Sunday, January 28, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

So The Nation posts two online articles and neither mentions the most popular speaker at the DC event -- Bob Watada, father of Ehren Watada. How does that happen? Last week, online, the Pooper and John Nichols could summon all the violins to play for Sarah Olson. So it's not that they don't know who Ehren Watada is. One of the two articles on the protest is, in fact, by John Nichols. With a view to the podium, John Nichols tells you all about . . . Congressional members who spoke. Karen Houppert also contributes an online piece and it's the better of the two but we won't link to it because Bob Watada was the audience favorite and how do you post two articles online and never mention Bob Watada?

"Show Me What Democracy Looks Like (1-27-07)" covers the DC protest. We were there. As we note, we missed some speeches because we were out in the crowd getting reactions. Bob Watada was the one most cited. (Jane Fonda came in second -- she's also not mentioned in either article which is a surprising ommission. The ones quoted in the article were the most cited speakers.) So how does that happen?

How does The Nation avoid noting Bob Watada when he was the most popular speaker? Last week, they were happy to post two 'online exclusives' about Sarah Olson.

Nicole e-mailed to note, "That's it? The magazine can't shut up about the State of the Union address, but 500,000 people gather in DC and that's all we get?"

Nicole also wonders whether either writer was there "or reporting from the their TV screens turned to CSPAN?"

It's a question that many attending will ask when they read both stories (if they bother -- we're not linking to them) because they know what they saw with their own eyes. They heard the cheers following Bob and Rosa's remarks. They heard the chant of "Say it! Say it!" that came alive when Bob was speaking.

But the community knows the importance of war resisters -- it's only The Nation that appears not to. A petition to Congress they can toss on the cover, the Editor's Cut blog can promote it at least twice. War resisters?

We know the drill. We can count on Amy Goodman, Dennis Bernstein, Nora Barrows-Friedman, Margaret Prescod and a few others. We can't count on the two biggest print magazines suppoedly serving the left. (Houppert saw the DC rally as a merger of "electoral" and protests. Which does beg Nicole's question of whether she was there or not?)

The decline of The Nation is appalling. Coming at a time when the country has turned against the war, it's shocking. The silence on war resisters is shameful. It's worth noting that The New Republic(an) wasn't always a piece of crap. Once it became the DC bible, it went downhill very quickly from the downward inclination it already had. As The New Republic(an) struggles to stay afloat, apparently The Nation wants to cast itself in the role of useless DC cheerleader. The magazine is not about people. It is about consumers, it is about voters, but it refuses to recognize the power of people.

Two writers can come to the defense of a reporter, expand their energies that way (wasn't the New York Times criticized for doing just that with Judith Miller?), but with Ehren, silence. Unlike the community, I am sympathetic to Sarah Olson. I do not, however, confuse her as being the story. She's a subplot. Ehren Watada stood up. He took a brave stand. The failure of The Nation to support that as he heads to his February 5th court-martial is shameful.

They can offer you a voter's guide, week after week, they just can't empower you. Is The Nation now in the interests of serving DC or is it serving the people? The answer becomes more obvious each day. It's as insulting as Studio 60 Yada Yada Yada thinking tossing out a romance between boring characters will "bring in the women!"

Wasting your voice is the same as staying silent. Wasting your voice to offer meaningless, crap week after week, is prolonging the war. Going ga-ga over a petition to Congress (without even the strength of the letter to the New York Times during Vietnam that it's modeled after) while ignoring war resisters is prolonging the war. Prolonging the war is being in partnership with the White House. That's not the intent of the magazine, that is the reality of what's happening.

Hopping on a soap box for one line in a dithering column where you hector people about what withdrawal might mean for Iraqis packs no weight and only demonstrates how uninformed you are but, when you've ingored the gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl, when you've have stayed silent on what was done to Abeer by US soldiers, you are useless. You have made yourself useless and, in doing so, you promote the war.

Outside The Nation, media voices who won't cover Ehren but want to boo-hoo what might happen to Olson (might, she has no charges, she's not testified or not testified at this point, it's wringing your hands over a hypothetical) prolongs the war. Prolonging the war means prolonging the dying, prolonging the maiming, prolonging the destruction of Iraq.

Now for some, like John Stauber, it allows them to talk about "Iraq." And while that certainly is better than the snooze fest he offered a few months back on KPFA where he rushed to tell us the latest about what Judith Miller did . . . in 2002 and 2003, it's not cutting it. (And as a KPFA listener and supporter, I would applaud the next host who cuts off that nonsense by noting, "We are all familiar with what Judith Miller did three and four years ago, do you have anything to say about Iraq today?" It really is insulting to think that the KPFA listnership is so stupid that they don't already know the Judith Miller story in depth.) But it is amazing that John Stauber, Norman Solomon, John Nichols, Phil Donaue and countless other who won't do one damn thing for Ehren will rush out to protect Sarah Olson from the possibility that she might have to affirm her reporting in Ehren's court-martial. To repeat, in Ehren's court-martial. It is not the court-martial of Sarah Olson.

Now imagaine where the movement to end the war would be if the same 'creative trust' could take that energy and use it towards raising the issue of war resisters? With Galluadet University, most in independent media couldn't 'relate' -- couldn't cover it because they couldn't 'relate' to it. So it's no surprise that while they have nothing to offer any war resister they can't shut up about Sarah Olson. Olson is a journalist, they can 'relate' to her. The reality that she is not facing six years in prison sails right past them.

Independent media has never been so out of touch with the people they supposedly serve. They have never been so distant or so detatched in public as they are now. They have made themselves useless and, in doing so, they have made themselves part of the problem.

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 3054. Tonight? 3080. Both counts ICCC. We didn't note the AP count last Sunday. Members have now voted and we will be going with AP because the relialibility of ICCC's count has become an issue with the community as it's gone up and down. It's normal that it would go up -- people die, the count goes up. Gong down? Over and over? We'll stick with AP. The AP count right now is 3084 (as Gareth notes in an e-mail and wonders how ICCC misses four deaths?). For anyone who's forgotten, the new year was about to arrive when the 3,000 mark was passed. Currently, sixteen more deaths will take the count to 3,100. 84 deaths have been reported since January 1st. But iPods is the thing to write about? Or "Run, Olson! Run!"

Keesha notes this from John Stauber's nonsense: "The court martial of Ehren Watada begins near Tacoma, Washington on February 5, and we have just days to use our power of persuasion to back the military court away from its dangerous imposition of subpoenas to journalists, trying to make them part of the prosecution."

Keesha: That's real cute, the court-martial of Watada is only days away and we must use our power to . . . save poor, pathetic Sarah Olson? Why not use our power to stop the court-martial? Why not try for that? Stauber is a moron, a fool, a fake, a phoney in my opinion (have to note that after the attack on Durham Gal, don't I?) and his co-written books just moved from my shelves to the trash can. You can rest assured nothing written by him will ever cross my doorstep again.

And you know what, that may end up being the answer for many (it already is the answer for some) -- starving the beast. Starving the pathetic beast that tosses out crap like that. Ehren Watada's court-martial is days away so . . . we must save Sarah Olson!

How useless can you be? How useless can you make yourself? Gary Webb never lost sight that the story was the drugs. Even with the attacks on him, the attempts to discredit him, he always knew what the A-story was. He knew that any attacks on him resulted from what he was covering. He didn't turn himself into the story. Which is why Webb was a journalist and e-mail after e-mail tonight compares Sarah Olson to a "missing blonde" being covered by Matt Lauer.
It's junk news. It's a refusal to confront reality.

Here's some reality and it comes from CounterPunch. No surprise there, one of the few not to waste months and months fluffing. Mia notes Seth Sandronsky's "Localizing the Anti-War Movement" (CounterPunch):

Absent a national antiwar political formation on the near horizon, local politics can point to a trend of note. Consider the activism underway to make peace a political policy for Doris Matsui. She was elected for the first time last November to the House of Representatives for California's 5th congressional district, based in Sacramento.
Antiwar activists have been sitting peacefully in her downtown office for three weeks. A recent appearance by Cindy Sheehan, the Vallejo mother whose son Casey lost his life in Iraq, gave this Sacramento "peace in" a boost. These protesters want a face-to-face meeting with Matsui to urge the Democratic congresswoman to vote for a binding resolution to end more funding of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Recently, she spoke with the antiwar activists by phone for just under an hour. On one hand, Matsui opposes the war and President George W. Bush's troop escalation. On the other hand, she won't put pen to paper to sign off on cutting tens of billions of dollars to fund the future occupation of Iraq. This phone conversation did not change her mind.
Why? Money for war talks powerfully in a national economy that for decades has relied on public subsidies to the military-industrial complex. And the war costs are the highest for Americans with the lowest incomes.

That's really all I'm seeing worth noting. In fact, were Phil Ochs alive today, he could rework one of his songs just for independent media:

I am just a dumb ass and I've just got time to burn
I spend all my time trying to steer you from areas of true concern.
Since I checked out on reality, I've thrown in the towel
So when I've got a chance to gas bag, I'm going to gas bag now.

I think we're all sick of it. So let's turn to topics other than the useless in independent media. In the real world, Megan notes Carolyn Jones' "Mother asks S.F. gathering to support her soldier son He faces court-martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq" (San Francisco Chronicle):

The mother of Army Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq as a protest of the war, told about 200 seniors in Chinatown at noon today that she needs their support to help her son, who faces a court martial next week.
"You celebrate the American dream. You live it," Carolyn Ho told the enthusiastic flag-waving crowd at Gordon Lau elementary school. "And that is what my son is fighting for now."

When the mainstream media is covering the story independent media avoids, in the words of Carly Simon, "The world's just inside out and upside down." ("Safe & Sound," Hotcakes.)

Brenda notes Laurie Phillips' "Thousands protest war with S.F. march" (Tri-Valley Herald):

"It's a gathering storm," said Casey Fuller of Sacramento, who said she didn't protest the Vietnam War but now, with children and grandchildren, feels compelled to make her voice heard. "We have power in numbers, and when they see us stand up in discontent," others will speak out, too.
The protests coincided with scores of anti-war events across the country, the largest a rally and march on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
They come after President Bush's publicly unpopular decision, announced earlier this month, to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.
Police estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people attended the events in San Francisco.
"What is going on here, in Washington, D.C., and in this country cannot stop," Carolyn Ho told the crowd. "There is a momentum that is growing."
Ho's 28-year-old son, Lt. Ehren Watada of Hawaii, is being court-martialed for refusing to deploy to Iraq. He joined the military, she said, because he believed he was doing his duty, but he came to realize the war was begun "on a lie."

Liang wants it noted that she's deliberated the silence on Ehren Watada from independent media and now thinks racism is part of it. She notes that very few Asians and Asian-Americans are at independent media outlets and that "publications like The Nation really don't seem interested in a Nancy Chang or anyone else. Now if one of us writes about hip-hop, suddenly they care for a moment or two. But in terms of us being represented, forget it. So I do think that Ehren is ignored by The Nation and The Progressive because he is a war resister and because he is an Asian-American. I flip through the issues and note that people of color rarely exist. There seems to be some sort of token effort to provide shout outs to Latinos and some minor interest in African-Americans if they can make it 'historical' but Asian-Americans are out in the cold and, after considering it all weekend, I think that is part of the reason for the silence on Ehren. Seeing supposed 'trusted voices' make idiots of themselves over the 'plight' of a blonde woman while refusing to cover Ehren is both cowardice and it is racism. I will call out. Marc Cooper -- racist. John Nichols - racist. Norman Solomon - racist. My opinion. If that troubles them, instead of e-mailing to complain to you about what some member said, they can try to proving me wrong."

Liang notes this from San Francisco's KCBS:

The mother of an Army officer who refused to deploy to Iraq last year was in San Francisco today as part of a major outreach campaign to gain support. Lt. Ehren Watada is facing court martial proceedings in a week.

Brad notes "Seattle protesters march, demand Iraq withdrawal" (Seattle's KOMO):

More than a thousand people gathered to march and demand a withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq in Seattle on Saturday, as similar groups gathered for the same cause across the nation, including the nation's capital. The Seattle protesters began their march at the Center for Social Justice on 21st Avenue and Union Street.
The group stopped to protest at the military recruiting center and ended their march at the Langston Hughes Center on Washington Street and 17th Avenue South.
Speakers included Ehren Watada, the Fort Lewis army lieutenant who refused to deploy to Iraq with his unit. There were no reports of counter-protests in Seattle. A group named The Jan. 27th Coalition to Bring the Troops Home Now! sponsored the local event.

Kayla notes Aaron Glantz' "Anti-War Marches Draw Hundreds of Thousands" (IPS):

Saturday's demonstration in Washington was just one of more than 50 held around the country this weekend. In San Francisco, a protest against President Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq turned out 5,000 demonstrators. In Los Angeles, thousands took to the streets, with many carrying signs that said "Impeach Bush."
In Seattle, more than 1,000 people turned out to protest. Among the speakers at that rally was first Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to face prosecution for refusing to serve in Iraq.
Long-time social activist Tom Hayden told IPS President Bush's ability to wage war is increasingly tenuous.
"Wars are based on pillars," Hayden said. "You need available soldiers, you need bipartisan support. You need recruitment of more soldiers, you need money, you need your moral reputation to be preserved and you need allies. By any of those measures the pillars are being undermined."
Hayden noted that more than 1,000 active duty U.S. soldiers have signed a petition calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Unhappiness with the war is also growing among veterans, with the group Iraq Veterans Against the War estimating their organisation has quadrupled in size over the last year.
"Supporting the troops that have signed these petitions and supporting efforts to stop military recruitment at our high schools and at community colleges are absolutely vital," Hayden added. "But people every day can do something. You want to convince your undecided neighbor to go against, you want to convince your kid not to go, you want to take a picket sign to the military recruiting office. You want to link up with the poor people's and labour organisations and say this war costs 287 million dollars an hour."

Charlie notes Kate Raiford's "State residents join D.C. rally" (Capital Times):

Soldiers are refusing to fight, and the public needs to know about it, [Ben] Ratliffe said, referring to soldiers like Army Lt. Ehren Watada, who defied orders to go to Iraq and is set to go on trial in February. "The people who stop the war aren't the people who declare it," Ratliffe said. "It's the people who stop the fighting."
The soldiers who are risking court martial "are the vanguard of the antiwar movement," Dols said. "We hope we can give them the confidence to keep fighting."
UW-Madison senior Todd Dennis was stationed on a submarine outside of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, until 2003. He is the secretary of the Madison chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
"I realized this war wasn't going to end anytime soon, and I needed to help," he said while on the bus back to Madison on Saturday night.
"This war is illegal and immoral," he said. "We have no mission there. We can't win a crime, you can only stop it."

Stacey notes Marissa Melton's "Peace Activists March on Washington to Protest Iraq War" (Lincoln Tribune):

The skies were clear, but temperatures were chilly as thousands of people gathered for the event. Many of the marchers said they came because of personal reasons. Juan Torres of Chicago wore a t-shirt memorializing his son, an Army soldier who died in Afghanistan in 2004. Torres, an immigrant from Argentina, has marched in numerous anti-war protests. He says the war has destroyed his life and family. "My life is destroyed. My family is destroyed. The president, they don't care about my family. They don't care about me, they don't care about nobody. Also, the government, when I receive my son's medal, I receive by mail. They don't respect me. Maybe because I'm a Spanish guy, I don't know," he says.
Bob Watada is the father of an Army lieutenant who is facing court-martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq. He addressed the crowd early in the afternoon. "My son, Lieutenant Ehren Watada, as a proud patriotic American soldier, has stood up to say 'enough is enough.' And We have to say enough is enough. Because he refused to lead his men and women into the massacre of innocent men and women, to lead his men to their own deaths for corporate greed, the military commanders want to punish him," he says.
Watada said his son is being punished for telling the truth about the war. "Lieutenant Watada spoke out and said the president has been deceptive. And that there are atrocities going on in Iraq. These are the words of truth," he says.
Later, actress and activist Jane Fonda - well-known for her anti-war activities during the Vietnam War - made her first appearance at an anti-war rally in decades. "I haven't spoken at an anti-war rally in 34 years, because I've been afraid that the lies about me would be used to hurt this anti-war movement. But silence is no longer an option," she said.
She thanked the crowds for coming, saying their commitment to ending the war allows people in other parts of the world remain hopeful that America can once again become a country they can love and respect.

Joan notices this from The Honolulu Advertiser:

After the speech, Watada's wife, Rosa Sakanishi, Ehren Watada's stepmother, collapsed and was taken to George Washington University Hospital.
Retired Army Col. Mary Ann Wright, who resigned from the State Department in protest of the Iraq invasion, was with the Watadas and caught Sakanishi as she fell, Bob Watada said.
Reached at George Washington University Hospital, Watada said his wife may have suffered a mild stroke, but that she was feeling better. "I'm with her and talking with her now," said Watada. "We're just now leaving the emergency room. She's resting. She'll be all right."

And Joan also notes Tina Chau's "Watada Court Martial Nine Days Away" (Hawaii's KGMB):

Lt. Ehren Watada's court martial gets underway in nine days. While he waits, Watada says he is required to show up for work at Fort Lewis, Washington, where he admits he's probably the most unpopular soldier on base.
Watada is charged with missing a military movement and conduct unbecoming an officer. He believes the war in Iraq is illegal and is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.
"I believed the justifications. I believed they were true and factual and as we know now, they were grossly negligent and wrong," Watada says.
His military battle began in June, when his unit left for Iraq without him. He says going there would do more harm than good.
"Just being part of that would be adding more fuel to the fire instead of trying to put it out," he says.
He offered to go to Afghanistan because he believes the war there is justified. But the Army didn't go for that.

While independent media embraces its own uselessness, the mainstream puts it to shame. After 2006, are any of us surprised by that?

Last highlight goes to Pru, "Bush could end poverty - but instead spends $320 million a day on war" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

From the slums of Kenya to the streets of Washington there is disgust at George Bush and Tony Blair's "war on terror".
Pentagon figures released last week revealed that the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are costing the US government a staggering $320 million a day.
This is money that could be spent on fighting poverty and saving lives. Instead it is poured into death and destruction.
So far the US has spent $500 billion on war. That's enough to wipe out the entire debt of the world's poorest 54 countries.
Stanislaus Alusiola is from the Kibera shanty town in Kenya. He spoke to Socialist Worker at the World Social Forum, which is currently taking place in Kenya's capital Nairobi.
"There is terrible poverty in Africa that could be stopped with a tenth of the money spent on war," he said. "Why do we live in such conditions – with HIV/Aids, no schools and no toilets – yet there is so much money for war?
"Bush is a tyrant. He is destroying Iraq, eyeing Iran and now he has encouraged Ethiopia to invade Somalia. We need a world where Bush and Blair are gone and people's needs come first."
We have a chance to play our part in stopping this madness – join the demonstrations in London and Glasgow on 24 February.
The following should be read alongside this article: »
Stop the War activists pile on pressure for 24 February demo» Kurdish soldiers in Iraqi army refuse to fight against Arabs» US public rails against George Bush's 'troop surge' to Iraq
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