Thursday, August 02, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Unbelievably, the Democratic leadership in Congress seems about to cave in to Bush and grant him, of all things, more power to spy on Americans.
This, even as Alberto Gonzales continues to dissemble about the spying that has already been going on.
But whenever Bush lights the scare fluid, the Democrats jump back in fear.
In his Saturday radio address, Bush said, "Congress needs to act immediately to pass this bill, so that our national security professionals can close intelligence gaps and provide critical warning time for our country."
Bush also said that "FISA was passed nearly 30 years ago, and FISA has not kept up with new technological developments."
He conveniently failed to note that FISA has been updated 50 times over those last 30 years, and 20 times since 9/11,
as the ACLU notes.

The above is from Matthew Rothschild's "Dems Complicit in Bush Power Grab" (The Progressive). Hold on a second, it's noted by Sherry and Rebecca. Rebecca just finished posting at her site when she found an e-mail from Sherry highlighting Rothschild's piece. She called and wondered if there was any way to note it here? Yes, because it goes to straight to not only how we ended up with the unconstitutional Patriot Act, it goes to how we ended up with the illegal war. Democrats won't stand up. They're afraid and some of them are honestly authoritarians who have more than a bit of the Bully Boy in them. No one twisted their arms to vote for what Bully Boy turned into an authorization of illegal war. No one twisted their arms to make them decide to hop on board Bully Boy's attack on Americans's right to privacy (Rothschild notes the Russ Feingold came out strongly against this measure). But how would it look? What if there's another attack? Will we look weak!!!!!

If there's another attack, as the so-called Homeland Security Dept. seems to be telegraphing more and more (often based on the precision detection system known as Michael Chertoff's gut -- let's hope he doesn't eat spicey food anytime soon) who looks bad? The Bully Boy.

He can spin it and sell it anyway he wants but the reality is he identified Osama bin Laden as being responsible for the attacks and he said ObL would be captured dead or alive . . . six years ago. The FBI has taken him off their most wanted. That this took place under the Bully Boy also goes to him. He has had six years to do something, anything, but all he's done is attack the rights of the American people (with Congress' permission). Another attack isn't an indictment of Democratic leadership (other things -- such as the continued illegal war -- may be), it's an indictment of the Bully Boy and a testament to his failures in office. It's that simple. He's had six years to address the problem he's campaigned on repeatedly and another attack will only (yet again) demonstrate that he has never been up to any job other than booze hound.

Many elected Democrats and former members of Congress went along with the illegal war. Some are War Hawks. Some wanted it. It was a plan that began during the Clinton era and many, including Joe Lieberman and Bob Kerrey (now an Air America Radio host -- 'progress'!) were all on board. Bill Clinton himself laid the steps for Bully Boy's illegal war.

Could some of the elected Democrats have risen up in 2002 or before the illegal war started in March 2003? Yes, they could have but few of them did. Some were scared, some were for it, and some were unable to go against the grain. When the Democrats took control of Congress in the November 2006 election, they had the power to end the illegal war. Forget the nonsense about one Senator's sick and the Dems Senate majority is just a sliver. They have the power in the Senate, they have the power in the House. They've refused to excercise it. Mike Gravel has offered many examples of how the Congress could end the illegal war. They've refused the advice.

The other day Yawn Emmanuel, whom David Swanson's pointed out has publicly spoken of how good the illegal war will be for the Dems in the 2008 elections, was boasting of the need to force votes -- meaningless ones -- to put pressure on Republicans. Pressure to get them to end the illegal war? No the real 'pressure" is exposure and the hopes that, once exposed, voters will turn against him and go rushing into the arms of Democrats. Yawn Emmanuel is a bit like a man who terrorizes a woman in order to frighten her so she'll fall into his arms our of fear. In fact, it's as though the nation has been cast in the role of Ingrid Bergman in this remake of Gaslight.

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 3645. Tonight? 3662. Before we go futher on the topic of the deaths, Tori notes a highlight and asks what is the point of the column? For an exploration of that, read on after the highlight. This is from Norman Solomon's "Media Blitz for War: The Big Guns of August" (Common Dreams):

The media maneuvers of recent days are eerily similar to scams that worked so well for the Bush administration during the agenda-setting for the invasion. Vice President Cheney and his top underlings kept leaking disinformation about purported Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda -- while the New York Times and other key media outlets breathlessly reported the falsehoods as virtual facts. Then Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and other practitioners of warcraft quickly went in front of TV cameras and microphones to cite the "reporting" in the Times and elsewhere that they had rigged in the first place.
Last Monday, the ink was scarcely dry on the piece by O'Hanlon and Pollack before the savants were making the rounds of TV studios and other media outlets -- doing their best to perpetuate a war that they’d helped to deceive the country into in the first place.
The next day, Cheney picked up the tag-team baton. Tuesday night, on CNN's "Larry King Live," he declared that the U.S. military "made significant progress now into the course of the summer. … Don't take it from me. Look at the piece that appeared yesterday in the New York Times, not exactly a friendly publication -- but a piece by Mr. O'Hanlon and Mr. Pollack on the situation in Iraq. They're just back from visiting over there. They both have been strong critics of the war."
On Wednesday, the U.S. News & World Report website noted: "The news that the U.S. death toll in Iraq for July, at 73, is the lowest in eight months spurred several news organizations to present a somewhat optimistic view of the situation in Iraq. The consensus in the coverage appears to be that things are improving militarily, even as the political side of the equation remains troubling."
Such media coverage is a foreshadowing of what's in store big-time this fall when the propaganda machinery of the warfare state goes into high gear. The media echo chamber will reverberate with endless claims that the military situation is improving, American casualties will be dropping and Iraqi forces will be shouldering more of the burden.

Yeah, but that really doesn't excuse the fact that you're refusing to note (a) that July 2007 was the deadliest July for US troops and (b) 73 was a laughable figure on Wednesday. Norman Solomon wants everyone to understand that the illegal war will be switching to air war mode more and more and when that happens US deaths will most likely go down (as during Vietnam) and some pressure may then be off the administration.

That really doesn't excuse publishing a piece at some point on Wednesday (if not today) where the MSM and military lie of 73 is repeated. By Wednesday evening, 80 was already the announced deaths in Iraq. By today, it's risen to 81. The talking point imploded and before a 'war critic' does anything else it is his or her responsibility to note that.

As to the death count that will most likely go down (on the US side) when the air war is in full assault, what do you want, Norman? Seriously, what do you want?

You're a genius, no question, I have tremendous respect for you, but do you really think these scolds are helpful? They aren't. You're tired of the death count (as are we all). And?

Phyllis Bennis (whom I also have tremendous respect for) wants to shoot down Alexander Cockburn on the issue of finding out about the resistance. Now this was actually raised by Tom Hayden months ago and he was mocked (hopefully that was unintentional) on air for it. The host was reading something from the show's blog asking if this was a proposal to start a pen-pal list? Is Cockburn right? (Cockburn and Hayden before he was publicly humiliated, Hayden really hasn't touched on the topic since in any great detail.) So that's not going to be a focus.

Where is the focus going to be? How, Norman, are we going to translate the illegal war? We certainly can't depend upon a mainstream media holed up inside the Green Zone. More marches in DC (brief marches at that -- when Congress isn't in session)?

If the death count for US service members drops to one a month, we'll still note it here. If there was a reliable count on Iraqis (there actually is but no one's forcing the US government to release it -- or even trying to force them to) we'd note it. Instead we note that it is now approximately one million based on The Lancet Study published last October which found over 655,000 Iraqis had died.

The fact of the matter is that the US administration put the breaks on the death announcements, the military was derelict in their duty and went along with it, and the mainstream press -- in fact all the press! -- played dumb. We didn't here, as Tori notes in her e-mail. We didn't suddenly notice this week (or last) that the US military was delaying death announcements by as much as four days. We noted that all month long. We're not a media outlet. But find a media outlet that did -- big or small. Find anyone who prepared their audiences by informing them what was going on?

No one did. Reality, the US military was issued clamp down orders on the death announcements, told to slow them. Reality, military brass, under orders from the White House, began selling the talking point that deaths were down and this would be the lowest month in terms of US military deaths since last year. Reality, their talking imploded. Reality, they knew it would but hoped by delaying the truth, all the print editions would have run, all the gas bags would have moved on to another talking point.

On August 1st, as papers and networks repeatedly ran stories claiming it was the lowest death count since last year, the US military knew damn well that wasn't true (as did the White House) and they didn't correct the record. They announced a few more July deaths later in the first day of August, they announced again today.

That's reality and that's not addressed in Norman Solomon's column. Nor is it addressed exactly what we are to focus on? The deaths? Well, speaking for myself (but I'm sure it applies to others outside the community and I damn well know it applies to community members), we follow the deaths of Iraqis. What is it that the masses aren't doing, Norman?

Now I fully grasp the natural demand of a column that you have an opinion and to express it strongly but what I don't grasp is what's the take-away from your column?

The air war? I believe most are already noting that now (online). Don't focus on the deaths? Is that the edict because it won't fly here. We will note the deaths we can. The very nature of the illegal war? Find an entry here where we've ever called it anything but an "illegal war". Your column doesn't do that. At one point, in one sentence, you refer to the illegal war as "illegitimate and fundamentally wrong". It's illegal. In this community, we've grasped that for some time.

Now if you're getting at the disappointing coverage in small media, use an example other than Frank Rich. But in terms of what most reading your piece are going to take away, it's another scold. You're too good for that and you're too smart for that. Instead of using terms like "the media" and naming Frank Rich, why not go after the real roadblocks? The Nation magazine would be a perfect starting point. What sort of journalistic institution has "dozens" of photos of abuses and refuses to run any? What sort of journalistic insitution of the left hides behind centrists veterans and refuses to cover (in print) the ones who speak out against the illegal war because it is illegal and the ones who refuse to serve in an illegal war?

Norman Solomon wants to again tell readers that it's wrong to focus on the numbers of the dead. That's not because he doesn't care about everyone who dies in Iraq (on all sides -- which he does care very much about), that's because he's fully aware that an air war means US fatalities (the only thing tracked and often the only thing US audiences care about) will most likely go down. He's right. But to steal from Brando (in A Streetcar Named Desire, or Diane Keaton impersonating him for a scene in Sleeper), "And do you know what I say? Ha ha! Do you hear me? Ha ha ha!" First of all, the US administration and military have been caught in a lie that he takes a pass on. Second of all, the mainstream media is guilty of reporting a falsehood -- one they and small media should have known better about. But so what?

What is it that we should be focusing on? Hiding behind centrists? Turning the peace movement over to a pedophile? Attacking war resisters? More actions revolving around DC?
What is it? I've read the column, in full, twelve times and can't figure that out. If I can't, and I will always bend over backwards to see any point Solomon raises, I doubt many others can?

Funding the war is killing the troops, as Tina Richards and Iraq Veterans Against the War note. Funding the illegal war is killing everyone. It's an illegal war, not an "illegitimate" one -- it has many fathers true, but they are known -- and not just "fundamentally wrong" -- it's illegal. "Fundamentally wrong" makes it sound as though Bully Boy meant to pick up fries at McDonalds but got chicken nuggets instead. Illegal.

Brandon notes Amy Goodman's "The Uncounted Casualties of War" (Truthdig) and we'll go out on that (Goodman's points are very clear):

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey is not counted among the Iraq war dead. But he did die, when he came home. He committed suicide. His parents are suing the Department of Veterans Affairs and R. James Nicholson, the secretary of veterans affairs, for wrongful death, medical malpractice and other damages.
Kevin and Joyce Lucey saw their son's rapid descent after he returned from combat in Iraq in June 2003. Kevin said: "Hallucinations started with the visual, the audio, tactile. He would talk about hearing camel spiders in his room at night, and he actually had a flashlight under his bed, which he could use to search for the camel spiders. His whole life was falling apart."
Jeffrey told his family that he was ordered to execute two Iraqi prisoners of war. After he killed the two men, Jeffrey took their dog tags and wore them until Christmas Eve 2003, when he threw them at his sister, calling himself a murderer. A military investigation concluded the story is without merit, but Kevin Lucey says: "An agency investigating itself, I have a lot of problems with that. We fully believe our son." Joyce Lucey added: "It really, to us, didn't make a difference what caused Jeffrey's PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. We know that he came back different, so something happened to him over there."
Jeffrey got worse, secluding himself in his room, watching TV and drinking heavily. Jeffrey was reluctant to seek care, fearing the stigma that he felt accompanied mental-health treatment. Finally, on May 28, 2004, the Luceys had Jeffrey involuntarily committed. The Veterans Affairs hospital released him after three days.
On June 5, 2004, Jeffrey had deteriorated significantly. His sisters and grandfather brought him back to the VA. Joyce said the VA "decided that he wasn't saying what he needed to say to get involuntarily committed. Later we were to find out that they never called a psychiatrist or anybody that could have evaluated him. And they have this all on the record. It said that the grandfather was pleading for his grandson to be admitted."

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