Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, March 5, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the White House makes a presidential endorsement and then adds a slap, Senator Crazy Goes To Baghdad underwhelmed but it's gearing up for a sequel, the US military acknowledges that 'maybe' there's a ransom involved in the kidnapping of an Archbishop, Hillary Clinton wins primaries in Rhode Island, Ohio and California, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Alexis Alexander tells Rebekah Dillon (Ithica Times), "The peace movement needs to team closely with G.I. war resisters and support them in getting their stories out to the general public."  Alexander and several other voices of resistance Dillon speaks with are correct on many points (wrong? whining about a non-existant draft is just wasting everyone's time) but Alexander's point and the others go to the media and no one makes that connection in the article.  Alexander rightly states that the peace movement needs to work on getting the stories of war resisters out.  But why do they need to work on that? 
Because the stories are important, yes.  But anyone paying attention in 2007 saw the AP, Reuters and many daily papers (some national, some regional) as well as many TV programs (national like Nightline, as well as regional) cover stories.  Where was the coverage not coming from?  Take  Ehren Watada who is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to the Iraq War.  Even MTV covered it.  (And the coverage did have an effect.)  But where was Panhandle Media?  CNN covered it, where was Panhandle Media?
It's a question people need to be asking.  When CNN covered it on one of their program, they had on three guests.  One was a CO, one was Mommy's Pantyhose (spewing his usual hate) and the third?  Who was the third guest, brought on to discuss this important issue, does anyone remember?  It was Amy Goodman.
CNN was covering it because the court-martial was gearing up and Pacifica's Amy Goodman who has an hour program Monday through Friday entitled Democracy Now! was brought on to CNN as a guest to discuss Watada.  (Paula Zahn also featured Watada himself in a separate segment that broadcast.)  Wow.  That might be a clue that the story is important.  Certainly Aaron Glantz was in Tacoma before the court-martial started and reporting.  But where was Amy Goodman?  Not only did she not go to Washington for the court-martial (which ended in a mistrial over the objection of defense attorneys), she wasn't interested.
Now when Sarah Olson was pimped as the story of the Watada court-martial (by Norman Solomon and everyone else including Phil Donahue -- who did not know the basics about Watada as evidenced by that embarrassing column he wrote where he seemed to think Watada had gone AWOL -- Watada reported for duty every day at the base -- something he continues to do), Goody could gas bag with the best of them. Olson MIGHT have to testify!  That was a story.  When Olson didn't have to testify, it was the end of the interest in the leadup to the court-martial.  After it was over (it ran three days -- Monday through Wednesday), Goody would air a report Truthout did on Thursday.  After it was over.  Olson was not the story.  Olson wasn't even a human interest story.  She was a reporter who wouldn't say whether she would testify or not but wanted the whole damn world to be up in arms that she was even asked to testify.  She wanted the world to stand up while she refused to take a stand herself (by saying whether or not she'd testify).
Now that was Ehren Watada, one of the best known war resisters.  And Democracy Now! wasn't interested in his court-martial.  Amy Goodman was more than happy to go on CNN and talk about Watada . . . while not covering his court-martial on her own program.  Do you see the problem or are we all going to continue to pretend it didn't happen?  James Burmeister self-checked out in 2007 and went to Canada.  In June and July he was telling Canadian media about the "kill teams" -- how the US military had teams whose job it was to lay out US property in the open in Iraq for the purpose of shooting Iraqis who picked any of it up.  In the fall the Washington Post would report on that story.  Panhandle Media could have had the story if they'd bothered to cover war resisters.  Burmeister was not covered.  Eli Israel, while stationed in Iraq, refused to serve.  That's a 2007 story.  Where was Panhandle Media's coverage of that?  He needed coverage, the military was threatening to come down hard on him.  He was refusing while in Iraq.  It was news.  But not to Panhandle Media.  A large number of war resisters stepped out in 2007 and only In These Times covered them.  Not The Nation, not The Progressive and certainly not Democracy Now!  A viewer or listener of Democracy Now! could easily think that no new war resisters have emerged since the summer and fall of 2006 because that's the last time Goodman elected to interview any. 
Alexander is not wrong about the need to get the stories of war resisters out there.  But we need to look seriously at why that need exists.  The Washington papers, AP, Reuters and AFP were covering the Watada court-martial (others were as well).  Where was Panhandle Media during it?  It was important enough that CNN invited Amy Goodman on to speak about the topic and she was more than happy to go on CNN.  But with the five hours of air time she controls a week, there were other things to do.
The stories do need to be out there.  They make a huge difference.  But we need to get honest about what has taken place.  The Nation no longer uses the term "war resister" in print (though "coward" can and did pop up).  The problem is not Real or Big Media which has its faults (to the extreme), the problem goes to Panhandle Media.  The Ithica Times notes that it seems like there was more action agains the illegal war and more people against it before it started.  Well there was certainly more coverage before it started.  But the American public gets obsessed with what's emphasized.
That's how you see a craze for an OJ trial, for example.  Our media critics from Little Media have been happy to talk about the tabloid-ization of the news in Big Media.  They clearly feels it has an impact.  Their argument (a solid one) goes that it steers people away from the stories that matter with distraction.  But what has Panhandle Media offered in the last two years?  If the Iraq War doesn't seem "important" to some people, take a look at Panhandle Media in the summer of 2006 when they ignored Iraq stories like the gang-rape and murder -- by US soldiers -- of Abeer.  They were pushing the elections in Mexico and telling you about the nationwide riots that were going to take place and blah, blah, blah.  It never happened.  So they moved on to Lebanon.  And they ignored Iraq for basically the entire summer.  They have not picked their one-time interest back up from the floor.  War resisters do matter and their stories do have an impact.  But it's not enough to say that the stories need to 'get out.'  It also requires looking at who is getting them out.
Agustin Aguayo (who will be speaking this Thursday (March 6th), he and his wife Helga Aguayo will be speaking at UCLA Riverside, in the Interdisciplinary Building at 6:00 pm) is taking his fight for CO status to the US Supreme Court.  Where's the coverage of that?  Where's the coverage of any of it in our 'brave' and 'independent' media?  It's not enough to say these stories need to 'get out.'  It requires noting who is not 'getting' them 'out.'  The American public is more opposed to the illegal war now than before it started.  It is the failure of Panhandle Media to regularly cover it that promotes distractions.  Until that is confronted, keep expecting to hear these airy claims of "We need to get the message out" over and over without any change taking place.  As they did in 2007 with no coverage (In These Times is an exception), war resisters are still going public this year.  And Panhandle Media is still ignoring them.
When we're all ready to confront that reality, we may see a greater interest in the illegal war across the board.  The protests that took place for war resisters in Canada are another example.  They took place in the US and in Canada.  Goodman didn't cover them.  One action took place in NYC but even that didn't make it as a segment.  After they were over -- having offered no heads up to them ahead of time -- Goody would rush with a quick mention of these national and international protests in a brief headline.  She would also be wrong about when they took place in the US.  But when no one's calling you out on the 'coverage' you ARE NOT offering, you can get away with that.
War resisters who went to Canada need the coverage right now.  They  were dealt a serious set-back when the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. Today, Canada's Parliament remaining the best hope for safe harbor war resisters have, you can make your voice heard by the Canadian parliament which has the ability to pass legislation to grant war resisters the right to remain in Canada. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use. That is the sort of thing that should receive attention but instead it's ignored.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara 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, Blake LeMoine, 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, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty 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 [(877) 447-4487], 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. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

Meanwhile IVAW has a DC action this month:

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

March 13th through 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. Dee Knight (Workers World) notes, "IVAW wants as many people as possible to attend the event. It is planning to provide live broadcasting of the sessions for those who cannot hear the testimony firsthand. 'We have been inspired by the tremendous support the movement has shown us,' IVAW says. 'We believe the success of Winter Soldier will ultimately depend on the support of our allies and the hard work of our members'." IVAW's co-chair Adam Kokesh will, of course, be participating and he explains why at his site, "But out of a strong sense of duty, some of us are trying to put our experiences to use for a good cause. Some of us couldn't live with ourselves if weren't doing everything we could to bring our brothers and sisters home as soon as possible. The environment may be unking, but that is why I will be testifying to shooting at civilians as a result of changing Rules of Engagement, abuse of detainees, and desecration of Iraqi bodies. It won't be easy but it must be done. Some of the stories are things that are difficult to admit that I was a part of, but if one more veteran realizes that they are not alone because of my testimony it will be worth it." The hearings will be broadcast throughout at the Iraq Veterans Against the War home page an on KPFA March 14th and 16th with Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz hosting and the KPFA live stream will also be available at Glantz' War Comes Home.

KPFA's Aimee Allison and Aaron Glantz will be covering it.  Anyone else?  Possibly not.  If you listened to Democracy Now! today, apparently there was no news on Iraq.  An Iraqi helicopter went missing yesterday (we noted it in the snapshot) and crashed in a sandstorm.  7 Iraqis died in the crash and 1 US service member.  It's not mentioned.  None of it gets covered.  In some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Baghdad bombings that left two people wounded, fuel truck bombings that wounded two fire fighters, a Baghdad bombing that wounded two more civilians, the deaths of 2 US collaborators in Salahuddin Province via a car bombing attack on an "Awakening" council, a Sinjar bombing that left one person wounded, a Nineveh Province bombing that wounded five people and a Diyala Province bombing that wounded a member of an "Awakening" council.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a truck driver shot dead in Baghdad, a Baghdad dry-by shooting that wounded one person, Dr. Abdul Sattar Tahir Sharif was shot dead in Kirkuk and, dropping back to Tuesday night, a home invasion in al Bastamli village resulted in a husband and wife being shot to death and their three children wounded.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 truck drivers from Syria were kidnapped in Baghdad.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses discovered in Baghdad 3 in Mosul.
Staying with abductions, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Raho was kidnapped Friday. As noted in yesterday's snapshotAsia News reports, "The men who have the fate of Msgr. Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul in their hands since February 29th last, have raised the ransom and dictated 'political conditions' for his release, according to AsiaNews sources in Iraq, close to mediators who are negotiating his safe return. Late yesterday afternoon another phone call was made. The group which holds the bishop hostage, used Msgr. Rahoo's mobile phone to communicate, but has still given no proof of his wellbeing. 'It almost seems as if his release -- anonymous sources in Mosul tell -- is of secondary importance in their demands and the conditions which they have imposed greatly complicate matters, leading us to think that they are not just simple criminals interested in money'. Concern is increasing for the 67 year-old hostage who suffers ill health, for which he needs daily treatment."  Aid to the Church in Need has issued a press release stating the ransom is one million in US dollars and their source is Bishop Anreas Abouna in Baghdad who explained to them, "The people who are dealing with the kidnappers have told them it is impossible to afford the ransom. The mediators asked to hear the voice of the archbishop but they weren't allowed."  Today, Reuters reports that US Maj-Gen Mark Hertling has declared that there might be a ransom (might be?) and that the Archbishop "could easily be killed, and that would be really unfortunate."  Unfortunate are half-assed statements from Hertlin.
He wasn't the only one trying to get out his talking points today.  At the Pentagon today, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Michael Mullen (Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) held a joint-press conference.  Sounding like he was prepping to take over the John McCain role in Senator Crazy Goes To Baghdad, Mullen went on and on about his recent 'walks' in Iraq and -- apparently they have no new script -- "there shops were open, people were out, life was coming back."  For those who have forgotten the original, Senator Crazy Goes to Baghdad opened April 1, 2007.  On April 2, 2007, Flashpoints' Robert Knight panned the would-be blockbuster noting:

And finally there was yet another major American deployment Sunday in a Baghdad market where Senator John McCain engaged on a walking tour to promote the Bush administration's current escalation in Iraq. McCain, in defiance of various independent reports that Iraq's daily death toll actually increased last month, nevertheless declared that the so-called 'surge' was "making progress" and that Americans were "not getting the full picture of what is happening in Iraq"; however a zoom out from McCain's photo op shows that he was actually surounded by orbiting F16 fighter planes, three Black Hawk attack helicopters, 2 Apache gun ships, more than 100 US troops, snipers and armed vehicles, a flak jacket and personal body armour. The presidential contender and Congressional comedian concluded his celebration of April Fool's Day by declaring with a straight face that "There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today. These and other indicators and reasons for cautious optimism about the effects of the new strategy."
Michael Mullen's attempt at emerging starlet in a summer blockbuster probably won't take any better than Senator Crazy's attempt did.  Like Senator Crazy, Mullen wasn't just breezing through, he was heavily guarded/protected.  The lesson appears to be that, one month shy of a year later, if you have US troops accompanying you in large numbers, you can safely walk around two tiny areas of Iraq.  Mullen's announced he was against any timetable for withdrawal (putting him at odds not only with the people of the US but Iraq as well) but did remember that the military is under civilian control in the United States by nothing that the next president, "whoever that might be, he or she will make that decision and we'll move accordingly."
Whomever the next US president will be.  At the White House today, the Bully Boy met with Senator Crazy to offer his glowing endorsement which did not include, but probably should have, "The American people have had a power-hungry fool for nearly 8 years, why not someone insane?"  Instead the Bully Boy dismissed notions of "change" by noting he ran on that in 2000 but obviously not in 2004 and declared of McCain, "He's a President, and he's going to be the President who will bring determination to defeat an enemy, and a heart big enough to love those who hurt."  Senator Crazy is apparently running on the "Love It Away (So Cheer Up)" platform -- who knew he was an Ashford & Simpson fan?  Bully Boy declared, to questions about a possible McCain running mate (McCain sewed up the nomination in yesterday's primaries), "People don't vote for Vice Presidents --- as much as I hate to say that for those who have been candidates for Vice President --- they're going to vote for who gets to sit inside that Oval Office and make decisions on how to protect the country and keep taxes low and how to have a culture that respects the dignity of every human being."  Having used Dick Cheney's experience to shore up his own lack of it, Bully Boy still needs to pretend that didn't matter.  He's lived in the Land of Delusion for some time.  On the day Bully Boy was giving his endorsement of McCain, White House flack Dana Perino was declaring, "But there are differences that we have with Senator McCain. There's no doubt about that. That's plain for everybody to see."  Ah, a 'unity' campaign. 
On the Democratic side, Senator Barack Obama won the state of Vermont yesterday.  Senator Hillary Clinton was said to need either Ohio or Texas victories.  Some argued she needed both.  Clinton won Ohio and Texas as well as Rhode Island yesterday.  The Obama team is attempting to spin those wins as unimportant and are now whining about how they were behind a month ago in Texas.  The polls had Obama with a lead at various points over the last weeks.  As his campaign repeatedly noted, he had record crowds turning out to see him . . .  They just didn't turn out in record numbers to vote.  Or maybe it's an indication that he should focus not on a presidential campaign but on inspirational workshops across the country?  Barack was the front runner before polls closed on Tuesday.  He lost three states -- two of them huge states (Ohio and Texas).  Falling back now on "We were behind at one point" is beyond stupid. The Obama campaign's Melissa Harris-Lacewell, aka Professional Lie Face, was no PBS's The Charlie Rose Show yesterday (before the results from Texas were in) and she floated the threat that if Obama is not GIVEN the nomination by the Democratic Party, African-American voters will walk.  Harris-Lacewell does not speak for all African-American voters but if she wants to pretend she does and float that card, the DNC will factor in the Latino turnout so far this year which has been huge and the fact that Latinos are the emerging minority population in this country in terms of size demographics.  It's not a card the Obama campaign can play and should Obama not secure the nomination, it's not a card that the candidate himself would play.  Harris-Lacewell likes to play pit-bull for the campaign (while not disclosing that she's working for the campaign) and someone in the Obama campaign needs to yank her leash pretty quick.  If Obama's seen by his White Republicans and Independents flocking to Democratic primaries and caucuses to support him as making any kind of a race-based argument, his support (however great or small it is) will dry up real quick among those factions.  To stem the damage already done by Melissa Harris-Lacewell's threat (which is an unrealistic one), the Obama campaign should immediately issue a statement and, if they don't, the press should begin asking the campaign whether they support Harris-Lacewell's threat or not.  While all other commentators noted the very weak and discomforting concession speech Obama gave (before the Texas vote was known), Harris-Lacewell insisted the speech was fine and the only problem was that the "inter-racial" backdrop that's usually on stage behind Obama was not present when he was speaking.  Props make the man?
The next primary focused on is in Pennsylvania and that state's governor, Ed Rendell, issued the following statement today:
"Last night made clear that there has been a momentum shift in this race. Despite being outspent two-to-one, despite Sen. Obama benefiting from outside political funds, and despite all of the glowing press coverage he received leading up to March 4th, voters ultimately chose Senator Clinton. I am confident that Hillary is heading into Pennsylvania with momentum and a new energy.
"The people of Pennsylvania are focused on the two largest issues facing our nation - the state of our economy and national security. On both counts, Pennsylvanians understand how important it is to elect someone who is truly ready to become President and Commander-in-Chief. Hillary is ready to lead our nation, returning us to both prosperity and peace.
"We look forward to making our voice heard in the coming days and playing our part in determining the Democratic nominee. And when we do, the people of Pennsylvania will send a clear message -- we want a President who is ready, not one we hope will one day be ready."
On Monday, Barack was pressed on his campaign's communications with the Canadian government (that the remarks in last week's debate about NAFTA were just for-show for the American public and nothing for the Canadian government -- which supports NAFTA -- to worry about) and on his decades long friendship with Antoin "Tony" Rezko whose federal trial is beginning.  Obama ended the press conference quickly and in a huff.  As Andrew Stephen (New Statesman) observes today, "What remains to be seen is whether this was just a bad week for Obama and a good one for Clinton. Most worrying for Obama's supporters is that he wilted under the pressures of a routine, albeit hostile, press conference. If he is so fragile that he can be rattled by questioning from a handful of Chicago reporters (who have his measure by now) can he survive pressures in the White House? There is a growing acknowledgement that he has been accorded a uniquely easy ride by the media, and that is changing; Rezko's trial will now proceed and his lawyers say they want to call Obama as a witness, a prospective nightmare for him."

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