Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The silence on Iraq from the media

A friend of Kristoffer Walker's e-mails to pass on that he's decided to return to Iraq. Kristoffer is the 28-year-old Iraq War veteran who, home on a pass, declared last month that he would not be returning. He explains to WFRV that, "the Army has a gun to my head. They have the authority to level an incredible amount of force against me and can thereby ruin my life. I have been placed in a very dangerous situation. It is not my intention to allow the Army to use their gun and ruin my life." It's a real shame that he was forced to make this decision and it's a real shame that he did not receive the support he needed (my statement, my opinion) after making his decision and publicly announcing it last month. Most Americans never heard of Kristoffer Walker. Especially those who smugly (and wrongly) believe they are informed because they listen to a Pacifica radio station or read The Nation or The Progressive. Kristoffer was let down and betrayed (my opinion) and that betrayal came from the left. The right-wing? They knew who he was. They did what they do: Trashed him, mocked him, insulted him. But, pay attention, they COVERED HIM. They treated his story like the news it was. It was only Panhandle Media, the so-called left, which couldn't do their damn job.

And MSM? It's the sixth anniversary of the start of the illegal war this week. The war the media sold. With their breathless and unsupported conjecture. They couldn't stop their heavy panting back then. NBC, for example, thought we needed to see their embedded correspondents brushing their teeth. Six years later the illegal war still drags on and how do the networks cover it? By lying and ignoring mainly.

ABC World News Tonight is 'reporting' on Iraq this week via a correspondent, Terry McCarthy, who is already out of the country. That makes sense how? About as much sense as Charlie Gibson's ridiculous claim that, in Iraq, "conditions there really are looking up." To watch the webcast, click here. Terry cites that ridiculous poll (we dealt with it yesterday). Whether the rest of the week will bring actual reporting or more propaganda passed off as 'reporting' -- when it doesn't even pass for editorial comment -- we'll see. It's a real shame that in this era of satellite phones, Terry McCarthy and ABC want to do commentaries as opposed to on-the-spot reporting. But probably on-the-spot reporting doesn't allow Terry the luxury of grabbing a shiny ribbon and tying a pretty bow around everything -- reality rarely does.

On The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric yesterday, Lara Logan interviewed (link has text and video) Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen who opened with, "Billions of dollars were wasted in the Iraqi reconstruction enterprise" and that "$32 billion later, we don't know a whole lot about what's happened to that money." Bowen's been asked to offer input on Afghanistan reconstruction. That was it for Iraq reporting on CBS.

NBC Nightly News was far too busy promoting The Tonight Show (and it's 'big' guest) to be bothered with doing too much else. Commercials are hard, aren't they Bri-Bri Williams?

If no one else could remember, Jim Lehrer did. Headlines on PBS' NewsHour included Lerher noting, "Also today an American soldier was fatally injured during combat operations in Baghdad."

Missy Ryan, Mohammed Abbas, Ahmed Rasheed and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) offer
the following as the six year mark looms:

People like analyst Ghassan al-Attiyyah blame the United States for stoking sectarian and ethnic killing as they sought in the early days to empower majority Shi'ites sidelined under Saddam's Sunni-led regime and to forge a government that represented the majority.
"They failed to understand Iraq. They made great mistakes, basically enhancing divisions among Iraqis," said Attiyyah, who heads the Iraq Foundation for Democracy and Development.
Today, the U.S. military approach is seen as more adroit, based more on community outreach and tutoring increasingly competent, though far from independent, local forces rather than using sheer force. But some say it's far too late.
"The genie was let out of the bottle, and society is now polarised between sectarian and ethnic forces," Attiyyah said.

Back to TV for a moment, PBS' NewsHour offered this segment on El Salvador's elections. Kimberly Wilder (On The Wilder Side) recommends Eric Ward's report on the elections in El Salvador:

U.S. Congressional leaders should immediately rebuke two of their colleagues for attempting to influence voters of another democratic country through threats and intimidation. The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador ([2] CISPES) reports that two anti-immigrant congressional members, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), are publicly calling for El Salvadoran refugees and immigrants to be [3] deported from the U.S., if the citizens of El Salvador elect opposition party, Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional ([4] FMLN), in Sunday’s upcoming elections.

Meanwhile Stars & Stripes reports that the Feb. 23rd deaths at Mosul's police station of 1st Lt William Emmert and his Iraqi translator have not been forgotten and that, following the testimony of Staff Sgt Thomas Hosfelt, a warrant was issued March 8th -- Hosfelt testified "a man opened fire through a cracked door into a room at the Iraqi police headquarters".

From last Thursday's snapshot, we'll note this:

Camilo Mejia is the author of Road from Ar Ramadi. He is an Iraq War veteran. He is a conscientious objector. He stood up to the full power of the US military and he survived and then some. He is the chair of Iraq Veterans Against the war. All of that, before you even get into the adventures of his father and mother, is more than worth hearing about and those makes him someone worth hearing. Those in South Bend and Goshen Indiana have the opportunity to hear him next week. Monday, he will be speaking at 7:00 pm on the Indiana University South Bend's campus and Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. he will be speaking in Goshen at Iglesia Menonita Del Buen Pastor. Both events are free and open to the public and more information can be found here. Mejia is among the early resisters and his actions are noted by Michael J. Mooney (Broward Palm Beach) who explains the struggle war resister Aslan Lamarche is currently undergoing. He joined the military at the age of 18, he then self-checked out and went to Canada. His attempt to be granted refugee status in Canada was denied. His parents (from Trinidad and Cuba) remain in Flordia and Aslan states, "It's sad. My parents came to the U.S. for a better way of life. And now, their oldest son had to leave that same country for the same reason." He is taking classes in Toronto and hoping for some good news. He says, "It's hard to be 20 years old and be hated by two governments. And Canada is a very strange country in a lot of ways. They just have this blind trust that their government will do the right thing. The majority of Canadians want us to stay. They say, 'Don't worry. Everything will be fine.' But at the end of the day, none of them are willing to fight for us."

Camilo speaks today and tomorrow in Indiana.

The illegal war hits the six year mark this Thursday and World Can't Wait offers a list of other cities holding demonstrations. Saturday, those wanting to call out the illegal war can join with groups such as The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War -- all are taking part in a real action. Iraq Veterans Against the War explains:

IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st
As an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.)
To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately.
For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: www.pentagonmarch.org or www.answercoalition.org.

And an action will take place in NYC Wednesday. The Grannies Peace Brigade announces:

CONTACT: Joan Wile, 917-441-0651
Their Theme: Pack up Iraq, and Afghanistan Not Againistan
The indefatigable GRANNY PEACE BRIGADE is again in the forefront of the peace movement. They will hold the FIRST public anti-war protest of the Obama Administration on Wednesday, March 18, 12 o'clock p.m. at the Times Square recruiting center, 44th St. and Broadway. Their mission is to urge President Obama to re-think his policies toward Iraq and Afghanistan. Supporters of the President, they nevertheless feel he is making a mistake by proposing to leave 50,000 troops in Iraq after the official withdrawal and his order to deploy 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan. "He has requested that we let him know when we think he's on the wrong track, and we are taking him at his word," said 94-year-old former NYS Assemblywoman Marie Runyon, the oldest of the peace grannies.
To express their concerns, the grannies plan to symbolically wrap up the wars by wrapping police CRIME SCENE tape around the recruitment station. Prior to doing so, they will hold a press conference, beginning at noon, to which many actors and local officials have been invited. Among those who have agreed to speak are mayoral candidate Rev. Billy; actress Kim Weston-Moran, a star of the new off-Broadway hit, The Lonely Soldier Monologues (Women at War in Iraq); civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel; Broadway and off-Broadway legendary actress Vinie Burrows, and chaplain and Vietnam vet Hugh Bruce, a leader of the local Veterans for Peace chapter.
The GRANNY PEACE BRIGADE has chosen the Times Square location because of its historical importance to them. Eighteen of them were arrested there on Oct. 17, 2005, when they tried to enlist to replace America's grandchildren in harm's way and later were on trial for six days in criminal court at the end of which they were acquitted of all charges. Since then, they have acted as missionaries of peace, traveling in the United States and abroad speaking, performing, protesting and writing of their desire to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The grandmothers will be joined by other granny peace groups -- Grandmothers Against the War, who have held a weekly vigil at Rockefeller Center for over five years, and the Raging Grannies, who will sing a couple of their original anti-war songs. Members of Veterans for Peace will serve as a color guard for the event.
GRANNY PEACE BRIGADE jailbird Eva-Lee Baird explained, "The merchants of war are putting tremendous pressure on President Obama to lead the country down a path of destruction. We the people must pressure him to choose the path of peace."
DATE: Wed., March 18, RAIN OR SHINE
TIME: 12 o'clock noon
PLACE: Times Square recruiting center, 44th St. and Broadway

Moving over to Iraq where the Foreign Ministry announces:

16 March, 2009

Secretary General of League of Arab States Arrives Baghdad

His Excellency the Secretary General of the League of Arab States Mr. Amr Moussa arrived to Baghdad on a head of a high-level delegation from the Secretariat of the League on Monday 3-16-2009, in a visit to Iraq for talks with senior Iraqi officials, and was received at Baghdad airport by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Undersecretaries of the Ministry and several of senior officials.

Mr. Moussa will meet with His Excellency the President of the Republic and his deputies and will hold talks with the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and several state officials and leaders of political blocs represented in the Council of Representatives.

This visit is an important step in the course of the development of relations between the Arab League and Iraq. the talks will deal with preparations for the Arab summit to be held in Doha later this month and the summit of Arab States and South American countries as well as to brief on the latest political developments in Iraq and the progress made on the security level and political process, the inter-Arab relations and the Arab League's role in supporting the Iraqi government and its efforts in support of national reconciliation will be adressed.

This visit will be a good opportunity to exchange views on the situation in the region and view the league's efforts for sponsoring the Palestinian-Palestinian dialogue in Cairo.

We'll note this portion of "Green Talking Points: Obama should reverse course and reject Bush-Cheney policies on the drug war, illegal surveillance, executive power, and Social Security cuts" from the Green Party:

Greens, like millions of other Americans, have been dismayed by the Obama Administration's adoption of many Bush-Cheney policies that patently violate the US Constitution: immunity for telecomm firms that allowed illegal surveillance of US citizens; domestic torture and the rendition of suspects to other countries for torture; denial of habeas corpus; secretly held prisoners at US bases in Bagram and possibly other locations; missile strikes inside Pakistan; workplace immigration raids; and the expansion of executive power in defiance of constitutional checks and balances.

The Green Party repeatedly called for investigation, impeachment, and prosecution of all White House officials, including Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who participated in or enabled such abuses. Greens asserted that the end of the Bush Administration is no reason not to demand accountability from Bush officials, beginning with former Justice Department counsel John Yoo, who provided legal opinions justifying torture, warrantless wiretapping, and other crimes.

"President Obama's adoption of illegal Bush Administration policies proves why impeachment was so important. When Congress refused to hold Bush officials accountable for their abuses of power, they set the stage for future administrations -- regardless of party -- to maintain unconstitutional policies and repeat such abuses," said Ben Manski, an attorney specializing in issues of federalism and the rule of law and a former national co-chair of the Green Party (Speakers Bureau page: http://gp.org/speakers/detail.php?ID=44).

"Nor should we ignore the collusion of Democratic leaders who were informed of illegal actions, manipulated intelligence, and attempts to deceive the public. The Democratic rubberstamp for so many illegal Bush-Cheney policies and actions shows the breakdown of democracy and the rule of law," said Mr. Manski.

Green Party leaders expressed alarm at reports that President Obama was considering cuts to Social Security and Medicare. (The Green Party supports expansion of Medicare to cover every American, in a Single-Payer national health care program.)

"President Obama should resist demands that Social Security benefits be slashed for any group of Americans, or that it should be privatized even partially," said Ron Forthofer, 2002 Green Party candidate for Governor of Colorado (Speakers Bureau page: http://gp.org/speakers/detail.php?ID=42). "Any cuts in Social Security will further undermine the finances and economic confidence of working people already suffering from loss of income and job security during the recession. Taking away benefits for which people have already paid is a breach of contract with the American people and a theft of their retirement income. The White House and Congress should resist pressure from greedy financial corporations, free-market ideologues, and billionaire bankers like Peter Peterson to cut or privatize our benefits.

"Imagine what would have happened to Social Security benefits if they had been privatized and invested in the Stock Market before the economy tanked," added Dr. Forthofer.

We'll highlight the other half later in the week (ideally tomorrow).

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