Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Iraq snapshot

March 18, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, more on Winter Soldier and, due to e-mails complaining about Panhandle Media, we're addressing the garbage Jeremiah Wright tossed into the public sphere, and more.
Briefly because there's not time, in November  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 (pm@pm.gc.ca -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) 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. We will note war resisters in Canada tomorrow.  There is not time today, my apologies.          

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).    
Iraq Veterans Against the War staged their Winter Soldier Investigation from last Thursday through Sunday.  It was a very important action.  Among those offering testimony were Iraq veteran Jesse Hamilton who testified on the Rules of Engagement panel Friday morning.  Marcia's posted The Real News video here and we have it here. The Real News offers transcript of his testimony from which we'll note the following:
And my testimony is just based on the things that I saw in one battalion in Fallujah, in the Al Anbar province of Iraq from 2005 to 2006. I did have the opportunity to work with a lot of the Iraqi forces that are over there. And if you want my opinion as to whether or not rules of engagement actually exist within the Iraqi army, the answer is no. From what I saw, the Iraqis show little or no restraint in discharging their weapons. We had some phrases. I'm sure that there are a lot of soldiers and Marines out there who were in the cities, who worked with the Iraqi army, who'd recognize these phrases. "Spray 'n pray," where the Iraqis would just start shooting and pray that it hit the enemy if there was one. "The death blossom" was also a term that we used regularly, because once the shooting started, death would blossom all around. I never saw any civilians get killed by these actions, but one instance sticks out in my mind. I lived out in the city the whole time that I was in Iraq and on an Iraqi firm base. And the enemy would take potshots at us. They would shoot RPGs at us. We'd get mortared. And as soon as something like that would happen, the Iraqi guards on the roof would just start a barrage of fire. It didn't matter where the fire had initially come from, or even if it was just mortars or a combination, they would just start shooting. I ran up to the roof one day, and I was trying to see, you know, if there was an enemy, and if so, you know, where that enemy was. I couldn't see any incoming fire at the time. It was daylight. But I did see the Iraqis just shooting indiscriminately, and that was normal. I saw a civilian just running, and the wall that she was running in front of was just being pattered by bullets. The Iraqis weren't shooting at her. I know that for a fact. They weren't aiming at her. They were just shooting indiscriminately. More disturbing than the lack of discipline for rules of engagement shown by the Iraqi army is their treatment of their own people. The Iraqis--and this is not to say that they're bad; they just have a different culture than we do, they have different morals. I saw Iraqi soldiers just make the prisoners more or less run the gauntlet from the vehicle that they were being transported in to our firm base to where they would be questioned in the S2 intelligence office. Our job as American advisers in situations like that was to try our best to stop that, and we did. However, there's only so much you can do. And after awhile, you know, I was almost like, "I don't care. I'm over it," when it came to that. And I tried to stop it, but, you know, I just stopped caring. It was their people, and, you know, that's what they were going to do. I think it is very pretentious of us as Americans to think that we can go in there and spoon-feed them democracy and have them appreciate that democracy. I think it's even more pretentious to try to go in there and to try and change their culture and the way they handle situations. I think that it is a lost cause in Iraq. I think that regardless of when we leave, whether it is tomorrow or in 100 years, I think that the Iraqis, as soon as we leave that country, are going to handle things the way that they're going to handle them.
You can find more of The Real News Network's coverage of Iraq (including Winter Soldier) here.  Vincent Emanuel also testified on Friday but on the second Rules of Engagement panel (note I believe he stated "Al Khan" -- I did the transcription and it may be another city):
An act that took place quite often in Iraq was that of taking pot shots at vehicles that drove by.  This was quite easy for most Marines to get away with because our Rules of Engagement stated that the town of Al Khan had already been forewarned and knew to pull their cars to a complete stop when approaching a United States convoy.  The Rules of Engagement stated that we should first fire a warning shot into the ground in front of the car, then the engine bloc, then the windshield.  That is if the car was even moving in the first place.  Many times cars that actually had pulled of to the side of the road were also shot at. Of course the consequences of such actions posed a huge problem for those of us who patrolled the streets every day.  This was become friendlier with an already hostile local population.  This was not an isolated incident and it took place for most of our eight month deployment. Another incident occured when we were sent out on a mission to blow a bridge that was supposedly being used to transport weapons across the Euphrates.  During this mission we were ambused and forced to return fire in order to make our way out of the city. This incident took place in the middle of the day and most of those who were engaging us were not in clear view.  Many had hidden in local houses and businesses and were part of the local population once again making it hard to determine who was shooting from where exactly to return fire. This led to our squad shooting at anything and everything i.e. properties, cars, people in order to push through the town.  I remember firing myself into the town during this firefight and, while emptying most of my magazines issued to me, not once did I clearly identify the targets I was shooting at. The retrans site otherwise known as a retransmittions site was a communications post set up on a plateau overlooking the town of Al Khan.  This communication site was there to provide communication between the main base at the railroad station where we were and an outpost called Hussaba  where Bravo company's area of operations took place. We would encounter mortar fire on a daily basis most of the time we would return this fire with mortar fire of our own. Some of the time our counter-battery would call in a specific location for us to exchange fire.  On occasion when the counter-battery could not call in a specific location  we would fire anyway.  Sometimes in the hills off to the west of the town where we had thought the mortar fire was coming from and other times straight on to the town of Al Kahn itself on buildings houses and businesses. Because of the lack of personell at the retran site very rarely if ever did we conduct a battle damage assesment to report civilian deaths and destruction. so almost all of the time these incidents went unreported and non-investigated.  Once we were taking rocket fire from a town and a member from our squad mistakenly identified a tire shop  as being the place where the rocket fire came from.  Sure enough we mortared the shop.  This was one of the only times we had actually had the chance to investigate what it was we had done and to be able to talk to the people we had directly effected.   Luckily the family who owned the shop was still alive; however we were not able to compensate the family.  Nor were we able to explain how he could rebuild his livelihood. This was not an isolated incident and took place over our eight month deployment.
Emanuele also spoke of prisoners and corpses and see the report by Jacob Wheeler (In These Times) about that section of his testimony and an overview on Winter Soldier.  Wheeler's report went up Monday.  Yes, now we're to the issue of getting the word out.  In These Times couldn't be bothered to let people know that IVAW's hearings were going on and streaming live.  They have filed a report after they're over.  Mother Jones?  David Corn's become a complete idiot but we'll get to that later in the snapshot.  No, they didn't get the word out and they don't cover it now.  They are the among the many shameful in Panhandle Media.  But fear not, lot of shame to go around.  Let's serve some up to The Progressive.  We quote Matthew Rothschild in "Editorial: Are you ready to listen" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) when his response to our question of why IVAW's Winter Soldier Hearing was not being covered (on Friday) that there was a cover story and it would be up at the website (presumably, not a report on the actual hearings).  It's not up. But guess what do you get at The Progressive right now?  "LIVE behind the scenes updates from . . ."  Winter Soldier?  No, that's over.  It's that crap-fest Take Back America.  A Democratic Party bit of nonsense.  The Progressive is supposed to be independent.  They had the chance to cover a real event and didn't but can "LIVE" blog what is nothing but a make-work workshop for failed journalists who want to be tools of a political party.  That gets live blogging.  For the record, the elections in Mexico got "LIVE" blogging from The Progressive.  But IVAW telling the truths about Iraq?  Not important, can't be bothered. Let's move over to The Nation where Christopher Hayes (also noted in the editorial) promised that by Monday something would be up.  He had to write the blog post himself but he did what he said.  Thank you, Christopher Hayes. He's noting a section of Camilo Mejia's testimony.  Hayes noted Friday when the hearings were going on as well. Peter Rothberg noted it the day before it started.  As Elaine noted last night, nothing at CounterPunch and include today.  They obviously have other things to do. Mike covered Common Dreams last night.  Nothing today and only Jeff Cohen's nonsense (which Mike calls out and we called out as well).  We're not done with Cohen.  Foreign Policy in Focus wants credit for a March 7th article by journalist Aaron Glantz that they commissioned.  They note it was on their webpage throughout the hearings.  Yes it was and if you could scroll down the articles listed on the right, and if you could go through thirteen other articles, you'd finally find the article.  Today, after Winter Soldier, they move it to the center of the page.  (They've created a folder in 'honor' of the 5th anniversary.  Over the weekend, the folder wasn't there, "Fiesta!" below it was what they were pushing.)  Translation, when it mattered they weren't there and now that it's over, they still have nothing to say.  Repeating the Tori Amos quote that enraged FPIF so on Saturday, "I guess in times like these, you know who your friends are" ("Taxi Ride, Scarlett's Walk).
To give some positive credit, Information Clearing House prominently announced the hearings when they were live, making it the top of their page.  In Real Media, there was silence.  AP and the Washington Post were two exceptions (here for Steve Vogel's text report, here for the paper's read or watch option).  The rest played as dumb as Panhandle Media.  Personal story.  A friend at a cable news network text-d this morning to ask why I was ignoring him.  (He wanted a favor and I had been ignoring his calls and text messages sent Sunday evening.)  I replied "Im pissed that your network took part in the blackout on ivaw. But pissed doesnt begin to describe my feelings."  The reply had Kat, Ava and I bursting into laughter: "what is ivaw?"
Today KPFA's The Morning Show featured Aimee Allison speaking to John Stauber (who did get the word out when it mattered) and Jeff Cohen who was still happy talking it. On air, Cohen praised sites that did NOT cover Winter Soldier indicating he thinks shout-outs are more important than truth.  Some outlets are reposting his "What I Did This Weekend" essay that praises independent media.  As Allison pointed out, it was very hard to find news of Winter Soldier online -- including at The Daily Toilet Scrubber -- and she wondered if that was due to (pay attention Matthew Rothschild) some bloggers .  Jeff Cohen's really bad article is getting criticism at Dissident Voice where commentators are noting that both KPFT and WBAI -- Pacifica Radio stations -- had others things to do -- spin records -- on Saturday.  How shameful.  How very shameful.  How shameful that Cohen wants to claim he listened on the radio in his car throughout the weekend when he was in NYC.  He damn well didn't hear it in his car radio on WBAI.  Want to explain that Coehen? He railed against the "US mainstream media" for ignoring Winter Soldier but had nothing to say about the silence of Panhandle Media.  (Remember, they never criticize themselves.)  Stauber offered reality and addressed "the corporate peace groups."
John Stauber: The Democrats are terrified of the peace movement.  That's why they have -- through MoveOn and Americans Against Escalation in Iraq and their latest incarnation Campaign to Defend America -- really taken control of the peace movement and what I mean is this, MoveOn and its coalition Americans Against Escalation in Iraq and its new organization that seeks to raise 100 million dollars to run ads bashing McCain are completely alligned with the Democratic Party  their number one goal is getting Demcoracts elected.   And they ignored Winter Soldier because they don't want to be affiliated with soldiers resisting a war.  A year ago the founder of one of the big organizations, whose name I won't mention, told me that exactly, that this is way to radical for them, that soldiers resisting is not their message. They've really created sort of their own vets group called Vote Vets.  Here's the real gist of my point, hundreds of thousands, really millions of Americans contribute money to MoveOn and to True Majority and to the other groups that make up Americans Against Escalation in Iraq.  These groups have raised and are going to raise through this election cycle, hundreds of millions of dollars bashing Republicans on the war.  Just two weeks ago AAEI, the MoveOn coalition, announced they were going to spend twenty million dollars on ads blaming the recession on the Republicans on Iraq.  Here's how Winter Soldier could have broken through the media blackout You take that 20 million dollars blaming the recession on Iraq, heck you take 5 of the 20 million dollars, and you buy full page ads in the Washington Post and the New York Times, you buy TV ads, you force Winter Soldier into the mainstream media in that way.  But instead, as you point out, go ahead and do it, goggle "MoveOn" and "Winter Soldier," google "Americans Against Esclation in Iraq" and "Winter Soldier."  You'll find nothing.  That was a purposeful blackout. 
Text, audio and video of Hart Viges Jason Washburn, Jason Lemieux, Geoff Millard and Domingo Rosas can be found here at Democracy Now! where Amy Goodman offered a second day of broadcasting the testimonies.  We haven't noted Jason Lemieux so we'll provide a brief excerpt from his Rules of Engagement panel (the second one):
With no way to identify their attackers and no clear mission worth dying for, Marines viewed the rules of engagement as either a joke or a technicality to be worked around so that they could bring each other home alive. Not only are the misuse of rules of engagement in Iraq indicative of supreme strategic incompetence, they are also a moral disgrace. The people who have set them should be ashamed of ourselves, and they are just one of the many reasons why the troops should be withdrawn immediately from Iraq.
Domingo Rosas from the same panel:
I was stationed in the Al Anbar presence on the western edge on the Syrian border. We occupied a local train station there in an area called Al Qaim and which we called Tiger Base. While at Tiger Base, I was put in charge of the detainee site, which consisted merely of one of those shipping containers that we're all familiar with, at least most of us, and the shipping container and just a single building surrounded by barbed wire. I had two soldiers to back me up when I was handling the detainees. And I was briefed by the sergeant that I relieved that the men in the shipping container were captured combatants, and I was to deprive them of sleep. So I had them standing inside the shipping container facing the walls, no talking. I let them have blankets, because it was cold, but they were not allowed to sit down or lay down. Any time they started falling out or dozing off, they put their heads on the wall, I would be on the outside of the shipping container, and I'd just smack the shipping container with a pickax handle, try to wake them up and keep them awake.
The men in the building were noncombatant detainees just being held for questioning. There were ninety-three men altogether. Using one of them to translate, I told them that they had a clean slate with me. If they didn't give me any trouble, then the next twenty-four hours will pass calmly. If they did, I told them it was going to be a long twenty-four hours. And I just prayed that they didn¡¯t give me any trouble, because I didn't know what I would have had to do. They even told me I was a good man while I was in charge of them.
Monday's program offered Jon Michael Turner and Jason Hurd's testimony -- also from Rules of Engagment.  (We covered both already.  Turner on Friday, Hurd yesterday.) Archives of Winter Soldier can be found  at Iraq Veterans Against the War, at War Comes Home, at KPFK, at the Pacifica Radio homepage and at KPFA, here for Friday, here for Saturday, here for Sunday.  Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz were the anchors for Pacifica's live coverage (and archives are now up at Pacifica Radio).    
Onto some of today's reported violence in Iraq . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad roadside bombings that claimed 4 lives and left thirteen wounded, a Baghdad car bombing that left seven people wounded, a Mosul car bombing that claimed 3 lives and left forty-two wounded and a Abu Saida roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 3 police officers and left three more wounded.  Reuters notes 1 "Awakening" council member was killed in an Iskandariya roadside bombing while another was wounded.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 "Awakening" council members were shot dead "near Biji" today while Sheikh Abdul Atheem Al Edani's driver was shot dead in Basra (the Sheikh was injured the shooting) and 1 police officer was shot dead in Al Athia.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer kidnapped in Salahuddin.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 4 corpses were discovered on Monday in Madaen.
Turning to political news, CBS and AP report: "Iraq's Shiite prime minister opened a national conference Tuesday aimed at reconciling the country's rival sects, but the main Sunni bloc boycotted the proceedings -- a sign of the deep schisms still facing this country." Turning to US politics, Peter Baker (Washington Post) observes, "This was supposed to be the week of Iraq, the week that the fifth anniversary of the invasion focused the nation's attention back on its turbulent project in the Middle East.  McCain in flak vest went to see the troops while his two Democratic rivals, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, denounced the war back home.  Antiwar activists made plans to throng the streets of Washington to protest the institutions they blame for the Iraq war (including The Washington Post).  And yet the war debate that gripped the capital last year has slipped off the front burner."
Baker's exactly right and blame the nit-wits and the liars for that and I'm not talking Real Media, I'm talking the ones who wallow in the cesspool like David Corn who has moved over to Mother Jones and lost all interest in Iraq but can pen a mash note to Obama near daily.  Bambi gave a crap-ass speech today, an embarrassing speech and I'm really sorry that so many in Panhandle Media wouldn't know the inside of a church if you drug their tired asses into one.  But here's reality, Jeremiah Wright's remarks were offensive.  They weren't misconstrued though IDIOTS want to claim they were.  From "Roundtable:"
Betty: It's a mess of issues in one boiling pot so everything will probably all bubble over. My father also wanted me to push to have that addressed. Reverand -- let's not even call him that. Jeremiah Wright gave sermons which were offensive to begin with but, on top of that, thought they were so delightful that they must be sold online. I'm wording carefully right here and want to note that my father would be very offended if Wright was quoted directly on the most offensive remark. He stated that Black Americans should not sing "God Bless America" but instead blank damn America. People are trying to act like that's acceptable and, I agree with Mike, I think a large reason for that is because the people in Panhandle Media are not know for their Christian beliefs. That's fine and dandy and I don't take offense to that in most cases. Believe or not believe what you want. But don't claim to speak for religious Americans about what is acceptable and what isn't. The next Malcolm X says it, I would applaud it. But there's a world of difference between what we expect from our clergy and what we expect from our activists. That is not acceptable behavior in a church coming from the leader of the congregation. It is offensive on so many levels including the most basic issue of langague.

Marcia: Mike was right, like Betty's saying, if you weren't raised in a church, you're looking at it as "It's social criticism." But, as Betty's pointing out, it is not the way we conduct ourselves in church. It is not acceptable. It is offensive. And let's get to the heart of it which is that no preacher, pastor, person of the cloth, stands up in a church, at the front of a church and damns anything. Damnation has a very specific meaning to anyone raised in a church. I don't expect the non-believers to get that. Fine. But don't turn around and tell the rest of us that it's a 'smear' against Obama or that it's no big deal. It is a HUGE deal.

Cedric: And I would assume, correct me if I'm wrong, Marcia, that a preacher comfortable calling for the damnation of anything is comfortable calling for the damnation of something else. If he had said, "Damn gays," I think we'd all be offended, religious or not. But those of us who are religious have every right to be offended and appalled by that. He's not just a man, his position makes him a representative of God, he leads the prayer, he is the church's spiritual voice so when he calls for damnation of anything, it has a level to it that non-believers do not get. Now they already don't believe so they're not getting what he was calling for but he was calling for the United States to be damned. They blow off religion as it is so they don't grasp the power -- and abuse -- of Wright's statements.

Rebecca: I'm going to jump in with some basics. Damnation, from Webster's, is "the act of damning; the state of being damned." Which is defined as "to condemn to a punishment or fate" and "to condemn to hell" and "to bring ruin on". I'm not religious or irreligious, I was raised as a church goer and the issue has come up again since we're new parents, the issue of do we want to provide that or not, my husband and I are debating that with regards to our baby. Pastor, by the way, is defined as "a spiritual overseer."

Cedric: Because that's what he or she is. So when Wright's condemning the United States to hell, it is offensive. When he's calling for ruin of the country we live in, it's offensive. And it was really offensive to watch Panhandle Media either ignore this issue or minimize it. He is the head of a church, standing up in front of the church as the leader and using the Lord's name in vain while calling for the damnation of the United States.

What Wright stated was offensive.  It was blantantly offensive.  It had nothing to do with race or with racism.  The offensive part is the damning of the United States, the damning of it by a supposed servant of God.  Wright is using his 'relationship' and the pulpit to call for the damning of America.  I'm really sorry that the pathetic Panhandle Media is so IGNORANT of religion and so lacking in any understanding of Christianity but it is OFFENSIVE.  I'm told Corn's crap alone resulted in 32 community members e-mailing and he's far from the only fool opening his big, uninformed yap. Now I have no idea whether the Corn-brigade is idiotic or lying here.  But they need to get it through their uninformed heads that the remarks were offensive.  CBS' poll shows that only a small number of people are aware of Wright's shameful remarks but those who are includes "Thirty percent [who] said it made them have less a favorable view".  Panhandle Media has disgraced themselves over their love affair with Bambi.  But they need to get it through their pathetic heads, this was offensive, it has outraged many Christians and when you LIE for your candidate or when you PLAY THE FOOL because you don't know the first thing about what goes on in a church, you are upsetting a lot of people in ways that will not fade after the 2008 election.  Your rermarks are deeply offensive to some.  Religion isn't your area of expertise, so maybe you should find another topic to gas bag over.
Bambi gave a lousy speech today.  Vastleft (Corrente) notes it here, Lambert notes of the bad speech, "Well sir, if you want what the country wants, then you wouldn¡¯t be smearing the Clintons as racist, you mealy-mouthed moralizing toxic fraudster. Sean Wilentz has the timeline and the exhaustive details [. . .]"  Here's Susan UnPC (No Quarter):
Everything I wrote earlier today holds (here, here, and here) ¡ a long speech notwithstanding. But there is more. Much more. (A NoQuarter regular sent me a terrific "rant" that I've added at the end -- do not miss it!)
¡Ì Obama LIED repeatedly in the weeks before today's confession.
Today, he said, "Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely ¡­"
Compare that with what Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times on March 15, 2008, "But the sermons I've always hear were no different than the sermons you hear in many African-American churches. I had not heard him make such, what I consider to be objectionable remarks from the pulpit. Had I heard them while I was in church, I would have objected. Had that been the tenor of the church generally, I probably wouldn't be a member of the church."
But on March 14, when CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Obama if he ever heard from others about Rev. Wright's controverisal remarks, Obama replied with a flat "No."
This speech was important and he blew it. It was the biggest load of garbage because what he needed to do was explain and he didn't.  He strung more pretty words together and, guess what, the people he's offended don't care.  They weren't going to listen to that magpie, meandering speech.  They needed upfront, "Those remarks are appalling.  I do not support the damnation of the United States of America."  He never dealt with that.   He never addressed it and that is the issue that has offended so many. Instead he offered garbage about that "that isn't all that I know of the man."  No one cares.  He damned the United States of America.  That's where it starts and ends for those offended.  This may have gotten the groupies excited but it did not address the offense the remarks have created.  Again, he blew his big speech.  Not because he seemed tired (he did), not because he wasn't inspiring (he wasn't) but because those offended were willing to give him a few minutes (probably 90 seconds) to explain that he didn't agree that the country he wants to be president of should be damned.  He's missing the issue, Panhandle Media's missing the issue.  People need to leave their desks and start talking to people.  And Barack Obama didn't need to try to speak for generations.  The sole aim of the speech should have been to convey: "He said it, I didn't and I don't agree."  He blew it. 
But what do get?  We get Panhandle Media yet again trying to lie.  We know the pattern. Step one is "He was wonderful!"  Step two is "Well what he really meant was . . ."  And step three is attack Hillary.  Heck, attack Hillary can be worked in during any of the steps. That's really all the groupies have to do or say.  This evening, Ruth's going to write about idiots in Panhandle Media audio-division (yes, Aileen, that's you) but of course Iraq's off the radar.  Panhandle Media can't pump up their candiate, can't inflate his non-existant record with a lot of effort.  And, in the process, Iraq is ignored.  That's reality.
Reality is also that the other Democratic candidate for president gave a major address on Iraq yesterday and Panhandle Media couldn't bother to note it today.  From Senator Hillary Clinton's speech:
Good morning. I want to thank Secretary West for his years of service, not only as Secretary of the Army, but also to the Veteran's Administration, to our men and women in uniform, to our country. I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia, and as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn't go, so send the First Lady. That's where we went.     
I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base. But it was a moment of great pride for me to visit our troops, not only in our main base as Tuzla, but also at two outposts where they were serving in so many capacities to deactivate and remove landmines, to hunt and seek out those who had not complied with the Dayton Accords and put down their arms, and to build relationships with the people that might lead to a peace for them and their children.     
So it's a great honor being introduced by Secretary West. I also want to thank rear Admiral David Stone who commanded the fleet off of Kosovo and was an instrumental part of our successful efforts there. And Brigadier General Pat Foote and Major General George Buskirk who are representing the more than 30 generals and admirals who have endorsed me and who provide great assistance and counsel to me and to my staff. I want to thank President Steven Knapp for once again being the host. I'm getting credit for coming to GW, I come so often, and I'm thrilled to have that added to my academic career. And I want to thank the faculty, the staff, and the students at this great university.        
I started my morning meeting with the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, to talk about the peace process in Northern Ireland, and it was a stark reminder of how long the road is toward peace, but how necessary it must be that we travel it. And we travel it with like-minded friends and allies and those willing to take risks for peace around the world. It has been five years this week since our president took us to war in Iraq. In that time, our brave men and women in uniform have done everything we ask of them and more. They were asked to remove Saddam Hussein from power and bring him to justice and they did. They were asked to give the Iraqi people the opportunity for free and fair elections and they did. They were asked to give the Iraqi government the space and time for political reconciliation, and they did. So for every American soldier who has made the ultimate sacrifice for this mission, we should imagine carved in stone "they gave their life for the greatest gift one can give to a fellow human being, the gift of freedom." And to our veterans and all those serving in Iraq today, I want to send a strong and clear message - your extraordinary devotion to our country and to your service makes us proud and profoundly grateful every single day.
The mistakes in Iraq are not the responsibility of our men and women in uniform but of their Commander-in-Chief. From the decision to rush to war without allowing the weapons inspectors to finish their work or waiting for diplomacy to run its course. To the failure to send enough troops and provide proper equipment for them. To the denial of the existence of a rising insurgency and the failure to adjust the military strategy. To the continued support for a government unwilling to make the necessary political compromises. The command decisions were rooted in politics and ideology, heedless of sound strategy and common sense.
Fortunately, ten months from now we will have a new president, and a new opportunity to change course in Iraq. Therefore, the critical question is how can we end this war responsibly and restore America's leadership in the world? It won't be easy. There is no magic wand to wave. Bringing our troops home safely will take a president who is ready to be Commander-in-Chief on day one, a president who knows our military and has earned their respect. Bringing lasting stability to the region will take a president with the strength and determination, the knowledge and confidence to bring our troops home; to rebuild our military readiness, to care for our veterans, and to redouble our efforts against al-Qaeda. If you give me the chance, I will be that president.
I will start by facing the conditions on the ground in Iraq as they are, not as we hope or wish them to be. President Bush points to the reduction in violence in Iraq last year and claims the surge is working. Now, I applaud any decrease in violence. That is always good news. But the point of the surge was to give the Iraqis the time and space for political reconciliation. Yet today, the Iraqi government has failed to provide basic services for its citizens. They have yet to pass legislation ensuring the equitable distribution of oil revenues, yet even to pass a law setting the date of provincial elections. Corruption and dysfunction is rampant, and last week General Petraeus himself conceded that no one, in either the U.S. government or the Iraqi government, feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation.
So by the middle of this summer when the additional surge forces have been sent home, we'll be right back at square one with 130,000 or more troops on the ground in Iraq. That President Bush seems to want to keep as many troops there after the surge as before and says that doing otherwise would endanger our progress is a clear admission that the surge has not accomplished its goals. Meanwhile, as we continue to police Iraq's civil war, the threats to our national security, our economy, and our standing in the world continue to mount.
The lives of our brave men and women are at stake. Nearly 4,000 of them have, by now, made that ultimate sacrifice. Tens of thousands more have suffered wounds both visible and invisible to their bodies, their minds, and their hearts. Their families have sacrificed, too, in empty places at the dinner table, in the struggle to raise children alone, in the wrenching reversal of parents burying children. The strength of our military is at stake. Only one of our army brigades is certified by the army to be ready. Our armed forces are stretched to near the breaking point with many of our troops on their second, third, or fourth tours of duty. Our economic security is at stake. Taking into consideration the long-term costs of replacing equipment and providing medical care for troops and survivors' benefits for their families, the war in Iraq could ultimately cost well over $1 trillion. That is enough to provide health care for all 47 million uninsured Americans and quality pre-kindergarten for every American child, solve the housing crisis once and for all, make college affordable for every American student, and provide tax relief to tens of millions of middle class families.
It is a sign of how little Iraq matters that Bambi's attacking the 60s again got more attention before it was delivered and will no doubt be fawned over for some time to come.  It was a bad speech, badly delivered and it didn't achieve the needed objective.  Meanwhile, there's a thing called the Iraq War and all you hideous gas bags from David Corn to John Nichols and across the board are prolonging the illegal war.  That's reality.

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