Sunday, September 16, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

The US commander in Iraq Gen David Petraeus expressed long-term interest in running for the US presidency when he was stationed in Baghdad three years ago according to a senior Iraqi official who knew him at that time.
Sabah Khadim, then a senior adviser and spokesman at the Iraqi Interior Ministry, says that Gen Petraeus discussed with him his long term ambition to be president when the general was head of training and recruitment of the Iraqi army in 2004-5.
“I asked him if he was planning to run in 2008 and he said ‘no, that would be too soon,” said Mr Khadim who now lives in London.
Gen Petraeus has a reputation in the US army for being a man of great ambition. If he succeeds in reversing America’s apparent failure in Iraq he would be a natural candidate for the White House in the presidential election in 2012 or beyond.

The above, noted by Mia, is from Patrick Cockburn's "General Confided White House Ambitions to Iraqi Official" (CounterPunch) and the link takes you to the story. Since we're starting with a peak behind the alleged non-political, let's move over to David Podvin's "Progency of Gepetto" (MakeThemAccountable):

In 1962, the Joint Chiefs Of Staff unanimously recommended that President Kennedy bomb New York City to frame Fidel Castro and provide a pretext for conquering Cuba. It is one of history's most amazing coincidences that four decades later New York City was bombed and Saddam Hussein was framed and Iraq was conquered... imagine the odds against the original military plan recurring with such precision. In any event, John Kennedy was a liberal Democratic president rather than a conservative professional soldier so he opted against bombing the American people. Joint Chiefs Chairman Lyman Lemnitzer then illegally attempted to destroy all evidence of the proposal so that he could deny it had ever been made, but the general was as inept as he was deceitful and some documentation survived.
During the Vietnam War, the American military again engaged in grotesque deceit. Commanding General William Westmoreland lied to Congress about the war's progress, rhetorically transforming defeats into victories. The Pentagon routinely issued phony statistics and crafted false analyses that were designed to hoodwink the public. Following the needless deaths of fifty-eight thousand American soldiers and more than a million Vietnamese civilians the conflict finally ended, but the dishonesty of the armed forces did not. America's military leaders lied about how many defenseless people were slaughtered during the Panama invasion. They even lied to their own afflicted soldiers about Gulf War Syndrome.
Despite conclusive historical evidence that the military has not earned a presumption of candor, liberals are being excoriated for doubting the congressional testimony of General David Petraeus.

There's another highlight on Petraeus and it'll go into a snapshot this week. This is going to be a talking entry. Before that gets started, let's go ahead and note an excerpt from Margaret Kimberley's "Democracy is Dead, It's Movement Time (Part 1)" (Black Agenda Report):

The American people are utterly alone and completely defenseless from the power of an increasingly authoritarian state. The Bush administration "accidentally" flies nuclear warheads over our cities, seizes American citizens as enemy combatants who can be tortured and held indefinitely, and issues orders to seize assets for "undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq." All of these acts have taken place with the acquiescence of the Democratic party and the national corporate media.
George Bush has historically low approval ratings and controls neither house of Congress, yet he is now in a stronger position than he was just one year ago. His seemingly strange political success should not come as a surprise. Democracy is dead and gone.
Even progressive pundits and activists are loath to admit that we have crossed the point of no return. To their credit, they search for ways to make the Democratic party accountable to voters. They rail and rant about every traitorous act committed by the American establishment that is throwing democracy to the winds. Yet in thinking that the Democratic party can be moved to behave appropriately they too are complicit in ending what is left of the republic.
Denial is not a river in Egypt, it is a toxic and dangerous force, leading to delusional and illogical behavior. Believing that the Democratic party will act in a different manner than it has been is truly delusional. The political process has done nothing but abandon the American people to terror committed by their government.
The only hope for America is mass dissent. Democrats have shown their hand. They will do nothing but wait out the clock in the hopes of getting Hillary Clinton elected president in November 2008. During that time, the U.S. will continue to kill Iraqis and will have begun the process of killing Iranians. Hillary Clinton will have helped commit those atrocities. It is insanity to use her presidency as a political tactic against the Bushites.

As Carl wrote (he was the first to note Kimberley's latest last week), "The Party Hacks just got served."

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 3762. Tonight? 3781. 1,032,938 was the number of Iraqis killed in the illegal war (not a full count) last Sunday. Tonight? Just Foreign Policy lists 1,044,607.

From CNN, we'll note the following:

In the Baghdad gun battle, which was between security forces and unidentified gunmen, eight people were killed and 14 wounded, most of them civilians, an Interior Ministry official said.
Details were sketchy, but the official said witnesses told police that the security forces involved appeared to be Westerners driving sport utility vehicles, which are usually used by Western companies.
The clash occurred near Nisoor square, in western Baghdad.
In addition, one person was killed and seven wounded in a car bomb in the Mansour district, also on Baghdad's west side, the official said. And in eastern Baghdad, a mortar round killed one person and wounded three others when it landed near Shaab stadium Sunday morning.
In northern Iraq, five people died and 22 were wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives vest in a popular restaurant in Tuz Khurmatu, a mainly Turkmen town about 106 miles (170 kilometers) north of Baghdad, a Kirkuk police official told CNN.

Starting the talking entry now. Let's deal with the count first of all. (The talking entry has started.) Just Foreign Policy notes that it is an estimate (it combines the study published in the Lancet that covered through July 2006 with reported deaths since). The US military keeps a count. We've noted that here from the start. In June 2006, Nancy A. Youssef reported on that count and the US military's claim that they had only been keeping it since July of 2005. Now that didn't get expanded on outside McClatchy Newspapers (when Youssef's article ran it was Knight-Ridder, the following week, after her article was published, it would become McClatchy Newspapers).

The fact that Phyllis Bennis is unaware of the article and that two hosts of CounterSpin were unable to inform her of it goes to the drop in/drop out nature of what passes for coverage of the illegal war. Youssef's article came out in June 2006. Independent media had decided the elections in Mexico would be the big story. Remember those? Now why the US (independent) media was so damn interested in the elections in another country is a question worth pondering. This wasn't supposed to be a little coverage. This was supposed to be supposed to be saturation coverage. The elections were held (after a huge domestic build up) and the story was quickly that mass riots and protests would break out. That never happened. But before that became evident some independent voices were already using the (contested) results to bash the Zapatistas over the head as if the role of the Zapatistas had ever been political party. It's never been that. They didn't oppose the elections, they elected (as they always do) to focus on other things.

There's an independent media voice that we will never highlight here due to his mini-meltdown on microphone. (We had highlighted him before.) He went to town on the Zapatistas and, as Miguel pointed out, this rage might have made some small sort of sense were the man not a White, Anglo resident of the United States. He didn't think he was running for public office in Mexico, did he?

The issue wasn't that the lead up was covered or that the elections were covered. As Maria said at the time, in many areas of the US you have a large immigrant population via Mexico. So it did make sense that elections in Mexico would receive more attention than the Canadian elections that saw Stephen Harper become prime minister in Canada. What didn't make sense, early on, was the saturation coverage. What made less sense after was the testimonals of grief and loss from non-Mexicans. It really was amazing to see how much investment Anglo males in the US had in Mexico's elections. As their rage quickly became attacks on the Zapatistas (which sort of questions their commitment to Mexico since the Zapatistas do long range work) the only thing that saved them from the public humiliation that should have followed them was that, whether there would be massive protests or not in the aftermath of the elections, independent media found another summer story! The Israeli government yet again went into wack-job mode.

As that saturation coverage went on for approximately six weeks (you really couldn't listen to many Pacifica stations without hearing it non-stop, day after day, on every station and you couldn't visit magazine website without finding yet another commentary on it), Iraq fell off the radar. Now there's no question that the Israeli government needed to be called out for their violence. But there is the issue that it was not the only story in the world.

Phyllis Bennis was among those before the microphone at that time offering non-stop analysis. Possibly that's why she made the mistake she did on CounterSpin Friday stating that no one in the press had ever asked the US military when they started keeping the count? Nancy A. Youssef did. She published their answer (which I do not believe, we maintained there was a count before that story was published and I still maintain the US military has kept a count all along). Phyllis Bennis may have depended on independent media to highlight such an important development. If she did, she was among the many let down by independent media in the summer of 2006.

It was covered, the US military stated (in June 2006) that they had been keeping a count since July 2005.

During that same period, when Iraq fell off the radar, we saw no interest in Abeer. 14-years-old, gang-raped and murdered after both of her parents and her five-year-old sister were murdered in another room (while the gang rape was taking place). Those details began emerging in June (Ellen Kinckmeyer wrote the strongest article in the mainstream media in the summer of 2006 -- an indepth article that should have been a starting point for independent media.) In August of 2006, the Article 32 for those still serving would take place. (Steven D. Green, who maintains he is innocent, had been discharged by the US military before the events came to light. He will be tried in a civilian court.) We called out the nonsense that the New York Times offered. (Which, for those late to the party, included offering -- before the defense could -- a line of defense that the mainstream media's military pundit found shocking and declared had never been used before. But, just by luck obviously, the paper just happened to present the same argument prior to the Article 32 starting.) August 2006 was when Abeer would have turned 15. In NYC and the Bay Area (location of two Pacifica stations), vigils were held on what would have been Abeer's 15th birthday. Even that didn't result in coverage. In fact, during this time, when a guest attempted to bring up Abeer on KPFA's women show, she was silenced by the host who was more interested in the topic of what Israel was doing. When even the designated women's program has no interest in covering the issue of a 14-year-old girl being gang raped by US soldiers and murdered, there's something really sick in independent media.

Three e-mails came in to the public account for my noting the failure of Pacifica Radio to offer a program whose scope is the illegal war. They objected to "failure" being used and they gave examples of "all" the Iraq coverage they heard last week. "Failure" is the term. And anyone who says otherwise doesn't know the history of Pacifica Radio or what they've offered in past wars. (Flashpoints, to cite only one example of a program airing today, started to cover the first Gulf War. In the past, many programs were created for just that reason. Dennis Bernstein hosted an earlier program -- along with Laura Flanders and Robert Knight --a program whose scope was the covert wars in Central America during the 80s.)

The three e-mailing also either haven't been following the coverage in the past years or haven't been absorbing how quickly Iraq drops from the radar repeatedly. What we've had in the last week (and prior) was the usual aping of the mainstream we've seen take place whenever the mainstream is highly interested in Iraq. What we heard last week (with few exceptions and strongest here was the work done by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now!) wasn't Iraq coverage, it was Beltway coverage. And what's especially sad is how much of it was gas baggery and (still) justifications for the Democrats inaction. The media was determined to create a new Ollie North and a Larry Bensky given the time he was allowed in the 80s could have demolished the media hype and buildup. Benksy's critique of the state of Pacifica -- which I winced at when he posted it at Sunday Salon in his announcement that he was retiring -- was demonstrated to be true yet again.

What's really the most interesting thing about the coverage is that a feed (live) was offered. Some stations carried it, some didn't. There was no live feed offered to Ehren Watada's court-martial last February (though Aaron Glantz did some amazing reporting on the court-martial). "Alternative media" -- by the very nature of the term -- means offering an alternative. When it's not offered we get the distortions of Adam Kokesh's case which he repeatedly had to explain after the hearing into discharging him (after he'd already been discharged from the military) again. Where was the live feed on that? Where was even the coverage of it in real time?

"Brooklyn" (Ava and my term for her or 'her') e-mailed on Saturday and Ava saw it Sunday morning (I saw it after Sunday). She's concerned with 'tone'. That's really the heart of her (or 'her') e-mail. She needs to find another site to visit because we're not concerned with tone here. We are concerned with an alternative media that provides cover for the Democrats. (American Prospect and similar magazines exist to trumpet the Democratic Party. We do not highlight those magazines. We don't spend time trashing them. That is their focus and they are more than entitled to pursue any focus they want. But they don't present themseleves as independent media. Those who do should not read like mash-notes to the Democratic Party.) I could be remembering wrong (and I am a Democrat so keep that in mind as well), but I don't remember this kind of cheerleading going on in independent media in the past.

The best explanation (best meaning "excuse") is that independent media, like so much of the country, is appalled by what the Bully Boy has done to this country and desperate to do their part to turn things around. As Margaret Kimberley points out above, that's not going to happen by independent media assigning themselves the task of Democratic cheerleader.

America doesn't need "Don't Run" articles on anyone. In a democracy, any citizen who wants to can run for office (provided they meet age guidelines and, for the office of president, were born a US citizen). Already we've seen a number weigh in that Cindy Sheehan shouldn't run. Besides being undemocratic, what's been most interesting is that none of these 'knowning' voices live in the eighth district of California so they won't be voting in the election. It takes a special kind of hatred of democracy to declare someone shouldn't be a candidate in a race you won't even be waiting in. It also takes a lot of stupidity to fail to grasp that although Democrats in Wyoming or elsewhere might be thrilled to have Pelosi, for the Bay Area she has been a Joe Lieberman. The area is repeatedly smeared by conservatives due to being liberal. It is a very liberal area. One that doesn't, for instance, elect the likes of Rudy G to the position of mayor. Though some residents of NYC might see Pelosi as the most liberal person to walk the face of the earth, to the Bay Area she is Joe Lieberman. She has repeatedly failed to represent the interests of her constituents (unless "constituent" just means Big Business in the area). She won't even hold a townhall this year. So before the Katha Pollits elect to weigh in on things they know nothing about, they might consider that their gas baggery is not only undemocratic, it's unneeded. It takes a special kind of arrogance to live in NYC (while voting in Conn.) and issue an edict that someone should run from Congress from the Bay Area.

We're not concerned with tone, if you are, you need to go elsewhere. You also need to grasp -- even when you claim to be a "big fan" -- that this community built up on its own. We don't answer to you. When this website (not "blog") started, Iraq had yet fallen off the radar. The 2004 elections had taken place and Adam Nagourney and Cokie Roberts were popularizing the myth of the "values voters" (which replaced the myth of the "security moms" -- election day polling demonstrated both were myths)so the Democratic Party was in a rush to move away from Iraq and supposed independent media was in a rush to help them. Iraq was not our sole focus then. Iraq was repeatedly covered but so were other topics. The community wanted more on Iraq and that's what was offered. By spring 2006, there was so much disgust (and the disgust was echoed on campuses I visited to speak with students about Iraq) that we started the Iraq snapshot. That is our focus here now, as determined by members, not outsiders.

When I started speaking with students about the illegal war, it was February 2003 and the illegal war hadn't started. Around the same time, I began donating money to John Kerry's campaign for president. At one point, it was suggested (by Democratic friends) that since I was traveling to campuses (at least two weeks a month), I could push the Democrats. I didn't. I have paid for my own trips and my own lodging throughout (unless I'm staying with a friend in the area). The students were largely Democrats (some were Greens, some were for Nader, there were none that were planning on voting for Bully Boy). I didn't waste my time or theirs telling them who they should vote for. If someone wanted to speak about why they were supporting a candidate, I didn't have the need to say, "Well I'm for John Kerry and you should be as well." I never even mentioned who I was supporting even when asked.

As Margaret Kimberley points out, too much time has been spent being wishy-washy (my term, she words it better) and providing cover to Democrats. People who need that (for whatever reason) can find a multitude of spots online that will serve their needs. But outsiders shouldn't show up and think they matter to this community and that we really give a damn what they think. There's been too much "niceness." Failure to stand up loudly and call the nonsense it out is why the illegal war continues, it's why the Guantanamo prison has still not been shut down, it's why prisoners of multiple years are still being called "detainees" when they are prisoners, it's why Lynne Stewart was convicted. Lynne Stewart has given her life to providing legal counseling. She is not a terrorist. She has never taken part in terrorist activity. She is an attorney. And very few bothered to defend her. They offered 'arguments' of "She made a mistake and blah blah blah." She was convicted of a non-crime (laws are passed by Congress) that the Bully Boy's administration declared a crime. It was something the Clinton White House and Janet Reno were fully aware of and knew it wasn't criminal. Bully Boy takes office and it's time to attack the press, attack the attorneys, silence as many people as possible. Lynne Stewart not only shouldn't serve time, she is innocent. She didn't make a 'bad judgement.' She followed the letter of the law. That's what an attorney does. That some 'supporters' couldn't make those very basic points goes to the problem with 'tone'. Lynne Stewart was convicted because some of what should have been her strongest defenders instead offered weak-ass columns that refused to tackle the fact that she was innocent and instead tried to offer that she's a good person. She is a good person. But that had nothing to do with her case. Laura Flanders grasped what was going on. Granted Flanders is highly intelligent. But she grasped it and she discussed it repeatedly. There's really no excuse for the timid who thought they were 'helping' by 'conceeding' that maybe the White House had a point but Lynne's really sweet. If they didn't grasp the issues (and they grasped them, you can't be a constitutional attorney and not grasp the issues involved in her case), they only had to listen to Flanders.

So anyone fretting over 'tone' needs to take their sad ass elsewhere. I'm sick of the illegal war dragging on. I'm sick of innocent people like Lynne Stewart being railroaded. I am appalled that this country has allowed Bully Boy to create the system of injustice -- outside the law -- that is the prison at Guantanamo (as well as many secret sites) and that this country has allowed it to continue. My feelings are reflective of the community. They're also reflective of what's going on in the country. I can say that because for over four years now, I have traveled to colleges in every state except Alaska repeatedly. I see the changes going on in this country. And I don't see that reflected in the bulk of independent media.

Turning to a question coming up repeatedly in e-mails to the private accounts (the members accounts), Dona is fine. She says it's sweet that everyone was concerned but she already feels better. Ava and I get sick all the time because we're on the road so much and interacting with so many people that we pick up every bug in the country. Dona remembers a cold in 2005 but nothing since. She picked up a bug and was throwing up during the writing edition (at Third) so we put it on hold. After several hours of throwing up, she was just tired and the bug's already worked it's way through her system. It was nothing like the bug Kat picked up awhile back (a year ago? It all blends). She says thank you to everyone for their concern but she's just tired now (and her abs hurt from throwing up repeatedly).

Pru gets the last word. She highlights Assed Baig's "Stop the War student activists meet before the new term" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The student Stop the War conference last weekend saw over 100 students from more than 25 universities attend the meeting at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
The opening session heard speeches from Gemma Tumelty, the president of the National Union of Students (NUS), Stop the War convenor Lindsey German and Stop the War president Tony Benn.
The students were surprised by Gemma Tumelty’s speech, as she began by issuing an apology for the NUS’s position over Israel's illegal war against Lebanon last year.
The NUS was one of the few organisations which had not asked for an immediate ceasefire, with the vice president education Wes Streeting saying that at least Israel dropped leaflets before it dropped bombs.
However, things have changed since then. NUS has affiliated to the Stop the War Coalition and is beginning to take positive steps to encourage student activists around the country to attend Stop the War's demonstration outside parliament on 8 October.
The theme of the conference was that the movement was correct before the war began in stating that it was based on lies, a fact that most people have since realised.
The recent decision to withdraw British troops from Basra to a base outside the city was evidence that the war is being lost and that the Iraqi people are not happy with the occupation.
Students agreed to campaign around Stop the War with the knowledge that the NUS is now fully backing them.
The conference also demanded that the military should keep away from freshers fairs. Activists will try and ensure that their unions and universities do not invite the military onto campus.
Students left feeling motivated to continue building on the successes of Stop the War.
We will make sure that no government can go to war again without knowing our movement will expose their lies and block their actions.
Assed Baig is Student Respect's candidate for NUS black students' officer
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