Thursday, November 02, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Talking from Louisville, Kentucky, on a borrowed cellphone, 23-year-old U.S. army deserter Kyle Snyder informed the Georgia Straight he was about to turn himself in.
It was Halloween, and the Colorado-born Snyder was off to Fort Knox--about 55 kilometres from Louisville--to obtain what he hoped would be an honourable discharge from the U.S. military.
Snyder was scheduled to speak at an antiwar protest rally in Vancouver the previous Saturday, where thousands marched from Waterfront Station to the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery to demand that Prime Minister Stephen Harper bring Canadian troops home from Afghanistan. According to Juergen Dankwort of the War Resisters Network, who spoke to the Straight at the time, Snyder was a no-show because he was antsy about TV cameras ahead of his Fort Knox showdown.
"I think maybe he's nervous," said the Swedish-born Dankwort, a Kwantlen University College sociology instructor and Vietnam War--draft evader who came to Canada from New York almost 40 years ago. "I saw him the other night when we all had dinner."
(Accompanied by Vancouverite Gerry Condon, Snyder was in transit to Kentucky all day October 30.)

The above, noted by Vic, is from Matthew Burrows' "U.S. deserter misses Canada" (Canada's The Straight). Since that story was filed, there have been developments. And our Canada members whose names start with V both represent for this entry. Vince notes "U.S. deserter from Vancouver goes AWOL again" (Canada's CBC):

Snyder refused to report to his unit and said he is now in hiding in Kentucky.
He said if the matter isn't resolved soon, he'll return to Canada and apply for refugee status again.
Snyder also said he wants to warn other U.S. deserters to stay in Canada.
"Just don't come down. Don't trust it. I mean, if they're doing this on a case-by-case basis, like they said, then it's not worth it."
U.S. military officials could not be reached for comment on the case.

And with more on the story, Dick Foster's "AWOL soldier hides again as Army deal evaporates" (Rocky Mountain News):

Neither his attorney, Jim Fennerty, nor Gerry Condon, his sponsor from Project Safe Haven, a Seattle- based sanctuary for AWOL American soldiers, would reveal the whereabouts of Kyle Snyder, 23.
Now, Condon said, Snyder wants any deal with the Army in writing before he will surrender.
[. . .]
Fennerty said he thought he had brokered a deal for Snyder with Maj. Brian Patterson, the head of the Army's Personnel Control Facility at Fort Knox, Ky. Fennerty and Condon escorted Snyder from Vancouver, B.C., where he had lived for the last 18 months, to Fort Knox on Tuesday.
"We had an understanding with the Army officials at Fort Knox that he'd be in and out of their facility in three days with an other-than-honorable discharge with no further punishment," said Condon, a former Army medic who moved to Canada rather than accept orders to Vietnam.

Want to end the war? Treat the peace movement like it matters. Grasp that Kyle Snyder's story is one you should be sharing. And it's obvious we can forget about any assistance on that from independent media. For more on that topic, check your inboxes tomorrow for the gina & krista round-robin, that's the topic of the roundtable. With Gina and Krista's permission, I brought a friend into the roundtable who could speak of how they covered the peace movement then compared to how today's press covers it now. You won't want to miss that. Especially the comparisons to mainstream media then and now contrasted with alternative media then and now. Isaiah's also done an illustration on the coverage coming from independent media. Eli contributes a column on the peace movement spanning decades. Three Cool Old Guys ask why all the experts in independent media tend to be White? Beth runs down the three questions that have popped up the most this summer and offers her thoughts on them. And much more. Polly understands that come Sunday morning, I'm just trying to throw something together as quick as possible and get back to the sessions for The Third Estate Sunday Review. So I rarely am able to note Polly's Brew. So let me plug it now. There will be a roundtable on the peace movements in England and the US. (Polly has one more slot open for a US member. If you're interested, e-mail her for the time on Friday that it's taking place.) Pru has a hilarious column about foreign correspondents entitled "Lost In England." Gareth and James in Brighton are putting together visuals from recent rallies. Mike and Goldie both have columns. Mike's not sure what he's going to write about but Goldie's going to explain how the news of Kyle Snyder has been received at her middle school. (Goldie's finished her column and it's very good.) DK is taking a look at the theatre as an agent of change. And Wally and Cedric will have a joint entry (not a humorous one) about their efforts to turn out the vote in their areas. Dominick has something planned as well but he's still working on it. (I will have a column but I haven't even thought of anything to write about yet, so I have no idea what it will be about. The column for the round-robin is on Abeer.) Polly's Brew hits inboxes Sunday morning.

And the peace movement hits independent media when?

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 total number of US troop fatalities stood at 2809. Right now? 2826. The passing of the 2800 mark received little attention. And are we surprised? After all this time, are we surprised? Here's something that might surprise, the toll thus far for the month of November is 8. It's the second day of November, the toll is eight. If the deaths for the month of October (105) are averaged out it comes to 3.52 deaths a day.

In other news, AP reports:

A former soldier in the 101st Airborne Division was indicted Thursday in the rape and death of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the slayings of three of her relatives last March.
Former Army private Steven D. Green, 21, was charged with murder, aggravated sexual assault and conspiracy, among other offenses, in the federal indictment. If convicted, Green could face life in prison or the death penalty, a Justice Department statement said.

From Reuters:

The indictment charges that Steven Green, 21, and four other soldiers who are still in the Army sexually abused 14-year-old Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi, then killed her and her father, mother and 6-year-old sister. Green is accused of trying to burn the bodies to conceal the crime. Another soldier is charged with covering up the March 12, 2006, crime in Mahmudiya, Iraq.
Among the charges brought against Green were murder, murder in perpetration of aggravated sexual abuse, conspiracy charges, sexual abuse of a minor, and obstruction of justice.

Yes, Abeer and, yes, AP seems to not know her name to judge by that report. Steven D. Green spent the days before enlisting in jail. But let's not talk about the lowered standards Donald Rumsfeld has imposed upon the military, right? There was an effort, post-Vietnam, to professionalize the military but Rumsfled junked that to meet the quotas needed for the illegal war, but we're all supposed to look the other way. People in the military don't look the other way. Those who have elected to make it their life and chalked up years of service don't look the other way. But let's all pretend that Rumsfled has done a bang up job.

Why not? Everything else under the Bully Boy's reign has improved, right? Wrong. But we won't talk about that or about "The ones we never know." There's always something else to talk about, right?

And we wonder why the war drags on?

And who makes the money. Reuters reports:

The U.S. Air Force asked the Pentagon's leadership for a staggering $50 billion in emergency funding for fiscal 2007 -- nearly half its annual budget, defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute said on Tuesday.
The request is expected to draw criticism on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are increasingly worried about the huge sums being sought and approved "off budget" to fund wars, escaping the more rigorous congressional oversight of regular budgets.

Another source familiar with the Air Force plans said the extra funds would help pay to transport growing numbers of U.S. soldiers being killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Times are tough for the air force. Supposedly. They need "extra funds" to just get troops home.
Probably be a bit more convincing if other news wasn't breaking. AP reports Lockheed Martin just got a contract for $30 million and that it will go to things such as "the Dual Miniature Inertial Measument Unit Single Startracker configuration for the Defense Meteorological Systems Group Flight 19 and 20." Doesn't sound like it's going to help troops return from Afghanistan and Iraq. But there's more. The largest contract announced today, according to AP, went to Boeing, $229.8 million, to produce "Wideband Gapfiller Satellite (WGS) Space Vehicle 4." L-3 got $42 million. 'Poor' DRS only got $6.3 million. None of its for the troops. It's for gadgets. The same military that couldn't provide body armor now prepares to spend a fortune so that the air force can fight in space (see previous) and cyberspace.

It's the same old story every war. Promises are made, then you come back wounded or the war is over and the government breaks the agreement. It's been going on since the days of George Washington (longer outside the United States). And when scare tactics may be on the way out, it's time for the greed to really kick in to squeeze those big money funds out of Congress. If the people don't have health care coverage provided by the government and the school systems are woefully underfunded, where does the money go? Not to the troops.

Kayla notes Thomas Farragher's "LAST OF FOUR PARTS: THE WAR AFTER THE WAR' I need to blaze my own trail'" (Boston Globe via Military Families Speak Out):

He'd worked until midnight, drank late-night beers with the boys, and as a mid-winter dawn broke, Andy Wilson stood in the rutted parking lot of a dingy after-hours bar, pointing his gun at a man who had pushed him too far.
"I snapped the other night," Wilson wrote in a mid-February e-mail. "I went out after work on Saturday and a friend of a friend decided to try to tell me what to do. I pulled my gun on him, fired a shot, and have no regrets."
He was lying about the last part.
Wilson had purposely aimed high and wide, and he was frightened and embarrassed by what he'd done. He apologized, drove the man home, and when he recounted the incident later that week to his veterans support group, he was inconsolable.
"He curled up in a ball and just cried," said Will Thiery, a Desert Storm veteran who coordinates the weekly sessions at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dayton. "He lost it."
More than a year after returning from Iraq, Wilson was barely hanging on. The smiling, hopeful 30-year-old student who had begun classes at Wright State University in early January had grown sullen and isolated. It didn't take much to set him off.
"One day I'm cool," Wilson said. "The next day I want to lock myself in the attic."
His complex relationship with his mother was wearing him down. His $6-an-hour job at a drive-through convenience store near the college was hardly inspiring. And his weekly stint as disc jockey at the campus radio station hadn't blossomed into a more regular gig.
The medicine chest in his apartment was now stocked with pills to battle sleeplessness, anxiety, and depression. Zoloft. Trazodone. Clonazepam. Risperidone.
"I feel sedated all the time," he said. "It's like I'm not even living life anymore."

Kayla also notes Karen Jowers' "Military families group seeks Rumsfeld meeting" (Air Force Times via Military Families Speak Out):

A national organization of about 3,000 people with family members or loved ones in the military has asked for a meeting with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to speak their minds about the war in Iraq.
Representatives of the group Military Families Speak Out will deliver a petition to Rumsfeld and Congress calling for an end to the “backdoor draft” and for all troops to be brought home now.
Examples of this “backdoor draft,” they say, are troop extensions, stop-loss orders, involuntary recalls and multiple deployments to Iraq.
“As Secretary of Defense, it is not only your job but your moral duty to hear what they have to say and to answer questions that they have,” wrote Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson, co-founders of Military Families Speak Out, in the Oct. 30 letter to Rumsfeld in which they ask for a Nov. 9 meeting.

But remember, Bully Boy's on the campaign trail bragging about Rumsfled and what a great job he's doing (apparently in an alternate universe-- the Bully Boy universe where 'up' is 'down' and 'war' is 'peace').

Susan notes that CODEPINK is attempting to bring the Iraqi people into the discussion with a new exhibit:

Walk In Their Shoes. Shoes, like this pair representing the 3-year-old daughter of Hussein al Tarish, help people visualize unspeakable pain and suffering this war has inflicted on the Iraqi people. In the final weeks of the election season, let's take shoes like these to the doorsteps of pro-war candidates--outside a fundraiser, a debate, their campaign headquarters or their homes.

CODEPINK continues to be creative and inspiring. Also inspiring are rallies. Last weekend, A.N.S.W.E.R. held rallies around the country. We noted the one in Los Angeles earlier this week and Kyle wanted to note the one in Chicago. This is from A.N.S.W.E.R.'s "Thousands protest Iraq War on Oct. 28" which also notes Florida, New Haven (Conn), New York, Seattle and San Francisco:

In Chicago, the ANSWER Coalition organized a "People's Street Campaign to Vote to End the War on Iraq." Campaign teams set up at busy street corners at 12 noon all over the city with people's ballots, ballot boxes, sandwich boards and leaflets for an upcoming anti-war educational forum on Sunday, Nov. 12. The teams were very well received, especially on Chicago's south side, a predominantly African American community where disgust with the capitalist elections is very high. Throughout the city, cars honked in approval and people stopped at campaign tables to line up to vote on the people's ballot against the war. Campaign organizer Stefanie Beacham said, "There really was an overwhelmingly positive response to the campaign. It's obvious from being out on the street that the vast majority of people are against the war. If a referendum about the war was on the ballot on Nov. 7, the troops would be coming home on Nov. 8."
The people's campaign in Chicago was part of a month long effort in Chicago by activists and volunteers to take the anti-war movement to the people. All throughout the month of October, campaign teams went out to every community to conduct the people's vote on the war. The campaign reached out to thousands of people in the greater Chicago area.

The rallies are no longer a one organization thing or a twice a year thing (March and September). Organizations are registering their voices weekly (weekly may be an understatement). In communities everywhere. Each one, whether it's covered by the media, big or small, sparks an idea, adds to the movement. It's true now and it's true in every era. Contrasting today's illegal war and Bully Boy with an earlier one, Robert Scheer's "Turning the Corner Into Madness" (Truthdig):

Every time I hear President Bush railing against those who would "cut and run" in Iraq instead of pursuing "victory," as he does almost daily, I think back to similar claims being made for the Vietnam debacle when I reported from Saigon in the mid-'60s. Back then, the U.S. troop presence was lower and casualties fewer than now in Iraq, but the carnage, on all sides, would escalate for the next decade, as we waited miserably for the corner to be turned.
Then, as now, calls for setting a timetable for an orderly withdrawal were rejected as emboldening our enemy to attack America. Instead of a dignified withdrawal, we plunged ever deeper into the quagmire, leaving 59,000 U.S. troops and 3.4 million Indochinese dead as tribute to our stupidity. Finally, there was nothing to do but "cut and run" in the most ignominious fashion. With our U.S. personnel being lifted by helicopter from roofs near our embassy, it seemed like a low point for U.S. influence, and there were dire predictions of communism's global dominance--just as there is today for the "Islamo-fascist" bogeyman the president has seized upon.
Those predictions, however, proved dead wrong. Communism did not advance as a worldwide force after our defeat in Vietnam. On the contrary, a victorious communist-run Vietnam soon went to war with the China-backed communists of Cambodia--overthrowing Pol Pot's evil Khmer Rouge--and with communist China itself, in a bloody border war.
Today communist Vietnam is still battling communist China--but now it is for shelf space in Wal-Mart and Costco. The United States, meanwhile, spending itself silly under the haplessly irresponsible President Bush, is now dependent on China both to carry its debt and contain communist North Korea’s nuclear threat.

That was Micah's highlight and it's important to grasp the historical burps (if not gags). History repeats as long as we let it. But the repeat of the bad can also mean the repeat of the good. Bully Boy declares an illegal war and the people respond. In larger and larger numbers and respond in various waves that make up the peace movement. Tracey, Ruth's granddaughter, notes Katrina vanden Heuvel's "The Soldiers Speak Out" (Editor's Cut, The Nation) on one wave:

"As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for US troops to come home."
This statement --
the Appeal for Redress -- has been signed by over 600 active-duty soldiers who have had enough of seeing their brothers and sisters sacrificed to the disastrous war in Iraq. In this month alone, 101 American soldiers have been killed, more than in any month since January, 2005 and the fourth highest monthly total since the war began in March, 2003.
Seaman Jonathon Hutto and Marine Sergeant Liam Madden spearheaded the Appeal which is co-sponsored by
Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out. It is the latest effort stemming from the antiwar energy that has emerged among military families, veterans, and active military, including generals and other high-ranking officers. It's also the first antiwar movement organized by active military personnel since the Vietnam War.

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