Wednesday, January 31, 2007

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Watada is not alone. Poll after poll points to an ever rising tide of public opposition to President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq. This soldier is unique, however, in that he is the first commissioned U.S. military officer to refuse Iraq deployment.
I am neither a lawyer nor a veteran, and it is not my place to opine on the legality or military propriety of Lt. Watada's actions. I am, however, a proud and patriotic American solemnly entrusted by his friends and neighbors to represent them, their hopes, their dreams and their principles in the greatest deliberative body in the world.
I voted against giving President Bush the authority to use military force in Iraq, and do not believe his justifications for taking us into war were even minimally adequate. As a duly elected member of Congress, I express my admiration for a young American who, in the same spirit, has heeded his conscience at tremendous risk to livelihood, reputation and personal freedom in order to right what he and the vast majority of his compatriots see as a tremendous wrong.
This soldier is neither a conscientious objector nor a pacifist. He volunteered to serve his nation in the armed forces, has expressed his willingness to fight in our struggle in Afghanistan, and declined his superiors' offer to deploy to a desk job in Iraq, out of harm's way. There is not, nor can there be, the slightest doubt as to this young man's bravery, patriotism or commitment to his fellow soldiers.
In facing charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, it is my belief that Ehren Watada has laid bare a fact that is becoming increasingly plain: Mr. Bush has handled this war in a manner unbecoming a United States president.
At best, our president misled the nation on the rationale for going into Iraq. He has embroiled this great country in a cycle of brutality there that has grievously tarnished America's international reputation, has further destabilized an already precarious Middle East and has taken the lives of more than 3,000 American fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.
Watada has risked being deemed guilty of breaking one law in furtherance of a higher, moral one, rather than participate in a fight that, in his and my view, needlessly sends our compatriots to their deaths.
In Watada's own words: "To stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers and service members can choose to stop fighting it" (, click on YouTube video).

The above is from Mike Honda's "Watada Chose To Stop Fighting" (San Francisco Chronicle). Mike Honda (US Rep from California) has stepped up to the plate, many others play stupid (it is playing, right?). Now let's dive in to what's resulted in 311 e-mails this morning. End Zone says it should be called "Dumb Ass of the Day."

"The bottom line is that if you think it's okay to send Watada to prison for speaking his conscience and saying what he thinks, you're probably also comfortable with the idea that a journalist should collaborate by giving testimony against him. If, on the other hand, you think Watada has the right to explain publicly why he refuses to deploy to Iraq, you cannot possibly think that Sarah Olson should have been forced to testify against him."

What is that? It's nonsense.

It's a bunch of things, but it isn't reality. Sheldon Rampton wrote it. Not everyone (journalist or not) agrees that she was being asked to testify against Watada (she was being asked to affirm the veracity of her reporting). I've certainly gotten into enough arguments with journalists on this topic to know that there is a wide range of opinions as to whether or not this was a case of censorship or not. (I've noted I'm sympathetic to Olson. I've noted I wouldn't testify in the same situation. I've noted that Olson had to do what was best for her.)

Here's something to toss back to Sheldon: If you think Ehren Watada matters, shame on you (that's a collective "you" and it's a big "you") for staying silent until a journalist entered the story. If you think Watada matters, you don't wait to speak out until a journalist may or may not be at risk. If you think Watada matters, you use your power to get the word out.

I don't know if Sheldon thinks Watada matters. I know that a group of people realize how stupid they look. I know that when you recruit people to write about Olson and they demonstrate that they don't even know Watada's case, they look stupid.

I know that you look stupid when you lobby editorial boards for an editorial in support of Olson and you get none, you look stupid if you've bragged about how it's going to appear. (Anyone with a half a brain knows nothing is 'for sure' until it's in print or on air.)

I know that when the left that largely trusts in their pundits to cover the important issues see this tawdry thing play out, they grasp what has happened. They get that the same pundits rushing in the last few weeks on Olson never did a damn thing on Watada. They wrote columns . . . but not on Watada. Suddenly, Olson may or may not testify and she may or may not have to go to jail for six months if she refuses, and this, THIS, the 'wise sages' register. They're silent on Ehren Watada. Ava, Jess and I were speaking with students yesterday and this came up in five different events. We didn't raise it. But students are noting it. They're noting that 'brave voices' did nothing for Watada and then, when Olson was judged to be at risk, they suddenly couldn't shut up about . . . Olson and included Watada as a footnote.

During one of the discussions, I noted that Rosa (Ehren's step-mother) had a stroke Saturday while in DC and how the family is doing everything they can to raise awareness on Ehren. One young man stood up and stated, "Hold on! Hold on! You're telling me that his step-mother had a stroke on Saturday and all I saw on my [computer] screen was 'poor little journalist'?" Yes, that is correct. She had a mild stroke Saturday in DC, she collapsed, Ann Wright caught her, she was taken the hospital.

But by all means, make your 'coverage' of Ehren all about what might happen to Olson. Now nothing happened to Olson and it's time for the ones who wasted their time and yours to try to defend the gross abuse of their power (the 'creative trust' steering the Olson coverage wasn't the abuse -- the failure to cover Watada was -- and they had months to cover Watada). So, like Sheldon above, they issue these laughable, self-justifying statements.

I don't dislike Sheldon (unlike Keesha, I haven't pulled the jointly written books from my book cases) but that's just nonsense, that comment is just nonsense.

And maybe you save the lectures when, in the words of Stevie Wonder, "You Ain't Done Nothing." And on Watada, they haven't -- the 'creative trust' came together for Olson. Watada's still going to be court-martialed. They didn't care enough to write about it before Olson and they don't care enough to write about it post-Olson.

It wasn't about Ehren Watada. Was it about free speech? Who knows. But it was about protecting their own.

It's interesting how the free speech issues work and we can turn to the New York Times for an example. Judith Miller is back on the front page. Not with a byline. She's the topic of a story by Neil A. Lewis and Scott Shane. A really bad story. "Ex-Reporter for Times Testifies For Prosecutor Who Jailed Her" is the title.

Will any bother to note the article? Lewis and Shane go to town on Miller. That's fine, if that's what they want to do. But to portray Miller's reasons for refusing to name sources in the snarky manner they do ("She asserted that Mr. Libby had released her from her vow of confidentiality.") is really shameful.

Now, Matt Cooper did show up, day he would have been sentenced, trumpeting a new release (that wasn't). But no one's supposed to notice or supposed to comment on that.

Now Miller went to jail. She maintained that a document signed (at the White House's request) wasn't a genuine release. She maintained that she needed more than something someone signed under duress before she could release her source. That may be the only thing in the Judith Miller saga that has never changed.

But Shane and Lewis can get nasty and snide, rough her up in print (what Big Boys!) because no one's going to come Miller's defense on any detail. Matt Cooper got a pass and continues to get one.

(We've covered all of this, Google if you're visiting.)

So Miller can get trashed and mocked from her former paper. It's embarrassing how quickly they turn on each other. It has nothing to do with news, it has everything to do with lazy BOYS who want to have fun. If this were outrage over Miller's 'reporting' readers wouldn't face the crap on A10. James Glanz and Mark Mazzetti's "Iran May Have Trained Attackers Who Killed 5 Americans, U.S. and Iraqi Officials Say." And they MAY NOT. Which goes unstated. Mazzetti's a stocky kind of byline, always rushing in whatever he's fed into print. (And note that the "may" is based on a 'gut' feeling that Iraqis aren't smart enough -- read the article, that's what it's pushing. Iraqis aren't smart enough to plan an attack like the Saturday one that resulted in the kidnapping of four US troops.)

So with no proof and the Bully Boy making war noises about Iran, Glanz and Mazzetti churn out an article based on what they were fed and one that can't be verified, pure speculation.

Now can someone explain to me why the paper feels it can mock Miller? This is a replay of the type of stories she wrote in the lead up to Iraq. It's happening now with Iran. So Lewis and Shane going to town on Miller isn't about news -- it's about the wolves feeding on their own when one of them goes down.

I am sympathetic to Olson. She is not the story and should not have been made the story, I'll agree with that. But what's angering members right now isn't Sarah Olson. It's a bunch of dumb men trying to call it a "win" that they're somehow responsible for (West, I saw your e-mail, that was embarrassing, who knows what ___ was thinking) for something amazing.

The reality is that the petitions and the news coverage of Olson didn't make anything happen. Didn't accomplish anything. (Except to sideline Ehren Watada from his own story.)

The reality is that, in June, Ehren stood up publicly and refused to deploy to Iraq. The reality is that he stood up Monday and put an end to the circus that had even brought the TV show host who brought transvestites to Middle America out of retirement. Ehren stood up in June, Ehren stood up Monday.

All the Sheldons didn't "do nothing." They wasted time. Ehren Watada stood up in June and they refuse to cover him. He stood up when they were ineffectual with Olson. He stands up. They whimper. That's reality.

"They whimper." Olson needs to learn how to give "yes" or "no" answers when she decides to give interviews. The thing with Goodman drove that home yesterday. But the point is, Sarah Olson isn't writing (and hopefully won't) these self-serving op-eds. Hold the men accountable. I know the community doesn't like Olson. I understand that and respect it.

But the anger at Sheldon's "dumb ass of the day" remarks should be aimed at him. Olson's not the one going to town on this issue. She got (my opinion) lousy legal advice. Norman Solomon was loyal and caring to come to her aid. But at some point all the chattering commentary missed the point. Sarah Olson was never facing court-martial.

The silence on Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Kyle Snyder and others is appalling. The refusal to cover Ehren is shameful. But, the problems voiced in the e-mails aren't with Olson. Those problems are with Sheldon, with Matthew Rothschild, etc. (And are you noticing it's all men?)

Be ticked with Olson, laugh at her delivery, whatever. But the anger I'm seeing in the e-mails feels like overlap. It's not at Olson. It's falling on her. I know she's not well liked and I understand where that feeling comes from (the sense that so many couldn't be bothered with Watada but can rush in the second one of their own is in trouble). But here's the thing, while Matthew Rothschild, Sheldon, John Nichols, Phil Donahue, etc. couldn't weigh in to cover Ehren Watada, Sarah Olson did.

On KPFA's Flashpoints last week, she made strong points and there was a feeling among the community of, "Okay, she's not so bad." In that interview, she was explaining the importance of war resisters, she (and Norman Solomon) were going deep into the topic of the press, of war resisters. The good will vanished quickly. But look at what caused that. Olson didn't write two pieces about herself at The Nation. (Emily Howard did the interview with Olson and Solomon -- last Monday.)

I am not attempting to shut down the discussion. I am not trying to say, "You will be sympathetic to Sarah Olson!" I am saying that Sheldon's pissed off the community (and Rothschild to a lesser degree). Those are two men. Two much older men. If you're mad at old men, be mad at them. (Old White men.) The problems are that these men never covered Ehren. Olson did.

If she writes or says anything that grates on you, hold her accountable. But these gas bags pissing so many of you off are not Sarah Olson.

Today in the New York Times, we see how women are treated again. Matt Cooper who could have named Karl Rove before the 2004 election, Matt Cooper who covered the story for Time while being involved in it without telling readers, Matt Cooper who . . . go down the list. I don't like Judith Miller (and have been very clear about that) but it's interesting that she bears the brunt for herself, for Cooper and for all the other 'reporters' who enabled the administration and tossed journalism out the window.

Hold Olson accountable for what she does. Her comments, her delivery. And we will note it here if it's something that members feel strongly about. But when men are the problem (and they are the problem with their dopey gas baggery today), aim the anger at them. I don't believe women get a pass. But I don't believe they take responsibility for their actions as well as men. Hold Olson accountable for what she does and has done. Hold the 'Big' Boys accountable for their own actions. (Also Rebecca's commentary is a must read.)

Now the gas bag boys are wasting our time (yet again -- like when they showed up last summer to talk about the latest in Iraq . . . Judith Miller's pre-war reporting!). Patrick Cockburn's breaking news. From his "US 'victory' against cult leader was 'massacre'" (Independent of London):

There are growing suspicions in Iraq that the official story of the battle outside Najaf between a messianic Iraqi cult and the Iraqi security forces supported by the US, in which 263 people were killed and 210 wounded, is a fabrication. The heavy casualties may be evidence of an unpremeditated massacre.
A picture is beginning to emerge of a clash between an Iraqi Shia tribe on a pilgrimage to Najaf and an Iraqi army checkpoint that led the US to intervene with devastating effect. The involvement of Ahmed al-Hassani (also known as Abu Kamar), who believed himself to be the coming Mahdi, or Messiah, appears to have been accidental.
The story emerging on independent Iraqi websites and in Arabic newspapers is entirely different from the government's account of the battle with the so-called "Soldiers of Heaven", planning a raid on Najaf to kill Shia religious leaders.
The cult denied it was involved in the fighting, saying it was a peaceful movement. The incident reportedly began when a procession of 200 pilgrims was on its way, on foot, to celebrate Ashura in Najaf. They came from the Hawatim tribe, which lives between Najaf and Diwaniyah to the south, and arrived in the Zarga area, one mile from Najaf at about 6am on Sunday. Heading the procession was the chief of the tribe, Hajj Sa'ad Sa'ad Nayif al-Hatemi, and his wife driving in their 1982 Super Toyota sedan because they could not walk. When they reached an Iraqi army checkpoint it opened fire, killing Mr Hatemi, his wife and his driver, Jabar Ridha al-Hatemi. The tribe, fully armed because they were travelling at night, then assaulted the checkpoint to avenge their fallen chief.
Members of another tribe called Khaza'il living in Zarga tried to stop the fighting but they themselves came under fire. Meanwhile, the soldiers and police at the checkpoint called up their commanders saying they were under attack from al-Qai'da with advanced weapons. Reinforcements poured into the area and surrounded the Hawatim tribe in the nearby orchards. The tribesmen tried - in vain - to get their attackers to cease fire.
American helicopters then arrived and dropped leaflets saying: "To the terrorists, surrender before we bomb the area." The tribesmen went on firing and a US helicopter was hit and crashed killing two crewmen. The tribesmen say they do not know if they hit it or if it was brought down by friendly fire. The US aircraft launched an intense aerial bombardment in which 120 tribesmen and local residents were killed by 4am on Monday.

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