Sunday, February 11, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

"A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking about real money," famously quipped U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen back in the 1960s.
Our minds boggled last week at U.S. government estimates that President George W. Bush's so-called "war on terror" (including Afghanistan and Iraq) will cost at least $690 billion US by next year. That's more than the total cost of World War I, Korea, or Vietnam, and second only to World War II’s $2 trillion.
This means that by 2008, Bush's wars in the Muslim world will have cost each American man, woman and child $2,300.
Defeat looms in Iraq; Afghanistan is headed that way. And now U.S. intelligence reports al-Qaida is stronger than ever. Osama Bin Laden, who said the only way to expel U.S. influence from the Muslim world was to bleed the U.S. financially, must be beaming.

The above is from Eric Margolis' "Squandering Billions in Iraq While U.S. Suffers" (Toronto Sun via Common Dreams) on the financial costs of the illegal war. Cindy e-mailed to note that and she noted some other things as well. As requested they've just been passed on (and yes, you matched them up correctly) and will probably appear at other community sites on Monday. But we'll note now that there's a lot of strong content up at Common Dreams currently.

There's also a great deal at CounterPunch, which Elaine always highlights, but I'll be greedy and grab two of the highlights Mia noted. First Missy Comley Beattie's "Fear and Diversions:"

So far in February, the "Coalition" fatality rate is four a day. Thirty-three U.S. soldiers have died this month; two British troops and one from Poland have been killed. The average daily number of Iraqi deaths is sixty-two. That is 558 in just nine days.
I know if I turn on the television right now, I will see footage of Anna Nicole Smith. I am sorry that she died. I'm feel sad for her child, her family, and friends. But I am disgusted by the inane anchors who speculate about her short life, the death of her son just months ago, and the birth of her daughter whose father has yet to be determined. Last night, CNN's Wolf Blitzer repeatedly asked what kind of hospital the "Reality Television" star was taken to. This on his show so pathetically called "The Situation Room." Breaking News on "The Situation Room" is the collapse and death of Anna Nicole. Breaking News on "The Situation Room" is never the reality of Iraq. The many tragedies there are relegated to the crawl.
Here's the situation: Next month marks the fourth year of an illegal and conquest-oriented invasion and occupation, a neocon exploit that has claimed the lives of almost 3,120 U.S. military personnel and an estimated 650,000 Iraqis. As lawmakers quibble over a troop surge, George Bush and Dick Cheney are plotting to bomb Iran.
Retired Brigadier General David Grange was perfectly positioned after Blitzer's baloney broadcast and before another CNN lightweight, Larry King, who interviewed friends and family of A. N. Smith. Grange said that Iran, a member of Bush's "Axis of Evil," is responsible for many of the Improvised Explosive Devices now killing our troops.
The Mainstream Media are dealing in diversions and fear.

For the record, we do highlight both CounterPunch and Common Dreams here but, on CounterPunch alone, there are twelve members highlighting things that have gone up this weekend. We'll grab another one Mia highlighted that Francisco did as well. But where are we now? The costs in coin and blood. And the media's off on a celebrity death which replaces the other non-news story of the kidnapper or planned kidnapper (the New York Times wasted a ton of space on that nonsense, I chose to avoid it all).

Remember all that talk, all those empty promises, from the media after September 11, 2001? How they'd be serious and how the nonsense of sex scandals and chasing down junk news was over, a new day was dawning, we were told. Apparently they operate on a different timeline because that day still hasn't arrived.

What has arrived is an illegal war that gets a little attention, from other than those who always give it attention, when something especially violent happens. You can almost picture Hill & Knowlton counseling the Iraqi resistance, "The corpse count just doesn't interest the press anymore. You've got to think bigger, BIGGER!" It's shameful and embarrassing that a war goes on and the media largely ignores it. (The New York Times only offered Damien Cave this morning -- covering the topic of Iraq.) People die every day in Iraq, fighters for all sides (including the resistance), innocents caught in the crossfire of a 'battlefield' that the entire country has been tagged which is how the military justifies attacking residential areas. Corpses pile up and go unclaimed, if they make it to a morgue, explosions go off, people are shot, and the media wants to cover someone semi-famous for their weight and posing nude.

Of course, some provide fawning and flattery of Congress and, because they're dealing with elected officials, they kid themselves that they're addressing serious topics. And we head towards the four year mark of the illegal war. Is it any real surprise?

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 3092 (AP). Right now? Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports the AP count is 3123. The 3100 mark was passed, the 3200 mark will be passed and I keep remembering a lunch with a stupid idot right after the illegal war began when the body count was well beyond 100 and she insistead that was okay, the deaths were okay, and they were nothing like the fatalities in Vietnam. Vietnam lasted years and years but she wanted to compare totals and decide that the total from Vietnam outweighed a week or so in Iraq which meant it wasn't going to be the bad. I actually saw that stupid idiot tonight. In 2003, at that lunch, I'd told her to go ___ herself and avoided her. We bumped into one another tonight and she tried to rewrite history and act as though we'd merely missed each other over the last three-plus years. I wasn't in the mood for it, or for her, and reminded her of why I had told her to go ___ herself. At first she denied it and then she admitted it was true but, "see," she "just hadn't thought about the future." Well there are 3123 Americans who can no longer think of the future, there are over 655,000 Iraqis who can no longer think of the future so it's fitting that her first comment had been to ask what I thought of her dress? (Tacky, trashy and too tight -- all for show. Perfectly in keeping with everything else about her.)

One of the more hopeful things of the last years was seeing how much students across the country care about the war. How they want to discuss it, how they give time to the subject. It's a real shame that supposed adults weren't willing to do the same. They were willing to shut themselves up or, worse, not even be bothered with what illegal war could bring. Then, as the obvious became only more so, they were willing to self-check out on reality and avoid the consequences of their apathy. "See," she said, "I just hadn't thought about the future." Which is the job of citizens when their governments are doing anything but especially when it's something as serious as starting a war (illegal or otherwise).

She was going on about some stupid process she'd just had ('beyond Botox!") and, except for feeling a bit "sheepish" (her term) about expecting the war "to go more smoothly," it really hadn't effected her, even all this time later. (My salutation was the same as it was in 2003.)
Not everyone can live in the Land of Airheads. Which brings us to the AP's "Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan Mayhan, 25, Hawthorne; killed in an explosion" (via the Los Angeles Times):

Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan Mayhan survived his first eight-month deployment to Iraq last year despite fighting in the insurgent strong hold of Fallouja. But his mother was worried when the Hawthorne man returned there in September for a second tour only weeks after being injured in a bombing. She believed that he was worried too.
"I know my children well," said Kim Hearn of Rialto. "I heard it in his voice, and to me it seemed like he just feared it."
The 25-year-old Marine, a gunner on a Humvee, was one of two Marines killed Dec. 21 when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle in Al Anbar province, west of Baghdad. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Twentynine Palms, Calif. About three weeks before his death, Mayhan called his mother from a military hospital. He was being treated for an injured hand and severe headaches after a bomb struck his Humvee.
"In my opinion he shouldn't have been out there," his mother told the Daily Breeze of Torrance. "My son survived an explosion, and within a month's time they send him back out there. I think it was too early."

Kristin Longley (AP via San Jose Mercury News) notes another fatality:

U.S. forces shot and killed a civilian contract truck driver from Michigan near an air base in Iraq, a lawyer for the man's family confirmed.
Donald Tolfree, 52, of St. Charles was a driver for KBR, a contracting subsidiary of Halliburton Co. He deployed to Iraq on Jan. 5 and was killed Feb. 5 at a checkpoint near Camp Anaconda, about 50 miles north of Baghdad.
Tolfree drove through a U.S. military checkpoint before realizing he was in the wrong convoy, attorney Patrick Greenfelder, who represents Tolfree's daughter, told The Associated Press during a telephone interview Sunday. Tolfree turned around and was driving back toward the checkpoint when he was shot and killed, Greenfelder said.
The military and Halliburton announced Saturday that a civilian contractor had been killed by U.S. forces at Camp Anaconda, but did not identify the man.
Greenfelder said a KBR representative visited Tolfree's daughter, Kristen Martin, 22, of Owosso, about 2 a.m. Feb. 6 to deliver the news. The representative initially said Tolfree and another convoy driver were killed by a roadside bomb.
Later that day, the representative phoned Martin and said Tolfree was killed by U.S. forces, Greenfelder said. She later learned from news reports that the other driver had survived.

Today, more Iraqis died. Some of their deaths got reported -- in a X died kind of way. Their names generally go unstated. Reuters reports: 30 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 5 im Mosul; Hatam Abdul-Hussine was shot dead and his was wounded in Baghdad and Lt. Col. Jamal Mohammad was shot dead in Baiji while two of his body guards were wounded; 15 police officers were killed in a bombing in Dour, a bombing in Baghdad killed one police officer and left three wounded, and a car bomb killed 1 person and left three more wounded in Baghdad.

In the face of all the death and destruction, the US Congress wants to 'get serious' on a symbolic measure that has no teeth. They've expanded how much energy on this non-binding resolution now?

The highlight Mia and Francisco noted was Kevin Zeese's "A Conversation with Anthony Arnove" (CounterPunch):

Kevin Zeese: I see two broad types of groups that need to be convinced that we should get out of Iraq. The first are people who believe that the war was wrong, but now that we are there we have to finish the job, stabilize the country, make things better. These folks believe that if we leave things will certainly get worse. What do you say to these folks?
Anthony Arnove: I'd say make the same points to both groups. More than 3,000 U.S. soldiers are dead and more than 22,000 wounded, many grievously. Every day that toll mounts. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died. The Haditha massacre, the Mahmoudiya rape-murder, and the torture at Abu Ghraib are not aberrations but reflections of the brutality of a colonial occupation. The social and economic costs of this war grow every day in communities across the country as money is diverted from schools, health care, jobs, and other vital social programs to fuel this unjust occupation. The war abroad has gone hand in hand with a war on our civil liberties at home, with a massive expansion of the government's power to detain people without trial, to use secret evidence, and to use torture. Meanwhile, every day that the United States is in Iraq, the situation gets worse and civil war becomes more -- not less -- likely. The U.S. occupation is distorting every aspect of Iraqi society and is the root of the problem.
In terms of how things will be once the U.S. withdraws, each day longer the United States stays, the possibilities of a livable outcome diminish. Which is why, in addition to pushing for immediate withdrawal, we also need to call on the United States and its allies to pay reparations to the Iraqi people (not just for the destruction caused by the most recent illegal invasion and occupation but before that the devastating sanctions, the toxic legacy and destruction of the 1991 Gulf War, and all the years that the U.S. armed and supported Saddam Hussein as he carried out his worst crimes). They can do a far better job rebuilding their country than the corporate looters and thugs of Halliburton, Bechtel, and Blackwater can.
KZ: The other group are people who think that the U.S. went in for good reasons -- to overthrow a tyrant -- and issues like WMD or link to 9/11 are no longer all that important, since the U.S. made the world better by getting rid of Saddam Hussein. What do you say to these people?
AA: The invasion of Iraq has made the world a far more dangerous place, increasing anger at the United States, encouraging other states such as Russia, Israel, China, and Pakistan to assert the right to launch so-called preemptive strikes, and fueling a renewed global arms race, including a nuclear arms race that threatens the extinction of the human species.
Iraqis are far more likely to die violently in Iraq today than they were under the dictatorship. They have less electricity and less access to safe drinking water than before the occupation, when they were still subjected to comprehensive sanctions. Unemployment has skyrocketed (while contractors hire foreign workers rather than Iraqis). Iraqis are afraid to send their children to school or to leave their homes or to live in formerly integrated neighborhoods. Inflation has put basic necessities beyond the reach of Iraqis. Iraq is the world's worst refugee crisis, with, according to the U.S. government, 2 million external and 1.7 million internal refugees. Large sections of Baghdad have been ethnically cleansed.
It's important to remember that the worst crimes of Saddam Hussein were enabled and defended by the United States and other Western powers. And today the United States continues to support a range of brutal dictatorships throughout Western and Central Asia and the Middle East.
The invasion of Iraq did not occur because members of the Bush administration could not sleep at night thinking about human rights abuses in Iraq, but because, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, Washington planners saw an opportunity to advance an agenda of dominating the energy resource of the Middle east and using that regional hegemony to project U.S. power globally.

In entertainment news, a number of members noting the Dixie Chicks' huge wins at the Grammys tonight. Natalie Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire deserved every statue and then some. Some didn't note whether their comments were for sharing here, so I'm thinking that I'll see if Gina and Kirsta want to do something pulling from the comments for the gina & krista round-robin. If you haven't heard the CD, Taking The Long Way, check out Kat's "Kat's Korner: Dixie Chicks Taking The Long Way home while NYT gets lost along the way." Lloyd notes The Third Estate Sunday's Review's "Editorial: Call Us Dixie Chicks -- We're not ready to make nice" and urges everyone to celebrate the Dixie Chicks' wins by "getting honest and getting vocal." Marisa notes Geoff Boucher's "Grammys make nice with the Dixie Chicks" (Los Angeles Times):

Intense R&B singer Mary J. Blige and the rock veterans of the Red Hot Chili Peppers were among the other notable winners, but by the end, the show belonged to the Chicks, who became the first act in 13 years to sweep all three prestigious categories. The avalanche of honors at Staples Center in Los Angeles came just three months after the Chicks and their defiant album "Taking the Long Way" were snubbed at the Country Music Assn. Awards, creating a divide that turned into something resembling a pop-culture election."I think people are using their freedom of speech tonight with all these awards," said Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the Texas-bred band and a firebrand figure for much of America.It was Maines who in 2003, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, told a London concert crowd: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." That led to radio bans, CD burnings, death threats and the Nashville career collapse for a group that had been among country music's most bankable acts. Maines, a lifelong Texan, moved to an L.A. beach house and her music partners, sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire, joined her in California to record "Taking the Long Way" with rock producer Rick Rubin and rock session musicians. There was also "Shut Up and Sing," a documentary film that gave the back-stage story of the public furor, enraging critics even more. The group, which began as a bluegrass outfit, had surrendered much of its musical identity, but songs such as "Lubbock or Leave It" signaled that the musicians were not in ideological retreat.Maines joked Sunday night that Middle America might not be happy with the Chicks' romp, which came from the votes of the Recording Academy, which is centered in the industry hubs of Los Angeles and New York. "A lot of people just turned their TVs off right now," the newly dark-haired Maines said with a laugh. "I'm very sorry about that."The first single from their album, "Not Ready to Make Nice," won record of the year, which honors the best overall recording, and song of the year, a songwriter's award, which they shared with their collaborator Dan Wilson, formerly of the band Semisonic. The Chicks ran the table Sunday — they won all five categories in which they were nominated.Folk singer Joan Baez introduced them as "three brave women" and also asked the audience to "please listen closely" to their performance of "Not Ready to Make Nice," which the trio performed on a small pedestal stage at the center of the venue.

And the Dixie Chicks were*n't* the only worthy artists noted. Vic notes Sue Zeidler's "Death permeates Grammy lifetime achievement awards" (Reuters):

Music greats such as Joan Baez, The Doors and The Grateful Dead won lifetime achievement awards on Saturday, although many of those honored did not live long enough to receive them.
[. . .]
The bittersweet night wrapped up on a high note with Joan Baez, a singing and guitar-playing icon of the anti-war movement of the 1960s, who said she has been enjoying a resurgence due to President Bush.
"President Bush is the best publicity agent I've ever had," Baez said.
"People always ask me to compare then versus now," she said. "It's very much like a re-run but there is much different ... The point is if artists are figuring out how to deal, I think they are rising to the occasion."

Joan Baez' most recent CD is Bowery Songs and Kat's "Kat's Korner: Joan Baez Bringing It All Back Home on Bowery Songs" explains why you need to have it your music collection. [*"Weren't" -- I was tired.]

Turning to the Najaf massacre, we have two highlight. First up, Charlie notes Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily's "Iran 'Fooling' U.S. Military" (IPS):

As the United States heads for a confrontation with Iran over allegations of Iranian involvement in bombings, the massacre in Najaf last month indicates that Iran could be working also through the Iraqi government, local leaders in Najaf say.
The slaughter of 263 people in Najaf by Iraqi and U.S. forces Jan. 29 provoked outrage and vows of revenge among residents in and around the sacred Shia city in the south. The killings have deepened a split among Shias.
Iran is predominantly Shia, one of the two main groupings within Islam along with the Sunnis. Iraq has for the first time a Shia-dominated government, comprising groups that have been openly supportive of Iran.
The people killed were mostly Shias from the Hawatim tribe that opposes the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq as well as the Dawa Party. These two pro-Iranian groups control the local government in Najaf and the government in Baghdad.
The Najaf attack has provoked strong reactions among members of the Hawatim tribe and among other Shia groups who are not loyal to Iran - and who became the target in those killings. An attack on a local tribal leader led to an assault on members of the tribe by U.S., British and Iraqi forces. The tribe was described by government officials as a "messianic cult."
Abid Ali who witnessed the Najaf fighting told IPS that a procession of roughly 200 pilgrims from the Hawatim tribe had arrived in the Zarqa area near Najaf to celebrate the Ashura festival. Following a confrontation over the procession, Iraqi army soldiers at a checkpoint shot dead Hajj Sa'ad Sa'ad Nayif al-Hatemi, chief of the tribe, as he and his wife sat in their car.
Members of the tribe then attacked the checkpoint to avenge the death of their chief.
"It was after this that the Iraqi army called in the Americans, and the planes began bombing civilians," Ali said. "It was a massacre. Now I believe the internal Shia fighting has entered a very dangerous phase."
Ali added that most people in the area believe the U.S. military was told by Iraqi security forces loyal to the pro-Iranian government in Baghdad that "terrorists" or the "messianic cult" was attacking Najaf. They say the misinformation was intended to mislead occupation forces into attacking the tribe.
Many Shias in the southern parts of the country and in Baghdad now say they had been fooled earlier by U.S. promises to help them, but that the Najaf massacre has dramatically changed their views.
Significantly, the Association of Muslim Scholars, a group of Sunni Muslims headed by Dr. Harith al-Dhari, issued a statement condemning the Iraqi-U.S. military attack in Najaf against the Hawatim tribe. The statement, which seeks to bridge a Shia-Sunni divide, denounced the killing of dozens of women and children and added, "It was an act of vengeance and political termination."

The final highlight goes to Pru and it's also on the Najaf massacre. Simon Assaf's "US covers up Iraq massacre" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The occupation forces and their Iraqi allies last week claimed they had crushed a doomsday cult outside the Shia holy city of Najaf. This was, they said, the first victory in George Bush's "surge" against the resistance in Iraq.
According to occupation authorities, US and British warplanes foiled an attempt by the Shia Muslim "Soldiers of Heaven" group to storm the city of Najaf on Saturday of last week.
It was all a lie.
An investigation by Iraq's Azzaman newspaper and independent journalists
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily found that the victims were not fighters but Shia pilgrims on their way to the Ashoura religious commemoration.
US and British warplanes and helicopter gunships strafed people hiding in plantations and pilgrims who attempted to find refuge in the village of Zarqa.
The fighting began when a procession, which included men, women and children of the al-Hatami tribe, was fired on as it approached an Iraqi army checkpoint.
Five were killed, among them a tribal leader and his wife.
Jabbar al-Hatami, a chieftain of the al-Hatami, told Jamail and al-Fadhily, "We were going to conduct the usual ceremonies that we conduct every year when we were attacked by Iraqi soldiers."
Hatami said they attempted to negotiate with the Iraqi troops.
"We thought it was one of the usual mistakes of the Iraqi army killing civilians," he said. "So we advanced to explain to the soldiers that they killed five of us for no reason. But we were surprised by more gunfire."
The pilgrims took refuge among date palms that line the main highway. Another tribe, the al-Khazali, came to their aid.
A member of the al-Khazali told the journalists, "Our convoy was close to the al-Hatami convoy on the way to Najaf when we heard the massive shooting. So we ran to help them because our tribe and theirs are bound with a strong alliance."
The tribesmen, some in cars and others on foot, were armed because they were passing through dangerous areas on their way to Najaf.
When the pilgrims began to defend themselves, the Iraqi army called on US and British airpower, claiming that they were fighting Al Qaida, supporters of Saddam Hussein and the Soldiers of Heaven who had sophisticated weapons.
A local farmer who witnessed the massacre told the journalists that, "US helicopters participated in the slaughter. They were soon there to kill those pilgrims without hesitation. We just watched them getting killed, group by group, while trapped in those plantations."
Tribal leaders say that 263 were killed and 210 were wounded. A further 600 were arrested.
Iraqi police reported that around 100 detainees were "Sunni terrorists" from Yemen, Algeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The claim was later withdrawn.
Film footage aired on Iraq's Al-Sharqiya TV station the day after the massacre showed hundreds of men, women and children surrounded by Iraqi troops. No sophisticated weapons were found.
The Iraqi authorities revised their story claiming they had foiled an attack by the Soldiers of Heaven on the clerical leaders in Najaf.
A spokesman for Soldiers of Heaven denied any involvement in the fighting and called the story a fabrication.
According to Azzaman the tribes were attacked because of a dispute among Shia factions: "The slogans [the tribes] raised and the demands they made seem to have angered the government and prompted a violent response."
Both tribes are critical of Shia leader Ayatollah Ali Sistani and Sciri, a US backed militia behind many sectarian massacres of Sunnis. They say this is why they were labelled as supporters of Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida.
Azzaman says that Iraqi authorities have banned journalists from talking to survivors.
The following should be read alongside this article: »
'US presence is the source of violence in Iraq'
The film of civilians is available on For the investigations go to and
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