Saturday, January 06, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: So the week that started off so tragic, closes the same way. On Sunday, the 3,000 mark and milestone was reached for the number of US troops who have died in Iraq in Bully Boy's illegal war. That was tragic, that the war continues to drag on.

However, as I noted on Monday, it was even disappointing to attempt to find independent media noting the 3,000 mark. Apparently the hangover cleared at The Nation after 6:00 p.m. Tuesday when, as Mike has noted, they were finally able to mention the 3,000 dead as an aside to be tossed out and then hurried past. My grandson, Jayson, asked me, "Does the magazine even care about the illegal war?" He was not asking do they care about ending it, just do they even care? I had to tell him that, as someone who lived through the Vietnam era, the magazine's coverage has been embarrassing.

I wish I could have told him something more positive but I am too old for lying and the truth, though unpleasant, needs to be noted. Tracey, my granddaughter, noted that the much linked to (outside of this community) article on the petition contains a slam at Ehren Watada. I had to confess that I had not read the article because, like C.I., I saw a petition as far less worthy of a cover story than the many war resisters who have stood up and said no to the illegal war.

So she fished it out of the trash can, which has become the resting place for more and more of the issues of late, and read it to me:

"I have an antiwar history from college," Smith says. "But I hate what Lieutenant Ehren Watada did and the way he did it. I wanted a way to say I thought the war was wrong without looking like a coward."

No link because, as C.I. always says, "We don't link to trash." (Those with a print copy can turn to page 13 of the January 8-15, 2007 issue.) For the record, that was the first time the magazine ever printed Ehren Watada's name. Apparently, someone thought that was a quote that was both representative and one needing to be printed. I think it says a great deal about how low the magazine has sunk that the first time they mention Ehren Watada's name is to call him a coward.

Who is the real coward here? I would argue it is the current incarnation of The Nation which has made no time to cover Abeer or any war of the summer of 2006's war resisters. I would further argue that I do not give a damn if someone was "antiwar from college," 'was' appearing to be key, signing a petition does not require as much courage as standing up. This week, when I was on the phone discussing, with C.I., the way war resisters were covered by the independent press in the Vietnam era, we were both able to remember something other than silence and cowardice. Today, the mail brought a letter from C.I. as well as a clipping of an article that ran in the July 19, 1973 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. It is entitled "Ask A Marine" and is an article about activist and Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic written by war resister David Harris.

I had, sadly, forgotten about David Harris, who not only served time for his beliefs but was also married to activist and artist Joan Baez. I am going to share a section from his 1973 article:

After a while, the war had almost disappeared. The radio said everybody's be home soon and hospitals were just about the only thing Ron remembered. There was a short one in Anchorage, another in Virginia, one in New York State and then another that looked out on New Jersey. The last one was the Kingsbridge VA. It was summer by then and Ron stayed at the Kingsbridge hospital 11 months the first time and then again for six more.
Sgt. Kovic now belonged to the Veterans' Administration. The marines discharged him with a bronze star and wished him well. The VA's job was to retrain certain kinds of ex-soldiers and Sgt. Kovic was 100% retired. The first thing the VA tried to teach him was how to sh*t slowly and once every three days.
That's when they gave the enemas, every third day. Other than that you had to sh*t in your bed and lay on it. The enemas started at five in the morning. Tommy the Enema Man came by with his tube and dangled it under their noses. When everyone was awake, they each got a striker frame. Tommy and his helper rolled them all, 24 para- and quadriplegics, half the ward, into what was called the blue room. When it was full, the two white coats pumped all the stomachs up with soapy water. All 24 lay in there with their withered bodies and listened to their bowels hit buckets like cow flop. When it was done, Tommy wiped each of their asses and rolled them into the shower.
Ron called it the car wash. The attendant ran a thin white strip of pHishohex down the middle of Ron's body and then hosed it off. When they were shorthanded, the attendant sometimes had to leave in the middle of the scrub. The second time Ron got washed, he lay in the Kingsbridge shower for an hour waiting for an attendant to come back. All Ron did was try not to scream like he wanted to. He learned to lie on the tile and watch his body that wouldn't move and had started to shrivel.
Every third day Ron wanted to scream and he never did. After a couple of months, the screams didn't even bother to cross his mind. Ron lay there and felt he'd been used up and thrown away and no one was treating him like the marine he had gone out and been.

Ron Kovic wrote about his experiences in his moving autobiography Born on the Fourth of July which was made into a film starring Tom Cruise. I personally prefer Jane Fonda's Coming Home whose character played by Jon Voight has many similarities to Mr. Kovic and which spends more time exploring life in the VA hospitals.

Reading Mr. Harris' article, I saw that Mr. Kovic was wounded on January 20, 1968. How many January 20, 1968s will we have this in illegal war? How many people are going to come home with permanent injuries, physical and mental, before we say enough? Already, the fatality count is up to 3006, with 22,032 wounded.

Reading Mr. Harris' article and thinking of the other coverage C.I. and I had discussed on the phone, I remembered the sense of dread in 1973, the feeling that the war was not going to end, that the re-elected Tricky Dick was going to continue his plans of escalation and continued war, and I remembered something else: How back then we had an independent media that gave a damn.

Local weeklies were not obsessed with their food reviews, they were obsessed with the realities of the war. The political magazines were covering it. Even the mainstream media was covering it. The rage spilled out in print and over the airwaves.

How different today is. Sampling independent media today, you have to ask yourself if you reading independent media or a contribution request letter sent out by the DNC? Where is the courage in independent media? Not in the pages of The Nation which has become the weekly joke, semi-weekly some weeks since it is fond of "double issues" which are often the same size of "single issues," in my household. In 2004 and 2005, my family would always pick it up with eagerness from my coffee table. Someone, often Tracey, would ask if she could keep the issue, of course she could. Today, it arrives and I usually do not have the heart to open it because it is so useless. One of my grandchildren, my own children have lost hope in it as well, will finally pick it up, read a bit, toss it in the trash and then fill me in on what I am glad I did not waste my time reading.

My generation wanted to change the world and I think we had some success. I think we raised awareness, I think the feminist movement is the story of the 20th century. But we obviously did not achieve everything or the country would not be back in a never ending, illegal war. So, by all means, feel free to slam us; however, we aimed big. We did not pass off fluff as "coverage."

We did not confuse a journalist who cannot declare whether she will testify in a court-marital or not as the big story. We would have expected her not to testify and for her to quite wasting everyone's limited time as she tried to drum up sympathy when she refused to take a position. We would have been focused on the court-martial. We would have given her a thought only if she could declare publicly, "I will not testify in the court-martial."

But, if you caught Democracy Now! this week, you are fully aware that her story of how she cannot reveal what she intends to do passed for coverage of Ehren Watada. Me-me-me statements and I-I-I statements. Was that the interview where she stated she had no opinion on Ehren Watada's stand, while pleading that someone stand up for her?

These are today's journalists? What a bunch of weak ____ (fill in the blank yourself with your own word of choice). If you believe something is wrong, you say so and you refuse to participate. You also do not turn yourself into the story. But navel gazing passes for reporting these days and no topic is apparently more important than journalists themselves.

Which is why I have been thinking of C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" from Friday and of Kat's "Lizzie West, students, Iraq, etc.," and Trina's "Egg Drop Soup in the Kitchen." Ehren Watada had his pre-trial hearing this week and you can refer to Thursday's "Iraq Snapshot," "And the war drags on," and "And justice for none?" for more details but C.I.'s exactly right, this is a story independent media should be all over.

Ehren Watada's decision to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq in June of last year was a courageous stand. It was heroic, it was brave. But it is also true that the story of Ehren Watada is a story about the power of independent media. Before June, and even today, you did not get a great deal of mainstream coverage addressing the lies of war. In fact, they all rushed to avoid The Downing Street Memos. But independent media, back then, was still at least semi-concerned with getting the truth out on Iraq.

Ehren Watada is proof of the power independent media can have. You can make a strong case that they birthed the stand he took. So to see the cowardly way in which so many have chosen to ignore his story is, honestly, disgusting.

One would think that, if only to stroke their own egos, they would be willing to cover his story. But the reality is that they have not been. He is proof of the power of independent media because his stand comes directly as a result of the space for questioning the war that independent media fought for, created, you name it.

This is how they treat the child of their actions? As an after thought or an unmentionable?

That is disgusting and it is cowardly. For those who wonder, like my grandchildren some time do, no, it was not that way during the Vietnam era because our independent media took the world a little more seriously.

There is an independent media conference coming up this month and when C.I. and I were on the phone earlier, we were discussing that. I thought I might mention some of the coverage of it and C.I. encouraged me to but noted, "I'm not going to. What am I supposed to say? There's a conference for independent media and I encourage everyone to attend . . . so that you can protest the silences on Abeer and the war resisters?" I laughed but I grasped and agreed with the point.

What have the recent highlights been in independent media? A lengthy interview with an apologist for the United Nations new security general? That was embarrassing. Or 'jokes' about which of the hosts of Democracy Now! did the James Brown splits?

The latter took place in a lengthy segment on James Brown whose passing Democracy Now! repeatedly noted in the headlines for two weeks. The 3,000 mark? C.I. and Dona are more generous than I am because they count two paragraphs of headlines, one on the 3,000 mark and one the demonstrations. The way I look at it, the 3,000 milestone got exactly three lines of text, one for each thousand, I'm guessing. Jayson calls it Brokedown Democracy and I sadly agree. I watched Tuesday's broadcast at Rebecca's and she and her husband had much stronger words for it. Sadly, I agreed with every one of them.

If you want my opinion, columnists need to stop jotting down their thoughts on a supposedly apethetic youth and look instead at an apethetic independent media.

Ehren Watada may be the child independent media created a space for, and the child his parents raised, but he is also the unloved, unwanted child of independent media. Someone needs to get the message to independent media that the illegal war has not ended and that they are wasting their time and our time with their repeated nonsense. My generation would not have stood for this nonsense and the generations that have come age since, and are coming of age now, should not have to.

The only exceptional moments for independent media this week, as far as I am concerned, were Nora Barrows-Friedman's Thursday interview of Dahr Jamail on KPFA's Flashpoints and
and Truthdig's "Truthdiggers of the Week: The Conscientious Objectors." Take the rest to the woodshed.

NYT: The wrapper should be brown, not blue

We tip our hat this week to Army Lt. Ehren Watada and the dozens of uniformed military men and women like him who have declared themselves conscientious objectors to the Iraq war.
You can see a list of many of those who have refused to deploy to Iraq
Watada's case is of particular importance, however: Not only was he the first uniformed officer to resist his deployment, but his legal struggle is shaping up as an indictment of the war itself. His lawyers argued before a military judge this week that they should be allowed to present evidence that the war is illegal--because it violates U.N. guidelines. Read about this landmark legal fight

The above, noted by Cindy, is from Truthdig's "Truthdiggers of the Week: The Conscientious Objectors" and it's an excerpt. Cindy just e-mailed the highlight and wondered if it was too late to go in this morning? I'd already started with the Times, but it's better to start with what's important so I've reworked this entry. And applause to Truthdig for recognizing Ehren Watada and other war resisters. (And thanks to Cindy for noting it.) Ruth's going to be covering Ehren Watada in her report (which should go up today but will go up no later than Sunday) so I'll just note that his pre-trial hearing heard testimony on Thursday, the judge appears to be leaning towards not allowing Ehren Watada to mount a strong defense (despite the fact that, if court-martialed and found guilty of all charges, he would be facing six years in prison) but has noted that the charge based on his statements (the "conduct unbecoming an officer") appears to leave open the avenue to exploring Ehren Watada's reasons ("motive") for his actions. The judge is expected to issue an opinion next week and the court-martial is scheduled to begin February 5th.

Now for the New York Times. Today's paper features not one but two "Man in the News." Help me out here, does the Times ever offer "Woman in the News"? Was Nancy Pelosi, for instance, greeted with a "Woman in the News" 'analysis' for becoming the first woman to lead the House of Representatives?

I'm not remembering it and "Man in the News" seems a bit 20th century (if not 19th) but it does allow them to get all dry mouthed over officials. (Scott Shane over Ryan Crocker, Helene Cooper over Zalmay Take Me Away.) After returning home last night, I was sorting the recycelables and came across the final Sunday Times magazine for 2006. We'll be picking that up at The Third Estate Sunday Review tomorrow but let's note that their idea of 'inclusive' is far from 'inclusive' and while it shouldn't fall only on the shoulders of women and persons of color to note that, that those who fall into that category at the paper have allowed their co-workers to present a very distorted, very White, very male, view of the world. "I just work there" doesn't cut it after a period of time and I think we've reached that point.

Now let's delve into the latest from war pornographer Michael Gordon. In "A New Commander, in Step With the White House on Iraq" he strokes his war-on yet again:

Before the selection of General Petraeus, there was some doubt about whether the top Iraq commander would be an enthusiastic executor of the new strategy President Bush is preparing to unveil next week -- one that could send 20,000 new troops to Iraq. Now, the White House will have an articulate officer to champion and shape that strategy, an important asset for an administration that has decided to buck the tide of public opinion by deepening the American military involvement in Iraq. While some Democratic lawmakers have insisted that any increase be limited to a few months, neither the While House nor General Petraeus would support such a deadline.

"While some Democratic lawmakers have insisted that any increase be limited to a few months" others have insisted that it not occur at all. A point Gordo can't grasp because he types with one hand and has the other shoved down the front of his pants. You never hear about those others in any porn Gordo pecks out with his free hand, he's too dizzy from the war and stroking it the way he does his weak member.

Also left out of the equation is whether Americans will have "an important asset" because you can write like the US version of Pravada and note the citizens' concerns; however, you can dismiss them as intellecutally dazed and confused:

To many civilians, the military seems monolithic. But in fact, there has been a lively debate behind the scenes about the best way to achieve the United States' objectives in Iraq -- or at least to preserve a measure of stability as sectarian passions threaten to engulf the country.

Gordo's so full of it. There is no stated objective and only a stupid jerk off would argue that there was. Gordo, tell us what the United States' objectives in Iraq currently are. You don't even have to go over the ever changing (ever disproved) earlier objectives, just tell the readers what the current objectives are because the fact of the matter is that they are undefined.

His garbage stinks up the paper and, hopefully, years from now an executive-editor of the paper will have to issue a (weak ass) apology that the paper ever printed his nonsense while Gordo is in some clinic seeking a cure for war/sex addiction.

We could go through the entire article noting how removed from reality it is but I don't look at porn in my personal life and I've had enough of it today from the paper. (For those confused by the title, the paper is delivered, to subscribers, in a blue plastic bag. Michael Gordon should be delivered in a brown wrapper.)

In the real world, Lloyd wonders if the shuffling of the deck indicates the US government is siding with Shi'ites (as attacks on Sunnis, especially the murder of six people in the attack on the NDF this week seem to indicate). He steers us to Joshua Partlow's "Iraqi Politicians Divided Over U.S. Envoy: Khalilzad's Expected Departure Pleases Shiites, Worries Sunnis" (Washington Post):

The news of the expected departure of U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad split Iraqi politicians along sectarian lines, with members of the ruling Shiite alliance voicing eagerness for him to leave and minority Sunnis expressing concern at the loss of an ally.
Members of the U.S.-backed government in Iraq have grown increasingly frustrated with what they see as Khalilzad's efforts to reach out to Sunni groups, and many argue that the U.S. military confronts Shiite militias more aggressively than it does Sunni insurgents.

For strong criticism of the New York Times, please read Matthew Rothschild's "A Journalistic Bias Toward Acquiescence" (This Just In, The Progressive). He's addressing how the paper sells war, here's a taste:

There's a sick collusion going on in Washington.
And I'm not talking about the corporate lobbyists and the elected officials who represent them.
No, I’m talking about centrist Democrats and the hack journalists who cover them.
You could see this collusion in a so-called "News Analysis" piece by Carl Hulse of The New York Times of January 5.
The headline was a big clue: "For Democrats, a Choice: Forward or Reverse?"
Let's see now. What's got a more positive connotation?
It's not reverse.

Turning to radio. Rachel notes there's nothing on The Next Hour in the e-mail sent out this week. (Before e-mails come in on why it's not noted.) But in addition to CAT RADIO CAFE it notes a Monday evening broadcast that I think many will be interested in (and I'm betting Rebecca will blog on -- probably Tuesday due to the broadcast hour). Both programs are broadcast on WBAI (over the airwaves in the NYC area and online everywhere), the times given are EST:

Monday, January 8, 2-3pm
Curator Sabine Rewald on "Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the1920's," now showing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; actress Kate Lardner on her book "Shut Up He Explained: The Memoir of a Blacklisted Kid"; and muses of the revolution Rick Burkhardt and Andy Gricevich, aka The Prince Myshkins. Hosted by Janet Coleman and David Dozer.

Monday, January 8, 9-11pm
Member theater companies of THAW (Theatres Against War) perform an evening of dramatic readings curated by Cynthia Croot.

Janet Coleman always does interviews worth hearing (and isn't afraid to tell a guest, "Don't go there" in nicer terms -- I'm thinking specifically of a 2005 interview where a guest attempted to introduce a propaganda element about the war and Coleman corrected it on air -- rightly corrected it) but, I want to note, Kate Lardner's book was a very strong, moving read and if you read it, you'll want to hear the interview. If you didn't read it, the interview should have searching out the book. Also, pay attention to the Monday special program, I think a lot of members will be interested in that.

RadioNation with Laura Flanders? Saturday offers up Leslie Cagan of United for Peace & Justice as well as Laurie Arbeiter and Caroline Parker ("of ‘The Critical Voice’, an affinity group of Artists against the War") and Raed Jarrar who was one of the few covering the attack on the NDF this week. Sunday's show offers:

SARA RICH, the mother of SPC SUZANNE SWIFT who was finally released from her 30-day sentence of military confinement this week. On our media roundtable, independent journalist SARAH OLSON, who will also tell us why she objects to testifying against Lieutenant Ehren Watada, whose court martial is in pre-hearings and JOANNE LEVINE, Executive Producer of Programming in the Americas at Al-Jazeera. In our final hour JOHN DEAN, the former White House Counsel, and author of several books, including, "The Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment that Redefined the Supreme Court;" on late Judge William Rehnquist’s dark secrets, which were revealed this week when the FBI opened his files.

Both broadcasts air live from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm EST and can be heard online, on XM radio or on Air America Radio.

And the following community sites have updated since yesterday morning:

Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Cedric's Cedric's Big Mix;
Kat's Kat's Korner;
Betty's Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Mike's Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine's Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally's The Daily Jot:
and Trina's Trina's Kitchen

Kendrick picked the highlight from Margaret Kimberley's latest, "Saddam Takes The Fall" (Freedom Rider, Black Agenda Report). For any visitor who is thinking of e-mailing a complaint of, "I have noted Saddam stories repeatedly since (last Saturday, two months ago, three months ago, a year ago . . .), we're not interested. However, we do try to highlight each of Kimberley's Freedom Rider's columns and this being her topic, she gets to circumvent the rule. Here's the excerpt Kendrick picked:

If there was justice in the world Saddam would not have gone to the gallows alone. His fair weather friend Rummy should have joined him. He was recently fired from his Defense Secretary post, but he isn’t in danger from a hangman’s noose. Too bad. He has just as much blood on his hands as Saddam.A civilized nation would never have had anything to do with Saddam Hussein. Saddam’s rise to power came about only with American support. Saddam knew the secret to being on Uncle Sam’s evil but useful list. He was willing to kill anyone America didn’t like. In 1959 Iraqi prime minister Abdel Qassim was targeted for death by Saddam and a group of incompetent would be assassins.
The assassination plot failed, but Saddam's new friends in the CIA helped him escape Iraq and make his way to Syria, Lebanon and finally Egypt. He was able to stop running because he knew the words that were magic to Washington’s ears. He promised to help kill communists in the Iraqi government. In 1963 the Baath party, with the help of the CIA, killed Qassim. The rest is
Saddam’s history.
Rumsfeld and his former bosses are war criminals too and they know it. That is why the current Bush administration removed over
8,000 pages from a United Nations report that documented Americas involvement in Saddam’s weapons program.
"The missing pages implicated twenty-four U.S.-based corporations and the successive Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. administration in connection with the illegal supplying of Saddam Hussein government with myriad weapons of mass destruction and the training to use them."
Saddam is like thousands of common criminals sitting in jail. They hang out with a bad crowd but end up taking the fall while their accomplices go free. The evil dictator turned out to be no more savvy than the average stupid crook.
It is ironic that the list of evildoers always includes former U.S. allies who have fallen out of favor. Evil dictators beware. It is wisest to do your dictating without the support of an American president. Remember Saddam before signing on to any Faustian bargains.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, January 5, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, US war resister Ehren Watada's pretrial hearing began yesterday, Bully Boy shuffles the deck while an "I told you so" travels across the Atlantic from France, and Ahmed Hadi Naji, who worked for AP, is discovered dead.

Monday, February 5th, the US military attempts to court-martial Ehren Watada. Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. Yesterday, at Fort Lewis in Washington, a pretrial hearing began that will determine what arguments are allowed in the court-martial and what arguments will be disallowed. The hearing was presided over by Lt. Col. John Head, the court-martial would have a jury made up of *a panel of* officers, and the AP reports that he will make his decision on "the parameters of the case" next week. Melanthia Mitchell (AP) reports that on Thursday: "Watada's parents sat in the back of the courtroom during the hearing, his father at times leaning forward on the bench with his hands clasped in front of him." As Linton Weeks (Washington Post) noted, Carolyn Ho, Ehren's mother, is a high school counselor who went on leave to raise awareness about her son and is on leave for the pretrial and the court-martial. Bob Watada, Ehren's father, has also been engaged in speaking tours around the country to raise awareness about Ehren and, for any wondering, Bob Watada recently retired (and recently remarried, Rosa Sakanishi, Ehren's step-mother, has accompanied Bob Watada on his speaking tours).

The US military wants to reduce the court-martial to a "yes" or "no" -- Did you refuse to deploy to Iraq? They wish to prevent Ehren Watada from explaining his decision -- in effect that are hoping to prevent him from making the best defense possible when he is facing six years in prison.

As Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) reported: "At a hearing Thursday at Fort Lewis, there was little dispute about the action taken by 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who last June refused to deploy with his brigade to Iraq. But defense and prosecutors sparred much of the afternoon about whether Watada's motives for opting out of the war should affect the outcome of a February court-martial trial that could result in a six-year prison term." If the military was interested in justice (and sure of their case), they wouldn't be attempting to shut down Watada's defense.

The prosucetor, Captain Dan Kuecker has stated, "There is no rational doubt in this situation; . . . it's a lawful order." Were he as sure of himself as he pretends to the press, there would be no attempts to prevent Watada from explaining both his actions and the reasons behind them.

Watada explained the reasons most recently to Kevin Sites (Kevin Sites in The Hotzone): "I think that in March of 2003 when I joined up, I, like many Americans, believed the administration when they said the threat from Iraq was imminent -- that there were weapons of mass destruction all throughout Iraq; that there were stockpiles of it; and because of Saddam Hussein's ties to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 terrorist acts, the threat was imminent and we needed to invade that country immediately in order to neutralize that threat. Since then I think I, as many, many Americans are realizing, that those justifications were intentionally falsified in order to fit a policy established long before 9/11 of just toppling the Saddam Hussein regime and setting up an American presence in Iraq. . . . I think the facts are out there, they're not difficult to find, they just take a little bit of willingness and interest on behalf of anyone who is willing to seek out the truth and find the facts. All of it is in the mainstream media. But it is quickly buried and it is quickly hidden by other events that come and go. And all it takes is a little bit of logical reasoning. The Iraq Survey Group came out and said there were no weapons of mass destruction after 1991 and during 2003. The 9/11 Commission came out and said there were no ties with Iraq to 9/11 or al-Qaeda. The president himself came out and said nobody in his administration ever suggested that there was a link. And yet those ties to al-Qaeda and the weapons of mass destruction were strongly suggested. They said there was no doubt here were weapons of mass destruction all throughout 2002, 2003 and even 2004. So, they came out and they say this, and yet they say it was bad intelligence, not manipulated intelligence, that was the problem. And then you have veteran members of the CIA that come out and say, 'No. It was manipulated intelligence. We told them there was no WMD. We told them there were no tides to al-Qaeda. And they said that that's not what they wanted to hear'."

In essence, Ehren Watada is on trial for the media -- the media that sold the illegal war and the media that told the truth (eventually for some) about it. So it has been surprising to see nothing on Watada in the leading independent magazines in 2006. In 2007, The Nation discovered Watada on page 14 of the January 8 and 15th double issue in an article written by Marc Cooper (click here for Yahoo version -- subscribers only at The Nation website). Like many Americans, Watada believe the spin/lies from the US administration (repeated near word for word by most media outlets with little skepticism). Like many Americans, he's since come to see that reality and spin were two different things.

This new awareness is reflected not only in the civilian population but also, as Rachel Ensign (Citizen Soldier) reminds us, within the military as well: "A new poll conducted by the Army Times newspaper at the end of 2006 found that a majority of soldiers polled now disapprove of how Bush has conducted the Iraq war to date. . . . Only 41% of soldiers polled today think that we should have invaded Iraq -- down from 65% in 2003. This closely mirrors sentiment among civilians; only 45% of whom now believe that the war was a good idea."

Michael Gilbert (The News Tribune) reports that, based on comments and questions during the pretrial hearing, Lt. Col John Head "likely won't allow Lt. Ehren Watada to defend himself" by making the case for his actions and why he acted as he did and that Head declared, "At this point I'm not inclined to grant a hearing on the Nuremburg defense." The Nuremburg defense is in reference to the Nuremberg trials during which soldiers stating that they were only following orders were told that was not a legal excuse for their actions. As Ruth noted, following the August Article 32 hearing of Watada, "The message that Lieutenant Colonel Mark Keith appears to be endorsing is follow all orders but, if it later turns out that they were illegal, you are on your own and will take full responsibility. At best, like with Lieutenant Calley, the War Monger in the oval office may pardon you after you are convicted. What is the message? Why teach the obligation to follow only legal orders, why refute 'I was only following orders' as a defense and then punish Lieutenant Ehren Watada for doing just that while advising him that it is not his place to make such a determination when, in fact, the invididual who obeys the unlawful order is the one who will be held responsible by the military justice system?"

Why teach? Refer to Ruth's Report where she goes over retired Col. Ann Wright's testimony at the Article 32 hearing on what she taught soldiers at the JFK Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg while teaching the Law of Land Warfare. Taught is FM 27-10 (Law of Land Warfare):

509. Defense of Superior Orders
a. The fact that the law of war has been violated pursuant to an order of a superior authority, whether military or civil, does not deprive the act in question of its character of a war crime, nor does it constitute a defense in the trial of an accused individual, unless he did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know that the act ordered was unlawful. In all cases where the order is held not to constitute a defense to an allegation of war crime, the fact that the individual was acting pursuant to orders may be considered in mitigation of punishment.

Ehren Watada could be prosecuted for actions committed during war by the above; however, the US military does not want to allow him to use the same law to defend himself. Only a fool would call that "justice." This is what Eric Seitz, Watada's attorney, is noting when he told Linton Weeks, "The United States talks out of both sides of its mouth. We've prosecuted soldiers in other countries for following orders to commit war crimes. But God forbid you should use that refusal as a defense in this country."

Christian Hill (The Olympian) reports, however, that the military prosecution may have outfoxed itself: "The judge, Lt. Col. John Head, told prosectors that he was not inclined to grant the evidentiary hearing, but 'they opened the door for him allowing it by prosecuting his statements'" thereby making it "relevant. Some of those statements have become relevant by the sheer nature of how the government has charged this case."

Head was not referring to the charge of missing deployment but the charge ("conduct unbecoming") based upon remarks Watada made about the war such as ""The wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of Iraqis is not only a terrible and moral injustice, but it's a contradiction to the Army's own law of land warfare. My participation would make me party to war crimes." Remember: A Citizens' Hearings is being convened January 20-22 at Evergreen State College.

Ehren Watada's awakening mirrors that of many Americans. It also has echoes
in the growing resistance within the military to the illegal war as many resisters vocalize sentiments similar to Watada's (usually noting the works of Howard Zinn). Others that a part of this growing resistance within the military include Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Appeal for Redress is collecting signatures of active duty service members calling on Congress to bring the troops home -- the petition will be delivered to Congress this month.
While Watada faces court-martial for questioning the illegal war, France's president earns headlines for doing the same. AFP reports that Jacques Chirac speech today revolved largely around the illegal war: "As France had forseen and feared, the war in Iraq has sparked upheavals that have yet to show their full effects . . . exacerbated the divisions between communities and threatened the very integrity of Iraq. . . . It undermined the stability of the entire region, where every country now fears for its security and independence." (Chirac's also getting attention for, in the same speech, calling for slashing corporate taxes.)
Before noting some of the violence today in Iraq, let's note December again. Steve Negus (Financial Times of London) notes that the Iraq Interior Ministry's figure of 1,930 Iraqis dead for the month of December (an undercount) remains "a new high" for any month. Meanwhile, the count for US troop fatalities in Iraq for the month of December reached 115.


Reuters reports: "A roadside bomb struck a U.S. marine tank in the western city of Falluja on Friday", while a roadside bomb wounded four Iraqi soldiers and killed anohter in Baiji, and a roadside bomb in Kirkuk left two police officers wounded. Christopher Torchia (AP) reports
four Iraqis killed on the "outskirts" of Baghdad from mortar attacks.


Mohammed al Awsy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in the Diyala Province. Reuters reports that "a former colonel" was shot dead in Mosul, as were a father and son in Iskandariya.


Mohammed al Awsy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 12 corpses were discovered in Baghdad ("2 sadr city, 2 dora, 2 amil, 2 jihad, 2 hurriyah, 1 kadhemiyah, 1 abu atsheer"). Reuters notes that three corpses were discovered in Iskandariya. And AP reports that Ahmed Hadi Naji, 28-years-old, "was found shot in the back of the head Friday, six days after he was last seen by his family leaving work". AP notes that he is "the second AP employee killed in less than a month" and that he is the fourth "to die violently" in the illegal war. They note that Ahmed Hadi Naji is survived by his wife, Sahba'a Mudhar Khalil, and his four-month-old twins, Zaid (male) and Rand (female). Christopher Torchia (AP) reports that Ahmed Hadi Naji had worked "for the AP for 2 1/2 years".

And Aref Mohmmed (Reuters) reports that one "American civilian contractor and two Iraqi translators" were kidnapped in Basra today.

Changing focus . . .

So let's be really clear, torture in Iraq is rampant and that's because it's policy even though we have had a replacement of Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld who infamously told . . . general, retired, now retired, but at the time general, [Janis] Karpinski 'make sure this happens' regarding specific torture techniques that he wanted to begin using inside places like Abu Ghraib well that policy hasn't changed as I said, these people are still being tortured, they're just not letting people bring in their video cameras and their digital cameras so that the images can find themselves splashed across the screens of 60 Minutes II program, for example.

What is that? Dahr Jamail speaking with Nora Barrows-Friedman on yesterday's
KPFA's Flashpoints (use either to listen to an archived broadcast -- Rebecca's "nora barrows-friedman interviewed dahr jamail on flashpoints" offers an overview of the interview).
For an hour, Nora Barrows-Friedman and Dahr Jamail reviewed the year 2006 in Iraq, focusing on the death squads, women, children, attacks on civilians and much more.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Dahr, can you talk now about the permanent US military base structures this was being talked about openly and publicly in the spring of 2006. But how has that discussion progressed and what does a permananet US military base structure look like on the ground? How many are we talking here?

Dahr Jamail: We started out with over a hundred bases in Iraq and they are slowly consolidating this number down to, right now it's around, it was 53 last time I checked. So they're slowly consolidating them down and if people want an idea of what Iraq might look like in the next couple of years, well we just have to look at Afghanistan because that's where, kind of, this model started and there's a couple of years jump there. And if you look at Afghanistan, we've got, I believe, four major bases right around the area of where I believe the proposed pipeline's going to go. So we should expect something similar but more bases in Iraq. There's going to be, right now it looks like, between six and twelve, we're not real sure on the number, but between six and twelve of these permanent bases. The military and the corporate media won't call them permanent because they don't have to, because they just made sure that they would have permanent access into particular areas in Iraq and so there was nothing in the so-called constitutional referendum that took place on October 15 a year ago that banned access from a foreign country, that's why there was a lot of wrangling along that constitutional referendum and why even someone in the UN that I spoke with, I quoted him as saying there was 'undue, inappropriate, US influence on this constitution' and it was around Iraq's oil and it was also around permanent access. So as a result we have between six and twelves of these bases. Just to give you an example of what these bases look like there's one called Camp Anaconda which is actually an air field in Balad, just north of Baghdad, and Camp Anaconda is a base that has 250 of its own aircraft. Air Force officials there claim that it was the second busiest runway on earth. There are 20,000 soldiers on this base less than a thousand of whom ever leave whatsoever. There's a base exchange there where they sell televisions, iPods, CDs, DVDs, TVs, there's a first run movie theater, . . . very elaborate meals served by Kellog Brown & Root employing third country nationals which is kind of the way these people are referred to in Iraq by the contractors but really if we're going to call them what they are, they're slaves. They're people from places like India and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh working for slave wages serving these very elaborate meals because with the cost plus fix fee contract that means that when Halliburton is serving these very elaborate meals the more money they spend in Iraq, the more money they make. So that's what's being served in a huge base like that. Soldiers actually gain weight and if they don't of course want any of that food or if they get burnt out on it like say you would at a college, for example, at a college dorm, well then they can go to the 24 hour Burger King, they can go to the Popeye's Fried Chicken, they can go to the Subway sandwich shop, and then wash it down with a latte from Starbucks. So that's just one of these bases to give you an idea, there's also AT&T phone home centers, there's also a Hertz rental car which I find kind of amusing because it's not like they're going to leave the base and go for a little drive in Al-Anbar Province but there it is, Hertz-Rent-A-Car, . . . I like to specifically name these companies so people can take note of that. So that's what these bases look like in Iraq and to contextualize that a little bit, it sounds a lot like some of these bases we have in Germany now, doesn't it, which have been there, what are we talking now, a little over sixty years, so just to give people an idea of what the situation is on the ground regarding the bases, we talk about the US' so-called embassy in Baghdad that's being built as we speak. This was a $572 million contract that was awarded to a very corrupt . . . Kuwaiti construction firm with very direct ties to the Bush administration and this is an embassy that's going to have room for between 3 and 8,000 government employees, it has its own school . . . so I don't think we should expect any Iraqi kids at this school, it has the largest swimming pool in the country, yoga studios, barbershops, beauty shops, its own water plant, it's own electricity plant, it has apartment buildings. And when it's complete, it will be, it's 21 buildings and the area will be the size of the Vatican City. So that's the so-called embassy that's being built in Iraq so if we talk about when are we going to withdraw troops and why aren't the Democrats talking about withdrawal, this sort of thing, instead why is there talk of a 'surge'? It's because we . . . just need look no further than the physical evidence on the ground, augmented by the US policy like the National Security Strategy and the Quadrennial Defense Review Report -- all of these signs point towards permanent occupation of Iraq just like we have in Germany.

But never fear, Democrats are in power in the US Congress which translates as . . . a strongly worded letter. CNN reports that "leaders of the new Democratic Congress" sent an open letter to the Bully Boy which "said increasing troop levels in Iraq would be a 'serious mistake'." That's telling him! (And shades of the letter Carolyn Ho got from Congress.) AFP reports that the letter states "it is time to bring the war to a close." And no doubt, this wouldn't have even happened were it not for the activists on Wednesday (sse Thursday's snapshot). Cindy Sheehan, who handled the press conference Yawn Emmanuel and other Congress members fled from, today on Democracy Now!, addressed the realities too many elected Democrats want to avoid: that the war is costing the US 10 million dollars every hour, that plans and programs will cost money and defunding the war needs to be placed 'back on the table,' that the people want the war ended and the Democratic Party was voted into office not to wait around for another laughable 'plan' from the Bully Boy, to get the United States out of the illegal war.

Meanwhile, in shuffling the chairs on the deck of the Titanic, AFP reports that Bully Boy nominated the now former US director of national intelligence John Negroponte to be the Deputy Secretary of State -- second to Condi -- while he "announced that he had chosen vice adminiral Michael McConnell, a former head of the National Security Agency, to replace Negroponte at the head of all 16 US spy agencies". And as Christopher Torchia (AP) notes,
generals John P. Abizaid and George Casey will be replaced shortly.

Returning to news of war resisters, earlier this week, Mary Ambrose (New American Media) took a look at war resisters who seek asylum in Canada and noted the stories of Chris and Stephanie Teske -- Chris decided to self-checkout while stationed in Germany but US troops do not "have access to their passports" so, after deciding on Canada, Stephanie: "I cried a lot and told them we'd spent $3,000 on these tickets and my parents were waiting for us and frankly, we just got lucky."

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The foot was balanced on a shopping bag after being scooped up off the dirty street by a man in a track suit. There was no person to go with the limb. Nearby a charred body was still smoldering, smoke coming off the black corpse 45 minutes after the attack.
For 50 yards, the dead were scattered about, some in pieces, some whole but badly burned.
This violence on Thursday involved two bombs timed to go off one after another in the formerly upscale neighborhood of Mansour, which continues to be ripped apart by sectarian violence. Thirteen people were killed and 22 wounded, just a small fraction of the civilians killed across the country this week.
The first device went off at 10:15 a.m., probably a roadside bomb set on a timer, officials said.
The attack was apparently aimed at a gasoline station. Cars were lined up around the block waiting for fuel, and dozens of people, grasping large plastic jugs, hoped to buy heating fuel.
Just moments after the first explosion, a second, larger, car bomb detonated.

The above is from Marc Santora and Johan Spanner's "Deadly Blasts in Baghdad Leave Gruesome Traces" in this morning's New York Times. The paper kind-of, sort-of leaves the show funeral to note a bit of the violence in Iraq. Not all, not even all reported (47 corpses discovered in Baghdad on Thursday, one US soldier killed in Baghdad on Thursday -- both fall through the cracks).

Already this morning, Reuters reports two Iraqi translators and one civilian contractor (US) have been kidnapped in Basra and at least six Iraqis have been killed and three corpses have been discovered in Iskandariya.

Several e-mails about yesterday's Democracy Now! (which I didn't listen to yesterday but just caught this morning.) and I think Marcia's the most vocal. Marc Sandalow was allowed to present theories as fact and no one questioned him. Sandalow can claim whatever he wants provided he presents it as a claim. There is no excuse for Democracy Now! to allow that nonsense to air without being challenged. The thrust of his theory (presented as fact) is that George McGovern's calling for an end to the war resulted in a massive electoral loss. He then goes on to say that Dems are scared of that happening again.


It never happened as presented. McGovern did campaign on the issue of Vietnam. So did Nixon. Nixon campaigned on a 'secrect peace plan.' Repeatedly. Those too young to remember it are not excused from allowing nonsense to air -- for example, that only McGovern/Democrats made peace noises in 1972.

Are Dems scared today? They may be if their own knowledge of history is as revisionist or ignorant as what was presented on Democracy Now! yesterday without challenge. But after Ford was presented (without question or clarification) as 'the one' who gave amnesty to war resisters during Vietnam, it's really not surprising that the lie (and that's what it is -- whether the person repeating it intends to lie or not) that McGovern lost because he presented himself as a "peace candidate" got aired as well.

And Lucy notes Rebecca Solnit's "Good News We're Not Hearing About" (OpEd News):

Another grassroots groundswell that mattered was the immigrants' rights marches of last spring, which were launched with the surprising turnout in Los Angeles -- not the easiest city for walking and marching -- of more than a million Latinos and others defiant of crackdowns against immigrants. Similarly huge and passionate demonstrations, many organized by text messaging, Spanish-language radio, and other means, swept the nation. They demonstrated that immigrants were not going to be so easy to bully; the force of their numbers and passion left Republican plans to repress and to demonize immigrants, undocumented and otherwise, in disarray. The marches were jubilant and powerful, one of those no-going-back moments when a group decides never to be a silent victim again. The culminating marches on May Day were the first time in many decades that the U.S. had adequately joined the rest of the world in commemorating this worker's holiday that commemorates the anniversary of the Chicago labor march and rally in 1886.
Mexicans rose up in 2006, and the country seems to be on the brink of revolution, if citizen discontent is any measure. The city of Oaxaca was seized by its citizens and for many months functioned as an autonomous zone akin to the Paris Commune of 1871, until violent repression in November. After the stolen presidential election in the summer, millions of Mexicans took up residence in the streets of the capital to protest the corruption and model an alternative -- the huge occupation of the central zocalo (or plaza) and surrounding area experimented with mass democracy meetings in the open air, while Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the Mexico-City mayor who probably actually won the election, set up a shadow government. The Zapatistas, a dozen years after their appearance on the world stage, continued to play a role in Mexican politics.
The Bush Administration continued its slide into ignominy as even the craven politicians who had waved flags and followed orders during the long patriotic nightmare after 9/11 found it safe and useful to attack the administration. Many Republican candidates declined to appear with the president, and Cheney made his mark this year largely by shooting a major campaign contributor in the face while attempting to shoot birds just released from cages for the purpose -- perhaps an allegory for the voting public. Though some good candidates won election and Congress and the Senate went to the Democrats, the Democrats as a whole will at best endorse victories won elsewhere, which is why the grassroots matter so much.
It was a lousy year to be a Republican president, though not nearly as bad as being a U.S. soldier or an Iraqi citizen. A number of highly visible defections from the war in Iraq made a difference in 2006, notably that of Lieutenant Ehren Watada, a Japanese-American officer from Hawaii who refused to serve in what he called "an illegal and immoral war." Recruiting kids to serve in the military became harder than ever, and recruiters fought back with ever-lowering standards, ballooning bonuses and, according to many sources, packs of lies.

Finally, remember that Dahr Jamail was the guest for the full hour on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday. Rebecca's "nora barrows-friedman interviewed dahr jamail on flashpoints" offers an overview of the interview conducted by Nora Barrows-Friedman and the program is archived for those interested in listening to it (go to KPFA or Flashpoints).

The e-mail address for this site is

And justice for none?

At a hearing Thursday at Fort Lewis, there was little dispute about the action taken by 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who last June refused to deploy with his brigade to Iraq. But defense and prosecutors sparred much of the afternoon about whether Watada's motives for opting out of the war should affect the outcome of a February court-martial trial that could result in a six-year prison term.
Watada says he believes the war is illegal and he was duty-bound not to fight. The defense seeks to introduce evidence to prove that belief.

[. . .]
Within the next week, military Judge Lt. Col. John Head is expected to issue a written decision on whether to hold a special hearing on evidence about the U.S. conduct of the war. At Thursday's hearing, he appeared troubled by the prospect of putting the war on trial in his courtroom.
"Where do I have the authority, and where is the case law that gives me the authority to discuss -- to consider -- whether the war in Iraq, or any war for that matter, is lawful?" Head asked.

The above is from Hal Bernton's "Lawyers: Does Watada's motive matter?" (Seattle Times) which Molly labels as "the fix is in." She's referring to the prospect of holding a trial without ever examining the defendant's motive. Now there are courts that do that, they're called kangroo courts and no one makes the mistake of assuming justice can be found in any of them.
Joan notes "Watada Supporters Vocal at Today's Hearing" from Hawaii's KMGB:

Ehren Watada didn't say much after the hearing.
"I'm sorry at this time I am not going to make any comments", he said.
But his supporters here at home had a lot to say.
"This is an illegal and an immoral war", said Watada Supporter Carolyn Hadfield. "And it's a just and courageous thing to refuse to go.".
But that's an argument Watada may never be able to make in his court martial proceedings. That's because when his attorney asked permission to submit evidence at trial that the war is illegal and the judge's response was less than favorable.
Eric Seitz, Watada's attorney, said, "He indicated to us that he is not very persuaded and that it is unlikely he is going to allow us to pursue those defenses at trial."

And Martha notes Linton Weeks' "A Mother Fights for a Soldier Who Said No to War" (Washington Post -- this ran Thursday):

Carolyn Ho is a mother on a mission.
She came to Washington in mid-December to build support for her son, Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq.

Barring some kind of miracle, he will be court-martialed on Feb. 5 at Fort Lewis, about 45 miles south of Seattle. If convicted, he could be sent to military prison for six years. There's going to be a pretrial hearing today.
Like many Americans, she believed she could come to the capital city and change the world. Or at least her small part of it.
She was acting purely on instinct, wanting to do everything in a mother's power to protect her son. "I'm here to get what I can," said Ho, who is from Honolulu. Dark hair pulled back. Dark eyes that moisten when she speaks of her son. Soft voice. "I'm going to put it out there."
At the very least, she hoped for some kind of letter of support before today's hearing. Late yesterday afternoon, a letter arrived. After a lot of worry and work.
Lobbying Congress is no day at the spa.
During her Capitol Hill quest, she was accompanied by several seasoned lobbyists, but they let her do the talking. She moved along the halls, sitting down with staffers in the offices of Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and aides from the offices of Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
In closed-door meetings, Ho told the same story. She sees her efforts as part of a larger, multifaceted wave that is challenging the Bush administration from every angle. At the same time the president is advocating an increase in the number of soldiers in Iraq, there is on the home front an increase in the number of vocal opponents of the war. "I believe my son is part of this movement," Ho said.
Phoebe Jones of Global Women's Strike, an international antiwar network that supports Ho and Watada, was at Ho's side on Capitol Hill. "The work of mothers is protecting life, beginning with their children," Jones explained. "And that is really the opposite of the obscenity of war."

For updates on Watada, you can check Ehren Watada and Courage to Resist.

The e-mail address for this site is


Thursday, January 04, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Noor Ibrahim lay shivering underneath two blankets on a bed at al-Jarrah Hospital. Steps away was a red plastic bassinet. It was empty.
A few doors down, her recently born son lay wrapped in a pink blanket. He was a chubby boy of nearly nine pounds with a big patch of black hair. His eyes were closed, his head cocked to the left, his mouth slightly open, his skin soft and pale.
The boy was not in a bassinet. He was in a cardboard box. He was not heading to his mother's room. He was heading to the morgue.

"Fresh death," Ibrahim's obstetrician said as she reached into the box and lifted the boy's limp right arm, still covered in blood and amniotic fluid.
Giving birth is painful enough as it is. In war-torn Iraq, it's also becoming more dangerous.
Spontaneous road closures, curfews and gun battles make even getting to the hospital a challenge for expectant mothers. Once they arrive, the women have no guarantee that they will receive adequate health care from a qualified physician.
"It's spiraling downward. It's getting worse each day," said Annees Sadik, an anesthesiologist at al-Jarrah.

The above, noted by Martha, is from Nancy Trejos' "Iraq's Woes Are Adding Major Risks To Childbirth" in today's Washington Post. If you missed it, I did but I'll be listening shortly, Dahr Jamail was the guest for the full hour on KPFA's Flashpoints. Rebecca has a summary of Nora Barrows-Friedman's interview with Dahr: "nora barrows-friedman interviewed dahr jamail on flashpoints." If you're unable to listen to the interview (due to computers or hearing), Rebecca's got a pretty indepth summary. But to tie Barrows-Friedman's interview in with the above highlight, Dahr noted that the health care system was already under (prolonged) attack before the war due to the sanctions.

Tonight, we'll be focusing on the pretrial because I'm not sure how much time I'll have tomorrow morning. (I've got to speak fairly early.) But before we get to that, Keesha found a highlight that she felt offered "perspective often missing in a lot of the coverage. This is from
Robert Fantina's "Atrocities and Accountability in American Wars" (Political Affairs Magazine):

The parallels between the Iraqi war and the Vietnam war are evident: no clear mission, escalating casualties and no exit strategy. Another parallel is the growing number of veterans who are speaking out against this war after having fought in it, as many Vietnam veterans did after serving in that tragic war. Some of these brave men and women are deserting.
Several soldiers who deserted after a tour of duty in Iraq have stated that cruelty towards Iraqi citizens was a factor in their desertions. One of them, Lance Corporal Ivan Brobeck, witnessed the abuse of Iraqi detainees and the killing of Iraqi civilians. Another, Sgt. Ricky Clousing, had similar experiences. His allegations of systematic abuse of Iraqi detainees are now being investigated by the military.
Sadly, what these soldiers and others like them witnessed in Iraq is not unique in American history. While most Americans were shocked when the abuses at Abu Ghraib were first exposed, and at the charges filed against some American soldiers for the murder of Iraqi civilians, these behaviors are only ‘business as usual’ when the U.S. embarks on one of its imperial adventures. A look at just a few of America’s past wars is instructive.
In 1846 America declared war on Mexico. During this war, General Winfield Scott’s troops engaged in unspeakable crimes against civilians, including assaults against women, and the bombing and looting of churches. Prior to invading Veracruz, Scott bombed the city for six days, sending over 1,300 shells onto the city each day. Foreign consuls and the bishop begged for a short reprieve so that women and children could flee to safety; Scott ignored these pleas. As a result, of the 1,100 Mexicans killed, nearly half of them were civilians. Scott, the author of this atrocity, is considered by many to be a hero.
At the close of the nineteenth century the U.S. was at war with the Philippines. At the start of the Samar campaign, Brigadier General Jacob Smith gave his troops these instructions: “Kill and burn, kill and burn, the more you kill and the more you burn the more you please me.” His instructions included sparing no one over the age of 10. One soldier reported orders of “Kill all we could find.”
Another soldier fought in the village of Maypaja, which had a population of about 5,000. He reported that after the battle, “not one stone remain[ed] upon top of another. You can only faintly imagine this terrible scene of desolation. War is worse than hell.”
Although Smith was eventually court-martialed and convicted, his sentenced was reduced by Theodore Roosevelt. His assistant was charged with murder, but acquitted.

If the above gets you motivated, wonderful. If it depresses you (Keesha thought it might be too much of a downer -- we're all for reality here so no such thing), take a moment to note that the illegal war hits the four year mark in two months and the peace movement is larger than it was during the same time frame of the Vietnam era.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Thursday, the number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 2991. Tonight? 3006. Today, the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol was attacked by small arms fire, killing one Soldier in the western part of the Iraqi capital today." If you're remembering that the 3,000 mark was hit on Sunday and thinking that six US troops have died in Iraq in 2007, that's incorrect. Two have died. What's happened is the usual slow trickle of announcements from the US military. Though it probably won't get noted by the media (and watch them refer to 109 or some other figure as the 'total' for December 2006 months down the line), 115 is currently the final number for US troop fatalities in Iraq for the month of December.

Also slow to trickle out is the news of life on the ground in Iraq. When all you do is jawbone over the show death, you don't have much space or time to note what happened to Iraqis who weren't leaders. Since the snapshot went up, Reuters has noted that 47 corpses were discovered in Baghdad today and mortar attacks in Baghdad killed five people and left seven wounded. But remember, the Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, Willie Caldwell, wants people to believe that things have calmed down in Iraq.

On The KPFA Evening News, Sandra Lupien just noted that activists protested outside Pelosi's office in the Federal Building (San Francisco) -- protesting the 3,000+ US troops killed and the over 655,000 Iraqis killed in the illegal war and demanding action on the war.

Now we're going to turn to the topic of Ehren Watada's pretrial that began today. Mark Taylor Canfield reported (for Free Speech Radio News and The KPFA Evening News) on the pretrial and spoke with Carolyn Ho, Ehren's mother, who stated "The issue of the illegality and immorality of the war needs to be raised. For him to be tried fairly" the issue of the war needs to be brought in. The US military is attempting to keep that issue from being addressed in the hearing. To shut out that issue strips Watada of his argument for refusing to deploy to Iraq and the military wants that because (a) it makes it easier for them to make a case and (b) it prevents questions about the legality of the war.

Now we're going to do like Brad suggested last Friday in the gina & krista round-robin, note who has covered the issue today. This is in addition to the others already noted today. Mia notes Melanthia Mitchell's "Judge hears motions during officer's pretrial hearing" (Associated Press):

Seeking to reduce charges against 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, his attorney Eric Seitz of Honolulu said the soldier should not be penalized for statements he made explaining why he was challenging the Bush administration's reason for going to war and refusing to deploy to Iraq.
Watada is charged with missing movement after refusing to deploy with his unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The Army also proceeded with charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for statements he made to journalists and at a veterans convention.
Seitz argued to drop the latter charges.
"He should not face another four years of penalties because he chose to explain his reasons for opposing the war," Seitz told Lt. Col. John Head, the military judge overseeing Watada's case at this post south of Tacoma.
Army prosecutors argued that Watada's statements are offensive to the military and must be looked at in the context they were made and the effects they could as well as the danger they present to the military's mission.

Mitchell's covered war resisters before for AP. On the topic of peace activists being sought to give testimony (for the prosecution) in the court-martial (starts February 5th), Tori notes
Michael Gilbert's "Army versus activism: Scope of Watada trial to be argued" (The News Tribune):

Phan Nguyen, an Olympia activist who moderated the May news conference in Tacoma where Watada announced his decision to refuse the deployment order, said Army prosecutors served him with a subpoena last week.
He and others said they believe the move is an attempt to intimidate them by calling them to testify about their activities in support of Watada.
"It puts us in the position of helping the Army put this man in prison," said Liz Rivera Goldstein, an organizer with the Watada campaign. "Being put in that position harkens back to the McCarthy era -- it seems like the wrong direction for our country to be going in."

Another name that should be familiar is Christian Hill. Portland notes this from Hill's "Iraq War resister's court-martial turns on pretrial hearing today" (The Olympian):

On June 22, Watada, 28, a native of Hawaii, refused to board a plane headed to the Middle East with members of his unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. He publicly announced his intention to refuse two weeks earlier.
Fort Lewis announced Nov. 9 that Watada would be tried for missing movement and four specifications - or counts - of conduct unbecoming an officer for statements against the war during speeches and interviews.
If convicted, Watada could serve up to six years in prison and be dismissed from the military.

That provides the background for anyone who slept through the summer and also tells you what Watada's facing if found guilty. The charges? Jonah notes this from an AP story:

Watada is charged with missing movement after refusing to deploy with his unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The Army also proceeded with charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for statements he made to journalists and at a veterans convention.
Seitz argued to drop the latter charges.
"He should not face another four years of penalties because he chose to explain his reasons for opposing the war," Seitz told Lt. Col. John Head, the military judge overseeing Watada's case at this post south of Tacoma.

In addition to the pretrial hearing, demonstartions of support for Watada took place today and Zach notes this report from KTVU:

San Francisco police arrested a number of antiwar protesters who were blocking the doors of the federal building during a rally Thursday afternoon.
The protesters were participants in a rally that began at 1 p.m. and was sponsored by the Declaration of Peace Campaign, First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco and Watada Support Committee.
The Watada committee is supporting Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who is currently undergoing a pretrial hearing at Fort Lewis, Wash., in preparation for a Feb. 5 court martial on charges of refusing to go to Iraq and of conduct unbecoming to an officer.

Emily and Keelan, in seperate e-mails, wanted it noted that Democracy Now! did not even mention that the pretrial hearing started today though, Elaine, "they had time to again note Gerry Ford" and though, Keelan, "Headlines included a lengthy critique of CNN." Information on Ehren Watada can be found by using the link. In addition, you can check Courage to Resist for updates.

And we'll go out with Kendrick's highlight, this interview with Ehren Watada from Kevin Sites' "Conscientious Rejector?" (Kevin Sites In The Hotzone):

KEVIN SITES: Now, you joined the Army right after the US was invading Iraq and now you're refusing to go. Some critics might look at this as somewhat disingenuous. You've taken an oath, received training but now you won't fight. Can you explain your rationale behind this?
EHREN WATADA: Sure. I think that in March of 2003 when I joined up, I, like many Americans, believed the administration when they said the threat from Iraq was imminent -- that there were weapons of mass destruction all throughout Iraq; that there were stockpiles of it; and because of
Saddam Hussein's ties to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 terrorist acts, the threat was imminent and we needed to invade that country immediately in order to neutralize that threat.
Since then I think I, as many, many Americans are realizing, that those justifications were intentionally falsified in order to fit a policy established long before 9/11 of just toppling the Saddam Hussein regime and setting up an American presence in Iraq.
SITES: Tell me how those views evolved. How did you come to that conclusion?
WATADA: I think the facts are out there, they're not difficult to find, they just take a little bit of willingness and interest on behalf of anyone who is willing to seek out the truth and find the facts. All of it is in the mainstream media. But it is quickly buried and it is quickly hidden by other events that come and go. And all it takes is a little bit of logical reasoning. The Iraq Survey Group came out and said there were no weapons of mass destruction after 1991 and during 2003. The 9/11 Commission came out and said there were no ties with Iraq to 9/11 or al-Qaeda. The president himself came out and said that nobody in his administration ever suggested that there was a link.
And yet those ties to al-Qaeda and the weapons of mass destruction were strongly suggested. They said there was no doubt there were weapons of mass destruction all throughout 2002, 2003 and even 2004. So, they came out and they say this, and yet they say it was bad intelligence, not manipulated intelligence, that was the problem. And then you have veteran members of the CIA that come out and say, "No. It was manipulated intelligence. We told them there was no WMD. We told them there were no ties to al-Qaeda. And they said that that's not what they wanted to hear."
SITES: Do you think that you could have determined some of this information prior to joining the military -- if a lot of it, as you say, was out there? There were questions going into the war whether WMD existed or not, and you seemingly accepted the administration's explanation for that. Why did you do that at that point?
WATADA: Certainly yeah, there was other information out there that I could have sought out. But I put my trust in our leaders in government.
SITES: Was there a turning point for you when you actually decided that this was definitely an illegal war?
WATADA: Certainly. I think that when we take an oath we, as soldiers and officers, swear to protect the constitution -- with our lives as necessary -- and those constitutional values and laws that make us free and make us a democracy. And when we have one branch of government that intentionally deceives another branch of government in order to authorize war, and intentionally deceives the people in order to gain that public support, that is a grave breach of our constitutional values, our laws, our checks and balances, and separation of power.

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and the war drags on

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