Sunday, July 22, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

It's about time Americans faced the truth. Today a Marine not only convicted of conspiring to commit kidnapping, larceny, and making false statements; but the murder--MURDER--of an innocent Iraqi man, was given his sentence. He is to receive a reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge.
THIS is what America has become.
It is now considered "bad conduct" to murder an unarmed man, knowingly return to the scene to fabricate the appearance of self-defense and hide the facts after the fact.
Murdering an innocent Iraqi is now considered "Bad Conduct." In 2004 my husband, a ten-year US Army veteran, made a conscious decision to no longer participate in war--he spoke openly of the bad conduct of his commanders in giving orders to soldiers in his unit which not only jeopardized the lives of innocent Iraqis, and children, but also those of the soldiers he served with.
For his decision to no longer be part of the destruction, wanton killing, and unjust, immoral action this war has shown itself to be, my husband was accused of being a deserter, faced trumped up, fabricated charges of intentionally missing his unit's movement, and when the first court-martial attempt failed, was handed additional trumped up charges of larceny for combat pay his command erroneously placed in his paycheck. During a second court-martial attempt he was found guilty of missing movement or not getting on a plane and was sentenced to 15 months in prison, loss of all pay, reduction in rank and a dishonorable discharge.
A veteran with ten years of honorable service, who took a stand to no longer participate in an action in which murdering innocents is acceptable is now considered "Dishonorable."
How low do you intend to go, America?

The above, noted by Mia, is from Monica Benderman's "Facing the Truth" (CounterPunch). Her husband is, of course, Kevin Benderman. Monica Benderman (rightly) calls out the nonsense in the Senate last week later in her column and Mia had a question related to that. The easiest way to put is why can't the Democrats do anything? (I'm assuming Mia forgot to include "quote me" but in case she didn't, I'm summarizing her question.)

It's a large question that goes beyond Iraq (and Mia took it to several areas) and I guess can be summed up as, "What is going on?" In terms of Iraq and so many other issues, who knows. I may very well be remembering wrong but I can't think of (in my lifetime) public opposition ever being so great to anyone in the White House but Nixon. I'm not sure whether it's surpassed Nixon or not (that would require a lot more thought and probably a diagram of various issues) but it as least equal to Nixon if not greater. Mia asked about Reagan and I remember Reagan getting a pass from many (not just the mainstream media) because it was thought "He's not lying, he actually believes that." He got this cloudy look in his eyes when he was off in one of those dazes and a lot of people seemed willing to give him a pass. The other Bush? I can remember Republicans being less than enthused when contrasted with Reagan (and a joke about how Poppy was dangerous because he'd sell his own mother to get his way) but there was a case of them largely keeping their ducks in a row to support Poppy throughout his presidency.

With Bully Boy, there's none of that. He's a revealed liar so there's no excusing that he "believes" (as there was with Reagan) and he's not considered at all diplomatic (the way some considered his father). Bully Boy's really done something that only Nixon could do which was destroy his own base. The die hards in his party cling (what's the current number, 28%?) but that's really it. So why can't the Democrats, at the very least, counteract him?

Or, better question, really stand up to him?

I'm just going to toss out a few possible factors and I'm tired so if they don't sound correct to you, toss them in the trash with no worries. And also note that I just watched some of a very bad documentary (that Ava and I will not be reviewing) on WWII.

The Democratic Party seems to have killed off their strongest voices and cloned Lee Hamilton.
You've got people whose natural position is to compromise and refuse to fight. You can compromise on lunch, for instance. Two friends and each wants to eat somewhere else, you can pick a third place or go along with one of the two choices. Unless you're allergic. If you're allergic and the food's going to be harmful to you, you don't compromise on lunch. But the Lee Hamiltons compromise on everything to their own and the country's determinant. I, personally, do not see the level of strength or the level of dedication in the Congress that was once there. (Others would disagree, and they may be right, that there wasn't strength in the Congress in the last century.)

I think there was more value for and awareness of the Constitution. I think, in part, the time after WWII (omitting the hideous Red Scare) was a time when the Constitution really meant something and I think that had a lot to do with an education system which taught it in more detail as well as WWII itself where the nation was rallied and encouraged on something other than self-interest and some of the propaganda (and the US used propaganda during WWII as well as any other nation) really impacted. (If you doubt that, watch PBS' upcoming documentary -- but watch with a critical eye.) So that instilled something in some that led them to take to the floor of the Congress and advocate strongly against abuses by a presidency against the people and against the very system.

It's also true that Spiro officially launched the above ground attack on the mainstream media and a cottage industry sprung up that knew how to work the media. For a number of reasons (including just wanting to avoid the complaints -- that's very real by the way and something many left critiques leave out) the media (which was never left and was always about propping up the system and perpetuating it) tilted to the center. Politicians crave their good publicity and when the media tilts to the right, they grasp which way to lean to get valentines. Joe Lieberman was cast by the media as the perfect Democrat, to cite one example. (For the really young members, Joe Lieberman was being hailed in the media not all that long ago. When Al Gore elected to endorse Howard Dean -- perfectly within his right to do so -- the media and pundits went into hand wringing fits about how unfair that was and how he should have called Lieberman first.) So there's the issue of the media system.

There's the issue that strong voices in the party have been run out. And that strong voices have been attacked. John Kerry called out the illegalities that would come out during Iran-Contra and the media bent over backwards to do a number on him. Politicians aren't naturally brave -- it's difficult to win a populartity contest/election on bravery -- and that sent a message as well.

You've got the move away from voters. Really the attack on voters. The Democratic Party, at best, began a long weakening of support for (and speaking for) their base. That's labor, that's African-Americans, that's become women (and Dems can't win without women -- every step away has weakend them but if they lose their historical support from women, lots of luck winning elections). You've got a system that values monies more than voters and isn't interested in anything to do with labor. They expect unions to turn out, they expect the steel workers, for instance, to yet again go door to door in close districts. And their reward for that will be getting a speech delivered to them (during the run up to the race, not after). They really don't fight for the issues of labor. By the 80s, you can see the dismissal of the voters and the embrace of Big Business. (And it always took place but there was a balancing act prior.)

You have the DLC and the 're-inventing government' nonsense that put the Dems clearly in bed with Big Business at the expense of the workers. You had the DLC advocating 'sending messages' (peeling off/kicking away the traditional base for the party). Really, you've got the DLC wanting to be the Republican Party -- wanting the big money, wanting what they see as "power," etc. -- but for some reason, afraid to make the switch they should.

They were never powerful with the public but the system's natural tendency (think the media) to push against progress created the myth that the DLC was the new way and had all this power (that it never had).

You've got non-competative races which give even more reason not to make 'waves'. There's little need to appeal to the voters when you're in a district that's been drawn so safely that short of a sex scandal, you're in office until you decide to be out.

And let's talk about alternative/independent media because Mia was really glad Monica Benderman called out the nonsense in the Senate last week. (I'm glad she did as well.) The slumber party press (small media) wasn't as bad as it was in March or in May. That's an improvement and needs to be noted. But there are still too many acting like proud parents and not conducting themselves like independent media. There are still too many who deceive.

American Prospect, Washington Monthly, etc. are upfront that they exist as Democratic house organs. They aren't deceiving. That's who they are and they are honest about it and there's no point in having a quarrel with them over it. It's their right to be that. (And sometimes they do very strong journalism.) But don't present yourself as independent (those and others do not) and then coming off like the party organ for the Democratic Party. You can put The Nation on the deceiving list. When you, for example, fund an investigation into the war profiteering on the part of Dianne Feinstien (via her husband) and you don't run that article (they didn't, it ran elsewhere -- I know Joshua Frank linked to it at his site but his site is no more -- if anyone missed the article, e-mail and I'll try to remember where it ran), that's really embarrassing. If that had been American Prospect, it wouldn't have raised an eyebrow. No one would have been shocked by Washington Monthly doing the same. But The Nation is supposed to be independent. When we do not see that independence from it (or other outlets that present themselves as independent), it does a great deal of damage. It provides cover at a time when there should be calling out.

So when those who are supposed to be independent (and who self-present as independent) don't use their voices, it really hurts the entire system.

There's also a great deal of ignorance. Rupert Murdoch wants to buy The Wall St. Journal and, sorry to point it out again, that is a New York based paper. You hear the generic argument against consolidation. Where is the argument about consolidation specific to the fact that he already owns the New York Post? One person owning both papers? It just strikes me as being as stupid in the 80s in not noting the obvious fact, Fox TV (entertainment) operated in violation of the FCC which forbade foreign ownership of domestic airwaves. That argument was not made loudly and repeatedly. Had it been, he would have been forced to become a US citizen immediately or sell off his holdings. Mike Nichols, in Working Girl, made the point stonger and reached more people than did our media 'critics' or press of that time period. But here we are again, two decades later, and Murdoch is attempting to own two NYC based papers.

So I think we're seeing the effects of several different strands, that have been ongoing for decades, play out. They have historical roots (all of which predate 1992 though many commentators seem confused). And that's how you end up with a Democratically controlled Congress that won't launch a real fight. (Not a fight for the country or the party and -- most shocking -- a fight to preserve the system.) The argument for most of this decade has been "we weren't the party in control" but they didn't own their power. Now that they are in control it's "we don't have a super-majority." And that's what really stinks about the little show the Democratically controlled Senate put on last week. They knew the (weak) measure wasn't passing. But they staged a fight for something that will no good. Why? For the 2008 elections and in an attempt to stem their nosedive in the polls. All along voters were told "we don't have any power" and then "we don't have enough votes even though we're in control." But what was done last week could have been done for real problems with real legislation advocated that would fix the problems.

If they'd staged the little show in 2003 or 2005 for Guantanamo Bay prisoners, for the outing by the administration of Valerie Plame, for real ways to bring the troops home, for the 'unitary executive' abuses, for the trampling of the Constitution, for opposition to the Patriot Act, for the disenfranchisment of so many voters, people would have applauded it. People would have stood with them. And they always had the power to do that in one form or another.

That they finally use their power and do so to a bill that didn't mean any troops had to come home (Bully Boy could reclassify all of the troops, use the National Security clause/out provided, go down the list) not only demonstrated they weren't serious about ending the illegal war, it also revealed that the excuses for this decade of doing nothing were empty excuses. Similar events could have taken place at any time in the last years and they didn't take place.

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 3615. Tonight? 3632. Funding the war is funding the killing. Tina Richards' Grassroots America and Iraq Veterans Against the War launched the campaign Funding the War is Killing the Troops last week. If you want to end the illegal war and are wondering (having done so much already, I know, I know every member is working to end the illegal war) what can you do, you can work on getting that message out. 8% of Americans in the most recent poll grasp that and say no to all funding of the illegal war. In September a 'progress' report gets delivered to Congress. The 8% number needs to go up. It can and it will solely from IVAW and Richards but let's not leave all the work to them. Whether you prefer "Funding the war is funding the killing" (as some members do) or "Funding the war is killing the troops," start working it into your own conversations, your own e-mails or letters, whatever.

The point is basic and true. But there are so many lies from the administration (and some Democratic officials) that this really is the equivalent of, from the children's story, saying, "The Emperor has no clothes on." ("One small voice can change the world," as Carole King wrote and sang on "One Small Voice" from the CD Speeding Time.) So if you're at a loss on what to focus on this summer to end the illegal war or if you have time to focus on other things in addition to what you are already doing, get the word out. Congress doesn't act, it is forced to act by the people. The people forced that dog and pony show last week. Every step we take forces them to act in some way.

And while they refuse to act, the killing continues.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad truck bombing claimed 5 lives (twelve more wounded), a Baghdad motorcycle bombing claimed 2 lives (twenty more wounded), and Baghdad mortar attacks killed 1 person and left four wounded. Reuters notes an Iskandariya mortar attack the claimed 2 lives (four more injured).


Moahmmed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one person shot dead in Al Muthana airport (two more wounded), two police officers wounded in a shooting attack in Doura, 6 people shot dead in Mosu -- Adham Abbas Surchi, Shamil Mohammed Mosa Duski, Mohammed Ahmed Al Barzanchi, Fareed Mohammed and Haval Mohammed are five of the names of the six dead -- while 6 people were shot dead in an attack on trucks "on the main road from Khanqeen to Buhruz". Reuters notes a police officer was shot dead in Shanafiya.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the corpses of Brig. Gen. Falah Khalaft ("of the ministry of Interior") and Capt. Ahmad Saadi along with sixteen other corpses in Baghdad today.

Pru gets the last highlight, Simon Assaf's "George Bush in crisis as Iraq 'surge' fails" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

George Bush is facing a political crisis in the US as it becomes increasingly clear that his strategy for maintaining the occupation of Iraq is rapidly unravelling.
Even members of Bush's own Republican party are now turning against him rather than face the consequences of mounting public anger at the horror in Iraq.
This anger led to the Republicans losing control of both houses of the US Congress in elections last year. It has boosted the fortunes of anti-war presidential candidates -- and wrecked those of pro-war "hawks" such as Senator John McCain.
Bush responded by ordering a "surge" in US troop numbers in Iraq as part of a last ditch effort to maintain the occupation.
He is now desperately touting various "benchmarks" and "indicators" that shows his strategy is "making progress" and that Iraq is moving "towards stability". But his figures do not add up.
The Brookings Institution is a foreign policy think-tank based in Washington DC that publishes a weekly Iraq Index -- a set of statistics to track the state of the US occupation. According to this index the situation in the country is deteriorating rapidly.
In June 2003 there were eight recorded attacks by the resistance every day. By June 2005 that figure had reached 70. Now the daily average number of resistance attacks has reached 170 -- including a rise in the number of sophisticated armour piercing roadside bombs.
There are now 168,000 US troops stationed in Iraq -- the same figure as 2005 when the US last declared it had "turned the corner". In 2005 an average of 60 US soldiers died every month. This has now risen to over 100 a month -- the highest since the occupation begun.
And the US’s own estimate of the opposition it faces has also risen. In 2005 the US military calculated that it was facing around 20,000 "insurgents". That figure today is at 70,000.
Earlier pronouncements about the US winning the war are now returning to haunt Bush. In 2005 he declared the Iraqi city of Baquba as secure and safe. This year it has erupted in fighting again.
Now military operations in Anbar province have in turn been declared a success. But behind the rosy headlines, the US has effectively abandoned the battle and concluded a series of deals with local resistance organisations.
Another one of Bush’s "key indicators" is the number of Iraqi civilians killed by car bombs and death squads. Bush argued that he could cut the number of sectarian murders by flooding Baghdad with thousands of extra US troops.
Death toll
There are now over 16,000 US troops in the capital, up from 6,500 earlier this year. But they are having little or no impact on the death toll.
The numbers of Iraqis killed by car bombs has fallen from its peak this January, but it still remains above 2006 levels.
And the toll in the "war of the bodies" -- the victims of death squads -- remains just as grim. Before the surge an average of 800 bodies were found a month -- by May this had only dropped to 725.
The political benchmarks have also proven to be elusive. Bush wanted the Iraqi government to pass a neoliberal oil law. But this law has met with huge opposition across the country (see interview with Hassan Jumaa Awad,
» Resisting the plans to control Iraq's oil).
The new US policy of drawing former members of the Saddam Hussein’s regime into the Iraqi government has also stalled, as has a new election law and changes to the constitution.
The biggest hope for supporters of the occupation was that ordinary Iraqis would abandon support for the resistance if their everyday lives began to improve.
This has been the biggest failure. Life in Iraq remains as desperate today as in the first days of the occupation.
Up to 40 percent of Iraqis have no job. Only one in three children go to school. Over 12,000 of the 34,000 doctors registered in the country before the occupation began have now fled into exile.
The Brookings Institution found no improvements in electricity, water or security for ordinary Iraqis. Inflation remains over 50 percent per year.
These facts underline the growing panic inside the Bush administration -- and fuel the growing chorus demanding a huge reduction in US troop levels by the middle of next year.
Far from the "surge" stabilising US rule in Iraq, it has confirmed to many of Bush's former supporters that the occupation of Iraq is in terminal crisis.
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