Thursday, January 25, 2007

Other Items

People seem to be under the impression that the mainstream press has awakened. You hear that and maybe they point to on-air crying during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (I'm not talking about victims who had every reason to express every emotion they felt, I'm referring to 'journalists'). What really happened besides a few tearful close ups?

Not too damn much. Kidnappings ("rendentions") are covered a little better today. Other abuses that have also been well documented for several years get covered a little better than they were in 2005 or 2004. But if you have any doubt that officials still get their asses kissed, that "down" can still pass for "up" if the call comes from the mouth of an official and that the press will bend over backwards to avoid noting the obvious read Borzou Daragahi's "Details on Iran's activity pledged" in the Los Angeles Times. Zalmay Take Me Away Khalilzad(soon to leave the Green Zone) declares that the Iranian diplomats have produced information and they (the US military) will assemble it and get it to the press shortly. That's the whole article. Now if you thought that the US deciding to ignore laws and customs would be news, you're wrong. This would be the perfect test of the so-called awakening of the mainstream press -- the article's focus is the diplomats and even something as basic as noting that governments are not allowed to storm diplomatic offices or to take them away gets ignored. Now when a US embassy gets stormed in the future and someone kidnaps US embassy staff, don't expect the rest world to boo-hoo because the US has demonstrated that it doesn't matter at all. All that matters is that you bully as much as you can get away with it. And thanks to lazy, frightened press, the US administration has overseen bullying in one form or another since January 2001.

Turning to news of Ehren Watada, Kayla notes Bobbie Morgan's "Guest Editorial: One young hero versus the mighty military" (Bainbridge Buzz):

Sometimes it takes a travesty to create a hero. We have a hero close by, awaiting a court martial for refusing to participate in the Iraq war because he feels it was never a lawful war. He is 28-year old Ehren Watada, a lieutenant in the US Army. He has a finely tuned sense of right and wrong, and he is quietly, but firmly, standing up to the full force of the United States Army. This, of course, is the same army that went to war without the authorization of the UN Security council, orchestrated Shock and Awe in Fallujah, where more civilians were killed than died in 9-11 attacks. This is the same army that oversaw multiple instances of torture at Abu Ghraib. This is the same army that has been responsible for tens of thousands of civilian deaths. And now, a young man's voice is saying "No."
In the world of the military, courage can take many forms. Our culture celebrates war, thrills at battle scenes, boasts of conquest, savors mighty weapons, and expects to be the dominant power of the world, utilizing the full force and destructive power of the military-industrial complex. But only seldom do we see courage take on another form: dissent.
[. . .]
The question is, do we let him stand alone? Do we remain aloof while he defends our precious democracy and pays the heavy price? Do we sit quietly while free speech is shut down, knowing that the loss of free speech for one voice is a loss for us all? Do we remain apathetic while Lt. Watada challenges the very legality of this dreadful war that is being waged in our name? Or do we rise up, show solidarity, join with the lieutenant, decry the rules that silence him, collectively spurn the actions that will jail this young hero, unite our voices with his against an unlawful war and show that we cherish our democracy, too? By our presence at the gates of Fort Lewis on the day of the trial, we can stand as witnesses to the travesty that brings courage, and we can say with our voices, with our banners and with our hearts, "Thank you, lieutenant. We salute you."

And we'll note Ken Mochizuki's "Lt. Watada Explains His Risky Stand On Iraq" (International Examiner via New American Media):

I.E.: You've had your pre-trial hearing and could possibly be facing six years in a military prison. How are you doing? Is there a lot of stress right now?
Watada: There's a little bit of stress because there is just so much to do. And, the main effort right now is to just get the word out about my case, and getting the awareness out to the American people. It's been very difficult to get it out to mainstream America, to the mainstream press, but I think Trevor is trying to help out with that. I've also done a lot of these interviews for smaller papers, which I think are equally important.
I.E.: Why is it difficult to get it out to the mainstream press?
Watada: I think it's because this issue is beyond just me. The media hasn't been too sure what to think about it, and people, too. The issue is hard to comprehend, and I think people and the media, like in Hawaii, have been trying to make it a personal issue. I'll give you an example: the Japanese Cultural Center in Hawaii wants to do some kind of educational panel about my issue. And the title of it is, "Lt. Ehren Watada: Dissenter or Deserter?" That was going to be the press release that was going out to the public. One of the organizers from the Japanese American Citizens League, who will be speaking on my behalf, asked how I felt about the press release. When you put "dissenter" and "deserter" in there, it’s an inaccurate representation of what the issue is because I’m not a deserter. The military defines desertion as somebody who leaves the Army and has no intention to come back. That's not the case. I've said publicly that I'm willing to face the consequences for my action. But, I would ask that I be given a fair trial. So, there's no desertion there. And, when it comes to dissension, I have dissented, obviously, against the orders I've been given. A better title, a better dichotomy would have been "patriot or traitor." That's what I wrote to her, and I didn't even like that because it didn't define what the issue is, and the issue is, is the war legal or not?
And, two, what is the responsibility of the American citizen? And if the war is illegal and immoral, what is their responsibility to end it? And, three, how the illegality of the war puts soldiers into a moral and legal quagmire in which they have to make a difficult decision. Do they just do what they're told, or do they do what their conscience dictates to them, knowing that it comes with pretty horrible consequences? Like prison, like if you have a family -- loss of income, benefits, and things like that.
So, those are the issues, and it's been hard to get the media to define it as such when they talk about the story. It’s more of a personal thing -- here's this soldier that refuses to go, and do you think he's right or wrong? And, it's pretty much split down the middle as to what people think about the war, and how much people know about me and the issue, and I think a lot of people who would consider themselves against the war, or Democrat or liberal, even they would be taken aback at first, saying, "Well, he signed up, he should go." But, when I talk to them and say it is the responsibility of officers to follow the Constitution, and not to just blindly follow whatever orders you're given, even those to go to war, then people kind of understand that and say, "Yeah, I guess I can see that and understand now." That’s been the growing support I’ve been getting, but it’s coming slowly. The first thing is getting the story out to people all over the country. And I think that's important not just for myself and my court martial, but also for the country in terms of, if this war is illegal and immoral, do the citizens of this country have the responsibility to do everything in their power to stop it? And not rely simply on their elected representatives or that one person who's in charge of everything?
I.E.: What do you think of the president’s proposal to increase the troop level in Iraq?
Watada: I think in one part he’s getting bad advice from these guys from The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication, so-called neo-conservative, and the American Enterprise Institute. These guys were the architects behind the push to invade Iraq in the first place. President Bush is ignoring the advice of his commanders on the ground, who said, "No, we do not need more troops. We need to train Iraqis and then plan for withdraw." He's pretty much ignoring them; he's ignoring the Iraqi Study Group's recommendations. He's going with the opinions of these guys who got it all wrong in the first place. Furthermore, it's been shown in the past -- Vietnam and other wars where they just escalated it -- nothing changed, and they have had 20,000 more troops at different periods throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom and it hasn't helped at all. It's just fueling the insurgency. I think it's a horrible mistake, and it's going to be detrimental to the military, to the Army, because it's being stretched more and more thin with this escalation of troops, this surge. But there is a point -- he's saying that we have to go in there and secure or stop the sectarian violence, and that we have to continue the reconstruction effort. However, he fails to mention that Congress stopped the reconstruction money a long time ago, and that the reconstruction effort failed miserably. We have already wasted billions in American taxpayer dollars that have gone to waste, fraud and corruption. Twenty thousand soldiers are not going to secure a city of six million.
And there's one other thing to note: in a few days, or they might have already passed it, the Iraqi parliament has already passed a law to give almost complete control of the oil preserves to BP, Shell, Exxon indefinitely. The oil companies will get 75 percent of the profits for an undetermined amount of time. And even when that time period ends, they will get 20 percent of the profits, which is double what any foreign oil corporation gets in another country from the oil profits. And, you have to think, what are we doing in Iraq? They determined a long time ago that our mere presence in Iraq is fueling extremists all over the world. So, in essence, it's not protecting America -- our occupation or war in Iraq. So, who is it protecting? With the passage of this new law, which had been engineered by the Bush administration, it’s clear that the American military is there to protect the corporate interests of American and European oil companies.

Ehren Watada faces a court-martial on February 5th. That's not that far away. Make sure you are talking to people -- at work, on campus, in the line at the grocery store, etc. -- about this and raising awareness on it. We'll note this from Stanley Campbell's "Left Justified: Soldiers protest the war" (Rock River Times) and prior to the excerpt, Campbell's sharing his own experiences as a veteran so use the link:

Rockford Peace & Justice Action Committee will show the video Sir, No Sir! Monday, Feb. 5, 7:30 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St. The program is free and open to the public (donations are gladly accepted for the Coffee Talk series).
You won't find much mutiny happening in Iraq, but there are soldiers who are refusing to return to that horrible mistake of a war. A military court is now sentencing one of them, a Lieutenant Watada, because he refused to return to his unit that was getting sent back to Iraq. He had already served two tours and felt the war was immoral, and he could not abide by it.
In a remarkable protest from inside the ranks of the military, 1st Lt. Ehren Watada has become the Army's first commissioned officer to publicly refuse orders to fight in Iraq on grounds the war's illegal. The 28-year-old announced his decision not to obey orders to deploy to Iraq by saying, "My participation will make me party to war crimes."
He is an artillery officer stationed at Fort Lewis Wash., and he wore a business suit rather than his military uniform when making his statement. "It's my conclusion as an officer of the armed forces that the Iraq war is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law," he said. "Although I have tried to resign out of protest, I am forced to participate in a war that is manifestly illegal. As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must, as an officer of honor and integrity, refuse that order."
There are veterans in Rockford who march with us against the Iraq war. Our last visit to Rep. Don Manzullo’s office saw a former Marine and a Korean War Army veteran. There are other peace-loving veterans here, and if we get 10 more, we can start our own Veterans for Peace chapter. These guys (and gals) have been around for a while and are getting better organized. I hope to march with them in Washington, D.C. Forever loyal--to the Constitution!

Ehren Watada and the press is the subject of the round-table in this morning's gina & krista round-robin. Check your inboxes. Remember the round-robin is in daily mode through Monday morning. If you'd like to participate in any of the roundtables scheduled through Sunday, e-mail Gina or Kirsta. The same if you have something to say, write of photos to share about the demonstrations in DC or in your own area.

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