Thursday, February 01, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

On Free Speech Radio News today, Naomi Fowler reported from London on Tony Blair's latest problems. The appointments for pay scandal is news in England and it turns out that Tony Blair's been questioned again by the police "but kept the news from the press until today."
Fowler reported that the police are said to be being stonewalled and denied "access to official communications and documents."

Tony Blair was expecting this to be a series of victory laps and fawning press as he prepared to step down (in May or June according to some reports). The Iraq war has seriously damaged his reputation. Afghanistan hasn't been on the radar in the United States as much as it has been in England and that's another issue harming him. The Chatham House report (see snapshot on December 19th) didn't get any traction in the United States but it did get attention in England and it was massive rebuke of Blair, the joined-at-the-hip relationship he had with the Bully Boy and of the Iraq war.

The victory laps don't appear to be in the offing and Blair will probably leave office with the expected fawning but not a great deal more and certainly not to cheers of "Mr. Tony" as he'd hoped. The costs he will pay for the illegal war of choice aren't as heavy as the costs and burdens on many, but it has stained his reputation and Mr. Tony will find, like Lady MacBeth, that the (blood) stain won't wipe away.

We're opening with that for two reasons. First, we have European community members and they are seeing how an illegal war can poison the image of a 'leader.' Second, I've been on the road speaking and when I'm away all week, I don't have as much of independent media to note as usual. We have members who prefer audio but can utilize text and we have couples who are members where one partner has to read text if that's all we have to offer. So my apologies for that. Democracy Now! may be the only thing providing audio that we've noted all week. (Oh, wait, we noted Terry Gross' Stale Gas.) Kat is always worth reading (and her latest review should be up on Saturday) but she's covered a number of KPFA programs in this entry.

Also, just to do some house cleaning. Blogger/Blogspot is presenting people with a "Do you want to switch the site over to Beta?" option where you can say "no" once. That happened to Cedric last week. It happened here this morning. We were already cutting it close for the first thing we had to do today (speaking on a campus), so I phoned a friend to do the switch. I didn't know, nor did she, that it would take so long or that while it was going on, the site would be gone (an error message, according to the e-mails, was up for 40 to 45 minutes during the switch that noted the site was being switched to Beta). Everyone's now switched over except Wally and Elaine. Elaine plans to switch over tomorrow night. If she's late going up (or if she doesn't post until Saturday) it may mean the switch has taken longer than planned. (Wally's planning to switch over this weekend while we're all working on The Third Estate Sunday Review.)

Now, leaping back into Iraq, Dona was kind enough to put the phone near a speaker for KFPA's Flashpoints tonight. Robert Knight noted that the Bully Boy's planned escalation now has symobolic opposition (from "photo op senators") and a new study by the Congressional Budget Office states that 48,000 will be the increase in Bully Boy's escalation and will cost between 9 and 13 million dollars for just four months of the escalation. (Robert Knight, for those who haven't caught Flashpoints, does the headlines at the top of the show and provides them in a biting, no nonsense way -- so if you've never checked the show out, please do so.)

Nora Barrows Friedman interviewed Dahr Jamail (see Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily's "Official Lies Over Najaf Battle Exposed") about the Najaf massacre. Jamail: "What we do know for sure according to Iraqi doctors . . . 253 killed and another 210 wounded." Jamail stated that the people want to be self-governing and that the "members of the tribes were starting to stand up because they want to be self-governing". A tribal leader and his wife were gunned down, Jamail stated, and this was the instigating incident of the violence that followed. Jamail noted the "bogus story about a Shia messianic cult" with an intent to take out clerics and how that nonsense was run by the New York Times. What their (Jamail and al-Fadhily) contacts have provided them with demonstrates that it was women, children, civilians being attacked.

Dahr spoke of a source in Baquba ("very mixed town") who noted that "just weeks after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003" the US military "brought together all of the religous leaders into a tent" in Baquba and had Shia and Sunnis go to opposite sides which is the sort of division that the US created and cemented. This is also reflected today in the proposals by some (Joe Biden for one) that Iraq be split into three regions (Kurds, Sunnis and Shi'ites). This echoes what MADRE's Yanar Mohammed discussed with Laura Flanders on the December 9th broadcast of RadioNation with Laura Flanders that, after the invasion, the questions asked (by Americans) were "Are you Shia or Sunni?" Dahr noted that the US government wants to split the country into three or four regions.

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, we noted AP's number for the US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3067. Currently? 3084. As noted in the snapshot today, AFP puts the total for the month at 90. (A total that will likely climb higher as the military announces more January deaths.)

And during Vietnam, if you served, you could tell yourself, I just have to make it through to X, once that day comes, I'm out of here. Today, that day rarely comes. Everytime you think you're done because, according to regulations, you should be, the 'deciders' add some time. Such as this news that Russ Bynum (AP) reports:

The commander of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division said Thursday his troops planning to leave the Army or transfer to other posts may be held back so they can deploy to Iraq instead.
With the division heading into its third tour in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said none of his troops will be allowed to retire, transfer, or leave after their enlistment expires without his approval.
"For now it is necessary that we retain every soldier in the division," Lynch said in a letter published Thursday in Fort Stewart's newspaper, The Frontline. "We will receive new personnel, but there will not be further departures without my approval."
Lynch's order is expected to affect about 350 soldiers planning to leave Fort Stewart in the coming months, said Lt. Col. Randy Martin, a 3rd Infantry spokesman.

There's no point in even counting off the days because as your time to leave approaches, the military is going to reset the clock. Not only does that destroy morale, it also screws people over because while a US service member serving in Iraq is trying to count down the days, there's someone, a family member, a friend, who's also counting the days down. And actions like the one above demonstrate that there's no point because there is no end. There will be no end until the troops are brought home.

Ali Fadaam (McClatchy Newspapers) offers this in the roundup of violence for today:

The spokeswomen of the MNF kitty brown said that two British military Bases exposed yesterday night and this morning to bombing with Katyosha missiles and a number of mortar shells without any damages. And she add that the British base in the Basra international Airport northwest of Basra exposed last night to attack by Katyosha missile and in the middle of Basra the British consulate exposed to mortar attack without mentioning the number of the shells felled on the consulate.

The above is why, before 2006 ended, they began evacuating non-essential staff from the British consulate. And this isn't something new, it's something that's been ongoing. There's been no stopping it. No attempts to stop it have worked.

It's the same thing day after day, caught in an ever repeating loop. It's why school attendance for Iraqi children has plummeted, it's why those who can afford to do so are leaving Iraq and resettling in other countries. And those who can't are trapped in the chaos and violence that the Bully Boy created with his illegal war of choice.

A documentary on the effects of this illegal war on Iraqis has been made and Liang notes Ben Hamamoto's "Japanese Director Takes a Birds-Eye View of Iraq War" (The Nichi Bei Times):

Japanese filmmaker Takeharu Watai was in Iraq when the U.S. Armed Forces dropped the first bombs in the March 2003 invasion. He remained there after the "Mission Accomplished" banner was unfurled and the occupation began. He was there filming ordinary citizens, living normally before the chaos of war tore into the country. And he captured it all on camera.
Watai's documentary, "Little Birds" is culled from over 123 hours of footage and it shows the war from a viewpoint rarely seen in U.S. media. The film unfolds chronologically and begins with pre-war life. The Iraq on display is a peaceful one, with comparatively poor, but by no means destitute, families anxious about the impending violence.
[. . .]

Nichi Bei Times: Of all the footage you recorded, the approximately two hours that constitutes the documentary is focused very heavily on children. Why did you decide to emphasize this?
Takeharu Watai: I had been in Iraq for almost three years. A lot of civilians were killed in this war, especially children, because in Iraq there are lots of children. Families with three or four children are common, sometimes even five or six. Children are more fragile, so they are more likely to be seriously injured. Even small shrapnel fragments from a missile can be fatal; so many children have been dying. I followed a family, in which the man lost three children. Another person I focus on is a girl who was injured by a cluster bomb dropped by the U.S.
NBT: There has been a lot of criticism that American mainstream media has not covered the war objectively. What is the media coverage like in Japan?
TW: I think American media shows only the American viewpoint. Arabic media only shows the Arabic viewpoint. In Japan we get a lot of our coverage from American news, AP, Reuters, etc. Individually, you may see newspapers or TV coverage of Iraqi families. Lately, not so much, because it is so dangerous in Iraq, Japanese media all evacuated. Only NHK, Japanese public media, is still there. But even they cannot go outside easily. They are escorted by armed guards

Ehren Watada's mother Carolyn Ho has done speaking events where Little Birds was discussed and shown. Ehren Watada, who faces a court-martial on Monday, is the focus for the bulk of the rest of tonight's entry. First up, Kevin notes Dean Paton's "Backstory: Dissent of an officer" (Christian Science Monitor):

Carolyn Ho was at her apartment that overlooks Kaneohe Bay on the windward side of Oahu, on another enviable evening of silk-shirt temperatures, when the phone rang. It was New Year's Day 2006. Her son, Ehren, was calling from Fort Lewis, near Tacoma, Wash., where he was stationed as an artillery officer in the US Army.
She assumed he was calling to wish her a happy New Year. He had something else on his mind. He told her he was opposed to the war in Iraq and was going to refuse to deploy there. "I was surprised and pretty much went ballistic over it," recalls Ms. Ho. "I tried to talk him out of it."
A week later, Ho – with the help of a Kahlil Gibran poem reminding her that we don't really own our children – changed her mind and has supported her son ever since. Proudly. Fiercely.
On Monday she will be doing it again as 1st Lt. Ehren Watada goes on trial in a military court as the nation's first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq.
It's a trial with significance beyond Lieutenant Watada. The case will provide a test of how far officers can go in resisting an order and how much they can criticize their superiors – notably the commander in chief. Over time, Watada came to believe that the Bush administration lied about the reasons for invading Iraq and concluded its actions were "illegal and immoral."
The Pentagon, however, argues that no soldier can pick and choose assignments, something that would undermine a core tenet of the military – the command structure. It also says that when people join the Army, they lose some of the free-speech rights of a civilian.
Thus Watada faces two charges of conduct unbecoming an officer, for his suggestion that President Bush "deceived" Americans, and one count of "missing movement." Two other charges were dropped. He could get a maximum sentence of four years in prison.
The trial comes at a time when the antiwar movement is gaining strength, which has added to its symbolic importance. Almost overnight, Watada has become a poster child for critics of the war – a sort of Cindy Sheehan in fatigues. He speaks at public rallies. His father addressed the antiwar protest in Washington D.C. last weekend.

Carolyn Ho has not waited for things to happen, she has been very active and spoken of how that's the only way she can deal with what's coming -- focusing on the day to day.
Liang notes Ben Hamamoto's "As Court Martial Approaches, Watada’s Mother Speaks in SF"
(The Nichi Bei Times):

Watada supporters took to the street all over the country on Saturday, joining large crowds of anti-war protestors. Organizers told the San Francisco Chronicle that approximately 10,000 people attended the rally in that city. The keynote speaker, however, was a Watada supporter who is otherwise not a public figure -- his mother, Carolyn Ho.
In addition to her appearance at the anti-war rally, Ho attended a large number of events in the San Francisco Bay Area over the past weekend. She appeared on Saturday, Jan. 27 at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California and at an Oakland screening of the film "Little Birds."
The following day she made a series of appearances in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
"Today was a milestone," Rev. Norman Fong, one of the event’s organizers, said after Ho spoke. "The community overall has not (given Watada) a lot of press, so today we invited them. It will be on Chinese TV which will be very important because it’s broadcast to the whole Bay Area… 500 people showed up, youths and seniors... it was very powerful."
Ho urged the Chinatown audience to write letters, sign petitions and post signs demanding that the military drop the charges and allow Watada to resign.
"I ask you right now to take action in support of him," Ho told the crowd at Chinatown's Cameron House. "The way this resolves itself will speak to the soldiers and tell them whether or not they are being supported and it will speak to the politicians as to how we feel about the war (and soldiers' rights)."
The Thank You Lt. Watada Website's petition to support Watada and request the military accept his resignation has reached tens of thousands of signatures as of Jan. 31.

While some practice the Cowards Silence (such as The Nation), others step up to the plate.
Tori notes Diane Kay's "Who is Lt. Watada? U.S. officer being unjustly court-martialed" (The Maine Campus) which traces the backstory of Ehren Watada:

Lt. Ehren Watada is the first commissioned officer to refuse his orders to go to war in Iraq. He is facing a court-martial trial on Monday, Feb. 5 and, if convicted, could go to prison for four years - previously six years, but two charges against him have recently been dropped. He believes that the current occupation of Iraq is illegal and immoral, and as an officer believes that it would be criminal for him to lead his unit into a war that he believes is illegal.
Ehren Watada's story begins at Hawaii Pacific University, where he was a senior in the spring of 2003. Watada was a finance major, and graduated magna cum laude. The war in Iraq had just begun, and Watada, like many Americans, believed that Iraq posed a real threat to the United States, had WMDs and was connected to Sept. 11.
He entered the U.S. Army officer candidate program following graduation to pursue a career in the military. Watada served in Korea in 2003 and 2004, earned the rank of lieutenant, and received excellent reviews of his work by his superior officers. In 2005, Lt. Watada and his unit returned to the United States, and were stationed in Ft. Lewis, Wash. Lt. Watada knew that his unit would eventually be deployed to Iraq, and he began to study as much as he could to prepare himself and his unit for deployment.

We're noting Carolyn Ho's speaking tour leading up to the court-martial in the snapshot. Kelli notes Joe Piasecki item (Pasadena Weekly) on her speaking in Little Tokyo (in Los Angeles) at an event Saturday organized by the Asian Emrican Veterans Organization (intersection of San Pedro and Second). Information on this and other events can be found by clicking here. That includes the following event:

Your last opportunity to hear from Lt. Watada
in person prior to his military court martial!!
Saturday, February 3, 7 PM

University Temple United Methodist Church
1415 NE 43rd Street,

Seattle WA(next to the University Bookstore).
$10 suggested donation for the event.
No one will be turned away.

Molly Ivins passed away yesterday and she was an important voice and a wonderful person. It is a huge loss. However, we're not about to highlight crap on her. What qualifies as "crap"? Since Molly was (rightly) disgusted with how Iraq fell off the media's radar in July and August, since she made a public pledge to dedicate her columns to covering Iraq, you're either an idiot or someone who doesn't care about the war (I'm speaking of professional writers) if you want to "share" about Ivins and can't note that.

Regardless of which you are, what you've contributed is "crap" and we're not highlighting it. Now maybe your outlet (example: The Nation) doesn't give a damn about the war (as they've demonstrated throughout last year and continue to do so this year) but, unlike The Nation, Molly Ivins believed in the power of people. Ignoring her pledge on Iraq may allow you to sleep better at night about your own COWARDS SILENCE, but it's not honoring Molly and I'll be damned if we'll highlight your ___ here. When I had my cancer scare in 2005, she said keep going. If I die tomorrow, I'm not going to be plauged, in my final moments, with why did I stay silent or give up. Apparently others can live with that, can embrace it. Hopefully, the people around them will continue to pester them for years to come with questions of "Mommy" or "Daddy," "Why didn't you do your part to stop the war?" (The immediate answer that springs to mind is "Because your parent is a coward.")

Molly believed that people can be control of their lives and in control of their power. Anyone who knew her, knew that about her. Anyone who wants to write their memories and doesn't include that and apply it to Iraq is dishonoring her. ("Bless his/her heart," a technique she once said was used in Texas when you wanted to speak ill of someone -- add that to end.) I don't have time for it. What we do have time for is a worthy highlight, Kara notes NOW's "In Memoriam: Molly Ivins:"

Fans of political journalism and plain old common sense suffered a great loss with the passing of syndicated columnist Molly Ivins on Jan. 31. A true woman of the people, Ivins never missed an opportunity to question authority. Her wit was sharp, her way with words enviable, and her purpose sincere. In early January, Ivins promised that she would dedicate every one of her columns to the war in Iraq "until we find some way to end it." She had the opportunity to write only two such pieces before her death from breast cancer -- but they were memorable pieces.
In her Jan. 4 column, Ivins stated: "This country is being torn apart by an evil and unnecessary war.... This war is being prosecuted in our names, with our money, with our blood, against our will." In her next, and final, piece, Ivins said: "...if Republicans want to continue to rubber-stamp this administration's idiotic 'plans' and go against the will of the people, they should be thrown out as soon as possible, to join their recent colleagues.... We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders."

Molly is the subject of the roundtable in tomorrow's gina & krista round-robin (as Mike noted in his post tonight). I didn't meet her until 1991 when a friend's daughter was having a problem with a college professor and asked for some advice. I offered my opinion and she said, "You have to meet Molly." And you really did HAVE TO meet Molly. And, if you were lucky, you did. She knew Molly growing up (her father served in the Texas legislature) and she was kind enough to participate in the roundtable. She talks very movingly of what it was like for a girl turning to into a woman to be able to go to Molly regularly for advice (which always came with humor), so please check your inboxes for that tomorrow morning. I don't know what we'll be doing to note Molly at The Third Estate Sunday Review. I'm drained still from the round-table and (as Rebecca noted) cancer's not my favorite topic. But we will be doing something. Charlie joked in an e-mail about my needing to dictate slower regarding the snapshot -- all those errors today were my own -- I typed it (wish I could say otherwise, but . . .). I'll try to fix typos in the Molly section after this post but that's not something I wanted to write ever. She was too important not to note.

The work of two other people who believe in the power of people (and will hopefully be with us for many years to come) was noted on KPFA's Flashpoints, Anthony Arnove and Howard Zinn with a broadcast of their presentation of The People Speak (featuring Alice Walker and others).
Take time to appreciate the ones who are still with us that work to make a difference.

The e-mail address for this site is I'm drained beyond belief, expect nothing tomorrow morning. (Something will go up, just don't expect it to be even remotely worth reading.)