Thursday, May 31, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

On Monday we celebrated Memorial Day, a federal holiday that pays homage to soldiers who have died at war and a tradition in our country since the Civil War. Most Americans have the day off and spend it with their families at picnics or sporting events. Some visit cemeteries or memorials and flags around the nation are commonly flown at half-staff from dawn until noon. Just before leaving for a Memorial Day barbecue I had the curious notion to check the statistics at the US Department of Defense . On their website I read that as of Monday, Operation Iraqi Freedom has cost America 3,433 soldier's lives. By the time I returned home that evening, six more soldiers were reported dead from explosions near their vehicles and two more were reported killed in a helicopter crash. Monday’s deaths brought the total number of U.S. forces killed this month to somewhere around 110.The day before Memorial Day, retired Colonel and politically conservative professor, Andrew Bacevich, published an editorial in The Washington Post. He's also published two books on American militarism and seduction by war, as well as several articles in leading US newspapers criticizing the President and the political elite for conducting preemptive war in Iraq. This was, however, the first article by Bacevich that I’d seen since the May 13th death of his son, who died in an attack by a suicide bomber in the Salah Ad Din Province of Iraq. His young soldier was 27.
Perched high above the Pacific and far away from any battlefield, it was hard to forget the Professor's Sunday editorial. I share his sense of anger at the political elite, both Republicans and Democrats, and the complicit established media who rushed to war without seeking alternatives or offering substantive debate. Even the Democrats' recent display of opposition in Congress has amounted to nothing more than an ineffective gutless bill which ultimately delivered to the President exactly what he wanted -- more money to fund this war.

The above is from Katharine Daniels' "Memorial Day Provides a Sober Reminder of the Young Lives Sacrificed to a Failing Security Strategy" (WIP) which Kayla noted. Kayla also wanted it note that she disagrees with the "expert" notion when citing war experience (further in the article) and that's a point everyone in this community would agree with as well. (Amy Goodman has schooled us well.) Other than that, no disagreements with the article which also allows us to note the passing of Bacevich's son which resulted in e-mails from conservative visitors a couple of weeks ago about "look at your silence!" We generally do not note individuals and that's due to a number of reasons. Individual Iraqis are rarely noted by name in the press. With regards to US service members, a family's pain is their own. We are a left site and the last thing anyone on the right needs, that's lost a family member, is our mentioning it by name here while they're in mourning. (That's my rule, others can do differently.) If a family member goes public after (left, center, right, non-political) that's one thing but, as the New York Times article immediately after the death noted, Bacevich wasn't speaking about the subject -- his daughters were interviewed for the article. If he wasn't speaking that was more than enough for us not to jump on the 'human interest' bandwagon. (Again, that's my rule. Others can do what they want and that's their business.) In the case of something like Alex R. Jimenez and Byron W. Fouty, they are missing. That's true of the two others as well (Keith M. Maupin and Ahmed Qusai al-Taei). But with Jimenez and Fouty, the press seems to have forgotten that they went missing on the 12th of May and that the families are still waiting for answers. (The press is too caught up in the search for British contractors.) When someone is missing, it is important to keep their name out there. If the public forgets, the press moves on. (The press frequently moves on before the public forgets.) So in the instance of anyone being missing, their name does go up. (Any US service members.) And it goes up as frequently as I can work it in (which isn't as often as I would like). Those who have loved ones still missing from the Vietnam era know full well that the motto "no one gets left behind" translates quite a bit differently in reality when the command decides there are other issues to address. It's easy to say, "Well after X [days, week,s months, years] you can assume . . ." You can't assume that at all. You either know what happened or you don't and it can be very difficult when you don't know. So if someone's missing, they are noted here.

There was a question about that issue (family members) from a visitor who wondered specifically if anyone ever gets upset. The only one who ever e-mailed upset had misread what was here. (Not surprising. When you have a loss, you're first responsibility is to make sure no one distorts the person you lost.) Ava wrote the parent back and then the parent wrote a very nice e-mail that was unneeded. Any parent's first responsibility is their child -- even more so when they're left to defend the memory of their child. I was criticizing a government official who had lied (and been caught lying) and it wasn't obvious from the first sentence that's what I was doing. (I use sarcasm especially when I'm enraged.) There was no need for the parent to read onto the second sentence. They had a loss, a very tragic one. And there was no need to express anything after they'd read the paragraph in full. No apologies were needed on that and I didn't accept it (and noted that in my reply) because their loss is very real and an e-mail to me (however worded) isn't the end of the world. Every parent (whether they are right, left, whatever) has the right to defend their child and probably the duty when their child's no longer around to defend his or herself.

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, the American military fatality count in Iraq, since the start of the illegal war, stood at 3438 (ICCC). Tonight? 3475. May's not over, but let's assume for a second that the US military won't have any more to announce for this month (they generally have an announcement or two to make a day or two or three after the month is over). That would mean that June (the 30th is not sooner) will most likely see the death toll hitting the 3500 mark. The 3000 mark, for any who have forgotten, was passed December 31st. Currently, it's 25 away. Only one month has seen less than 30 deaths, February 2004 which saw 20. So it is very likely that the 3500 mark will be passed.

And Congress won't end the war. They want to pretend that they're saving (American) lives by funding the illegal war. Continuing it is not saving lives. There was a post by a former soldier (from WWII) that a number of visitors wanted highlighted. We didn't highlight it. We didn't link. We've got a work safe policy here and the f-word was used over and over. I'm not condemning. I use the f-word myself. But a lot of members access from work and that's not going to fly in some work settings. I also wouldn't have highlighted because I don't see the need to call Congress female dogs (not in that language) and other uses of female imagery to imply they were weak. Congress is weak. I don't know why anyone has to be sexist to make that point. Considering how few women serve in Congress, exactly what was the need to drag gender into it and to imply that they were all women and that's why they were weak?

Did he miss the item from Feminist Wire Daily:

A gender gap held in the House's vote yesterday to approve a bill authorizing supplemental funding for the war in Iraq without benchmarks for withdrawal. Of the total 142 votes opposing the measure, 37 were made by women. Women accounted for about 26 percent of the "no" vote, even though women comprise only 16 percent of the members of the House of Representatives. In all, 52.8 percent of the women representatives in the House voted against the measure, compared to only 28.8 percent of the men representatives.

So if Congress was all a bunch of 'girls,' that might have been a better thing. The repeated use of the f-word meant it wasn't going to used (repeated is more than twice, this was over and over, as though we were sitting through Scarface) because I'd have to remember to do my "LANGUAGE WARNING" preface. And I don't always remember and after anything goes up here, I always have a moment of panic about the language (including my own). ("Did I use 'sh*t' or the full word?" If I'm dictating -- "Do they know/remember to edit?") That was before the issue of sexism even came into the picture. I don't suffer self-hatred and giggle when some man decides to insult other men by comparing them to women. If anything like that ever did make it up here it would be from someone who had served in the current illegal war -- I give them more latitude in an "oral history" sense. It wouldn't be from someone from WWII or from some gasbag online (they really do love comparing weak men to women, don't they?). You also won't find "cojones," "stones," or any of that other macho b.s. at this site. It's real easy to say, "Well a woman could have that!" Yeah, and she'd be considered a freak. There's enough macho b.s. in the world (largely coming out of the White House), I won't add to it by pushing some myth that strength is determined by what hangs out below the belt.

As I said earlier, this entry is about what doesn't make it up here and why. There were tons of e-mails on this topic all week. A US military person (whose name's not even worth mentioning) is trying to buy time by stating September is 'too soon!' Too soon to evaluate the escalation. Now September's already been picked. Too bad. "Too soon"? After four years and counting, they want to talk too soon? That was nothing but an attempt to lower expectations and it was never going into a snapshot.

We don't link to a lot of mainstream op-eds. We will link to columns at independent media (and at smaller newspapers -- as well as editorials papers run against the war -- editorials, not columns). When approximately 70% of the country is against the illegal war even your mainstream columnists are going to have weigh in. (As Betty pointed out, especially if they also attempt to have book deals.) In most cases, by the time a major daily has a column in it, you could have already found that months ago at CounterPunch, The Progressive, Common Dreams, BuzzFlash and assorted other places (could have found that thought expressed by those independent media).

What always surprises me the most is when visitors e-mail a right winger's pro-war column suggesting we're going to link to that and then e-mailing a few days later complaining that we didn't. I don't think any visitor could come here very often and not grasp this is a left site and one that is against the illegal war. But it apparently confuses some right-wingers.

It also apparently confuses the Blue Doggies. To this day, they still e-mail a column, that's how old now?, written by Bob Kerrey where he makes one huge mistake after another though the Blue Doggies pronounce it perfection. It's not. Even setting aside that it's a pro-war column (so we're not interested), it's got so many mistakes. And a huge dose of xenophobia. Which may not be surprising considering the not so long ago revelations about Bob Kerrey. (Whom I should note that I know.)

"You don't do enough politics," was what visitor Caren complained this week. To her "politics" translates as electoral races. It is 2007. I'm unaware of any presidential races this year in the United States. She also felt that we needed to work hard "to raise money for presidential candidates the way you did for that woman. That's how you play the game." Caren noted she could be quoted.

That woman? She's referring to this sentence: "Kristy Kruger, a singer-songwriter, often performs concerts to benefit her brother's four children. Donations can be sent to: The Memorial Fund for Children of LTC Eric Kruger, 6460 Crystal Mountain Rd., Colorado Springs, CO 80923." Her brother died in Iraq and has four children who are now without a father. I think that's a bit more important than whether Obama or Clinton comes out on top in the next fundraising cycle. (For the Memorial Day special of Free Speech Radio News, Aaron Glantz interviewed Kristy Kruger, veterans who had served, their families and doctors.) But maybe it's also true that we just don't "play the game" Caren does? We're not campaign central. Excuse me, we're not gas bag central. If someone has something serious to say about Iraq, they'll generally be eligible for getting noted (time will determine whether or not they do). Hint to two visitors, penning Foreign Policy articles doesn't impress this community. No one here awaits the latest from the Council on Foreign Relations.

The thing that refuses to die (we're talking months ago this aired) is an interview with war resister Joshua Key. Week after week, right wingers e-mail about that months old interview. Why won't we link to Katy Kelly's interview? Why won't we link to Katty Kelly's interview? It's Katty Kay, first of all. She worships at the . . . something of John McCain as revealed in Van Fair. We're not Katty Kay fans here.

More importantly, "Katty" is pretty apt for what she is -- as she demonstrated during that interview with Joshua Key. She was beyond rude, she was beyond manipulative. You'll note I still haven't said where it took place and I won't. Not now, not ever. It was on radio, I'll note that as I explain why we wouldn't spit on Katty if she was on fire.

Let's see, she noted that there were many callers and e-mails in favor of Joshua Key. So what did she give us? What was that, nine callers screaming at Key and one in support of him? She read two e-mails in support of him and while I didn't think the second was shameful, it was picked (according to a friend at the show) because it would make Key and his supporters look (quote) "out there." It allowed her to note, in fact, how "out there" the e-mailer was.

It was interesting to listen to those callers because I'm used to Pacifica. On Pacifica, regular listeners who call in usually ask their questions and say, "I'll take my answer off the air." Katty thought they were guests. Unless it was the one speaking in favor of Key.

She had all the time in the world to visit with them and ask them to expand on this or that (how much they hated Key) and to offer other ways they might hate Joshua Key. She doesn't listen very well (or maybe she was just eager to defend the US military brass that's done so much to provide her with a career). That would explain why one Key hater could explain that he came of age during Vietnam but he didn't serve only to, when Katty had a follow up for him, suddenly -- in the midst of a long response -- start talking about (wait for it) his time in the military. Apparently, to him, the thing to do was to sit out the illegal war (Vietnam -- one he supported) and then enlist after it was over. More likely what happened was that he was lying -- either about not serving or about serving. But Katty didn't even notice. She was too busy pushing a fantasy about what would happen if he returned to the US and turned himself in (a caller helped out there as well). She had no idea what happened to Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Mark Wilkerson (what's happening to Mark Wilkerson, I should say) or, really important here, Kyle Snyder.

The supporter of Joshua Key said that this war could drag on forever. He said that he had an 11-year-old son and if the war was still going on when his son was 18 and there was a draft, he wouldn't want his son to serve. Katty's response? "There's not a draft. There's not a draft. There's not a draft." (That may have been "There is no draft. There is no draft. There is no draft." The interview aired months ago.) Then she expressed confusion as to why someone would think there was a draft.

Katty, are you really that dumb? Do you not get a hypothetical? Do you not get that an 11-year-old right now can't enlist let alone be drafted? Do you not understand what a hypothetical is?

Maybe she is that dumb. She was so supportive to the chain of command. She had a statement from them on this and that. How many statements did she read on air from the US military? It began to appear she went over the entire show with them ahead of time -- score one for the embed!

Possibly, boning up with the brass didn't allow her time to research other things. She hadn't read Key's book (he was on to discuss The Deserter's Tale). She demonstrated that with every question. So much so that she should have announced on air, "I didn't have time to read your book, sorry." Instead, she pretended that she had (maybe she scanned it, but it sounded like she'd read reviews). She hadn't done any work other than chatting up the brass at the Pentagon. (They find her attractive. Well, their judgement has been demonstrated to be "off" in other areas as well.) So when two of the Key haters brought up C.O.s, Katty was all up in the Kool Aid wanting to know why hadn't he done that? Huh? Huh? People do that. Why hadn't he done that?

Again, the question that begged was: How stupid is Katty Kay?

C.O. status isn't handed out like lolly pops or even regulation underwear. The applications are "lost" and they are rejected. Robert Zabala had to go to court to be awarded C.O. status. Agustin Aguayo made it all the way to the federal appeals court and didn't get it. Camilo Mejia was rejected. Katty knew none of this (or pretended she didn't). (Nor are people trained in this or given this information in training. Nor when Key called the military for advice was the option offered to him. They don't push knowledge on C.O. status.) And for "expertise," she would turn to the callers who were in the midst of shouting at Key.

Strangely, Kay wasn't filling in for Rush Limbaugh.

That would have made more sense if she had been and we'll leave it at that.

Then Katty let a man, claiming to be ex-military, tell Joshua Key (and listeners) what Joshua was trained in. Only it wasn't what he was trained in. And anyone with half a brain (which is apparently much more than Katty was handed) would have known that. The same man or another man (we'll get back to that) claimed to have also been in Ramadi. Katty never thought to ask him when? She just listened and uh-huhed and accepted. (She also never asked him how long, his rank or anything else. When Katty next guest hosts, remember that and lie your ass off as her callers appeared to do.)

And despite the fact that women did call in to the show, Katty felt no need to put any on the air. When you're an ugly girl (she's not mature enough to be a woman), you apparently rarely get attention from men so you have to beg for it by ignoring the many women that called in (the show she was on has a predominately female audience and its regular host has no problem taking calls from both genders). Katty wanted to be the pretty girl and the only way to ensure that was to make sure she was the only girl on the air.

It was disgusting. And, to repeat, it wasn't Katy Kelly or Katty Kelly, it was Katty Kay. Maybe she can get her own (low rated) radio show. "This is Katty Kay" [sound effect] "MEOW!"

Why does the war drag on? Because people like Katty Kay (the Senator Crazy lovin' Katty) keep selling it. She wasn't filling in for Rush. She was on a show that attempts to inform. Her guest was a war resister. But she wasn't interested in an opportunity to explore war resistance, she just wanted to encourage angry callers to keep talking angry. (Angry male callers. At least one of the women who called in -- and didn't make it to air -- was very angry.) So the callers were against him and the host was against him. The only real question is who was stupid enough to book her as a guest host to begin with?

Reuters reports that 26 year-old AP camera person Saif M. Fakhry was shot dead in Baghdad today.

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