Thursday, January 18, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Early in 2006, women had decided that the nation needed to go in a new direction (see Ms., Summer 2006), especially around the Iraq War. And election-eve polling showed that they voted for change. Indeed, without the women's vote in key races, the balance of power in Congress would not have shifted.
For example, if only men had voted, then Jim Webb (D-Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mont.) would all have lost their races and Republicans would still control the U.S. Senate. According to network exit polls, in the Webb/George Allen race, 55 percent of women voted for Webb and only 45 percent of men -- a whopping 10 percent gender gap. Also without African American voters, especially African American women, Webb would have lost.
[. . .]
The Ms./WDN polls showed that voters' top priorities for this session of Congress are the war in Iraq (75% rate it high to very high in importance), health care (74 percent), and the economy and jobs (72 percent). Yet gender gaps emerged on these and other key issues (see chart below).

To see below, you'll need to check out the Winter 2007 issue of Ms. The above is from Eleanor Smeal's "Women Voted For Change" (and for Robin who has to do a report on the election results for her high school class, that's page 13).

Ms. also features an article on Ugly Betty by Yeid M. Rivero. For any visitor wondering why that's included in this post, Ava and I wrote about Ugly Betty and Ty says there are a number of e-mails from people who enjoy the show. We'll try to link to it Sunday but it could get forgotten so it's being tossed in here. I'll do that throughout this entry but I think all the other things will be Iraq related.

So, as Eleanor points out, Iraq was a deciding factor in the elections (and women's votes were key). Two things worth remembering as many try to rewrite recent history (Yawn Emanuel among them). So what does the public have to show for that?

Senate Dems collectively are wasting energy to try to pass . . . nothing. A non-binding resolution has no teeth, has no weight, that is nothing but a symbolic measure. It's a lunchtime poll brought to you by Joe Biden, Chuck Hagel and Carl Levin. Ted Kennedy has a real plan; Maxine Waters, Lynn Wolsey and Barbara Lee have a real plan; Christopher Dodd has a real plan, Dennis Kucinich has a real plan . . . And Biden wants to be president . . . for the symbolic value? Maybe he'll get some symbolic support for that campaign if not actual support.

To some Jo-Jo Biden's showing 'bravery' -- or merely symoblic bravery? In the real world, people are dying and they're injured and the symoblism looks like that the cowardly action that it is.

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 3018. Tonight? 3024 by ICCC's count. Wally and I have been talking about the ICCC count since Friday when it went down. It's gone all over this week. Wally thinks we need to switch to the AP count. Currently the AP count which, Wally noted on the phone and also e-mailed this article, from Wednesday, where the AP count is 3028. If you check Wednesday's snapshot, you'll see the 3028 count noted from AP and also from ICCC. I have no idea why, since last Friday, the count has gone up and down at ICCC. There's no note posted at the site (in the past there has been). I would prefer to utilize the ICCC count but they dropped it Friday morning after last Thursday's "And the war drags on" went up. Then it was up again, then it was down. Yesterday it was 3028. Right now, it's 3024. I think we may switch to the AP count. If someone has a problem with that, e-mail. Wally and I have been discussing this since Friday. Kayla and Marci have both e-mailed asking why the ICCC count kept changing? I have no idea. Using the AP count, of 3028 on Wednesday plus the one death announced today, the total is 3029 currently. That's 11 more than last Thursday. And escalation only means even more.

What can Congress do? Besides symbolic measures? Dick Cheney took to the chat & chews Sunday to lie and say nothing, attempting to scare the American people of governing by committee (which is how it works -- executive branch, legislative branch and judicial). Kyle notes Ted Kennedy's response to Cheney's nonsensical claims:

"By escalating the war, the President is ignoring the advice of his generals, the bipartisan Baker Hamilton commission, the voice of the American people -- and now as Vice President Cheney has made clear he intends to ignore Congress. The stubbornness of this Administration means repeating the same colossal mistakes over and over and failing to achieve a new policy that is worthy of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.
The President took two months to determine his new plan -- yet he'll do anything to prevent Congress from debating it and giving the American people a voice in this very wrong and tragic decision."
Congress' Historical Role in Policing Military Escalation
On numerous occasions over the past several decades, Congress has exercised its constitutional authority to limit the President's ability to escalate existing military engagements by capping the number of American military personnel available for deployment and by refusing to release appropriated funds. It is incumbent upon Congress to exercise that authority to ensure that our men and women are not put in harm’s way unnecessarily or without a plan worthy of their great sacrifice.
? In the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974, P.L. 93-559, enacted during the Vietnam War, Congress limited the number of American military personnel in South Vietnam to 4,000 within six months and 3,000 within a year of the Act’s enactment.
? The Lebanon Emergency Assistance Act of 1983, P.L. 98-43, required the President to "obtain statutory authorization from the Congress with respect to any substantial expansion in the number or role in Lebanon of the United States Armed Forces, including any introduction of United States Armed Forces into Lebanon in conjunction with agreements providing for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon and for the creation of a new multinational peace-keeping force in Lebanon."
? Through the Department of Defense Authorization Act of 1985, P.L. 98-525, Congress prohibited the use of funds appropriated in the Act or in subsequent Acts from being used to increase the number of U.S. military personnel deployed in European nations of NATO. The Act provided that Congress might authorize increased troop levels above the prescribed ceiling upon the Secretary of Defense’s certification to Congress that the European nations had taken significant measures to improve their defense capacity.
? In the Military Construction Appropriations Act of 2001, P.L. 106-246, Congress limited the involvement of U.S. military personnel and civilian contractors in counter-narcotics activities in Colombia by prohibiting the use of appropriated funds to expand their presence above specified levels.
? The Second Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1973, P.L. 93-50, specified that none of the funds appropriated by the Act were to be used "to support directly or indirectly combat activities in or over Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam or off the shores of Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam and South Vietnam by United States Forces and after August 15, 1973, no other funds heretofore appropriated under any other Act may be expended for such purpose."
? Congress authorized the use of U.S. Armed Forces in Somalia in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 1994, P.L. 103-139, but set a deadline after which appropriated funds could no longer be used to pay for their involvement. The Act specified that the deadline could only be extended if requested by the President and authorized by the Congress.
? In the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 1995, P.L. 103-335, Congress required congressional approval of "any change in the United States mission in Rwanda from one of strict refugee relief to security, peace-enforcing, or nation-building or any other substantive role" and blocked funding for continued participation of the U.S. military in Operation Support Hope beyond a specified date.
? The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998, P.L. 105-85, provided that no funds appropriated for fiscal year 1998 or any subsequent year could be used for the deployment of any U.S. ground combat forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina after a specified cutoff date unless the President first consulted with Congress and then certified to Congress that certain conditions existed in the field.

Congress does have the power and has used it in the past. Just because Bully Boy still wants to hold onto his illegal war doesn't mean he gets to. Enough people are dead and wounded. How many more?

Brandon notes an interview that I hoped to put into the snapshots all week and never had time to. Each day, there are things that could fit in but time runs short so, since Brandon e-mailed about it today, here's a section from Joshua Scheer's interview with Ron Kovic, "Surging Past The Tipping Point" (Truthdig):

Truthdig: We hear so much about "support the troops" while they're in war. But what does it mean to support the troops when so many of them are coming back home wounded?
Kovic: I don't see how this administration is supporting the troops when they're clearly cutting back the budgets of the veterans hospitals around the country. That is outrageous. That is unacceptable. How can you spend billions of dollars fighting a war in Iraq and not care for those who are wounded when they come back home?
I have opposed this war from the very beginning. I was speaking out against it before it began. I sensed we were being deceived just as we were deceived during the Vietnam War. I wasn’t going to let it happen again. I made one promise to myself in 1968 after I was shot and paralyzed in Vietnam. (During those years that I was involved with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, so I was speaking not only for myself, but for many, many other Vietnam veterans like myself who opposed that war, who went to jail with me.) We said back then, "We're never going to allow what happened to our generation to ever happen again." And to watch this nightmare unfold all over again....
And in particular this week, the outrage that not only I feel, but also all my brothers and sisters in the antiwar movement, and all my fellow citizens all over this country ... that outrage that all of us feel, that the majority of the people of this country oppose this war, including many of our generals and the architects of this policy.... And yet the president of the United States is acting like a dictator. He's not listening to the people. What do we have to do? How many demonstrations do we have to have? How many hearings and investigations do we have to have before this president begins to listen to the people? Because isn't that what America is supposed to be about?
We can make a difference, and I think this is an important week of reflection. For every single American; not just me, Ron Kovic, sitting in this wheelchair, or people who have been directly affected by the wars of this government, and who have been so grievously injured by policies that should never have been to begin with--we are more important than we realize. I think this is a week of important reflection for all of us. We have to really think about the direction this country is heading in right now. We have to ask ourselves, "Have we done enough? Have we the courage to really say what needs to be said? Have we the courage to really do what needs to be done?" Because lives are at stake, and people are dying on both sides. This is unacceptable. This is outrageous. Rather than listening to the voice of the people of the United States, and rather than listening to the Iraq Study Group's conclusions, rather than listening to reason, the president of the United States has decided to do the exact opposite. He's putting us all in greater danger. He's creating the potential for a wider war, for a potential cataclysm, and he's putting Americans' lives in jeopardy. If the United States is attacked again, if, God forbid, there's another 9/11, it should be directly attributed to the fact that, this crucial week, Bush decided to push forward in this very reckless agenda.

How many more are going to be wounded in this illegal war the way Ron Kovice was injured in Vietnam? How many more scars (physical and mental), how many more deaths?

The only thing that's going to stop the illegal war is courage -- courage to speak out, courage to get active. shows tremendous courage. Even when so many in independent media ignore him, he continues to stand up. We can all stand up. Well, not The Nation. But everyone else can stand up.

In yet another tips-to-Democrats, The Nation offers this "Can a single man force a nation to fight an unpopular war? Here's how Congress can stand up to Bush." Micah noted that and noted that The Nation is "crap and I'd say worse but I know you'd edit me. It's crap. Who has the power? We do. But what crap are they pushing off on readers again? 'Plead and wait for a savior!' They're the most useless, cowardly piece of crap on the left. While they stay silent on Ehren, they do offer up a look at the monies spent on college sports. Where is the leadership at that magazine? It has gone down the toilet each year. It is an embarrassment to the left that this is our magazine with the highest circulation. Katrina vanden Heuvel needs to step down as editor immediately because she has led that magazine into Crap City. It won't address the war in it's pages, it won't cover Ehren, it's the most useless crap in the world and I'm as sick of her inspirational sermons as I am the photo of her on her blog. I think Rebecca made this point but only an idiot, when the country was going to hell, would waste everyone's time with 'Sweet Victories' columns. If she wants to be a romance writer or Marianne Williams, I urge her to go do it. Just quit the magazine before you destroy it any more. The magazine will not do a story on Ehren, that thing [sidebar] wasn't a story, but they'll tell you about the sports rackets at colleges. I've had it with vanden Heuvel and her inept leadership. I've had it with the touchy-feely crap. I've had it with the useless articles and the useless editorials. If you're not a Democrat in Congress, the magazine's not written for you. I'm 24 years-old, I don't need to know who's the cutest is Congress or this other Tiger Beat crap. It's an immature, cowardly magazine and that has happened as she has taken over. Katrina vanden Heuvel needs to go. Her immaturity and lack of courage shines through every page of the magazine."

As noted in columns, and by Elaine, I know vanden Heuvel. I would love to be able to come to her defense but the magazine has become a very sad read and Micah's entitled to his opinion. Two groups of students today were outraged with a column in an issue (I think it was the most recent). Like I told them, I can't defend the magazine so I won't even try. It is cowardly, Micah is right, it's cowardly not to cover Watada. It's cowardly to waste everyone's time with tips for Congress. It's cowardly to rob people of their power. (On the "Sweet Victories" columns, I will note that they were intended to help people see that, even in the face of all that is going wrong with the country, there are some victories. I'm not defending them, I'm just noting that because there seems to be a lot of confusion about why they ever existed in the first place.) Obviously, I'm not pleased with the war coverage, I'm not pleased with the ignoring of war resisters, peace activists or peace demonstrations. I'm not pleased with the very low number of women the magazine elects to publish. The lack of attention to the students in this country (the ones not bankrolled by centrists). Go down the list.

The Nation has ignored the nation. Katrina vanden Heuvel is the one in charge of the magazine and, as it continues its slide into uselessness, she has to take some of the responsibility for that. People at the magazine have voiced the same concern about it having no direction. I'm not surprised that others are picking up on that. Alexander Cockburn, David Corn and others who succeed in their writing are to be applauded; however, there is a lot of junk making into print -- junk writing, junk topics.

They have blown the moment that they had and anyone who doubts that needs to remember that before others in indymedia were calling the time of death for The Village Voice, Micah had beat them to it. Unless the magazine can find the guts to write about Watada (or Abeer as Martha pointed out), we'll only highlight pieces at their website by either Naomi Klein or Katha Pollitt. (We highlight Cockburn via CounterPunch).

On Cockburn, tomorrow I believe the latest edition of CounterSpin starts airing (it airs on different dates around the country but I think the new show starts airing tomorrow for stations that carry it tomorrow). He is one of the guests. He discusses the New York Times' continued attempts to sell the war, he hits hard on Michael Gordon. (Near the end of the interview, there's an exchange that I wish had come sooner because it goes to the heart of the problem with the paper which is the internal struggle that's been going on for years. There wasn't time for that discussion so, hopefully, they'll have him back at some point to address that again.) He's not the full show, but I don't know who the other guest is, sorry. So those who enjoy Cockburn (and there are many in the community who do) make a point to listen. (I've already called Elaine to tell her and she plans to write about it in her entry tomorrow night.)

Alexander Cockburn has a niece and she's as much as (or maybe more of) a favorite to members as is he, Laura Flanders. Martha e-mailed to pass on that the e-mail on RadioNation with Laura Flanders had already gone out when I was doing the morning post (we didn't notice it Saturday because it hadn't, I even called Martha to make sure I wasn't missing it in the e-mails). Here's what's coming up this weekend on RadioNation with Laura Flanders:

The President wants his critics to advance alternative proposals. How about a whole world of alternatives? This weekend on RadioNation, a report from the seventh annual WORLD SOCIAL FORUM which kicks off this Saturday in Nairobi, Kenya. For the first time in Africa, the Social Forum will bring together activists, artists and social movements from every continent, dedicated to building sustainable peace and rolling back the profit-not-people empire. Another World Is Possible. Find out how. Plus, the latest on the US military build up off the Horn of Africa.

Returning to the topic of Watada, Maria asked if we could note something (of course) from the interview we noted earlier today. This is from Ave Diaz and Lance Holter's "Q & A With Lieutenant Ehren Watada" (Haleakala Times):

Lance Holter: How are you holding up through all of this and how do the other soldiers feel about you?
Lt. Ehren Watada: I think that trying to get the message out has been very exhausting, difficult and very challenging at some points. There have been a multitude of soldiers of all ranks, even dependents, who have approached me on base and off base and given me their support and respect for what I have been doing.
Lance Holter: As I followed your story I became aware that you had studied the United Nations charter and Geneva accords to determine that this war was illegal. How did you [discover this]?
Lt. Ehren Watada: It's not very difficult to find it. It just requires the willingness to want to know the truth and you can find it. It’s definitely not difficult at all for anyone to find. Certainly you have to go through a multitude of information and filter out a lot but the truth is out there.
Lance Holter: In the Geneva accords and clearly in the UN charter it is an illegal war. It was not mandated by the UN and the Geneva accords say there is no such thing as a preemptive war. Is this your conclusion?
Lt. Ehren Watada: Yes, definitely, and even more I think it's dangerous to our country and to our society to think that one branch of government deliberately misled another branch of government in order to authorize war, and illegal for that matter, and in our country we pride ourselves in having a separation of powers, checks and balances, and those things that prevent tyranny and authoritarianism, and when we have a breakdown of that in which we have seen over this war, and many different other things, that can be very dangerous for our future.

Watada is showing courage and when people do not even have the spine to cover him, it gets attention. (I heard all about it from two groups -- so much that I told Ava and Jess -- who are also speaking to students this trip -- that I wouldn't be surprised if the next three recommended burning The Nation. That's how outraged the first two groups were by the magazine.) (The other three groups didn't bring it up, thankfully.) It would take courage to do what Ehren Watada is doing -- that's even if you get support from the supposedly left media. When you only get silence and keep speaking out, that makes it even more courageous. (And makes the Coward's Silence even more appalling.) The Nation wants to ask if a single man (Bully Boy) can make a nation fight an unpopular war and they're gearing it to Congress. A real alternative magazine would have made their weekly cover a head shot of Watada with the question: "Can a single man stop a war?" (The answer is no, it takes many. But asking that question might force them to realize how much time, space and energy they have collective wasted. Not to mention readers' patience.)

On magazines, John wanted to note a successful piece of mail. He just received a mailing from Harper's magazine. He was going to trash it because he gets mailings all the time (I think we all know that feeling) but he said the outside of the envelope caught his interest. He typed up what the envelope said on it (besides sender address and return address):

How the CIA suberts the U.S. government. Christian singles dating questionnaire. America's emerging caste system. How Wall Street stands to profit from AIDS. Stalking the campus thought police. The myth of missing children. How the Pentagon hides $22 billion. The feminist case for pornography. Robert Stone takes a crack at cocaine.

It caught his eye and he ended up opening it. If you get a lot of mail, you know what he means when he says he usually tosses all the non-bills and non-personal letters. He thought it was a good use of space and a successful mailing but wondered if we'd have time to note it? Not unless I squeeze into this entry. For those thinking, where is the Iraq connection? Harper's published the article that's most linked to at this site. Most linked to in 2004, 2005 and 2006. If you're confused, two words: Naomi Klein. (If you're still confused, you've missed Beth's columns at the end of each year on what articles got the most links.)

To go out on another non-Iraq related detail, Dallas subscribes to the New York Times and e-mailed to say his Thursday paper contained Thursday's paper and Wednesday's paper. The Dallas-Fort Worth area has had "ice and sleet" and his paper wasn't delivered Wednesday so he's assuming they delivered them both today (in one plastic bag) in an attempt to make up for that. He suggests the paper's new motto should be, "Subscribe to the New York Times: We'll get there eventually."

Lastly, five of the Pendleton Eight have now confessed or entered into plea agreements over their actions involved in kidnapping a man and killing him. That's one of the three high profile cases. Ryan Lenz (AP) notes Paul Cortez' confession in the war crimes against Abeer Qasim Hamza and her family as well as this:

In another case involving members of the 101st Airborne, a lawyer for Pfc. Corey R. Clagett said Thursday that his client has agreed to plead guilty to his role in the killings of three detainees during a raid on a suspected al-Qaida compound last year in Samarra, Iraq.
Clagett, 21, of Moncks Corner, S.C., is one of four soldiers charged with murder in the May 9 raid; two have pleaded guilty. He had to reach a plea agreement because a co-defendant implicated him, defense attorney Paul Bergrin said.

The e-mail address for this site is