Sunday, September 09, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

To stay or not to stay, that is the question.
Some have this decision made for them: Larry Craig and Mark Foley, for example.
To stay or not to stay is the question Gen. David Petraeus will address this month, although his answer will be shaped by George Bush's demands. Public disapproval of the war in Iraq be damned, the Decider disregards the people with his deathly certitude that has resulted in the deaths of 3,760 U.S. troops in addition to all those who are emotionally dead from deployment after deployment. Pile on the bodies of the Iraqi civilians killed, estimated at over a million, by the policies of Bush & Company.
To stay or not to stay with Bush's assurance that the surge is working-well, we all know where this is going. Just as the reasons for war have morphed numerous times, George will continue to move the goalposts. This president has a history of incredibility.

The above, noted by Mia, is from Missy Comley Beattie's "Shall We Stay or Shall We Go Now?" (CounterPunch). It's a good place to start. And I'll toss out something else. A number of members are noting a highlight. I'm not in the mood for it for several reasons and am wondering, if I go into it, do I really need to go into it? Do I need to dig up old history and explain how ____ was not really like a father to ___? Do I need to point out that when ___ (and ____ as well) are being brought into the Iraq issue we need a real look at it and not multiple paragraphs that, when read to me over the phone, have me screaming, "Stop! Stop! Is there a point?" Now that goes to editor and not writer. And an editor should have pointed out the piece has a topic, one noted in the title, and no one needs all the garbage as they wait for the topic of the title to finally be addressed? But I'm just not in the mood for it tonight. Plus, noting the highlight (the comments I made previously are on two other recent pieces that we haven't noted here) members are e-mailing about, actually requires corrections because it's basically a speech turned into a written piece and the facts that were obviously wrong in the speech have been pulled but there are still a number of facts that are wrong. (I'm not talking opinions or judgement calls I'm talking things as simple as, for example, a number offered in the piece.) Now as uncomfortable as some of the points I've already made (without naming) may be, if I address that piece, I'll be dredging up ancient history (not personal -- I'm talking movement history) and I really don't want to go there. So I'm just going to ignore it. If it's an issue to community members, let me know and we'll take it over to a newsletter.

Missy Comley-Beatti's addressing the reality we'll be dealing with, as a nation, all week. Petreaus, the sock puppet -- as Isaiah noted -- will go before Congress and move his lips while channeling the Bully Boy.


Possibly enough criticism may get to Petraeus and cause him to offer an off the cuff moment or two but he will mainly stick to the script. As Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "Besides commanding U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus has become the administration's top pitchman for the strategy in Iraq." Since there have been so many press leaks last week, mot know the general thrust of the report. John Kerry addressed that point on ABC's This Week earlier today. The reality is that all that's going to take place (covered by the mainstream) is officials talking to each other. The public is again shut out of the debate and ignored. But let's all hail it as 'democracy at work!' and pretend not to notice.

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 3739. Tonight? 3762. We'll get back to that number in a minute. 1,019,627 was the number of Iraqis killed in the illegal war (not a full count) last Sunday. Tonight? Just Foreign Policy lists
1,032,938. That's 13,311 more Iraqis who have died and the number is based on deaths reported in the press so the reality is over 13,311 Iraqis have died in one week. (Check my math, always.) And explain how the escalation is 'working' one more time?

From Leila Fadel's "Security in Iraq still elusive" (McClatchy Newspapers):

When President Bush announced in January what the White House called a "New Way Forward" in Iraq, he said that Iraqi and American troops would improve security while the Iraqi government improved services. Responsibility for security in most of Iraq would be turned over to Iraqi security forces by November.
With better security would come the breathing room needed for political reconciliation, Bush said.
With less than a week to go before the White House delivers a congressionally mandated report on that plan, none of this has happened.

Let's note some of today's reported violence in Iraq. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack left six people wounded, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 2 lives with six more people wounded, 12 corpses were discovered in Baghdad, a Balad truck bombing injured three Iraqi soldiers and a Balad mortar attack wounded one Iraqi. Reuters notes a Mahmuidya car bombing that claimed 2 lives (six more wounded), an attack outside of Baiji on a police station ("destroyed") which claimed the lives of 7 Iraqi police officers (two more were injured), a Mosul home invasion that resulted in the deaths of 4 family members and a Baghdad roadside bombing the claimed 1 life (two more injured).

Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed and two others wounded during combat operations in a western section of the Iraqi capital Sept. 9. An Iraqi interpreter was also wounded in the attack." And they announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died Sept. 7 in a non-combat related incident in Al Anbar Province." 'Non-combat related' and they announce, as Ruth pointed out yesterday, the death is 'under investigation.' Two service members died. That is known. It's also known that in 'escalation central' one died and in the 'model province' another died. But these facts will fall by the wayside as White House spin dominates next week.

Speaking of spin, a popular portion of it during the Gerald Ford death coverage was that he provided amnesty to war resisters. He got a lot of praise, in the coverage, for that -- for something he didn't do. On this day, 33 years ago, he offered his 'conditional' amnesty which was nothing but jump through hoops and maybe (MAYBE!) you had amnesty. Jimmy Carter (who will be interviewed by Amy Goodman tomorrow on Democracy Now!) offered amnesty -- but only to those who resisted the draft, not to those who self-checked out.

On war resistance, Doug notes this item from "Religion Briefing" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):

Marquette University is using a $500,000, four-year grant from the Sally and Terry Rynne Foundation to create a Center for Peacemaking this fall. It will offer programs and research the impact of efforts to prevent violent conflicts and to reconcile communities affected by violence.
The center will be directed by Father G. Simon Harak, a Jesuit who teaches theology at Marquette. He previously worked as the national anti-militarism coordinator for the
War Resisters League.

Staying on the topic of war resistance, Vince notes Laura K's "sanctuary" (We Move to Canada) which provides some very useful history and context but for the excerpt we'll focus on the list she creates:

Here are some practical ways you can help.
Buy the video. "Let Them Stay" was produced by the War Resisters Support Campaign. It's an excellent introduction to the issue, and can help educate you and others about what US war resisters are facing in Canada. The Support Campaign is an all-volunteer organization. 100% of your $20 will go towards legal and material aid for war resisters.
Contact the federal government. Write your MP. Write Stephen Harper. Write the Immigration Minister. Tell them this is the Canada you want to live in. Tell them: let them stay.
Sign the petition. If you haven't done so already, join 14,000 of your countrypeople in asking the government to let them stay.
Spread the word. How many Canadians don't even know there are US war resisters seeking refuge in Canada? Among those who know, how many mistakenly believe the former soldiers can just live legally in Canada? Talk to your friends, your co-workers, your running buddies, the folks at your dog park. You can help raise awareness, and help create support for those three words.
October 27, 2007 is an International Day of Action Against War. Join your neighbours to protest the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. There will be simultaneous protests
in Canada and the US. Resisters will be there. Let them stay.

And for more, see Scott Neigh's "About Sudbury Anti-War/Anti-Occupation Group" (A Canadian Lefty In Occupied Land). Still on war resistance, Marcia notes the following from Workers World:

"What's the mood in the U.S. military?"
By John Catalinotto
Published Sep 9, 2007 10:21 PM
After four-plus years of a failed occupation of Iraq and a U.S. regime that refuses to leave, two questions have become vital: What is the strength of the Iraqi resistance? What is the mood of the U.S. rank-and-file troops? This article discusses the latter question.
The Army's records show that among a half-million troops, there were 3,196 desertions in 2006, a considerable increase over the 2,543 in 2005.
On Aug. 19, the New York Times published a statement in which seven enlisted soldiers with the 82nd Airborne stationed in Iraq dared to challenge the whole chain of command by suggesting the best thing the U.S. could do is pull out.
Recruiting is way down among African Americans and contested throughout Puerto Rico. The military is drawing from an ever narrower base--small-town USA and immigrants desperate for a quicker road to legal status. Army, Marine and National Guard troops are sent for multiple and longer tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, organizers of the GI anti-war movement gathered in St. Louis from Aug. 15 to 19 for conventions of Veterans for Peace and
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). During the IVAW convention, IVAW elected a new board, and this board in turn selected by consensus one of the first war resisters, former Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, as its new chair-elect.
To explore these developments, between Aug. 25 and Sept. 1 Workers World held individual phone interviews with four IVAW board members and other organizers. The following summarizes those conversations:
Workers World: What did the convention accomplish for the IVAW?
Mejia: Every time the IVAW has a conference or convention the organization comes out stronger. We meet and interact for a goal. In this case we held elections. We also talked about strategy. We will concentrate on a struggle campaign--one we call "truth in recruiting"--that will focus on young people considering joining the military. We also want to do something like the Winter Soldier hearing done during the Vietnam War [where veterans testified about their experiences--WW], but among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Margaret Stevens of Newark, N.J., veteran of National Guard 1997-2004, new IVAW treasurer: It has political significance that Mejia is popular in the organization and respected as a war resister. It says a lot about what people think is the right way to challenge the problem. Camilo said three years ago: "I won't participate. It is a bad military and I won’t help participate." It is a very courageous stand. He earned his stripes.
Mejia: There are now 575 IVAW members, double the number at the last convention. At least 10 new members are joining each month.
WW: Some of the media reports said the IVAW changed its position and now backs those who refuse to serve in Iraq. Is that so?
Mejia: The IVAW will support resistance in the military. This doesn't mean we are encouraging resistance, but if soldiers say they object to participating on grounds of conscience, we will support them.
Former Marine Liam Madden, IVAW organizer in Boston, co-founder of the "Appeal for Redress": We always supported war resisters and have educated soldiers and service members what their rights are. The IVAW wants soldiers and service members to make an informed decision. We were already on the track of stepping up active-duty organizing.
The IVAW's role is to shed light on the political implications of the war and what it means for those fighting it. We explain why the U.S. is there in Iraq. In effect, we are giving the active-duty troops the tools they need to resist, but in the end it is the soldier’s decision.
WW: What is the mood now among active-duty troops?
Paul Foley, civilian organizer with the Different Drummer cafe in Watertown, N.Y., near Fort Drum, home base for the 10th Mountain Division, which has sent its brigades multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan:
There is a chapter of IVAW at Ft. Drum now. We had a meeting at the Different Drummer Aug. 23. Both speakers, Eli Israel [who refused duty while in Iraq recently--WW] and Camilo Mejia, are well spoken and they had a powerful message.
Phil Aliff, IVAW board, at Fort Drum: In the Army three years ago, while many of the rank and file were skeptical about the war in Iraq, they followed through with the mission. Now, after the "surge" and the growing deterioration of the situation in Iraq, more are resisting, especially at Ft. Drum.
Madden: Over a year ago a poll said 70 percent wanted the U.S. to start getting out within a year. Now that year is up. This is compounded by the longer length of tours, the lack of a real break between tours, the accelerated operational tempo. The troops are involved in a conflict where they see little progress is made. And they see a stark contradiction between why U.S. troops are told they are there and what the reaction of the Iraqis is.
Foley: Many of the IVAW members are in the First Brigade, which is shipping out to Iraq for a second time. The Third Brigade just got back this summer from Afghanistan. The Second Brigade is due back at Ft. Drum in November after an extended tour in Iraq doing house-to-house searches. Now there are more hassles in town of soldiers who get into trouble because they are really upset. They've been through a lot.
Aliff: The number of AWOL troops and deserters is increasing. There is more drug use, people are escaping. They want to get out of the military and are finding many ways to do it. The majority don't want to go back to Iraq. It's taking a toll on the chain of command--the brass are finding they have to deploy people who normally would be discharged. On the other side there is growing resentment toward the brass.
I feel we are on the verge of a mass exodus. People are leaving their stations or leaving the Army because they don't want to go back to Iraq and be part of the occupation. We're on the verge of something significant because after four-and-a-half years the war is going so badly.
WW: Will the IVAW also confront recruiters?
Stevens: The IVAW will have a three-pronged approach: truth in recruiting; mobilization of active duty soldiers; defending war resisters.
Madden: The IVAW "truth in recruiting" campaign is designed to give a strong link to the communities that are vulnerable to the recruiting of the military. We do it not to tell people what to do--teenagers have enough people telling them what to do already--but we will help them make an informed decision.
Mejia: We will provide information about what life is really like in the military. We won’t tell people not to join. But we know there are recruiters telling people about benefits and salaries. This might be true or false, but it only represents a small part of the picture.
We're going to tell about war, about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, about stop loss orders that can extend your contract. We'll tell what it's like to be in combat. This is unpleasant information, but these are important parts of the military experience. We say if you join the military, you should be making an informed decision.
Madden: On Sept. 17 Adam Kokesh [who is co-chair of the board—WW] is organizing a National Truth-in-Recruiting Day.
WW: Did the convention change the IVAW's political orientation?
Madden: What the convention did is show that the IVAW members were all more or less on the same page.
Stevens: The political statement Mejia made at the convention was that we need to look at the root of the problem--not just the war but the capitalist system. People responded positively to this.
My own position is that the movement is limited if it says only, "Get the troops out of Iraq." The GI movement should also be an anti-racist movement. It should oppose not only U.S. intervention in Iraq but U.S. intervention in Sudan.
What Hutto is doing is important. He's in the military now, on active duty. He's saying, "I'm going to build the movement from within."
The real measure of the organization will be not in the leaders but in what the chapters do. I'm organizing a New Jersey chapter of IVAW at Essex Community College.
WW: Jon, you spoke at the convention. What was your message?
Able Seaman Jonathan Hutto, co-founder of the anti-war "Appeal for Redress":
Even though 2,000-plus GIs signed the "Appeal for Redress" and IVAW convoys toured military bases and people have demonstrated and voted against the war, the government has been relentless in its decision to continue this war and occupation. I told the IVAW convention that when the government closes off those routes for redress and frustrates political will, then the people will seek other routes. They will move beyond an appeal to a demand. This is the history of the Declaration of Independence.
Thomas Jefferson--and he was a slaveholder--wrote that when a government becomes destructive then the people have an obligation to replace or overthrow that government.
The frustration can make you cynical. I learned though from Kwame Ture [Stokely Carmichael] at Howard University 10 years ago how to combat this. He said you don’t join the struggle to mobilize around an immediate issue, and then once you have resolved the issue, you move on with the rest of your life. "The struggle is eternal. ...You have to take a long-term view, to be able to stay in the struggle."
We have to look at what a GI/vet movement has to be. It should not be just to end the war but it should fight all forms of oppression. It should be interconnected with the fight against racism, sexism and the struggle of oppressed people all over the world. The whole call to send the troops home is limited unless it also includes reparations to Iraqi people. The GIs must understand that the average GI has more in common with people of Iraq than with the U.S. government.
Contacts: IVAW at, Hutto at, Madden at, Foley at
Catalinotto was an organizer during 1967-1971 for the American Servicemen’s Union, which opposed the war against Vietnam.
Articles copyright 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved. Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
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Camilo Mejia tells his story in Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia published last May. And click on the link for more on Truth in Recruting. Pru gets the last highlight. This is Simon Basketter's "Watergate, anti Vietnam war protests and US imperial failure" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

A US President losing a war abroad and facing an anti-war movement at home, while talking up troop withdrawal, extends his imperial adventure -- leading ultimately to his downfall. That is what happened to Republican president Richard Nixon.
One night in 1972, six men were arrested burgling the Democratic Party campaign headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington DC.
The six men were employed by the Republican Party to find dirt on the Democrats. Watergate was part of a vast operation by Nixon designed not just to attack the Democrats but also to hold back the anti-war movement. The fallout from these arrests would eventually force Nixon to resign.
According to Robert Haldeman, the former chief of staff to Nixon, "Without the Vietnam war there would have been no Watergate."
By the end of the 1960s the Vietnam war had escalated to the point where there were half a million US troops in Vietnam.
The Tet Offensive in 1968 saw Vietnamese national liberation forces launch a coordinated military assault involving 70,000 troops on dozens of cities. In response the US unleashed a frightening wave of destruction. But Tet marked the beginning of the end of the US military intervention.
The heroic resistance of the Vietnamese people became linked with the burgeoning anti-war movement in the US itself, which importantly had penetrated the army. Key sections of the US ruling class began to realise that the political costs of keeping the war going were becoming unsustainable.
Such was the pressure that the right wing Republican Richard Nixon was elected president, in part because he implied that he had a "secret plan" to end the war in Vietnam. "The greatest honour history can bestow is the title of peacemaker," he said in his inaugural speech as president in 1969.
To placate anti-war sentiment at home and among the military, Nixon announced the withdrawal of 25,000 troops in June 1969.
Despite this, marches and demonstrations involving more than two million people took place across the US.
In November, more than a million people marched against the war in Washington and San Francisco. The 1969 demonstrations probably stopped a concerted invasion of NorthVietnam by US troops.
The Nixon administration set itself the goal of bringing the American war in Vietnam to an end without it being seen as a defeat for US imperialism. To do this Nixon raised the destruction the US inflicted on Vietnam to new heights and spread the war into neighbouring countries.
Nixon described his strategy to Haldeman as follows: "I call it the madman theory. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I've reached a point where I might do anything to stop the war."
The problem with this strategy is that you have to prove that you are mad.
The co-architect of the administration's policies was Nixon's national security adviser, Henry Kissinger.
Kissinger wrote in 1969 that the Tet Offensive marked the "watershed of the American effort. Henceforth, no matter how effective our actions, the prevalent [US] strategy could no longer achieve its objectives within a period or with force levels politically acceptable to the American people."
However Kissinger remarked, "I refuse to believe that a little fourth-rate power like North Vietnam does not have a breaking point." He gave the following instructions to his staff: "Come up with a plan for a savage, decisive blow against North Vietnam."
One part of the strategy was called "Vietnamisation" -- US ground forces would be slowly withdrawn and the ground war would be turned over to the South Vietnamese, backed by massive US air power and support.
The second part would be to spread the war and intensify the bombing.
The eastern fringe of Cambodia, along the South Vietnamese border, had become a refuge for Vietnamese soldiers, as the US bombing of the Vietnamese countryside made life increasingly unbearable. North Vietnamese soldiers were also forced deeper into Cambodia and southern Laos.
Secret bombing
The secret bombing of Cambodia ran from March 1969 until August 1973. Nixon set up an elaborate system of deception to hide the bombing from the public.
During the first 14 months of the campaign, the US conducted more than 3,630 B-52 raids, dropping over 110,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia.
When the bombing ended, the US had dropped a total of 257,465 tons of explosives on Cambodia. The country began a descent into hell that would culminate with the tragedy and horror of the Khmer Rouge regime.
The first media report of the bombing was a small article in the New York Times that very few noticed. But it sparked Nixon to take the first steps down the road to self-destruction. He set in motion what became a secret intelligence unit, answerable only to him, to plug "leaks" in the government.
Known as the "plumbers", they were to carry out a crime spree against the president's political enemies.
While the dirty war was starting in the US, in Vietnam the CIA implemented a new "pacification" programme called Operation Phoenix, the goal of which was to destroy the "infrastructure" of the Vietnamese opposition. Phoenix agents assassinated at least 20,000 people.
Between 1969 and 1972, as Nixon made war in the name of peace, an estimated 400,000 Vietnamese soldiers died in combat. There are no reliable statistics on civilian dead and wounded, though one estimate is 165,000 civilian casualties in South Vietnam alone for each year of Nixon's presidency.
In March 1970 the US organised a coup in Cambodia. On 30 April 1970, Nixon appeared on television and announced that US forces were invading Cambodia, though he referred to the invasion as an "incursion" to "guarantee the continued success of our withdrawal and Vietnamisation programmes," by wiping out enemy "sanctuaries".
The US exploded in rage.
On 4 May 1970, National Guardsmen fired on and killed four students at Kent State University in Ohio and wounded nine others. The country was stunned, and student strikes and protests spread to more than 1,300 colleges and universities. Ten days later two black students were killed and 12 wounded by police at Jackson State College in Mississippi.
There were significant demonstrations in half the colleges in the US involving over four million college students and untold numbers of high and junior high school students.
There was also the first ever union organised anti-war march of 25,000 workers in New York. On one protest in Washington a Vietnam veteran threw his Purple Heart medal toward the White House and said, "I hope I get another one fighting these f**kers."
A special commission appointed by Nixon to assess unrest on the campuses following the invasion of Cambodia argued that the country was "so polarised" that the division over the war was "as deep as any since the Civil War".
It declared that "nothing is more important than an end to the war" in Vietnam. The effects of the protests echoed through the following years.
A nervous Nixon appeared at a press conference in May and announced that the US would be out of a Cambodia by 30 June 1970.
The US was now losing a war before the eyes of the world. Nixon's next initiative was to invade another country, Laos.
Mainstream commentators began to use the term "quagmire" in reference to the war, describing it as a mistake and a disaster. Whole sections of the US ruling class began to jump ship.
In June 1971, the New York Times started publishing a secret government history of the war in Vietnam.
This intensified the paranoia of the White House, which stepped up the activities of the "plumbers" and launched an intense spying and dirty tricks operation against the anti-war movement.
The White House under Nixon was well suited to persecuting political enemies. "If you can't lie," Nixon once said, "you'll never get anywhere."
Egil Krogh, a White House officer, summed up the Nixon mindset: "Anyone who opposes us, we’ll destroy. As a matter of fact, anyone who doesn't support us, we'll destroy."
The extent of the opposition to the war meant that the Watergate scandal became a constant crisis for Nixon. The cover-up of the break-in and the continuing exposé of more and more dirty tricks meant that one by Nixon’s allies fell away.
On 23 January 1973 the treaty ending the US war in Vietnam was signed in Paris. The last US combat troops were withdrawn in March that year.
The crisis over Vietnam meant there was a crisis of legitimacy for the ruling class. The mass protests against war deepened that crisis and created a context which meant that, facing impeachment for his cover-up of Watergate, Nixon resigned in August 1974.
The argument against the war in Vietnam had begun ten years before among small circles of left wing and peace activists. Over the years the movement gained huge support across the US, fragmenting the ruling class between a minority who wanted to avoid defeat and a majority who just wanted out.
Watergate was a product of this fragmentation -- and of Nixon's isolation.
On 30 April 1975, $50 notes began to fly through the sky in Saigon. The US embassy was burning $5 million and countless secret documents before they fell into Vietnamese hands. A mad scramble took place as US helicopters picked up the last few officials from the roof of the US embassy.
It had taken too long but the Vietnamese people and the mobilisations of the anti-war movement had forced the US into a humiliating defeat -- and brought down a president along the way.
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