Thursday, March 20, 2008

I Hate The War

Lieutenant-General Tommy Franks, who led the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan during his time as head of US Central Command, once announced, "We don't do body counts." This blunt response to a question about civilian casualties was an attempt to distance George Bush's wars from the disaster of Vietnam. One of the rituals of that earlier conflict was the daily announcement of how many Vietnamese fighters US forces had killed. It was supposed to convince a sceptical American public that victory was coming. But the "body count" concept sounded callous - and never more so than when it emerged that many of the alleged guerilla dead were in fact women and children civilians.
Iraq was going to be different. The US would count its own dead (now close to 4000), but the toll the war was taking on Iraqis was not a matter the Pentagon or any other US government department intended to quantify. Especially once Mr Bush had declared "mission accomplished" on May 1, 2003. After that, every new Iraqi who died by violence would be a signal he was wrong, and would show that a war conducted in the name of humanitarian intervention was exacting a mounting humanitarian toll of its own.
But people were dying, and every victim had a name and a family. Wedding parties were bombed by US planes; couples driving home at night were shot at checkpoints because they missed a light warning them to stop. In the last three weeks of April 2003, after Saddam's statue and his regime were toppled, US forces killed at least 266 civilians - a pattern of shooting as a first resort that has continued to this day.
So five years after Mr Bush and Tony Blair launched the invasion, no one knows how many Iraqis have died. We do know that more than 2 million have fled abroad. A further 1.5 million have sought safety elsewhere in Iraq. We know that the combined horror of car bombs, suicide attacks, sectarian killing and disproportionate US counter-insurgency tactics and air strikes has produced the worst humanitarian catastrophe in today's world. But the exact death toll remains a mystery.

The above is from Jonathan Steele and Suzanne Goldenberg's "Iraq's civilian dead: why US won't do the maths" (Sydney Morning Herald). Olive noted it and, looking at the e-mails, it's interesting to see what is being highlighted in different publications. Martin Bright's "The woman who nearly stopped the war" (The New Statesman) addresses an episode that never received massive traction in the US and that many may not know of may have forgotten:

Of all the stories told on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War, there is one important episode that took place during the build-up to the conflict that has gone largely unreported. It concerns a young woman who was a witness to something so outrageous, something so contrary to the principles of diplomacy and international law, that in revealing it she believed war could be averted. That woman was Katharine Gun, a 29-year-old Mandarin translator at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham.
On Friday 31 January 2003 she and many of her colleagues were forwarded a request from the US government for an intelligence "surge" at the United Nations (with hindsight, an interesting choice of words). In essence, the US was ordering the intensification of espionage at the UN headquarters in New York to help persuade the Security Council to authorise war in Iraq. The aim, according to the email, was to give the United States "the edge" in negotiations for a crucial resolution to give international authorisation for the war. Many believed that, without it, the war would be illegal.
The email was sent by a man with a name straight out of a Hollywood thriller, Frank Koza, who headed up the "regional targets" section of the National Security Agency, the US equivalent of GCHQ. It named six nations to be targeted in the operation: Chile, Pakistan, Guinea, Angola, Cameroon and Bulgaria. These six so-called "swing nations" were non-permanent members of the Security Council whose votes were crucial to getting the resolution through. It later emerged that Mexico was also targeted because of its influence with Chile and other countries in Latin America, though it was not mentioned in the memo. But the operation went far wider - in fact, only Britain was specifically named as a country to be exempt from the "surge".
Koza insisted that he was looking for "insights" into how individual countries were reacting to the ongoing debate, "plans to vote on any related resolutions, what related policies/negotiating positions they may be considering, alliances/ dependencies etc". In summary, he added: "The whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers the edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises." The scope of the operation was vast: "Make sure they pay attention to existing non-UNSC member UN-related and domestic comms for anything useful related to the UNSC deliberations/debates/votes," wrote Koza.
Gun was appalled by the email in two ways. First by the seediness of the operation: she believed the clear message was that GCHQ was being asked to find personal information that would allow Britain and America to blackmail diplomats in New York. But second and more importantly, she believed GCHQ was being asked to undermine the democratic pro cesses of the United Nations.

Both are important. But some writers make selections that reveal more than they might wish. Take 'hero' Greg Mitchell who's been overly praised as much as he's been fairly praised.
He decides to pick his five for "unsung heroes and alternative voices" and it's an ugly and uninformed list. For example, since Chris Hedges was the New York Times writer to get the false link between 9-11 and Iraq on the front page (2001), you really don't put him on any best of list for Iraq. That's just a given. He was a dupe, fooled by two sources the US government supplied and, when Mother Jones investigated, he never named the second source for his article (Mother Jones had figured out who the first source was). Hedges and the Times were doing that article with PBS so that 'reporting' had the effect of getting LIES on both the front page of the New York Times and on PBS. But Greg loves him some Hegdes. Then it's onto Mark Benjamin, Lee Pitts, Stephen Colbert (I didn't make that up) , Neil Young and "McClatchy Baghdad Bloggers." Apparently no women did anything?

Take that Molly Ivins. Take that Naomi Klein. Take that Amy Goodman (as sad as her work is today, she did cover Iraq early on and it did it better than any major outlet). Neil Young? Take that Dixie Chicks! Stephen Colbert? Take that Janeane Garofalo. Take that all the women who spoke out, who told truths. You don't matter. Greg can include one of the pre-war dupes (Hedges) but women aren't going to be noted, will never be noted.

Now he may claim that he mentions the women of McClatchy. He didn't give the award to them and when it's time to quote, these Iraqi women aren't important enough to quote. Instead, they need a man, a White man to speak for them. In fact, they need two: Brian Ross and David Westphal.

It's real cute the way history gets written. The only women are those that are lumped in as "McClatchy Bloggers" (which includes men) and they don't even get to speak for themselves. Here's Huda Ahmed speaking, "Covering women is really hard and dangerous at the same time.
We call to make an appointment and suddenly a male relative tells them not to talk to us."

It's how women get erased every day. It's how their accomplishments are ignored. Greg wanted to go goo-goo over the men in his life, he wanted to hang with the boys. So it didn't matter that what he produced was an insulting list, it didn't matter that he grabbed quotes from men in the only time women are mentioned. It was all about the same damn boys club it's always been about. Colbert makes him giggle. Ha. Ha. No women makes his list of five. In the final category (to all McClatchy's bloggers) he includes the Iraqi women by . . . letting two White men speak for them.

All the men are quoted, even if means offering comedy bits or song lyrics. But the only time women show up -- to share the fifth place -- he finds two White men to quote at length.

Considering that Iraqi women have lost a lot in the illegal war, that's not only appalling it's disrespectful.

Greg Mitchell's a 'hero' to many. Heroic is not rendering women invisible and silent.

He chooses to look back at the illegal war and that's what he finds worth noting?

Chris Hedges, again, helped with the pre-war selling of the illegal war. He's never revealed his second source and he deserves no praise, he does deserve a lot of the blame because he is the reporter who got the false link onto the front page of the New York Times.

Dana Priest and Ann Scott Tyson? Not on the list. Ellen Knickmeyer? Nope. No to Nancy A. Youssef, no to Leila Fadel. No to Sabrina Tavernise, no to Carla Buckley, no to Alissa J. Rubin. No to Molly Bingham. No to Giuliana Sgrena, no to Jill Carroll. No to Riverbend. No to Alexandra Zavis, no to Tina Susman. No, no, no. His list says a great deal more than he realizes it does.

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 3987. Tonight? 3992. 8 away from the 4,000 mark. Just Foreign Policy lists 1,189,173 as the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war.

Pru notes "Anti-war student sabbatical suspended at University College London" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Students and anti-war campaigners across the country are rallying to defend the student union at University College London (UCL) from an astonishing attack on democracy.
On 5 March at the union's annual general meeting, UCL students voted to stop all support for military recruitment on campus as a protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The decision triggered a furious backlash from the right. A clique of sabbatical officers unilaterally suspended Sam Godwin, the union's general secretary, and then annulled the annual general meeting.
Sam spoke at the rally at the beginning of the Stop the War march held in London last Saturday. She appealed for anti-war activists to defend the student union’s right to oppose illegal and immoral wars.
Sam's suspension has sparked widespread outrage, says Rob Owen from the National Union of Students' national executive.
"We're calling on students across the country to defend the basic principle of democracy in student unions," he said.
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