Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Hate The War

What I saw in December of last year was an ambivalence similar to what I've seen in a lot of previous trips. On the one hand, security is much better. And Iraqis, much more than I've heard before, were ready for U.S. troops to go. On the other hand, when you push hard, you still see a lot of uncertainty because the political stability, which the surge aimed to create space for, that political stability still isn't really there.
There is more political activity than there has been before. Prime Minister Maliki, his party did well in provincial elections because he was seen as having cracked down in Baghdad and Basra and created more stability.
But services aren't being delivered and people still worry about jobs and about their future. And there are still some bombs going off. So you have a combination of more eagerness for U.S. troops to leave and uncertainty and worry, especially in certain communities like the Sunni, about what will happen when those troops really start to go.

That's Trudy Rubin (Philadephia Inquirer) speaking on the roundtable Ray Suarez moderated for The NewsHour (PBS) did on Iraq. Click here for transcript and audio. I'm looking at the e-mails and if you're praising TV coverage, you are praising local coverage more often than not. The commercial broadcast networks have really disappointed. I haven't seen any of that myself but I'll watch it shortly or early tomorrow morning. That has been the pattern, though.

Among the many things today/night was a small thing tonight where a woman sang the Rolling Stones classic "As Tears Go By" which I love but have never connected it to or seen it as a song that would work for an event like that. It worked very well. I think most people were choked up by it (I was crying, my eyes are watering now just thinking back on it).

"But all I hear is the sound of rain falling on the ground, I sit and watch as tears go by."

Credit goes to the singer and the remarks she made before she started singing. Explaining her own personal loss in this illegal war.

Demonstrations took place today and will continue through the weekend. The Grannies Peace Brigade got an early start on standing up this week and here's what happened Wednesday:

Relax, everyone! The New York City police are solidly on the job these days. With rapists, murderers, bank robbers and dope peddlers, not to mention corporate thieves, rampant throughout the City, they made a significant dent in the crime statistics yesterday, March 18, when they arrested seven grandmothers aged 67 to 90 in Times Square.
Grannies being herded into a paddy wagon after arrest March 18, 2009 (photo by Eva-Lee Baird)
The grannies, all members of the Granny Peace Brigade, were sent to jail while protesting at the Times Square recruiting station. Their arrest occurred during what is believed to be the first antiwar protest of the Obama Administration, in an attempt to urge the President to reconsider his decision to retain 50,000 troops in Iraq after the official withdrawal scheduled to be completed in the next 18 months and his order for 17,000 more troops sent to Afghanistan. The women feel strongly that these measures will only result in increased death and destruction for Americans, Iraqis and Afghanis and further solidify anti-American feeling throughout the world. Said 94-year-old Brigadier Marie Runyon, "Peace can only be achieved through diplomacy and humanitarian aid." The Granny Peace Brigade women are mostly strong supporters of Barack Obama but were responding to his request that his constituency pressure him to do the right thing when they feel he is on the wrong path.
The Brigade is not new to demonstrating at the Times Square recruiting station -- eighteen of the grannies were arrested and jailed on Oct. 17, 2005, when they attempted to enlist in the military to replace America's grandchildren in harm's way in Iraq. After a six-day trial in criminal court, they were acquitted.
The seven grannies were arrested at approximately 1:45 p.m. and taken to the Midtown South police precinct. They were not all released until early the next morning, a total of approximately 12 hours. Some of them became shaky and weak after many hours of not eating, but were given no food for another hour and a half.
Prior to the arrest, about 50 grannies and their supporters gathered on Military Island at which a press conference was held including speeches by mayoral candidate Rev. Billy, legendary Broadway actress and activist Vinie Burrows (one of the original 18 granny jailbirds), and a young member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Matthis Chiroux. A sister group, the Raging Grannies, performed some of their original anti-war songs.
During the press conference, grandmothers wrapped yellow police crime scene tape around the ramp near the recruiting center, after which a group, some in wheelchairs and hanging on to walkers, assembled on the ramp leading to the center.
crime scene in Times Square (photo by Masahiro Hosoda)
The team of Norman Siegel and Earl Ward, who successfully defended the grannies in 2005, will represent them in their current case, for which the grandmothers are profoundly grateful. Siegel, currently a candidate for New York City Public Advocate, is a favorite of the ladies for his continuous support of them.

Good to know that the police made time to go after the Grannies Peace Brigade. Until GPB (Raging Grannies) sent their press release, I had wrongly assumed that actual crime still took place in NYC. Someone who has the time might want to go through Thursday's crime reports tomorrow and find out how many robberies, murders, rapes, etc took place Thursday. All day Thursday because crimes before the Grannies were harassed should have been occupying the police's time and crimes after the harassment might have been prevented had the police been doing their actual jobs.

I will bet anyone that Thursday was not a crime-free day in NYC.

So it was the sixth anniversary of the illegal war and if you took part in something, you noted it. If you didn't, judging by the e-mails, it was more difficult. PBS has a lot of praise for the roundtable (even though most of you take issue with the guests -- I'm not surprised by that, it wasn't my dream lineup either) so I'll toss out that some stations are in fundraising. If you appreciated The NewsHour's work and you have something to give, consider doing so. If you don't have it, don't sweat it. If you do decide to give, consider making it clear that you're giving for the Iraq coverage today and that you didn't feel served by broadcast networks.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4257. Tonight? 4259.

I'd planned to cover Congress and the illegal war but I just can't get the woman singing "As Tears Go By" out of my head and, some of you will grasp this, you can only cry so many times in one night before your make up's not the only thing f**ked up. I really can't be bloodshot all day tomorrow. So I'm just going to stop here, have one more cry and then get focused on figuring out tomorrow's schedule.

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