Thursday, April 05, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

In 1969, Trudeau said Canada should be a refuge from militarism. Today we have an opportunity to live up to his legacy by welcoming the hundreds of US army deserters who have come here fleeing the illegal war in Iraq
Americans, insurgents, militiamen and others fighting in Iraq have killed 30,000 Iraqis, if you believe US President George W. Bush, or over 600,000, according to researchers at John Hopkins University. There is near-unanimous agreement that the United States did not invade Iraq in self-defence, and the United Nations did not say America could attack. The new Iraqi oil law and Abu Ghraib are examples of systematic plunder and torture.
The International Criminal Court has a statute that says soldiers must refuse to participate in this sort of behaviour. Now American war resisters who deserted their army and have come to Canada are asking our Federal Court of Appeal for the right to say six words before a court, one for every 100,000 dead: "We think this killing is unlawful."
If they are allowed to make that claim, the hundreds of US soldiers who have come here may be able to stay. If not, they and future American deserters could spend years in American prisons for quitting a mission they know constitutes, in legal terms, an "aggression" and more than one "war crime." In 2005, the Immigration and Refugee Board ruled that the war's legality, which is central to these soldiers' claims for refugee status, is not relevant. It is. The soldiers deserted largely because they realized they had been deceived by their government and were participating in serious crimes. Soon, the court of appeal will be able to tell the board to either hear that the Iraq War is illegal or grant these soldiers refugee status immediately.
Lawyer Jeffry House evaded the draft during the Vietnam War and, he says, "reported to Canada instead." At the cost of his time and energy, he advocates for Iraq War deserters, people who generally can't pay standard fees, if they can pay any at all. House is the kind of citizen Canada earns when we accept the moral best that America cannot always keep for itself. House says that "to imprison someone for refusing to participate in war crimes is persecution," exactly what our refugee policy is designed to prevent, but he knows this case has a "political component." Prime Minister Stephen Harper should not be so considerate of presidential feelings.

The above, noted by Vince, is from Reuben Apple's "War resisters welcome" (Eye Weekly). It's one of the most powerful pieces written on war resisters in any magazine. Granted, The Nation hasn't tried to take part in that competition. The fears appear to be (a) possible governmental response if it appears they are advocating soldiers self-check out and (b) they might lose the mushy middle they've courted -- they're the same "lefties" that keep writing in, week after week, complaining if The Nation offers a weak ass article on immigration. That's a wonderful audience to have, xenophobes screaming. In all the time I've subscribed to the magazine, I've never been more shocked by readers' letters than when immigration comes up these days. So their fear keeps them silent on the topic? (Let me be clear, that was put forward, the two possibilities, by two friends who are with the magazine.) Well it's certainly true that they've done very little while Muslims were rounded up in this country, while the Patriot Act was passed and renewed. And when you're timid and bringing in a host of new writers (predominately male), they're smart enough to internalize (the same way it works at the mainstream media). Let's remember that this is the magazine that could have published Christopher Ketcham's "What Did Israel Know in Advance of the 9/11 Attacks?" and "The Kuala Lumpur Deceit: a CIA Cover Up." When Salon killed the topic, The Nation bravely stood up and said "We will publish." But bravery comes and goes based on polls and this season's clothes. Which is why you read the articles in CounterPunch and not The Nation. As Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Claire's "Ketcham's Story" (CounterPunch) noted:

Ketcham took the story to a number of other magazines and got nowhere. Then, in the late summer of 2006 he took it to the Nation, whose editors said that yes, they wanted the story, but wouldn't schedule it till after the crush of political coverage in the run-up to the November elections. The target publication date was December 8. At the last minute, the Nation pulled the piece.

Do you get that? They had the story. They were going to publish it. (Unless this was a case of jerk the writer around -- which The Nation has a long history of doing.) They had it in the summer of 2006 and wanted to publish it. The earliest would be December 8, 2006. They had it in the summer but couldn't publish it then, couldn't publish it in the fall, but could make time in winter. They were too busy focusing on the election because surely the country would have suffered if they couldn't have discovered the 'kinder' qualities of Harold Ford Jr. (he lost his race, for the record). When we did "The Elector" (The Third Estate Sunday Review), we were joking to a degree (it's a parody) but, as Ava pointed out, who knew they'd prove us right? People seem shocked that the 2008 election craze has started (craze, not coverage). Well why not? One joke in "The Elector" was:

Our special issue that continues our non-stop 2006 election coverage that we'll only drop in a few weeks when we gear up for the 2008 election. No one owns The Elector!

We thought it was just a joke but didn't it turn out to be true? You can 'thank' The Nation for the craze (not coverage -- if you think a legal professor's musings on a candidate's bio qualify for anything other than sop, you need to up your intake on reality). Everything had to be shoved aside from summer 2006 for the 2006 election apparently. Maybe that's why they couldn't cover war resisters or Abeer? Here's a question people need to be pondering: What's the next lie? Here's another: How long can voters be tricked?

For those with short memories, voters in the November 2006 election voted largely on the war. And they were sold that. If the Democrats get just one house in Congress, you will see real change. Well they got two houses in Congress and what have we seen? Not real much. So now the lie is, "They need more in each house!" Really? Do you remember the magazine calling out candidates other than Joe Lieberman? Do you grasp that some of the ones given coverage are the same ones who wouldn't go near Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters' bill?

It's never good for a supposedly independent magazine to become a party organ. But as the lies and hype continue to mount, does anyone stop to wonder what they'll top it with after 2008? What's left? "Democrats need every seat in the House and in the Senate to effect real change!"
Now if they weren't so interested in being a party organ (as a magazine, there are a few real writers left), they could promote real change as opposed to cheerleading. That's on Iraq and other issues. Like a lot of readers of the magazine, I miss the magazine that wasn't afraid to advocate for and demand real change -- which is the purpose of an opinion journal. On one campus, I was corned by six professors wanting to know what the problem with the magazine today was? That's the problem, everything above. And it has failed on Iraq.

If it had any guts left in it currently, you would be reading an article on the topic of war resisters. The opinion journal would step away from the non-stop stroking of the Democrats long enough to weigh in and use the power they have. They don't. Why does the war drag on?
There's one example.

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, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3244 and AP's number was 3244 (take one off the number in Friday's snapshot). Tonight? First, let's note that there have now been 8 announced deaths (by the US military) of US service members today. And you can find that in Kim Gamel's report for AP which, like all of the AP reports today, mentions how many have died since the start of the illegal war: 140. What? 140 is the number . . . for British troops. Though AP began the day reporting the four announced British deaths and the four announced US deaths, they made it through the whole day forgetting to note how many US service members had died. Pick any AP article on the deaths today and you will easily find the sentence telling you that the four deaths of British soldiers brought the total for England to 104. Does AP not grasp that it is a wire service predominately for the US? How do they do that? How do they offer up, at the start of the day, '4 British soldiers dead, 4 US service members dead. The total for British soldiers is now 104' without ever noting what the total for the US is? Seriously, how do you do that? How do you write that and not notice that you've provided the British tally but forgotten to provide the US tally?

Here's an example (CBS and AP) where the count rose to 5 US service members killed (and the number for British troops killed was still 4). "Overall, the deaths raised to 140 the number of British forces to die in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion and to 109 the number killed in combat" is the sort of statement AP ran all day and never noted the tally for the US. Sometimes they went with: "The latest casualties raised to 140 the number of British forces to die in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion--109 in combat" (for the story covering 8 US service members, 4 British troops announced dead).

ICCC reports that the count is now 3266. That's 22 more than last Thursday.

On the four British soldiers announced dead, Geoff Marshall (Daily Express) reports:

TWO women were among four British soldiers killed in a roadside ambush in Iraq, it was revealed tonight.

Polly noted the above. On other disclosures, Anne notes this from Greg Mitchell (Editor & Publisher):

Two soldiers killed in Iraq in February may have died as a result of friendly fire, Army officials said Wednesday, not from enemy fire, as the press reported.The military suspected friendly fire later in February but did not inform the dead soldiers' families of these new doubts.
One of the soldiers died just hours after arriving in Iraq -- and was one of those troops rushed to the country in the "surge" who did not receive full training. The Army said it is investigating the deaths of Pvt. Matthew Zeimer, 18, of Glendive, Mont., and Spc. Alan E. McPeek, 20, of Tucson, Ariz., who were killed in Ramadi, in western Iraq on Feb. 2. The families of the soldiers at first were told they were killed by enemy fire.

12,000 National Guard troops will now be depolyed to Iraq. The war's not ending. And silly little puff pieces on candidates aren't going to end it. Ignoring the number of US troops who have died in the illegal war isn't reality and it isn't ending the war (AP's responsiblity is only to the former). On ending the war, maybe if your goal (despite claims of 'independence') is to elect Democrats, then party organs have to embrace party leadership and let the war drag on and on with the hope that voters are idiots?

Tomorrow, in the gina & krista round-robin, my column's answering questions from members that came in this week. For this talking entry (I'm at Rebecca's and we're both talking as we work on getting something up at our sites), I'm going to do the same with some questions from visitors in today's e-mails (and I only read the top 60 e-mails in the public account). Two visitors are upset that they went to the trouble of transcribing radio programs and they weren't noted in the snapshot. Why? There are two reasons. First, I didn't see them. I didn't go into the public account until tonight. I was speaking most of the day. When I did check e-mails, I checked the e-mail accounts for members. Second, if I had seen them, I wouldn't have used them. If I didn't hear a program and someone e-mails a transcription, I'm going to quote from it? If they're a member, sure. I know the community members. If they're a visitor? No. I don't know you and I'm not going to follow up a snapshot with a correction of "Woops! The whole transcript was false!" A member can make a mistake as easily as I can. (I did this week, Robert Knight said "flak" jackets, not "flap" -- I realized that after it went up and advised everyone to correct it. I went into the snapshot as soon as I could and changed it here.) But there's a difference between an honest mistake and a deliberate attempt to mislead. I trust members, I don't know visitors. I stated this morning that if a member wanted to transcribe . . . Member. That wasn't an open invitation.

Jordan (not member Jordan) wrote that I could use his name and his question is about the snapshot's mention of Watada getting new representation and my mentioning an attorney at the firm. Jordan accessed all the links on that and didn't find the attorney's name mentioned once. It wasn't mentioned in the reports. That was a comment from me based on what I know.

Another visitor wondered why war resisters trumped a "report by Leigh Ann Caldwell"? Caldwell's gotten praise here and she, and pretty much most outlets, has been criticized for her coverage of the Pelosi measure. (By me. What others do with their space here is their business.) The fact that Caldwell clarified the claims is the only reason the comment even made it into the snapshot today. Congress isn't doing much. War resisters are important and the goal is to cover them in every snapshot. On Wednesday, Robert Zabala was the bigger story. I had limited time and went with transcribing the full report by Aaron Glantz. It was important, it mattered and Zabala got very little coverage. So a war resister would trump almost anything and, again, Glantz had a strong report.

A member (who didn't want to be named) had asked if we could include Caldwell's comment? I noted that this morning and said if someone would transcribe that portion, we would. Two members did and we included it. If it was nonsense, it wouldn't have been included (unless I was making a comment about what nonsense it was). I didn't have time. I didn't even hear Democracy Now! today (four members have noted one segment and it will be included in tomorrow's snapshot). On good days, there are always things that could make the snapshot that don't. Some won't work in that day's. Some there's just not time for. Some I try to carry over later in the week (or the next week -- one thing waited three weeks before I had the time and it fit with other things in that day's snapshot). On Wednesday, when Zabala was getting even less attention than the day before, the most important thing to include was the Glantz report. We have members who can't listen online due to computer issues or work issues and we have members who, if they accessed a stream, wouldn't be able to hear it due to physical issues. Glantz report was too important not to include in full. That would have been true if Zabala had received a ton of coverage. It was a very strong report.

Adam wrote (names noted only if the visitor says they can be) to ask if I listened to the Monday radio broadcast I plugged? I don't always have time to listen to things plugged here. I rarely hear programs on Sunday, for instance, because I'm up all night Saturday working with everyone on The Third Estate Sunday Review. So there's always a chance that upcoming broadcasts noted here may not be listened to by me. In terms of the Monday broadcast, that was a war resisters story. I frequently parcel those out. I knew we'd have the Watada story this week and the Zabala verdict. Otherwise? I didn't know what we'd have. So Monday's broadcast was always going to be noted on Friday. It will be noted tomorrow (and, yes, I listened to it on Monday). Again, the goal is to always have something on war resisters in each snapshot.

Ginny praised Wally and Cedric's work (I share her high opinion of their work) and noted she discovered the snapshot through their sites. She wondered why it didn't also go up on Saturdays and Sundays? I don't have the time. It should go up. But I don't have the time. Saturday night, we're all working on The Third Estate Sunday Review. That's always an all nighter. I'm worn out by Sunday morning. Saturday day, I'm usually trying to take care of things I've put off all week because I didn't have time. But, I agree, there should be Saturday and Sunday snapshots. I just don't have the time. On Memorial Day, there may or may not be one. I'll play that by how much is going on that day. Also, at some point during the upcoming months, between now and September, I need to visit a friend who lives high up in the mountains and I can forget dictating a snapshot or typing one myself. I'm trying to figure out when to take care of that. But it's very likely it will be a week day and there will not be a snapshot. (Rebecca is pregnant and I also want to be there for the birth of her child. There may not be a snapshot that day -- if it's a week day.) Otherwise, the snapshot should be up here every Monday through Friday. And, Ginny's correct, there should be one on Saturday and Sunday as well (especially since there's usually more reporting coming out of Iraq on Saturdays than on Sundays).

A visitor wrote that she's looking for an organization and noted the ones on the left (the ones linked to). She wondered who she should be working with? That's up to her. They all have their strengths and it will be a matter of your personal taste (and the time you have -- you might be able to work with more than one). Another thing to consider might be which ones are active in your area? (She didn't say where she lived in the e-mail.) There are local groups, that aren't linked to, in most cities and towns. There is a great deal of activism going on around the country that never gets noted but it is happening. Talk about the war to the people around you and you'll probably find out that there's something in your area.

Sarita noted she'd read something at Mikey Likes It! and wondered about that: the fact that in 2005, I said the war wouldn't be over before the 2008 elections. That was my feeling, I would've loved to have been wrong. There wasn't then the level of activism to end the war (though it had picked up tremendously by the point and has continued to do so). She found that very depressing. I do as well. And I'd love to be wrong on that. But currently Congress isn't trying to end the war. The level of activism is rising and it could rise enough that Congress was forced to end the war. If that happens, I'll be thrilled to be wrong. (And I am often wrong, so see it as a challenge or my dopey opinion and not anything set in stone.)

In 2004, we were all steered away from Iraq to focus on candidates. Hopefully, we realize now not to drop Iraq to hop on board a campaign train. Iraq can't be dropped if you want the war to end. Some outlets will drop it. Some already have and won't pick it back up. But if the Dems play War Hawk in the summer of 2008, as they did at the convention in the summer of 2004, people need to call that out. We don't need to hear from Party Hacks about how we should fall in line. We don't need any advice from a Party Hack who confuses himself with Congress and refers to Congress as "we." Who you vote for is your business and your decision, but Iraq doesn't need to be dropped. Nor do people need to hold their tongues about Iraq out of fear that they'll upset a campaign. Campaigns for public office need to be responsive to the people. People who do not work for campaigns do not take marching orders from them. Real journalist (as opposed to Party Hacks) never tell a person that they need to be 'happy' with whatever sop got tossed their way. The comeback from the 2004 elections was a rough period. You had Nagourney and others pushing the newly invented myth of 'values voters.' (With 'values' only being values if they reflected an extremely right-wing view of the world.) You had Party Hacks desperate to run from the war. You had a lefty outlet (not a magazine) offer a laughable (or maybe pitiful) piece on how the war needed to go on. The independent press needs to be indepentent but some of it won't be. If they're not independent, they need to be called out.

The illegal war isn't going to end because we're all steered into pinning our hopes on one person. It won't end because we stay silent or because we leave the decision up to elected officials. Cindy Sheehan truly sparked the movement (shocked?) back to life. But, and members know this story, if you go back to the real time coverage of Sheehan, you'll see a lot of distortions at some outlets. One wanted to claim that she wasn't for bringing the troops home. And when a member of this community (Martha) corrected the person on that, the reply was that it wasn't up to Cindy Sheehan or to us to make a decision about that, it was up to Congress and experts.
This was a left blogger saying that. Apparently the blogger thought they came off as one of the 'experts' or 'insiders' who was so wise. In reality, the blogger came off as ignorant of history, ignorant of a topic (Sheehan) that the blogger chose to write about, and no friend to democracy when you say that the people need to keep their opinions to themselves and allow Congress and 'experts' to figure out what to do. Maybe the blogger was suffering Sunday Chat & Chew damage, but that's not how a democracy works.

People need to claim and own their power. They need to use their voices. Dropping back to a question about which organization should be supported, all have done amazing work. They've forced the issue, they've created the space where dissent could be raised. The peace movement's done an amazing job -- with a lot of work still in the future -- and when you grasp how little support they've had from so-called independent media, you should marvel over what they've accomplished. The ones standing in the way long ago stopped being the right-wing. The number still believing (or thinking they can fool people on the right) probably hasn't gone down all that much but they're not able to shout down now -- the people turned against the war in the summer of 2005 and that's only gotten stronger. Now days it's the friends or 'friends' who try to steer you towards silence that hurt the peace movement. And the ones who've been silent (and continue to remain silent) also hurt the peace movement. It still amazes me that so many rushed to sing Molly Ivins praises (she deserved that praise) never once offered (or were asked) how they intended to honor the legacy of the woman they say they admired so much. The obvious way to honor her would be to continue what she wasn't able to -- use their voices to focus on Iraq.

Last highlight goes to Alfred who notes Nicola Nasser's "Playing US Politics with Iraqi Blood for Oil" (CounterPunch) which addresses a number of things including the way this plays out outside the US:

Would the Democrats' alternative end the occupation? Nothing is concrete and on record so far to indicate it would. Would it end the civil war? On the contrary it will make it worse as all statements by Democrat leaders point only to a "military redeployment" to extricate their troops out of the harm's way. How could a sectarian ruling elite, which is an integral part of the sectarian divide, end a sect-based strife on its own when they were unable to do so with the combined US-Iraqi forces? Moreover, is this so-called alternative essentially different from the Republicans' strategy? On the unity of Iraq, oil, long-term US military presence, civil war and the "benchmarks" set for the new Iraqi rulers both alternatives are essentially the same. Their looming showdown over deadlines for combat operations in Iraq would neither set a deadline for the end of Bush era in Iraq nor herald an end to the US era in the country.True the House on March 23 voted 218 to 212 to stop paying for U.S. combat operations in Iraq as of August 31, 2008; on March 27 the Senate voted 50-48 for a deadline on March 31, 2008. The narrow margin of both votes emboldened Bush to confirm he will veto both. Congress obviously doesn't have the two-thirds majority necessary to override his veto. It is almost certain Bush is going to keep his combat troops in Iraq for as long as he wants, until the deadline set by the US constitution for his exit on January 20, 2009.Only then the Bush era will end in Iraq to make room for carrying on the US era in the country either by a new Republican or Democrat administration, which will depend on the outcome of playing politics with more Iraqi blood. The congress will continue the deadline play after its recess for two weeks.Meanwhile Bush, in defiance of American public opinion and his Democratic rivals, is sending more troops to Iraq instead of bringing some back home, in a race against time to achieve a military success on the ground to pre-empt a Democratic electoral success next year, while the Democrats are manoeuvring to bet on his failure in Iraq to secure a victory in the US. Under the Bush administration's new Iraq policy announced earlier this year, the Pentagon has increased force levels in Iraq by about 30,000 troops. The United States has about 145,000 troops in Iraq.Arab observers could not miss facts like that the Democrat-approved $124 billion supplemental funding was more than Bush himself requested; "We gave him more than he asked for, we gave him every dime that he asked for," said House Majority Whip Democratic Rep. James E. Clyburn. The Senate March 27 vote on a withdrawal schedule was nonbinding on the President. Democrats only require Bush to seek Congressional approval before extending the occupation and spending new funds to do so. All these factors and more boil down to simply empowering Bush to continue his bloody war for at least one more year, until the eve of the next election; the Democratic leadership is viewed merely to appear to oppose the war while continuing to fund it.Common Ground on 'Benchmarks'Nor are Arab observers, especially Iraqis, missing the fact that the Democrats have adopted the same benchmarks laid out by Bush for the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki. The House bill of March 23 mandates these benchmarks for the Iraqi government. If the Iraqi government fails to meet those benchmarks, U.S. troops would be withdrawn at an earlier date. These benchmarks and the bipartisan consensus on them could only be interpreted as a bipartisan decision to empower the pro-US ruling Iraqi coalition to serve as Washington's proxy to combat the Iraqi anti-occupation resistance and terrorism, which boils down to nothing less than a decision to "Iraqize" the war, forgetting that the "vietnamization" was a bad precedent that failed to save the American neck in the Vietnam war."Iraq must take responsibility for its own future, and our troops should begin to come home," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. The difference is only one of approach: Democrats seek to extricate US troops from the civil war militarily by redeploying them out of population centres and assigning their mission to Iraqis and diplomatically by engaging regional powers particularly Syria and Iran; Republicans want US military to enforce security first and install their Iraqi protagonists in the secured community centres before redeploying.A second Bush-set and Democrat-adopted benchmark that the government of al-Maliki must meet concerns Iraq's oil industry and Iraqi multibillion-dollar oil revenues. Both rivals agree that the new Iraqi oil law should be adopted this year to favour investing foreign oil companies with 70 percent of oil revenue to recoup their initial outlay, then companies can reap 20 percent of the profit without any tax or other restrictions on their transfers abroad. Both parties seek to distribute the oil revenues on ethnic and sectarian basis in accordance with the new draft hydrocarbon law. The Democrats had proposed that by July 1 of this year Bush must certify that progress is being made on these issues or US "withdrawal" will begin within 180 days. The wide spread Iraqi opposition to this law is a major contributor to the civil war.

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and the war drags on