Monday, April 21, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Monday, April 21, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, Robert Gates delivers an attention getting speech, Condi Rice goes through the motions, the US Veterans Affairs Dept did know about the increased suicide risks (and hid it), Panhandle Media skirts the law and risks their tax status, and more.
Starting with war resistance.  Lou Michel (The Buffalo News) reported Sunday on US war resister Patrick Hart who is seeking safe harbor in Canada and explains, "This is home for me now.  I love Canada.  A lot of us have been here a few years and planted roots."  Hart is an Iraq War veteran who was stationed in Iraq from 2003 (April) to 2004 (March) and who self-checked out and went to Canada in August of 2005.  He, his wife Jill and their son Rian have made Canada their home.  Michel notes that, "The Canadian House of Commons is expected to vote soon on a resolution that would allow him and the other deserters to seek residency there.  It's considered a last resort -- a political solution -- because the Canadian courts have determined they lack the jurisdiction to rule on deserters' claims that the war in Iraq is illegal and make them eligible for asylum as refugees."
The Canadian Parliament will debate a measure this month on that issue. You can make your voice heard. 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.         

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, Jose Vasquez, 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, Logan Laituri, Jason Marek, 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).
Last month Iraq Veterans Against the War's Winter Soldier took place and KPFA has a live program coming up April 22nd:

Live On Air and Online at!           
April 22 from 10am-1pm      
Join us on April 22nd for this very important follow up to Pacifica's groundbreaking Winter Soldier live coverage. We will be following the San Francisco trial involving wounded vets and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In this first class action lawsuit U.S. Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder sue the VA, alleging a system wide breakdown in the way the Government treats those soldiers.
During this special broadcast we will be bringing our listeners live updates from the San Francisco federal courthouse, we'll speak with wounded Veterans attorney Gordon Erspamer, (taking this case pro bono because his father was permanently disabled in World War II and never received proper health care) and speak with Veterans advocates including Veterans for Common Sense, and Vets for America.
Read more about the broadcast here.

That announcement will appear in the snapshots until the broadcast. If you missed Winter Soldier you can stream online 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.
Today William Branigin (Washington Post) reports, "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates chided the U.S. armed forces today for not providing enough intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance help to troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying it has been 'like pulling teeth' to get the services to change old habits."  Gates was speaking at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama and he opened with memories that drew (intentional) laughter -- four times at the start of his speech.  Getting more serious, Gates began pushing counter-insurgency: "Furthermore, the counterinsurgency manual issued by the Army and Marines is over 200 pages long and yet only four pages are dedicated to air, space and cyberspace.  Not long ago, the Air Force published a doctrine document on irregular warfare, but as future leaders of air power, you should consider whether there is more the service might do to articulate and codify the unique role of air power in instability operations."  He pushed predators and other "unmanned systems" (they "cost much less and offer greater loiter times") which is only surprising if you missed the hard sell done by the military last week (Thursday) in the US House Armed Service Committee's Strategic Forces Subcommittee when THAAD was being pushed hard.  If you caught that hearing, you know drones are being pushed hard by the military which is being creative with the funding aspect.  Mark Thompson (Time magazine) observes, "Gate's comments richoeted at supersonic speed around the Pentagon and across broader defense networks, as officers -- and contracters -- tried to parse their implications.  His bottom line: The Air Force ought to be less concerned with buying more $350 million F-22 fighters for use in future wars that may never happen, and do more to deliver what is needed to fight the wars currently underway 'while their outcome may still be in doubt'." Of course the pitch may have been undercut by the fact that a US drone crashed today in Musayyib. Gates also took a swipe at the intelligence communtiy noting that "the intelligence community has wrestled with this over the years and, I would say, mostly unsuccessfully.  And one example is the role of the national intelligence officer for warning.  Now, this is supposed to be the out-of-the-box thinker who spots the threat coming down the road that nobody else can spot.  But since most of the time, most threats don't materialize, eventually that person gets sidelined, and they don't play a constructive role."  Okay, who's job was national security on 9-11?  Condi Rice.  Her title was National Security Advisor.  Today she's the US Secretary of State and she just finished a for show trip to Iraq.
Staging three press events there yesterday, she conveyed that the State Dept had accomplished nothing with her recent visit, that 'progress' in Iraq is not a foward motion and that a for-show trips needs to provide something you can show.  The trip was a failure on all fronts and did not respond to US Senator Chuck Hagel's critique of Rice's performance on the job being far from "Kissenger-esque."  Rice went through the usual song and dance: she promised $100 million in reconstruction aid to Basra and another $100 million to Sadr City.  She got the administration's talking point across by calling Moqtada al-Sadr a "coward" and that may have been her sole 'sucess' from the White House's viewpoint.  Directly questioned about the reconstruction aid and the 'progress' she babbled unconvincinly about how "there have been problems" which requires she either spell them out (implying to everyone that now the aministration has learned a lesson) or that she turn the issue around.  She did neither.  From all three press events, the only thing she had to show was that she had reviewed "election plans" for the fall elections.  Yes, that 'work' could have been done in the US.  It was a very large embarrassment for Rice and, most of all, she failed to convey appreciation for those in the State Dept working in Iraq.  As head of the State Dept doing that was her cheif responsibility -- at any time, but especially when State Dept staff is balking at being stationed in Iraq and there are threats that they will be assigned there regardless.  Her trips was a disaster.
Following Gates speech today, he took questions and one was about the New York Times' report Sunday "about the number of retired senior officers who are commentators but who also serve on boards for companies that are profiting from the war.  Sir, what do you think about all these senior officers who are now retired influencing public opinion about the Department of Defense and the war effort?"  Gates tried to merge the issue with the issue of political campaigns referring to retired generals ("these guys") who are "eithering up for different candidates or as media experts and so on". Gates stated, "I did read the article, and frankly, I think that -- I couldn't quite tell how much of it was an implied political conflict of interest, an implied finanical conflict of interest or what."  He did allow "I think that the one service they owe everybody is making clear that they're speaking only for themselves."
Hidden behind that appearance of objectivy, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.  
The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynmaic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to asses on air.
No, Gates really didn't answer the question.
Saturday and Sunday saw at least 80 reported deaths of Iraqis. In some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports three Baghdad bombings that wounded three people, a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left five more people wounded, a Baghdad mortar attack that wounded two people and a Baquba bombing where a woman killed herself outside "one of the popular committees headquarters at Mafraq in Baquba" and took the lives of 3 other people as well as leaving four more wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing that left two police officers injured and a Kirkuk roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four more injured.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports armed clashes in Baghdad that claimed the lives of 6 people and left five wounded. Reuters notes 1 man shot dead in Basra.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes Sadr City hospitals stated today that they had taken in 14 corpses and fifty-six injured people in the last 24 hours.
Today the US military announced: "Two Multi-National Division -- North Soldiers were killed when an improvised explosived device detonated during operations in the Salah and Din Province April 21.  Two Soldiers were also wounded in the attack, as well as two Sons of Iraq members and a civilian interpreter.  The wounded were transported to a Coalition force medical facility for treatment."  The announcement brings to 4041 the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.
This morning Paul Elias (AP) reported on the lawsuit against the US Department of Veterans Affairs alleging that they were not "doing enough to prevent suicide and provide adequate medical care for the Americans who have served in the armed forces" -- a charge the government, naturally, denies.  CBS News' Armen Keteyian reports (link has text and text and video to past reports) that despite the government's denials in court today of problems and a rise in suicide risks, an e-mail exists, written earlier this year by the Veterans Affairs' head of Mental Health, Dr. Iraq Katz, which states "Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our medical facilities." Keteyian explains, "Katz's email was written shortly after the VA provided CBS News data showing there were only 790 attemped suicides in all 2007 -- a fraction of Katz's estimate" and that when US House Rep and chair of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Bob Filner was shown Katz' e-mail by CBS, Filner stated, "This is disgraceful.  This is a crime against our nation, our nation's veterans. They do not want to come to grips with reality, with the truth."
Turning to the cesspool that is Panhandle Media.  On Thursday, after screaming like a holler monkey in a conference call, David Corn felt the need to put his ignorance into print: "When it came time for questions for Wolfson, I asked an obvious one: Did Hillary Clinton believe that it had been appropriate in 2001 for President Bill Clinton to have pardoned two members of the Weather Underground as he left office?"  David Corn is an idiot and if Mother Jones is going to treat a community member like crap, we're not going to be nice.  David Corn is acting very imbalanced and very non-professional.  Possibly the guilt over Gary Webb's suicide is finally taking hold because David Corn's laughable 'journalism' is responsible for ending the career of Gary Webb.  Were it not for people like David Corn, people who repeated spin from the CIA as fact, people who never corrected the record while Webb was alive, Gary Webb wouldn't have been destroyed.  For many people, David Corn has blood on his hands.  And maybe the guilt's finally kicking in and that's why he's behaving in such an irrational manner? 
Or maybe he's just bound and determined to be a hack?  Mother Jones apparently doesn't care about corrections.  Several community members e-mailed the magazine using their generic contact form last week to give them a heads up about Corn's HUGE ERROR.  As of Monday afternoon, they still haven't corrected it.  A community member called them today and his e-mail's been read to me.  All I can tell you is that Panhandle Media is so totally incompetent, refuses to take responsibility and so unprofessional that they could never work in the real world of journalism.  The member's a tax attorney and says they are in violation of the tax status.
Yes, they are.  So is KPFA, so is Democracy Now!, so is The Progressive.  It's a point Ava and I have been making repeatedly this year.  Because they can't make money on what they do, they form, in effect, a shelter through which their 'news' is conveyed.  For most, that's a 501 (c) (3).  They are forbidden from endorsing candidates.  Endorsement does not just mean that they cannot say "I endorse . . ."  It also means that they cannot have the cumaltive coverage read as endorsement.  At The Progressive, Ruth Conniff, the closest to sympathetic (forget supportive) of Hillary Clinton's campaign rendered a one-word judgement when Hillary won New Hampshire: "Yuck."  It is not only smart in a two-person race for an outlet to have people favorably covering both candidates (it increases your likely audience), it is needed to avoid losing your tax status.  Equally true is that Cynthia McKinney's run has been ignored and Matthew Rothschild has dismissed Ralph Nader's run.  There is no way the magazine can argue that their coverage has not been an endorsement of Obama.  Their tax status could be pulled instantly.  Now KPFA could lose their license over the entire coverage but especially over the Larry Bensky hosted two hour post-debate coverage which featured only Barack Obama supporters.  Not only did it feature those people who had already publicly endorsed Obama, Benksy didn't disclose that fact to the listening audience.  KPFA not only has a tax status, it has a broadcasting license and it receives government money.  The little stunt Bensky pulled, the little slanted one-sided echo chamber could get KPFA knocked off the air.
They cannot do an echo chamber and maintain their tax free status while pretending they are not endorsing a candidate.  Their coverage is slanted and it's outrageous.  Churches are in trouble right now for allowing one candidate to speak.  By the same token, sticking with KPFA, inviting on only Obama supporters -- people who have publicly endorsed Obama -- to dissect a debate is an endorsement.  It's an echo chamber and it's an endorsement.  Regardless of whom gets the Democratic nomination, people should be paying attention and, yes, they could file complaints with the federal government. 
They can't do this on your tax dollar.  They cannot enlist in a campaign.  But that's exactly what the coverage has been.  It's why Amy Goodman's in trouble with NPR stations currently because, leaving her tax stastus aside, her decision to bring on Barack supporters and people with his campaign and not identify them as such to the audience is in complete violation of NPR's guidelines for programming.  If someone has a conflict of interest -- and Melissa Harris-Lacewell being part of the Obama campaign is a conflict of interest -- Amy Goodman's required to disclose it on air.  She didn't do that.  Now the second time when she wanted to attack Gloria Steinem (when she plotted with Melissa on that), she did reveal.  But she failed to do so when she had Melissa on as an "objective" commentator who just happened to catch a speech by Barack and was wowed by it. 
Amy Goodman's also in trouble for allowing John Nichols to smear a governor of a state.  Goodman made no effort to get a comment from the governor (a Democrat, by the way) but allowed Nichols to repeat whispers about her.  That's not journalism.  Nothing that Panhandle Media has produced in this election cycle (which they began in 2006) passes for journalism.
In Mother Jones case, just last week you had idiot Justy posting again about Hillary's prayer group.  Forget that the story has been ridiculed by the real press, the fact remains that Barack participates in the same activities.  But Mother Jones doesn't tell you that and wants to pretend that they are somehow doing journalism?  They're not doing journalism.  They're endorsing a candidate.  They are non-stop smearing one candidate to advance another and, yes, that is an endorsement and, yes, they can lose their tax status.
If they or any other outlet loses that tax status, the government doesn't say, "We're pulling it, nah-nah."  They have to pay fines, they've been operating in violation of their tax status.  For Mother Jones that would mean losing their mailing status and having to pay back monies from when they first went into the tank for one campaign.  Some may wrongly equate what they're doing with what Rush Limbaugh does on a daily basis.  Rush Limbaugh is a for-profit radio program.  He's not taking a tax shelter.  He does hideous work but he does it for-profit.  The left rushed to the non-profit status thinking that would save it and it really hasn't.  But if they're going to grab that status, if they're going to get those tax breaks, then they need to follow the rules and they are not in compliance.
Again, Ava and I have tried to kindly issue those warnings but if this is the step people want to pursue, have at it.  Complain to the IRS. They are in violation, they should have to pay fines, they should lose their status, all of them.  They're disgusting.  They can't turn a profit so they hop on board that tax status that requires all Americans pay for their crap and yet they don't want to follow the basic rules.  You can't have it both ways.  You can't get your tax ememptions and not follow the guidelins required for that exemption.  In fact, as late as May 2006, Matthew Rothschild was explaining the tax status to readers of The Progressive on the letters' page.  It's a real shame he forgot it.  But, no, they don't deserve that tax status.  If they want the freedom that comes with a for-profit magazine, then they have to ditch their tax status.  If they want to mainatin the tax status, they have to cover both.  (Peggy Simpons' WMC article last week does not take sides and WMC has posted pro-Hillary and pro-Barack stories.  Equally true, they have reported stories that just reported what happened.)
Here's what David Corn -- who needs to have that wart removed from his face -- wrote in his infamous blog post:
Wolfson went on to accuse the Obama campaign of trying to conflate the pardons and the Ayers issues. And indeed it is. The Obama campaign did disseminate email about the Weather Underground radicals pardoned by Bill Clinton. Wolfson then maintained the critical difference here is that Ayers had been a "key supporter" of Obama.
Guess what David Corn, it's not your job to repeat Obama campaign spin.  THERE WERE NO PARDONS.  You got caught doing the Obama campaign's job for them.  You are not a journalist, you gave up the right to call yourself that when you refused to check out claims by the Obama campaign and instead ran with them.  You embarrased yourself in that Thursday media conference call bellowing about the pardons -- the pardons THAT NEVER TOOK PLACE.  You then shamed yourself further by taking to the MoJo blog to brag about yourself and what a great job you did.  You did a s**t poor job because you're supposed to be a journalist.  Your open hostility towards the Clinton campaign, your admission that you are using talking points furnished by the Obama campaign and your body of work -- such as it is -- are in complete violation of Mother Jones' tax status.
There were NO PARDONS.  As Ava and I explained on Sunday:
Despite Professor Patti Williams public orgasms over Barack's legal 'knowledge,' we've long noted the man's an idiot who can't even grasp what "verus" in the title of a court case means. We have no idea how he ended up president of the Harvard Law Review (not much of a credit in our eyes) but it was due to something other than a grasp of the law. So we'll assume that he wasn't trying to lie, he just truly doesn't know (idiot) whether Clinton pardoned or commuted the sentences of Linda Evans and Susan Rosenberg. He commuted them. They were not pardoned. We pointed that out Thursday morning. Sadly, it required pointing out again Thursday night. No pardons took place. But if you need a better example of the bias the press has in favor of Obama and against Clinton, you need look no further. Barack declared that Bill Clinton "pardoned or commuted" and the press ran with what? Pardoned. Given the choice to run with either, they went for the one that painted the Clintons badly and excused Barack's friendship with a domestic terrorist.

That tells you a lot. What a journalist actually does -- a real one -- is examine that charge, research it. In doing so, it would have been obvious that the two women had their sentences commuted, not that they were pardoned. But why bother to actually do your job when it's so much easier to repeat a lie -- one that benefits Barack and one that his campaign repeated on Thursday and
as late as Friday. Barack's campaign is lying, there was no pardon.
It does tell you exactly about the bias in favor of Obama.  His campaign makes a claim and the press runs with it as fact, never bothering to check it out.  And no one looked like a bigger idiot than David Corn, disgracing himself on that media conference call as he yelled and screamed about pardons that never took place.
Turning to the Democratic race for the presidential nomination,  Liz Sidoti (AP) reports on the losing campaign of Barack Obama who yesterday gave any undecideds a reason to vote for the GOP's John McCain:

Democrat Barack Obama, who often argues that John McCain is the same as President Bush, said Sunday that the Republican presidential candidate would be an improvement over Bush's eight-year reign.
"You have a real choice in this election. Either Democrat would be better than John McCain. And all three of us would be better than George Bush," Obama said.

A sure sign of the ineffective campaign he'd run if he got the nomination. He lacks experience, maturity and, as he demonstrates above, common sense. I could see him doing like Jared Ball in the Green Party debate, stopping mid-debate with John McCain to announce he was dropping out. (Ball announced it and that he was supporting Cynthia McKinney.) Here's "Hillary Clinton Responds to Sen. Obama's Suggestion that Sen. McCain Would be a Better President than George Bush:"

Hillary Clinton responded today to a statement made by Sen. Obama suggestion that Sen. McCain would be a better President than George W. Bush.
In Reading, PA, Sen. Obama's said: "You have a real choice in this election. Either Democrat would be better than John McCain...And all three of us would be better than George Bush."
Read more.
Hillary Clinton's response from Johnstown, PA (For an actuality of the audio, click here):
"Sen. Obama said today that John McCain would be better for the country than George Bush. Now, Sen. McCain is a real American patriot who has served our country with distinction, but Sen. McCain would follow the same failed policies that have been so wrong for our country the last seven years.
"Sen. McCain thinks it is okay to keep our troops in Iraq for the next 100 years. Is that better than George Bush?
Audience: No!
"Sen. McCain will continue the failed economic policies of George Bush that have brought us deficit and increasing debt. Is that better than George Bush?
Audience: No!
"Sen. McCain does not have a health care plan that will cover every American. In fact, we will have more and more uninsured Americans. Is that better than George Bush?
Audience: No!
"Sen. McCain has no plans to end the housing foreclosure crisis or cut the cost of gas at the pump. Is that better than George Bush?
Audience: No!
"We need a nominee who will take on John McCain, not cheer on John McCain, and I will be that nominee."


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