Sunday, January 07, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

The war in Iraq, one of the most disastrous military enterprises in the history of the Republic, has the New York Times' fingerprints all over it. The role the newspaper played in fomenting the 2003 attack is now one of the best known sagas in journalistic history, as embodied in the reports of Judy Miller, working in collusion with Iraqi exiles and US spooks to concoct Saddam's imaginary arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
But so fixated have many Times critics been on the WMD/ Miller saga, that they have failed to notice that across the past sixth months the Times has been waging an equally disingenuous campaign to escalate American troop levels in this doomed enterprises.The prime journalistic promoter of the escalation ­- it is time to retire the adroitly chosen word "surge" -- now being proposed by the White House is Michael Gordon, the Times' military correspondent, a man of fabled arrogance and self esteem.
Gordon's has been the mouthpiece for the faction ­-led by Gen. David H. Petraeus -- inside the U.S. military in Iraq that has been promoting the escalation. As Gordon himself triumphantly announced in the New York Times this weekend, Gen. Petraeus has been picked by Bush to lead the open-ended escalation of the war that Petraeus has long campaigned for.
Throughout his time in Iraq Gen. Petraeus himself has been very adroit at fostering good relations with carefully selected reporters, like Gordon. That strategy has been vindicated by the steady stream of stories in the Times--not just by Gordon--reflecting his views.

The above is from Alexander Cockburn's "The War and the New York Times" (CounterPunch) and Mia noted it. Cockburn and Norman Solomon were two of the few in 2006 who could tackle Gordo or, for that matter, anything the Times published post 2003. Staying on the topic of the press (and selling the war -- silence is selling), Brendan notes Greg Mitchell's "E&P Survey Finds That, At Critical Point, Editorials Offer Little Commentary on Troop Escalation in Iraq" (Editor & Publisher):

As a critical turning point in America's role in the nearly four-year-old Iraq war nears, the editorial pages of the largest U.S. newspapers have been surprisingly -- even, appallingly -- silent on President Bush's likely decision to send thousands of more troops to the country.
It follows a long pattern, however, of the editorial pages strongly criticizing the conduct of the war without advocating a major change in direction. Now it comes at what appears to be a crucial point, with Democrats in Congress, overcoming their own timidity on the issue, finally emerging Friday with opposition to the buildup -- setting up a possible battle royal in the days ahead.
Newspapers, at least in their editorials, have chosen to retreat to the sidelines so far. This comes even as hawkish conservatives such as Oliver North, and dozens of other op-ed contributors, have come out against the idea, and polls show that 11% or less of the public back the idea. That would seem to set the stage for editorials taking a strong stand, for or against.
E&P survey of major papers' editorial pages this past week, however, finds that very few have said much of anything about the well-publicized "surge" idea, pro or con. They may finally declare themselves Sunday -- much too late, given that the president seems to have made up his mind and just shook up his cast of commanders to assemble a more sympathetic crew. (Note: This "surge" in editorials on Sunday did not happen. See update below.)

So the war keeps being sold by the mainstream press in 'reporting' and the editorials stay . . . silent. And the illegal war?

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 Sunday, the American military fatality count in Iraq stood at . . . wait, before we note that, if you're a visitor, you should sit down because judging by how little media attention it received (especially in small media), the number may come as a shock to you -- 3,000. Tonight? 3012.
And Ruth noted the wounded in her report Saturday:

Reading Mr. [David] Harris' article, I saw that Mr. [Ron] 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.

"How many more?" is the question when the 'brave' editorials can't even tackle the much floated escalation of US troops or the much talked of 'plan' of more door-to-door searches deriving from an escalation. Door to door searches? That's going to make Iraq safe? Hasn't happened for almost four years now but let's all play stupid and pretend the 'plan' isn't the exact same thing but with more US bodies (targets?) on the ground. Let's just pretend that and act shocked when the results to more of the same are exactly the same as they have been in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

The war was lost long ago and continuing at this point is just a way to increase the body counts. That's the reality that the Times and others won't note. It's hard to sell a 'plan' that is nothing more: "Even more deaths in 2007!" (For skepticm of the 'plan,' see Michael Abramowitz, Robin Wright and Ann Scott Tyson's article for the Washington Post.)

So the answer is silence while they all work on their expressions of shock that they'll trot out shortly. How long are they going to feign shock? The people have caught on and the media's not fooling anyone at this point.

And the opposition party (or 'opposition' party)? We'll they show any bravery, any leadership, end the illegal war? Ned notes Ralph Nader's "They're Willing to Work with Republics, But What About Progressives? Democrats in the Spotlight" (CounterPunch) on the probablities of that:

Of all the reasons why the Democrats won in 2006, most of them agree that the foremost one was the public's expanding revulsion against Bush over the Iraq war-quagmire. To move to end that disaster for the United States, for Iraq and for our status in the world, the Democrats possess a number of assets.
Public opinion is nearing 70 percent against Bush and the war. Bush's approval rating is in the low 30s. Only 17 percent of the public supports his increasing the number of soldiers in Iraq. The situation in Iraq is worsening by the month, including U.S. casualties and expenditures. Finally, dozens of ex-generals, admirals, top national security advisors, diplomats and a growing number of former high Bush Administration officials are pressing for various withdrawal strategies.
What more does an opposition Party in control of the legislative branch need? Battlefield veteran, Cong. John Murtha has been out in front for over a year demanding an 'out of Iraq' policy. Later this month, about 1000 active duty soldiers will petition their Congress to get out of this war. Demonstrations are increasing around the country.
Still, Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid, themselves critical of Bush's criminal war, exude ambiguities and eschew a decisive alternative pathway to peace. It is as if they are on the sidelines watching Bush-Cheney self-destruct politically for the Republicans in 2008.
If you are looking to test these early signs in the coming months, consider what kind of investigations the Senate and House Committees launch. Consider whether the few Democrats demanding an impeachment process for the accountability of Messrs. Bush and Cheney are silenced by their leaders.
About two years ago, a poll showed 52 percent of Americans would favor impeachment if they learned the President was lying about the reasons for invading Iraq. That number is probably larger today, given all the disclosures that confirm the multiple lies, fabrications and cover-ups leading to and during the Iraq military occupation.

Where are the grown ups? That's the question to ask (and we'll answer it in a moment). How many people have to die for Bully Boy's illegal war? Lloyd notes Sudarsan Raghavan's "War's Toll on Iraqis Put at 22,950 in '06: Statistics From Health Ministry Official Show Tripling of Civilian, Police Deaths" (Washington Post):

More than 17,000 Iraqi civilians and police officers died violently in the latter half of 2006, according to Iraqi Health Ministry statistics, a sharp increase that coincided with rising sectarian strife since the February bombing of a landmark Shiite shrine.
In the first six months of last year, 5,640 Iraqi civilians and police officers were killed, but that number more than tripled to 17,310 in the latter half of the year, according to data provided by a Health Ministry official with direct knowledge of the statistics. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said those numbers remained incomplete, suggesting the final tally of violent deaths could be higher.

[. . .]
Last year's spike in casualties occurred despite an ambitious U.S. military operation in the capital, Together Forward, that involved thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops cordoning off some of the deadliest neighborhoods and conducting house-to-house searches.

That's the 'crackdwon' that cracked up. The 'crackdown' begun in the middle of June, beefed up repeatedly throughout 2006 and never quelling the violence. (By the way, if you're a print reader of the Post, that article will be in Monday's paper.) When the presence of foreign fighters fuels the resistance, more foreign troops don't solve anything, they only inflame the situation. And though the cracked up 'crackdown' of the capital was a dismal failure, it's still being reported as a 'crackdown' and being treated as though it's a new idea as opposed to a tested and failed option.

Reuters notes more corpses discovered since this morning, 17 in Baghdad and 4 in Suwayra.
That makes 24 reported by Reuters today.

So when elected officials fail and 'guardians' of the media fail, what are you left? What's been the resistance to the war from the start? The people and that's who will end the war. Zach notes Jeff Paterson's "Lt. Watada hearing tackles free speech for soldiers, relevancy of truth" (Indybay Media) on Thursday's demonstration at Fort Lewis in support of Ehren Watada:

More than a hundred people rallied yesterday morning at the gates of Fort Lewis, Washington in support of Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, the first officer to publicly refuse to fight in Iraq.
About a mile away, Lt. Watada sat before military judge Lieutenant Colonel John Head for a pre-trial hearing that will go a long way to defining what will, and will not, be allowed by the defense during the full court martial when it begins on February 5.
Lt. Watada faces two years in a military prison for "missing movement" as result from his refusal to board a plane to Iraq with the First Stryker Brigade last June. Additionally, he faces four additional years, one year per count of "conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman," resulting from statements he made to the press.

The people have said no to war. We're going to have to say a lot louder but we still remain the answer to ending the war. On that note, Pru gets the last highlight. Andrew Murray's "Stop Blair's war machine" (Great Britain's The Socialist Worker):

This must be the year when the anti-war movement forces an end to the disastrous occupation of Iraq and reverses the direction of government foreign and military strategy.
That is why the Stop the War Coalition and CND are joining forces once more to mobilise tens of thousands of people from across the country onto the streets of London.
We will be marching on Saturday 24 February to demand troops out of Iraq and no Trident replacement -- two demands which command huge public support.
It is hard to find anyone still prepared to defend the catastrophic invasion and occupation of Iraq. Elements in the US establishment are starting to look for a way out.
However, it seems likely that George Bush will boost troop levels in the short-term as part of a "last push" to crush resistance in Iraq and stabilise the puppet government in Baghdad.
Inevitably, Tony Blair will be forced to go along with the new strategy, which will surely lead to a further huge loss of life in suffering Iraq.
As for Trident replacement, it represents a clear breach of Britain's nuclear non-proliferation obligations. Nobody is able to give a remotely sensible answer to the question as to under what circumstances and against whom it might ever be used. The immense cost of replacing Trident is all the more scandalous when set alongside the hospital cuts and closures being imposed on the NHS.
The government’s priorities are the exact reverse of those of the labour movement and the public in general.
The government is highly vulnerable. We are at the fag-end of Blair's premiership, and both the prime minister and his war policy are terminally discredited.
So the time is right for one "last push" from the anti-war movement as well.
A huge turnout on 24 February must be the start of a mighty push for peace that gets the troops out of Iraq and stops the Trident replacement scandal in its tracks.
The following should be read alongside this article: »
US war strategy is caught between a rock and a hard place
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andrew murray