Friday, February 08, 2008

Other Items

Yesterday The Whig Standard editorialized in support of war resisters in Canada. Today they have two letters from know-nothings who think they know-it-all. We'll deal with one of them just to see if you can catch how wrong the following is. From Mary MacDonald from Kingston:

The Whig-Standard compares Wiley and other deserters to the draft dodgers who came to Canada during the Vietnam War. The situation is a bit different. First, if one was drafted during the Vietnam War era, one had no choice but to enter the military and very possibly would be sent to Vietnam. Some draftees chose to come to Canada instead.
The military draft has been gone for a long time, so it's certain that Wiley joined the military of his own accord. Now he wants to be called a war resister, and he and his wife want to stay in Canada. As a man of 35, Wiley isn't some fresh-faced high school kid who was duped into signing up. He suggests in the Whig's story that the only choice open to him was to hightail it to Canada or wait until he retired from the military, which was a long way off. I didn't realize that you signed up for life.

Did everyone catch it? The sixties 'boys' have so distorted the draft over the course of the current illegal war that they've created the above disinformation. Canada, during Vietnam, did not just welcome those that were termed "draft dodgers," they also welcomed deserters. With deserters they didn't require that you swear you were drafted before attempting to be allowed resident status in Canada. The issue was the illegal war. If you were resisting it, you were a war resister. In terms of the ones who made Canada their home well after Jimmy Carter's limited amensty (far more expansive than the laughable thing offered by Gerald Ford -- who managed to give Richard Nixon a full pardon), most estimates have more deserters staying in Canada. That's because Carter's amnesty was for draft dodgers only, not for deserters.

From yesterday's Iraq snapshot:

UK MTV News reports, "Angelina Jolie has made a surprise visit to Iraq in her role as a UN goodwill ambassador. The gorgeous actress touched down in the Baghdad today to raise awareness of the 2 million refugees displaced in the war-torn Middle Eastern country." Video of Jolie being interviewed by Arwa Damon (CNN) here and transcript of the interview here. Jolie explains, "Well I came to the region about 6 months ago, I first went to Syria because I work with U.N.H.C.R. and there are 1.5 million refugees in Syria alone from Iraq and while I was there, I went inside and met with some internally displaced people. And this trip is to get a better picture of the internally displaced people and to discuss with the local government, with our government, with the NGOs and with local people, the situation and to try to understand what is happening, because there are over 2 million internally displaced people and there doesn't seem to be a real coherent plan to help them and there's lots of good will and lot's of discussion -- but there seem to be a lot of uh -- just a lot of talk at the moment and a lot of pieces need to be put together."

Leila Fadel (Baghdad Observer, McClatchy Newspapers) isn't happy with Angelina Jolie's visit to Iraq. Here's an excerpt:

Well she's back. The Hollywood bombshell returned to Baghdad to "bring awareness" to the refugee and internally displaced people crisis in Iraq.
[. . .]
There is no real plan to resettle these people if and when they return. Squatters have taken over many displaced families' homes. In many cases militias are now deciding who can and who can't return to neighborhoods including the praised awakening councils, who are largely credited with helping reduce violence in parts of Iraq. The councils or Concerned Local Citizens are U.S. contracted mostly Sunni groups paid to protect their neighborhoods. Many of the members are former insurgents.
Here's what Jolie told CNN about the situation:
"There's lots of goodwill and lots of discussion, but there seems to be just a lot of talk at the moment," Jolie said. "What happens in Iraq and how Iraq settles in the years to come is going to effect the entire Middle East, and a big part of what it's going to effect, how it settles, is how these people are returned and settled into their homes and their community and brought back together and whether they can live together and what their communities look like."
Well there you go Angelina Jolie said it. Iraq is very important to the future of the Middle East, people need to stop talking and start fixing. Here's a link to the CNN
transcript of the Jolie interview in Baghdad.

Jolie's a goodwill ambassador for the UN. She's not an independent critic. Like Audrey Hepburn before her, she has to couch her statements. No, she did not call out the US government and it would have been great if she had. But that's not what her role is. If someone's unhappy with the UN -- and they should be -- direct the criticism at the Secretary General where it belongs.

If they're unhappy with the continued do-nothing approach of the US to Iraqi refugees, direct the criticism at a media that can't be bothered with discussing what's going on. Jolie's trip has already resulted in more attention to the situation from the MSM than the 'independent' media in this country has given it in the last four months.

That's not me rushing to Jolie's rescue. That is noting that she has a clearly defined role as a goodwill ambassador. When that's over, if she's still making these type of statements, call her out by all means. But at present, she's shown more strength than the current Secretary General of the United Nations -- not surprising when you consider the US wanted Kofi out and backed Ban Ki-moon like crazy.

Angelina Jolie drew attention to a crisis. And she didn't do it by grand standing like Patrick Leahy in the Senate where Leahy sounds like an audio version of the Times of London any time he speaks on the floor about Iraqi refugees. If you've missed those pathetic performances, Leahy chatters on about Vietnam and starts whining about the US collaborators. Leahy appears completely unaware that over half the Iraqi refugees -- displaced internally and externally -- are children. He appears completely unaware how the young Iraqi population is. He only wants to show boat about how 'they helped us and I will not have this be Vietnam!' Blah-blah-blah.

Want to hold someone accountable, hold the losers like Leahy accountable. Jolie's an actress, she doesn't have to do the UN work and there's no 'up' in it for her. Already a New York Times' Docker Boy has smeared her for her efforts. She's a goodwill ambassador.

There are real problems. Angelina Jolie's attempts to raise awareness on Iraqi refugees isn't one of them. Take the so-called "war and peace report" -- has Democracy Now! mentioned the Iraqi refugee crisis this week? No.

Here's a gossip column in the Miami Herald that mentions Jolie's visit. Here it is in India's The Economic Times. Here's AP at MSNBC. Here's the British tabloid Hello! Here's a Seattle Post-Intelligencer gossip column. Here's Australia's Herald Sun. Here's AP in the Toronoto Star. Here's E! (gossip channel). Here's Reuters. Are you seeing the pattern? Jolie garnered coverage and that was the purpose of the visit and the purpose of a goodwill ambassador. How the press chooses to utilize the 'heat' from such a visit falls back on them. Editors want a 'new angle' every day. Jolie provided them with one.

Here's Sami Moubayed in the Asia Times:

One thing is clear: she is unimpressed by how both Iraqi authorities and US troops are dealing with the refugee crisis in Iraq and she is equally unimpressed at how they were dealing with the humanitarian problem as a whole in Iraq.
Twenty-four hours prior to Jolie's visit, hundreds of Iraqi actors and actresses had demonstrated in Baghdad, chanting against the prime minister, demanding better living and work conditions. Their demonstration - the first of its kind - was staged in front of the Iraqi National Theater (a national cultural landmark) in Baghdad. Hussein Basri, the president of the Artists' Syndicate, complained that "actors and actresses suffer from government negligence".
Actresses in particular are treated harshly by the increasingly religious society that surrounds them, with clerics condemning actresses as "immoral". Basri added that "the Iraqi theater has lost some of its finest performers due to immigration, or unemployment". The monthly salary of an actor or actress is comical, ranging from 100,000 dinars (US$67) to a maximum of 300,000 dinars.

So there are ways to cover Jolie's visit and really explore. If reporters didn't do that, it falls back on them, not Jolie who stuck to the Iraqi refugee issue the entire time and did not let CNN distract her from it.

Not all of the press could be considered worthwhile. Jess Snow (National Ledger) has nothing to do but whine that Jolie didn't say whether or not she was pregnant. Snow insists Jolie "needs to come clean" -- about pregnancy. Snow mentions Baghdad in one sentence and never deals with the Iraqi refugee issue. Now that's the sort of f-ed up world we live in, where trash wastes everyone's time. And Jolie knows they're out there. This isn't a 'glamor post' for her.

In other Iraq news . . .

Here's LA Times via Kansas City Star (Tina Susman is the uncredited reporter):

Meanwhile, dozens of Iraqi legislators walked out of parliament Thursday to protest parts of a draft law that would lay out rules for provincial elections later this year, marking another potential setback for U.S.-backed proposals to ease Iraq’s sectarian rifts.

Here's another version of Susman's report via the San Francisco Chronicle:

Also Thursday, dozens of Iraqi legislators walked out of parliament to protest parts of a draft law that would lay out rules for provincial elections later this year, marking another potential setback for U.S.-backed proposals to ease Iraq's sectarian rifts.
The walkout postponed a vote on the measure to redistribute power in Iraq.
The last time Iraqis voted for local officials was January 2005, when nationwide elections ushered in representational government across Iraq for the first time in modern history.
But many Sunni Arabs boycotted the polls, giving Iraq's majority Shiites and minority Kurds a much bigger share of power. The United States hopes the new elections will empower the Sunni minority and blunt support for the insurgency.
The draft law, if approved, would set an Oct. 1 date for provincial elections, according to a copy obtained by the Associated Press. It is among 18 U.S.-endorsed benchmarks seeking to promote reconciliation among Iraq's main groups.

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