Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Other Items

Mohammed Abu Rouaa, 31, said he was inside the mosque commemorating the anniversary of the death of the prophet Muhammad when he heard shots strike the outside of the building, where other people were gathered. More than 20 American soldiers entered, rounded up those inside and took them for questioning to a nearby school, where they remained for about four hours, he said. As he passed by, he saw several people with gunshot wounds lying on the ground outside, he said.
Abu Rouaa and a Hurriyah district spokesman for radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said they were told the American soldiers shot at the mosque's armed guards when the guards tried to prevent them from entering the site. The guards returned fire and a fierce shootout began, they said. Abu Rouaa said six people were killed, including two guards.
Ali Hussein Ali, 36, who said he was leaving the mosque when the troops arrived, said U.S. soldiers began spraying bullets around the area and hitting people at random. He ran for cover in a house, he said, and heard gunfire continue for several hours.
"People were terrified, even we grown-up men," Ali said. "The mosques, through their loudspeakers, started to shout, 'God is greatest,' to calm the people."
While it remains unclear what happened, the incident underscored the fragile nature of the U.S. military's ongoing efforts to secure Baghdad by sending soldiers to frequently patrol the most volatile neighborhoods, where militants often mix with civilians.

The above, noted by Martha, is from Karin Brulliard's "Accounts Differ on Raid in Baghdad
Witnesses Say Dead Were Civilians; U.S. Calls Them Armed
" (Washington Post). That's the "disputed incident" -- see previous entry. And on the previous entry, one of the service members I was speaking with read over it and says to stress that the type of bombing the Pentagon is claiming happened is exactly why no troop would waive through a vehicle just because it had children in it.

On the scandal of health 'care' for veterans, we'll note Rone Tempest's "Vet shot in Iraq fights for benefits" (Los Angeles Times):

A sniper shot Sgt. Joe Baumann on a Baghdad street in April 2005. The AK-47 round ripped through his midsection, ricocheted off his Kevlar vest and shredded his abdomen.
The bullet also ignited tracer rounds in the magazine on his belt, setting Baumann on fire.
Almost two years later, the 22-year-old California National Guard soldier from Petaluma, walks with a cane, suffers from back problems and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder that keeps him from sleeping and holding a job.
"He can't even go to the grocery store by himself," said his wife, Aileen, also 22.
The question pending before a military review board at this big Army post south of Tacoma is whether to grant Baumann a military disability pension and healthcare or simply cut him an $8,000 check for his troubles.
It is a tense bureaucratic triage faced by thousands of wounded American soldiers as they negotiate their return to civilian life. If they are rejected by the military disability system, they can try their luck with the overwhelmed Department of Veterans Affairs, which means another lengthy process with uncertain results.
A 2006 analysis by the federal General Accounting Office showed that for National Guard members and reservists, the process takes much longer and is less likely to result in full disability benefits.
Baumann's case remains very much in limbo -- despite the extraordinary assistance of two of his former commanders, who took time from their civilian careers to come to his aid.
In a preliminary ruling last month, the three-officer Physical Evaluation Board that is reviewing Baumann's case decided for the severance check, rating his disability at only 20% and characterizing his post-traumatic stress disorder as "anxiety disorder and depression."
If he accepted the $8,000, Baumann still would be eligible to apply for Veterans Affairs disability benefits. But VA benefits do not include retirement pay, family healthcare, and military post exchange and commissary privileges. In what many soldiers regard as the ultimate Catch-22, if he were accepted by the VA, he would have to pay the Army's $8,000 back.
"The Army acts like they just want you to get out the door as fast as possible at the lowest possible cost without taking into account how you are going to live for the rest of your life. Here's your $8,000; just go," Baumann said.

Yesterday on KPFA's The Morning Show, Tom Hayden and Frances Fox Piven discussed Iraq. One of the topics co-host Philip Maldari was interested in were the comparisons between then and now. Hayden's "Cutting Off Funding for War: The 1973 Indochina Case" (The Huffington Post) develops that thread futher:

Yes, history repeats and these days, increasingly so. For those fighting over Iraq funding today, I believe history offers useful lessons in the role of patient political organizing.
In 1969, I was on trial for conspiring to disrupt the national Democratic convention. In 1972, I was campaigning to end the war by pressuring Congress and voting for George McGovern.
I hadn't changed, but new possibilities were opening in the mainstream, in part because of militant pressure from the streets. Instead of the police state I feared in 1970, Nixon would soon face impeachment, a peace treaty would be signed, and a corrupt Saigon dictatorship would fall.
How did this happen? What were the ingredients? What lessons might there be for today?
Here is a brief history of those times. What is made of that history, of course, is up to present and future generations.
In 1968, Nixon won the presidency on the false claim that there was a "secret plan for peace." He arranged to delay the beginning of peace talks in 1968 in a maneuver to defeat Humphrey. Then he accepted talks with North Vietnam and the People's Revolutionary Government [PRG] in Paris, which lasted nearly five years. Nixon gradually withdrew American troops from South Vietnam while escalating the US air war to record levels. Far from lulling Americans with this pacification strategy as he intended, the peace movement actually grew and escalated, from the peaceful moratorium of 1969 to the arrests of 13,000 people at May Day in 1971.
Nixon claimed in his 1972 campaign, through Henry Kissinger, that peace was "at hand", and thus won a second term. He then launched the unprecedented B-52 bombings of Hanoi at Christmas time, followed immediately by agreeing to the Paris Peace Agreement of January 1973, which resulted in the release of all American POWs held by Hanoi. Nixon celebrated this "peace" as a victory, using the POWs as his proof of success. Meanwhile, however, Kissinger sought side assurances, through diplomacy with China, that there be a "decent interval" for the US-supported Saigon regime before another Vietnamese offensive. The Thieu dictatorship stumbled along for precisely that "decent interval" before imploding under pressure from the PRG and North Vietnam. Instead of a transitional negotiated arrangement as once was possible, it all fell apart. The Americans fled, and Vietnam was unified under Hanoi's leadership.
During that decade, the anti-war movement had expanded dramatically. From an initial 25,000 at the first peace march in April, 1965, it evolved towards "resistance" by 1967, the confrontations at the Pentagon in October 1967, Chicago in August 1968, the million-strong moratoriums beginning in 1969, the national student strike in 1970, and May Day in 1971.
After 1968, the Democrats were trying to catch up to the peace sentiment. Had he lived, Robert Kennedy probably would have captured the nomination, and our futures might have been very different. Eugene McCarthy, the Howard Dean of 1968, upset President Johnson but could not win the nomination, winding up with 23 percent at a rigged, top-down convention [where most of the delegates were chosen the year before]. Freed in a way by Nixon's victory in 1968, the Democrats swiftly adopted an anti-war stance and enacted sweeping internal reforms against the hawkish old guard leadership, many of whom eventually would migrate to the neo-conservatives. McGovern won the nomination, lost badly in November, but a new generation of anti-war congressional representatives were elected in November.
During 1971, the embryonic Indochina Peace Campaign [IPC] was formed, based on a strategy of mobilizing anti-war pressure to divide Congress from the executive branch. If remembered today at all, the IPC is associated with the Tom Hayden-Jane Fonda speaking tour in 100 cities in fall 1972, but it was much more than that. The public figures included singers [Holly Near, for example], former American POWs, and a Frenchman once imprisoned by Saigon. One million educational pamphlets were distributed by hand in 1972. Slide shows and films were produced and circulated everywhere. A staff lobbyist, Larry Levin, was sent to Washington DC. Activist offices were operating in California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Oregon and Arizona. Coalitions were formed with Medical Aid to Indochina, the Indochina Resource Center, the American Friends Service Committee, Clergy and Laity Concerned, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Women Strike for Peace, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Peoples Committee for Peace and Justice, SANE, the War Resisters League, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and perhaps most importantly, exiled Vietnamese student groups inside the US. Though initiated in 1972, the IPC was formalized at a Dayton, Ohio, meeting of 200 representatives of activist groups.

Reuters notes that 32 corpses were discovered in Baghdad yesterday.

Kevin notes FAIR's "Iraq and the Media: A Critical Timeline:"

It's hardly controversial to suggest that the mainstream media's performance in the lead-up to the Iraq War was a disaster. In retrospect, many journalists and pundits wish they had been more skeptical of the White House's claims about Iraq, particularly its allegations about weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, though, media apologists suggest that the press could not have done much better, since "everyone" was in agreement on the intelligence regarding Iraq's weapons threat. This was never the case. Critical journalists and analysts raised serious questions at the time about what the White House was saying. Often, however, their warnings were ignored by the bulk of the corporate press.
This timeline is an attempt to recall some of the worst moments in journalism, from the fall of 2002 and into the early weeks of the Iraq War. It is not an exhaustive catalog, but a useful reference point for understanding the media's performance. The timeline also points to missed opportunities, when courageous journalists--working inside the mainstream and the alternative media--uncovered stories that should have made the front pages of daily newspapers, or provided fodder for TV talk shows. By reading mainstream media critically and tuning into the alternative press, citizens can see that the notion that "everyone" was wrong about Iraq was--and is--just another deception.

That's the intro to the timeline. FAIR's put a great deal of effort into the timeline. There is a lot of information that may be new to you or may act as a refresher for somethings that have been under rug swept (nod to Alanis). One thing to remember, the selling of the war didn't stop with the initial invasion.

The reluctance of many to seriously address Dexter Filkins' 'reporting' may give off that impression, but it's incorrect. Via GNN, from a speech Molly Bingham gave in 2005 about her experiences reporting from Iraq:

The intimidation to not work on this story was evident. Dexter Filkins, who writes for The New York Times, related a conversation he had in Iraq with an American military commander just before we left. Dexter and the commander had gotten quite friendly, meeting up sporadically for a beer and a chat. Towards the end of one of their conversations, Dexter declined an invitiation for the next day by explaining that he'd lined up a meeting with a "resistance guy." The commander's face went stony cold and he said, "We have a position on that." For Dexter the message was clear. He cancelled the appointment.

Pistol packing Dexy, who's go-go-boy-gone-wild times in the Green Zone led to the Guild being dragged in, was present at the November 2004 slaughter of Falluja. Somehow he missed everything (including white phosphorous) but wasn't it a great rah-rah story . . . when it appeared five, six, seven, eight? days after. Did that clear military censors? Did the Times ever bother to explain the lengthy delay between writing and printing. What did we learn from the Washington Post last year? Dexy was the US military's go-to-guy when they wanted to plant a story. Now there's a lot more, to be sure, but the point is, he has a lengthy history. Dexter Filkins, the largely unexamined war peddler.

The point here is that FAIR's documented, in their timeline, the leadup. That's important. But the leadup isn't why many Americans had trouble catching on to the truth about what was going on in Iraq. If the Judith Millers got the US over there, the Dexys kept the US over there.

From Patrick Cockburn's "Iraq is a Vast, Blood-Drenched Human Disaster" (CounterPunch):

So dangerous is it to travel anywhere in Iraq outside Kurdistan that it is difficult for journalists to provide evidence of the slaughter-house the country has become without being killed themselves. Mr Blair and Mr Bush have long implied that the violence is confined to central Iraq. This lie should have been permanently nailed by the Baker-Hamilton report written by senior Republicans and Democrats which examined one day last summer when the US military had announced that there had been 93 attacks and discovered that the real figure was 1,100. In other words the violence was being understated by a factor of ten.
Diyala is one of the most violent provinces in Iraq. It used to be one of the richest with rich fruit orchards flourishing on the banks of the Diyala river before it joins the Tigris south of Baghdad. But its sectarian geography is lethal. Its population is a mixture of Sunni and Shia with a small Kurdish minority. For at least two years it has been convulsed by ever escalating violence.
It is impossible for a foreign journalist to travel to Diyala from Baghdad unless he or she is embedded with the US forces. I knew, having made the journey before, that it was possible to get to Khanaqin, in the Kurdish controlled north-east corner of Diyala by taking a road passing through Kurdish villages along the Iraqi side of the Iranian border.

That reality still isn't making it into most reports. For a brief time, the Times (believe it or not) was noting in articles when their reporters couldn't verify something due to safety issues preventing them from traveling. Even that appears to have been dropped.

Finally, from yesterday's Democracy Now!:

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy, we have to leave it there, but I want to ask if you can come back tomorrow and also join Naomi Klein, who will be joining us. Tomorrow night, you and Naomi Klein will be having a discussion -- I'll be moderating it -- at the Ethical Culture Society here in New York, about Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, the name of your first book. And congratulations on this investigative masterpiece. We will talk tomorrow about New Orleans, about Blackwater expanding on the home front, and we'll go abroad to the Caspian Sea. What are their plans for the Caspian Basin?

Those who watch the program have already e-mailed to say, "Naomi Klein isn't on today." The above is what was stated yesterday. There will be no correction from this site. Naomi Klein was announced. Apologies to members. To visitors? Take it up with the program. It was announced.

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