Saturday, September 16, 2006

NYT: RIng around Baghdad (Edward Wong)

The Iraqi government plans to seal off Baghdad within weeks by ringing it with a series of trenches and setting up dozens of traffic checkpoints to control movement in and out of the violent city of seven million people, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Friday.
The effort is one of the most ambitious security projects this year, with cars expected to be funneled through 28 checkpoints along the main arteries snaking out from the capital. Smaller roads would be closed. The trenches would run across farmland or other open areas to prevent cars from evading checkpoints, said the ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf.
"We're going to build a trench around Baghdad so we can control the exits and entrances so people will be searched properly," he said in a telephone interview. "The idea is to get the cars to go through the 28 checkpoints that we set up."

The above is from Edward Wong's "Iraqis Plan to Ring Baghdad With Trenches" in this morning's New York Times. I guess it's their version of a border wall? A moat around Baghdad. A modern day moat. Wong (rightly) raises the issue of a traffic snarls and wonders whether the 'trenches' would result in some of the interior checkpoints being taken down? If not, the long lines of traffic will become even longer.

But that's the thing, the checkpoints already exist and they haven't stopped the car bombings.
What they're doing reminds me of the 'burglar bars' ('burglarer bars'?) that went up on some homes in areas of high crimes many years back. If you remember those, you probably remember the reports, following that fad, of people who ended up dying in house fires because they couldn't climb out their own windows as a result of the bars. So the moat (we'll stick to calling it that although there's no talk of filling it with waters) that's supposedly going to save them could lead to a huge problem should residents have the need to evacuate the capital immediately. That's something that should worry all the residents, including those in the Green Zone. An orchestrated car bombing hitting several sections of the city could result in mass panic and an attempt to leave the city that, thanks to the moat, would create new problems.

The checkpoints haven't worked thus far. (In fact the violence has increased during the 'crackdown' -- and all it's versions. The 'crackdown' either began June 14th or June 15th depending on the time of the source. We're not all on the same time zone. Regardless, it's been three months and it hasn't worked. Juiced up, beefed up and it's still a failure.)

The aim of the moat, as is the aim of crackdown, is to push the violence out of Baghdad. That's for a number of reasons including the parliament's location (they're supposed to debate the federation issue today) and, most importantly, the location of the press. It's a bit hard to get those happy talk reports out of the Green Zone when even it is ringed by chaos and violence.
(And it was stormed in June, which is what caused enough panic on the part of the US military to institute the 'crackdown' via the puppet of the occupation. In August, mortars landed in the Green Zone wounding Australian troops.)

Unlike Falluja (or Ramadi currently), the military can't reduce the city to rubble. So they're attempting to force the resistance out. There's no concern as to where the resistance, if forced out, would go. (McCain's point about how the military appeared to be playing whack-a-mole.)

There's never been an alternate plan and there still isn't. The moat is yet another beefed up version of the tactic of 'crackdown' and it will probably work, in the long run, just about as well. Wong notes that despite the moat, ways into the city may be found. It's also true that the checkpoints have never worked (and no checkpoint will ever be 100% effective) and alternate means of entry won't need to be found if alternate means of concealment are discovered. (Or if, as many press reports have indicated, Iraqis just wave people through the checkpoints without examination.)

Wong also addresses the body count (Iraqi civilians who died in August) and does a better job with it than the Times has done previously so (as noted earlier this morning), that's going to be the excuse we use for dropping the feature planned on that at The Third Estate Sunday Review. (I also argued for it being dropped because I'm still sick. But only after reading Wong's report. Prior to that, I was willing to grit my teeth and go on through with the feature.)

On whack-a-mole, Thom Shanker's "U.S. Won’t Abandon Fight in Anbar, Commander Says " addresses that. And while it's a bit more convining than the claims by the British that they didn't abandon their base in Amara last month, the reality is that this is the point John McCain was making. (Again, we're not a fan site of John McCain's. McCain's arguing more troops be sent over, this community argues the troops need to be brought home.) If and when the US military manages to lessen some of the violence and chaos in Baghdad, if the troops aren't brought home, you can be sure they will be sent to other hot spots while the 'cooled' spots go hot again. The reason the military has to make this assertion is because of what Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post) reported Monday that that Marine Col Pete Devlin's assesment "that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents."

And though I don't doubt the military intends to go back into al Anbar, the question should be asked whether or not they can afford to leave it right now if the military is expected to remain in Iraq for the duration of the Bully Boy's White House occupancy.

McCain argues more troops on the ground, we argue troops home. But his point about whack-a-mole used as a 'strategy' remains accurate. And if the assessment is that al Anbar is probably lost currently, the departure to bring more troops into Baghdad won't improve the lost-status.

We've avoided a story (my decision) since early September but the Times is writing about so we'll note it. First the excerpt, then comments. This is from Mindy Sink's "Mystery Deepens in Case of Missing Colorado Marine:"

The story was compelling. A marine home on leave from his first tour of duty in Iraq was injured in a fall while hiking down a mountain with a friend and vanished after the friend went to call for help.
As one of the largest search and rescue operations in state history was under way, speculation ran high that the marine, Lance Cpl. Lance Hering, 21, might have lost his memory or become disoriented as a result of his head injury or that a mountain lion or bear had attacked him.
On the second day of the search, investigators began to have their suspicions and have since said that it was all probably a hoax and that the marine might be on the run.

When he was considered in need of rescuing, it almost made the snapshot but there were too many things to note that day. By the next day, friends (in the press) were saying it might not be what it appears. Local press then began comparing Hering to Jeremy Hinzman. Jeremy Hinzman self-checked out of the military and went to Canada (where his case is on appeal and a verdict should be coming down shortly) due to his objections to the illegal war. Since Hering didn't make statements similar to Hinzman (and since there's no evidence that he's in Canada) that speculation didn't seem worth noting. Hering's brother has told the press (not noted in the Times) that earlier in his life, Hering had a head injury and lost his memory for a brief time.

Not slamming Sink for writing about it, but what did or did not happen and where Hering is or isn't is all speculation -- so we've avoided it here. He may have checked out. If he did and he's a war resister, we'll note him in future entries. If he's the victim of an accident or lost memory, we'll try to note it if there's a development. But we're not going to follow this daily. (Unless, a statement turns up by him, not someone else's remarks, that states his opposition to the war on the grounds that the war is wrong.)

A family member of one war resister contacted this site and rightly noted that we follow the case of someone who may not be a war resister. That is true and I'm bothered also by the fact that we have no statement from the person in question (no statement to the press). We're backing off from that because there are people who are resisting the war and we don't need to be closely following someone who has yet to make a statement against the war. That's not to slam the person, but that is to note that the person in question has never made a statement against the war. So to note the developments with an intro like "In peace news . . ." or "In news of war resistance . . ." is flat out wrong. Thank you to ___ (related to a public war resister) for making that point. That's not a slam to the person who hasn't but if others are making statements, then you either make your statement or not and you're termed a war resistor by whether or not you make a statement.

If Hering has decided to check-out, it could be for any number of reasons. If war resistance is the reason or one of them, we'll follow the story closely, if not, and this will be true of all cases, not what your parents say, not what your friends say, but what you say will determine whether or not we follow your case. People check out all the time, during war and during peace (or what passes for peace) and they can do so for any number of reasons including a bad experience while serving that is a valid reason but it's not really about war resistance.

The person has made no statement that I can find objecting to the Iraq war. That's not to slam the person or their issue but we're not going to lump it in with war resister or peace news anymore. It's not fair to the Kevin Bendermans, the Ehren Watadas, the Jeremy Hinzmans, the Camilo Mejias, the Brandon Hugheys, the Katherine Jashinskis, the Carl Webbs, the Patrick Harts, the Ricky Clousings, the Mark Wilkersons, the Kyle Snyders, the Darrell Andersons, go down the list. A statement doesn't need to be lengthy, but if the peace movement is supposed to devote time to your issue because you are a war resistor, you need to have made some sort of statement to justify that. I understood the e-mailer's point and regret the fact that we ran with the case of X as a war resistance story (which is how it's been portrayed). For it to be that, it requires that the person state: "I am against the war." They can say more than that but to be a war resister, they have to say at least that. Though X is opposed to continuing to serve, there is no statement by X that indicates X is against the war.

If suggested highlights come in and they refer to X as a war resister, we won't note them. We do follow the issues around Jake Kovco who was not a war resister (and his widow Shelley Kovco is in favor of the war). We could and can cover X in that manner. But it wrong to say, as the e-mailer pointed out, that X is a war resister when X has serious issues with the military but has not stated publicly any opposition to the war.

I should have caught that and my apologies for not doing so until it was pointed out. A friend or a parent's stance on the war is not necessarily the same as the person they're speaking for. And Herling's story indicates that. It would be very easy, as many in the media have, to run with it and claim he's checked himself out. But there's nothing that proves that. He's left no note, he's made no statement. The same reasons that led to us not following Herling's story should have resulted in less coverage for X. And certainly should have prevented me from dubbing X a war resister. (The fact that others were doing it doesn't apply as anyone who's ever gotten the "Well if everyone was jumping off a cliff, would you jump too?" lecture knows.) It was a mistake on my part and I apologize for the error.

Though the e-mailer was only writing in regards to what's gone up at this site (both in excerpts and my own statements), I did pass it on to others who do sites in this community. We'll respect the wishes of a family member of a public war resister and not dub X a war resister unless or until X speaks out against the war. For myself, I made the mistake and I apologize for it. It does devalue the work of those who have taken public stands against the war to call someone who has not a war resister. My error and it won't happen again with X.

There's a clergy who's been lauded by one blog for speaking out against the war and a member e-mailed that post. He wasn't speaking out against the war. His public demonstration wasn't at a rally against the war. (He's not against the war.) X may or may not be against the war. At this point, there's nothing in the public record to indicate a statement. There are statements similar to Herling's friend saying that Herling was against the war. His family denies that. So no one knows. When someone's alive and breathing, if they're against the war, they can say so. X hasn't and we won't bill X as a war resister despite the claims put foward by the media and by the people around X.

Speaking out comes with a price and the e-mailer noted that you can cop a plea by agreeing to stay silent. If that's the case with X, well X needs to make the best deal for X there is. Anyone does. And friends and family need to speak out for the people that they love. But just because a friend or a family member may be against the war does not mean that someone who's made no statement is against the war. If there's never been a statement by someone that they are against the war, we won't bill them here as a war resister (even though others may continue to do so).

As for Herling, whether he's a war resistor or not, hopefully, he'll turn up safe and sound and, if so, we'll note that fact. And to repeat, one more time, his brother has stated he had a head injury many years prior and suffered from loss of memory at that time. That statement doesn't make it into the Times this morning but it has made it into other press reports.

One more time, my apologies for my mistake. It does devalue the work of others who have spoken out and need support for their strong stands. Red flags should have been raised and it's my own stupidity that they weren't.

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Military tries to sneak in a new charge against Ehren Watada

The Army yesterday added a charge to those already faced by 1st Lt. Ehren K. Watada for refusing to deploy to Iraq on the grounds that the war is illegal and unjust.
The additional specification under the charge of conduct unbecoming an officer for comments made in an Aug. 12 speech means the Honolulu man faces another possible year in prison -- now a total of eight years -- if convicted, his attorney, Eric Seitz, said.
Seitz said the Army "is trying to shut up and stifle" Watada.
"It's part of a continuing process where, even before he did anything, they called him in and threatened him that he's got to be quiet," Seitz said, "and that if he says anything, he's going to get into more trouble."
The 1996 Kalani High School graduate several times tried to resign his commission, and publicly made known his intentions to refuse to deploy with his Stryker vehicle unit when it left on June 22 for northern Iraq.

The above is from William Cole's "Lt. Watada facing new charge" (The Honolulu Advertiser). Seitz notes that the charge wasn't presented in the Article 32 hearing in August and that, if they try to tack it on at a court-martial, he will move to dismiss it. The military shouldn't be able to tack on new charges without having argued them.

The AP notes:

According to a support group -- Friends and Family of Lieutenant Watada, he told the veterans -- quote -- "to stop an illegal and unjust war, soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.''

According to? As noted in the snapshot on August 17th:

The speech Watada gave is here at CounterPunch and here at Truthout which also includes the video option (QuickTime and Windows Media). In addition KPFA's Flashpoints played one part of the speech yesterday

So you can read a transcript (done by Dahr Jamail) or you can watch it or you can listen to it. According to? Granted most of independent media took a pass on it and the hearing in real time
(a story they hadn't been "covering") but it was covered and the speech was presented in several media formats. The speech was given at the Veterans for Peace conference held in Seattle.

A longer AP article notes:

The Fort Lewis commander, Lt. Gen. James Dubik, will decide whether the case proceeds to court-martial, Piek said. Last month, investigating officer Lt. Col. Mark Keith recommended that Watada be court-martialed.
"The Army's unwillingness thus far to seek any reasonable solution or outcome of this situation certainly has placed Lt. Watada into a position where he has little or no choice but to vigorously defend himself against charges that we submit are extravagant and unjustified," Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian defense attorney, wrote in a rebuttal submitted to the military court in August.

More information on Watada can be found at Courage to Resist and From an e-mail (that Brenda forwarded) sent out by Courage to Resist:

In a surprise move today [Friday], the U.S. Army chose to add an additional specification under the charge of Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman for comments Lt. Ehren Watada made Aug. 12 during a speech to the Veterans For Peace national convention in Seattle. Lt. Watada stated "to stop an illegal and unjust war, soldiers can choose to stop fighting it." The additional, gratuitous charge raises the stakes in the widely publicized and controversial case of the first military officer to publicly refuse to fight in the illegal Iraq war and occupation.
It is unknown if the military intends to hold another Article 32 pre-trial hearing to review the new charge, or simply railroad it directly to court martial. A final decision on the forwarding to court-martial on all seven charges now pending against Lt. Watada remains forthcoming from
Fort Lewis Commanding General Lt. Gen. James Dubik.
If convicted of all charges, Lt. Watada could now face over eight years in prison, more than six of them for publicly voicing his opposition to what he considers an illegal and immoral war.
In June Lt. Watada stated, in language reminiscent of the
House Minority Judiciary Committee report "Constitution in Crisis" that "the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law," and that he felt his "moral and legal obligation is to the Constitution and not those who would issue unlawful orders." Many groups and legal experts have weighed in on Lt. Watada's right to publicly explain the rational for his actions. The American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief defending Lt. Watada’s right to respectfully and publicly explain his refusal to deploy.

For more on what actually happened in the hearing (as opposed to a tacked on charge that's never been heard), you can refer to a summary of testimony on August 17, 2006, Ruth's Report focusing on Ann Wright's testimony, The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Denis Halliday said what?" and Ruth's Report focusing on Francis A. Boyel's testimony. (Ruth's working on her latest currently and it will probably go up Sunday, just FYI.)

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The Phony George

He sits alone on a giant throne
Pretendin' he's the king
A little tyke who's rather like
A puppet on a string
And he throws an angry tantrum
if he cannot have his way
And then he calls for Mum while he's suckin' his thumb
You see, he doesn't want to play
Too late to be known as George the First
He's sure to be known as George the worst

The above is from Johnny Mercer and George E. Bruns' "The Phony King of England" from the soundtrack to Disney's animated Robin Hood. Catching a bit of yesterday's White House press conference and think of "moats" (we'll get to that in a moment) made the song pop into my head. (I've changed "John" to "George.") I tired to work it into the snapshot but couldn't so we'll open with it today. Johnny Mercer (link goes to a site run by his son) wrote and co-wrote many songs (including "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home," "Moon River," "Summer Wind" and "Come Rain Or Come Shine"). (A listing of songs written or co-written by Mercer can be here.)

As Bully Boy babbled on and appeared to do (the dance) the robot, that's what popped into my head. Those consultants who devote their time devising 'manly' gestures might need to work a little harder. As Elaine noted, "I know he's trying to look 'manly,' but he just looked, as he pivoted with palms facing, as though he were about to break out in a cheer of 'Ready? Okay!' I thought Kat's 'Ann Richards' called it correctly: 'So Ann Richards, the woman Bully Boy wishes he were -- but he's not fit to carry her pumps.'"

Trina asked that we note the following from Media Matters' "Softball in the Rose Garden: White House press corps failed to challenge Bush's non-answers at press conference:"

Fox News White House correspondent Wendell Goler noted Bush's efforts "to get more international support for taking a tough stance against Iran" and asked, "I wonder how much that is frustrated by two things: one, the war in Iraq and world criticism of that; and the other, the Iraqi prime minister going to Iran and basically challenging your administration's claim that Iran is meddling in Iraqi affairs." In response, Bush declared a "strong consensus" in the United Nations on the issue and further stated, "[T]here's common consensus that we need to work together to prevent the Iranian regime from developing that nuclear weapons program."
But the press corps' following questions failed to address the fact that, contrary to Bush's claim of a "strong consensus" in the United Nations, both Russian and China currently represent "obstacles to a U.S.-led push for consideration of sanctions against Iran in the U.N. Security Council," as a September 5 Reuters article
reported. The article noted that "China, whose trade with Iran reached nearly $8 billion in the first seven months of the year, has together with Russia long urged a negotiated solution and has traditionally opposed the use of sanctions in international diplomacy."
Further, no reporter noted that Bush had entirely ignored the second part of Goler's question regarding Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's recent meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran. According to a September 12 New York Times
article, al-Maliki requested Iran's "support in quelling the violence that threatens to fracture" Iraq. In turn, Ahmadinejad committed to providing "assistance to establish complete security in Iraq because Iraq's security is Iran's security."
Later in the press conference, Bush similarly ignored the second part of a question posed by New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg regarding whether he would veto the detainee-treatment bill the Senate Armed Services Committee passed a day earlier. But in this case, Washington Post staff writer Peter Baker -- when called on by Bush -- pointed out that "Sheryl's second question was whether you would veto the bill as it passed yesterday." Bush then addressed her question, saying, "Hopefully we can reconcile differences."

A number of members have noted various reports on the fake and "good" news efforts by the Pentagon this week. (As though Operation Happy Talk doesn't already do enough and, presumably, without tax payer monies.) While everyone's focusing on what happened X years ago, they seem to have missed the fact that someone who engaged in those practices X years ago had an op-ed in Friday's New York Times. Rebecca walks you through it "about that new york times op-ed ... ."

(And Rebecca's joking about making me mad. But let me note here, on another feature, thanks to Edward Wong's article in this morning's New York Times, we'll kill a piece we had planned. I'm still sick and not in the mood to do it -- in fact I'm going back to sleep after I'm done here this morning -- so I don't feel I can ask others to do the work required -- pouring over a month's worth of snapshots when I'm not going to do it this evening/tonight/tomorrow morning. Wong touches on it -- and we'll note Wong in the next entry -- so that's going to have to be good enough when I feel like ___ and have all week. There are many other things that we have planned and the edition will go quicker without that feature so, since Wong's touched on it this morning, I'm axing our's.)

Also on Iraq, Joey notes Joe Conason's "UNTANGLING THE FACTS IN CIA LEAK PROBE" (Yahoo link, if it's like their news stories, this column may disappear in a few weeks):

In an article published in The Nation on Sept. 5, Corn says the available evidence also proves that Valerie Wilson was not only a genuine CIA undercover officer, but that she was in charge of operations seeking proof of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Specifically, she ran the Joint Task Force on Iraq, part of the CIA's Counterproliferation Division. She worked overseas using a "nonofficial cover." By disclosing her identity, the Bush officials ruined her career and endangered the sources she had used in the president's service. "Hubris" also suggests strongly that her alleged role in dispatching her husband to Niger has been exaggerated.
All this is contrary to the dominant right-wing perspective in Washington. So now we will see whether those who were so thrilled by the Armitage scoop are honest enough to confront more significant and embarrassing facts. But the fundamental issues have not changed.
Rather than confront Joe Wilson's accusations directly, the White House went after him and his wife -- and then lied about the involvement of its senior officials in disclosing her identity. The perpetrators of these unpatriotic acts have yet to be punished, and the president has failed to uphold his own professed ethical standards. It is a simple matter, and yet still too challenging for the national press to understand.

Two things that need to be noted. First David Corn will be a guest Sunday on RadioNation with Laura Flanders. Second, as Corn has revealed, Valerie Plame was undercover. That's an important point. Not back in the nineties as the Vicky Toejams tried to spin (and the New York Times was happy to run with).

Why is it important? The excuse now (which is laughable, see The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Somebody's Lying" from September 3rd) is that it doesn't matter because it was 'gossipy' Armitage (whose apparently the Peace Man to read the rewriting of history). "Gossipy" or not, Amitage broke the law. The earlier spin was that anyone outing Valerie Plame wasn't outing a CIA agent who was undercover and Vicky Toejam and others lined up to try to confuse the issue. Now that Corn has demonstrated that, yes, she was, the Toejam's are strangely silent on that point and big media, which was happy to run her spin (and others) doesn't have anything to say about that.

If you've forgotten, they wrote op-eds, they took to the airwaves, they did everything they could to dismiss the claim that Plame had been undercover. We await the Vicky Toejams corrections to the public record and, since this was their talking point, this issue needs to be noted. Not just in a "they were wrong," but in terms of the law itself that they were so quick to bend and say didn't apply to Plame.

On an unrelated to Iraq issue, some idiot visitor has written about Bill Clinton either tearing up or coming close to it on the issue of Ann Richards. The visitor (who doesn't identify politically) says it's another instance of Bill Clinton trying to inject himself into a "popular news story." No, it's probably not. Bill Clinton and Ann Richards were friends. She worked very hard, and was happy to, on his 1992 campaign. I'm sick and may not be remembering correctly but I believe that included whirlwind stops in the last 24 hours of his 1992 campaign (and I believe several stops were with him). There may be times to groan, but this isn't one of them. The two genuinely got along and the tearing up would not be false.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Post-Gazette editorializes it's time to leave, Dexy Rats Out

Lest we forget, this week Iraq has presented an especially bloody tableau to the world, with some 62 bodies having been found in Baghdad alone, many of them mutilated indicating torture, as well as other high-toll car bomb attacks (four U.S. soldiers died yesterday).
This occurred in spite of the weeks-long campaign that both American and Iraqi forces have carried out to try to improve the security climate in the capital. One byproduct of the pullback of forces to Baghdad has been that the security situation in other parts of Iraq has deteriorated, causing the senior U.S. Marine intelligence officer in Anbar province in bloody western Iraq, for example, to let slip the fact that in his view another U.S. division would be required there to bring the insurgents under control.

[. . .]
At the risk of sounding like a stuck CD, or worse, seeming to agree with part of the Democratic Party, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it is definitely time for the United States to get out of Dodge, to disengage itself in as dignified a manner as possible from what is a hopeless mess in Iraq, one which soaks up U.S. time, lives and money with no end in sight.
[. . .]

A serious president would, instead, step up to the plate and take steps to get America out of Iraq.

The above is from "Editorial: The Iraq mess / Harsh reality underscores the need to leave" (Pittsburg Post-Gazette). So the Post-Gazette calls for withdrawal and the New York Times? The Post-Gazette can be traced back to 1786 when it was The Gazette. At 220 years of publication, it appears to have the bravery the New York Timid can only dream of.

Well don't expect bravery. And let's save the applause for Dexy -- though I'm sure it's coming. "Oh, how honest he is!" Not in print. Never in print.

But Editor & Publisher reports (David S. Hirschman's "Filkins, 'NYT' War Reporter: 'Anarchy' Curtails Reporting in Iraq") that Dexy gave a speech where he told some truths. He's actually done that before. Then returned to the Green Zone to spin again.

As Danny Schechter pointed out when Filkins reviewed Paul Bremer's laughable book, nothing prevented Filkins from reporting what he saw in real time. He didn't need an "official" to tell him what he saw. But too many let Dexy slide and expect to hear the usual praise of pistol-packing Dexy, the sob sister of the Green Zone.

Just don't expect his Times co-horts to be too pleased. Dexy's given that speech in American several times. Usually to college audiences. This time he gave it at a forum where it's being reported.

Now let's say you're a Green Zoner for the Times and you are just so offended by the wisecracks one site makes and you're offended by points made at that site about things that don't go into the paper re: Green Zone. You're a little outraged that too much backstory is known. But you know damn well, damn well, that you are busting your butt in the Green Zone and you fire off an angry little e-mail or two (or maybe an overly long one) about just how hard you work and how you are out there getting the story and blah, blah, blah, wah, wah, wah.

Well it only elects chuckles on this end because I know too many in the Green Zone (in the press, in the military) and I only know too well what little the Times does. ("Filky Rats Out All" should be E&P's headline.)

But I don't think his Green Zoners will be laughing with me at Dexy's speech.

Let's pull some of the highlights:

1) In 98% of Iraq (the 'liberated' nation), reporters can't travel. That's also true of Baghdad.

2) If a reporter for the Times speaks to an Iraqi, they do so under very careful situations ("using back channels" and "tight security" -- can't even leave a vehicle at the site of violence because it "would expose a Western journalist to mob attacks and kidnappings").

3) Dexy tells that seventy Iraqi staffers do the reporting (reporters and translators). They do "everything" according to Dexy.

4) "American journalists, he said, spend their days piecing together scraps of information from the Iraqi reporters to construct a picture, albeit incomplete, of what life is like these days in the war-torn country."

Not exactly the picture that those still in the Green Zone want painted and, more than likely, not the sort of thing Arthur expects to be picked up by the press (again, Dexy's given this speech before, this is the first time it's been written up that I'm aware of).

He talks of the 45 bodyguards employed by the Times. (And all the money that and the villa costs to maintain.)

He also thinks Iraq is in "anarchy" and that a "civil war" has already started.

Oh, how brave he is. When he's not churning out sob stories or rewriting press releases or being the US military's go-to-guy for propaganda. (As Christian Parenti pointed out to Laura Flanders years ago, back when the show was called The Laura Flanders Show, the Dexy in the paper and the Dexy in person are not the same person.)

Here's the thing, Dexy's not paid by the paper for speeches. He's paid to report. He's supposedly a reporter. If he has seen Iraq descend into anarcy, his reporting should have reflected that. If he sees that a civil war has started, his reporting should have reflected that.
Instead readers got Reading Press Releases Live From The Green Zone. That wasn't reality.

And for him to play war correspondent as the actual work, the more dangerous work, was farmed out to stringers, wasn't reality. Readers of the Times may be shocked by Dexy's speech. (His cohorts may be outraged.) You can't paly reporter in front of audiences if you don't do the work required to back up the preformance.

If you'll remember the Times denied that white phosphorus was used in Falluja (in November of 2004). When that news came out and started to get traction over a year later, a reporter who'd never been in Falluja denied it and the reason for denying it was that Filkins (among other Times reporters) was there. (Filkins actually won a prize for his rah-rah 'reporting' that omitted key details.) Then the US government admitted that white phosphorus had been used. The Times noted that -- the same reporter, Scott Shane, wrote the denial and the affirmation.

Shane should have been able to depend on Filkins' 'reporting.' The paper ran with it. (Well, slow jogged it. Check the dateline on the 'award winning' piece and compare it to when it was actually published -- you'll understand why many whispers of military revisions/censorship still surround that 'award winning' piece.) Shane got burned by the paper's own reporting. And the Times that was happy to dismiss the story with the oh-so-informed reasoning that they had reporters in Falluja didn't follow up (in the piece where they admitted white phosphorus was used) by asking the obvious question: Why hadn't the same reporters that were used to refute the (true) claim being asked to explain how the paper could use them and their work to deny something that turned out to be true?

How does that happen?

You only have to read about Filkins' speech. He's a Chatty Cathy in person. When he's supposed to be reporting, he buries a lot. Wouldn't be the go-to-guy for the US military if he didn't.

So before someone rushes to applaud Filkins' 'honesty,' they should ask the question Danny Schechter asked months ago -- if Filkins saw something, why didn't he report it?

When Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post) noted how much the military loved them some Dexy, media critics should have paid attention. They didn't. One 'followed' the story by reducing it to a headline where they teamed it up with Fox "News" -- as if the Times and Fox "News" are seen by most news consumers as equivalents and as if the news of a being a go-to-guy wasn't worthy of exploration.

This month, Filkins begins his Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University. We've long made the point here that if Judith Miller got the U.S. into Iraq (that's the conventional wisdom -- she was one of many reporters and the rest of them weren't lynched in the town square), Dexy and 'reporters' like him kept the U.S. over there by minimizing, fluffing and, as one reporter stated publicly, cancelling interviews with Iraqis if the US military gave him a frown.

The current American fatality count stands at 2682. No matter how much you hate Judith Miller, you can't pin it all on her. Not just because there were a lot of people aping her lead (in print, on TV, on the radio -- and she was not the Queen of All Media) but because Judith Miller was out of Iraq fairly quickly. The Times pulled her and put her on UN duty (around the time her friend David Kelly died). The so-called cakewalk walked on without her.

Dexy ended up being party to an issue that drug in the Guild. That might have raised warning signals . . . but it didn't. He offered hideous 'reporting' which should have raised signals . . . but it didn't. So where were the media critics? (I don't mean Media Matters. They follow domestic coverage.) Outside of Danny Schechter, I can't think of one who bothered to seriously address Dexy's shortcomings.

A New York Times reporter was bragged about, by the military, as the go-to-guy when they needed something in print real bad. And the media critics? They ignored it. One teamed it up with a Fox "News" item.

Today, one of them noted Katie Couric's news content -- I know, we're all shocked that they're still on Katie Couric. And then ended their 'coverage' by wondering if the ratings on 9-11 being down was a reflection of that? The ratings had been lower before Couric joined The Evening News. It might also have had to do with needing a familiar evening face. Or it may have had to do with some people not watching news that night because they didn't want to see footage of the towers falling. But it's always good to get your smear in.

I know Couric, I like Couric. (Ava and I both do and we noted that in "Katie Was a Cheerleader.") I don't watch any of the evening news unless someone (usually a producer proud of a segment) calls and asks me to watch or I get a call from someone at another network calls and says, "You've got to turn on ___! You won't believe what they're doing!".

Media Matters has criticized her frequently and that doesn't bother me because they are covering all the networks. (And, as Ruth has noted, they've upped their coverage of NPR.) Ava and I are wondering right now if we're giving Meredith's hideous performance a pass? But we don't want to comment on it. There's enough 'criticism' that seems less to be a press critique and more to be a game of bash-the-bitch.

But no one wanted to address that with regards to Judith Miller. Which is why her co-writers got off and which is why, last month, an intelligent and informed press critic could make the mistake of blaming her for writing a story (October, 2001) that she didn't even write.

By all means, hold Miller accountable for what she wrote. When she co-wrote a piece, hold her and her co-writer accountable for what they both wrote. But don't act like her co-writers don't bear responsibility (or her editors) and don't pin the blame on her for stories she didn't even write.

The criticism of Couric? It's really a case of "uppity bitch, who the hell does she think she is?" for many. Again, if you're Media Matters and you're covering everyone, that's one thing. If you're a press critic or a watch dog -- especially one obsessed over photos of Tom Cruise & Katie Holme's child -- maybe you need to lose that obsession for Katie Couric.

It's a nice narrative that she's the one who moved from daytime talkshow to evening news. But it's not reality when you give the male who made the same move a pass. And unlike him, Couric didn't fall asleep on live TV. Unlike him, she wasn't famous for cutting off guests by telling them that the feed wasn't coming in. (When the feed was just fine.) Unlike him, her ascenscion didn't require that a pregnant woman and an injured man lose their jobs. So all the little titters about what Katie Couric did or didn't do while you give the other networks a pass (yeah, they tossed Tim Russert today --oh, brave watchdogs) isn't cutting it as press criticism and you're fooling yourself it you think it is.

Ratings is press criticism now? Ratings? When you're supposedly concerned about whether or not the news accurate, you want to offer ratings? That seems a little superficial. But it seems a little superficial that outside of a chapter of NOW, most were silent on the fact that Elizabeth Vargas got demoted for being pregnant. So before you prepare your next study on gender and racial representation, you might want to ask yourself where you were when that happened?

Apparently, you were a smoke break and you were on it whenever the opportunity presented itself to fully explore Dexter Filkins' 'reporting.'

Compare and contrast his public remarks with his 'reporting' and you're left with the impression that he's unable or unwilling to report reality. And that didn't start with the E&P report. Miller's been gone from the Times for over a year now. The fact that she's still the most cited Times reporter in press criticques gives the impression that a lot of critics are sleeping on the job.

David Gregory and the Bully Boy both had a melt down today. Wally ("THIS JUST IN! D.C. LOVE GOES SOUR! ON A MUSICAL NOTE!") and Cedric [The end of a love affair (humor)"] captured it perfectly. There's polite and then there's fawning. Gregory, as Bob Somerby captured Margaret Warner at her worst on the NewsHour this week) in their zeal to go after Couric week after week.

Couric being a woman doesn't mean she be cut any slack. Nor does her being "a first" mean she should be cut any slack. It also doesn't mean, if you're on the left, that her gender means open war. The continued reluctance to address the work of Dexter Filkins (all this time after) and the current zeal with which some feel the need to capture Couric's every moment (while giving the other two evening newscasts a pass) suggests that the glomming on Miller had as much to do with gender as it did to do with her 'reporting.' When you're left to make snide comments on ratings, and you're on public radio, it really seems like you're scraping the bottom of the barrel in your desire to play bash-the-bitch. It doesn't seem like press criticism.

Since the critique on aired Friday and it made ratings an issue, probably it should have included the ratings after 9-11. If it had, listeners would have known that on September 12th, CBS Evening News was back at number one. That sort of nullifies the snide little remark. So maybe they knew and it just didn't fit the narrative being created?

To imply that a content analysis (that's not discussed) may be why viewers turned away on September 11th is just idiotic. Especially when the following day (a Tuesday, many days before your show was taped), The CBS Evening News was number one. Real press criticism might have felt the need to note that on September 11th, compared to September 12th, viewership was down for the big three: 23.7 million viewers watched on Monday the 11th, 24.6 million for Tuesday the 12th. That's almost a million viewers who decided not to watch on any evening news on the big three on September 11th.

Here's another thing that doesn't seem like press criticism: "hard" and "soft" features with no effort to define the terms. Those with a half-hour or hour long show who devote maybe five or ten minutes to headlines (hard news) and then do sit down interviews maybe ought to think twice about repeating "hard" and "soft" in their zeal to crucify Couric. That's not a slam against sit down interviews. That is saying that just because some news 'analyst' used the term 'hard' and 'soft' doesn't mean you run with it. A sit-down can qualify as news or newsworthy. Tyndall doesn't define the term. (The Tyndall Report, by Andrew Tyndall.) The media critcs on air Friday, put it in the same terms Peter Johnson did in USA Today:

Tyndall says features, interviews and commentary took up 74 minutes on the Evening News last week, compared with 51 on Nightly News and 44 on World News.

(That's from D1, the front page of the "Life" section on September 13, 2006 and the title was "CBS' Couric slides to No. 3." I'm not in the mood to hunt down links. I'm only covering this because a friend who produces on cable news asked me to. She heard the program before I did -- it airs earlier in her area and called me to ask that I listen and write something about it because "the double standard is translating as a higher standard." Hopefully, this will be the last time we'll note it here. And, if anyone's wondering, I plan to check out The CBS Evening News in a few months when it would make more sense to evaluate Couric's performance -- not while they're still figuring out the format. That's not a slam at Media Matters. They're evaulating specific incidents and not suggesting that the show's losing viewers as a result of some mythical hard/soft divide.)

Tyndall, in that "report" (it's a paragraph online -- the section on the minutes) also notes (at the end of the report) this:

CBS' enthusiasm for features includes Exclusives. Lara Logan's scoop took us behind Taliban lines in Afghanistan's Ghazni Province and David Martin landed a one-on-one with Richard Armitage, the leaker who told columnist Robert Novak that Valerie Plame, wife of diplomat Joe Wilson, was a spy. "I let down the President. I let down the Secretary of State. I let down my department, my family. And I also let down Mr and Mrs Wilson." "Do you feel you owe the Wilsons an apology?" "I think I have just done it."

Those two features, not hard news by Tyndall's standard apparently, strike me as news worthy.
So before you slam for hard and soft, you might want to figure out how Tyndall is quantifying. Or better yet, do your own study of the big three.

Now it's not as fun, probably, as implying that Couric's turned the network over to fluff non-stop or implying that as a result of the content, viewers are turning off the CBS Evening News in strong numbers (almost one million people elected not to watch the evening news on the big three on September 11th -- I'm surprised the figure that low). But it's not reality either. It's not reality when you use someone else's terms ("hard" and "soft") without defining them or when you rush in (on a show that aired Friday) with suppositions that the viewers may be leaving due to the content and you use Monday the 11th as your example -- when on Tuesday the 12th, CBS Evening News was back on top.

I really don't see what ratings have to do with news quality but since a snide remark was made at the end of this week's slime-Couric effort, it is worth noting that the show that aired on Friday ran with Monday numbers when Tuesday numbers were available. Either the critics didn't know the numbers (which, if they're going to bring them up, they should know the numbers) or they chose not to include them because it wouldn't have allowed a mini-ha-ha to go out on.

But it wasn't press criticism and they don't need to kid themselves that it was.

Again, I'm not planning to write about this every week and hope this is the last time we have to address it. This is the second time and both times it was because friends in TV news felt something was seriously wrong in the criticism. (I agree with them.) Katie Couric doesn't merit a pass because she's a woman. She also doesn't need to be held to a different (higher) standard than the men who do the job.

There seems to be some shock that she moved from morning talkshow to evening news. I don't know why. We noted here that it was a done deal about a year ago. Yes, others were still stumbling around for months with their Who's-it-going-to-be coverage but we noted it and then dropped it. But we do note sexism and that's what's going on to a large degree. If you're Media Matters, you don't need to worry. You're covering everyone. But if you're another watchdog and you're only barking at Couric, you should probably take a long hard look at that.

As it stands now, a Friday broadcast gave us the "news" that the Couric-anchored newscast was "soft"er than the other two. That "soft"ness apparently included an interview with the man claiming to have leaked (by "gossip") the name of an undercover CIA agent and the "soft"ness of an indepth look at Afghanistan. Those are "soft" topics?

As it stands now, a Friday broadcast ended their Couric-watch with the suggestion that Couric's ratings may have dived as a result of her "soft" content. The reality was that it was one day and ratings go up and they go down. On the day in question, almost a million viewers chose not to watch the evening news compared to the figures for the next day. That may mean they didn't want to see the endlessly recycled footage of the towers falling or it may have meant they had a life. Monday and Tuesday's numbers indicate that Williams lost 200,000 viewers on Tuesday (second on Tuesday, first on Monday), Gibson stayed the same (third place on Tuesday, second on Monday) and that Couric gained 1.1 million viewers on Tuesday (first on Tuesday, third on Monday). There could be any number of reasons to explain how about a million cheked out on Monday. Real press critiques would at least note that.

But then real press critiques, to return to the topic of Iraq, would have addressed Dexter Filkins a long time ago.

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Iraq snapshot

Friday, September 15, 2006.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq and among the dead are US troops; the count of discovered corpses in Baghdad continue to rise, meanwhile the latest US 'answer' is "Castle!"; war resister Darrell Anderson prepares to return to the United States; and Camp Democracy continues in Washington, DC.
Starting with the violence (stick around for the 'answer'), CBS and AP report that five US troops died on Thursday ("making it a particularly bloody day for U.S. forces" -- well not to the New York Times) and that a marine has died today in al Anbar province. al Anbar?  For those who missed it, Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post) reported Monday that that Marine Col Pete Devlin's assesment "that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents."  Today Will Dunham (Reuters) reports: "U.S. commanders in Iraq have demoted their long effort to subdue insurgents in Anbar province . . . 'Baghdad is our main effort right now,' Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the top U.S. operational commander in Iraq, told Pentagon reporters in a briefing from Iraq."
Staying with the violence. 
A senior Interior Ministry official remarks to Reuters, on the continued discovery of corpses, "Forty bodies, 60 bodies -- it's become a daily routine."  Friday started with Rebecca Santana (AP) noting the discovery of 30 corpses in Baghdad.  AFP gives the announced figures for the last three days as 64 (Wednesday), 20 (Thursday) and 51 (last 24 hours).  In addition to those corpses which were discovered in Baghdad, Reuters reports that in Mussayab a corpse "with a missing head" was discovered.
Reuters reports one person was shot dead and five others wounded in Baghdad.  AP reports the incident: "In central Baghdad, a gunman opened fire from the top of an abandoned building in a Sunni Arab neighborhood, killing an Iraqi civilian and wounding five others, said police Lt. Ahmed Mohammed Ali."
Reuters reports a car bomb in Mosul that left nine wounded, while, in Mussayab, a roadside bomb "late on Thursday" left three police officers wounded.
In addition, Al Jazeera reports that a US soldier is missing after Thursday's car bombing in Baghdad that left two troops dead on Thursday and 25 others wounded. AP raises the wounded from that bombing to 30 and notes the missing soldier "has been reported as Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown".
AFP reminds: "The United Nations has also warned that Iraq could slide into civil war as the daily bloodshed shows no signs of abating despire political efforts for national reconciliation."  CBS and AP report that John Bolton told the UN Security Council yesterday "that Iraq's sectarian killings and kidnappings had increased in the last three months, along with a rise in the numbef of displaced people."
So where does it stand?  Even John Bolton's sounding alarms, US troops are pulling out of al Anabar, Reuters reports that the 147,000 American troops in Iraq are "the most since January," and the violence and chaos continue.
But don't fret 'a new plan' finally emerges as the 'answer.'
It's being called trenches which is really implying something it's not.  When people think of trenches, they tend to think of trench warfare.  What's being described is more along the lines of a mote -- AFP reports that Brigadier General Abdel Karim Khalaf described it this way, "We will surround the city with trenches.  The entry to the captial will be permitted through 28 roads, as against 21 at the moment, but at the same time we will seal off dozens of other minor roads with access to Baghdad."
Quote: "We will surround the city with trenches."  That's the 'new plan.'  Baghdad goes from capital to castle.  But not overnight.  Al Jazeera notes "an operation of this scale would take months to complete."
In the real world, Cal Perry (CNN) takes a look at the wounded US troops ("more than 20,000" have been "wounded in Iraq") at the 10th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad.
In peace news, Courage to Resist has reported that war resister Darrell Anderson will return to the United States (from Canada): "Support is mounting for Darrell and his courageous stand.  Two events are planned in conjunction with his return to the U.S.  In Fort Erie on Saturday, Septemeber 30 at Noon there will be a rally in Lions Sugar Bowl and then supporters, including Iraq war veterans and military family members, will accompany Darrell as he crosses the border back into the U.S. over Peace Bridge."
Other peace actions are going on and will be going on including a three-day event in NYC that begins this evening at 7:00 pm, continues Saturday at 7:00 pm and concludes on Sunday at 3:00 pm.  What is it?  The People Speak directed by Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati. This is a workshop adaptation of Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's Voices of a People's History of the United States. The workshop will take place at The Culture Project's Bleecker Street Theater on 45 Bleecker Street. Tickets are ten dollars and can be ordered online here or here or purchased in person at the box office (box office does not take ticket orders). For those in NYC, or who will be during those dates, click here for a map. The presentation is part of the Impact Festival.
In Washington, DC, Camp Democracy continues, free and open to the public.  Today's events have focused on Electoral Reform and include an 8:00 pm (EST) showing of the film Stealing America, Vote by Vote."  Among those speaking today were Bob Firtakis.  Saturday is peace day and will include Kevin Zeese, Nadine Bloch, Allison Hantschel. CODEPINK's Gael Muphy will report on the visit to Jordan at the start of last month to meet with Iraqis as well as the trip to Lebanon.  And war resister Ricky Clousing will discuss the court-martial he's facing.  (This may be the first major discussion he's given publicly on the topic since August 11th.)
And on Sunday, Camp Democracy will host a number of events and the theme will be Impeachment Day.  Among those participating:  Elizabeth Holtzman, Michael Avery, Ray McGovern, David Green, John Nichols, Marcus Raskin, Elizabeth De La Vega, Dave Lindorff, David Swanson, Jennifer Van Bergen, Geoff King, David Waldman, Dan DeWalt, Steve Cobble, Anthony St. Martin, Cindy Bogard, Mubarak Awad, Susan Crane, Frank Anderson.  The camp has daily activities and admission is free.  A complete schedule can be found here. Free and open to the public with daily activites.
Finally, in Australia, ABC reports that Brendan Nelson (Defence Minister) will be expanding their role in Iraq when "Italian forces withdraw at the end of next month."  Reuters notes this will be 20 troops added to "the extra 38 troops announced on Sept. 4".  The 58 need to be weighed next to the intent, as Dan Box (The Australian) reported earlier this week, the Australian government wants to up the army from 2,600 to 30,000 ("its biggest intake since the Vietnam war")
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NYT: Paragraph nine tells you that five US troops died -- they bury it

Five American soldiers also died in fighting on the outskirts of Baghdad and in northern Iraq, the military said.

The above is paragraph ten from the soon to be latest Court-TV hire Paul von Zielbauer's "Judge Tells Hussein, 'You Are Not a Dictator'" in this morning's New York Times. Five American troops dead in one day and von Zielbauer and the Times believes that's not a headline and it's not even something you mention in the opening paragraph? You just jaw bone on for nine other paragraphs and then, in a sort of, "You feel like Thai or Chinese today?" manner toss it out. You follow it with eighth paragraphs that don't say a word about it. You're too busy too. You can't be bothered. In the middle of your crappy little story, you offer one sentence that five American soldiers died and you move the hell on.

Polly notes this from the BBC:

Also on Friday, US military officials said insurgents have killed seven US servicemen and wounded dozens more in the past 48 hours across Iraq.

Oh, yeah, the wonded dozens more. That's not in von Zielbauer's report either. We noted the attack in the snapshot, last night in "And the war drags on," we noted that the attack had left two dead and twenty-five wounded. Twenty-five US troops wounded. And the Times can't be bothered with discussing it? Why is that?

When the Times chooses to ignore an attack that wounded twenty-five US troops and reduces the dead to a single sentence in the middle of more jaw boning, the paper has more problems than be can be minimized with a "St. Billy Of The Fan Rags" piece in New York -- no matter how laughable the piece is.

And before some little whiner from the New York Times writes in to say, "Blah, blah, blah, Washington Post, wah, wah, wah, Chicago Tribune . . ." Why are you people always pinning your problems off on other papers? Is there no growing up in the Green Zone -- is it just one endless summer? Can't the grizzled Walter Brennan stand-in (John F. Burns) provide any of the 'young whippernsappers' with any life lessons?

"Violence has intensified over the past two days," writes Rebecca Santana (AP) but you wouldn't know it by reading the Times. From Santana:

Police found 30 bodies bearing signs of torture Friday, the latest in a wave of sectarian killings sweeping the Iraqi capital despite a monthlong security operation.
A U.S. Marine was killed Friday in Anbar province, and an American soldier was killed Thursday evening by a roadside bomb northwest of Baghdad, the military said. The soldier was the fifth to have died on Thursday, making it a particularly bloody day for U.S. forces.

In central Baghdad, a gunman opened fire from the top of an abandoned building in a Sunni Arab neighborhood, killing an Iraqi civilian and wounding five others, said police Lt. Ahmed Mohammed Ali.

Particularly bloody day for U.S. forces? Not to the New York Times.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

It was appropriate that the "Guilty" verdicts against the Bush-Cheney Gang for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity were announced at "Camp Democracy," on the National Mall. On Sept. 13, 2006, Ann Wright, an ex-U.S. diplomat, read the "mock" verdicts. She was also one of the five jurists who heard the evidence compiled by the Bush Crimes Commission.
[. . .]
At "Camp Democracy," on the National Mall, on September 13, 2006, a year-long investigation by a citizens' "Commission of Inquiry" was concluded. It had focused on this key question arising out of the "mock" indictments of the Bush-Cheney Gang earlier this year: Has the current administration committed war crimes and crimes against humanity? Today, the Commission returned its preliminary "mock" verdicts against the defendants. The answer was a resounding -- "Guilty!"
The Commission, aka, "The International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration," had empaneled five jurists, including Retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel, Ann Wright, a former U.S. diplomat, to take evidence in the matter and to return preliminary verdicts. The "mock" preliminary verdicts were announced at a press conference held at the "Camp Democracy" site. Wright summarized the 51-page report, which can be found online. (2) The scope of the "Commission of Inquiry" into suspected wrongdoings by operatives of this off-the-wall administration went beyond the illegal and immoral Iraqi War, which was launched by the Bush-Cheney Gang based on a pack of serial lies. (3) It also included these four other areas of inquiry: "Torture," "Global Environment," "Global Health (AIDS and Reproductive Rights)," and, finally, "Hurricane Katrina." (2)
Wright resigned her State Department office on March 19, 2003, rather than endorse the U.S. attack on Iraq, which was hatched by warmongering schemers within the Bush-Cheney Gang. She said that the panel of jurists found that the evidence against all of the defendants, on all five indictments, "did rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity."

The above is from William Hughes' "Bush-Cheney Hit with 'Mock' Guilty Verdicts for War Crimes" (San Francisco Indymedia) and Jennifer noted it. Camp Democracy is ongoing in DC and this Sunday will examine impeachment. It's free and open to the public. And you get to be around people who are actually working towards something as opposed to the faux. (Yes, I've read the e-mails, the forwards and much more. Not all of them, but I've spent four hours on e-mails Ava and Jess flagged from members. We'll get to that.) And, leaving parenthetical, this post will grab a few things which, hopefully, will still retain the Iraq focus.

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 2666. Tonight? Right now? 2677.
On KPFA's Flashpoints today, Dennis Bernstein spoke with Peter Phillips of Project Censored who estimated the death toll for Iraqi civilians had reached 250,000 by now.

Clare Short, who has been vocal against the Iraq war since before the illegal invasion, has resigned from the Labor Party. Gareth has a column in tomorrow's gina & krista round-robin about that. (Which, remember, will be out at midnight EST.) Naomi Fowler reported on this on both The KPFA Evening News and Free Speech Radio News. From London's Independent, Short in her own words:

I have been thinking long and hard about whether to contest the next election as a Labour candidate and decided that I will not. For me it is a big decision...
There are many good things that New Labour has done since 1997, mostly things Labour committed itself to before the New Labour coup, but I... am profoundly ashamed of the Government. Blair's craven support for the extremism of US neoconservative foreign policy has exacerbated the danger of terrorism and the instability and suffering of the Middle East. He has dishonoured the UK...
Gordon Brown's commitment to a replacement of Trident, in one throwaway sentence, is an insult to democracy...
The change we need is a hung parliament which will bring in electoral reform... Labour would have one-third of the seats in the Commons, the Tories something similar, and we would be likely to see some Greens and others.
The Chief Whip has warned me that I cannot recommend a hung parliament because it would mean Labour MPs losing their seats. I am standing down so that I can speak my truth."

Gareth covers this in depth (and worked like crazy to get it in at the last minute).

Dropping back to today's snapshot:

Reuters notes a "sucicide bomber" in Tal Afar has left one police officer dead and two civilians wounded; a roadside bomb in Falluja has left five civilians dead and 15 more wounded; and that "[a] bomb struck a U.S. military vehicle in Ur district, northern Baghdad, as the coalition forces were starting a serach operation. Witnesses at the scene said smoke was rising from the area. The U.S. military said it was unaware of the incident."

AP reports that two died and twenty-five were wounded and that the "acting ambassador" to Iraq from Japan had his car shot at in Baghdad while he was in it. What was it Rumsfeld said about "democracy" being messy?

In election news, Tara steers us to John Nichols' "No Clear Antiwar Signal" (The Nation) with his take on the results from this week's primaries:

Anyone looking for a signal from the September 12 Senate and House primaries that Democrats will go into the November campaign as a clearly defined antiwar party didn't get it. There was no high-profile win for an antiwar challenger to a prowar incumbent, like that of Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman in the August 8 Connecticut primary. In fact, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who (although never as slavishly supportive of the war as Lieberman) remains essentially on board with the mission, won a convincing 4-to-1 victory over labor activist Jonathan Tasini's sincere but underfunded campaign. In Maryland, where former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume staked an uphill run for an open Senate seat at least in part on his blunter opposition to the war than frontrunner Ben Cardin, Cardin won.
Both Clinton and Cardin ran smarter than Lieberman, sharpening their criticism of the Administration's conduct of the war as primary day approached. Clinton finished the season denouncing Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, while Cardin, who had once resisted timelines, ended up talking about the wisdom of removing US ground forces from Iraq by the end of 2007.
So it will be that, in Senate races this fall, Democratic nominees will run the gamut from the Bring the Troops Home position articulated by Lamont to the murky criticisms of Cardin and Clinton to the "stay the course" line of Nebraska maverick Ben Nelson. For the most part, Democrats will be more antiwar than their Republican foes, with the possible exception of Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee, a war critic who beat back a conservative GOP primary challenge with, ironically, the support of a White House that did not believe anyone to the right of Chafee could hold the seat. Chafee might still lose in a fall electoral season where polls suggest that voters, frustrated in general by Administration missteps and in particular by the refusal of the President to recognize degeneration of conditions in Iraq, are ready for change.

Jerald Albrecht and Coleen Rowley's "Bush Keeps Failing His Troops in Iraq" (Minneapolis Star-Tribune via Common Dreams):

Bush first failed the troops when he put them in harm's way despite knowing that the threat from Iraq was practically nonexistent. He then failed to provide them with the tools to succeed: no plan to secure the peace, insufficient body armor, questionable support from Dick Cheney's Halliburton cronies and one-third the number of troops necessary to get the job done. But most shameful of all has been the willingness of Bush and the GOP leadership to use our troops as a tool for political gain.
It is no coincidence that Congress voted on the use of force against Iraq less than a month before the 2002 elections, or that John Kerry's votes on Iraq became the crucial fodder of the 2004 campaign, or that every prominent figure who has openly questioned the conduct of the war found their patriotism called into question. Partisan use of the troops continues again in 2006, with "cut and run" on the tip of every GOP loyalist's tongue heading into November.
To Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and other supporters of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, any action other than "staying the course" is defeatism or appeasement. But it is the war supporters who have surrendered our military might and treasure to the failed neocon notion of world domination through unilateral strength of arms.
They have offered up our volunteer military machine to the sands of Iraq with no understanding of who we are fighting, how we should fight them, and whose support we can expect to have. The Bush administration has left our military twisting in the wind -- both at home and abroad.
Since the occupation began, Iraq has been on a slow, inexorable slide toward civil war; our two top generals in the region recently testified that the current situation in Iraq is the worst it's ever been.
Basic necessities like electricity, oil and drinkable water are harder to come by than they were in Saddam Hussein's time. Kidnappings, roadside bombings and beheadings are daily occurrences. Our troops know that death could come at any time, from IEDs or from insurgents lurking among Iraqi civilians.
As a consequence of the chaos, the killing of innocent Iraqis has become routine. A newly released Marine Corps report shows the United States has lost Iraq's Anbar province.
And when veterans return from Iraq, they learn the harsh reality of how their government has cut and run from its responsibilities to them. They return to fewer health care benefits, pitiful job prospects -- except possibly as private military contractors for more duty in Iraq -- and shattered lives and families.

Yes, I've read the e-mails. Hang in and I'll try to tie it into Iraq. Let's start with this, Eddie notes that 9/11: Press for Truth is currently availble for viewing online at Media Channel -- click here. (Rory O'Connor is an executive producer of the documentary.) That's actually a good starting point because it's a wonderful documentary. It's very easy to forget how many lies were told by the administration about 9-11. Following September 14th, Bully Boy had a sheen to him and questions and criticism would not be tolerated. He rejected the idea of an investigation and he and Dick Cheney tried to spin that around as well. It's been one lie after another. The documentary underscores that.

If there's something you believe in, you should ask questions. You shouldn't worry about some blowhard slamming you. You'll be slammed for whatever you do, if you do anything, so just accept it and realize that some people think they've done a lot more this summer than they actually have and think they have a right to issue marching orders. Or, as the forwarded e-mail indicates, think that slamming others who are only searching, is the way to get attention.

Attention-seeking behavior is all that column was. We won't name it, we won't name him. As I remarked on the death of someone, they'd spent their whole life trying to get attention and I wouldn't feed their ego anymore in death than I did in life.

This will be dealt with on Sunday (you know where and I'm too tired to link -- I just deleted 15 paragraphs on this topic, he's not worth fifteen paragraphs). Questions are important. They're always important. Your questions may not be mine, mine may not be the ones you're attempting to answer. But at some points our roads might converge. I may even need your help. Chances are, if I've struck you with a tire iron at some point, you won't rush to help me out.

The thing about attention-seeking behaviors is the people with them, the ones so in need of personal publicity, often get a different sort of attention than they thought they would. Or, like Michael Jackson who invented many of the 'wacko-Jacko' stories that followed him around, they find out later on, when they need support, it's not there (or not there in the numbers they need) because they did get the attention they sought.

Considering that "Richie Cunningham" has been all over the map this summer (didn't see Cindy Sheehan covered, didn't see Ehren Watada's hearing covered, didn't see the fast covered, didn't see the voter's pledge covered, didn't see the trip to Jordan covered, still haven't seen Camp Democracy covered) his need to foam over people who actually have focused, as opposed to dabbling, is rather sad. (Oh, didn't see the fact that the US military keeps a body count on Iraqi civilians who die covered. And it is laughable whenever anyone tries to sneak that in now, as Rebecca's grandmother has pointed out, after ignoring it back in June. But to do something other than sneak it would require them owning their own mistake/incompetence and it's so much easier for them to ridicule a truth movement made up of dedicated people than it is for them to own their mistakes.) Bully Boy lies all the time, as the documentary brilliantly illustartes. I don't know what happened, I wasn't there. I'm not an insta-expert (nor is Richie though he wanted to pass himself off as such) and I don't weigh in on things I don't know enough about. But I don't question the dedication of the people who pursue answers or pursue theories. (Or conflate theories into one unified theory.)

I think that covers it. I've read the e-mails. I've run the joke for Sunday past any members who might be offended to make sure they weren't. We'll deal with it Sunday. I can't tie this in. I thought I could. There's a way to go historical but I've been working on this entry for too many hours. There's a way to go personally but I'll carry that over to Polly's Brew.

We'll just wrap it up by noting that if everyone only asked the previously approved questions we'd all believe that WMD were found in Iraq and that Saddam was linked to 9-11. Ask your questions. Pursue the things that interest you. If anyone can't deal with it, that's a reflection on them, not you. In America, there should be a free wheeling exchange. It's columns like the one in question that prevent that.

It's a real shame that the one time the columnist has something lengthy to say it's not on Iraq, it's not on the peace movement, it's not even on something he thinks is important. But it was attention-seeking. Let's not reward the behavior.

And on those last thoughts, Jared highlights John Young's "Ah, Those Conspiracy Theories" (Waco Tribune-Herald via Common Dreams):

The nation's foremost 9/11 conspiracy theorist was on "Meet the Press" Sunday. And we all thought conspiracy theorists got no face time in mainstream media.
Well, it helps when you are vice president of the United States.
That would be Dick Cheney. Next possibly to Fox News, he's the chief agent behind the belief held by so many, including many in our fighting forces, that we attacked Iraq because it had something to do with 9/11.
Months after President Bush said that it wasn't so, a Senate Intelligence Committee report said it again last week. Saddam Hussein not only detested al-Qaida but apparently tried to capture Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Pressed about this by NBC's Tim Russert, Cheney said he hadn't read the report. That’s amazing. Then again, it’s not.
When I mentioned 9/11 conspiracy theorists, you thought first about people who believe that the U.S. government was behind 9/11 or did nothing to prevent it.
These individuals are dismissed as kooks and crazies. But those who send young men and women off to war based on politically calculated leaps of reasoning get treated with deference and motorcades.
Time magazine had a story last week titled "Why the 9/11 conspiracies won't go away."
It wasn't talking about Bush-Cheney's explanations for going to war. It was talking about those who believe our government might have brought down the Twin Towers.

I have now spent over four hours on this thing. (All due to the Richie Cunningham section which I've written and rewritten and pulled several entries worth of paragraphs.) If there's going to be even one entry tomorrow morning, I need to wrap this up.

Bonita notes this from CODEPINK:

Give Peace a Vote! What if millions decided to vote their conscience and said 'No More War Candidates'? The Voters Pledge makes visible a powerful political force, the peace vote, a force that politicians cannot continue to ignore. It sends a clear message to the hawkish minority that leads both major parties to end the occupation of Iraq and to end unprovoked attacks on other nations. Sign the Voters Pledge and ask at least 10 of your friends to sign as well. Let's put PEACE at the top of the ballot in 2006!

If peace matters to you, find a way to demonstrate that. (For instance, on 9-11, if you feel the need for a manifesto . . .) (See how easy it is to get caught up in his attention-seeking behavior.)
Zach notes Robert Parry's "U.S. Press Bigwigs Screw Up, Again" (Consortium News) which we may also note at The Third Estate Sunday Review. Parry's covered this from the beginning and is one of the few refusing to accept the ordained line coming out of DC (pre-ordained?):

Beyond the specific evidence of a White House campaign to out covert CIA officer Valerie Plame and the broader Republican hostility toward anyone who gets in Bush’s way, there is also the notion that Armitage, long considered a tough team player, was an independent soul who would never help the administration discredit a troublesome critic.
Though Armitage may not have been one of Bush’s intimates nor a leading enthusiast for invading Iraq in 2003, the Washington press corps is exaggerating both Armitage’s independence and his anti-war credentials.
Virtually forgotten in all the news coverage was the fact that in 1998, Armitage was one of the 18 signatories to
a seminal letter from the neoconservative Project for the New American Century urging President Bill Clinton to oust Saddam Hussein by military force if necessary.
Armitage joined a host of neoconservative icons, such as Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, William Kristol, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. Many of the signers, including Donald Rumsfeld, would become architects of Bush’s Iraq War policy five years later.
A well-placed conservative source, who knows both Armitage and Rove, told me that the two operatives are much closer than many in official Washington understand. Armitage and Rove grew to be friends when they were negotiating plans for bringing Colin Powell into the Bush administration in 2000, when Armitage represented Powell and Rove stood in for Bush.
After the administration took office, Rove and Armitage remained in frequent communication, becoming a back channel for sharing sensitive information between the White House and the State Department, the source said.
Beyond these relationships, there is also evidence that Armitage was part of a classic Washington scheme to slip Plame's identity into the newspapers, albeit with plenty of deniability for all involved.
The evidence about Armitage's role in leaking Plame's identity -- and thus destroying her CIA career as an undercover counter-proliferation operative -- now includes Novak’s account of their July 8, 2003, interview as Novak described it in his Sept. 14, 2006, column, entitled "Armitage's Leak."
Toward the end of the hour-long meeting, Novak wrote, he asked Armitage, the then-Deputy Secretary of State, why former Ambassador Wilson, had been sent on the trip to Africa. (Novak doesn’t say whether he was one of the journalists who had been urged by the White House to pursue that line of questioning.)
Novak wrote that Armitage "told me unequivocally that Mrs. Wilson worked in the CIA's Counter-proliferation Division and that she had suggested her husband's mission. As for his current implication that he [Armitage] never expected this to be published, he noted that the story of Mrs. Wilson's role fit the style of the old Evans-Novak column -- implying to me that it continued reporting Washington inside information."
In other words, Novak acknowledges two significant points: that he asked why Ambassador Wilson was chosen and that Armitage knew that Plame held a sensitive CIA position, yet still wanted her exposed.

And that's it. The war drags on. Some who could write about it choose to write slam pieces on something they supposedly consider unimportant but their thesis on it is far longer than anything else they've offered up. Why are we still in Iraq? Because people who supposedly want us out keep wasting our time on everything but that topic. Because people who supposedly want us out bore us with their attacks on something they've never covered. Because people who supposedly wants us out want about eight million other things all done at once and we couldn't have 'spiritual guidance' and Iraq coverage so what do you suppose loses out?

I've said before, I don't know what happened, I wasn't there. I'm also fully aware that I don't have the time to explore and weigh all the theories. It's too bad others suddenly think they're an expert when their writing demonstrates that they so obviously aren't. Ellen Goodman said no to the chat and chews because she realized she couldn't be the insta-expert that's expected on those things. It's too bad others can't follow her lead.

What's worse is that something they think is so unimportant inspires more words than anything they've written on Iraq. Let's hope it was just attention-seeking behavior. Anything more than that would make it really sad. (The time stamp on this entry reads "6:05 p.m." and I'm changing it to reflect the time it's completed. the gina & krista round-robin should be inboxes now. Gina's back from vacation tomorrow and next week, unless something changes, it will return to going out at 7:00 a.m. EST.)

One more thing. We noted this Monday and it starts tomorrow so I'm just copying and pasting:

Other peace actions are going on and will be going on. In a correction to an NYC event noted last week, one that starts this Friday, all performances do not start at 7:00 pm each night. Friday September 15, Saturday September 16 will start at 7:00 pm; however, Sunday September 17's performance will begin at 3:00 p.m. What are we speaking of? The People Speak directed by Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati. This is a workshop adaptation of Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's Voices of a People's History of the United States. The workshop will take place at The Culture Project's Bleecker Street Theater on 45 Bleecker Street. Tickets are ten dollars and can be ordered online here or here or purchased in person at the box office (box office does not take ticket orders). For those in NYC, or who will be during those dates, click here for a map. The presentation is part of the Impact Festival.

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