows begin to furrow.
"He's just talking," snapped Fadhil Sabri, a 37-year-old generator repairman in a grease-stained shop in Sadr City, a Baghdad stronghold of the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia.
"Not now. Not even in 10 years. You need arms to defend yourself," he said.
Iraq is awash in killings, and many are blamed on the Mahdi Army, the militia commanded by a glowering Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr. An indignant Mr. Sadr called his men to fight against the American military twice in 2004. It was bloodied, but survived. Since then the Mahdi Army, and a growing criminal breakaway element, have grown into one of the government’s biggest problems and are a major obstacle to the success of the American enterprise here.
Despite its new rogue fringe, Iraqi Shiites see the Mahdi militia as their most effective protector against the hostile Sunni groups that have slaughtered Shiites and driven them from their homes. Shiites say that as long as the government cannot keep them safe, they cannot support the disarming of militias.
That paradox confronts the American military as it presses the Iraqi government to contain militias like Mr. Sadr's: how is it possible to control a militia when trust among Iraqis has vanished and the government is incapable of containing the spiraling violence?

That's a very straight-forward, very Times-like piece. The members e-mailing about Amara and noting their displeasure over the whitewashing of August 24th should also note that 'hospital officials' give a number that 'hospital officials' didn't give. It's the number that the US military gave.

Lloyd notes that John Ward Anderson's "Sadr Militia Briefly Seizes Southern City" (Washington Post) doesn't attempt to whitewash the issue of the base:

British troops withdrew from Amarah, the capital of Maysan province, two months ago after their camp came under repeated mortar fire from Shiite militiamen identified by local residents as members of the Mahdi Army.

For perspective on the week's events, Gareth notes Rupert Cornwell's "The week the war unravelled: Bush to 'refocus' Iraq strategy" (Independent of London):

In a new admission of the mounting crisis in Iraq, President George Bush is to have emergency consultations with his top generals today to see if any change of strategy is needed to cope with the escalating violence in a country seemingly spinning out of control.
[. . .]
It began amid consternation in London and Washington over the remarks of General Sir Richard Dannatt, chief of the general staff, that the presence of foreign troops might be "exacerbating" the situation in Iraq ­ words taken as a call from Britain's top-ranking soldier for a swift pull-out of coalition forces. Caught off balance, Tony Blair first insisted that there would be no withdrawal "until the job was done," claiming that was the view of General Dannatt as well. On Wednesday, only 24 hours later, the Prime Minister was stressing the desire of Britain and the US to leave Iraq as soon as possible ­ citing the opinion of General Casey that Iraqi security forces might be ready to take over in 12 to 18 months.
The same debate raged in Washington. Almost every day brings news of sectarian massacres and military casualties as US troops try in vain to halt the sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shia and cope with the anti-American insurgency. Seventy-four US soldiers have been killed so far in October, putting the month on course to be the bloodiest since January 2005. The death toll among allied forces this week overtook the number lost in the September 11 attacks.
At the same time, Washington is visibly losing patience with Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's Prime Minister, who has been deemed ineffectual and unwilling to take on the Shia militias who now control large areas of the south. Yesterday, the most powerful of the militias, run by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, seized control of the city of Amarah in their boldest act yet. A day before, US commanders admitted that the joint two-month-old bid by American and Iraqi forces to pacify Baghdad had, in effect, failed, and the security effort would have to be "refocused" . A similar process is now under way in America, as President Bush's approval ratings tumble to fresh lows, and Republicans face the prospect of defeat at the mid-term elections on 7 November ­ in both cases primarily as a result of public dislike of a war which 66 per cent of Americans now say was a mistake.

Martha passes on what's scheduled for the Saturday and Sunday evening broadcast (on XM satellite radio, Air America radio stations and online -- live from 7:00 to 10:00 pm EST) of RadioNation with Laura Flanders:

This weekend on RadioNation -- on Sunday, The Nation magazine's CHRISTIAN PARENTI, just back from Afghanistan, on the Taliban and drug lords who are taking back the country. TARIQ ALI on Latin America's latest political revolutions, and on Saturday, we're live from the BIONEERS Conference in San Rafael, CA, on the latest revolutionary innovations on the environmental front...with founders KENNY AUSUBEL and NINA SIMONS and others. And AAR's THOM HARTMANN on why Air America is important! Coming up Is the Democratic Party prepared to stop election fraud? We'll talk, among others to RadioNation's STEVE ROSENFELD, co author of a brand-new book What Happened in Ohio? A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election. (New Press, 2006.)

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