Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ruth's Report

Ruth: For all the anti-war talk that you hear from time to time, "time to time" being key, after awhile you grasp that it is really just talk for some. Any who doubted that saw it play out live this week as our "big" small media took a pass on covering war resister Darrell Anderson or World Can't Wait rallies. Mr. Anderson returned from Canada, turned himself at Fort Knox and has already been released by the military. He was either the subject of blink-and-you-miss-it coverage or not covered at all.

I visited the websites of various magazines at the start of the week but had to stop doing that since I had little interest in following every breaking detail of Who Dropped His Pants but I did notice that one took a moment to weigh in on the very controversial issue of school violence and decide that, yes, they were against it. Such passes for "brave" stands these days.

I also read and heard, on radio programs, a great deal about horse race handicapping this past week and, sadly, I did not once listen to or read Cokie Roberts. If two words are needed for this past week, they are "dumbed down." So mid-week, I was on the phone with my granddaughter Tracey and C.I. and we were discussing what we wished independent media would provide us with. Chief among our topics was a focus on Iraq.

I hear a lot that Afghanistan is the "forgotten war." What does that make Iraq? The "sidebar war"? Where went independent media? Did they all grow weary? Did they all grow bored? Did they think the war would end in a matter of weeks and, when that did not happen, take their marbles and go home?

Tracey mentioned arts coverage and noted that she had read no review of Sir! No Sir! in either The Nation or The Progressive nor seen an interview with the director David Zeiger. She wondered why that was? For those who have not heard of Zeiger's film, Sir! No Sir! explores war resistance in the Vientam era. An amazing film that brings to life the period and rescues forgotten history might strike you or me as something worth covering but, despite winning the Best Documentary at the Hamptons International Film Festival and at the Los Angeles Film Festival as well as being a nominee for the Independent Spirit Award, Sir! No Sir! takes a back seat to any and everything in the world of arts.

But then resistance appears to take a back seat to everything. Peace takes a back seat to everything. We can get coverage of a Congressional report or the statement of an elected official, we just cannot expect it on the peace movement. As someone who protested Vietnam, I am fully aware that Congress did not wake up one day and, out of the goodness of their hearts, decide they were opposed to the war. The fact that the war was immoral and illegal was not the driving factor. What did move them to oppose the war was the fact that people were opposed to it, that the numbers continued to grow, that, in some opinion polls, the number against the war had reached seventy-percent. When a war is opposed by over two-thirds of the people, even hesitant, timid leaders must attempt to respond in some manner.

As the three of us spoke on the phone, my own suggestion was an interview with Camilo Mejia who was among the first to resist the war, checking out of the military in October 2003 after seeing war crimes in Iraq. The interview I visualized contained questions like these:

1) When you made the decision to leave the military, did you ever imagine that so many others would do the same?

2) You were the first to make the case in a military court that the war was illegal and to participate in it would make you a party to war crimes. That argument continues to echo, in Pablo Paredes case and, most recently, in
Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing. The argument reflected your statements before your own trial but, at any point prior to your hearing, did anyone attempt to persuade you to 'soften' your argument or go for something more 'acceptable'?

3) A common narrative we hear from war resisters once they go public is how they had to educate themselves. How aware were you of G.I. resistance during Vietnam prior to going to Iraq?

4) As the public face of war resistance so early, what advice would you to give to others coming forward now?

5) With regards to ending the illegal war, what gives you hope today and what concerns you?

Those are among the questions I would enjoy seeing a magazine or radio interview ask. I would love to see or read a roundtable involving war resisters. I would enjoy a discussion of members of the peace movement. Those are only some of the ways the Iraq war could be covered but currently is not.

Though independent media may feel that they have exhausted the topic, that is not the case. This morning I found two pieces that reminded me that with or without independent coverage, the war drags on: Josh White's "Picking Up the Pieces of Slain Troops' Lives" (Washington Post) and C.I.'s "Jake Kovco" [filling in for Kat at Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)]. I would suggest that you read both and judge your own response to it. If your response is a shrug of indifference then I would assume you are pleased with what currently passes for coverage in our independent media. I am not.

[Ruth wanted it noted that Laura Flanders had a powerful opening to Saturday's RadioNation with Laura Flanders where Flanders noted some of the dead. She toyed with rewriting her report but, to avoid the "Where is Ruth?" e-mails, asked that a note be added. If you missed Saturday's RadioNation with Laura Flanders, the segment may be included in the one hour version of Saturday and Sunday's shows that goes up midweek here and that you can now hear Wednesdays at noon Pacific time on San Francisco's KALW. Those who have trouble listening to the feedburner one hour version can listen online Wednesdays at KALW.]