Thursday, December 13, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Okay. I'm going to state the obvious here. After all, somebody needs to say it. In fact, everybody who sees it needs to say it. Are you ready? Then here goes. The men and women calling themselves Democrats and sitting in Congress are the biggest bunch of liars this country has ever seen. Given today's political situation, what with Bush and Cheney running the White House, that's a pretty big claim to make. Unfortunately for those who believed those men and women might actually stop the war in Iraq and begin getting the US military out of there, this is the only conclusion one can make.
I mean, take a look. There are more troops in Iraq now than there were when the Democrats won (yeh, won) both houses of Congress a little over a year ago. If my calculations are correct, more than $100 billion have been spent to keep those troops there, keep them in supplies both lethal and otherwise, and to top it off, more troops have died since those elected "representatives" took their places than in any other year of this loathsome war and occupation. Add to this list of calamities the untold numbers of Iraqis killed, wounded and uprooted from their homes. No matter how you look at it, there is no way this can be called ending the war. In fact, not only could it be called enabling this debacle to continue, the more truthful description would be to call what the Democrats have done is conspire to commit murder.

The above is from Ron Jacobs' "Blank Check Democrats" (CounterPunch) and rightly calls out the Democratic leadership in Congress. But, if you missed it (in which case, you missed nothing), the Democrats had another 'debate' today. It was a joke. It was a joke not just because it eliminated some candidates (Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel). Are Americans informed by "thirty seconds, please" answers? Do we learn a damn thing from such a brief response? And will we learn anything from so much nonsense? One thing we did learn in a 'debate' -- put on by the Des Moines Register, PBS, AARP (laughably billed as 'interested in health care' when they are really nothing but an insurance merchents), et al. -- is that Iraq can go two Democratic 'debates' in a row without the press feeling any shame. If you missed it, the 'official' transcript. ['Official' because of 'responses' such as Hillary's 'response' to the federal budget question -- no Hillary did not say, "Number two, Hillary touched the points about medicare . . ." No, Hillary did not refer to herself in the third person or provide a cliff-notes version of her already brief -- 30 seconds, please -- response.]

Where is Iraq in the alleged 'debate'? Did I miss it and the illegal war ended and all foreign troops left Iraq? No, the only thing that left was the press' alleged interest in the topic. In the November 28th snapshot, the Project for Excellence in Journalism survey of American (mainstream) journalists covering Iraq is noted -- [PDF format warning] "Journalists in Iraq: A survey of reporters on the front lines" and we noted this:

In other findings, 62 percent say that their "editors back home" have lost interest in reports of day-to-day violence (no kidding) and the only significant increases have been in reports on contractors (79%) and "U.S. military strategy" (67%). The respondents rated the "Impact on Iraqi civilians" as the most under reported (40%) while the respondents rated "U.S. Military strategy" as the most over reported (29%).

Now, CounterSpin (and FAIR) should have jumped all over that but they were AWOL from Iraq as well. They are far from the only ones who should have covered it (everyone should have covered the survey -- Democracy Rising did) but they are the ones who repeatedly trot out guests telling you how the media works and how, no, the publisher or chief editor doesn't need to tell the reporters how to report a story, these things are internalized. You've heard that point over and over. With the survey you heard 62% of reporters surveyed declare their "editors back home" had lost interest. You think that's not being internalized for the ones reporting on Iraq. The violence hasn't stopped.

Now the talking point is that it has (it hasn't) and some, such as The Nation, accepted the nonsense of the 'lull' for their dumb ass editorial. Look at the IPS coverage and you don't find a 'lull'. But there has been a 'lull' in the reporting. Why? Well the survey tells you that the majority of those reporting on Iraq feel their editors are tired of reports on the day-to-day violence.

That was a huge revelation and it went without remarking upon by our small media. Possibly in five or so years, when the next book-length media study is published, CounterSpin will bring on the author and, when the point is again made that coverage is effected from the top and that reporters internalized the signals, this poll (then five-years-old) will be cited? Maybe not. But what we do know is that it didn't get cited within two weeks of release. And with all the waves of Operation Happy Talk, it sure should have. By all independent media but especially by a radio program that allegedly looks at mainstream media coverage and critiques it.

"Operation Happy Talk rolls into the shore" (November 28th) noted the effects the nonsense was having on the public. It's only going to get worse unless independent media starts challenging the spin and we're not seeing a great deal more interest in Iraq from little media than we are from big media. Peter Hart (of CounterSpin, FAIR and Extra!) made some strong points on today's KPFK's Uprising Radio but those points need to be expanded upon and made in FAIR's own outlets. [For the three who e-mailed asking why I didn't note the previous guest who apparently spoke of the targeting of officials, I didn't hear the entire show. A friend played the Peter Hart section to me over the phone and selected that because we'd noted the same topic early that morning.]

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 3886. Tonight? 3889. Just Foreign Policy's total for the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war stood at 1,127,552. Tonight? 1,131,831.

In the snapshot today, we noted Anthony Arnove's interview (Socialist Worker) with Naomi Klein. That result in an impassioned e-mail from a visitor who explained at length how 'wrong' they were and explained at length how "this great new documentary" explores how the White House screwed up the war because they didn't plan what to do after seizing Baghdad. The e-mailer identifies as "a Nation subscribing progressive." The documentary? The one we do not applaud. The one 'directed' by a Council of/for/by Foreign Relations War Hawk who was for the illegal war before it began and who is still for it while promoting his piece of trash flick. Yes, we are talking about No End In Sight. The e-mailer is "suprised" that I've missed the documentary because "everyone's blogged about it." Take it up with "everyone" because we're aware of that flick and we don't promote it. A War Hawk made it to promote 'smarter' illegal wars and had no problem disregarding reality in order to make it.

Arnove and Klein have not shifted or tailored their positions to 'political winds.' If you're looking for reality about Iraq, you'll find it in their work and not in some awful piece of fiction trying really hard to be a documentary. In Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism, she notes:

The war in Iraq has been in damage control mode for so long that it's easy to forget the original vision for the way it was supposed to work out. But there was a vision, one neatly encapsulated at a conference held by the U.S. State Department in Baghdad in the early months of the occupation. The gathering featured fourteen high-level politicians and bureaucrats from Russia and Eastern Europe -- an assortment of finance ministers, central bank chiefs and former deputy prime ministers. They were flown to the Baghdad International Airport in September 2003, kitted out in combat helements and body armor, then raced to the Green Zone, the walled city within a city that housed the U.S.-run government of Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), and now houses the U.S. embassy.

Buy or borrow the book. But don't believe a film that sells "There was no plan! That's the problem! The White House didn't have a plan for after Baghdad was taken over!" That's not reality and pretending that it is switches the topic away from the very real war to some sort of 'fantasy football' land of how to do it 'better' next time.

Let's visit the land of fantasy and to do that, we need to go to PBS' NewHour where US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was spinning wildly today:

GWEN IFILL: I want to point out to you -- I'm sure you've seen them -- page one of today's Capitol Hill newspapers, "Dems Cave," another ones says, "Democrats set to cave on Iraq, on the budget." What do you say to people who call this a cave-in Democratic Congress?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, I guess they're trying to sell papers, but the fact is, is that I will never confine the hopes, aspirations of the American people, as reflected in the legislation of the House of Representatives, to what the president of the United States, George W. Bush, will sign.
We set a high watermark. We negotiate. We compete. We debate for our position to be held. And I'm pleased that, when we come out of this process, our priorities will be largely intact. It won't be funded to the levels that we want, but I'll never start at the president's bottom line. We'll always start at a high watermark.

No, her leadership starts at a compromised mark. They do not 'compete,' the Democrats could force a vote on Iraq every day, they could filibuster. Pelosi declares that, "We know what to do to further meet the needs of the American people with this president and the obstructionism in the United States Senate. We can only do so much." Again, they could filibuster. They could force a vote over and over. They don't do what's in their power to do. "We will only do so much" is a more honest answer than "we can only do so much." But Pelosi obviously hopes we've all forgotten the repeated caves or the fact that it took people like Cindy Sheehan, Tina Richards and others to even force them to pretend to address the illegal war.

Pelosi wants to sell what won the Democratic Party control of both houses in the November 2006 election: Put more of us in office and we'll do something. We were, for those who have forgotten, told that if they got control of only one house, they'd do something. They got control of both houses. And they did nothing.

Pelosi says, "But there's no question, ending the war was a -- is a high priority for us and a big disappointment to many people that we weren't able to do it." No, it is a HUGE disappointment that you WOULD NOT do it. You had the ability to end the illegal war and you refused to use it.
The fact that you're now back begging for votes in the next election would appear to be a Freudian confession of your actual motives in 2006 and for 2008: You will try to use the illegal war to gain more Congressional seats.

Pelosi appears to think she's more trusted than she is or maybe just thinks the American people are as stupid as she thinks they are. She whines that the Republicans have prevented the end of the illegal war (a lie, the Dems don't need the Republicans to end the illegal war) and then hops on her high horse to say that Republicans "have stuck with the president with his 10-year war, war without end, trillions of dollars." She really thinks she can pull that one off and we'll all forget that the 'front runners' in the New Hampshire Democratic 'debate' refused to pledge that, if they were elected president, they would end the illegal war by the end of their first term. 2013 is when the 'front runners' were comfortable ending the illegal war. The Iraq War officially begins in March of 2003. Add ten years to that and you have 2013. We're not as stupid as Pelosi wishes we were.

As Pelosi continues the illegal war, things just become more corrupt. Ali al-Fadhily's "Not Even the Hajj is Free of Corruption" (IPS) details how favores are doled out in 'free' Iraq:

Many Iraqis are angry that the government seems to be picking favourites for the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
Muslims are obliged to carry out the pilgrimage, as long as they are able-bodied and can afford to, at least once in their lifetime. Saudi Arabia, where the holy site of Mecca is located, limits the number of pilgrims to one in every 1,000 people of the total population of each Islamic country. The quota for Iraq for the last four years was agreed at 28,000 pilgrims. Iraqis who want to go on the pilgrimage say officials have issued approvals only for relatives and party members. The Iraqi government led by U.S.-appointed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is Shia dominated, and many Iraqis say selection for the pilgrimage is sectarian.
"It is a shame that corruption now goes as far as the Hajj," Sheikh Fadhil Mahmood of the Sunni religious group, the Association of Muslim Scholars, told IPS in Ramadi, 110 km west of Baghdad. "This is the fifth year that many Iraqis are deprived of their right to go to Mecca, while those who are members of parties in power, and militiamen, go every year. Most of our pilgrims are going for political and commercial purposes."

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