The first day he was deployed in Iraq, in November 2004, Sgt. Ricky Clousing found himself standing guard at the rear of an Army convoy after it stopped on a Baghdad street. His job was to turn back any vehicles that approached. So when a car turned toward them from a side street, he raised his weapon in warning and the car began to turn around. Clousing could see the driver's eyes clearly--just a scared and unthreatening young man. Then, from somewhere in the convoy, Clousing heard a "pop, pop, pop." Another soldier had fired at the car, killing him.
Clousing told that story and more about his appalling Iraq experience in a speech at Guilford College a few weeks before his court martial for desertion from the Army was scheduled to begin at Fort Bragg. That was in October. The trial ended with a plea agreement: Clousing was found guilty of being AWOL and was sentenced to serve three months in a military prison before receiving a bad-conduct discharge from the Army.
With good conduct, Clousing will be released this Friday or Saturday morning, and he'll head for Raleigh at midday Saturday to be greeted by human rights supporters at the Raleigh Friends Meeting House, 625 Tower St. (the street behind the Cameron Village Post Office). His reception is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., before he catches a flight from RDU back to his hometown of Seattle, Wash.
"Any friends of peace and G.I. resistance are welcome to share in the spirit of this courageous voice against injustice," says Chuck Fager, the director of Quaker House in Fayetteville and one of the event's chief organizers.
The above is from Bob Geary's "Sgt. Ricky Clousing went AWOL over atrocities: Soldier tried to report abuses but was rebuffed" (Raleigh-Durham Independent Weekly). Ricky Clousing stood up and he did make a difference. It got some coverage, from All Things Media Big & Small, some not much. But regardless of coverage, it made a difference. And it will continue to do so as Clousing continues speaking out. Like Kyle Snyder and many more.
Eddie notes Matthew Rothschild's "Harry Reid No Majority Leader" (This Just In, The Progressive):
The leadership of the Democratic Party is nowhere--nowhere on the Iraq War.
Look no further than Sunday's "This Week" program, where Harry Reid was asked about the latest crazy idea from Bush and company: the surge --throwing 20,000 or more additional U.S. troops into Baghdad.
Reid is supposed to represent the opposition, but on Iraq, he's providing no real opposition to the Bush course.
Reid, who came to power as Majority Leader in the Senate on the gusts of anti-war sentiment, amazingly is on board with Bush now.
"If the commanders on the ground said this is just for a short period of time, we’ll go along with that," Reid said.
Come on, Harry, get with it.
Sending more troops to Baghdad is only going to result in more U.S. soldiers dying.
It’s only prolonging the inevitable, which is that we've got to pull our troops out of there, not keep sending more in.
Rothschild wrote the above on the 18th of December. On the 19th, Harry Reid issued this statement:
Frankly, I don't believe that more troops is the answer for Iraq. It's a civil war and America should not be policing a Sunni-Shia conflict. In addition, we don't have the additional forces to put in there. We obviously want to support what commanders in the field say they need, but apparently even the Joint Chiefs do not support increased combat forces for Baghdad. My position on Iraq is simple:
1. I believe we should start redeploying troops in 4 to 6 months (The Levin-Reed Plan) and complete the withdrawal of combat forces by the first quarter of 2008. (As laid out by the Iraq Study Group)
2. The President must understand that there can only be a political solution in Iraq, and he must end our nation's open-ended military commitment to that country.
3. These priorities need to be coupled with a renewed diplomatic effort and regional strategy.
I do not support an escalation of the conflict. I support finding a way to bring our troops home and would look at any plan that gave a roadmap to this goal.
It's been two weeks since the Iraq Study Group released its plan to change the course and bring our troops home. Since then, the President has been on a fact finding tour of his own administration -- apparently ignoring the facts presented by those in the military who know best. The President needs to put forth a plan as soon as possible, one that reflects the reality on the ground in Iraq and that withdraws our troops from the middle of this deadly civil war.
You can thank organizations like CODEPINK (who sent out an alert to members asking them to contact Reid about his support, Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation, for a 'surge') and you can thank people like Matthew Rothschild who used their platforms to call him out. Harry Reid is going to bend to appease unless his feet are held to the fire. And that's true of the majority of Congressional members.
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 number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 2938. Tonight? 2959. That's twenty-one in a week and do you see that reflected in the coverage at all? No. You see gushing reports from the lackeys who got to obeserve officials (they rarely get that they're servants at the party, not guests).
Jim Lobe (IPS) writes about the "Urge to Surge" and you can certainly see that same 'urge' in the mainstream media. Lynda notes this from Lobe's latest report:
As official Washington breaks for the two-week Christmas-New Year's hiatus, it knows that the number one issue it will face on its return in early January is the White House's apparent "urge to surge" as many as 50,000 new troops into Iraq for up to two years in a last-ditch effort to claim what President George W. Bush insists on calling "victory".
The plan, which was presented to Bush last week in a meeting with five national defence specialists, two associates of the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), is designed to focus U.S. military efforts on providing "security" for average Iraqi citizens against both the Sunni insurgency and Shia militias that have, in the report's words, made Baghdad the "centre of gravity of this conflict".
Drafted hastily -- it currently exists only as a Power Point presentation -- by its two main authors, AEI fellow Frederick Kagan and the former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, Gen. Jack Keane, as an alternative to the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG) headed by former Secretary of State James Baker, it is called "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq".
The title apparently chosen deliberately to counter one of the ISG's core messages: that there is "no magic bullet" -- least of all a military one -- that can save what most analysts here believe is the biggest U.S. foreign policy debacle since at least the Vietnam War.
"Alone among proposals for Iraq, the new Keane-Kagan strategy has a chance to succeed," declared this week's Weekly Standard, which, like the AEI fellows involved in the "Victory" project, was a major champion for going to war in Iraq.
Indeed, the provenance of the plan -- aside from Keane and two other senior retired military officers, a majority its 17 contributors are AEI fellows -- has fed suspicions that it represents one final effort by neo-conservatives to persuade the president that, by "doubling down" on his gamble on Iraq, he can still leave the table a winner and "transform" the entire Middle East.
Lynda notes that Baby Cries A Lot has made his "half-assed" program about giving a weekly platform for an AEI scholar and that others on the left and 'left' appear to have joined in. Fortunately, he's in repeats and can do very little damage currently.
A real radio program worth hearing is what Joan steers us to -- Hawaii Public Radio's KIPO (89.3 FM) where Town Square (Thursday December 14th) devoted the hour to Ehren Watada's case (Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq). The host of the program is Beth-Ann Kozlovich and the guests were Ehren Watada, his father Bob and Ann Wright.
Ehren Watada spoke of how he never saw himself ending his military career with a court-martial but he feels "a crime was committed on the American people" and that to participate would not only condone the illegal war but condone future deceptions as well.
Beth-Ann Kozlovich pointed out that, "Between January and June this really was under the radar of most of us." That was the time period during which Ehren Watada was attempting to explore avenues other than going public.
Bob Watada spoke of his speaking tours to raise awareness on his son's case (he estimated it was 24 states on the mainland), "very, very positive" was how he rated the public response and noted the interest of the international media as well (including Spanish, Swedish and Japanese media).
Ann Wright discussed the realities Watada is facing: "Certainly the military has its own way of looking at things. If you look at what the civilian environment is doing, if you look at the elections, the American people is clearly saying they want a change . . . In the court of public opinion I certainly think that Ehren . . . has effected a lot of people and we see a lot of changes in the American public." Kozlovich asked whether that would have an impact on military justice and Wright responded, "I would certainly hope that they would look at it and take into account that they all are really on trial. The military itself is being forced by the Bush admistration to do things that are very difficult to do."
Ann Wright stated that Ehren was being made an example of out of the fear that if Ehren Watada is found not guilty, others will follow his lead. (Others already are.) Carolyn Ho called in to give a report on how things were going in the United States where she was on a speaking tour and also knocking on the doors of Congress to raise awareness on her son's case. She gave Congress "mixed reviews" and noted that many said there wasn't anything they could do now but some stated possibly "at the time of sentencing" there might be something Congress could do. Others were more supportive. Carolyn Ho is asking for people to contact their Congressional reps and demand that they utilize their legislative oversight duties. Ehren's stance is that the war is illegal and he cannot serve in an illegal war. How can he be court-martialed for his stance when Congress refuses to do their job and determine the status of the war? Contact your Congressional reps and "Ask to have his resignation accepted and the charges dismissed because he is innocent based on Article 6, Clause 2 of the Constitution which states that all international treaties that the United States has entered into are the Supreme Law of the Land . . . so he's committed no crime and, indeed, should be freed."
She noted that as important as the legal defense was for her son, "the power is with the public opinion" as well.
Ann Wright spoke of the need to end the war and to put pressure on Congress. She discussed the 31 days she spent on the Troops Home Fast and how it led to an invitation to Jordan from Iraqi members of parliament to discuss a peace plan.
Ehren Watada spoke of the time before he made his decision when he and others were wondering why someone wasn't speaking out? He said he realized you can't ask anyone to do anything you're not willing to do and his question of "What are you willing to do?" is one everyone should be asking themselves.
We'll close with Kendrick's highlight, Bruce Dixon's "Is Dennis Kucinich the Black Candidate?" (Black Agenda Report):
Kucinich was the lone member of Congress present at the hearing. The imposing row of raised desks, nameplates and microphones against one wall was vacant. Kucinich sat at the same table with Middle East scholar Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, and with two authors of the peer-reviewed Lancet study which fixed the number of excess deaths produced by the US invasion of that unhappy land at about 650,000 to date, more than 200 dead Iraqis for each American. The four men at the table faced a small number of media and spectators.
Not a single one of the 75-strong member Congressional Progressive Caucus was in attendance. Not one member of the Congressional Black Caucus was present. Three days earlier, Congressman Kucinich had declared himself a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.
There's not nearly as much polling done of black public opinion as we at Black Agenda Report would like to see, but what there is indicates that a major fault line dividing white from black America is belief in America's right to impose its will by military force on the rest of humanity. Most African Americans don't buy it. Most of our white neighbors do. In 2003, polling on the eve of the Iraq invasion showed that while seven of ten whites endorsed the coming war of choice, the same percentage of African Americans opposed it.
Establishment pundits deal with this in two ways. The Gallup organization explained the 2003 poll results by ascribing African American opposition to the war purely to the overwhelming black antipathy toward President Bush himself, as though the nuances of foreign policy were too deep for black minds to grasp, or perhaps we could only hold one idea at a time in our tiny heads. The Wall Street Journal's online editorial page takes a different, but equally racist tack, simply pronouncing black opinion irrelevant because it disagrees with white opinion.
But the truth is that we do exist, not just as an audience to be marketed to, but as a coherent political and moral force in American life. There is in fact, a black polity and a black consensus in which the discernible breadth of opinion is well to the left of much of white America in many areas. This is the black polity Martin Luther King and the early SCLC belonged to when they chose as their motto "To Save The Soul of America." This is the political reality and moral vision the Congressional Black Caucus of the 1970s and 80s appealed to when they styled themselves "the Conscience of the Congress." And it's the tradition in which Dennis Kucinich was operating when he convened the December hearing on Iraqi civilian casualties. That day, Dennis Kucinich was where the CBC should have been. He was definitely where most black voters have been all along.
Like Cynthia McKinney, and unlike most Democrats in the Congress, Kucinich has acted the part of an opposition legislator. And like McKinney, he often seems to stand alone because Democrats have long ceased to be an opposition party.
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and the war drags on