Thursday, March 08, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

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That's a campaign Danny Schechter and have started. Only if you self-checked out on reality do you think that the banishing of Judith Miller resulted in corporate media coverage making huge strides in the coverage of Iraq.

If so, you obviously didn't notice that, today, a Petraeus gave a dopey speech and the press was all over it at the expense of reality. They filed that story and they refiled it over and over. They must have really thought those faux pearls of wisdom were news worthy because the only other answer was that they avoided covering the violence in Iraq (which included 10 corpses discovered in Baghdad) in order to assist Bully Boy sell the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk.

So one pathetic speech gets made and in time to be covered by the British press early Thursday morning but it's all the media can go on about all day long. You think there's not a problem with the media?

Leila Fadel had an interesting article this week entitled "4 years after invasion, many Iraqis look back with longing" (McClatchy Newspapers) but did anyone read it closely?

Layla Mohammed, a Sunni Muslim mother of three, remembered that heady day four years ago when a noose tightened around the neck of Saddam's statue.
"I felt that I was at the highest point of a roller coaster, just about to plunge into what I hoped would be an exhilarating experience," Mohammed said. "I thought, 'Oh, my God, it's happening. I live to see my sons set free.'"
A pharmacist, she said she'd voted in all three elections that Iraq has had since Saddam was toppled: first for an interim government, then for a new constitution, then for a permanent government. She remembers dipping her finger in purple ink - to indicate that she'd voted - with her two sons and her daughter. Together they held up their fingers and took a family photo to commemorate their future democracy.
"At that moment I felt that I was, at last, a sated human being. I had an opinion and it carried weight! I shall treasure that moment all my life," she said. "If only I could have that moment back; its joy was untainted. Now I know better."
The life of freedom and liberty she was promised never came. Her sons are trying to flee the country. She can't afford to keep her house warm, and no longer goes to her pharmacy in the neighborhood of Hurriyah, a once mixed-sect neighborhood that was emptied of most Sunnis in December.

Hmm. A Sunni woman. Who ran a business. Some might call her a "professional woman." So why is she not going to work? Because a roadside bomb might blow up near the pharmacy? Doubtful. As MADRE's "Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq" (which can be read in full in PDF format or, by sections, in HTML) points out, professional women are among the ones targeted. So, did McClatchy miss the story and if so how? Most likely, the woman doesn't go to work not out of fear over some abstract violence but because, as outlined in the MADRE report, her mixed neighborhood that became
Shi'ite contains thugs who threaten women who don't wear the veil, women who work and, especially, women who work when their husbands are dead. Why is the woman not going to work? Has she heard of threats or has she heard them directly? It's a question that should be asked. Credit, absolutely, for interviewing women. The first string of New York Times Green Zoners (and that was in better days) couldn't do that. But don't questions need to be asked?

So we're not hearing about that. And we've got The Daily Undercount that is the New York Times. Is big media doing an amazing job? Are they conveying, in their articles, the realilties which include that they cannot move freely outside the Green Zone? Have they bothered to tell the realities about the Kurdish areas? (More peaceful in some ways, but targeting minorities and claiming land that will only lead to further tensions.) And what of south of Baghdad? Do news consumers grasp that it's not under US control (or British) and that one of the reasons Baghdad is such a focus is because that's really all that's left?

The escalation numbers rose and there's talk of those numbers being there all summer. Now, it needs to be noted, the crackdown has been juiced up several times but the numbers that rose in August never went down. So what if that happens now? What if, come September, the same numbers are still in Baghdad and Bully Boy's sending more in?

Have you ever heard truth about the violence from US soldiers? Without prompting from Congress. Without a video turning up? Have they ever talked about the house searches realistically (not the ones going on in Sadr City -- those are actually laughable compared to the usual blow the door down, charge in and hit the first male to get everyone inside to drop the floor face down)?

They really don't bother to tell you that Iraqis, in poll after poll, want US forces out. And they really haven't bothered to tell you why that is? Or how many Iraqis US military has paid off for damages to their homes. Or how many the US military has refused to pay.

Where's the big story on the violence directed at US service women from US service men in Iraq? You can read about that in Off Our Backs, The Progressive, Salon, but where's big media with all its big budget? Why is that a story they can't tell?

Because it's a story they won't tell?

What about the issue of war resisters? Granted, a lot of blowhards claiming to be experts on the right would be blowhards regardless but it really helps keep the lie alive if they avoid discussing
the Uniform Code of Military Justice or interviewing someone like Ann Wright who actually taught it. By doing that, by ignoring it, they allow the lie to stand that the obligation to refuse an illegal order is based on the Nuremberg Trials (which the right blowhards dismiss).

So you really think they're doing a good job? We're not talking about errors here (like saying Kyle Snyder turned himself in during the month of November -- that's an error), we're talking about ignoring reality consistently. Shaping the story so that it leans to one side repeatedly while claiming 'balance' and 'objectivity.' Think the media doesn't need to be held accountable?

What about the MADRE report? Did you see it covered in the New York Times? How does that happen? The paper that could run to Rita Katz for her biased take on things can't cover an NGO report? How does that happen?

Iraq doesn't get a great deal of attention. So maybe we're not noticing all that the mainstream media continues to fail to provide.

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 3163. Tonight? 3188. 15 more. In seven days. Guess for that to be pointed out, the press wouldn't be able to play dumb on whether or not the talking point of "encouraging signs" was valid or not.

Turning to the topic of Agustin Aguayo, we have two highlights for tonight. First up,
Sabina notes Circles Robinson's "No Medals for Agustin Aguayo" (Cuba's Ahora):

Doing the right thing can be costly, but in the end one can at least sleep at night.Ask Spc. Agustin Aguayo, 35, a U.S. citizen born in Guadalajara, Mexico, who was just sentenced by a US military court in Wurzburg, Germany. His crime was a gut feeling shared by a growing number of ordinary citizens and soldiers alike: President Bush's war in Iraq isn't their war. His conscientious objector (CO) status denied on appeal, Aguayo went absent without leave, or AWOL, last September before a second deployment to Iraq. He had been told he would be taken there in shackles if necessary.
The medic was given a bad conduct discharge, sentenced to eight months in a military prison and stripped of his pay. It could have been worse, as he faced a possible seven years in jail.
Agustin Aguayo says that when he first joined the Army in 2002, he still believed in the US government and he never expected to be in the news. On Tuesday, he was once again a top story as he was convicted for refusing to kill people he doesn't know and who have done nothing to him, his family or his country.
In an interview with Democracy Now, before he turned himself in last year, Agustin Aguayo said: "It's not my job to decide who's going to live or who's going to die. That's something that I've had to deal with morally and that I'm convinced of. Nothing is clearer in my mind that war is wrong. And I won't be a tool of war anymore."
Aguayo had applied for CO status before his first deployment in February 2004 but that was rejected. At the time he felt killing was wrong. But according to his wife, Helga Aguayo, it wasn't until he was in Iraq and read a book on its history that came in a care package "that he realized that the war has essentially been created for the personal gain of a few people." In an excellent interview by Gillian Russom titled "The Court Martial of Agustin Aguayo," Helga added: "What he told me was that for a few corporations, it's in their best interests to keep the chaos going in Iraq."
"When my husband enlisted, we were very ignorant. We had both graduated from college and had no idea about history or the military. Now, our eyes are wide open," Helga Aguayo told Russom.
"In the movies, Hollywood glamorizes the military and makes them look like such heroes, but when he started training, he realized, 'I'm training to kill people,'" added Helga. Camilo Mejia, a young Nicaraguan born US solider, was another similar case. Mejia's wake up call came in Iraq and he wasn't about to go back on a second deployment. He has since dedicated himself to speaking out against the war.
If Aguayo and Mejia and the thousands like them that have left their posts, or refused to deploy in Iraq, knew what they were getting into beforehand they may have never enlisted. Recruitment officers offer of money for college, fast track citizenship, or "to be somebody" lose ground when a young person comprehends the cruelty of taking part in an unjust war against a civilian population.
However, once they are on board the pressures on them are intense and it takes real courage to fly in the face of them as Aguayo and Mejia did. While so called deserters may find themselves with fewer options in a society where education and decent employment are a privilege, at least they can sleep at night.
Agustin Aguayo says that when he first joined the Army in 2002, he still believed in the US government and he never expected to be in the news. On Tuesday, he was once again a top story as he was convicted for refusing to kill people he doesn't know and who have done nothing to him, his family or his country.

News in Cuba, even if not in the New York Times. Is anyone surprised? The same media that shut down debate, discussion and dissent before the illegal war began hasn't demonstrated that they are that concerned with a healthy democracy in the nearly four years since. A healthy democracy would require a free flow of information, would require an informed citizenry. Do you really see that anything's been changed other than Judith Miller no longer writes for a paper?

On Aguayo, Carl notes Rosalio Munoz' "CO Aguayo winning in court of public opinion" (People's Weekly World):

The March 6 military court conviction of pacifist soldier Agustin Aguayo was reversed in the court of public opinion as Amnesty International officially recognized him as a "prisoner of conscience," and a battery of progressive attorneys began efforts to get a federal court to reverse the Army's denial of conscientious objector status to Aguayo.
Aguayo's three-year struggle, supported by his family, to win recognition of his pacifist beliefs and conscientious objection to the war has won support from world and U.S. peace groups, much of the U.S. Latino community and the government of Mexico. It is a compelling story. Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.) has inquired into his well-being in confinement.
Aguayo, 35, is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Mexico and raised in Los Angeles. He enlisted in the Army in late 2002 before the Iraq war was launched. Married with two young daughters, he was working the night shift at a Home Depot and sought to train and work in the medical corps to serve his country meaningfully and develop a new career. The recruiter told Aguayo there was little danger of combat duty, telling him that he had served in "Desert Storm playing cards."
"We were not political then and had no idea a war was imminent," says his wife, Helga Aguayo, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Guatemala. "I had to tell Augie our country was at war while he was in basic training."

What does the House proposal mean? What does the Senate proposal mean? You'll hear about Pelosi, you'll hear about Reid. Will you hear about Lynn Woolsey? Travis notes "Woolsey Calls on Congress to 'Act Boldly,' and Fully Fund a Withdrawal From Iraq:"

Click here for text of amendment (pdf version)

-10 House Members unveil proposal during Thursday morning press conference-

Washington, DC - Calling on the Congress to "act boldly," to end the war in Iraq, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) was joined by 9 of her House colleagues this morning in presenting their plan to fully fund the withdrawal of US soldiers and military contractors from Iraq. Their proposal would provide military commanders with the resources that they need to undertake a systematic withdrawal of all troops by December 31st 2007, by restricting the emergency supplemental funding to withdrawing the troops. Woolsey was joined by: Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congressman Steve Cohen, Congressman Keith Ellison, Congressman Lloyd Doggett, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congresswoman Diane Watson, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Below are her remarks during Thursday morning’s press conference, as prepared for delivery:
"The occupation of Iraq has been an unmitigated disaster.
"Nearly 3,200 American dead and tens of thousands wounded...a bloody civil war ignited in Iraq...our national security jeopardized and diminished...the terrorism threat increased...American prestige around the world driven to an historic low.
"This nightmare must end, and this proposal would do just that - by mandating that any Iraq appropriations must be used to fully fund a safe, orderly withdrawal of American troops and military contractors by December 31st. Actually, we want our troops home to their families by Christmas.
"We have no other choice but to act boldly. A symbolic non-binding resolution on the escalation isn't enough. It's certainly not enough to put restrictions on the President that he can easily waive.
"It's time for Congress to prove itself worthy of the confidence Americans placed in it with their vote last November. It’s time to honor the mandate and assert ourselves as a co-equal branch of government with legitimate constitutional war powers.
"It's time Congress finally caught up to the people we represent, who recognized long ago that the Bush Iraq policy was a train wreck.
"The White House has shown nothing but contempt for public sentiment when it comes to Iraq; if we won’t stand up for Americans on this issue, who will?
"Ours is the mainstream position. We deserve our place in this debate and our seat at the table. We will not be marginalized, and we will be heard.
"We support our troops, and we always have. And the best way to support them today is to get behind a fully-funded withdrawal that brings them home from Iraq."

Will you find out about that in the mainstream coverage? Cedric gets the last highlight, Amy Goodman's "Belafonte Protects the Soul of Struggle" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer):

Harry Belafonte just turned 80. The "King of Calypso" was the first person to have a million-selling album, the first African American to win an Emmy and is perhaps the most recognizable entertainer in the world. Last Saturday, I attended his birthday party at a restaurant adjoining the New York Public Library.
The setting seemed very appropriate, as Belafonte himself is a living library of not only the civil rights movement, but of liberation struggles around the world. In 1944, just before shipping out as a U.S. Navy sailor in World War II, he was banned from the Copacabana nightclub in New York. Ten years later, he headlined there. He knew Rosa Parks, Paul Robeson and Eleanor Roosevelt. He corresponded with Nelson Mandela in prison, when the U.S. government considered the South African leader a terrorist.
Belafonte was a close confidant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He spoke daily with King. The FBI was listening. Taylor Branch, the award-winning author of a trilogy of books on King, was at Harry's party. Belafonte describes how Branch's final book in the trilogy, "At Canaan's Edge," uncovered extensive FBI wiretaps of their conversations.
For fighting for the right to vote and to end segregation, Belafonte says: "We were looked upon as unpatriotic; we were looked upon as people who were insurgents, that we were doing things to betray our nation and the tranquility of our citizens. That engaged the FBI. Everything we talked about was tapped." The FBI even came to his house, when he was away, and frightened his wife and children.
He tells me: "The essential difference between then and now is that no previous regime tried to subvert the Constitution. They may have done illegal acts. They may have gone outside the law to do these, but they did them clandestinely. No one stepped to the table as arrogantly as George W. Bush and his friends have done and said, 'We legally want to suspend the rights of citizens, the right to surveil, the right to read your mail, the right to arrest you without charge.' " His criticism is not limited to Bush (whom he called, while visiting President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, "the greatest terrorist in the world").

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and the war drags on
agustin aguayo