Thursday, October 19, 2006

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At least 12 U.S. troops were killed during a 48-hour period ending Wednesday, putting October on track to be the deadliest month for Americans in Iraq since Marines stormed insurgent-controlled Fallouja in November 2004.The latest surge in attacks on American military personnel has claimed the lives of 71 troops so far this month, and comes as a sharp rise in civil warfare between Iraq's Shiite and Sunni sects has left hundreds dead over the last week, including at least 43 Wednesday.
[. . .]
President Bush acknowledged that the surge in violence could be the Iraqi equivalent of the Tet offensive, the pivotal Vietnam War battle begun in 1968 that helped turn U.S. popular opinion against the war and undermined support for President Johnson.Asked whether he agreed with a columnist who said that the fighting in Iraq mirrored Tet, Bush said that he "could be right.""There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election," Bush said in an interview with ABC News.Bush and his senior aides have taken pains to avoid comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam, and even his seemingly offhand acceptance of the parallel with Tet could give new fuel to critics who say that the United States has become embroiled in a long, unwinnable war.

The above is from Borzou Daragahi's "Troop Losses on Pace for 2-Year High" (Los Angeles Times) and Daragahi makes the point that Demetri Sevastopulo's "Death toll mounts for US forces in Iraq" (Financial Times of London) did as well regarding Bully Boy's comparison of Iraq and Vietnam. [We noted that last night.] Martha notes Ellen Knickmeyer's "One-Day Toll in Iraq Combat Is Highest for U.S. in Months" (Washington Post):

A roadside bombing and other attacks killed 10 American troops across Iraq on Tuesday, the U.S. military reported Wednesday, making it the deadliest day of combat for U.S. forces in 10 months.
The one-day toll, part of what the U.S. military has said is a 43 percent increase in attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces in the capital since midsummer, occurred as casualties among Iraqi troops and civilians are soaring far higher than at any previous time in the war, according to U.S. and Iraqi tallies.

Thursday morning, a suicide attacker drove an oil tanker into the Abu Tammam police station in Mosul, collapsing part of the building and killing 12 people, Iraqi police officials said. Twenty-five people were wounded in the explosion, which caused a huge fireball. At about the same time, the officials said, four mortar and small arms attacks were launched on other police facilities in the city.
[. . .]
The Iraqi victims of violence on Wednesday included 30 men whose bodies were found dumped around Baghdad after they had been blindfolded, cuffed and shot, the Interior Ministry said. Ministry officials said most had also been tortured, which often involves puncturing victims' skulls, torsos and limbs with electric drills. The victims were all under 30, the ministry said.
The deaths reported by officials and published in the news media represent only a fraction of the thousands of mutilated bodies winding up in Baghdad's overcrowded morgue each month. U.S. and morgue officials say 90 percent of the killings are now carried out execution-style, with repeated shots to the head and body, usually after the victim had been kidnapped and tortured.
Most bodies are found dumped on Baghdad's streets each morning after a night of curfew, when only government security forces are supposed to be out.
Bodies are increasingly being dumped in and around Baghdad in fields staked out by individual Shiite militias and Sunni insurgent groups. Iraqi security forces often refuse to go to the dumping grounds, leaving the precise number of bodies in those sites unknown.

The US military fatality count is 71 for the month, 2784 since the start of the illegal war. We'll stand with the most recent study and note the number of Iraqis who have died as a result of the war is 655,000 and climbing.

Sunsara Taylor's "The Courage of the Thousands Who acted and the Challenge to Bring Forward Hundreds of Thousands More" (World Can't Wait, "with input from Prachi Noor"):

In the months leading into the October 5th protests there was significant growth in the breadth of individuals and organizations taking up the movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime as their own. Coming from different perspectives, many new people went into print and onto the airwaves advocating for mass political action aimed at driving out the regime. Some had never spoken publicly about politics in this way before while others had done so but never as part of a nation-wide movement. This took courage and set a very positive standard and example for others.
Debate was opened up and proved necessary within a significant number of organizations over whether and how to participate in driving out the regime. Among those who took this up, there was a greater level of unity than in the past over the necessity of going into the streets to drive out the regime. Still, there are many organizations - particularly among those who are tied to the Democratic Party - who have stood aside from, and advocated against, this form of political mobilization because they see this as an obstacle to getting the Democrats elected. This notion - of subordinating principle, fundamental rights, and the fate of whole peoples - in order to achieve an electoral "victory" must be much more fully and sharply challenged (whatever one's view of the Democratic Party, generally) and many more organizations must be won to act in ways that official politics now is suppressing.
Snowballing Momentum in the Weeks Leading Up to October 5th
One of the most conspicuous strengths was the mushrooming of protests planned across the country--including in many states and counties that had voted for Bush in 2004, as well as in others. In places like New Paltz , Tuscon, Minneapolis, and Portland, the number of people who protested ranged from 600 to 1,500. In places like Tampa, Greensboro, and Charlotte, there were 100 - 200 people. In Florida and North Carolina, there were more than a dozen protests in each state. In Texas, Bush's home-state, there were 15. In Alabama there were four, including in Florence where 80 protested.
The immediate impetus for this growth outside the country's largest cities was the placement of a full-page USA Today ad, after which the number of protests planned began to snowball from about 50 to more than 230 a little over a week.

The World Can't Wait's most recent actions, discussed above, took place across the country on Thursday October 5th. More can be found at their website. In addition, you can see "World Can't Wait link-fest" and this "Iraq snapshot" as well as Mike's "Blue Angels buzzing rally and power cut (San Francisco)." Thursday, October 5th KPFA's Flashpoints broadcast live from the San Francisco World Can't Wait event. You can use the archives at either KPFA or Flashpoints
to listen to that report.

On the topic of the media, Heath notes Larry Sakin's "The Realities of Media and News Programming" (Op-Ed News):

My friend Zoe asked a great question the other day. Zoe wanted to know why the media covers stories on school shootings ad nauseum, when America is killing innocent children living in Iraq and other countries on a daily basis. This is a very complex question, but the crass, simple answer is: Because stories about school shootings in America sell Hummers, and babies in Iraq don't.
It's not Zoe's fault that she hasn't caught on to this concept. Like me, Zoe is a baby-boomer who grew up during a time when television networks considered their news division to be the crowns of their programming schedule; the days before noble public interest was put far ahead of economic self-interest.
With the quiet deregulation of the television industry during the Reagan '80's, changes were being made to news divisions that were barely noticed by viewers. News stories became as a much a "product" as the swill advertisers on the evening news broadcasts barnstormed across the airwaves. The people delivering the news resembled the network demographics. It seemed on-air news readers on the local and national levels were all attractive, between the ages of 20 and 35, and slightly aloof from the stories they presented. Gone were the Edwin Newman's and Irving R. Levine's- extremely competent but academic looking analysts that came from investigative reporting and war correspondent backgrounds-and in came the pretty dunderheads just able enough to not move their eyes while reading from a Tele-Prompt-R.
The introduction of 24 hours cable news left newsrooms scrambling, as the three major networks losing revenue to the upstart Cable News Network. Formats had to change in order to lure back advertisers who were being offered huge discounts by CNN for multiple play ads that ran through the early morning hours. The "news hole", or content space on broadcasts left for deep analysis of political policy was diminished as viewers switched to cable for updates on entertainment, celebrities and tabloid news offering empty calories over bland but fibrous reportage scratching beneath the surface of legislation and court decisions. Newsroom budgets were slashed and foreign bureaus closed throughout the eighties and nineties in order to make up for the advertising dollars cable siphoned from networks. A story like Watergate, which had an intricate web of players, government and campaign expenditures and several mini-scandals within the main scandal, was no longer viable to cover because of the expenses of man hours and research. And it really didn't matter anyway. People no longer wanted long, highly researched, wonk-ish reports on policy. If viewers weren't tuning into to cable news; they were watching syndicated programming like "A Current Affair", a show that featured salacious gossip about celebrities and speculative conspiracy theories, or shows like PBS's "The McLaughlin Group", a shout fest between politically moderate and conservative pundits on the issues of the day supposedly refereed by the hopelessly conservative minister John McLaughlin. In order to compete, news divisions had to jump on the bandwagon of appealing to the lowest common denominators of the news viewing public.
Most importantly, this dumbing-down of news by media led to big profits. Frankly, advertisers aren't interested in intelligent people who can see through the outlandish product claims that commercials make. They're interested in complacent, emotionally-based people whose fears can be played upon, motivating them to purchase items they don't really need and can't afford. With their markets targeted news division's touted stories that had immediate emotional impact and shunted those that took too long to explain.

Meanwhile, Olive notes that, in Australia, John Howard (prime minister) continues to play War Hawk and is now saying that he doubts Iran & Syria would want to help with Iraq (the Jimmy Baked Baker 'plan'). Australia's ABC covers the latest here.

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