Thursday, April 19, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Current polls and public discourse -- in spite of media inclinations to tamp down authentic anger at the war -- do reflect an "antiwar America" of sorts. So, why is the ghastly war effort continuing unabated? A big factor is the undue respect that's reserved for American warriors in American society.
When a mentally unstable person goes on a shooting rampage in the United States, no one questions that such actions are intrinsically, fundamentally and absolutely wrong. The media condemnation is 100 percent.
However -- even after four years of a U.S. war in Iraq that has been increasingly deplored by the American public -- the standard violence directed from the Pentagon does not undergo much critical scrutiny from American journalists. The president's war policies may come under withering media fire, but the daily activities of the U.S. armed forces are subjected to scant moral condemnation. Yet, under orders from the top, they routinely continue to inflict -- or serve as a catalyst for -- violence far more extensive than the shooting sprees that turned a placid Virginia campus into a slaughterhouse.
News outlets in the United States combine the totally proper condemnation of killing at home with a notably different affect toward the methodical killing abroad that is funded by the U.S. Treasury. We often read, see and hear explicit media commendations that praise as heroic the Americans in uniform who are trying to kill, and to avoid being killed, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Ronald noted the above from Norman Solomon's "Bowing Down to Our Own Violence" (CounterPunch) and agrees that it's "a hard hitting column." It is one. It's making strong points throughout including in the section Ronald chose to excerpt. There are silences we accept and ones we impose. Hide behind the troops was the Democrats 2004 campaign message which is how John Kerry's best public moment gets buried. Sometimes, you'll hear that people "aren't ready" for that. They were ready. They could've handled realities. But realities didn't come in 2004 and they didn't come from a presidential candidate. We got reality in 2005 when Cindy Sheehan started Camp Casey.

For all the moral posturing from the campaigns of both major parties, we got nothing that spoke to ethics or reality. It took a person, not an elected official, to speak truth to power and drive the realities home. It took someone stepping up and speaking her truth to wake the nation -- a nation lulled into sleep with far too posturing. Even post-Sheehan, we saw cowardice from many. Who could cover the war crimes done to Abeer and her family? A 14-year-old girl is gang raped by US soldiers (Steven D. Green still maintains his innocence, three others have confessed) while her five-year-old sister is murdered, while her parents are murdered. After the gang rape ends, Abeer is killed. That's not even good enough for the criminals. They need to set her body on fire as well in an attempt to dispose of the evidence. They then go grill some chicken and drink some beer.

And when that broke, what did we get? 'Nobody better call them baby killers!' With hoseanas and amens. And the really sad thing was, while you might expect that reaction from the right, it came from those who think of themselves and present themselves as the left. Did that cowardice in the blogosphere prevent our independent media from covering the War Crimes? Something sure as hell did.

Of the print magazines, Off Our Backs didn't shy from reality. How many others can make that claim? In fact, only in this month did The Nation finally print Abeer's name. (That came via an Alexander Cockburn column.) Now she would turned 15 last August, had she not been murdered. And there were demonstrations to note that day. But didn't independent media dummy up on the subject. They did so as details came out, they did so during the Article 32 hearing and, honestly, they've done so through repeated confessions. Are they saving the coverage for when Green is tried in a federal court?

No, we've just got a lot of silence in independent media. 30 plus (I believe it's up to 34) people at a college die and and damned if if everyone in independent media can't rush to weigh in on that. Katrina vanden Heuvel weighs in. Abeer? Not one damn word. Not. One. Damn. Word.
How does that happen? How. Does. That. Happen?

When you are both the editor and the publisher and you and your magazine are silent, a message is sent. When your token feminist columnist (in print) is silent, a message is sent. When your legal correspondent is silent, a message is sent. All three are women. Katrina vanden Heuvel, Katha Pollitt, Patricia J. Williams. Now there's no excuse for the males being silent. (David Corn focuses on DC, that's his beat. He's the only one who can offer a valid reason for not commenting.) But three women in positions because of the advances in society -- that other women paved the way for -- choose to take a pass on the gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl by US soldiers. How does that happen? (Cockburn's CounterPunch did cover Iraq and Abeer has been cited there. Like most in the community, I don't consider him of The Nation.)

Now no one expects the Cindy Brady of the faux left to cover it. AlterPunk's hostitlities to women are there in his writings (the silences on women, the repeating of right wing falsehoods about women -- sometimes in a "quote" that he allows to stand). But the self-styled media columnist could have commented on the Abeer coverage. For instance, he could have written of how, in the Article 32 hearing, the defense presented an argument that was "unknown" in military justice but, somehow, the New York Times was able to promote this same defense in their 'reporting' and to do so before the defense ever presented it in court. Guess they used their crystal balls for that one?

But the men and the women of The Nation collectively failed. In fact, Cockburn remains the only writer to mention Abeer. Had they printed Martha's letter, we could note that Abeer was mentioned in the letter pages. In fact, let's note Martha's letter here:

Reading Katha Pollitt's "Ho-Ho-Holiday Donations -- 2006" two questions arose
1) Ms. Pollitt refers to In These Times as The Nation's "sister publication." In light of concerns regarding media consolidation, that phrase needs to be explained.
2) Looking through the ten recommended organizations and publications, I see Hurricane Katrina, I see Vietnam, et al. I don't see Iraq. Is Ms. Pollitt aware that a war is going on? MADRE, an organization recently recommended on RadioNation with Laura Flanders, seems much more fitting than a periodical (two make Ms. Pollitt's list). In addition, there are numerous organizations working for peace and supporting C.O.s.
If Ms. Pollitt is unaware that a war is going on in Iraq, that might explain why she has never written one word about the rape and murder of fourteen-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi -- a topic that strikes me as much more important than Hillary Clinton being "bird-dogged."

There's a point to noting the silences. We'll get to that. But, for now, why does the war drag on? Because too many who are in a position to speak out choose not to. They silence themselves.

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 3296. Tonight? ICCC reports 3315 with 68 for the month thus far. 19 since last Thursday.

Wednesday, on KPFA's The Morning Show, Matthew Rothschild noted this:

I do think that the Democrats are not doing enough to demand withdrawal within 6 months or, max, a year and not having loopholes where even if that thing passed and even if Bush were to sign it, Bush would still be able to stay in Iraq for years and years because even the Democrats' legislation allows the president to keep training Iraqi security, keep going after al Qaeda and, you know, helping out patrolling Iraq in defense of US personnel which could be Haliburton. It could be US contractors over there. So with those loopholes even in the best of bills this war could go on under Bush -- or under Bush's sucessor if it be Hillary Clinton, John Edwards or Barack Obama. None of the Democrats are demanding withdrawal without conditions and that's what's going to have to happen at some point because otherwise, you know Bush is going to keep this going and I think the Democrats are going to capitulate. I think Harry Reid, not only has he capitulated on gun control, but he's going to capitulate on this, he's going to take even the kind of fake deadline the Democrats have in that legislation and he's going to take those away. And so Bush will get his funding and this war will go on and it's going to go on until the 11th hour on January 20, 2009 when Bush leaves office and then the Democratic president, if it be a Democratic president, or the Republican successor is going to continue to wage that war unless we really raise the stakes that people of this county, not just Democrats, but the people across party lines are way ahead of the politicians on this. They want the troops to come out within a year. And, at some point, we've got to raise our voices a little bit louder.

But you haven't heard that very much. You've heard a lot of lies and you've heard a lot of, if you dared to point out the very obvious realities of the measures, heard Party Hacks try to silence you with cheers of "Root! Root! For the home team!" You didn't get a lot of independence. Amazinginly, the same gas bags who rushed in (some over and over) with commentaries on Monday's shootings had nothing to say about the slaughters in Iraq yesterday.

So today, one of the things I spoke at was requested by a friend of a friend. There was a group, a women's group, that wasn't really an adovacy group, or a political one (a business group), and the war wasn't anything they'd touched on. They'd avoided it among themselves to the point that the organizer wasn't even sure where the membership stood on the war. So I was asked if I would speak against the illegal war while another speaker spoke in favor of the illegal war.

I don't usually do that. But the structure wasn't a debate and a friend of a friend was calling in a marker. The other speaker went first. She went on and on about how this was "just" and "right" and we needed to show "fortitude." We each had a little less than thirty minutes allotted to us. She spoke for all of her alloted time except for two minutes at the end when she asked for questions and comments. There were none. The reaction throughout the speech had been expressionless faces. Not bored, just stone-faced. And now they had nothing to say.

Did they really have no opinion at all? Is that why even their organizer couldn't figure out where they stood? I don't get up and give lengthy speeches. There was a time for longer speeches (before the illegal war started and in the immediate aftermath). What I do is emphasize a few things and then toss it out there so we can all share. But I'm standing before them and thinking I'm going to have to fill for about 30 minutes, cursing myself for not wearing a watch, and discussing war resisters and the silence on them in our media. I was probably two minutes in when a woman stood up and asked if she could say something.

I said sure, that I prefer a conversation anyway and had no idea where she was going to go but I was very interested. She cleared her throat a couple of times so I left the formal setting and walked over next to her. When she finally spoke, she talked about her own life. Her now ex-husband had been a war resister during Vietnam. He was opposed to the war. He had been thinking of self-checking out. She was pregnant and he applied to go on leave. His leave wasn't granted. Others got their leave. He was told that his commanding officer hadn't even processed it. He asked about that and was told that wasn't reason enough.

He self-checked out. They had a few more children, were married for twenty years ("most of them happy") and what she wanted to talk about was how, during the 70s, it wasn't a big issue. Then ("around 1985") it suddenly became an issue with some people they met. She spoke of a number of things (including that he received a discharge that wasn't disorderly -- hold on, I'm trying to remember what it was, it was like "unfit" and may have been, it had "un" in it) but the main thing she wanted to talk about "was the slow embrace of embrace of war that we've allowed to happen." She spoke very powerfully and very elequently. So well that there was silence after so I jogged it a bit and then they were off and running.

They talked about the inability of the media (three cited The Nation) to address the illegal war, to address what went on over there. One woman spoke of "the unspoken, but very real silence" which included a failure of big media "to buck the administration" and of little media "to really explore." They had opinions but, and this was usually stated by one and agreed to by the next woman speaking, even post-Cindy Sheehan (whose name came up often) they still didn't feel a space had been carved out for a real discussion that went beyond "stay" or "bring them home." Near the end, one woman referenced the first to speak and talked about how she felt the same thing, the huge switch away from honesty to "blind obedience" and traced it to "when Reagan was president."

Where did they stand? All but one was against the war and the conversations they had today don't stop there. They'll continue it. Greg had a highlight and wasn't sure of which section to go with so he copied and pasted the entire thing. I'm choosing the section because it reflects what I heard from the women today (and many cited The NewsHour, PBS and NPR as their primary source of news). This is from Robert Parry's "Time for PBS to Go?" (Consortium News):

PBS has been sinking into this pattern of corrupt behavior for years, especially after the Right took aim at public broadcasting in the 1980s and early 1990s. CPB was intended to insulate PBS from political pressure, but the Reagan administration began a systematic process of salting the board with partisan Republicans and neocon ideologues.
By reshaping the CPB board, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush turned CPB from its original purpose as a shield to defend professionalism at PBS into a weapon for breaking down the network’s editorial independence. Simultaneously well-funded right-wing pressure groups went after individual PBS journalists and programs.
When I worked for the PBS documentary series "Frontline" in the early 1990s, I saw this process first-hand, as CPB and PBS increasingly bent to Republican pressure. At one PBS conference, Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan gave a keynote speech trashing "Frontline" -- and few PBS executives dared come to the program’s defense.
After Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994 and targeted PBS funding, the network twisted itself more to the Right, hoping to appease the angry Republicans by adding more and more conservative content while taking for granted the bedrock support of the Democrats and liberals.
This PBS dynamic had become second nature by the second Bush administration -- and grew more entrenched after 2002 when Republicans gained control of all branches of the federal government. The few PBS holdouts, like Bill Moyers, were soon isolated and pushed toward the door.
Even when the invasion of Iraq turned sour and more prominent Americans began to speak up, CPB and PBS knew to rush to Bush's defense. To correct for supposed "liberal bias," CPB ordered up and funded the "America at a Crossroads" series.
In that sense, "America at a Crossroads" -- and especially Perle's "The Case for War: In Defense of Freedom" segment -- has the look of Pravda during the Soviet era when the Russian people could learn what dissidents had to say mostly by reading between the lines of Pravda denouncing them.
The Perle-narrated program -- and PBS's disdain for the idea of giving equal time to the other side -- had that kind of feel to it.
The likes of Martin Sheen and Tim Robbins were held up as enemies of the state, either disloyal or crazy. However, Perle still managed to present himself as the victim, noting that Robbins had written a play in which a character modeled after Perle was the bad guy.

The switch the women were speaking of includes what Parry's outlining. It also includes the backlash against women, the trash films attempting to rewrite reality and a culture that refused to call it out. Can't risk hurting feelings, can't call out the revisionary lies on Vietnam. What harm's really going on, right? The very real harm can be seen today (whenever the media elicts to cover Iraq). Some of the women today were old enough to have lived through the period during some of their adult years, some lived through it in their childhood years (no one in the organization was young enough to have been born after the US left Vietnam). Regardless of their personal politics, they were conservative in the way they conducted themselves. They had lived through the change in the country -- the one Parry's writing about via PBS -- and I don't think they suddenly remembered how they felt during Vietnam, I think they picked up on the signals that they weren't supposed to discuss such issues.

Norman Solomon is. Once the first woman got the ball rolling today, other women were. I wonder what it will take to get The Nation talking? About Abeer? About war resisters? Someone who always keeps the conversation going is Cindy Sheehan and Billie highlights her
"Keynote Speech for the Omaha Peace and Justice Expo" (BuzzFlash):

I understand that coming to DC, especially on a Monday, is an inconvenience and a sacrifice -- but I believe ending this war and making a true and lasting change in the world will entail such sacrifice from us all. We ALL need to sacrifice from our substance, our subsistence, and not just our plenty. I know many of you do an incredible amount of work for peace and justice -- but how many of you sleep in a different bed every night? How many of you have slept in drafty attics, stuffy basements, floors, jail cells, or lumpy couches in search of peace? How many of you have spent every last penny you have on this cause? How many of you have been physically uncomfortable for a prolonged period of time -- like camping in a ditch in 105 degree heat for 26 days? Or staging a sit-in during freezing cold weather for any amount of time? How many of you have done any of these things mourning a needlessly and prematurely killed child? How many of you know anyone in Iraq right now, whether American or Iraqi?
I have done, and do all of these things, some on a daily basis. My son was used as sacrificial cannon fodder by the military industrial complex and the Bush Crime family to line their pockets. Every cell in my body aches for Casey every second of the day -- I have been smeared, slandered, and libeled and my life physically threatened, but I push on -- why? Because I don't want anyone else on this planet to have to sacrifice the way my family did.We can all do more. The war machine has a stranglehold on this country, our economy, our elected officials, our educational system, and our young children and will not be broken unless every one of us looks into our hearts and figures out what more we can do. If you are financially comfortable, donate to peace groups such as mine that are actually in the vineyards doing the work -- if you aren't, then your heart has to become involved. I have a feeling each and every one of us can do with less to make sure every other human has enough physical comforts and security and safety.

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