Sunday, May 27, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

According to Democratic Party leaders, the new Iraq funding bill, which is concession-as-usual to the worst president in the history of our country, is a "temporary setback." Ninety U.S. troops have died in the last 25 days. Almost 1,500 Iraqi civilians have been killed in May.
"We regret to inform you that your child, your soldier child, has been killed because of a temporary setback."
The worst president in the history of this democracy had vowed to veto legislation with restrictions on troop deployments, but he didn't have to. Because most of the people we've elected to represent us simply aren't. And those who aren't are covered with the blood of our military dead and wounded as well as the blood of so many Iraqis.
The worst president in the history of this land of opportunity continues to talk "sacrifice" and, after having his way with Congress, made this statement: "We're going to expect heavy fighting." In other words, the death count will climb higher and higher and more of our young men and women will be blown to bits thousands of miles from home in a country whose people are also being blown to bits. Iraqis who have not yet been blown to bits perceive us as occupiers and believe that it is okay to blow our troops to bits.
So, the worst president in the history of this former land of opportunity, a man who should be impeached for crimes against humanity, was able, again, to manipulate the worst Congress in the history of our country. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just said that Bush's Iraq plan is unraveling but Congress has proved that it, too, is in tatters. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell pontificated that Bush will show the way. Tragically, the president's way is a path into the shadow of death.
The worst president in our history is a demonic war president. The worst Congress in our history is a war Congress.

The above is from Missy Comley Beattie's "Congress Plays Dead" (CounterPunch) and Mia noted it. Congress caved. No surprise. (CBS News went to Waterbury for a report on it, no surprise.) But the lack of surprise doesn't mean a lack of outrage. Nor does it mean that Congress will not face consequences.

Oh this is hilarious. CBS has a retired general (of course) on and yacking on about how 'positive' a wounded soldier was. Could we get a therapist to talk about denial? It's amazing if you think about it, who gets invited on. A general's on giving a medical report (a laughable one). Peace activists can't get on. But generals can be put on the payroll because they're 'experts.' What exactly is their alleged expertise .

Now he's blabbing about 'family.' And the laughable 'news' person is putting forward a lie about Vietnam (unlike then, the soldiers are supported!). ["Americans still seem to support the soldiers," the idiot non-observed because she doesn't know the first thing she's talking about. They grow 'news' personalities dumb in Montanna apparently.] A friend at CBS phoned and said turn the TV on. I see why. What an idiot. Supposedly the same stupid 'news' personality was reading memos from the White House about Iran and putting that forward as objective news. (That was before I turned the TV on.) Fortunately, she can only do damage in the short term -- she's too unphotogenic to have a real career on air. (She also has a tic they have to shoot around. She also has stringy, limp hair.)

Let's get back to the general (I'm off the phone). So he can weigh in on the mood of the country? We can't get peace activists on. They're not 'experts.' But a hack on CBS (for now) can interview a general about mental health, about the mood of the country, about any number of things?

That's really interesting and goes a long way to explaining how the war drags on. The reality is that an 'expert' can talk about anything (their field or not) once they're invited on. Which is why it's so important that a peace activist not be invited on -- they might stray from topic! They might question more than just whether the illegal war was 'winnable' or not.

But, though not a doctor, a general can speak on physical and mental health. Though not a historian, a genearl can speak to the differences now and forty years ago. Though not a pollster, a general can speak of the mood of the country.

That's how it works. Amy Goodman has interviewed many news personalities (Ted Koppel, Aaron Brown, etc.) and has often asked why peace activists aren't allowed on. It's an important question and one that needs to be asked. But if the opportunity arises again, she might want to follow the response to her question of why an ex-general is invited on (and on the payroll) with examples of what ex-generals speak of when on air. If you've missed the song and dance Brown, Koppel and others have done, a general is brought on for expertise. They are there, the argument goes, to speak of what it's like on the ground during war (something that, in Iraq, they have no knowledge of -- generals aren't on the ground in Iraq -- they're safe on bases or hidden away in the Green Zone). So Goodman could let them make that argument and then say, "Alright, but I'm looking at ____ when General ___ was asked to comment on history and then he was asked about the mood of the country and then he was speaking of mental health and what I'm not seeing here is why he's considered an expert on any of these topics?"

That is the reality. That's not a criticism of Goodman. When she was asking the news 'names,' the ex-generals were primarily -- though not solely -- brought on to 'describe' battles. The reality is that now they have their foot in the door and they're asked to comment on so many topics, I keep expecting to hear one of them advising the appropriate number of sunscreen protection when vactioning by the lake.

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, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3422. Tonight? 3454 with 103 for the month thus far. 104 is the highest death toll so far this year and that was in April. With days still remaining in May, it's likely the number will be passed. It may have already been. On the phone, friend at CBS says one body has been found that is thought to be the two remaining soldiers who are missing. (It's also rumored that the third has been found but the US military isn't talking.) This is the three Saturdays ago (I believe that was May 12th) attack where 4 US soldiers were killed and 1 Iraqi translator was killed. 3 US soldiers were missing, thought to be captured. The corpse of one was found last week. The US military is performing DNA testing on one currently and the rumor is that they have a third. That is "rumor." (And is stressed over the phone as such.)

Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports three police officers dead from a Baghdad bombing, one person dead from a Baghdad shooting (four more wounded), a Ramadi car bombing that claimed seven lives (12 wounded), one man shot dead in the Diyala Province (one wounded), a Mosul car bombing that left one dead (five wounded), and, corpses, 44 discovered in Baghdad, one in Kirkuk and one in Diyala Province. Reuters notes the following Sunday violence: a car bombing outside Jurft al-Sakhar that left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead (3 wounded),
Khalil al-Zahawi ("noted alligrapher") was the target of a home invasion in which he was "dragged" from his residence and then killed, two farmers shot dead in Nahrawan, and outside Shirqat two police officers were shot dead.

"It's not at all about politics." I'm still on the phone and my friend is laughing at the idiots. I'll laugh as well. There are some people we highlight here who make that ludicrous statement re: Iraq. I have no idea why they do so. It is exactly about politics.

If you're water runs, if your trash is picked up, that's politics. Certainly the illegal war is about politics. Calling for funding for the wounded vets returning is about politics. It's all about politics. But some people (the ones we highlight probably) think they are "raising above the level of politics." They've been trained to believe that "politics" is a bad word. And they put out that message and reinforce it which does more damage than anything else.

People dying in Iraq? That's politics. US troops are still in Iraq? That's politics. The wounded are getting lousy care? That's politics. Attempting to address any of that? That's politics. Whether you are arguing for the end of the illegal war or the continuation of it, that's politics.

Repeating the lie that it's not about politics? That's idiotic and insane and depowering. We live in a political system. Disowning politcs and political action is a nice little way (intended or not) of robbing people of their inherent power.

There's a person who thinks she is my friend. I probably enable that by taking her phone calls. She's always jabbering on about how she's not about politics. In 2004, she was attempting to determine whom to vote for. This was two weeks prior to the election. I don't tell people who to vote for. Much to her displeasure. So she attempted to process -- on the phone -- and determine what she was. "Well," she explained, "my parents voted for Clinton so I'll vote for Bush." Because? "Because we're Republicans." She honestly didn't know, at fifty-plus, that Bill Clinton was on the Democratic ticket. And for those who wonder, she was born in the United States and she has never left the United States. So that's her background. The one issue, the way I know her, that she cares about is the abuse of women. She's gone from helping out at shelters to getting active in the victims' right movement. (And been on national TV, news programming, as an 'expert.') But she doesn't want to talk 'politics.' She's finally grasped (and finally been to DC) that, goodness, my, attempting to receive federal funding or advocate legislation is indeed about politics. Her biggest problem right now is being 'charmed' by elected officials. As soon as she gains more wisdom in politics, she'll realize that 'charm' doesn't matter. The most gruff or most detached politician in the world is better than the most 'charming' if they do their job. When she grasps that, she'll grasp why some legislation has still gone nowhere.

She's having to learn the lesson now and she'd have been better served if someone had long ago broken it down to her. "Congress played politics last week." That's a popular opinion (and one I've probably expressed in my own conversations) but maybe we should say, "Congress played at politics"? "Congress postured?" Maybe we need to work on a new language? A more precise one?

Not a hula hoop that tricks people. A more precise language. Because young people hearing "this isn't about politcs" from someone are probably left with the impression that "politics" is something we should all avoid. Certainly a lot of well meaning people today (adults) feel that way. And to be clear, I'm not bemoaning (nor applauding) the number of people who don't vote. That's an individual choice. But politics goes far beyond voting. And as I think about this, I feel like I'm echoing Habits of the Heart (Bellah, et al.) so I'll stop and just recommend that book.

Kyle notes John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton's "Democratic Spin Won’t End the War in Iraq" (PR Watch via Common Dreams):

After several months of empty posturing against the war in Iraq, politicians in Washington have made what Democratic congressman James P. Moran called a "concession to reality" by agreeing to give President Bush virtually everything he wanted in funding and unrestricted license to continue waging the increasingly detested war that has made Bush the most unpopular president since Richard Nixon.
This is the outcome that we warned against two months ago when we wrote "
Why Won't MoveOn Move Forward?" In it, we criticized MoveOn for backpedaling on its previously claimed objective of ending the war in Iraq immediately. Anti-war sentiment was the main factor behind last year's elections that brought Democrats to power in both houses of Congress. Once in power, however, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed through a "compromise" bill, supported by MoveOn, that offered $124 billion in supplemental funding for the war. To make it sound like they were voting for peace, the Democrats threw in a few non-binding benchmarks asking Bush to certify progress in Iraq, coupled with language that talked about withdrawing troops next year.
Understanding how legislative processes work, we expected then that even those few nods to anti-war sentiment would be eliminated in due course. Bush had already said he would veto the Pelosi bill and pledged to hold out for funding without restrictions of any kind. Moreover, there was little doubt that the Democratic leadership would eventually cave to his demands. Notwithstanding their stage-managed photo ops and rhetorical flourishes for peace, prominent Democrats signaled early that they would give Bush the funding he wanted.
Barack Obama even went so far as to state publicly that once Bush vetoed the original bill, Congress would approve the money because "nobody wants to play chicken with our troops on the ground." (Two weeks later, MoveOn announced that it had polled its members, and Obama was their "top choice to lead the country out of Iraq.") In effect, the confrontation between Bush and the Democrats was a high-stakes game of poker in which the Democrats went out of their way to make it clear that they would fold once Bush called their bluff.
Not everyone saw this coming, of course. Back in March, called MoveOn's
Eli Pariser "shrewdly pragmatic" for backing Pelosi's original supplemental war funding bill. It quoted Pariser predicting that after Bush was "forced to veto" Pelosi's bill, "That forces the Republicans to choose between an increasingly isolated president and the majority of the Congress and the majority of the American people."

Winding down and stuff will go up here tomorrow when I wake up which may be in three hours or may be eight. Pru gets the last highlight, Anne Alexander's "Threatened strike by Iraqi oil workers wins big concessions online only" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Iraqi union leaders representing tens of thousands of oil workers across southern Iraq are optimistic that a threatened strike last week has won significant concessions from the US-backed government.
The Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) represents 26,000 workers in the provinces of Basra, Dhi Qar, Maysan and al-Muthanna. The union has organised three strikes since 2003 which paralysed the oil industry, halting all Iraqi oil exports.
A strike called for 14 May was halted by last-minute negotiations with Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.
One of the key issues in the dispute was the controversial new oil law being debated by the Iraqi parliament. The law allows multinational companies to grab huge profits by developing Iraq's huge untapped oilfields under contracts lasting up to 30 years.
The IFOU has long campaigned against the sell-off, organising two conferences in Basra last year in protest at the US-backed government's plans. Hassan Juma Awad, president of the union said, "The oil law does not represent the aspirations of the Iraqi people."
It will let the foreign oil companies into the oil sector and enact privatisation under so-called production sharing agreements.
He appealed for solidarity from the international trade union movement in defeating the law. "The federation calls on all unions in the world to support our demands and to put pressure on governments and the oil companies not to enter the Iraqi oil fields."
The union is not alone in its condemnation of the draft oil law. Opponents of the law also include all of Iraq’s other trade unions, a number of political parties, and a group of over 60 senior Iraqi oil experts.
On 5 May union negotiators sent a letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki listing the demands of the coming strike which included a call for the law to be submitted to the union for revision.
The union is also demanding improvements in pay and conditions, government measures to tackle rising prices and medical treatment for oil workers, particularly those in areas affected by the use of cancer-causing Depleted Uranium weapons.
Union negotiators said last week that Al-Maliki "clearly agreed" to their demands and promised further meetings between representatives from his office, the Ministry of Oil, the Southern Oil Company and the IFOU.
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