Sunday, April 15, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

A group of antiwar vets who did time in Iraq and Afghanistan have been making their presence known for the past couple of years in the US and, like their predecessors that organized Vietnam Veterans Against the War, these men and women have formed an antiwar group known as Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). According to an article in a publication titled North Carolina at War published by the Institute for Southern Studies, IVAW has members in at least 41 states and on some military bases overseas. I recently got in touch with some of its members. What follows is a transcript of a hopeful and occasionally heartrending exchange I had with these three folks.-Ron
Ron: If you don't mind, can you provide your name, and what branch and where and when you served in the military. And what you're doing now (besides working with IVAW)?
Adrienne Kinne, US Army (1994-1998), US Army Reserves (1998-2004, activated 10/01-10/03), Arabic linguist (military intelligence). I now work for the VA in White River Junction as a research health science specialist (MS in psychology).
Cpl Matt Howard. Served with 1st Tank Battalion 1st Marine Division during the initial invasion Basra to Baghdad and a year later transferring equipment from Kuwait to Fallujah.I'm currently looking at schools to Study Oriental medicine.
My name is Drew Cameron, I served from August 2000-04 on active duty in the US Army as a field artillery soldier out of Fort Sill, OK. After that I re-enlisted into the Vermont National Guard for two years as a patient administration specialist and ended my time there in August 2006. I served in Iraq from April-Dec 2003 and our base of operations was Camp Ananconda. Since I got out of Active duty I started going to school full-time, I recently transferred to the University of Vermont where I study forestry. I am on the board for the Vermont Peace and Justice Center and run a small artist collective called the Green Door Studio here in Burlington. Vermont. I make paper and books, and host openings, get the occasional small commission, it helps ya know.
Ron: What caused you all to take the step and join IVAW? Was it an easy choice or a difficult one for each of you? How many sympathizers would you guess you have in the military?
Adrienne: I had heard about IVAW a couple of years ago. Though I supported what they stood for, I didn't really think that I would have a place in IVAW because I served my entire enlistment stateside, and I'd been out of the military for a while by then. Instead I was active with other organizations. I signed petitions, donated, and had just started to get more active last election cycle (Get Out the Vote calls, etc.).
Matt: I joined IVAW the second I found out about it. It was hardly a choice ­ more of a moral imperative. And I take comfort in knowing that for every one of us speaking out, there are hundreds who share our views but have not yet found their voice.
Drew: The choice wasn't an easy one for me, after I got out of active duty, really after I got back from Iraq I just wanted to forget about everything and move on. The problem I didn't understand is that one can't reconcile and deal unless you approach and work through it. So I spent two years of being numb, distant and sometimes self-destructive or angry. I used to get anxiety, like a wave of anxiety for no reason, but mostly didn't really connect with anyone even my girlfriend. After awhile it came to a point where I wanted to do something, so I went to a protest in January 2006 and met another veteran, he told me about IVAW and what it was all about. It really blew me away the immediate connection and friendships that comes from talking truthfully about what we did and being active towards ending the repression of military servicemembers who are being used by the warmakers. I know that there a lot of folks that feel the same way, I have met so many of them. Both my buddies from the Army and veterans that I meet at different events, they know what's up, they know that there is no justification for being over there, but its a conflicting feeling to be open and public about it. We have a right to do so, after all we are the ones who are paying the highest price over there, us and the people of Iraq. Why shouldn't we be able to speak truthfully and dissent? The whole military mission-first mindset is a hard one to relinquish even once you get away from it and can take a breath.
Adrienne: When I heard that Bush was going to escalate the US force level in Iraq this January, part of me just snapped to be honest. I couldn't believe that after the elections, and all that had happened, he could just go so brazenly against the will of the people. I was fortunate to get on a (Burlington, VT.) Peace and Justice Center bus, and I headed to DC for the January 27th March on Washington, my first rally. I decided to wear my desert uniform, which was also a first for me (it felt really odd too, wearing my uniform out of uniform, by myself until I got to DC, but it seemed right). When I got to DC, I headed over to the area where I knew veterans would be forming up, and I saw the IVAW table, and I signed up that day. Someone asked me where I was from, and I said Vermont, and he said, hey, here's another Vermonter. I looked up, and saw Matt and Drew, and that was the beginning for me on pretty much every real level.I have no idea how many sympathizers we have in the military. That there are more soldiers resisting, and choosing jail over service is telling. That there are 3,000-5,000 estimated AWOL soldiers is also telling. I think this is the beginning of active duty soldiers standing down and resisting. Time will tell.

The above, noted by Lonnie, is from Ron Jacobs' "A Conversation with Three Iraq Veterans Against the War" (CounterPunch). Lonnie wanted to thank everyone ("especially Mia and Elaine") who note CounterPunch because he didn't know about the site before the highlights. "I saw the stuff going up and would read along and nod at the excerpts, then I started checking it out. Great site, if anyone's not visited it, they should start today." Especially Mia and Elaine? Mia usually highlights it here and Elaine works it to almost everyone of her posts at Like Maria Said Paz. (CounterPunch, print, is Elaine's favorite read.) Adrienne Kinne (above) speaks of how the post-election escalation prompted joining Iraq Veterans Against the War. Linjamin Mull was prompted, by the escalation, to self-check out and move to Canada. From Vic's highlight this morning, Patrick Maloney's "U.S. soldier in London to avoid Iraq war" (Canoe News):

Mull, an articulate 31-year-old, recently went absent without leave from his training at Virginia's Fort Houston.
He applied for refugee status in Toronto with the help of Canadian sympathizers, one of whom has opened her London home to him.

[. . .]
The nerve centre of Canada's War Resisters Support Campaign is Toronto, but organizers there say they've run out of available housing for arriving soldiers. So Ontario's other two most-active campaigns, in London and Ottawa, are expected to carry the load for the next two months.
"We've been getting quite a few new people in quick succession and that's overwhelming for us," said lead organizer Lee Zaslofsky, who came to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War.

Yeah, it's a movement and most of your small media can't bother to notice. Attacks against war resisters are gearing up but they remain silent on the topic. For all the silence on the topic, one would think Baby Cries a Lot controlled indymedia (when the truth is he's not even on commercially broadcast radio now). Maybe they all embraced him so much (how many covers did tubby need from left magazines -- tubby was calling for the illegal war to continue every year he did broadcast) because he reflects their real views? Maybe some in independent media, like Democratic leadership, talk big but really can't carry it off? Dem leadership tries to fool people with toothless measures. Small media seems to think a fiery editorial every two years will somehow lead readers to not noticing the year-round silence on Iraq.

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, since the start of the illegal war, stood at 3281 (Reuters) and 3282 (ICCC). Tonight? 3297 is the Reuters count. 3301 is the ICCC count with 54 for the month of April thus far. So ICCC's noting the 3,300 mark passed. For those attempting to remember the 3,000 mark, that arrived on December 31st.

Today the US military announced: "Multi-National Division – An MND-B Soldier died when a patrol wasattacked with small arms fire in a southern area of the Iraqi capital April 15.
The unit was responding in support of a partnered national police unit that cameunder fire near a local mosque. An Iraqi civilian was also wounded in the attack." And they announced: "A Task Force Marne Soldier was killed south of Baghdad Saturday April 14, when an improvised explosive device detonated near troops conducting a foot patrol." And they announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died April 14 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." And they announced: "One 13th Sustainment Command Soldier (Expeditionary) died from non-combat related causes while on a pass in Qatar Apr. 14." The last probably won't get counted in many counts -- R&R in Qatar. As though Qatar would be the first destination choice for relaxing if the illegal war wasn't going on.

142 is the ICCC count for the number of British soldiers killed since the start of the illegal war.
The UK's Ministry of Defence announced today: "It is with deep sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of two British Personnel in Iraq after two UK Puma Helicopters crashed north of Baghdad in Iraq on Sunday 15 April 2007."

Turning to Iraqi deaths today, Polly notes this from the BBC:

At least 43 people have been killed in a series of bomb and suicide attacks in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, police say.
At least 18 people were killed when two car bombs exploded in a busy market in a mainly Shia district of the city.
Eleven more died when a minibus blew up in the Karrada district, while a suicide attack on a bus in the city's northwest left at least six dead.
Two further roadside bombs went off in Karrada after nightfall, killing at least eight people, police said.

In addition, Reuters notes "a 'precuationary landing'" by a US helicopter "after it was hit by insurgent gunfire" in Mosul, two corpses were discovered in Khalidiya, 4 dead in Mosul from truck bombings, and two police officers shot dead in Baiji. And on the topic of the refugee crisis, we'll note Leila Fadel's "Some Iraqis return home, but not because of security plan" (McClatchy Newspapers):

Osama Mihsin, Sabri Gatah, and Ahmed Hanin have two things in common: They fled their homes to escape sectarian violence, and now they are back.
But whether they're a sign of success for the two-month-old Baghdad security plan - as the Iraqi government claims - or just symptoms of the difficulty Iraq's refugees face in finding secure shelter is a matter of debate.
None of the three say they returned because of the security plan, whose beginning was announced Feb. 15. Instead, they ran out of money or discovered that their neighborhoods had been cleansed of the people who were threatening them.
Getting families to return to the homes they left in the face of raging sectarian violence is one of the goals of the security plan, which includes the addition of at least 17,500 American soldiers to patrols in Baghdad. The Iraqi government has said 2,000 families of some 1.9 million displaced people in Iraq have come back in recent weeks, and officials of the Ministry of Displacement and Migration said some of the 2 million Iraqis who've fled the country for foreign lands have returned.
But outside experts say those assertions misrepresent what is really taking place. The International Organization of Migration, which monitors and aids displaced people in Iraq, said that while the rate of displacement has slowed, the crisis is still overwhelming. The crisis is even affecting provinces that are relatively safe, such as Najaf and Karbala.

Those are some of the dead today as a result of an illegal war and the lies told by the US administration. Juan notes David Swanson's "Record of Iraq War Lies to Air April 25 on PBS" (Common Dreams) (see note after excerpt):

Bill Moyers has put together an amazing 90-minute video documenting the lies that the Bush administration told to sell the Iraq War to the American public, with a special focus on how the media led the charge. I've watched an advance copy and read a transcript, and the most important thing I can say about it is: Watch PBS from 9 to 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 25. Spending that 90 minutes on this will actually save you time, because you’ll never watch television news again -- not even on PBS, which comes in for its share of criticism.
While a great many pundits, not to mention presidents, look remarkably stupid or dishonest in the four-year-old clips included in "Buying the War," it's hard to take any spiteful pleasure in holding them to account, and not just because the killing and dying they facilitated is ongoing, but also because of what this video reveals about the mindset of members of the DC media. Moyers interviews media personalities, including Dan Rather, who clearly both understand what the media did wrong and are unable to really see it as having been wrong or avoidable.
It’s great to see an American media outlet tell this story so well, but it leads one to ask: When will Congress tell it? While the Democrats were in the minority, they clamored for hearings and investigations, they pushed Resolutions of Inquiry into the White House Iraq Group and the Downing Street Minutes. Now, in the majority, they've gone largely silent. The chief exception is the House Judiciary Committee's effort to question Condoleezza Rice next week about the forged Niger documents.
But what comes out of watching this show is a powerful realization that no investigation is needed by Congress, just as no hidden information was needed for the media to get the story right in the first place. The claims that the White House made were not honest mistakes. But neither were they deceptions. They were transparent and laughably absurd falsehoods. And they were high crimes and misdemeanors.

If you watch PBS, you don't need this note. If you don't and are thinking, "I'm going to catch that!" . . . PBS isn't ABC. PBS doesn't schedule programs. Stations around the country choose what to carry (and what not to) and when. Many stations will take the feed and air at that time, some won't. If you're planning on watching, you need to be sure it is airing on your station and when it is airing. Along with checking your local TV schedule (in whatever print form), you can also check online. This is PBS and you can enter your zip code, it will match you with your local PBS and you can check the schedule there. Some stations will carry it from the feed. Some will not, some may due it in the early morning hours, some may do it on another day or another week, some may never carry it. Do not assume that because the ideal time for PBS stations to air a program is given that's when it's airing in your area. I believe most pledge drives over so you won't have the horror of flipping on the TV for Moyers to be encounted by the nightmare of a Suze Ormis infomercial, but you may not find Moyers either. So check your local station to see when it will air. (It may also be made available online at PBS at some point.) April 25th is the earliest it will air. If you don't see it scheduled for that day in your area, there is a phone number on each local page and you can call that number (or e-mail) and someone should get back to you as to whether (a) they are carrying it and (if so) (b) when.

Okay, Thursday, I was supposed to note the snapshots. Three visitors (not right-wingers) had questions and I said I'd do a talking entry Thursday and note it there. I ended up with an unplanned meeting I was asked to speak at and a very limited time to do the entry (which was dictated) as I went to it. So I didn't have time then.

To review (for members), the snapshot came about because there was a defocusing on Iraq in most media -- big and small (domestic, US media). I have no idea (I'm tired) when the snapshot started. It was either before or after the focus became Iraq (members voted on that in a poll at the gina & krista round-robin). The snapshot was voted on (at the round-robin). Did they want a snapshot or a grab bag? They wanted a snapshot.

It does not cover everything on any given day. Some things that might strike some as interesting don't strike me as such. (If a member suggests something that will fit in the snapshot, it will go in unless there is just not time -- when there's not time, it will get noted in another entry here.) Those are dictated about 2/3s of the time. On a good day (very rare), I will have put in links and dictate around that. I utilize five friends for that. That's not one each day of the week. If I'm speaking, they start and stop. I'll call up a friend and give a section over the phone and they'll save it to draft. I'll call up the same person or another friend when I've got the next spare minutes. If I'm dictating, I'm talking very fast and people will do the best they can to get it down. "It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to go up" is the motto more and more.

Friday, Tom Hayden's piece was mentioned. That's an example of something held for several days. Two of the days were because it didn't fit with the other things. Other days were because time ran out and the snapshot had to go up. There are things that are held for various reasons and most often it's due to time running out.

The Voice of America will not be linked to ever. That has to do with its historical nature and why it is banned from broadcasting over US airwaves. I'm not interested in that even if a visitor feels that's the only place something is covered. I'd rather miss something, anything, than link to that.

The fatality count is noted each Thursday and Sunday. Sometimes it will be noted in the snapshot, sometimes it won't. That's a time issue. Other than mishearing a word, only one person 'sharpens.' That's a friend who is comedy writer and will sometimes think, "I know C.I. said ___ but I think ____ is much funnier." In those instances, he will make a word substitution.

If you see, word for word, something from entries earlier that day, that's because there wasn't time and I just said, "Grab ___ from ___." The snapshot, at the request of the community, goes up at all community sites. Though members who read this site will know what we've talked about, at other sites they may not. On Monday, Micah wanted us to hit something again because a program he listens to, with an informed host, knew nothing about it. If the informed host didn't know about it, then chances are others missed it as well. When somethng is word for word from another snapshot, it is noted as such. (And it's noted why we're doing that.)

The "Information about war resisters . . ." paragraph appears in every snapshot. It needs to. Those organizations need to be known, people need to be aware of them. The paragraph before it (" is/are part of a movement . . .") sometimes includes a name twice -- at the start of the sentence and further in. That means someone (and I've done it when I've actually typed an entire snapshot -- I've done it many times) didn't catch that one name repeated.

Somedays, as a visitor pointed out, there is little independent media. In terms of audio, I may not have been near a radio. Most days, I will try to call Kat who works out of her home (her studio is in her home) and who does record The Morning Show and other programs for Betty. If I have time to call Kat, she'll usually cue something up and that can be included if I'm on the road. In addition, Zach and Mia will sometimes type up transcripts and that will be included. I'm not interested in a transcript of something I haven't heard and cannot check out from a visitor. I know Mia and Zach, I know Rachel and Jonah (WBAI listeners). I trust them (and other members) not to think, "This'll be a good prank!" and pass on something wrong intentionally. In a transcription (done by me or anyone else) a word can be wrong. If it is and it's noted, it will be corrected. But a wrong word doesn't usually destroy the larger points. A visitor sending a transcript will not be noted unless and until I can hear the program it aired on.

I'm sorry, that's the way it is. (In addition, I do call Ruth who generally keeps a running transcription of interesting things she hears in case she uses them for her reports. Ruth also calls me. As does a friend in NYC and he and Ruth will both say, "Listen to this" and put the phone up to the speaker.)

In terms of non-audio, check around and see how many are addressing Iraq. If non-audio independent media isn't noted, there's a reason for that. I'm not doing links (they are on the left) but most of the time, regardless of where I am, I can catch Democracy Now! and Free Speech Radio News, they are broadcast all over the country (and Goodman's show on TV as well as radio). They get noted for that reason more and because they are news programs. One visitor felt Sandra Lupien was noted more than Aileen Alfandary (when Lupien did the news breaks on The Morning Show, Alfandary now does them). That's because Alfandary's sources have already been noted. I'm not insulting Alfandary for that or with that. I am noting that I had a friend screaming at me over the phone to "Note Steven D. Green" and I'm looking at the e-mail he just sent and shortly afterward, Lupien's noting it. No one was talking about Green nationally -- the AP didn't have a wire, Reuters didn't. I have no idea how Lupien found out about Green's arrest (which wasn't on the wires at that time -- it was a Monday and it had happened on the previous Friday -- the last Friday in June). I'm not insulting Alfandary who does a wonderful big picture news break, but Lupien usually found something that was not being covered (it would go on to be) and that's why I would write (or dictate), "As Sandra Lupien noted on . . ." I'm using the example of Green because it really did stand out (probably due to the friend screaming in my ear over the phone) but the only source he had was thing the US government (one of many) had issued on Friday (that's what he e-mailed me and what was he was noting on the phone). Lupien had something else, she had more details. That happened repeatedly and that's why Lupien got noted more. That's nothing against Alfandary who does a big picture report on the news breaks.

On WBAI, I'm not responsible for their archiving system. If I've mentioned something here and you can't find it on their system, e-mail the public account and the e-mail will be put in a "to read" folder. I will either look myself or farm it out to a friend, but we will find what the program is listed under (last Monday's "Law and Disorder" is filed under "Out FM" -- I don't know why) and e-mail you back so that you can listen. There have also been many complaints about WBAI's streaming. They've retooled their website so try it now. If you've got DSL and are choosing the high speed option and having trouble with it, drop down to a lower stream.

I think that covers the questions from the three. If it didn't, e-mail to remind me what I left out. One thing I almost forgot, I do not write Wally and Cedric's joint-posts. I've gone over that before. Wally likes an audience. When he and Cedric do a post, he phones and runs it by me. I don't edit it. I may suggest a word change. That and laughing are my only contributions. They write that themselves. They deserve all the praise.

Mia notes (language warning) Ava and my "Don Imus " and wondered if we could note two other things on that? In this entry (a talking one, we can). (Language warning) Alexander Cockburn's writes an amazing piece on the topic entitled "Ho Industry Whores" and Missy Comley Beattie's "What Would Imus Do?: Iraq, Ho, Ho, Ho" is no doubt very strong as well. (I haven't had time to read it yet. I just want to get to bed.)

The last highlight goes to Pru. We noted this in a snapshot last week but, in the snapshots, there's not room to repost in full. Great Britain's Socialist Worker kindly allows anyone to repost their articles in full. This is about an important event and it is worth noting in full. From Simon Assaf's "Iraqis unite in Najaf demonstration to demand US out:"

Up to a million Iraqis took to the streets of Najaf on Monday to demand an end to the US occupation of their country on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.
Demonstrators came in convoys of cars and buses draped with Iraqi flags. They travelled from across the country, including from Latifiyah and Mahmudiya, areas that have witnessed sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims.
Meanwhile thousands of Iraqi flags flew from houses and shops in the capital in defiance of a 24 hour curfew imposed by US troops.
The Najaf march was called by rebel Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr whose Mehdi Army has launched two insurrections against the occupation since 2003.
On the eve of the demonstration his followers battled US troops and their Iraqi allies for control of Diwaniya, a key Shia town 80 miles south of Baghdad.
Demonstrators in Najaf burned and trampled on US and British flags to chants of, "Yes to Iraq, yes to sovereignty, no to occupation.”
A statement from Sadr, read out to the crowds, said, "So far 48 months of anxiety, oppression and occupational tyranny have passed, four years which have only brought us more death, destruction and humiliation.
"Every day tens are martyred, tens are crippled and every day we see and hear US interference in every aspect of our lives, which means that we are not sovereign, not independent and therefore not free.
"This is what Iraq has harvested from the US invasion."
Sadr is said to have taken refuge in Iran after George Bush launched his “surge” of 30,000 extra troops.
The US military describe the cleric as the "greatest threat to stability in Iraq." US troops have been setting up bases in the poor Shia slums in Baghdad in a bid to drive out his supporters.
The size of the demonstration shows that the rebel cleric still has a mass popular following despite claims by the US that his organisation is splintering and he has become weak.
Sadr has faced divisions among his followers, who he describes as a "popular army" and not a militia.
The Mehdi army grew in the Shia slums of Baghdad and cities across the south and reflects the competing pressures on Iraq's Shia majority -- cooperation with the occupation or resistance.
Some factions of the Mehdi Army have joined in the sectarian killing of Sunni Muslims -- often in response to car bombings in Shia areas -- while others have been attempting to hold together unity with the Sunnis.
On Sunday Sadr issued another call to his followers not to attack other Iraqis but to turn all their efforts to driving out the occupation.
"God has ordered you to be patient in front of your enemy, and unify your efforts against them -- not against the sons of Iraq," he said.
The struggle for unity among Iraq's resistance organisations was symbolised by the presence of Sunni Muslim delegations on the march, with a Sunni cleric marching at the front of the demonstration.
On the eve of the protest Sheikh Harith al-Dari, the head of the influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, blamed the occupation for being behind the "discord" in the country.
He said Iraq has become "a vast prison, a graveyard that is devouring hundreds of thousands", and that the US wants "to silence any voice of ­opposition and to put an end to the Iraqi people’s resistance to the occupation".
On Friday of last week one of the most influential national resistance organisations in the Sunni heartlands issued a statement criticising Sunni groups that were fomenting sectarian and ethnic conflict and tarnishing the name of the resistance movement.
National unity
Many Iraqis have began to wear golden pendants in the shape of Iraq as a statement of national unity. The demonstrators in Najaf waved Iraqi flags, rather than the yellow and black flags associated with the Shia branch of Islam.
The protest on Monday was the biggest in Iraq since the massive unity demonstrations in the early days of the occupation.
Iraqi soldiers in uniform joined the crowd. Sadr appealed to them not to "walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your arch enemy.
"My brothers in the Mehdi Army, and my brothers in the security services -- enough fighting and rivalry, because that is only a success for our, and your, enemy."
"Infighting between brothers is not right, nor is it right to follow the dirty American sedition, or to defend the occupier."
Sadr warned that the "enemy wants to draw you into a war to end the Shia, or rather Islam” and he urged the army and police to remain independent of US forces.
Salah al-Obaydi, a senior official in Sadr’s organisation, described the rally as a “call for liberation."
"We're hoping that by next year's anniversary, we will be an independent and liberated Iraq with full sovereignty."
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