Saturday, September 02, 2006

Who Will Bring Down The Curtain?

Many of the Arabas praise the hospitality of the Kurds. "The people are very good to us, and we have more freedom here," said Mr. Abdul Rahman, the former intelligence officer. "There are no Americans. Tikrit is very bad -- there are mass arrests, curfews, no services, no electricity."

The above is from Edward Wong's "Iraqi Arabs See Unlikely Haven With Old Foes" in this morning's New York Times. Wong's reporting on the development of Arab Iraqis moving into "the secure provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan" and what that means in terms of the region. That issue has a number of people concerned and domestic (US) members should note the fears and qualms expressed by some that the region will lose its own identity. (Does the GOP that screams about immigration in this country realize what's going on in Iraq? Someone get Denny Hastert on the phone quickly!) Among the 39,000 families that have relocated (Wong notes the figure is higher than that given out by the Iraqi Ministery of Migration and Displacement), he quoted Naseer al-Yasiri whose family has moved from Baghdad, "Of course I miss Baghdad. But when you see it now, it's a ghost city. Who's left there? Terrorists."

What remains in the 'crackdown' capital? From the AFP's "Iraqis burn books to protest 'culture-killing' curfew:"

Several of Iraq's leading booksellers and writers have burnt a pyre of books to denounce a curfew which they said has turned the centre of Baghdad's intellectual life into "a street of ghosts".
In a demonstration dubbed the "Fires of Al-Mutanabi", authors and publishers denounced a weekly four-hour travel ban during Friday prayers in the war-torn Iraqi capital, which they said was stifling an important cultural centre.

As for the migration to the Kurdistan provinces, as Michael R. Gordon details (see previous entry), the violence and chaos is spreading.

Back to the Times, David E. Sanger takes a look at the changes in Bully Boy's public statments with "Bush's Shift of Tone on Iraq: The Grim Cost of Losing" and (it's a news analysis) draws historical comparisons. The historical comparisons may lead you to wonder if the Pentagon's report prepared for Congress says what it says, what do today's Pentagon Papers say? (You know they exist.) Sanger rightly compares Bully Boy's 'There's terrorism there's terrorism everywhere and if we leave Iraq we are allowing it to spread' to LBJ's talk of the domino theory (just as flawed).

But he leaves out the most obvious comparison: Harold of The Music Man.

Bully Boy's got his chest puffed out and his lie face on as he struts and sings: "Ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say, trouble right here in River City. " Being an American musical, it has a happy semi-happy ending. (For River City, not for the other communities scammed by Harold.) For those thinking that Bully Boy can form a band, they might need to grasp that even the conventions of musical theater dictated that Harold be exposed as a fraud before the redemption enters the picture. Need more comparisons? Marian is . . . a librarian and Laura Bush is a former librarian. It's The Music Man done as a tragedy while the world watches.

Bully Boy sings, "Ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say, trouble right here . . . and that starts with 'T' and that stands for terrorism . . . Ya got trouble." Of course The Bully Boy's Illegal War has run for 1263 days (and counting) already with no end in sight but The Music Man only ran on Broadway (original run) for 1,375 performances. And, another difference, The Music Man entertained audiences.

The Bully Boy's Illegal War? Comic relief is apparently supposed to be provided by scenes of military handovers that don't take place due to confusion and inept planning. ("Ha! Ha! The illegal occupation goes so poorly that they can't even pull off a cerominal photo-op!") As these events become more common place, to the question of "Who will pull back the curtain?" must be added, "Who will bring down the curtain?" It's past-time this play closed. (But the press raved so over it in out of town tryouts!)

Some of those not tapping their feet and humming along can be found in Martha's highlight, from Jonathan Finer's "Orphans in Iraq's Storm: Despite Stigma, Growing Number of Children Ending Up in Public Care" (Washington Post):

Athier Hamed first came to the Baghdad orphanage two years ago when his mother died suddenly and his father, he said, "lost his mind."
"He got angrier and angrier with me, and hurt me like it was nothing," said Athier, soft-spoken and slender, pulling up his sleeves to show waxy scars on his wrists from handcuffs he said his father, in a fit of rage, tried to weld to his arms.

Fearing for his life, Athier, now 13, ran away, talking a bus driver into giving him a ride to the Iraqi capital from his small home town in the western province of Anbar. Police took him to the First House for the Child, founded in 2003 as the number of abandoned and orphaned children in the Iraqi capital began to surge.
But when visiting government officials interviewed him about his past, they decided to return him to his father. It didn't last long.
"I said I didn't want to go back, but they said I should be with my own family," Athier said in a recent interview at the orphanage. "I couldn't bear being back with him. After two days, he hit me and I came back here."
Athier again became a ward of the state, a status increasingly common here despite a stigma so strong it has prompted the financially strapped government to pay families to take their children back.
Before the U.S. invasion in 2003, about 400 children lived in Iraqi orphanages, to which Saddam Hussein often paid high-profile visits to demonstrate his magnanimity. But by early 2006, that number had grown to nearly 1,000, according to government statistics. For a country that has been at war or under crippling economic sanctions for more than 25 years, the numbers are still smaller than might be expected. But Islamic society considers it shameful to abandon children to public care, so traditionally most children who lose parents are absorbed into vast family networks.

Wong's article also notes orphans in this passage:

He [Abdul Rhaman] and his wife, who is half-Kurdish, brought along their two children and Rusol, a young girl whose father was arrested by the Americans after the invasion. No one knows his fate. Rusol's older sister died of "crying and too much depression," Mr. Abdul Rahman said.

Alternative headline for the day. The AP offers "Bush: Iraq has not fallen into civil war" and reality offers "Bully Boy: Iraq has been pushed into civil war." It didn't fall, it was pushed.

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NYT: Gordo pants again

On the front page of the New York Times, War Pornographer Michael R. Gordon again proves It Takes a War Pornographer -- in both good ways and bad ways. The article's entitled "Iraqi Casualities Have Risen 51%, U.S. Study Finds." Take that Reuters, the article seems to scream, don't you tread on my territory.

And no one knows stats (the ones they care to know) like a war pornographer. Michael R. Gordon demonstrates that he has those down and possibly that he goes over them at night instead of counting sheep. He walks you through the Pentagon report (that he obviously had leaked -- not talking out of school here but the story runs in print today so you figure it out).

The Pentagon's crunched the numbers (calm down Gordo, or we'll ask you to take it to the bathroom) and found that violence is in on the rise: "Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife, with Sunni and Shia extremists each portraying themselves as the defenders of their respective sectarian groups." Gordon himself reports:

The reports notes that sectarian violence is gradually expanding north to Kirkuk and Diyala Province. Further, the confidence of Iraqis in the future has diminished, according to public opinion surveys cited in the Pentagon report.

All the raw data ("Raw," Gordo says licking his lips) tends to make his eyes goes milky, his brain go soft and other regions respond in the opposite. Which explains why he can pen: "In discussing daily casualty rates, the report did not distinguish between the number of dead and wounded" without ever grasping that, yes, Nancy A. Youssef, they do keep a body count.

(Nancy A. Youssef broke that story in June. It's remains one of the most unnoted scoops that should have been noted. The US military is keeping a body count. The American public should have that number. Not only has that not happened, most press outlets -- big and small -- haven't bothered to inform their readers, listeners, viewers, et al, that the US military admitted, in June, that they are keeping a body count.)

Gordo's in such a quick hurry to shuck his clothes and crawl onto the bed that he can't be bothered with exploring the meaning of the numbers or the fact that numbers are kept. (But think of all the 'raw' data, Gordo, think of all the 'raw' data.) It's a greater shame that the media, big and small, still can't be bothered it.

Gordo does a wonderful job summing up the report. It's a brilliant book report and makes his teachers look forward to his "What I Did This Summer" report. But it's not really reporting. It's a summary (not even a book review -- that would require evaluation skills). But when it's time to reduce the dead to numbers beyond the scope of many, you go to a war pornographer.

They do have their uses. Just remember (again) not to stand to close. And don't look over if they call your name when you pass them by. (Again, remember what happened to Jodie Foster's Clarice in Silence of the Lambs).

For those not in the mood for porn and needing more than a book report, Lloyd steers us to Ann Scott Tyson's "Pentagon Cites Spike In Violence in Iraq" (Washington Post):

Rising sectarian bloodshed has pushed violence in Iraq to its highest level in more than two years, and preventing civil war is now the most urgent mission of the growing contingent of 140,000 U.S. troops in the country, according to a new Pentagon report released yesterday.
Executions, kidnappings and other sectarian attacks targeting Iraqi civilians have soared over the past three months, contributing to a 51 percent rise in casualties among the population and Iraqi security forces, the report said. More than 3,000 Iraqis are killed or wounded each month, and by July, 2,000 of the casualties were the result of sectarian incidents, it showed.

The Pentagon report, though consistent with what news media have reported for months, is significant because it represents an official acknowledgment of trends that are widely believed to be driving the country toward full-scale civil war.

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RadioNation with Laura Flanders: Broadcasting live from Miami Saturday, looking at voter registration, poll watching and more

Kat here giving you the lineup for today.

First, RadioNation with Laura Flanders airs live tonight, a new broadcast:

We're live in Miami just a few days before the Florida primary. Who's voting and who's making sure those votes will count? We'll hear from Irma Palacios about the extraordinary work Democracia USA is doing registering new voters. And From Gihan Perera of the Miami Workers Center who have made pollwatching a part of their work. All that and a RadioNation-assisted victory in Ohio, and on Sunday a chance to re-hear last week's broadcast from Mississippi.
It's all on RadioNation with Laura Flanders this weekend on Air America Radio.

So check that out. Last week Malik Rahim and Jordan Flaherty were pretty amazing. You don't want to go through next week with people saying, "Hey, did you hear ___?" and have to be caught up. (Though by midweek, you can catch an archived version of the broadcast here, if you do miss it.) RadioNation with Laura Flanders airs from seven to ten p.m. Eastern Time, each Saturday and Sunday. You can use the link to listen online, you can listen via XM satellite radio or, if you have an Air America Radio station broadcasting in your area, you can listen over the traditional broadcast airwaves.

Now the schedule here. Everyone's off, don't visit this page.

I'm joking.

Ruth will have a new report. She's going to be focused on Iraq. I don't know if Isaiah will have a new comic or not. He's on vacation and West has already picked one of the classics to rerun. That doesn't mean he won't have one. When C.I. posts later, there may be word on that.

I will have a CD review this weekend. Probably not today. I'll probably finish it today and it will run Monday.

C.I. will be posting here today. Right now? There's a roundtable that they're finishing. Rebecca put together another one last night and the hour was late when they started so they ended up winding down with the promise to tack an hour and half to it (at least) today. Participating are Rebecca, C.I., Trina, Betty and Elaine. (If I left out someone, my bad.)

There will also be a roundtable in Polly's Brew Sunday morning that was done this morning. Participating in that were: Polly, Gareth, DK, Shirley, Jim, Dona, Ty, C.I., Wally, Cedric,
Ruth and myself. Polly didn't realize it would be a question of whether or not she'd be putting out a new Brew but that she did get a few e-mails on that. She said to pass on that there will be the usual Brew and that, in England, they're not celeberating Labor Day. (She said it very nicely but very funny. I told her she should add those two sentences to her column.)

The Third Estate Sunday Review will publish a new edition tomorrow. Since the gang are still out here and since it is a holiday weekend, my argument is that they should go by our time (our time out here). But who knows?

As soon as the roundtable is finished, C.I. will be posting here about the New York Times, Iraq, etc.

In case you missed Wally ("THIS JUST IN! DEMOCRATS IN CONGRESS DO HAVE A PULSE!") and Cedric ("Democrats do have a pulse") doing their joint post, here it is in full:












Who's going to call out Donald Rumsfeld?"

Recommended: "
Iraq snapshot"
And the war drags on . . ."
NYT: "In Latest Push, Bush Cites Risk in Quitting Iraq" (Anne E. Kornblut & Sheryl Gay Stolberg)"
Other Items"
Lotta Links pushes Voice of America -- the war crimes of indymedia"
"roundtable""Roundtable & snapshot""Found in the paper""A roundtable"
"Watch the Breaking Ranks trailer"
A roundtable"

Friday, September 01, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Friday, September 1, 2006.  Violence and chaos continue in Iraq, the Pentagon gets into a slap-fight with Nouri al-Maliki, Reuters schills for Operation Happy Talkers, an AWOL officer who returned finds himself charged with desertion, and AFP estimates that "nearly 400" Iraqis have died in the last "five-day bloodbath".
On August 11th, Ricky Clousing was the subject of press coverage for his decision to turn himself in after self-checking out of the military following his return from Iraq in 2005.  Clousing turned himself in at Fort Lewis and, on August 18th, he was at Fort Bragg.  The Associated Press is reporting that Ricky Clousing's attorney states his client "will face a desertion charge". 
As Mark Wilkerson noted during an interview with Dennis Bernstein on KPFA's  Flashpoints yesterday, desertion is a charge that, if found guilty of, people have been executed for.  Wilkerson turned himself in yesterday after a year and half of being AWOL.  Wilkerson discussed returning from Iraq and attempting to get a c.o. status.  He was denied.  Following the denial he prepared a rebuttal contesting it and then came the news that his unit was being redeployed to Iraq.  Wilkerson was told that that his rebuttal wouldn't even be considered until he returned from his second deployment to Iraq.
As Steve Morse noted to Willie Monro (San Francisco's ABC 7), "There's increasing numbers of people who have been to Iraq more than once.  They're coming back with post traumatic stress disorder.  Some of them refuse to go back, will not go back. . .  [And, due to the intentionally difficult hurdles imposed by the military] [m]any people just give up and go AWOL."
Also interviewed by Bernstein on yesterday's  Flashpoints  was Ann Wright who was at Camp Casey III in Crawford, Texas.  Wright explained why she left the State Department in 2003 and how her decision carried no legal consequences because she was a civilian by that point.  (Wright is also a retired Army Col.)  She said that she had great respect for those who feel that the war is illegal, weigh the consequences and are still willing to take a stand.  Responding to a question from Bernstein about the verbal attacks on Americans by the administration in recent days, Wright stated: ". . . the traitors are the ones that get our country into a war of choice."  On the subject of Alberto Gonzales' morally challenged confused state over what is and isn't torture, Wright suggested that he ask people to do the acts "to him and he can figure out what torture is."
Wright, of course, was a witness at Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing, Thursday August 17th.  Ehren Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. Lt. Col. Keith's recommendation (he was the presiding officer in the Article 32 hearing) recommended court-martial and the recommendation is now working its way through the system. 
As Lisa Albers (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) notes, "Watada is not a conscientious objector, he is not against war itself" but he believes that the Iraq was is illegal and "that his participation in the Iraq war would make him party to war crimes".  Which is the point his father Bob Watada made, as Marilyn Bechtel (People's Weekly World) notes, while he was speaking in the San Francisco Bay Area: "Calling the war a violation of the U.S. Constitution as well as international law, Bob Watada said his son was acting to uphold the Constitution, including his rights to free speech."
In Nichei Bei Times, former WWII Chaplain George Aki writes: "Lt. Watada has taken a position asserting a higher loyalty than to patriotism, which right is the guarantee of our Constitution.  He deserves to do his patriotic duty but defines his loyalty to the principles which are truly the foundation of our democracy."  Mei Nakano writes (Nichi Bei Times): "If Lt. Watada succeeds in his purpose, we, the public should be better informed about the Iraq war, might be moved to protest further unprovoked preemptive strikes against a sovereign nation -- and illegality, and strive to get the U.S. out of Iraq where the wanton killing of thousands of civilians surges upward daily.  This, not to mention the 2,700 U.S. troops who have already died in the name of this debacle."
More information can be found at Courage to Resist and and Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling Donald Rumsfeld (703-545-6700) or mailing him (1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000) to say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go." Billie advises that you can use to e-mail the Pentagon. She suggests "Re: Ehren Watada" or "ATTN: DONALD RUMSFELD."
Independent journalist Sarah Olson interviewed Watada and others while covering the story and the military is making noises that she should be compelled to testify.  Olson reports (Truthout) that the Bully Boy is "making an end run around government checks and balances" to push through Divine Strike -- "a 700-ton explosive experiment" that was due to be tested in Nevada back in June but met with objection.  Now Bully Boy has his eyes on "early 2007."
Turning from mutally assured self-destruction to the slap fight involving the Pentagon and puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki, Reuters reports that the Pentagon has issued a report today stating that: "Conditions the could lead to civil war exist in Iraq."  Always one to see the glass half-full, the the third-degree burn as not a fifth-degree one, the report also states: "Nevertheless, the current violence is not a civil war, and movement toward a civil war can be prevented."  Even heavily dosed/laced with optimism, the report stands in contrast to al-Maliki's claim Sunday on CNN's Late Edition: "In Iraq, we'll never be in civil war."
This as the death toll on Thursday night's attacks in Baghdad continue to mount.  As Amit R. Paley (Washington Post) reported, the attacks began "around 6:30 p.m." and "[w]itnesses and police" report the use "of rockets, mortars and car bombs."  Edward Wong (New York Times), early on, put the death toll at 43. Reuters reported it was seven rockets and that 50 were killed.  As Friday progressed, the death toll climbed to 67 (BBC) while Rebecca Santana (AP) reports that "more than 286" were wounded.  CNN reports that "[t]he blasts destroyed six residential buildings in five neighborhoods".
The final toll probably won't be known until the rubble has been searched (and it's true that some wounded will not survive).  On the topic of the death toll, Reuters notes that the ministries (Health, Defense and Interior) "consistently provide lower figures than the numbers released by the morgue" so why, with only "partial figures" given them by the ministries, are they headlining a piece, "Violent deaths in Iraq drop in August - govt stats"?  If they "consistently provide lower figures" and if, on top of that, you've been provided with only "partial figures" why would you believe that the figure has dropped from July's 1065?  (The partial figure is 769.) 
Associated Press reports an oil pipeline near Musayyib was bombed. Reuters notes that a roadside bomb in Baghdad left three Iraqi police officers dead, while one in Kirkuk left three wounded, while mortar shells in Mahmudiya resulted in the death of "one child" and wounded three people.
Reuters reports a home invasion in Numaniya that killed the home owner (police officer).  The AP notes that, in Ramadi, a police officer was shot dead in a drive-by.
Reuters reports that three corpses were discovered in Kerbala ("blindfolded and handcuffed") and Rebecca Santana (AP) reports that, in Kut, Kamil Shateb's corpse was discovered a day after the "former intelligence officer during Saddam's regime" was kidnapped.
Finally, in the United States, Camp Democracy open September 5th on the National Mall in DC.  The day prior Greg Palast and Gael Murphy will host a fundraiser.  For details on that and the schedule of other events, click here.

Talk is cheap. Use Yahoo! Messenger to make PC-to-Phone calls. Great rates starting at 1¢/min.

Other Items

Things were somewhat brighter on the political front, where Iraqi politicians said Shiite and Kurdish leaders had put to rest, for now, their differences with the speaker of Parliament, a firebrand Sunni Arab, after weeks of pressuring him to step down.
The speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, reached an understanding with the Shiite and Kurdish leaders after meeting with several of them, the politicians said in interviews. "The whole issue has been settled," said Hassan al-Shammari, a member of the main Shiite bloc in Parliament. He declined to give details.
The position of speaker of Parliament is the third highest-ranking job in the Iraqi government, and an ouster of Mr. Mashhadani would have been the biggest shake-up in Iraqi politics since the government was installed in late May.

[. . .]
American officials have expressed displeasure with the speaker, who earlier this summer called the American occupation "the work of butchers" and suggested that statues be built for insurgents who kill American soldiers.

The above is from Edward Wong's "Car Bomb and Rockets Kill 43 in Baghdad’s Shiite Strongholds" in this morning's New York Times. Ignore the count in the headline. It's higher since this story was filed. Remember August 15th? If not click here. al-Mashhadani was out, out, out! That was the gas baggery in the days following. He was painted as so saddened, so beaten, that his father must field his calls. The reality was that he was in Jordan working on a trade agreement. The reality is that the meeting is thought to have been promising. The reality is that he has support in Jordan currently. (Quick, Condi, get to work destroying that.) His political death didn't happen and the obits were written prematurely.

It's these sort of guestimates (which many US agencies are famous/infamous for getting so wrong) that often creates new conflicts. Just something to think about today.

Remember the body count? Martha notes a story and the count's risen since the story she's highlighting was filed. From Amit R. Paley's "Blasts Kill at Least 66 in Baghdad: 255 Wounded in Closely Timed Explosions in Shiite Muslim Area" (Washington Post):

A string of closely timed explosions killed at least 66 people and wounded 255 in a Shiite Muslim area of Baghdad on Thursday night, one of the deadliest attacks in the capital in months despite the launch of a new security plan to stanch the sectarian carnage.
The blasts flattened a multistory apartment building, buried women and children under mounds of rubble and sent terrified shoppers fleeing out of a major bazaar, authorities and witnesses said. The booming explosions rang out within minutes of each other around 6:30 p.m. in the city's New Baghdad district, but it was not immediately clear what caused them.

Witnesses and police said some combination of rockets, mortars and car bombs caused the bloodshed. Gen. Jassem Khider of the Interior Ministry said that six rockets in the Nuairiya section of New Baghdad killed 48 people and injured 160, primarily women and children, and that 18 were killed and 92 injured by three rocket attacks on multifamily homes in the Baladiyat neighborhood.

Somebody call a spinmeister! Can we get William Caldwell IV out here again? Can he swear this was simply a gas explosion? Reality, like the oval office occupant, can be quite ugly.

Here's the update to that (also by Paley and also from the Post):

A string of closely timed explosions killed at least 72 people and wounded 236 in a Shiite Muslim area of Baghdad on Thursday night, one of the deadliest attacks in the capital in months despite the launch of a new security plan to stanch the sectarian carnage.
The blasts flattened a multistory apartment building, buried women and children under mounds of rubble and sent terrified shoppers fleeing out of a major bazaar, authorities and witnesses said. The death toll included 16 children, an Iraqi police official said Friday.

The booming explosions rang out within minutes of each other around 6:30 p.m. in the city's New Baghdad district. Interior ministry officials said Friday that they believed the blasts were caused by 12 to 18 rockets and a new type of highly flammable explosive. It was not clear whether the attack included car bombs and mortars as well.
The blasts struck the Nuairiya and Baladiyat neighborhoods. One senior Interior Ministry official said the attackers had rented homes in the heavily populated neighborhoods, planted large amounts of explosives within the buildings and then detonated them.

What the Bully Boy won't admit is that it's the occupation that breeds the violence. March 2003, September 2006. American troops still on the ground, still occupying the country. Instead, he has to lie and try to scare (see previous entry).

The reality is 65 announced American military fatalities for the month of August so far. (Yes, the month ended but the government has a way of letting them trickle out after the next month begins. It was 64 less than seven or six hours ago when the "And the war drags on . . ." entry was being done.)

More reality via Vic's highlight, Anna Piekarski's "Former U.S. soldier seeks refugee status" (Toronto Star) on war resister Corey Glass:

He said the images he saw were terrifying, although he declined to describe what he saw. Even after deserting, he said he would not reveal classified information.
He told his superiors he wanted to be sent home, but they told him he was just under stress. He was given two weeks of leave and sent back to the U.S. After spending five months in Iraq, he knew he couldn't go back for the remainder of his 18-month tour. So he disappeared.
He hid for seven months, often sleeping on friends' couches or camping.
When he heard about other deserters in Canada, he contacted the War Resisters Support Campaign office in Toronto.
The war resisters' website lists nine other men who have fled to Canada, including Jeremy Hinzman, whose request for refugee status was turned down by the Immigration and Refugee Board. His case is now before the Federal Court of Appeal.

That's reality as surely as the continued violence is. Bully Boy has no way to address reality. He has only hot air, scare tactics and bullying. Meanwhile, Iraqis, Americans, British, et al die in the illegal war that needs to come to an end.

Beatles' "Golden Slumbers" (Lennon & McCartney, from Abbey Road):

Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullabye

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NYT: "In Latest Push, Bush Cites Risk in Quitting Iraq" (Anne E. Kornblut & Sheryl Gay Stolberg)

President Bush said Thursday that withdrawing now from Iraq would leave Americans at risk of terrorist attacks "in the streets of our own cities," and . . .

The above is the opening of Anne E. Kornblut and Sheryl Gay Stolberg's "In Latest Push, Bush Cites Risk in Quitting Iraq" in this morning's New York Time and it's all you really need from the article.

Leaving Iraq would leave the United States at risk. Does anyone else feel like Bully Boy's chasing his tail in front of everyone? (Big Babs must be so glad he's not trying to lick his privates. Parental proud has to be grabbed where it can be with regards to the Bully Boy.)

"We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Remember that 2002 statement? Condi Rice made it. Others in the administration made similar phoney claims. (Don't forget Bully Boy's 2003 State of the Unioin claim about "British intelligence have recently learned . . .").

That was the lie told the people. Iraq was a threat. War must happen because Iraq was a grave threat. We must drop the doctrine of just wars because war must happen.

Bully Boy got his illegal war. Now his argument for continuing the war he frightened a nation into is to attempt to offer more fear.

"Okay, I lied then," he might as well say. "When I told you Iraq was a grave threat and we had to go over there for our own safety, I flat out lied. But this time, this time I'm telling the truth."

The little boy who cried Wolfawitz will probably fool quite a few again.

But the 'logic' that the US had to go over there for its own safety (the lie) is now replaced with the 'logic' that the US must remain for its own safety (also a lie).

Martha notes, on the same topic, Michael Abramowitz's "Bush Takes His Case to Veterans: War in Iraq Depicted as One Against Radical Islamic Terrorism" (Washington Post):

President Bush renewed his effort to shore up flagging public support for fighting the Iraq war, appearing before one of the country's major veterans groups to cast the war as part of a larger ideological struggle against radical Islamic terrorism.

The only change is that a lot of people have woken up to the reality of the war. It basically comes down to whether you want to live your life in fear and whether you want to continue to believe a known liar. It's past time for the troops to come home. Bully Boy has no plan, he has no 'progress.' The only thing he can attempt at this point is to (once again) scare Americans.

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

When my nephew Chase called his grandparents from Iraq, he would ask my mother, "Gigi, what kind of car do you think I should buy when I come home?" She believes that he was trying to assuage her fears-the worst of which arrived August 7, 2005, when my sister Laura delivered the news from our brother Mark who simply couldn't tell our parents. The Marines had come to him in the middle of the night with the message that no family should have to bear.
George Bush has said during a recent press conference that our troops will remain in Iraq as long as he is president, a statement denying the mounting sentiment against the war. Soon after, an announcement was made that thousands of Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve have been ordered back to active duty.
If Chase had returned home in October, uninjured from his first tour, he could be there now. Some in his battalion are.
"Maybe we didn't try hard enough to talk him out of enlisting," my mother says over and over.
"What if" is something else we ponder.
And, of course, there's the abyss of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Would the experience of war have changed Chase? How could it not?
I am half way through the powerful book
Home Front: Viet Nam and Families at War sent by its author, Willard Gray, who began corresponding after reading some of my articles. Gray's work is a tour of duty and dedication to the truth of military combat. He tells the stories of 12 families forever changed by the experience of Viet Nam, families who either lost a loved one to death or to a war that has never left their lives. If a son, husband, father, daughter, wife, mother (It is estimated that about 7,500 women served in Viet Nam) returned alive, he or she brought the horrors of warfare home, suffering and portioning out pain to those desperate to recover what was there before war. Some committed suicide after years of self-medicating; others were diagnosed with illnesses that resulted from Agent Orange exposure. Regardless of the symptoms, physical, psychological, or a combination of the two, war was the genesis.
Take Frank Hayes. His family watched and participated in the battles he fought after returning from Viet Nam. Gray, writing about Frank's son Joe, says, 'He talks about alcohol and rage, abuse and defiance. He talks about no ground beneath him. About spiritual free-fall. He talks about chaos.'

The above is from Missy Comley Beattie's "Circle in a Spiral: Families at War" (CounterPunch).
Sunny days are rainy days Comley Beattie covers Iraq. It doesn't fall off her radar.

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 American troop fatality stood at 2619. Tonight? 2641. Let's look at that again. Seven days ago, the count was 2619. Tonight it's 2641. That's 22 in seven days. 64 for the month of August right now. Right now? The military is prone to noting fatalities a day or two (or three) after the mainstream media's run with the count. So it's entirely possibly that one, two, three or four more may be added to the count after the press isn't looking at the monthly total for August because all the stories have been filed and printed.

64. At a time when the spinmeisters stand before the mikes and talk about the 'success.' The 'success' led to 77 Iraqis being reported dead on Wednesday alone. That's just reported. The bloodshed continues, the violence continues. And, yes, the spin continues. If August is remembered for anything different, possibly it will be remembered as the month that all things media big and small abandoned Iraq?

Because that is what happened. Maybe it was summer vacations, maybe it was just not giving a damn. But Iraq fell of the radar. The dying didn't stop. You know the war didn't stop. But the coverage did. And those in independent media who let it stop need to ask some serious questions about how that happened and how to prevent it from happening again? (This is addressed in a roundtable done tonight and Rebecca's got it posted already so I'm linking to her -- LANGUAGE WARNING -- click here.) [The following participated: The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ava; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ils); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;and Mike of Mikey Likes It!.]

August is ending and September means rallies and demonstrations. International Peace Day is the 21st. Imagine the interest these activities would already have if they'd been covered. Imagine what good a day before only coverage does to people who would like to take part from different areas of the country but found out too late to make travel plans in less than 24 hours?

CODEPINK's Troops Home Fast started in July and continues but for all the coverage it got (from indymedia) you might think it ended, or that it never happened. Iraqis met with Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan, Tom Hayden, Ann Wright, Diane Wilson and others in Jordan to discuss what was needed and you may not have heard or seen anything on that. Cindy Sheehan's Camp Casey III opened as soon as she got back from Jordan. You might not know about that. Independent media wasn't largely interested in anything Iraq related. (There were exceptions. We linked to those here.) In fact, for August (as for July), if you wanted Iraq coverage, other than the rare exceptions, you had to turn to mainstream media.

That shouldn't have happened. It should never happen again. But it probably will because no one owned their mistakes. When Israel 'calmed down' (as calm as that government can be) and a supposed cease-fire (never for the occupied territories) took place, that region continued to dominate the coverage. Just today, a two hour radio program devoted one hour to covering that region. They also covered Venezuela. Iraq? No segment. Things didn't get better.

One show probably wants snaps for covering a war resister near the start of the month and then another one at the end of the month. They never noted Ehren Watada the entire month except in one headline that they got so wrong. For those who missed it, Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing took place in August. There was little coverage. And you can't talk August without talking Abeer. She was raped and murdered. Fourteen-years-old. Her parents were murdered. Her five-year-old sister was murdered. US troops stand accused. She was gang raped, according to the statements of one of the accused (given to the military investigator). Fourteen-years-old. She would have turned fifteen in August. One more victim of the occupation. And independent media was where?

They weren't covering the Article 32 hearing. They weren't discussing it. They weren't noting that the New York Times covered the hearing daily and Abeer was just "a fourteen-year-old girl" -- one without a name or a face to read the New York Times.

Independent media is supposed to cover the stories the mainstream won't. We had wall-to-wall on Israel's actions. (The government of Israel.) But there was no time for a fourteen-year-old girl gang raped and murdered.

The Times rendered her invisble and independent media wasn't there to show you her face or tell you her story. The Times was there to offer the defense the soldiers' attorneys would use -- offer it before even the attorneys could. That goes to who gets recognized and who doesn't. Fourteen-year-old Abeer was allegedly raped and murdered by American soldiers. She was treated as nothing by the New York Times, not even worthy of a name. Because when the victim doesn't have a name, it makes them faceless. When they don't have a name and they don't have a story, they really don't exist and they don't cause the reader to reflect on just what was lost.

Like Abeer, Iraq was rendered invisble. Independent media did that. The mainstream offered some bad reporting, some good reporting. The Times often got by on only one story from Iraq a day. That was too often one more story than independent media provided in hours of broadcast time.

How did that happen? Today on Flashpoints, Dennis Bernstein spoke with Ann Wright and Mark Wilkerson. (They also played a lengthy excerpt of a speech Ehren Watada gave in Seattle, one that would later be used in his Article 32 hearing, earlier in the month.) Wilkerson has been AWOL for a year and a half. He's turned himself in. Did he regret going AWOL, Bernstein asked him? He responded, "I completely stand by my decision. For me this was a time in my life when I decided I had to make a stand regardless of whether [it meant] prison or death . . ." Desertion, as Wilerson noted, has meant death before. He spoke of his awakening to the realities of the war and noted, what so many fail to grasp, how difficult that was to do while he was serving in Iraq. The Stars & Stripes was basically it. That was all the news.

People wonder, "Why don't the people serving know about ___ or ___?" How would they? Not everyone has their own internet access, not everyone's in the Green Zone. Wilkerson talked about returning and seeking out news. (Luckily for him, he returned at a time when the media actually cared about Iraq. Or at least covered it.) He cited Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States as a book that meant something to him. Zinn may need to write another real quick, just focusing on 2006, when media coverage sunk. When Iraq disappeared. All the stories that independent media didn't tell -- including, the fact that the US government is keeping a body count of Iraqi civilians who die.

You expect the mainstream media to create hidden history. You don't expect the independent media to let it stay hidden due to neglect on their part.

Dennis Bernstein also spoke with Carl Webb this month. Look, Bernstein and Nora Barrows Friedman, they're main topic for the show is Israel. It's not the only topic, but that is the main topic. It's their scope. There's nothing wrong with that. And I don't know of any member who would fault them for not covering Iraq because, although they do cover it, they largely cover the occupied territories. So it's a real surprise that the radio program that devoted the most time to Iraq was their show. That's not intended as an insult to them. They did a wonderful job on many topics. But it is surprising that if you pull out their show, you're left with very little coverage of Iraq.

On the subject of Carl Webb, Tori notes Cydney Gillis "A Just Desertion, Absent soldier hidden aboveground" (Indybay IMC):

Carl Webb's days of looking over his shoulder for military police have come to an end. Two years ago, a unit that Webb was assigned to in the Texas Army National Guard shipped out to Iraq. But the 40-year-old practical nurse from Austin says the war is wrong, so he let the unit go without him, expecting a warrant to be issued for his arrest.
Instead, on July 28, the Guard sent Webb a letter telling him that he'll get a dishonorable discharge Tuesday for serious misconduct, in particular, the letter states, "for your failure to report to active duty as required coupled with your deliberate avoidance of numerous Texas Army National Guard representatives who have made repeated attempts to contact you." If the Army National Guard was looking for him, Webb says with a giggle, they were't looking too hard: After months of lying low in Tennessee in 2004 and 2005, Webb went public with his desertion, talking to newspapers, giving speeches, and being interviewed on Democracy Now!and National Public Radio. Webb, who came to Seattle last week for the national Veterans for Peace Convention, doesn't think he's alone. The Army has already acknowledged it has more than 6,000 deserters. Webb believes it could be as many as 15,000 something he says the Army would like to keep a lid on. So, except for a few high-profile cases, Webb says most deserters aren't reported, much less prosecuted. Whether by oversight or design, that's what happened in Webb's case. Just weeks before his discharge date in 2004, he was "stop-lossed," or extended, and ordered to ship out to Iraq with a different unit. After failing to deploy, Webb says he called the National Lawyers Guild about his options. He says he was advised to wait a month or so until his name had dropped off the active-duty roll. At that point, he was told, he could turn himself in as a deserter and ask for a dishonorable discharge in lieu of a court-martial -- a strategy that could be available to Sgt. Ricky Clousing, the 24-year-old Army interrogator from Sumner who left his Fort Bragg, N.C., base a year ago rather than be redeployed to Iraq. Clousing surrendered himself at Fort Lewis on Aug. 12.

On the subject of Ehren Watada, Ned notes Eli Sanders' "Criminalizing the war" (The Provincetown Phoenix):

Watada, sitting slightly slouched, was all but silent during the proceedings, speaking only to tell the military investigator that he didn't wish to make a statement. Prosecutors, however, played a number of clips of Watada speaking in public about his reasons for not deploying. In one clip, shot at a recent Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle, Watada is seen explaining what he hopes to accomplish. "Today I speak with you about a radical idea," he says. "The idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers and service members can choose to stop fighting it." The prosecutors' use of this clip seemed intended to hammer home how dangerous it might be to military morale and discipline if Watada’s example were followed.
It doesn't seem, however, that a huge mass of soldiers is yet following Watada's lead. In fact, Watada is believed to be the only officer so far to have refused duty in Iraq, and while prosecutors worried during the hearing that his example would hurt army morale and discipline, after the hearing, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Williams, spokesman for Fort Lewis, told reporters that Watada's actions were doing no such thing. "My morale is just as high as it was yesterday," Williams said. "This is an anomaly."
The military speaks out of both sides of its mouth on this score -- arguing during the hearing that Watada is a threat to order and discipline and arguing to the media that he is not -- but the fact remains that Watada has not inspired a large number of soldiers to throw their weapons down. His impact, at this point, appears to be mainly as another piece of the steady legal assault that is taking apart the grand narrative by which the Iraq war was sold and conducted.
A war of words There are signs that the administration is increasingly worried about the unraveling of its war narrative -- especially with the midterm congressional elections just 60 days away -- and recently, the nation's courts have given the administration even more cause for concern. In June, the US Supreme Court ruled that the administration's attempt to ignore the Geneva Conventions for prisoners in the war on terror was illegal. On August 17, a federal judge in Detroit ruled that the administration's domestic spying program was unconstitutional, with the judge, Anna Diggs Taylor, using her ruling to remind Bush that he is not allowed "unfettered control," particularly when his actions "disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights" (that ruling is now being appealed). And a
CNN poll released on August 21 showed opposition to the Iraq war now at its highest level ever, 61 percent.
The tide seems to be shifting, and in a sign of the concern this is generating within the administration, officials representing Bush are currently circulating proposed amendments to the federal war-crimes law, apparently hoping to give themselves a way out should they someday be charged under that statute. That's not the tactic of a group of people who feel they are on the right side of the law, or public-opinion trends.
In this context, it seems impossible that the army will be allowed to go easy on Watada. In all likelihood, he will go to jail for refusing to deploy. He has said he is at peace with his decision, and with his possible punishment. As one of his own witnesses at the hearing, retired army colonel Ann Wright, put it: "If you challenge an order, you do it at your own jeopardy."
Still, Wright added, army commanders, and their civilian leaders, suffer from being unable to convincingly explain, to Watada or anyone else, why the Iraq war shouldn’t be seen as illegal under international law. This failure probably shouldn’t be surprising, given how often the rationale for the war has shifted -- from WMDs to spreading democracy to the self-justifying notion that we can’t leave because we’re now there. But the absence of such an explanation, Wright said, hurts military order and discipline more than anything else.
"Good order and discipline," she told the army investigator, "is based on the fact that good leaders can explain things to their soldiers."

Cindy Sheehan gave her all this month. Mainstream was more likely to note her than independent media. She ended up in two emergency rooms in the process and, last week, having surgery. Recovering from that prevented her from appearing in Salt Lake City Wednesday. Thankfully, the protests did go on and we'll close with Brady's highlight, Ross C. Anderson (Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson)'s "Challenging the Culture of Obedience" (The Nation):

We are here today as truth-tellers.
And we are here to demand: "Give us the truth! Give us the truth! Give us the truth!"
We are here today to insist that those who were elected to be our leaders must tell us the truth.
We are here today to insist that our news media live up to its sacred responsibility to ascertain and report the truth--rather than acting like nothing more than a bulletin board for the lies and propaganda of a manipulative, dishonest federal government.
We have been getting just about everything but the truth on matters of life and death...on matters upon which our nation's reputation hinges...on matters that directly relate to our nation's fundamental values...and on matters relating to the survival of our planet.
In the process, our nation has engaged in an unnecessary war, based upon false justifications. More than a hundred thousand people have been killed--and many more have been seriously maimed, brain-damaged, or rendered mentally ill.
Our nation's reputation throughout much of the world has been destroyed. We have many more enemies bent on our destruction than before our invasion of Iraq.
And the hatred toward us has grown to the point that it will take many years, perhaps generations, to overcome the loathing created by our invasion and occupation of a Muslim country.
What incredible ineptitude and callousness for our President to talk about a Crusade while lying to us to make a case for the invasion and occupation of a Muslim country!
Our children and later generations will pay the price of the lies, the violence, the cruelty, the incompetence, and the inhumanity of the Bush Administration and the lackey Congress that has so cowardly abrogated its responsibility and authority under our checks-and-balances system of government.
We are here to say, "We will not stand for it any more. No more lies. No more pre-emptive, illegal war, based on false information. No more God-is-on-our- side religious nonsense to justify this immoral, illegal war. No more inhumanity."
Let's raise our voices, and demand, "Give us the truth! Give us the truth! Give us the truth!"
Let's consider some of the most monstrous lies--lies that have led us, like a nation of sheep, to this tragic war.

Sheehan gave all she had in August. She'll continue to give this month. But if you're thinking, "I wish I could go to a rally" or "I wish I could speak about . . ." Whatever it is, if you think you can't do it or you think it's not important, think about Sheehan and others like her who do their part -- then try your best to do your part.

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Iraq snapshot

Thursday, August 31, 2006.  Chaos and violence continue, another war resister goes public and Dr. John Gee accuses the CIA of interfering with the work of the Iraqi Survey Group and points fingers at others who couldn't grasp that "there was no WMD in Iraq." 
Starting in Australia.  Dr. John Gee is considered "an expert on chemical weapons" and was part of the Iraq Survey group (a group of scientists made of British, Australian and American scientists sent into Iraq to attempt to find the WMDs).  Gee and other Australians have been truth telling with little attention from the US domestic press.  Rod Barton, who resigned in March 2004 from the Iraq Survey Group at the same time as Gee, has published The Weapons Detective which, UPI reported, maintained that: "British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard both knew before the invasion that the intelligence on Iraqi WMDs was false. . . . When shown the pre-war Iraqi WMD Australian intelligence assessment, Howard even asked, 'Is that all there is?'"  Peggy Lee remix: "Is That All There Is To A War?"
Apparently so.  Lies and more lies. 
Speaking to Samantha Hawley on PM, Gee stated: "There were no WMD in Iraq and we were all wasting our time pursuing the illusion that there was something there."  Australia's ABC reports that Gee "says he quit his job in 2004 because the group was focusing on trying to justify pre-war judgements rather than establish facts."  Appearing on the 7:30 Report, Gee discussed his interaction with Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer which was dismissive.  Appearing on the show, Rod Barton backed up Gee's account.  Alexander Downer states that Gee is "a scientist and we took his advice very seriously."
That's one issue.  Samantha Hawley (PM) noted another: "At the time of his resignation, Doctor Gee was serving under a contract with the Defence Department.  He claims his resignation letter never even made it to his superiors there, because it was stopped by the Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer." Downer denies blocking the resignation letter, which included references to CIA interference, and states that he "raised it [the issue] with Mr. [Charles] Duelfer himself."
On the letter that Downer denies suppressing, Marian Wilkinson (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that it "outlines in detail interference by the CIA and the Bush Administration in first reports abou tthe weapons hunt to avoid finding that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction." 
The Scotsman notes: "The CIA analysts in teams searching for chemical and biological weapons were the same ones who concluded before the invasion -- officially called Operation Iraqi Freedmon -- that they must exist, Gee wrote in his resignation letter.  'Much of the two teams' work is geared to trying to justify pre-OIF judgements rather than any attempt to establish the facts surrounding Iraq's WMD programs,' Gee wrote in March 2004."
Gee and Barton resigned in March of 2004.  In the United States, members may be more aware of David Kay who resigned January 23, 2004 and stated that he didn't believe WMD "existed."  Kay headed the Iraq Survey Group.  When he resigned, Charles Duelfer took over after being appointed by the then-CIA director George Tenet.
The Duelfer Report would come out in September 2004 and an 'epilogue' in March of 2005.  No WMD were ever found.  However, despite admitting that Gee informed of the fact that there were no WMDs in Iraq, Downer still stood side by side at a press conference with Charles Duelfer in April of 2004 and called the search "a work in progress."
Possibly, instead of scientists, they should have sent Donald Rumsfeld who claimed, to George Stephanopoulus on ABC's This Week, "We know where they are.  They're in Tikrit and Baghdad and East, West, South and North somewhat." (March 30, 2003.)?
As with the Downing Street Memos, this story may have trouble getting traction in the United States.  Two dailies are apparently having a real struggle dotting their "I"s and crossing their "T"s which would explain why, though they were made aware of this story on Tuesday evening, there's still been no report of it.
Turning to Iraq, where the chaos and violence continues.
CNN reports a car bombing "in a southeastern Baghdad neighborhood" ("near a gas station") that took the lives of two and left at least thirteen wounded, one in the eastern section of the capital ("near a restaurant") that wounded three and a car bomb in Harthiya that left two civilians and two police officers injured.  On the bomb near a gas station, Reuters notes that "four police commandos" were killed and 11 other people were injured.  (Which may mean two of the injured in the CNN report may have died.)   Also in Baghdad, AFP notes that six children were wounded by mortar rounds and roadside bomb injured eight "travelling in a minibus."  Baghdad.  The site of the 'crackdown.'  Is it time for another of US spinmeister William Caldwell IV's "three-day 'quick look'"sReuters reports: "A convoy of British diplomats and guards was blasted by a roadside bomb in western Baghdad on Thursday but the British embassy said no one was injured."  Rebecca Santana (AP) reports on a bomb "at a popular market" in Baghdad, that combined with two other bombings in the capital, has led to at least 20 people dead and at least 75 wounded.
Rebecca Santana (AP) reports that, in Mosul, "[a]n Iraqi soldier wearing civilian clothing was shot and killed while walking".  Reuters notes that in Samawa four people were wounded by gunfire; in Ramadi, "[a] former Iraqi Air Force commander" was shot dead; and, in Mosul, two police officers were killed by gun fire and two more were wounded.  AFP reports: "Police from the Diyala province, of which Baquba is the capital, said that at least nine people were killed in the province on Thursday" including two borthers when a store was attacked.  AP identifies the store as "a cotton shop" and notes that, in Baghdad, a security guard for the oil ministry was shot dead and another was wounded.
AP reports that a woman's corpses ("riddled with bullets") was discovered "dumped on a main road."  Retuers reports that, after four days missing, Turkey al-Duleimi ("a civilian judge") was discovered in Samarra.
In the most recent report, Rebecca Santana (AP) reports: "A series of attacks killed at least 46 people across Iraq Thursday, including 39 within a half hour in a Shiite section of Baghdad, officials said.  At least 118 people were wounded."
In peace news, following Ricky Clousing's lead, another AWOL soldier has come forward.  Speaking at Camp Casey III, Angela K. Brown (AP) reports, Mark Wilkerson announced that, after "a year and a half" of being AWOL, he would be turning himself in.  Brown reports: "Wilkerson said his views of the war changed and he realized he could no longer stay in the military, so he applied for conscientious objector status. But his request was denied a month before his unit was to return to Iraq. He said he was told his appeal would not be considered until after he came back. So Wilkerson then decided not to return from the two weeks of approved leave before the January 2005 deployment."
On August 11, Mike Barber (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) broke the news that Ricky Clousing, who also checked himself out after returning from Iraq, would be turning himself in.  As the war drags on, the resistance grows with the Pentagon estimating that 40,000 have deserted or checked themselves out of the military since 2000.
Michelle Mason's documentary Breaking Ranks covers the stories of some war resisters, including Jeremy Hinzman and Kyle Snyder, who've gone to Canada and it will air on Global TV October 7th.
Meanwhile in the United States, Ehren Watada awaits the military determining what they will do (the recommendation has been court-martial).  Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.  Like Clousing and Wilkerson, Watada sees the war as illegal.
Speaking to Caroline Aoyai-Stom (Pacific Citizen), Watada explains his duty: "Despite conflicting loyalties, I am fighting for the allegiance to which I swore an oath to uphold and defend -- the Constitutional laws and principles of democracy. My decision brings honor to veteran JAs. Instead of perpetuating war crimes and a war of aggression, I am actively trying to put a stop to it. Instead of being the 'quiet, obedient Japanese,' I am fulfilling my oath to protect my soldiers and this country from our government. This is all at great expense -- when the easier, safer path would have been to do my tour in Iraq."
Susan Palmer (The Register-Guard) reports that Ehren Watada's father Bob Watada "spoke at a Eugene [Oregon] peace rally on Tuesday in support of his son and called for change in Washington, D.C."  Bob Watada tells Palmer, "My son has taken a stand for a very good reason and he is willing to suffer the consequences that the military wants to mete out."
More information can be found at Courage to Resist and and Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling Donald Rumsfeld (703-545-6700) or mailing him (1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000) to say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go." Billie advises that you can use to e-mail the Pentagon. She suggests "Re: Ehren Watad" or "ATTN: DONALD RUMSFELD."
In Australia, the military inquiry into the April 21st Baghdad death of Jake Kovco is on hold as the attorneys and those on sitting on the board of inquiry practice shooting guns.  Luke McIIveen and Gemma Jones (PerthNow) recap some of the hearing's moments of this week.  They also note that Soldier 14 has claimed to be in the room after hearing a shot -- strange since the unit's commander didn't testify to that.
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The government will not seek the death penalty against a marine charged in the shooting death of an Iraqi civilian in April, a military prosecutor said Wednesday.
Lt. Col. John Baker, the prosecutor, made the recommendation at a pretrial hearing for Pfc. John J. Jodka III, 20, who is charged along with six other marines and a Navy corpsman in the death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania, a Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad. The charges against them include murder, kidnapping and conspiracy.
As the hearing for Private Jodka was under way, defense lawyers for another marine charged in the case, Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda, 23, urged officials in a nearby courtroom to close the proceedings because of concern that pretrial publicity could bias potential jurors.
The hearing adjourned after the corporal’s lawyers asked the hearing officer to review newly submitted evidence in private.

The above is from Carolyn Marshall's "Marine Accused of Murder in Iraq Will Not Face the Death Penalty " in this morning's New York Times. For an audio report on this you can listen to Wednesday's The KPFA Evening News. Same topic, Polly notes "No death penalty for Iraq marine" (BBC):

Pte John Jodka, 20, is one of eight US soldiers accused of taking Hashim Ibrahim Awad from his home in Hamdania, near Baghdad, and shooting him dead.
Prosecutors say the troops also placed a rifle by the man's body to make it appear he was an insurgent.

Jodka is part of what's known as the "Pendleton Eight." The court effort also includes an effort to suppress statements which, it is argued, might prejudice the jury pool. For that story, you have to go to Tony Parry's "Two Marines Admit Killing Iraqi Man" (Los Angeles Times):

Two Marines have confessed to kidnapping and killing a 52-year-old Iraqi man in Hamandiya, west of Baghdad, a military prosecutor said Wednesday at a preliminary hearing.
Capt. Nicholas L. Gannon said that Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III and Cpl. Trent D. Thomas had admitted to the slaying, one of two high-profile cases in which Marines allegedly killed Iraqi civilians without provocation.
Gannon added that a third defendant, Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington, gave a statement that laid out the alleged conspiracy to cover up the killing by leaving phony evidence and filing a false report.Seven Marines and a Navy corpsman have been accused in the April 26 incident of dragging Hashim Ibrahim Awad from his home, shooting him and leaving an AK-47 and a shovel near his body to suggest he was an insurgent burying a roadside bomb.On Wednesday, two so-called Article 32 hearings were held to determine whether two of the Marines should be court-martialed. Similar hearings are set for the other defendants in the next two months.
The defense lawyer for Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, at the hearing for his client, said he planned to argue that the alleged confessions mentioned by the prosecutor were merely statements given to investigators, not admissions of guilt.

Statements given to investigators that can't be read in a public hearing? Jodka's attorney denies that his client's statement was true and asserts it resulted from coercion. On the latter assertion, strange that a coerced statement would not be addressed prior. If I were an attorney, you were my client and you were stating you'd been coerced into a statement, I'd be going public long before the Article 32 hearing. So is it bad 'lawyering' or is it that the coercion claim only popped into someone's mind recently?

For more on that, note this from Rick Rogers and Steve Liewer's "Pendleton hearings open in Iraqi man's slaying" (San Diego Union-Tribune):

As recently as a week ago, defense attorneys refused to acknowledge the existence of any potentially damaging statements. However, they pleaded yesterday with the two investigating officers to keep those remarks out of the public's purview.
"When the cat is out of the bag and the bell is rung, there is no way to get evidence out of a juror's head," said Jane Siegel, the other civilian attorney for Jodka.
She asked Pugliese to keep secret 16 statements about the Awad killing.
"Some of it was very inflammatory," Siegel said. Pugliese declined to seal the statements, but he did agree not to read them in open court.
Concerns about prejudicing the jury pool are largely unwarranted, said attorney Eugene R. Fidell, who specializes in military law at the firm of Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell in Washington, D.C.
Fidell said the procedure for questioning potential jurors regarding their knowledge and feelings about a case, known as voir dire, takes into consideration possible tainting.

Thomas Watkins has been covering the case for the Associated Press (click here for one example of his previous reporting) and today offers "Allged confessions may be central to murder case against Marines" (via San Jose Mercury News):

Alleged confessions appear to form the crux of the government's case against seven Marines and a Navy corpsman charged with murder, kidnapping and other crimes in an Iraqi man's slaying last April.
Defense attorneys challenge the validity of the statements and say without them the government's case is baseless.
Details about the prosecution's case emerged Wednesday during preliminary hearings for two of eight men accused in the shooting death of 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad in the village of Hamdania.
At Marine Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda's hearing, prosecutors submitted a thick packet of evidence and pointed to three documents they say show enough probable cause for his charges to be recommended for court martial.
Prosecutor Capt. Nicholas L. Gannon claimed the evidence included a confession by squad leader Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins and a confessional video by Cpl. Trent D. Thomas.
What exactly they allegedly confessed to was unclear; prosecutors did not elaborate.
"Those three pieces of evidence should satisfy the investigation in its current form," Gannon said.

And closing this out with "Mukilteo Marine's statement key in case" (Everett Washington's The Daily Herald -- credited to "Herald staff and news services"):

Pennington's father, Terry Pennington, said Wednesday night from his home in Hawaii that any statement given by his son was forced by Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigators. He also disputes that his son's statement admits any wrongdoing.
"If they got that from his statement, they are inventing it," said Terry Pennington, formerly of Mukilteo. "It's not true."
The good news out of Wednesday's hearings, from Terry Pennington's perspective, was that the investigating officer didn't take public testimony that could influence potential military jurors in a court-martial. He has contended for weeks that the government has stacked the deck on the eight defendants by forcing statements and not turning over evidence to the defense to examine.
Robert Pennington is scheduled for his pre-trial hearing Sept. 25.
Gannon said that Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins and Cpl. Trent Thomas have admitted to the slaying, one of two high-profile cases in which Marines allegedly killed Iraqi civilians without provocation.

If you're getting the impression that the New York Times missed half the story (being kind), you are correct. A few paragraphs on A12 about real news while an overlong feature starts on the front page (!), then takes up the full page of A16 and continues on A17. It would be too long, printed as is, in the Times' Sunday magazine -- however, running there, it would come with complementary ads. "Live Long? Die Young? Scientists Say Answer Isn't Just in the Genes" is the title and real news consumers say in response to the placement, "Fluff So Hard Again and You'll Break Your Arm Off."

Which may make you wonder why the administration even tries for propaganda, when the press is so willing to disgrace themselves by pushing (bad) feature reporting as "hard news." Martha notes Walter Pincus' "Positive Press on Iraq Is Aim of U.S. Contract" (Washington Post):

U.S. military leaders in Baghdad have put out for bid a two-year, $20 million public relations contract that calls for extensive monitoring of U.S. and Middle Eastern media in an effort to promote more positive coverage of news from Iraq.
The contract calls for assembling a database of selected news stories and assessing their tone as part of a program to provide "public relations products" that would improve coverage of the military command's performance, according to a statement of work attached to the proposal.
The request for bids comes at a time when Bush administration officials are publicly criticizing media coverage of the war in Iraq.
The proposal, which calls in part for extensive monitoring and analysis of Iraqi, Middle Eastern and American media, is designed to help the coalition forces understand "the communications environment." Its goal is to "develop communication strategies and tactics, identify opportunities, and execute events . . . to effectively communicate Iraqi government and coalition's goals, and build support among our strategic audiences in achieving these goals," according to the statement of work that is publicly available through the Web site .

Yes, they have. And they're flacks work very hard in Iraq and in this country to get those feel-good stories out. More often than not, they succeed. When you add in that "official statements" lead most news stories and that, if rebutted, in the text by reality, that tends to come long after many readers have lost interest. (Which is known and anyone who offers, "I did it in paragraph ___ after the jump" blah, blah, blah b.s. is lying through their teeth. The inverted pyramid structure. They know it, they use it. It's devised for those readers who won't read the entire article. What they lead with is what's going to be most read and everyone knows it.)

We'll close with Suhail Ahmad's "A Tight Community Torn Apart" (Los Angeles Times) which is the anti-propaganda: a look at the reality on the ground in Iraq:

The vendors arranged their wares on rickety carts. The shoppers appraised the spices and pottery. In the early morning sunlight, Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds found refuge in this ethnically divided city, sharing the community of a market.
On Wednesday, they died together in a bombing that police said killed at least 24 people in the poor Baghdad neighborhood of Shorja.
Latif Ibrahim, a 35-year-old traffic police officer, later pushed his cap back and wiped his brow. His eyes were filled with tears. He had just returned from a hospital. Falah, the vendor of syrupy lemon drinks, was dead, he said. He shook his head as he recalled Falah's constant smile and daily offerings of lemon and syrup drinks. "Don't ask me who did it," he said of the attack. "Ask me why." For that obvious question, he had no answer.

Ibrahim and a merchant remembered the friends they had made -- Iraqis from every sect and background.
Falah, whose cart lay overturned in the dust, was a Shiite Muslim. On the plastic container holding his drinks, a small sticker bore the picture of militant Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr. Dried lemons lay next to the cart's remains. Arkan, a Shiite vendor of imported Chinese pottery known as farfoori, also was killed in the blast. He was about to be married.

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