Thursday, September 13, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

There is far too much porn on the web and the White House insisted tonight on adding more.

Bully Online

If you caught the webcast or the television broadcast of Ugly Bully, you may have wondered why the handlers didn't either provide a larger teleprompter or instruct Bully Boy to wear his glasses? He was perched far too foward. You may have also noted that he read off his lies word . . . for . . . word . . . very . . . slowly . . . Once upon a time, politicians were required to know what they were saying. These days too many use a teleprompter. (That's true of Jack Reed's address as well. It looks stiff -- on both -- and the Dems could have scored a success had they used someone who could've spoken in a normal manner.) "Return on success" -- though not repeated enough (they had to rewrite the speech due to today's events) -- is his "Peace With Honor."

They're both lies, both empty slogans. The dying will continue just as it did after Tricky Dick's January 23, 1973 allowed the killing to continue.

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 3753. Tonight? 3776. Just Foreign Policy's total for the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war stood at 1,032,938. Tonight? 1,042,599. Aren't you glad the killing stopped? It didn't? Yeah but that really wasn't one of the scripted talking points for the Bully Boy tonight, was it?

Oh, wait! The total number of Iraqis killed in the illegal war is only "600,000 plus" -- right? That's what that nonsense up at United for Peace and Justice says, right? That is really disgusting. We've spoken to two (three?) more groups tonight and this isn't something minor. "Disappearing" the dead is somethng we expect from juntas and from the Bully Boy. We don't expect it from a peace organization. Students are outraged about that and they should be. The question is why wasn't the organization outraged.

This topic is mentioned in today's snapshot (and Rebecca's blogged about it tonight as well). The snapshot goes up at all community sites and I was already pushing it by including someone that Betty and Cedric would rather not be included (they both gave the permission). For some strange reason, variations on "Here's C.I.'s 'Iraq snapshot'" tends to confuse some people visiting other members' sites. So I edited down what was included considerably. There were actually three topics that could have been critiqued. (Kat's grabbed one at her site tonight.) Ava actually gave a quote about another. And that was in one dictated version of the snapshot today. That was pulled (it will go up at The Third Estate Sunday Review this weekend) because it was obvious that the issue of Phyllis Benniss and Eric Lever's 'statistics' wasn't going away.

As Rebecca notes, I gave my usual comments which is that I personally like Phyllis Bennis and don't believe she's attempting to lie. I think she's far too concerned about how using a larger (and realistic) number will effect the way she's seen. (There may be another reason and she and UFPJ are certainly encouraged to explain whatever the reason is.) I then stated that though I believed that, it was the last time I intended to offer a defense. People are dying and to pretend that they aren't -- for whatever reasons -- is cowardly. We don't need any more cowardice.

In the original draft, I went on far too long about some things I will note here. No one pays my travel or my lodging. I'm not endebted to anyone. And my goal is not to glorify anyone. (I don't care for Eric Lever and never had. But we've noted him before when members have highlighted him. I do care for Phyllis Bennis and we've noted her when members have highlighted her. We'll continue to note both if members want them noted.) The point of speaking with students (as well as other groups these days) for all these years about the illegal war hasn't been to say, "Phyllis is just great, isn't she?" Or, for that matter, anyone else.

Students think it is either dishonest or cowardly for Lever and Bennis (they know Bennis' name -- she's the one who will suffer fallout if she continues to use an undercount while attempting to present two figures as the lowest estimate and highest estimate) to publish a report this month and use (as the highest) a lower number from July 2006.

You know what? I agree.

We either get serious or we don't, we either get honest or we don't.

Students aren't in the mood for it and I'm not in the mood for it. I have no idea why so many continue to fail the peace movement (disappearing reported deaths is failing the peace movement, FYI). I think a lot of people carved out a space early on that was 'acceptable' and they still remain in that space. The country has moved on.

That's especially true of high school and college students. This illegal war -- and it's illegal -- I held my tongue today on UFPJ's spokesperson who insisted, on Wednesday to Deepa Ferandes, that the war was "immoral" and "unnecessary" but couldn't state the obvious: It's illegal. This illegal war isn't fleeting to young people working on ending it. For people my age or even younger, it may not register but you've got young students who have only really known life as an adult (or teenager) with this illegal war in it.

And they're not needing a Baby Cries A Lot whining that the war is wrong but -- sob-sob -- it has to go on -- sob-sob -- because he has kids (who are not in the military) and -- blubber-blubber -- go to commercial.

They're not interested in that crap.

They're not interested in the right or the left or the squishy center hiding behind the military. All who did that can take credit (whether they want it or not) for Davey Petraeus' success with spin this week because they have done their part to elevate the US military to the level of god in a democracy.

They're more than happy to support Military Families Speak Out, for instance. They don't find it offensive that their focus is the military because (a) they are made up of family members in the military and (b) they demonstrated their independence from the Democratic Party leadership in March when they were calling out the nonsense that finally came down the pike officially this summer when the Dems took away Bully Boy's blank check because they wanted him to use an ATM card instead.

MFSO, like Iraq Veterans Against the War, speak out and speak out strongly. But there are these other organizations which are not speaking out strongly and are so obsessed with spit-polishing the military that they are treating a group that exists solely to get (Democratic) veterans elected as if it was a peace group.

"How stupid do they think I am?" has been the most repeated phrase on campus when students talk about the peace movement. Yeah, the Democrats campaigned on ending the war, won big in the 2006 elections and then did nothing. But the peace movement needs to stop kidding itself that some of their alliances and their endorsements have nothing to do with the peace movement.

A good example is that hideous film by the non-documentary, non-filmmaking centrist who supported the illegal war before it began and still thinks that US troops need to stay in Iraq. That's not a secret. Any student who is active against the illegal war knows No End In Sight exists to sell illegal war. But some supposed peace organizations have felt the need to praise that nonsense. To encourage people to use their "hard earned money" (another key phrase on campuses in the last year) to buy that crappy film and most students have heard an interview with the man or heard of an interview with the man where he's talking about how US forces need to remain in Iraq.

We speak at private universities, at state universities and at community colleges. That's in the north, in the south, in the east, in the west and in the center of the country. Now maybe people don't do that or maybe they just deliver a speech and have a brief Q&A after. But the answer to the question that's repeated by students over and over ("How stupid do they think I am?") is that students aren't stupid at all. And they're not bound by this let's-make-nice attitude.

Nor should they be. They're either being taught or have recently learned about what a democracy is supposed to mean in the United States and they're appalled by what they see the administration carrying out and by what passes for 'criticism' of it.

A popular question is why Matthew Rothschild comes off so much more aware than ____ (many names to that comparison) does? My answer is always, "I don't know. I would guess it's because he's not a desk jockey hiding in an office and he's not rushing off to this think tank or that talking point session. He's talking with people and interacting." Too much of independent media (and, yes, the most oft cited on this by students is The Nation) appears not to trust or even like the people. It probably passes for bravery on the dinner chat set but it has no connection with the lives of people outside of a limited circle. Students are sick of it and they can relate to Matthew Rothschild or Alexander Cockburn (two different types of voices) because neither is trying to hype them or convince them things aren't that bad and, besides, just trust in Democrats and believe and click your heels three times . . .

I am far, far, far beyond my student years. I am not a spokesperson for today's students. But I do and have listened to them and they aren't apathetic or any of the nonsense slurs that All Things Media Big and Small have tossed at them. In fact, they're more on the ball than many independent media voices.

In February 2003 (when I started visiting campuses to speak with students about the illegal war), they were all convinced that the big, global rally was going to stop the illegal war. But it didn't. They had been hyped to believe that. There was a tremendous letdown in the months after. That's why here -- even if could, and members wouldn't let me -- we're not going to promote a "magic bullet" theory of "This is the single answer to end the illegal war!" I've seen what that nonsense does and I won't take part in it.

For years, they have heard of the alleged 'disconnect' between their lives and a country at war. They've gone from politely pointing out that the disonnect with the illegal war is from the media, not from them. And they are exactly right. One of Pacifica's failures -- and there's no other word for it except "failure" -- is that they have failed to provide a program whose scope is the illegal war. As a young woman said tonight, "Oh sure, now that 'the story' is Iraq, alternative media is covering it but we all know that in three weeks they'll be off on something else again." And we do all know that. We have all seen that if we pay attention.

It's going to be really cute when FAIR writes their year end story (or delivers it on CounterSpin) about how big media jumped the primaries by covering the horse race (not the issues) like it was the most important issue in 2007. As a young man pointed out yesterday, "How are they going to do that without calling out the little magazines?" He listed off several.
And we've pointed out here that before the 2006 elections took place, John Nichols had already filed his first 2008 Democratic primary piece. In place of Iraq, we've gotten the primaries. And not in a way that told us anything about the candidates. Today (as Kat points out) the big question was, if Juan Gonzalez hadn't pointed out (on Democracy Now!) that Obama wasn't calling for Troops Home Now was Nichols going to get around to making that point? From what he was saying before Gonzalez jumped in, it didn't sound like it. And that's been the reality all along for the bulk of the coverage. If there's any candidate that meets independent media's stated goals (any declared candidate running for their party's presidential nomination) it is Dennis Kucinich and yet, strangely, that hasn't resulted in massive coverage of Kucinich's stance on the issues or in even massive gas bag coverage of Kucinich. When an independent media writer takes to the airwaves to argue Barack Obama is qualified for president because he was president of Harvard's Law Review, the disconnect is with the speaker and reality. And it's there for everyone to notice.

Newer groups like Tina Richards' Grassroots of America, Military Families Speak Out and Iraq Veterans Against the War (there are others, SDS is picking up speed to name one that is student driven) or World Can't Wait speak to students because their stands are firm. They don't suddenly back off the issue of the illegal war because it might make Democrats in Congress uncomfortable. They have no respect for people who provide cover to politicians who are not doing what they should be doing (representing the people) and they have even less respect for 'leaders' who make strong statements and then quickly back off.

Is that really any surprise? Have voters of all ages not expressed their own distaste for the politicians who come on strong making the correct points and, then, when slapped down by Republicans and/or the press, immediately cave?

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