Thursday, December 20, 2007

I Hate The War

American officials have detained thousands of insurgents in the months since the surge of forces began this spring, in an effort that most agree has improved security in Iraq. But now the commander of the American detention facilities in Iraq is wondering aloud if holding all those detainees is breeding a "micro-insurgency" and asking whether it's time to begin releasing thousands of people.
The two main detention facilities operated by the US military in Iraq, at Camp Bucca near Basra and Camp Cropper in Baghdad, have swollen to hold nearly 30,000 detainees. That's not the 40,000 individuals Army Gen. David Petraeus allotted for when American forces began to implement the Baghdad security plan this spring. But it may be too many, says Marine Maj. Gen. Doug Stone, who oversees detainees for the US-led force.

Holding thousands of "moderate" detainees runs counter to the notion of winning over a population in a classic counterinsurgency, he says. General Stone believes many of these Iraqi insurgents were never motivated by anything more than money and most only desire to live peacefully. Many can be safely released back to society, back to their families and in their neighborhoods without straining security or their communities, he says.

The above is from Gordon Lubold's "Do U.S. Prisoners in Iraq breed insurgents?" (Christian Science Monitor). So it's only now being noticed that the prisons aren't an answer? Seems as if we've seen this dance play out in public before -- including earlier this year. (Gordo wrote about the 'fixes' being made, to name but one.) But we're supposed to believe 'insight' has come. And that it will be implemented. And that there will be changes.

When the reality is that the round ups were always a failure. War resister Joshua Key notes that they weren't effective, that they tore families apart and breeded hostility and fueled anger when he was serving in Iraq (see his book The Deserter's Tale). He went to Iraq in April of 2003. It's December of 2007. And we're supposed to believe that something's been learned now by the military brass? Now? Key explained who got rounded up, all males who looked to be 16 years or older. There was no effort to determine 'guilt' or anything else. They were sent to a house, they set out explosives to knock down the front door. And they rounded up any men and young males who might be in the home. The men and boys were then carted off by the group that carried them on (possibly eventually on) to prison.

Or do we want to talk about what still goes on regarding women? How, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, if they are looking for a male and can't find him, they grab a female family member and hold her prisoner until he turns himself in. Often even the US military later admits that the man was innocent. But in the meantime, the women have been held for no reason except they're related to someone. It's the sort of thing you might expect organized crime to do in the United States but even the FBI wouldn't do it in this country. And it is against the Genevea Convetions.

And the US doesn't run all the prisons. Some are run by Iraqis (trained and installed by the US) and on those rare reports of what goes on in those prisons we see similar tactics. And why not? Why not when the US does it?

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3889. Tonight? 3896. Just Foreign Policy's total for the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war stood at 1,131,831. Tonight? 1,139,602.

Since last Thursday, 7 deaths have been announced (some by DoD, though the press pretends that's not happening). [M-NF is supposed to announce deaths. DoD is only supposed to identify them. DoD has been indentifing some that were never announced by M-NF which is a neat little trick to avoid deaths being carried in the daily reports from Iraq.] Seven since last week. And currently the count is 3896, four away from the 3900 marker. There are ten more full days in the month (the 20th of December is pretty much over as I type this) and it is very likely that the 3900 mark will be reached. The 3000 mark was reached December 31, 2006. And, in one year's time, nearly a thousand have died. The Congress held their first session on January 4, 2007. At that point the number dead was 3006. There was a huge shake-up in the Congress, for any who've forgotten. Democrats promised a lot with regards to Iraq and they delivered nothing. In the November 2006 elections, they had a sweep. They had hoped to win control of one house. They won control of both houses of Congress. Since their first session, 890 US service members have been announced dead in Iraq. Since they were handed control, Byron W. Fouty and Alex R. Jimenez went missing. They were part of a group that was slaughtered. (By Iraqis waived through checkpoints, for those who've forgotten.) Hopefully, they are still alive. But they went missing May 12th. (They are two of four missing since the start of the illegal war. Keith M. Maupin went missing April 16, 2004 and Ahmeda Qusai al-Taei went missing right before the November elections, October 23, 2006. Ahmeda Qusai al-Taei is the US soldier who married an Iraqi and was captured while visiting her in Baghdad, outside the Green Zone.) The count doesn't include the deaths from physical wounds following the departure from Iraq. Five service members are known to have died. The number is probably higher. This year three died, from physical wounds received in Iraq, after leaving Iraq: Jack D. Richards (July 29, 2007), Gerald J. Cassidy (September 25, 2007) and Anthony Raymond Wasielewsk (October 8, 2007). In addition there are the many who have come back with mental traumas and have taken their own lives. They aren't included in the count either.

It wasn't bad enough that last Friday the Congress passed on more money for the illegal war, they had to do again this week. They continue to fund the illegal war.

They haven't tried to stop it. They have tried to trick American citizens with claims that they're proposing legislation that will end the illegal war. The reality all year long has been that they speak of 'combat' troops. Troops would remain even if 'combat' troops leave. And these are always non-binding measures. They allow the Bully Boy, if he were ever so inclined and they could pass the bills, to sign off on them and not reduce the number of US service members in Iraq. All he'd have to do is reclassify them. Say that the 'combat' troops were now 'training' or 'police' or 'terrorist fighting' troops or whatever. By reclassifying them, even if he signed the worthless legislation, he could continue the illegal war.

Instead of getting honest, the Democratic leadership continues to lie. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted to lie on PBS' NewHour:

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.

What a load of crap. In November, Nora Ephron (The Huffington Post) noted the reality on the Democratic controlled Congress:

What a bunch of losers, hiding behind the fact that it takes 60 votes to shut down debate and 67 votes to override a presidential veto. So what? So pass a law and make Bush veto it. Make him veto something every single day. Drive the guy crazy. What have you got to lose? And meanwhile what have you done? You've voted for the surge, you've voted to authorize a war against Iran, and you're about to vote in favor an attorney general-designate who refuses to call waterboarding torture.

That's the ugly reality of what Pelosi calls a 'high-water mark.'

"I Hate The War." The Thursday night entry has had a number of names. When the site started, Iraq was a focus daily but it wasn't the only focus. The community wanted more of a focus on Iraq. In the early days, we'd piece together things for this entry and call it "Independent Media Roundup" or some such thing. (Sunday night's entry would focus on international coverage.) As Iraq became more of the focus, it wasn't hard to find Iraq coverage in independent media. There are the freebie weeklies. There are independent magazines. So it wasn't that hard. Then it became near impossible.

At one point, a member e-mailed thrilled about a song she'd just found online, Donovan's "And The War Drags On." I listened to (and still listen to) Donovan. The member is from Europe and it just in noting Donovan, it was a way to acknowledge the many members from outside the US. So that became the title of the Thursday and Sunday entries. Then, rightly, some members complained noting that while the song fits (it fits amazing well, a comparison to Vietnam that no one ever wants to make), it is decades old. That is true. And we're not running an oldies site. That's not an insult to Donovan. Or to the song. And it will remain the title of the Sunday night entries. But we toyed around with what to do. For awhile, it was note two songs. We'd close out the Thursday night entry with another song. But sometimes I'd forget. Or sometimes there wasn't a second song that someone had noted that week. Not always, but on the best Thursdays, we had something new or newish by an artist under 40.

Ruth, Rebecca and Kat noted "I Hate The War" last week after Ruth and Rebecca heard it on WBAI's Out-FM. It's perfect. In terms of the title it fits in a way that other songs wouldn't (including some of the ones we noted when we were noting two songs on Thursdays). It's a wonderful song. The Ballet is a group of today.

I talked it over with Mike last week, using him as a sounding board, when I was thinking about making the change over. The reaction to it from it being mentioned at other community sites was already favorable. My only concern (and it made this a hard entry to start tonight) was the fact that that we now regularly read and hear "the war drags on" in the media. And that's great because it's not sailing on. It's not breezing along. It's dragging on and dragging everyone in Iraq with it. (And of course Congress drags its feet on their supposed intent to end the illegal war.) But we passed the three year mark last month and (no e-mails on this) the plan is for the site to go dark in November after the elections. I haven't thought about it. I know members want it to continue. And maybe it will. But in 2005, I needed (that summer) to know this had an ending. The illegal war doesn't appear to have one. But time is limited and I really couldn't take much more at that time of my life. (Which happened after the health scare.) So that's been the stated goal. (It may change, it may not. No e-mails on this please.) And when things are really crazy, or when I feel like I've said everything I can on Iraq that day already on campuses and in entries, I can (and do) tell myself, it'll be over in November 2008.

Now that may change and I know members hope it does. But it may not and we've got one year. I have a friend who jokes/teases/accuses that I started off one way (here) and grew more radical/angry/whatever as it went along to take the community on that journey. That would require a lot of planning on my part and I didn't know what I was doing online then (or now) so it's a nice little joke/fantasy. In terms of the direction, that's always been dictated by the members (I'm just one member). In terms of the anger, that's been dictated by elected officials who refuse to do their job and use their power to end the illegal war.

But whatever happens or doesn't happen in terms of this site, we do have a little less than a year that it will continue (and maybe it will go on after that). And "I Hate The War," whether you know the song or like it, really does sum up the community's attitude. It also serves the earlier intent of trying to bring in a song that was of this period. You can buy the song online. You can download it for free. And they're a group that could probably benefit from some awareness. They already have a loyal audience. I don't think every member that's able to listen will go buy or download the song. (Nor am I asking anyone to.) But we do have power, each one of us, and we can use it. No one may download it (many already have a copy of the song). But what is known is that by being in each Thursday's entry, The Ballet will move up on Google. (Because the link will be there with their name.) Last week, when people were trying to find out about the group by searching it's name, there were too many search results to wade through. (And, in fact, Ruth's entry came up in the top ten last week.)

From the start, we've talked about the power of "no." That is an important power for all of us to use in our lives. We can say "no." That's not something that's stressed enough. And certainly wasn't being stressed by a media that cheerleaded the illegal war. And "no" can be a positive power. But providing the link and including The Ballet in each of the Thursday night entries can be a positive power as well. There are musicians (not nearly enough) who are weiging in on the illegal war. And this is a way to note one group who has (the song is from 2006).

I don't think any member is going to scream and rant in an e-mail (I could be wrong and I often am). But I know that any change can be difficult or toss someone off. We put away plans on changing the look of the site for that reason. But this isn't going to change. From now on the Thursday entry is going to be "I Hate The War." If nothing else, there will be over forty weeks where The Ballet gets noted at this site. And they are a group of today and they are an independent group and they did weigh in on the illegal war. I really think it's important to support those things.

Again, those who can listen (we do have hard of hearing, hearing disabled and deaf members in the community) may never choose to listen to the song. That's fine and that's up to each member. But whether the site continues or goes dark after the elections, every member is going to know there was a song by a new group that was about the illegal war. The Ballet is not the only new group or new artist or artist under 40 to weigh in. Their song will fit in easily with an entry. And noting it each Thursday will remind us all that it's not just Neil Young, Green Day, Ann Wilson, Joni Mitchell and a few others weighing in. Kat does a wonderful job of noting who's weighing in (and who's not) in her reviews. I think we're all aware that a large number have weighed in. But I think we're all also aware that an even larger number have released crap and avoided the issue. That's especially disappointing to me in terms of my own generation. Especially if they found fame later in the seventies and went on and on about how if they'd been famous during Vietnam, they would have weighed in, they would have spoken out, they would have stood up and been counted. Where are they now? When they are most needed, where are they now? In one case, they're even changing the lyrics to a hit song because it 'offends' politicians they perform for if they sing the original rhyme (which has nothing to do with war at all but that is how cowardly they are).

So there's a song out there and it's by a group that might not get the recognition they deserve. They are commenting on the illegal war. I believe all the members are gay (out, I'm not outing anyone). That honesty is probably very natural to them, but considering everyone I know is talking about ___ and "How sick is ___?" and "If ___ dies are people going to point out that the marriage was a lie from way back?"it is a brave thing. Rufus Wainwright is very talented and even all this time later, in the 90s which weren't that long ago, as he has noted, he was advised not to go public. So while The Ballet are just being who they are and not trying to rack up bravery points, it needs to be noted that there are a lot of people who aren't. There are a lot of people who create their own prisons. (My personal opinion is no one needs to out themselves that doesn't want to but I do roll my eyes at the ones who make a point to play straight via marriages and photo-op relationships. I'm a private person myself. Elaine and Rebecca will tell you that even in college, they'd only know what guy I was sleeping with at what moment if they happened to be up -- we all shared an apartment in college -- when he left. So I really believe that who ever you sleep with is no one's business unless you want it to be. But I do roll my eyes at people who make it their entire lives to pose and pretend. I think that's a different ballgame all together. I also roll my eyes at those who use children to 'campaign' for their careers. And I think it's disgusting that Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise -- it's disgusting, not they're disgusting -- had to pose for a photo with their child just to get the press off their backs and off the non-stop attacks on Cruise.) The Ballet's just being who they are (or as much as anyone is who they are in the media circus) and the groups that matter (such as the Mamas and the Papas) usually have that trait.

I've belabored the point, I'm sure. But I don't usually say, "We're going to do this." I'm just one member, just one vote in the community. But I really feel strongly about this and it's something that on Thursdays when I'm really tired and thinking "There's no way I can pull together anything tonight," I'll be able to say "The Ballet!" And if I'm staring at the laptop and thinking it's just not going to come that night, that'll give me a push. It really is a great song.

So . . .

Friday night in most PBS markets (check local listings) PBS' NOW with David Brancaccio will air:

In this holiday season, is there a solution to chronic homelessness? What do homeless people most need to reenter the fabric of society? Some say the answer is right there in the question: homes. On December 21 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW investigates a program that secures apartments for the long-term homeless, even if they haven't kicked their bad habits.
If you think that sounds crazy, think again. Advocates say this approach reduces costs, encourages self-help and counseling participation, and restores self-esteem. NOW follows a man nicknamed 'Footie' who invited us to see this idea in action.
As a holiday gift, see the show for free RIGHT NOW at the NOW website:
Also, watch a web-exclusive video report about how some homeless earn a living on the street, and assumption-busting truths about America's homeless population.
Check out as well the Top 10 NOW reports of 2007!

Yes, I groan over that "even if they haven't kicked their bad habits" phrase. Remember, true of Moyers as well, some PBS stations are in fundraising mode so programs may be shuffled around on those stations.

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