Thursday, July 26, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Before we start the entry proper, let me note a few things that have waited all week. First up, do you know I don't. But three e-mails are praising it. One is convinced I'm "Mike" (not apparently our Mike of Mikey Likes It!) and I'm sorry I can't help him with who he is trying to contact. From time to time, with those type of e-mails, we will forward them on. But I don't know anything about the website, sorry.

The Bat Segundo Show is back up and running with new broadcasts. You can listen online without registering or paying for a premium service. The new broadcasts feature:

The current batch features a rare two-part interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Berkeley Breathed, the man behind Opus and Bloom County; another rare interview with Scarlett Thomas, author of The End of Mr. Y; a revealing interview with A.M. Homes about memoirs, a discussion on superheroes in literature with Austin Grossman, and two Litblog Co-Op-related interviews with authors Alan DeNiro and Marshall Klimasewiski .
Mr. Segundo was not available for some of these podcasts, having fled from the Bolshevik practices of the Litblog Co-Op to kill time finding a penguin bride in the Arctic. He was briefly replaced with a raspy gentleman named Larry N. Gittis, who proved equally unsuitable for introductions. As much as it pains our crew to come to terms with the horrible truth, we can find no better host than Mr. Segundo -- at least at our current going rate.
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Now, warning, the next two things are PDF format. Michael T. Heaney and Fabio Rojas, "Partisans, Nonpartisans, and the Antiwar Movement in the United States," American Politics Research, Vol. 35, No. 4 and their "The Place of Framing: Multiple Audiences and Antiwar Protests Near Fort Bragg," Qualitative Sociology, Vol. 29, No. 4 (December): 484-505. Lastly Make Them Accountable posts several features and commentaries each day.

Now, let's get started.

On July 23, Cindy Sheehan, Ray McGovern and I met with U.S. Rep. John Conyers about the issue of impeachment. We delivered a petition for impeachment with one million signatures. While we met, 400 activists waited in the halls outside of his office along with a hoard of media to find out what the outcome of the meeting would be. The meeting was a very significant moment for the progressive movement from a historical standpoint. The movement for impeachment and the immediate reactions to why John Conyers was publicly targeted on this issue reflect how race continues to be, as my dear friend Bill Fletcher says, the tripwire for the progressive movement.
Rep. Conyers is a great mentor to me and my respect for him is unquestionable. He has been fighting for peace and justice and civil rights for decades inside and outside of Congress. He is a man for the people and for America. So, it was a truly disappointing moment on Monday, when we realized -- as mentor and mentee -- that we do not agree on his role as the Chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary committee to uphold our constitution by holding our President and Vice President accountable for their impeachable offensives.
After concluding our meeting I stepped into the hallway with Cindy Sheehan and Ray McGovern to inform the crowd that he refused to put impeachment back on the table. We then returned to his office and sat down, refusing to leave until Capitol Police arrested us.
Since Monday, our action has been criticized on two fronts. First, by the tedious "maintain the Democratic party line no matter what" folks who think that we should wait Bush out until November 2008 and get back at him by voting in a Democrat for President. Second, by folks who have interpreted our targeting of Rep. Conyers, a deeply respected African-American leader in Congress, as an attack that is fundamentally racist by the White leftists of the anti-war movement.
To uncritical supporters of the Democratic Party, I say this is not a time for partisan politics. To use the American people's frustration with Bush as political leverage in the 2008 elections, and to ignore the constitutional responsibility the legislative branch has to hold the executive branch accountable through the impeachment process, flies in the face of our democracy. People are dying in Iraq because of Bush's lies; people are being tortured in Guantanamo because of Bush's disregard for the Constitution and international law; and the American people are loosing faith in our democracy. But, Congress doesn't get that, and that is why their current approval rating is lower than Bush's.

The above, noted by Krystal, is from Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.'s "Race is the Tripwire for the Progressive Movement: John Conyers and Impeachment" (Common Dreams). Rev. Yearwood is both a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and the chair of the chair of the Hip Hop Caucus. As we noted Tuesday, asking why Conyers is one of the dumbest questions in the book. He chairs the judiciary. He wrote a book on why Bully Boy should be impeached. He told voters in 2006 that Dems in charge would mean impeachment (before Pelosi took it off the table). He has continued to make statements off the Hill supporting impeachment. Holding him accountable is actually treating him with respect -- it's accepting that when he speaks to the public, when he takes the time to write, he's not tossing out sop, he's addressing things he really believes. As for the issue of race, Yearwood (and continue reading his column via the link) is African-American. Possibly those bringing up the issue of race should be asking why Conyers had an African-American clergy member arrested for civil disobedience? Or does race only matter from the top? That's how we saw the Clarence Thomas issue play out in the 90s. Anita Hill was smeared and lied about. And it was how dare anyone question Clarence Thomas, an African-American man? Somehow that 'racial' concern never was extended to Anita Hill and, today, it's not being extended to Yearwood.

Whether Congress grasps it or not, every day the case for impeachment is being made. The abuses and crimes of Alberto Gonzales make a direct case for impeaching his boss who has either signed off on the abuses or is so incompetent that he has been unaware of him. Government's not a business but Bully Boy campaigned as the CEO leader. (Don't look too closely -- and fortunately the press didn't -- because his CEO 'success' echoes his current 'success' in leading a nation.) Well any CEO whose underling had broken so many laws (including perjury) would either be shown the door by the CEO or the shareholders would revolt. Today, citizens are demanding accountability and the Democratic leadership is refusing to utilize the needed recourse. John Dean wrote Worse Than Watergate before the 2004 election. Since then the known crimes of this administration have only multiplied. As they continue to go unchecked, the illegal war also continues.

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 3628. Tonight? 3645. Let's talk the death count. As noted in today's snapshot, the US military announced seven deaths today (not five, as most outlets reported). MNF isn't DoD. DoD announces the names of the fatalities. MNF's only work is to announce the deaths with the note that names will be released after the families have been informed.

No one seems willing to note the delay that's been going on lately with MNF. Today is July 26 and they announced seven deaths. Not one of those people died today. Four died yesterday and one announcement went four days back (July 22nd). MNF is sitting on death announcements. It's no different than Fort Lewis' move to starting holding mass meorials and not individual ones. It's a way to clamp down on the bad news. And MNF is getting away with it because the press refuses to call it out. To use today's most extreme example, a marine died on July 22nd. Are we all supposed to play dumb and pretend the US military didn't learn of that death until today?

What's going on is an effort to keep the deaths out of the headlines. And they know what they're doing. Announcing today that a marine died on the 22nd, four days ago, puts it in the past. Not for family or friends, but for the press coverage. They aren't going to open with, "Four days ago a US marine . . ." If they include it, it will be buried deep in the report.

It's amazing that they've gotten away with that this month but they have. (And we noted they were doing it long before today.) What is the next step?

American opinion has hardened against the illegal war. It's not changing. And efforts to sell the continuation of the illegal war continue. At the rate things are going, it wouldn't be a stretch to next learn that the US military will not disclose the deaths of service members. We will be informed that deaths are classified.

If anyone sees that as beyond possible, grasp that the US military has been keep track of Iraqis deaths since 2005 but it won't release those numbers. It's not a big stretch for this secretive administration to next move towards refusing to release information on deaths. No doubt, the excuse offered would be to "spare" the pain of the families.

To be clear, it does not take four days to announce a death of someone you're not even identifying in your press release. What's going on is what went on for months and months, where MNF delayed announcements of deaths until the 2nd or 3rd of the month so that the deaths wouldn't be included in the monthly counts. That got called out when people caught on. What's going on now needs to be called out.

For MNF today was a great day. They did an info dump on the deaths of 7 US service members and most press outlets were confused enough to run with 5 and not 7. They'll continue doing this unless they are called on it.

It's part of the effort to make it appear all that talk of 'turned corners' is finally taking place.

Had they made the announcements in a timely fashion, late Sunday or Monday's news cycle would have included the death of one marine in Al Anbar Province. Late Tuesday or Wednesday's news cycle would have included the news of one soldier dying in Baghdad and three soldiers and a marine dying in Diyala Province. Late yesterday and today the news cycle would have included the news that a soldier died in Baghdad.

Of course those realities might have clamped down on some of the rah-rah related to a soccer match. But the match was the perfect distraction and you saw the usual ones who sold you the illegal war rush to run photos of Iraqis (males only) rushing around cheering. Before the bombing, if the photos were taken in Baghdad. But don't let anyone rain on the Operation Happy Talk parade.

In tonight's roundtable (you can read it in tomorrow's gina & krista round-robin), Susan made the (correct) point that last night's entry should have included a musical quote. From Tori Amos' "Raspberry Swirl" (From the Choirgirl Hotel) "I am not your senorita, I am not from your tribe."

We'll close by noting this excerpt, Jennifer pointed it out, from the Institute for Public Accuracy:

WASHINGTON - JULY 25 - Last week, McClatchy newspapers reported that, according to the U.S. military's own statistics, "U.S. soldiers have killed or wounded 429 Iraqi civilians at checkpoints or near patrols and convoys during the past year. ... The statistics don't include instances of American soldiers killing civilians during raids, arrests or in the midst of battle with armed groups, and it remains unclear how the U.S. military tracks such information."

Mejia is an Iraq combat veteran who served a year in a U.S. military prison for refusing to return to the war in Iraq. He is the author of Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia. He was one of the 50 veterans interviewed for the forthcoming book Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians. Months before the appearance of the Abu Graib photos, Mejia complained to his superiors about treatment of detainees. Explaining his decision not to return to Iraq, Mejia said: "People would ask me about my war experiences and answering them took me back to all the horrors -- the firefights, the ambushes, the time I saw a young Iraqi dragged by his shoulders through a pool of his own blood or an innocent man was decapitated by our machine gun fire. The time I saw a soldier broken down inside because he killed a child, or an old man on his knees, crying with his arms raised to the sky, perhaps asking God why we had taken the lifeless body of his son."
More Information

Kevin Benderman was imprisoned for 14 months after trying to apply for conscientious objector status. His book Letters from Ft. Lewis Brig, co-authored with his wife, Monica Benderman, is forthcoming. Monica Benderman said: "[Last week] a Marine -- not only convicted of conspiring to commit kidnapping, larceny, and making false statements but [also] the murder of an innocent Iraqi man -- was given his sentence. He is to receive a reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge."Monica Benderman added: "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." She continued: "In 2004 my husband, a 10-year U.S. 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 ... 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."

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