Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, August 5, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue; Pacifica launches a project kind of sort of on the illegal war; Kokesh and Sheehan gear up for September 15th, the US military announces multiple deaths, Vanity Fair examines the robbery of the Iraqi people, NBC's Today demonstrates its priorities, and more.
"I remember one time we were driving around the city setting up checkpoints and we heard a huge explosion," remembers war resister Agustin Aguayo.  "So we went to see what was happening and a vehicle of Iraqi police had been hit and my unit stayed back and I could see wounded people in the distance and we just stayed back.  And I could see wounded people in the distance and we just stayed back and that seemed weird to me.  A company commander was in charge of that convoy and I couldn't understand why we just stood there.  So I couldn't understand why we couldn't just randomly."  Aguayo went to Iraq as a medic and he's sharing the story with Aaron Glantz on The War Comes HomeThe War Comes Home is a podcast that some Pacifica stations may carry as well.  In addition to audio, as noted on the permalinks to the left, it also provides text.  Jeff Key is another war resister Glantz speaks with.  He served in Iraq and was released from the military after coming out as gay on CNN in March 2004.  Glantz spoke of Key's stories on KPFK's Uprising yesterday and about The War Comes Home itself as he did on WBAI's Wakeupcall Radio today.  The War Comes Home is a project Glantz will be writing, producing and narrating.  It will cover a variety of issues facing service members. Today he spoke with Deepa Fernandes (Wakupcall Radio) about the large number of homeless veterans including Iraq veteran Michael Hall and how the homeless from this illegal war are already different -- Glantz explained, "What really concerns homeless advocates is that after the vets came back from Vietnam, it was nine or ten years before you start to see homeless Vietnam veterans but now we're seeing that already with the Iraq War."
Deepa Fernandes: Aaron, you've been busy because when one looks at this website, there are so many stories gathered.  What links them all?
Aaron Glantz: Well what links them all is that each and every one of these stories on is about the impact going over to Iraq and really serving in this dreadful occupation has on the human soldier. . . .  With each personal story, we have a fact that goes with them.  And the one that just kind of sticks with me is on the story of Specialist Patrick Resta we have this fact that Walter Reed Medical Center did a study and found that 95 percent of soldiers deployed to Iraq had seen dead bodies, 95 percent had been shot at, 89 percent had been ambushed or attacked  and 69 percent had seen an injured woman or child and felt they could not provide assistance.  I mean, these are not things that you just walk away from when you come back to the United States.  They're things that you know haunt you for the rest of your life even if you're lucky enough to have come home and not had a serious physical injury inflicted on you.
Speaking with Thenmozhi Soundararajan on yesterday's Uprising (Sonali Kolhatkar is on maternity leave), Aaron Glantz explained The War Comes Home, "What we want to do is we want to put the stories of the people who have seen the Iraq War first-hand and come back to this country, put their real life stories up on the internet and so that people can pass them around and share them."  Of course, stories are online at  Iraq Veterans Against the War and  War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist among other places. And certainly, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) could (and time permitting surely would) assemble a special folder of their extensive and ongoing coverage of the illegal war which includes many service members sharing their stories and many Iraqis sharing their stories as well as many peace activists sharing.  In the hard push for the site (as  Rachel, Micah and Jonah noted of today's WBAI interview) Glantz is actually turning people off as he erects a barrier between the listeners on one side and himself and service members (he says "soldiers") on the other (translated as "Only we get it, man"). 
The reality is that this is really a pathetic project.  I don't mean in terms of Glantz, I do mean in terms of Pacifica Radio.  The illegal war hits the five year mark in March and this is all Pacifica has to show for it?  (Democracy Now! is an independent program carried on Pacifica, it is not a Pacifica program.)  It's not even a program, it's "spots" or "carts" that stations can insert or not for a few minutes.  All this time later and no program addressing the Iraq War. 
In terms of the project itself, it has its own problems.  For starters, it currently has 10 profiles/stories up at the website.  Look closely for any female veterans -- but look in vain.  It's equally true that when Pacifica Radio elects to finally offer 'spots,' they go with the easiest thing out there: the treatment of the returning.  That's the example Glantz gives in both interviews and it's what's represented at the website.  It's a bit sad to hear him say these stories are beginning to get attention . . . seven months after Dana Priest and Anne Hull (Washington Post) launched their much discussed series.  If the comeback is, "Oh, I meant independent media," it's equally true that Mother Jones has been an early leader on the stories of the wounded with one of the strongest photo essays.  It's difficult to promote but the promotion would go down easier if Glantz appeared aware of what was already out there.  Of course the story that needs to be covered -- the one that's actually not being told -- is the hunting down of war resisters in this country and outside of it. 
So the indifference expressed in e-mails yesterday (after the KPFK interview) and today (after the WBAI interview) isn't surprising.  And let's face it, you're dealing with a community who, unlike KPFA, didn't drop the Iraq War last summer and, unlike KPFA, doesn't get mixed up on Falluja and assume, wrongly, that November 2004 was something to be excited about.  This feels like sop tossed out to listeners.  Glantz is involved (and steering) so hopefully it will be something worth following.  Those who've already checked it out and expressed their dismay might give it a month or two and then try again.  But there's no question that the promotion has been a big mistake starting with the wall Glantz elected to erect between listeners (listeners one would assume the spots will need) on one side and himself and "soldiers" on the other.  It's equally true that those who have waited and waited in vain for KPFA to create the program they owed listeners (one covering the Iraq War and only the Iraq War) are going to be more than disappointed with the easy scope (as it's being promoted by Glantz) of this project. 
We already linked to it (on the permalinks) before Glantz was promoting it.  If it has anything worth noting, we'll note it in a snapshot.  One thing that needs to be noted is that it does feature audio and transcript. Possibly it will feature coverage of war resisters but, as Zach points out, search in vain, even in the Aguayo story, for that term.  Zach: "I was going to say 'So timid it's NPR and PBS-like' but the reality is NOW with David Brancaccio profiled war resisters Agustin Aguayo and James Burmeister last month." 
The War Comes Home really is timid.  It's the sort of coverage to reach what, when I was a teenager, we would have seen as the blue-hair set who went to the matinees of The Odd Couple once a week to see something 'shocking'.  Yes, that was a long time ago.  Which makes The War Comes Home all the sadder especially when it's 'borrowing' a title that means so much more (even in this illegal war).  It's non-thinking coverage that reduces it all to, "Look what they've done to our boys!"  Empahsis on "our" and "boys."  Rachel called it "an embarrassment to free speech radio" and I was wondering about that but now that I'm dictating this and thinking about it, she's 100% right.  "War bad because of what it do to our boys."  That's the "simplistic" message Glantz is putting out in the promotion and in the spots currently.  (KPFA's very lucky Pauline Kael doesn't have a modern-day equivalent today.)  If they can get those robo-fighters out of the planning stages, imagine how many more people can be killed around the world and, judging by projects like The War Comes Home, there will not be anything to object to because none of "our boys" are being injured or killed. 
It's a candle-light, silent vigil by the likes of which really calls into question whom Pacifica thinks their listening audience is?  This is the sort of thing that would have fit in nicely back in the days of Baby Cries A Lot's radio show when he would start blubbering about his (adult) kids (who are not in the military) and how the US has to, has to, has to stay in Iraq.  It's "anti-war" on that terrain.  In the real world it's "The Stateside Minute!" covering stories that most of already well know.  (As do listeners of Pacifica Radio.)  It's about as 'political' as William Wyler's The Best Years Of Our Lives and let's not kid that that's going to end the illegal war. Maybe it will improve as it goes along.  Maybe it will speak with Eli Israel (the first known service member to publicly refuse to serve in Iraq while stationed there)?  Maybe it will explore command rape or some other topics the mainstream isn't already covering?  And, let's be honest, women are the one being shut out of the discussion.  Yes, Laura Flanders rightly noted that in terms of being invited to comment, but I'm talking about what I'm hearing from female veterans.  They feel there was a 'flurry' of interest following the disgraceful treatment of Suzanne Swift and that interest then moved on.  Certainly, the fact that The War Comes Home can post ten profile stories and not a one of them be about a woman backs their feelings up.
Though nothing at The War Comes Home yet indicates it, there is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko,Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Jeff Key, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.  The G.I. Rights Hotline link has been included in the snapshots forever now, but please note that this is a new website.  The new website is still being upgarded (but working) and with the new website comes a new phone number (877) 4474487 which is "GI RGHTS" the name but missing the second "I".  To make sure everyone's aware that there is a new number and a new (toll free) number, we'll included this notice in the snapshot all week.  Again, The G.I. Rights Hotline is a new and improved (and new and improving) website that will begin replacing the old site.
Staying on the issue of veterans, Adam Kokesh (Sgt. Kogkesh Goes to Washington) notes that A.N.S.W.E.R. will be holding a "September 15th march from the White House to the Capital to demand an end to the occupation of Iraq. . . .  followed by a week of direct action, will mark a turning point for the entire anti-war movement and possibly for the course of American Democracy.  The theme of this 'protest' is 'Protesting is not enough.  Come for the rally, stay for a week of direct action.'  The day after the march will be a training day, followed by National Truth In Recuriting Day, Congressional Challenge Day, a day of Pentagon outreach, Veterans' Lobbying Day, and the Iraq Moratorium.  There will be  anumber of direct actions to participate in for those who are willing to work to bring our government back in line with the will of the people."  Also noting those actions is Cindy Sheehan (writing at Common Dreams): "Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), who are leading the September 15th march, are calling for a "die-in" to end the march and begin the rally.  The vets, unlike the chicken-hawk neocons, have actually served in war, particularly the one that Mr. [Willie] Kristol imagines is such a success.  IVAW is asking activists to represent a killed service-member and at an appropriate time lie down.  Taps will be played and also a simulated 21-gun salute.  It sounds respectful to me, being the mom of one of the soldiers, and I will proudly, yet sorrowfully, be lying down for my son that day."  John Nichols has a written a piece on Sheehan's campaign -- she's running for the US Congress from California's eighth district -- and when it shows up somewhere other than The Nation, we'll link to it.  What we will do is note CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin (at Common Dreams) explaining some realities regarding US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's reaction to protests and hunger strikes: "It is a tactic that was successful with Senator Dianne Feinstein.  After six days of having campers outside her home, Feinstein came out to have a cordial half-hour discussion with the fasters and promised a longer meeting.  Not Pelosi.  During the two-week campout and hunger strike, Pelosi's only interaction with the activists was her hostility toward them.  Arriving home late one evening, hunger striker Toby Blome asked 'Why won't you meet with us?' 'I'll never meet with you,' the Speaker screamed.  'Get away fro my house.'  When Blome asked her about the homes of all the Iraqis whose privacy we invade, Pelosi snapped and called her 'a nut'."  For more on Pelosi, see "Getting to know . . . Pelosi" (The Third Estate Sunday Review).
As Pelosi prolongs the illegal war, the violence continues . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that claimed 1 life and left 24 injured "in Baladiyat neighborhood," while one in Bayaa neighborhood resulted in two people being injured, a Kirkuk bombing resulted in seven police officers being injured. CNN reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed "at least 11" lives with twenty more injured citing an official with the Interior Ministry while also noting a Mosul car bombing that claimed the life of an Iraqi police officer and left twenty-eight injured.  CBS and AP report that the Baghdad roadside bombing death toll is 13 with twenty-five wounded. According to Reuters, the confusion results from what government officials and police are stating.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 11 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Today the US military announced: "Three Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldiers were killed and two others wounded when an explosively-formed penetrator detonated on their patrol during combat operations in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital Sept. 4." And they 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. 4."  And they announced: "Two Task Force Lightning Soldiers died as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion near their vehicle while conducting operations in Salah ad Din Province, Wednesday."  And they announced: "Two Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldiers were killed and another wounded during combat operations in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital Sept. 5."
The announcements bring the total number of announced deaths of US service members in Iraq to 10 according to ICCC's totals with  3752 US service members killed in the illegal war since it started in March 2003.
Now let's slice off some of that so-called progress.  First up, CBS and AP report: "Officials in Sulaimaniyah announced that they had indefinitely postponed the start of the school year for primary and secondary schools in an effort to prevent the further spread of cholera in the northern province. Since the disease broke out in mid-August nine people have died and some 70 others have been confirmed with cholera. Another 4,000 are suffering from symptoms like severe diarrhea and vomiting." Meanwhile, David Sanger (New York Times) notes that the White House, "not Congress, . .. first proposed the benchmarks for Iraq that are now producing failing grades, a provenance that rasies questions about why the administration is declaring now that the government's performance is not the best measure of change."  Failing grades?  We're back to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which Renee Schoof and Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) note finds the escalation "of additional U.S. troops in Iraq has failed to curtail violence Citing data from the Pentagon and other U.S. agencies, the Government Accountability Office found that daily attacks against civilians in Iraq have remained "about the same" since February, when the United States began sending nearly 30,000 additional troops to improve security in Iraq.
The GAO also found that the number of Iraqis fleeing violence in their neighborhoods is increasing, with as many as 100,000 Iraqis a month leaving their homes in search of safety.
The GAO's conclusions contradict repeated assertions by the White House and the Pentagon in advance of the coming congressional debate on whether to stay the course in Iraq or to begin some withdrawal of U.S. troops."  And this is the 'softened' GAO report.  As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) observes, "The original GAO report painted an even harsher picture of Iraq but the findings were partially rewritten under pressure from the White House."  Peter Grier (Christian Science Monitor) offers, "On 11 benchmarks, Iraq has failed, according to the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress."  Grier runs to Professional War Hawk Mikey O'Hanlon who does his usual spin and Grier himself wonders why Congress would 'seize' on a . . . Congressional report?  As opposed to seizing on a report produced by the Chamber of Commerce?  The Palm Beach Post declares, "It's evident that the talking points haven't changed much since President Bush's first secret trip to Iraq during Thanksgiving in 2003. . . . Like the president's latest trip, the ad push is calculated to win Mr. Bush's failed policies just enough support to prevent Congress from forcing a troop withdrawal, and comes just before Gen. David Petraeus delivers a key assessment of the war in Iraq. That report will come during the week that marks the sixth anniversary of 9/11, a date that Congress set and the White House will be happy to exploit." And Mark Silva (Baltimore Sun) quotes US Senator John Kerry declaring, "September has been much talked about, much waited and now it's here."  The 'benchmarks' are mandated by Congress but they came from the White House.  When Congress was earlier considering a drawdown of troops (popularly mischaracterized as a withdrawal) and/or cutting off funding for the illegal war, the White House was the one that screamed, "Wait until September!  It wouldn't be fair to David [Petreaus]!  We have to be fair to David!  We have to wait for David!"  September has arrived.
Dave Lindorff (CounterPunch) cuts to the chase, "The Iraq War has been lost.  The British are acknowledging this fact by pulling out their troops from Basra, Iraq's second largest city, handing over the city to the control of Shia militias.  For all intents and purposes, the 'Coalition of the Willing' is now dead.  America is now going it alone."   Lindorff also remarks upon Bully Boy's layover in Iraq Monday, "He acknowledge defeat too, by flying into Iraq stealthily in the dead of night this week, landing at a remote desert outpost in western Iraq, instead of going to Baghdad, and meeting with American military officials, instead of with the Iraqi government.  (So much for Iraq's being a 'sovereign nation'! Can you imagine a head of state of some foreign government, together with his war secretary and his secretary of state, flying in unannounced to some remote American state, and not even meeting with American government officials?) Clearly the US military could not guarantee the president's safety in Baghdad and the Green Zone, so he had to go to a remote outpost where he was safe behind razor wire, mines and an obscene arsenal of soldiers, tanks and gunships."  Also remarking on the layover 'meeting' are members of Iraq's Parliament.  Raheem Salman and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) explain that not only were "none of the bills seen as crucial to driving national reconciliation" discussed on Tuesday but "At least one other legislator said he was insulted that Bush had bypassed the capital Monday and limited his visit to a U.S. air base in Anbar province" and quote Abdul Kareen Enizi declaring, "I want to mention my reservation and abhorrence as the meeting was held in an American base in a country having sovereignty."
Meanwhile Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele (Vanity Fair) report on $9 billion that "has gone missing, unnaccounted for, in a frenzy of mismanagement and greed" within the Green Zone.  Money was to be made and Custer Battles brought a "gunnysack" for their pickup of $2 million from Paul Beremer (followed by another $2 million) despite the fact that Custer Battles would bill the US "government $400,000 for electricty that cost $74,000.  It had billed $432,000 for a food order that cost $33,000.  It had charged the C.P.A. for leased equipment that was stolen, and had submitted forged invoices for reimbursement -- all the while moving millions of dollars into offshore bank accounts.  In one instance, the company claimed ownership of forklifts used to trasnport the C.P.A.'s cash (among other things) around the Baghdad airport.  But up until the war the forklifts had been the property of Iraqi Airways."  Bit by bit, war profitteer by war profiteer, the $9 billion vanished: "The simple truth about the missing money is the same one that applies to so much else about the American occupation of Iraq.  The U.S. government never did care about accounting for those Iraqi billions and it doesn't care now.  It cares only about enuring that an accounting does not occur."  (Click here for a Vanity Fair interview with the reporters.)
And finally, on a day that began with announcements of the deaths of US service members in Iraq and while newspapers and most news or news-based or approximate shows were covering the GAO report, NBC's Today decided to go another way.  It was Larry Craig, missing millionaires and a host of other things (including Andrea Mitchell's 'commentary' that Hillary Clinton is less liked than Bill Clinton -- like them, love them, hate them, be indifferent, at this point they are a package deal but if Mitchell couldn't get her swipes in at Hillary, what would she be left to do?), it just couldn't cover Iraq.  The GAO report wasn't as important as Meredith playing 'cute' on the Larry Craig scandal and Matt really needed to speak with Richard Branson because viewers around the US wouldn't be able to start their days without knowing what a present millionaire thought of a missing one.  And of course news reader Natalie felt the thing to start the headlines with was Barbie's Dream House.  Whether or not you count on Today for news, you should be aware some Americans do and most grasp the the first hour is 'hard news' (such as it ever is on Today).  The GAO report didn't make Natalie's "headlines" and the deaths of US service member had to wait in line behind Barbie and other items.

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