Sunday, September 30, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

In large letters our banner read, "FUNDING THE WAR IS KILLING OUR TROOPS" and it had a fine pedigree -- only hours before it was a tablecloth at the trendy Washington Chop House where a sympathetic busboy donated it to the cause. Neatly folded and tucked into my pants, it made it past every security check except the last, electronic one which beeped at the cell phone I’d forgotten in my pocket. It seemed fitting that a banner with such a prestigious past should hang momentarily from the balcony of the House gallery, but such was not to be.
We were seated in a coveted first row, immediately behind the balcony railing, prepared to send our message at least verbally. Below us, the Acting Speaker of the House was conducting a vote described on a small, electronic scoreboard only as "On the previous question." Voting consisted of a surprisingly raucous, undisciplined period when members walked around and talked loudly with their colleagues. To the untrained eye it appeared entirely chaotic. We waited for two such votes on equally mysterious questions and decided to do our presentation over the noise and bustle below.
I put on my blue garrison cap with white letters spelling "Veterans For Peace," and stood up with Linda. In unison, we said loudly and clearly, "Congress! Congress! Funding the war is killing our troops. Please stop." About half the members on the floor of the US House of Representatives stopped talking and turned to look. We were able to repeat our message a couple more times before the Acting Speaker pounded a gavel and said the magic words to the Sergeant-at-Arms and Capitol Hill Police: "Restore order!" Within seconds I felt a strong hand on my arm and heard a voice say, "Sir, come with me!" We accepted his invitation but continued delivering our message on the way out and in the hallway where we were quickly handcuffed and propelled towards the elevator.

The above, noted by Jill, is from Mike Ferner's "'Funding the War Is Killing the Troops':
Interrupting the Empire 30 Seconds at a Time
" (Dissident Voice). Jill notes Ruth's Report and Isaiah's "Bloody War Hawks," and contrasts that with "an apethetic independent media that seems too concerned that calling out Clinton, Obama and Edwards over their war hawk stance at last week's debate might hurt the Democratic chances in November 2008. It's as though they've all gone into lockdown and safety mode because truth takes a backseat to churn out the vote." Jill's sentiments are echoed in many e-mails. Marcia e-mails wondering whether the "bulk of commentaries, all on Iran as far as I can see, are an indication that Pig's cry of 'Iraq Can Wait' is being taken as marching orders?" Marcia then points out that "as a real feminist -- not a faux one like [Katha] Pollitt -- and as a lesbian, I have no interest in taking the half-assed advice of a sexual predator or in applauding him." Susan notes she spent three hours surfing the web looking "for anyone willing to tell the truth but finding only spin. I finally said f- it and put on Joni Mitchell's Shine which says more about the world today then all the gas bags of indymedia." (Susan, Kat's review of Shine goes up Monday morning.) Others didn't note that they could be quoted but there are many more e-mails on this topic and it's not surprising. I heard the same thing on campus after campus last week. "Where is Iraq?" Off the radar. Always?

It's picked up and it's dropped. It's picked up when the mainstream is hitting hard and then it's dropped as though it were a stop-and-go war, a red-light-green-light war, and not an ongoing illegal war. It's ongoing for the Iraqis, it's ongoing for the people stationed there. And, no, it cannot "wait".

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 3798. Tonight? 3803 announced. The 3800 mark came and went and little time was spent even noting it. As we said it "Editorial: Independent Media, Go To Your Room!" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) this morning, "It was an embarrassing week for independent media. The majority of them should have been sent to their rooms." 1,062,627 was the number of Iraqis killed in the illegal war (not a full count) last Sunday. Tonight? Just Foreign Policy lists 1,069,836. But Iraq can wait! Say the dumb and stupid.

On campuses last week, it was noted that the topic probably is a moneymaker for independent media. They can use the anger that the illegal war still drags on in their fundraising and I didn't dispute that, just listened. Then tonight, going through the junk mail that piled up all week, I saw one request for money after another and they were all noting Iraq. They don't in their publications but they note it when it's time to bring in the dough. And, I'm sure, when stations go into their pledge drives, they'll cite Iraq repeatedly. In fact, Iraq will probably receive more lip service (in the pitches) then than it does in the average week.

Whether the judgement is accurate or not (that it's a cash cow for indymedia that they're not in any mood to slaughter), the actions certainly do lead to suspicions. And they have no one to blame for that but themselves. We'll get back to that.

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 8 people killed in Samarra by Iraqi police and army forces (the eight are said to be 'from al Qaida'). Reuters notes 11 corpses discovered in Mosul, 2 police officers killed in Mosul, 2 civilians shot dead in Mosul, two police officers injured in a Mosul roadside bombing, 1 Nineveh provincial council assembly person shot dead along with 3 of his bodyguards in Mosul, 3 corpses discovered in Haswa and 1 farmer and 3 relatives shot dead just outside Baghdad. Iraq can wait?

The cholera outbreak continues with AP reporting, "Three more people have died of cholera in Iraq, bringing the number of deaths to 14 across the country, the World Health Organization said." But Iraq can wait?

It's not a sentiment shared by all obviously. Stacey notes Angela Zhu's "Campus Anti-war Network Has Arrived at Smith" (Smith College's Sophian):

This year, a Campus Anti-War Network poll states that the total has increased to almost 75 percent. With all the anti-war sentiment, it may come as a surprise that Smith College, a school with a reputation for having one of the most liberal campuses in the United States, did not have an anti-war organization until recently.
The Campus Anti-war Network (C.A.N.) is a "national network, committed to ending the war," said Sarah Lazarewicz '08, head of Smith's chapter. She said the student-run network does not support pulling out of the war slowly, but aims to withdraw American troops from Iraq immediately. The movement within the Five College Consortium first started at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
"Now we're trying to get more students from all five colleges involved," said Lazarewicz. "We just got officially registered as an organization at Smith."
"I think having an anti-war group that's part of a national coalition is really important," said Lazarewicz. "They say about 75 percent of Americans are against the war, but a lot of them don't know what they can do to help. Students don't have an outlet."
Various chapters of C.A.N. have received attention for their work in affiliation with the Iraq Veterans Against War (I.V.A.W.). C.A.N. is hosting a nationwide campus tour to "highlight the growing anti-war sentiment among veterans and active duty troops and in support of war resisters," according to the Campus Anti-war Network Web site, Lazarewicz said the Smith chapter of C.A.N. hopes to bring in speakers from I.V.A.W. to inform students about their experiences during their time in Iraq and to increase the amount of student support for anti-war soldiers and veterans.

In other news of campus actions, Eddie notes The Socialist Worker's "Antiwar students’ week of action:"

-- In Austin, Texas, University of Texas (UT) students participated in a full week of campus action against the war in Iraq. On Monday, CAN hosted a speech on academic freedom after the termination of DePaul professor Norman Finkelstein in Chicago. It was followed the next day by a presentation called "A People's History of Iraq."
Wednesday saw a discussion on the relationship between UT and the war effort, namely the way that student tuition and research is used to support oil companies and war profiteers. On Thursday, protesters confronted UT military recruiters outside their building.
-- In Champaign, Ill., about 70 protesters took part in a "die-in" at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on September 20.
Before the action, people gathered at the Alma Mater, a statue next to the Student Union, for a speak-out that included contributions from members of CAN, the Campus Greens, the IVAW and a high school antiwar organizer. Afterward, protesters went to the one of the busiest streets on campus and pretended to die, with people falling to the ground and others drawing chalk outlines around the bodies. Others passed out fact sheets with criticisms of the Petraeus Report. -- In Burlington, Vt., about 30 people came out to the University of Vermont's speak-out called by Students Against War in solidarity with the CAN National Week of Action. Speakers included two IVAW members, a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, students and community groups.
The most moving moment came when a Vietnam vet and an Iraq vet held up their arms to show their scarred wrists from suicide attempts--and talked about how little has changed in the government’s care of post-traumatic stress disorder in the last 40 years.

Olive notes "Australian man freed from Baghdad prison" (Australia's Sunday Telegraph via PerthNow):

AN Australian man imprisoned for nine months in an Iraqi prison on suspicion of being a terrorist has been released without charge.
Warya Kanie, 39, of Adelaide, was arrested by coalition forces last October while leaving a mosque in Baghdad on allegations of engaging in "anti-coalition" activities. He was detained under UN Security Council Resolution 1637 at the US Military-operated Camp Cropper and considered an "imperative threat to Iraq's security".

Good thing Iraq can wait, right? It's not like thousands of people aren't imprisoned in Iraq already.

Brad e-mails about Jim's "A Note to Our Readers " and says not to forget the point saved for this. It didn't need to be saved. It's nothing "deep" and perfectly in keeping with the note. The point is Clinton, Edwards and Obama's remarks last week were appalling but, if you think about it, not shocking. The Democrats used Iraq to win in 2006. They've done nothing with their power choosing instead to prolong the illegal war on the hunch that it will mean another big win in November 2008. All the three War Hawks did is demonstrate that some in party leadership think, "Why stop with 2008? We can use this puppy in 2010 and 2012!" They think they can ride it until the wheels come off. They think that if Dems are in charge of everything after the 2008 elections and do nothing, the American people will still be talking about Bully Boy's illegal war and they can play it off as, "Look with the mess he stuck us with!" They're wrong. The public will not stand for it and if they attempt that 'plan,' they'll quickly see any gains from 2008 wiped away in 2010. They're 'front runners' for a reason and they represent the leadership. As shocking as it was to hear them last week refuse to call for an end to the illegal war (by their first term in office!), it was perfectly in keeping with a Democratic leadership that doesn't give a damn about ending the illegal war, just wants to figure out how to turn it into a vote getting issue. They already co-own the illegal war, and many Americans have caught onto that, the strategy's a losing one but if Evan Blah and Yawn Emanuel didn't have losing strategies, they might have to actually create some winning ones and they're not ones to tax themselves.

Pru gets the last highlight steering us to Esme Choonara's "Rage against the war on 8 October" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Iraq is the issue that Gordon Brown would like to avoid. But campaigners are determined that their anti-war message will be heard when they protest outside parliament as MPs return from their summer break on Monday 8 October.
The Stop the War demonstration will demand that all troops are brought home from what General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the British army, last week called the "bloodstained earth of Iraq and Afghanistan".
As many universities and colleges start the new academic year, students across Britain report a new wave of interest in Stop the War campaigns.
In Manchester last week around 450 people joined the Stop the War society at the Manchester university freshers' fair, while around 150 students joined at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).
Seth Taylor, a foundation year student at MMU, told Socialist Worker, "A lot of people who were involved in Stop the War left university last year so we are pretty much starting from scratch.
"We held an organising meeting at the end of freshers week and 15 people came along – all wanting to get involved.
"We are making plans for the term and organising to get people to London for the 8 October demo. I’ve already got a group of friends who want to come and other people from the Stop the War group are also organising to get people along.
"It seems to me that students in the 1960s and 1970s were very radical and that there has been a bit of a lull since then.
"But the war is an issue that many students feel very strongly about and more and more people are getting involved in Stop the War.
Messed up
"After all, it is our world that is getting messed up and we have something to say about the future."
If anyone was in any doubt about the continuing brutality of the occupation in Iraq, the shooting last week of eight Iraqi civilians by US security firm Blackwater should stand as a stark reminder.
Blackwater is the biggest private security firm in Iraq. In 2005 it circulated a staff newsletter that said "actually it is fun to kill some people".
British firms are also making money out of private security in Iraq. British firm Aegis struck a $475 million two-year deal with the US Pentagon earlier this month -- the largest single security deal in Iraq.
Some estimates of the numbers of Iraqis killed since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 now stand at over one million deaths.
This month has also been one of the bloodiest for British and US troops in Iraq since the start of the occupation in 2003.
Raymie Kiernan from Glasgow university told Socialist Worker, "Over the last month people have seen reports nearly every day of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war isn't going away as an issue -- if anything it is becoming more important.
"That's why so many new people are getting involved. At our freshers' fair over 300 joined Stop the War. This is double the number who joined last year.
"We also made good links with other societies on campus -- lots of other groups are interested in working together to campaign against military research on campus.
"Around 50 people came to our first meeting of term -- on the second day of the freshers’ fair. About two thirds of these were new people.
"Lots of people want to get involved and there is a lot of interest in going to London for the demo on 8 October."
Amy Gackowska, a second year student from Liverpool
university, says that many students she speaks to are making direct links between government policies on Iraq and on education.
"People know the war is pointless and wrong," she says.
"A lot of students also feel the government have got their priorities all wrong. We are facing huge debts and we see the money spent on war and on Trident when it should be spent on education.
"We are holding a Stop the War meeting this week to get people together, to discuss the issues and to organise getting people to the demonstration at parliament."
Bring all the troops home now -- demonstrate Monday 8 October -- assemble at Trafalgar Square, 1pm
World Against War Conference -- an international peace conference with delegations from across the Middle East, South America, South Asia, the US and Europe. Saturday 1 December, Westminster Hall, London. To book phone Stop the War on 020 7278 6694. For details go to
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