Thursday, July 12, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

When a lawmaker’s office is stormed, a hearing is disrupted or a protester is handcuffed on Capitol Hill these days, it’s a safe bet the activist being hauled away will be female and wearing pink.
CodePink, a group spawned by Bay Area peace activists, has become the vibrantly hued public face of the anti-war movement in Washington. Launched in 2002 to oppose the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq, the female activists are gaining new attention as a thorn in the side of Democrats, urging the new leaders of Congress to move faster to end the war.
"People try to marginalize them as being 'left,' " said Sen. Russ Feingold, an anti-war Democrat from Wisconsin. "But they serve as a reminder to (lawmakers) of the broader concern in the country over the war."
Publicly, top Democrats say they share the group’s anti-war goals. But privately they grumble about its in-your-face tactics -- including disrupting Democratic press conferences and setting up a protest camp outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Pacific Heights home in San Francisco.
When activists from CodePink interrupted her speech to a Democratic group last month, Pelosi shot them a steely look and urged them to focus on getting Republicans to oppose the war.

The above, noted by Cindy, is from Zachary Coile's "Code Pink: Those Pesky Peaceniks" (San Francisco Chronicle via Common Dreams). Cindy notes, "Top Democrats grumble . . . and Katha Pollitt." Please, Cindy, we can only address one Nation issue at a time. (I'm joking.) Cindy's right. Katha Pollitt couldn't write about Abeer in June or July or August or September or October or November or December or January or February or March or April. But in the May 28, 2007 issue of The Nation, she finally weighed in and let's note her entire commentary on Abeer:

Think of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, the 14-year-old girl raped and then murdered with her family by US soldiers in Mahmoudiya in March of last year.

That is it. The 14-year-old who was gang-raped by US soldiers, US soldiers who leered at her for days before with one (Stephen D. Green) stroking her face, making her uncomfortable, having her share with her parents how afraid she was (people are aware that Abeer still has relatives, including a brother, right? Apparently not, since no one seems interested in interviewing him outside of USA Today), they arranged for her to go elsewhere and she just had to get through one night. That would be the night that US soldiers got drunk and decided to plot their War Crime and carry it out. James P. Barker and Paul Cortez have confessed. (They've also fingered Green as the ring leader -- Green maintains he is innocent.) So they switched to their civies and and headed off, off through a hole in the fence they'd made, into the home where they took Abeer's parents and her five-year-old sister into a bedroom. Paul Cortez and James P. Barker began gang-raping Abeer while Green (according to Barker and Cortez' testimony) shot each parent and her sister. With Abeer in the next room. Then Green came in and joined the gang-rape. After which (according to Barker and Cortez) he shot her. Being dead wasn't enough. They had to attempt to burn her body. That didn't really work but they had to get back to base, drink some more booze and grill some chicken breasts. Just another day for those involved apparently.

Let's be really clear here, feminism is about calling those crimes out. Feminism is about calling the silences around those crimes out. Feminism is objecting everytime Abeer is rendered invisible in the press by reducing her to a nameless person ("14-year-old girl"). Real sorry to say it, but Pollitt didn't sport a lot of feminism going after CODEPINK for bird-dogging Hillary Clinton while avoiding the topic of Abeer. Ellen Knickmeyer and other reporters were telling Abeer's story in June of 2006. 12 months later, Katha Pollitt could finally write about Abeer . . . for one sentence. Twelve months later and one month after Alexander Cockburn ("Here Comes Another 'Crime Wave'," April 2nd, The Nation) wrote the first article to mention Abeer (and he wrote more than Pollitt did a month later). That's appalling and it's depressing.

Covering up or ignoring war crimes is like ignoring the air war, it prolongs the illegal war.

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 3591. Tonight? 3611. Yes, the 3600 mark was passed. Yes, 20 more US service members have been announced dead since last Thursday. July's toll thus far is 32.

And avoidance and denial doesn't end the illegal war. Sticking your head in the sand doesn't end the illegal war. Shouting "BE HONEST" at people when they've been honest (and not avoiding the topic of the illegal war) doesn't end the illegal war. Women of a certain age doing laundry lists that they pass off as columns or cutesy columns doesn't end the illegal war. Waiting a full year to even name Abeer (and 'discuss' her for one whole whopping sentence) doesn't end the illegal war. It also doesn't serve feminism.

So The Nation is getting way too much praise for a so-so article. Most of the e-mails today noted the cutting we'd done for The Third Estate Sunday Review but finally put in the gina & krista round-robin. For visitors, that was the much promised lengthy feature and all it did was use Democracy Now! interviews with war resisters to tell the story of Iraq -- the violence there and the importance of war resistance.

The Nation didn't e-mail but Joan noted this (had The Nation e-mailed one of their fund raising e-mails, it would have been noted):

Dear Nation reader,
Half a million dollars. In postage. In just a few short days, The Nation will pay one of the biggest bills we've ever faced -- half a million dollars -- because of a postal rate increase scheme designed in part by lobbyists for the TimeWarner media conglomerate. Mailing costs for mega-magazines like TimeWarner's own Time, People and Sports Illustrated will go up much less or in some cases decrease, while smaller publications like The Nation will be hit by an enormous rate increase. We need your contribution during this critical time in order to prevent cutbacks to our investigative reporting, coverage of important issues ignored by the corporate-supported mainstream media, and our student outreach programs. To enable The Nation to continue to be a voice of truth, free speech and democracy, click here.
Thank you,
Katrina Vanden Heuvel
Editor and Publisher, The Nation

To state my position, and only my position, on The Nation, again, speaking only for myself, it's had good times and it's had bad times. It is now in a bad time, a very bad time, but it has pulled out of them before. Odds are good it will do so again. It's equally true that this effects all of the independent print press that mail out copies. Thursdays used to be a look at the alternative press ("Indymedia Roundup"). That seems like forever ago. I think that was the first change here, in increasing the Iraq discussions (at members' requests). And The Nation's lack of interest in Iraq (they disagree with that opinion) was not limited to them. We noted repeatedly that there were Thursdays when there was nothing to be found on the topic anywhere. That wasn't helped by New Times (they will always be New Times here) snatching up more publications (including The Village Voice). But some weeks you could read every bit of independent press print and never find anything on Iraq. A good week, we might find three things. Which is why it was no loss to drop the alternative media Thursday entry and instead focus on Iraq. In fact, it was kind of required if we were going to focus on Iraq. But, across the board, there have been very few that have bothered to treat Iraq as a serious issue. Speak to anyone back from Iraq and they will tell you it's the bizarro world coming back to the US and seeing . . . nothing.

So if you see their appeal and want to pass it on, it will be noted on Thursdays.

The Nation's very proud of their new article entitled "The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness."
And, for them, in some ways, it probably is huge. It's certainly huge in terms of length. The long discussion on the 'methodology' (I'm speaking of more than "A Note on Methodology," I'm speaking of what would probably be better termed the "justification" for writing and running the article) must be impressing someone.

So let's dive in. Judith Miller. A name of shame. Should all reporters who promoted the (non-existant) link between 9-11 and Iraq be shamed? Chris Hedges co-wrote this article in The Nation. In October of 2001 (we've covered this here, Google "Chris Hedges" "Mother Jones" "Democracy Now!" and you should get some of the results), on the front page of the New York Times, Hedges and another writer promoted the (false) link citing two sources. Their 'report' was also promoted by PBS. Now Mother Jones dug around and found out one of the sources wasn't at all how he was presented in print. Hedges said he was burned and talked about it. Thing is, the article on the front page of the New York Times said there were two sources. Why hasn't the second source been outed and should someone who promoted the (false) link between 9-11 and Iraq really be assigned to report on Iraq today? I imagine Judith Miller would get boos and hisses if she tried. It's a funny sort of accountability that's (semi) practiced. A number of e-mails on the magazine's article brought that up in the last few days.

The thing is, I wasn't going to comment on the article. We were pretty much wiping our hands of "The Nation Stats" and I'd heard too many bad things about this article in the writing stage (including from people who were ignored and people who were interviewed) and really didn't want to address any of it.

Laila al-Arian is the other author of the piece. She may or may not be a talented journalist. But here's the thing, and it's a shame someone has to point out the obvious, a Middle Eastern woman who wears Middle Eastern dress isn't the one to speak to American veterans about the illegal war. Speak to any therapist (I spoke with seven) and you'll be told what a no-no that was with PTSD rates so high and with things so likely to trigger episodes. You didn't have to talk to therapists, however, you only had to catch Aaron Glantz' reporting on a special Memorial Day look at the some of the costs of the war in US of Free Speech Radio News. You had to catch it and listen to the wife of a veteran explain that even seeing a woman dressed in the manner al-Arian was dressed on Democracy Now! today was enough to set off her husband into a severe spiral.

Reporters have to create a rapport with the people they interview and al-Arian may be immensely gifted there (I actually heard praise for her from three people) but you don't do that. You don't, as a magazine, assign a red flag for a PTSD episode to speak to veterans about violence they saw in Iraq. It was hailed as "insensitive" and "such an obvious trigger" that therapists can't believe it happened. Enough time has not passed and, with this subject matter, you are really asking to set off triggers with such an assignment.

So what you've got is a survey article that tries to seem weightier by including the long opening justification (a healthy chunk of the article) which, for the record, doesn't generally accompany survey pieces. However, having so ignored the violence in Iraq so consistently it may have been felt that an explanation was owed to the readers so they wouldn't be shocked.

They should be shocked by one sentence:

Court cases, such as the ones surrounding the massacre in Haditha and the rape and murder of a 14-year-old in Mahmudiya, and news stories in the Washington Post, Time, the London Independent . . .

Did you catch it? Abeer was rendered invisible in this overly praised article. Abeer was reduced to "a 14-year-old" -- she didn't even get "girl." In this supposed expose on violence, they make like the New York Times and refuse to mention Abeer's name. They leave her a faceless 14-year-old. They don't even make her a 14-year-old girl so they're worse than the Times. She's just a non-gender specified "14-year-old". That's disgusting.

One news outlet they don't mention is Democracy Now! and there's nothing in here that Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales haven't done in the last four years. Then there's the issue that this was produced from "several months" of interviews. This was the best they could do? No. No, it wasn't and some of the more revealing stories never made it into the article which is why so many vets call this article "bullsh*t."

Kelly Dougherty shows up briefly. Near the end, Megan O'Connor shows up (right at the end). Where are the other women? And if these are the only women in the piece, don't you think they should be a given a little bit more space because they certainly had more to say. It's amazing that Matthew Rothschild has been able to give female veterans the time to speak on The Progressive Radio Show but The Nation, with it's sorry track record of publishing women writers, can only find two women to speak for the article and then use her 'sparingly.' Dougherty is quoted three times in the article -- every time she is quoted briefly. O'Connor is quoted once, briefly, and gets the same amount of space as Patrick Leahy's quote. For the record, Senator Leahy didn't serve in Iraq and, after all, isn't that the supposed point of this article -- to allow veterans to share what they saw?

Latinos are grossly underrepresented in this article. Possibly, you don't talk to an Agustin Aguayo because you're not interested in war resisters?

That's another outrage vets are pointing out, the term "war resister" never appears in the article. Neither Camilo Mejia nor Aidan Delgado are described as "war resisters." ("Desertion" is applied to Camilo.)

In "A Note on Methodology," it's noted that they sent out requests for interviews to: "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the antiwar groups Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War and the prowar group Vets for Freedom." They then do a shout out to Mommy's Pantyhose who once laughably declared "We know, we were there" while promoting "smarter" war and taking up massive Air America Radio time to say US troops needed to remain in Iraq. Mommy's Pantyhose also had a snit fit on air during Sunday Salon and repeatedly referred to another guest for the hour as "your caller" ("your" being host Larry Bensky). Mommy's Pantyhose cut off Amy Goodman on CNN repeatedly to share how much he loathed Ehren Watada. Mommy's Pantyhose had to start a new organization because members were leaving and the organization was a joke.

But that's who the biggies at The Nation are comfortable with. And Iraq Veterans Against the War got screwed and there's no way in hell I'm going to be silent about that.

In a laughable editorial that The Peace Resister Katrina vanden Heuvel is very proud of, this line appears: "Veterans of conscience deserve encouragement for speaking up."

Veterans of conscience do deserve encouragement for speaking up. That includes veterans of the military, such as Ehren Watada or Stephen Funk (to name but two) who refused to deploy to the illegal war. But they get no encouragment from the magazine, no support. Ehren Watada, whose story Ken Kagan was just telling Margaret Prescod Tuesday on KPFK's Sojourner Truth has received so much press attention, has never received an article in the print edition of The Nation (let alone a cover, MTV could cover him seriously, just not The Nation). Now he got a sidebar to an article that called him a coward.

Veterans of conscience deserve encouragement for speaking up? Well, golly, gee, Katrina when are you going to give it to them. There's been no profile or story on Watada, Mark Wilkerson, Kyle Snyder, Terri Johnson, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Ryan Johnson, Patrick Hart, Joshua Key, Darrell Anderson, Carl Webb (whose name has made it into print -- he just wasn't identified as a war resister though he could be quoted on Hurricane Katrina), there's a whole list of people that have had NO support from the 'unconventional wisdom' of The Nation. Their stories weren't told. Their stories still aren't told.

When you looked at the list of who they sent out request to, you may have noticed that the War Resisters Support Campaign wasn't on the list. No one in Canada was interviewed. Ironic considering Joshua Key's eye witnessed events were so important to the military (according to them) that it necessitated sending two military persons into Canada (where they posed as Canadian police while attempting to pump Winnie Ng for information).

Like the centrist early days of Air America Radio, they've been there to prop up Mommy's Pantyhose but they've refused to provide "encouragement" for those who spoke up. What a load of crap that editorial is. What an embarrassment it is. The Nation is supposed to be the leading magazine of the left but it's moving so close to the center these days that The National Review may soon outflank it -- from the left.

In fact, this alleged issue devoted to Iraq isn't. It's got the overly praised article, it's got the laughable editorial (usually they make these grand statements -- We will support no candidate -- and it takes a few months for them to deliver the punchline, with this one, everyone's laughing right off the bat), Alexander Cockburn (as usual, he's been the most dependable voice, but then he writes for his CounterPunch which really tries to inform readers) pens a column on Iraq, Ari Melber warps so tightly around (their presidential primary!) that it's as though they are a body pillow, Supreme Court, pardons, blah, blah, blah usual de-focus, usual crap that has you wondering "Who the hell is in charge of this magazine?"

The magazine, since November of 2004, has avoided Iraq. It has refused to cover it. Now, at this late date, it finally offers up a bad article and it's getting praised. Maybe it's relief that the increasinly useless magazine could actually almost write an article on Iraq without running to elected Dems? Or maybe it's a sign of just how bad the Iraq coverage has been -- in all outlets -- for the last four years? Whatever it is, this article is a piece of crap and veterans aren't impressed with it. Many are outraged by it. Fortunately for The Nation, Iraq's not covered too well by the media big or small so they'll get away with leaving many insulted and most will never know about it.

A visitor wrote in to say that John Bruhns "says what you say" meaning the following from Democracy Now! today:

SGT. JOHN BRUHNS: I would like Congress to draft binding bipartisan legislation that requires President Bush to bring our troops out of Iraq. This is a man that does not understand the meaning of the word "bipartisanship." We have to fight fire with fire when it comes to President Bush. He's stubborn. He refuses to acknowledge his mistakes. And he's in his own little world when it comes to Iraq.
So now, Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, has to do -- they have to do their job. They have to carry out the will of the American people. Over 70% of the American people want an end to this war. So my message to Congress is: you can stand with Bush or you can stand with the American people. Bring our troops home.

Yes, I do call out non-binding, toothless resultions. Like Nancy Pelosi's new attempt to yet again trick voters by re-proposing legislation that allows Bully Boy to keep as many on the ground as long as he's in office just by reclassifying the troops.

No, we do not speak alike. For instance, I never slammed war resisters to David Goodman. I never said, "I feel that if you are against the war, you should be man enough to stay put and fight for what you believe in."

And, for the record, I would never say "man enough." And I certainly wouldn't do so in a preface to a story of having seen a 19-year-old woman (I wouldn't call her, as he did, "a girl") die while serving.

Also for the record, I don't sneer "far-left liberal groups" (as he did about the Out of Iraq Congressional Hearing).

And I certainly would never make the following statements (as he did), in fact, I should probably comment after each non-point he makes:

Right now you have so many different groups. You have Iraq Veterans Against the War. My main problem with that organization is that they allow vets in their organization who've never been to Iraq to call themselves Iraq vets. I get disgusted by that. Why are you out on the street calling yourself an "Iraq vet against the war" when you haven't been there and had not had to endure the hardships we (Iraq Vets) had to endure?

Someone who stood up and refused to go because they knew the war was illegal has as much right as anyone else to speak. What they did was truly brave. If Bully Boy drove you out of the military because of his illegal war, if you gave up something you believed in for principles you believe in, you've done an amazing thing. You've shown true courage.

I don’t want to get in a quarrel with IVAW. I don’t believe in pitting vets against vets, especially because both of our organizations share the common goal of bringing the war to an end…we just operate differently.

But he does want a quarrel. "No comment" is how you avoid answering. And he's already pitted vet against vet by saying those who chose not to serve in an illegal war don't know hardships and are not as valued as he is.

The difference between VoteVets and an organization like Iraq Vets Against the War is that they're an anti-war, pacifist organization and they strongly resemble the anti-war movement of the late 60s and early 70s. At VoteVets we're a solid group of veterans who conduct ourselves professionally, we're not anti-war, we're pro-military, and we believe in fighting for this country.

He doesn't want a "quarrel" but he wants to run down the organization and claim that his Weak Ass "Vote Vets" (truly stupid because military service is neither a requirement nor an endorsement for public office) is "solid" and IVAW isn't. (And Adam Kokesh and others are not pacifists. Some in IVAW are -- and that's great -- and some aren't -- and that's great too.) Conduct yourselves professionally? You don't even seem to understand the Constitution or why we have civilian control of the military in the above quote. "We believe in fighting for this country". Explain when, in the last forty or fifty years, the United States has required the military to fight for it. Would that be attacking the Sandinistas? Would that be Vietnam? Grenada? Panama? Which ones of those were about 'fighting for this country'? (Answer: Not one damn one.)

He thinks he conducts himself professionally so, a tip, lose some weight. When you look like you ate Kevin James, no one's taking you seriously. They're just thinking, "How did he ever get in?"
And if that seems harsh, forget everything else he said, all he had to do was trash war resisters (which he has done repeatedly) and he was on my sh*t list. [Added: Ava's advised me of an e-mail. Please note, when you trash war resisters, you get what's coming to you at this site. And for the record, I didn't force feed the man. He should try practicing some Courage to Resist fatty foods. And he left 'reasoned' and all the other centrist b.s. talking points -- that they go running for when they're held accountable -- when he started slamming IVAW, the left and war resisters. Late in the game to be whining 'I believe in a civil discourse.' Do you? Well practice what you preach but don't bore the hell out of me with your lame ass e-mail.]

So to the visitor, like a great many, you're late to the party. He said a few pleasing words on Democracy Now! that happened to coincide with the overwhelming sentiments of most Americans. He does not speak to this community and we didn't just learn of him today.

He's the perfect mouthpiece for The Nation. He thinks he's 'respectable' and 'professional.' He does vidoes for and works with a "VOTE!" org ("vote" is where a participatory democracy begins and ends to the current leadership of The Nation). And best of all, he trashes war resisters. At a centrist publication, he would be a golden boy. The fact that he is to The Nation only shows how far it has sunk. How low can it continue to go? (Pretty low. The article says five photos were turned over confirming the violence so the question is, "Where the hell are the photos? Why didn't you run the photos?") Four years after the illegal war and this is the best they can do? (They avoided printing some of the most graphic stories they were told.) So how much lower can the magazine go?

Who knows but their overly praised piece of crap article requires a lot more thought and examination than it's received. It doesn't deserve shout outs and as long as the left or faux left is willing to applaud this crap, expect The Nation to continue its slide to the right.

For those disappointed with that piece of crap article, remember Labor Day isn't that far away and a feature will go up at every community site.

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