Sunday, June 24, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Several months ago when I wrote an essay questioning the appropriateness of military air shows as a form of community-sponsored family entertainment, I received a number of responses. The gist of most of the letters was that the military defends our freedom and without it, I could not write these words. Indeed, I was told that to criticize militarism is unpatriotic and how dare I impugn the honor and integrity of those who serve in the armed forces defending the American way of life.
But what precisely is this American way of life that our military purportedly defends? We live in the richest country in the world, yet unlike other developed countries that have universal health care, tens of millions of people in this country do not have health insurance and our medical care system comes in dead last behind comparable countries. Millions of children go to bed hungry every night and our educational system is leaving far too many children behind. The standard of living of all but the rich has fallen and people are losing their homes. Our energy use and wastefulness is a toxic disgrace.
In the name of all this, we squander trillions of dollars to send our troops to fight a war that was justified by lies. In Iraq we have killed an uncountable number of innocent people and so destroyed the infrastructure of the country that millions of children are starving to death and one in eight children will die before their fifth birthday. Going to school or feeding one’s family is all but impossible and millions have now become refugees living in unspeakable conditions. The result of all this is that violence continues to escalate, more and more people hate our country and the world is a far more dangerous place. And when all is said and done, we bring our wounded warriors home to the squalid conditions of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The above, noted by Cindy, is from Lucinda Marshall's "Rethinking Patriotism" (Common Dreams). Marshall's addressing realities of Iraq and, other than Walter Reed, ask yourselves what really got traction that's noted above? What's really been explored, in big and small media, above? Marshall's larger point is the need to ask questions and the need to speak out and, with few exceptions, neither politicans nor the press are there . . . yet? Do we still say "yet"? What is the delay? They're waiting for opposition to the illegal war to hit 90% in the US? Is that it? Is 90% the needed figure for politicians and the press to speak the truth?

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 3525. Tonight? 3559. That's thirty-four in seven days. One short of an even average of five dead each day. Today, the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed during combat operations in an area northwest of the Iraqi capital June 23. One other Soldier was wounded in the attack." And they announced: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier was killed when a patrol was attacked with small arms fire during combat operations in a southern section of the Iraqi capital June 23." And they announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier died Saturday in a non-combat related incident, which is currently under investigation."
And they announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier died of wounds sustained from a roadside bomb and small arms fire attack in eastern Baghdad early June 23." That's four dead, all soldiers. And the cutesy slogans Marshall's calling out (highlight at the top) don't bring them back. Nor do the cutesy slogans and gestures prevent more deaths. Marshall's written a very strong piece and the excerpt at the top may not do it justice, so consider reading it in full.

Yesterday, we noted the death of a British soldier. On that soldier, John Rigby, Gareth notes Alan Hamilton's "Soldier watches his twin die in Iraq on their 24th birthday" (Times of London):

They were twins and, by coincidence, corporals in the same battalion. On Friday they should have been celebrating their 24th birthday. But it was not to be; Will Rigby sat at the bedside of his brother, John, in an Iraq field hospital and watched him die.
Corporal John Rigby had been fatally wounded by a roadside bomb near Basra Palace in southern Iraq that morning, and was named by the Ministry of Defence yesterday as the 153rd British serviceman whose life had been claimed by the conflict.
Will, described by friends as his brother’s lifetime companion and soulmate, will accompany the body back to the family home in Rye, East Sussex, where their parents, sisters and John’s girlfriend, to whom he was expected to propose, are grieving at their loss.
Corporal Rigby was on patrol with the eight men of his section, providing top cover from the hatch of his armoured vehicle, when the bomb exploded. He was the third member of the 4th Battalion The Rifles to die in Iraq in little more than a month.

Staying with coverage of those who have died in the illegal war, McClatchy Newspaper's "Inside Iraq" blog notes and remembers Yasser Salihee who was 30-years-old when he was shot dead (by a US sniper) and had been both a doctor and a translator -- he was killed in Baghdad while en route to get gasoline for the car to take his family swimming -- and was honored, posthomously, with Tom Lasseter and Hannah Allam for their Iraq reporting for McClatchy (then Knight-Ridder):

To our late colleague Yasser. He was killed on his day off two years ago on Friday June 24, 2005…
Yasser we didn’t forget you… I didn’t, no one did. You still live with us and work with us.
Do you remember when we had that fight over the sovereignty day? In 2004 the sovereignty day was supposed to be on June 30 your birthday but they changed to another day; my birthday… I still feel guilty for it but you know, as we saw later, it wasn’t real independence or the way we dreamed about.
The day you died I had to take photos for your dead body, believe me Yasser I didn’t want to but it was to prove that you weren’t doing any thing wrong… that images comes up when ever your name is mentioned. Your bleeding fingers who couldn’t stop the bullet and the way you slept with the bullet in your head, I can not forget.
Yasser… when Huda picked up the phone that day and cried out loud… someone told her they saw your car had been shot by the troops, she barley could talk. Shatha, Alaa and Huda barely took a breath and their tears spoke for them. Awsy, Omar and me no one knew what to do.
Wahab, Ali drove their cars in a crazy way on a hope that you still breathing. The Ambulance didn’t show up only after tens of phone calls. Your friend Abbas brought the coffin. Your killers didn’t even wait to honor your dead body and take it to the morgue. They passed and looked at us and they didn’t bother even to stop. Police men showed up but with no radios and with a broken car.

Again, a doctor, translator and journalist, killed by US forces in June of 2005, two years ago. One of the many deaths in an illegal war. What ends the illegal war? Massive resistance, calling it out loudly (and regularly). Making your opposition known. Anything else just prolongs it. Each person has the choice of whether or not to use their voice. Each voice used can and does make a difference. (And each voice silenced -- by others or themselves -- prolongs the illegal war.) War resisters make a real difference, vets returning and speaking out make a huge difference. But so does everyone, if they choose to use their voices. Those who have the most to lose and still speak out should be an inspiration to the rest of us. Too often, at least in All Things Media Big and Small, it appears that those risking so much do so with little amplification or interest. Calling that nonsense, that silence, out will help to end the illegal war. Demanding that the media treat Iraq as the pressing matter it is and not an after thought will help end the illegal war. Those standing up at great personal risk should not be the equivalent of trees fallen in a forest when no person is present -- they shouldn't inspire debate as to whether or not it's really a stand if most in media, big and small, elect to ignore it. And if you silently allow the media to ignore it, you are devaluing the bravery and the risk so many are taking in speaking out.

From Kirsten Scharnberg's "Veterans: Military curbing free speech" (Chicago Tribune):

The young combat veteran stared at the letter in disbelief when it arrived in his mailbox a few months ago.
The Marine Corps was recommending him for "other than honorable discharge." The letter alleged he had violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice by wearing part of his uniform during an anti-war rally. Furthermore, the letter accused him of being "disloyal," a word hard to swallow for a man who had risked his life to serve his nation. "All this because I have publicly opposed the war in Iraq since I came back from it," said former Marine Sgt. Liam Madden, 22.
Madden is not alone.

Along with Liam Madden, Scharnberg also addresses the stands of Cloy Richards and Adam Kokesh and the US military brass' desire to silence them. (All three men belong to Iraq Veterans Against the War whose membership is made of women and men taking brave stands and calling for an end to the illegal war.)

Dean notes "AWOL Soldier Resists Deployment, Gets Out and Now Helps Others Escape the Military" (Democracy Rising via Courage to Resist) and wonders if Capps is already on the list in the snapshots? Yes. I believe he was covered by either OpEdNews or Stars & Stripes this month. (I have a throbbing headache. If Dean or any member needs more on Capps, e-mail one of the private accounts and I'll give out links on Capps tomorrow.) By the way, no later than next Saturday night, I need to add OpEdNews to our links. They've been covering Iraq seriously and regularly. E-mails from members note that. I'm too tired to do it tonight. If you don't see it next Sunday morning, e-mail and remind me. Here's a selection of Dean's highlight:

Like tens of thousands of other troops, Army Communications Specialist Chris Capps recently went AWOL. After returning from a full tour of duty in Baghdad, Iraq in 2006, Chris left the 440th Signal Battalion in Darmstadt, Germany this March in order to refuse immediate deployment to Afghanistan. The New Jersey native surrendered to military authorities at Fort Sill, Oklahoma on May 8 and was discharged from the Army on May 11. Chris now lives with his wife in Germany. This is his story.
My name is Chris Capps. I joined the Army Reserves in 2004 looking to earn money for college and basically to become independent. I was living with my parents in New Jersey.
I did well in basic training. I had the highest PT (physical training) score, and I was an honor graduate in AIT (Advanced Infantry Training). Figuring I did well in basic and AIT, I signed up to go active duty.
Life in the military is exactly as it sounds--life in the military. I was at the bottom of an extremely incompetent authoritarian hierarchy. I was an outstanding soldier by every measurable aspect, so in many ways I was treated better then my peers. But I never really adopted the “Army mentality.”
In September 2005 I was assigned to the 440th Signal Battalion shortly before they deployed to Iraq. I remember a lot of the soldiers being pretty stressed over the upcoming deployment. After a month and half of training and getting the required gear, I arrived at Camp Victory in Baghdad on Thanksgiving Day 2005.

Capps, Kokesh, Madden, Richards and many more are taking stands and often serving as human pinatas for those who cannot and will not accept that the illegal war is based on lies (and continues to exist via lies). That's not easy. That takes strength and bravery and the reward for that should not be for independent media to ignore it. (Of print magazines, the only editors/publishers who have addressed the issue of war resistance this year are Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive and Joel Bleifuss of In These Times. For those attempting to figure out which is the third of the big three, that would be The Nation. The one with the least to lose has practiced silence with a vengence.)

On today's violence in Iraq, Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one person dead from a Baghdad roadside bombing (three more wounded), "two accountants of Trust company of electronics/Arasat branch" kidnapped in Baghdad, at least one person dead from mortar attacks in Baghdad, Dr. Ahmed Shihab ("head of Central Children Hospital") was shot dead in Baghdad, eleven corpses discovered in the capital, a roadside bombing in Baquba that claimed the lives of "three girls (the driver's daughters" and left the following wounded: "a woman (his wife) and two men (the driver and a cousin)," a woman's corpse was discovered in Balad, a Tikrit a roadside bombing killed one street worker and wounded another, and that "General Faris Muhammad, the deputy of intelligence commander of the 10th Battalion, has been kidnapped at dawn by gunmen on the highway of Muhammad Al-Qasim in Basra." Meanwhile Reuters notes that Monday (it's Monday already in Baghdad) a car bombing in Hilla has claimed the lives of at least 8 Iraqis and left at least 25 more wounded. In addition Reuters reports that today (Sunday) six corpses were discovered in Ain al-Tamur, an Iraqi translator was shot dead in Suwayra, an Iraqi soldier was shot dead just outside of Kut, and Salim Mohammed ("member of the Yathrib city council") was kidnapped in Yathrib.

Also from the Times of London, Polly notes "Lords of misrule still in charge at the Baghdad bubble" -- Rajiv Chandrasekaran's conversation with Stuart Wavell:

One day early in 2004 as I was eating a meal in the green zone, the seven-square-mile enclave of air-condi-tioned comfort in Baghdad, I asked one of the Americans at my table what he thought of the massive suicide bombs that had killed dozens of people at a Shi'ite shrine in the city that morning. "Yeah, I saw something about it on my office television," he replied. "But I didn’t watch the full report. I was too busy working on my democracy project."
It was a measure of the air of unreality in the green zone during the 14 months that the American viceroy Paul Bremer presided over the occupation government in Iraq. This fortified compound around Saddam Hussein's presidential palace was Little America: most of the staff had never worked outside the United States and about half had obtained their first passport to travel there.
I have detailed some of the absurdities of life inside the Baghdad bubble in my book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, which was inspired by my two years as the Washington Post's bureau chief in Baghdad. One 24-year-old official with no background in finance was given the job of resurrecting the Baghdad stock exchange. Another aide, tasked with devising new traffic regulations, down-loaded those of Maryland from the internet. A 21-year-old charged with helping to rehabilitate the interior ministry boasted that his most meaningful job to date had been as an ice cream truck driver.

The award winning book provides a look at life (surreal life) in the heavily fortified Green Zone. Where so much of the press started out and pretty much where the majority are now confined due to events on the ground. That development (the confinement) didn't happen this year or last. And the refusal of the Dexter Filkins to tell their readers that has prolonged the illegal war. (While speaking to college audiences, Filkins was happy to tell them and has now been doing so for years. Where it counted, in the paper, the truth was never told by Filkins. Though some New York Times reporters did include that reality in various reports filed last summer.)
Turning to political candidates, Mia notes Jeff Taylor's "The Foreign Policy of Barack Obama" (CounterPunch):

As with Clinton and the other "respectable" contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Obama has consistently voted to fund the war and has opposed an immediate withdrawal of American troops. While state legislator Obama opposed an immediate war with Iraq in 2002-03, he did not do so on anti-imperial or noninterventionist grounds. He opposed the war at a time when the idea was relatively unpopular, especially among his Chicago constituents. He later backpedaled somewhat from his public opposition.
Referring to the U.S. Senate authorization vote of 2002 and senators having access to intelligence reports, in July 2004, he told the New York Times, "What would I have done? I don't know." Asked about the pro-war votes of Kerry and Edwards, Obama told NPR, "I don't consider that to have been an easy decision, and certainly, I wasn't in the position to actually cast a vote on it. I think that there is room for disagreement in that initial decision." Not exactly a stunning statement of the peace position! In July 2003, Obama argued that a unilateral approach to Iraq was not the best one, that a multilateral coalition against Saddam Hussein would have been better so that "if we ultimately had to overthrow him, we would have built an international coalition that could have moved forward."
An adept politician, Obama began emphasizing his "anti-war" stance as the war became increasingly unpopular among Democrats across the country and he began gearing up for the 2008 presidential campaign. Gone was the 2004 equivocating. He had found an issue with which to distinguish himself from Clinton, Edwards, and Biden. Campaigning among grassroots Democrats, Obama sounds like Cindy Sheehan, but his real, far more nuanced views have been laid out for members of the elite Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
In November 2006, he telegraphed his "safe" imperial mindset to the powers that be when he said, "There is one other place where our mistakes in Iraq have cost us dearly--and that is the loss of our government's credibility with the American people. According to a Pew survey, 42% of Americans now agree with the statement that the U.S. should 'mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.' We cannot afford to be a country of isolationists right now. 9/11 showed us that try as we might to ignore the rest of the world, our enemies will no longer ignore us. And so we need to maintain a strong foreign policy, relentless in pursuing our enemies and hopeful in promoting our values around the world."

Obama's daily cup of Chicken Sop for the Soul. If Chicken Soup for the Soul is the perfect read for non-readers, what does that say about voters? That Obama's the perfect candidate for non-voters? That his easy, breezy, simpleton bromides are best swallowed by the portion of Americans who don't vote? That would be a comforting notion, however, he's received far too much easy press (from independent media!) for that to be the case. Chicken Sop for the Soul doesn't end an illegal war.

Before getting to Pru's highlight, James in Brighton says thanks for taking on the Moonbat in "Editorial: Iraq silences" (The Third Estate Sunday Review). Not a problem. But, just so all members know, I am and having been carrying topics over to other forums. I'm doing columns for all the newsletters and there's The Third Estate Sunday Review. Something may not get noted here. There are two things that should be in this entry but I'm just too tired. (Micah and Kendrick's topics.) I'll carry those over to my column for Hilda's Mix (goes out on Tuesday). James in Brighton expressed his outrage with Moonbat who does not reside in the US, writes for the Guardian of London and loves to tackle every topic but the illegal war (not all that long ago, this year, he was writing about 9-11 -- surely the most important issue in England today -- that was sarcasm). James in Brighton is fully aware that the Guardian is married at the hip to the Labour Party and lacked the guts to call out the illegal war. But he, and others, are getting really sick of the globe trotting Moonbat and his failure to cover his own region. Polly saw the editorial and e-mailed to ask about it. After we spoke on the phone, she said to announce Moonbat would be the topic for a roundtable (that will run next Sunday in Polly's Brew). Members who would like to participate should let her know by Thursday (her e-mail addres is in Polly's Brew as well as all community newsletters). This does not have to be British members or European members. She says it's open to all but she's capping it at ten (plus her).
It'll be first come, first serve and you can be sure James in Brighton will grab one of those spots. So I wouldn't wait until Thursday. I think if you wait until Monday evening, all slots will be filled. James in Brighton notes this "smoke up the arse" from AP:

Britain's next prime minister, Gordon Brown, pledged on Sunday to learn lessons from the Iraq war as he took over leadership of the Labour Party from Tony Blair.
The Treasury chief, who will succeed Blair as British leader on Wednesday, promised sweeping domestic reforms and a new focus on international policy, saying he recognized global extremism would not be defeated by military force alone.

When Moonbat's addressing every subject but Iraq, he's abdicating any potential power he has to influence plans by incoming prime minister Gordon Brown. While Moonbat plays useless, others refuse to. Which brings us to Pru's highlght. This is Lily Walker's (of Military Families Against the War) "'I'm telling you to get the troops out of Iraq'" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Soldier's mother sends her anti-war message to Brown
My message to Gordon Brown is that we must get the troops home now. My son is a serving soldier just back from Iraq. I am not a pacifist, but I am against what is happening in Iraq -- the illegality and the lies.
None of the troops enlisted to fight for a lie. I won't sit back and be quiet about what is happening in Iraq.
I live in Tameside, just outside Manchester, and I have been calling on people to come to the demonstration on Sunday 24 June. Together we can make a difference.
Tony Blair has let people down. It remains to be seen what Gordon Brown will do.
Our campaign is not against Blair, it’s against whoever is in power and whoever is responsible for the war in Iraq.
Brown says he wants to listen to the people, and we want to be heard – so surely that is a perfect combination.
We are going to let Brown know that military families are not going to go away.
Last week we heard the brilliant news that the Law Lords have agreed to hear an appeal by Rose Gentle and Beverley Clarke -- who both had sons killed in Iraq -- arguing that the government violated their sons' right to life by rushing into war without proper legal grounds.
It was a great morale boost to hear that. It proves that if you push hard enough you can make people listen to you.
I’m not a politician, I am an angry mum. If I can get involved, so can others.
Military families will not be ignored. We are determined to keep up our campaign until the troops are home.
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We noted the above in part last week in an "Iraq snapshot." Pru wondered it it was okay to note in full and, absolutely, it is.