Thursday, February 15, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

The court-martial of the first Army officer to refuse to go to Iraq because he felt the war was illegal ended in a mistrial, Feb. 7. Last June, Lt. Ehren Watada refused to board an Iraq-bound plane, saying, "An order to take part in an illegal war is unlawful in itself."
Watada's mother Carolyn Ho said, "I continue to remain hopeful my son will be exonerated."
Retired Army Col. Ann Wright called the Army's case "a mess," adding it reflects the "mess in Iraq." Wright resigned a diplomatic post in protest against the invasion of Iraq.

Military judge Lt. Col. John Head, who declared the mistrial, set a mid-March retrial date, but legal experts expect that date to change and some say a trial may not occur at all. Noting that a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime, University of Washington law professor John Junker said a new trial for Watada would constitute "double jeopardy."
National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn, who was scheduled to testify in Watada's defense, said his "orders to deploy were unlawful, and Lt. Watada had a duty to disobey them."

Erika noted the above from Denise Winebrenner Edwards' "NATIONAL CLIPS" (People's Weekly World). And just to clarify, Cohn was there to testify, the judge (Judge Toilet) refused to allow her, Michael Ratner and others to testify. Today, many campuses participated in student strikes and many students (college and high school students) walked out. Deena Guzder has written a piece on the whys of the strike at The Columbia Spectator entitled "Why You Should Strike:"

One day of protest alone will not stop the war, but our action will help forge a larger, more united student anti-war movement that can contribute to stopping the senseless bloodshed in Iraq. Every serious historian of the Vietnam War acknowledges the critical role that the anti-war movement-including the mass protest and civil disobedience of students-had in ending that horrible war. As Noam Chomsky said in his lecture earlier this month, student protests were critical in challenging the American campaign in Cambodia during the 1970s. Also, let us not forget that Columbia was responsible for significantly bolstering the anti-apartheid South Africa divestment campaign in 1985 when hundreds of students took over Hamilton Hall until the administration addressed their concerns. "The work of those students had a real impact on ending apartheid," said professor Dennis Dalton. "The Columbia administration claimed divestment would make matters worse and even went so far as saying it would be rejected by Desmond Tutu, but then we got an actual letter from Tutu supporting the peace activists!" Large, informed, and united protests full of passion and conviction have historically inspired dormant activists to join social movements and directly engage in critical forms of resistance.

Written before the strike but the usual crowd who suffer from literacy problems are already pooh-pahing a very real accomplishment by students across the country. It doesn't fit in with the pre-fab story that lets them pretend everyone's apathetic (if everyone's apathetic, then they don't have to worry about their own apathy -- so the club they use to strike is students also doubles as their security blanket). On the strike, we'll note Matt Cota's "UCSB Students Strike in Protest of Iraq War: Nearly 1,000 students shut down Highway 217 in two-hour standoff with police" (KSBY):

UCSB students go on strike to protest the war in Iraq. Nearly a thousand refused to work, shop or go to class. And late this afternoon, the protesters shut down a major South Coast highway.
It started as a student strike -- the simple act of not going to class to protest the war in Iraq. But after an hour of speeches at an Isla Vista rally, the crowd grew restless.The students -- nearly a thousand strong -- marched through campus and began walking on Highway 217, which is the main thoroughfare to the UCSB campus and to the Santa Barbara Airport. It was immediately shut down by the Highway Patrol. More than two dozen law enforcement officers, some dressed in riot gear, met the students on the highway.
[. . .]
"I think this is great," says protest organizer Will Parrish. "The students are feeling really inspired and empowered and we made a really important statement that a lot of people across the country are paying attention to. And we also did something instrumental, which is stop business as usual at our university."

And we'll note Bob Roberts' "Columbia College Students Stage Sit-In To Protest War In Iraq" (WBBM):

Students from Columbia College staged a day-long sit-in and strike Thursday on the ground floor of the school's classroom building at 623 S. Wabash Av.
Some sat cross-legged in front of an elevator in the entryway of the building, holding signs that read, "Planet of the Nuclear Dead;" "Impeach Bush;" "Terrorism: Brought to You by the U.S. Army;" "All They Ask of You is Silence," and "An Eye for an Eye Leaves the World Blind."
Others took turns speaking at an open microphone for part of the day. Also scheduled was a musical performance by a group of Columbia students and several hours of "teach-ins."

Students turned out. If it had been five, it would have made a difference, with the thousands and thousands it made a difference as well. Anyone passing them had to leave their comfort zone of silence long enough to grasp that a war was going on -- hard to believe from the media coverage -- and, in addition, they planted seeds. Today, students stood up and did their part to say "no" to the illegal war.

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, AP's number for the US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3114. Tonight? 3132 is the AP count. That's the number that have died in the illegal war and there are many recorded as wounded as well. But what about the ones who don't appear wounded (or don't appear it if it might actually cost the government something to provide care)? On that topic, Lynda notes Aaron Glantz' "US Ill-Equipped to Deal With Wave of Troubled Vets" (IPS):

"A lot of guys really want to get out," Garrett Rappenhagen, chairman of the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War, told IPS. "And the military, rather than take the responsibility that this guy has actually just fought in a war and is possibly damaged from that, is just allowing these guys and almost helping these guys get these discharges just to get out of the military and get rid of a problem."
The problem, says Rappenhagen, is that soldiers thrown out of the military for drug and alcohol abuse are often not eligible for veteran's benefits because they've gotten a less than honourable discharge. That extends not only to health care, but also to the housing and college education programmes usually available to returning servicemen.
The results, Rappenhagen says, are often tragic.
"In Colorado, there was a woman that I had for Vets4Vets counseling sessions named Jessica Rich," he said.
A 24-year-old Army reservist, Rich served a tour in Iraq and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2004. She received a medical discharge in 2005.
Her friend, Makayla Crenshaw, who served with Rich in Iraq, told the Denver Post that Rich couldn't shake some of the memories from war, including witnessing the suicide of a fellow soldier in Iraq.
"She was having nightmares still, up until this point -- flashbacks and anxiety and everything, the whole bucket of fun," Crenshaw said. "She said it was really hard to get over it because she couldn't get any help from anybody."
Rich died last Thursday after a high-speed auto accident on a Colorado interstate highway. The coroner's report put her blood alcohol level at twice the legal limit.
"She got tanked up and was speeding down the wrong side of the interstate with no seatbelt and slammed head-on into a suburban (SUV) that killed her instantly," Rappenhagen explained. "So, these things are happening and there's not a lot being done to treat these soldiers. It's common. Really common."
A recent investigation by McClatchy Newspapers, which analysed 200 million records released under the federal Freedom of Information Act and interviewed numerous mental health experts and returning veterans, found that nearly 100 Veterans Administration clinics provided virtually no mental health care in 2005.

Mental health care wasn't funded? A shocker only to the useless idiots of Nothing was provided for. Serve in the illegal war and, if you're wounded, disappear from site because the only thing the administration wants to be less visible than coffins is the injured. "Close your eyes and it never happened" was the way the Bully Boy was raised and it goes to the earliest death within his only family and it goes to his ability to ignore reality. A family member dies and they all act like it didn't happen. A life in denial. And the world pays the cost.
It's funny because all the people with their idiotic bumper stickers and their war rallies shouldn't be surprised by the fact that returning veterans aren't cared for or provided for -- in the United States, it's a story as old as the history of the country.

One of the most effective things that doesn't cost the government a thing (which doesn't mean they even support that) is vets sharing their own experiences with each other. Organizations like Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace exist to provide support as well as action. (And there are pro-war groups that also exist for vets who are pro-war.) Jamie wanted to know if we could highlight the coffee house again and noted Michelle York's "A Cafe Opens to Serve a Mission to End the War" (New York Times via Citizen Soldier):

On Veterans Day, John Hartlaub wandered into the newest cafe in Watertown, N.Y.
It was sparsely furnished, with three Internet stations, a black sofa and an offering of hot or cold cider. A customer who actually wanted coffee would have to buy it a few doors away.
Mr. Hartlaub stayed most of the afternoon anyway. He browsed a few dozen military books for sale, then pulled up a folding chair to watch "Poison Dust," adocumentary about the health effects of depleted uranium weapons on soldiers returning from Iraq.
He left with mostly positive feelings. "It could end up being very informative and helpful," said Mr. Hartlaub, 41, who has served in the military on and off since1985.
The organizers of the cafe were hoping for such a reaction. But, being not far from the largest military installation in the Northeast, they are prepared for backlash, too.
They say theirs is the country's first G.I. coffeehouse for the war in Iraq. It is a project of the peace movement that is focused on changing opinions within the military, with an ultimate goal of ending the war.

The coffeehouse is Different Drum and, hopefully, it will be one of many. Of course, it exists without government monies. Like everything else. Addressing the issue of what gets the coin and what doesn't is Iwana's highlight, Cindy Sheehan's "Money Trumps Peace...Sometimes" (Common Dreams):

"Money trumps peace" should be the rallying call of all the Democrats and Republicans who are exploiting our tired and wounded soldiers in the field to justify handing BushCo more money to complete his mission of totally decimating the Middle East for the oil companies, construction contractors, and defense industries. How many times have we heard: "We have to vote for the emergency funding for the troops." That money is not for the troops, never has been for the troops, and the troops in the field wouldn't need any support if they used the money that was already in the pipeline to bring our soldiers and marines home from the killing deserts. I talked to a young lady at a university in Minnesota whose good friend was a Marine in Iraq who just got home and one of the only things that he shared with her was that he had to eat ants. If you don't believe me, just ask Mr. "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want." Our troops have never been supported in this monstrous mistake of a war and they have never received the tools they need to survive, let alone be successful in their so-called mission. The money goes to one thousand dollar a day mercenaries---not our two thousand dollar a month grunts.
"Money trumps peace" when while asking for tens of billions of more dollars for war, George is balancing the budget off of the backs of vets who have served this country honorably by cutting back on VA benefits. Many times I am asked: "What would you say to Bush if you were to meet with him now?" I think my first question would be: "How the hell do you look at yourself in the mirror?" How dare he?
"Money trumps peace" is one of the reasons why true peace won't be possible when our country is mis-governed by people who are beholden to and entrenched in the military industrial complex. K-Street palm greasers have an easier passage in the Halls of Congress than do activists with petitions, or a Gold Star Mother wearing a "protest shirt" do.
"Money trumps peace" is the problem when some leaders of Congress, who should be working day and night to bring our troops home to save Iraq and the lives and souls of our brave soldiers and marines, are out raising money for presidential campaigns that are still a year away. Sometime between now and the first primaries in 2008 we will be holding vigils for the 4000th troop killed in Iraq and thousands of Iraqi families will be overcome with grief and pain while the talking head shows are already consumed by election fever.

Tomorrow on KPFA, The Morning Show will feature Matthew Rothschild and Kris Welch's Living Room will feature Ralph Nader. Zach passed both of those on. If there's time tomorrow morning (when we'll be heading home), I'll try to include a heads up then as well.

And Molly asked if we could end with an excerpt ("a positive note," Molly writes), from Democracy Now!'s "'Shut Up and Sing': Dixie Chicks' Big Grammy Win Caps Comeback From Backlash Over Anti-War Stance:"

AMY GOODMAN: Over the past four years, scores of popular musicians have spoken out against the war in Iraq and the Bush administration. The list includes Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Jay-Z, Missy Elliot, Sheryl Crow, Barbra Streisand, and that list goes on. But perhaps no musical act has paid a bigger price for speaking out against the war than the Dixie Chicks, the biggest selling female music group of all time. On Sunday night, the group was the big winner at the Grammy Awards.
DON HENLEY: Yes! And the album of the year, the Grammy for album of the year goes to the Dixie Chicks.
AMY GOODMAN: The group won a total of five Grammys, including record of the year, song of the year and best country album. However, if you tuned into many country radio stations today, you won't hear the Dixie Chicks's music. They've been largely blacklisted for the past four years, ever since the eve of the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003. That's when the group's lead singer, Natalie Maines, told an audience in London the group was against the war and ashamed that the President, President Bush, is from Texas.

The lesson is that you can take a stand and not be destroyed, you can take a stand and rise from the ashes. Or, as the lyrics to "Not Ready To Make Nice" (written by Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, Martie Maguire and Dan Wilson) "It turned my whole world around, And I kind of like it." Which really is the point of this entry -- if there is one -- the need to speak out, the need to take part and engage. You're standing against the illegal war gives others the strength to take the steps they need to. Those staying silent prolong the war and endorse the death and destruction. Students today used their voices and used their power. Cindy Sheehan has demonstrated repeatedly the power that one person and that movements can have. Aaron Glantz and Amy Goodman, to name two, demonstrates the power of journalism when it uses, recognizes, honors and celebrates its power. Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Different Drum demonstrate the power of using your voice and joining it with others. And Molly's point is well taken. The Dixie Chicks were supposed to be the cautionary tale -- speak out and suffer. The reality is usually quite different and the better moments in US history came not form silently going along but working for change.

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