Thursday, August 27, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Cindy Sheehan and others continue demonstration on Martha's Vineyard, Barack Obama's approval rating hits a record low in a new poll, and more.
Starting in the US, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan's on Martha's Vineyard. She is protesting an occupant of the White House. (For those confused, we now have President Barack Obama. I have never used the p word to describe George W. Bush and will not start now.) She is demonstarting against the continuation of the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and attempting to raise attention. Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com) observed this week:
There was a time when Cindy Sheehan couldn't go anywhere without having a microphone and a TV camera stuck in front of her. As she camped out in front of George W. Bush's Crawford ranch, mourning the death of her son Casey in Iraq and calling attention to an unjust, unnecessary, and unwinnable war, the media created in her a symbolic figure whose public agony epitomized a growing backlash against the militarism and unmitigated arrogance of the Bush administration. It was a powerful image: a lone woman standing up to the most powerful man on earth in memory of her fallen son.
Karen Travers (ABC News) reports today, "Sheehan said today she wanted to tell Mr. Obama that even if he goes on vacation, her group will not take a break from spreading their message of peace. . . . The scene outside the Oak Bluffs School on Martha's Vineyard today was a far cry from those massive rallies aimed at Bush. Only a dozen people showed up to hear her speak, and about half of them were part of her contingent." NBC's Alicia Jennings quotes Cindy stating today, "The facade has changed but policies remain the same. Integrity in our movement means we have to do same for Obama as we did for Bush. We're here to make wars unpopular again. Because if we were right to oppose it under Bush, we're right to oppose it under Obama. While the Obamas are here on vacation, people are still dying. There's no vacation from body bags. And the families of dead soldiers will never be able to truly enjoy a vacation again." Mark Silva (Chicago Tribune) quotes Cindy stating, "We have to realize, it is not the president who is [in] power, it is not the party that is in power, it is the system that stays the same, no matter who is in charge." Patricia Zengerle (Reuters) adds, "Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004, set up a small "Camp Casey," named for her late child, near Blue Heron Farm, the compound on the Massachusetts island Martha's Vineyard where Obama and his family are spending a weeklong holiday."
That's Real Media. What about beggar media? What about the Queen of Panhandle Media Amy Goodman, The Nation and The Progresive? Not one damn word. At some point when Amy, Matty Rothschild and Katrina vanden Heuvel take their tongues out of Barack's asshole, what they'll be tasting is their own hypocrisy and don't think the right wing's not pointing out and don't think the general population isn't registering it.
Victor Davis Hanson, of the right-wing Hoover Institute, is laughing at the left:
The war in Iraq is scarcely in the news any longer, despite the fact that 141,000 American soldiers are still protecting the fragile Iraqi democracy, and 114, as of this writing, have been lost this year in that effort.
[. . .]
As long as Barack Obama is commander-in-chief, and as long as casualties in Iraq are down, there will be no large public protests or much news about our sizable Iraq presence. The cost and the attendant politics -- not why we went there -- always determined how the Iraq war was covered.
The left better grasp that we are not huge. We are not this bulge in the population. The biggest section of the population is the group that does not obsess over politics. And you better grasp that every time the right points to the hypocrisy of the left, it registers because the right's correct to point. "Cindy Sheehan protesting a president? It's something to cover!" That was the cry in 2005. In 2009? What's changed? The White House now has a Democratic occupant.
You better grasp the message you send and how you look like a liar operating under situational ethics and how you say to the middle and the non-identifying crowd that the left has no ethics and no standards. But they aren't journalists. Would a journalist do what Katha's done? Write a little bit about a town hall she didn't attend but her friend told her about? That's journalism? What high huge standards. Meanwhile Patricia J. Williams sounds like such a raging loon ("America's own Weimer moment"!) that you start realizing that they have nothing to offer. They really have nothing. So they're running with fear and propaganda and trying to outrage a public. A few years back, we called those people right-wing pundits. Today we call them Panhandle Media. A bunch of beggars who couldn't work a real job -- even in journalism -- if their life depended upon it. So instead they're political evangilists, the Jerry Fallwells of today, unwilling to work but thrilled to beg, "Send money! Send money!" They'll happily fleece your pockets. They have no ethics. They have nothing but the greed and the hate. And these are people who want to influence you. That last one may be the saddest of all. But grasp that they'll fleece you and they'll make money off of you and then they will abandon you. The are no ethics among these so-called leaders. The left needs real leaders. One of those people is Cindy Sheehan who could be vacationing right now. She could be doing a number of things. She doesn't the hate aimed at her or the silence from supposed allies. Cindy doesn't want to be the face of the movement but she also knows that the movement is fading very quickly and that no one is stepping forward. So she's yet again offering leadership.
Someone has to. Cowards like the self-loathing lesbian Laura Flanders won't. This is the woman who never called Barack out for homophobia. Not during the primaries, not during the general, not at the inauguration, not ever. The woman's a lesbian. She won't fight for herself how the hell can she fight for anyone else? Answer: She can't. We were asked to note her crappy show. And I considered it. She's got an interview with two women about Iraqi women. It's not worth noting. It's not saying anything. And certainly the self-loathing lesbian can't say anything. Here's Laura at Information Clearing House, "But President Obama has a problem. Every American military commanders want more troops but maybe, someday, the president's anti-war base will get restive." But without you, Whora Flanders. You're the liar in 2008 who claimed the left needed to hold Barack's feet to the fire and you would, you said. But you never did. You're just a liar with a chalky face (apparently covering a hundred facial eruptions -- those aren't pimples, I have no idea what they are). Her guests are from the laughable MADRE. The liars of MADRE. MADRE gave up the high ground when they refused to call Barack out for his silence during the January assault on Gaza. Not only were they silent about that, they were raving over him. They were drooling over him. Life's too short to be willfully stupid and it's too precious to be silent. Cindy Sheehan's doing a brave thing and you better believe people are absorbing what's going on, they are taking a measure of the left gas bags and noticing how silent they are. You better believe that will effect the left in the next 15 years more than anything else. Laura doesn't know it because she doesn't know America. But anyone with any history in this country knows where this leads for the left 'leaders.'
For the peace movement, if no one turns out for Cindy, it's not bad. (People have turned out and more are planning to.) Because Cindy's standing up. She's standing up and she's making a difference and she's putting it on the line. Forget the right-wing pundits, but people on the right who didn't understand her and thought she was just some 'anti-Bush' person are seeing that's not the case. It doesn't mean they agree with her (though some may), but it does mean that they're willing to reconsider their original thoughts of her. And in the center and, more importantly, in the mass of Americans who are not politically obsessed, the message is being sent that we protest war, regardless of who is in the White House. And the message is being sent that despite so many self-appointed leaders being massive hypocrites, Cindy Sheehan's the real deal. She is planting seeds. And she deserves applause for what she's doing. Instead those who were happy to beg her to show up for their magazine's benefit to raise more money (these magazines cannot support themselves because so few people read them) now act like they don't know her.
The Iraq War has not ended. This morning Emily Nipps (St. Petersurg Times) reported, "Family and friends said farewell Thursday morning to an Army Reserve military police battalion heading to Iraq." Among those present was Caleb Dawson's wife, Patrice Dawson: "Patrice just got out of the military after her own stint in Iraq, and another with deatinees in Cuba. Every deployment is a little different, she said. This time, too, the couple's son C.J., a restless 4-year with a mohawk, understands his 'Daddy's going to work with the Army,' she said."
Turning to veterans issues, Tuesday's snapshot went over some of the recent events (some of which may be PTSD related, some may not) of violence against others and themselves by Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans. And, repeating, that is not saying that veterans -- suffering from PTSD or not suffering from it -- are a threat to society. That is not true. Even those with PTSD or other conditions are not a threat. But there are a number, a small number at present, of veterans who are struggling and are resorting to violence. And, more importantly, there is a higher number of veterans who are struggling and doing so in the dark without any help and because their struggle does not lead to violence, they are easy to render invisible.
"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory --
Propaganda -- piss on 'em
There's a war zone inside me --
I can feel things exploding --
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
[. . .]
"They want you -- they need you --
They train you to kill --
To be a pin on some map --
Some vicarious thrill --
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of -- the beat of black wings"
-- "The Beat of Black Wings," words and music by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm.
In Tuesday's snapshot, we noted "Posttraumatic Stress Disorder as a Risk Factor for Suicidal Ideation in Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans" (Journal of Traumatic Stress, Vol. 23, No. 4, August 2009, pp 303 - 306). When we had a functioning media, as opposed to 24-7 Celebrity Death Watch, published studies in peer reviewed scientific journals were news. Apparently, if it doesn't make E!, it's not considered news by the daily papers. The study was composed of sample of 435 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans. Half of the sample was diagnosed with PTSD (49.6%) prior to study. The findings included:
Prior research with Vietnam veterans with chronic PTSD has established an association between PTSD and suicide (Bullman & Kang, 1994). This study extends these findings by demonstrating an association between suicidal ideation and PTSD in treatment-seeking OIF/OEF veterans with more acute forms of PTSD. PTSD was significantly associated with suicidal ideation after accounting for age, depression and substance abuse, with PTSD veterans over four times more likely to report suicidal ideation than veterans who did not screen psotive for PTSD. Among veterans who screen positive for PTSD, there was no significant increase in risk for suicidal ideation associated with a single comorbid disorder. However, the likelihood for suicidal ideation was 5.7 times greater in veterans with PTSD who screened positive for two or more comorbid disorders relative to veterans with PTSD alone. Results suggest that veterans with PTSD who have multiple psychiatric comorbidities may be at greater risk for suicidal ideation. This increased likelihood of suicidal ideation associated with comorbidity is notable because, of those OIF/OEF veterans diagnosed with a mental disorder, 27% have three or more different mental health diagnoses.
Monday the Department of Veterans Affairs announced, "The VA is publishing a proposed regulation today in the Federal Register to make it easier for a Veteran to claim service connection for PTSD by reducing the evidence needed if the stressor claimed by a Veteran is related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity. Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted over the next 60 days. A final regulation will be published after consideration of all comments received. Under the new rule, VA would not require corroboration of a stressor related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity if a VA psychiatrist or psychologist confirms that the stressful experience recalled by a Veteran adequately supports a diagnosis of PTSD and the Veteran's symptoms are related to the claimed stressor." Tuesday US House Rep John Hall declared, "I am optimistic that this new rule is going to be a giant step forward in getting veterans the benefits they have earned faster and easier. This rule should make major progress in clearing the VA's claims backlog.
I will work with the VA and veterans during the comment period to ensure that the rule in application is as comprehensive and inclusive as my COMBAT PTSD Act. Veterans currently face an adversarial process when they seek treatment and compensation from the VA. Our servicemen and women have been forced to 'prove' a specific stressor that triggered their PTSD, even if they have already been diagnosed. They need to track down incident reports, buddy statements, present medals, and leap other hurdles to mee the threshold the VA mandates in order to receive desperately needed compensation. Just
as our military adapts and reforms its strategies in every war it fights, the VA is now
adapting to assist the surviving heroes of those wars." James Dao (New York Times) reported on the VA's proposed change yesterday and noted, "Critics said the proposed rule would still require veterans to prove a connection between a traumatizing event and their PTSD, even when that connection was not clear cut. Strict application of that requirement could lead to many rejected claims, they say." Which is why it's all the sadder that 'change' in the administration saw the VA being put under a retired general
and he's not proposing half of what US House Rep John Hall is.
IVAW's Cameron White notes a retreat for female members of the military and former members:
Combat to Connection
A Retreat for Female Service Members and Veterans
October 8-11, 2009
During this four-day retreat we will focus on healing, connecting & finding our strengths.
Connect with other women veterans by sharing stories, experiences and community; learn stress management techniques; exercise your creative side;
and enjoy a beautiful setting through hiking & kayaking on scenic
Tomales Bay, California.
Who is eligible?
All women who served in the military since September 11th, 2001, without regard for race, religion, politics or sexual preference.
What does the retreat cost?
There is no cost to you for lodging, meals, workshops, ground transportation or air travel. Coming Home Project programs are completely free of charge to the participants.
Applications? Deadline is Sept. 8th, 2009 Click Here to Apply
Everyone is welcome as they are and all are treated with respect.
There is no particular political or religious belief or affiliation that is represented or required. The intention of the Coming Home Project is to serve veterans
and contribute to their well-being and healing.
Coming Home Project | 1801 Bush St. #213 | San Francisco | CA | 94109
Meanwhile Dan McCue (Courthouse News Service) reports on Iraq War veteran Khadim Alkanani who was disabled due to being shot by contractors while serving in Baghdad
and is now suing the mercentaries of Aegis Defense Services: "Sgt. Khadim Alkanani claims the June 2005 shooting was 'remarkably similar' to other incidents which employees of Aegis Defense Services have captured on 'trophy videos' which show 'senseless
shootings of innocent personnel in automobiles from an armed vehicle."
Oliver August (Times of London) reports, "Iraq is on heightened alert after a string of car bombgs in Baghdad [. . .] amid preparations for the biggest public funeral since the country regained sovereignty." He's referring to Abdul Aziz al-Hakim whose death yesterday morning continues to have an impact. On PBS' NewsHour last night (link has text, video and audio options) Judy Woodruff explained, "The leader of the largest and most powerful Shiite party in Iraq died today after a long battle with lung cancer. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim had been in Iran undergoing treatment. The 59-year-old cleric was instrumental in shaping Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. His son is his likely successor as party leader, with just five months to go before Iraq's parliamentary elections." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) notes al-Hakim managed to juggle "his close relationships with both Washington and Tehran." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) cites the Congressional Research Service's Kenneth Katzman stating, "Hakim's passing
is likely to set off a major power struggle in ISCI that could lead to its fracture. Ammar is viewed by the older ISCI figures as inheriting the position rather than earning it." The Telegraph of London adds, "The ISCI, which holds a quarter of the seats in the Iraqi parliament, this month joined a new alliance ahead of scheduled elections in January 2010. The alliance includes Muqtada al-Sadr, and -- if it prevails at the polls – could introduce a new era of Shia dominance in Iraqi politics." The White House's lack of
interest in Iraq has been much noted and it continued yesterday as they issued a statement (under pressure) which was perfunctory at best:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Statement by the Press Secretary
on the death of His Eminence Abdul Aziz al-Hakim
We were saddened to learn of the passing of His Eminence Abdul Aziz al-
Hakim, who has played an important role in Iraq's national history. We offer
our condolences to his family and colleagues.
Ali Sheikholeslami and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) note the White House statment and note Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, issued praise as did Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq. Marc Santora (New York Times) reveals Nouri had need
to praise al-Hakim, "Mr. Hakim's influence could be seen as recently as February, when
a plan by leading politicians to try to oust Mr. Maliki was scuttled because Mr. Hakim
would not offer his support, according to a coming article in The National Interest, a
journal of current affairs, by Kenneth M. Pollack. Mr. Hakim objected because he felt
it would look as if the politicians were trying to overturn the will of the people, Mr.
Pollack reports." The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued the following:
Baghdad 27 August 2009 -- The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG) Ad Melkert extends his deepest condolences
to the family of His Eminence Abdul Aziz Al Hakim as well as to the Iraqi people.
Mr. Melkert said that with the death of Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, "Iraq lost an
important leader at a critical juncture." He said that the late Abdul Aziz Al Hakim played an important role in helping Iraq stabilize and chart a path from conflict
to reconciliation and the United Nations appreciates the support his eminence extended to it over the past few years.
AP describes "thousands" gathering in Iran for al-Hakim's memorial and quotes various Iranian leaders making statements about al-Hakim's legacy. CNN notes a memorial scheduled in Baghdad for tomorrow and reports of today's memorial in Tehran, "Iraqi and Iranian government officials attended the procession with senior religious figures and some members of the Iraqi parliament." Xinhua reports the following was aired on Iraqi state-TV, "The Iraqi government announced three-day national mourning starting from Thursday for the death of Sayyed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim." Oliver August explains, "His coffin will be driven in an armed convoy from Baghdad across Iraq on its way to the world's largest cemetery in the holy city of Najaf in what will be a highly charged event. The procession will be guarded by thousands of troops and police in view of an upsurge in violence." Memorials go beyond those two countries. Niraj Warikoo (Detroit Free Press) reports that tonight and tomorrow will see memorials in Dearborn Michigan: "Hundreds are expected to attend the services at the Karbalaa center in Dearborn. And many are watching the funeral services in Iran on satellite TV stations, [Iman Husham] Al-Husainy said." And some anticipate that violence levels will rise tomorrow. Today?
McClatchy Newspapers reports 2 Baghdad sticky bombings resulted in twelve people wounded, a Baghdad car bombing claimed the life of 1 civilian and left five more injured, 5 Baghdad roadside bombings resulted in thirteen people left injured, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left one more injured while a second Mosul roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left an Iraqi soldier injured. Reuters drops back to Wednesday night to note 2 Baghdad car bombings resulted in twelve people being injured, 2 Baghdad roadside bombing resulted in five people being wounded, a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured two people and 1 police officer was shot dead in Kirkuk
In the US, Barack Obama's got bad news in the latest Economist/YouGov poll which finds his approval ratings at a record low of 48% and the poll also sought to measure opinions on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars:
The fighting in Afghanistan is nearing the end of its eighth year, while the war in Iraq is six years old. Americans interviewed in this week's poll see no end in sight for either war, and think that both will end with America withdrawing without victory. A third of Americans think the US is winning in Iraq, while only 15% say that about Afghanistan. That's even lower than the 18% who thought America was winning the war in Afghanistan last week, before the presidential election there.
Little sets the two wars apart in Americans' minds, but there is one very big difference. Only 31% think America made a mistake getting involved in Afghanistan. But a majority, 55%, say sending troops to Iraq was a mistake.
There are partisan differences on both wars, but they are especially stark when assessing Iraq. A majority of Republicans (60%) say America is winning in Iraq, something just 20% of Democrats think. Most Republicans (62%) expect eventual victory there, more than twice the number of Democrats (24%) who say this. Republicans reject the claim that America made a mistake sending troops to Iraq. Just 16% of Republicans say that, compared with 78% of Democrats.
Iraq Veterans Against the War's Carl Webb posts a review by Louis Proyect of Molly Bingham and Steve Connors' amazing documentary Meeting Resistance:
Meeting Resistance is a film that gives a voice to the shadowy Iraqi resistance
that has fought the world's most powerful imperialist country in history to a standstill. With an economy of means, this documentary accomplishes what all great art strives for, namely the humanisation of its principals. With so much hatred directed against Sunni insurgents, who lack the socialist credentials
of past insurgencies that attracted the solidarity of the Western left, Meeting Resistance takes a giant step forward in making the "enemy's" case.
After watching this powerful film, one will have to agree with British MP and
anti-war activist George Galloway's assessment in a speech given at the
al-Assad Library in Damascus on July 30, 2005: "These poor Iraqis -- ragged people, with their sandals, with their Kalashnikovs, with the lightest and most basic of weapons -- are writing the names of their cities and towns in the
stars, with 145 military operations every day, which has made the country ungovernable by the people who occupy it.
"We don't know who they are, we don't know their names, we never saw their faces, they don't put up photographs of their martyrs, we don't know the names
of their leaders. They are the base of this society. They are the young men and young women who decided, whatever their feelings about the former regime -- some are with, some are against. But they decided, when the foreign invaders came, to defend their country, to defend their honour, to defend their families, their religion, their way of life from a military superpower, which landed
Co-directed by Steve Connors and Molly Bingham, Meeting Resistance allows
a group of insurgents in the al Adhamiya district in Baghdad to explain why
they decided to fight the occupation, how they are organised, and -- perhaps
of the greatest interest -- what kind of backgrounds they have. Among the most interesting revelations is that only a small percentage can be described as Ba'athist "dead-enders", the description that was offered by the Bush gang
early on and that was accepted by some sectors of the left. A political science
professor in Baghdad, the only interviewee who is not actually part of the resistance, estimates that less than 10% are Ba'ath Party activists.
Independent journalist David Bacon reports on the struggling immigrant community in Alameda at ImmigrationProfBlog:
Familes receive food at a food distribution organized every month by Hope for the Heart in Hayward. Many people begin lining up for food the day before, and sleep overnight on the sidewalk in order to make sure they get their food before it runs out. Many families are immigrants from Mexico, and don't have enough money to buy food or pay rent. Food for the program comes from the Alameda County Community Food Bank, and the people distributing the food are all volunteers, organized by local churches. During the food distribution, children of food recipients listen to music, and watch a religious service while their families are waiting.
The report is text and visual. David Bacon is noted for his photography and his latest exhibit is "People of the Harvest, Indigenous Mexican Migrants in California." The reception for it takes place tonight at 6:00 pm at the Asian Resource Gallery (310 Eight Street at Harrison, Oakland, CA). The exhibit runs through next month and the gallery's hour are nine in the morning until six in the evening, Monday through Friday. Immigrant Rights News carries the following:
People of the Harvest is part of a larger project, Living Under the Trees, that documents the lives of communities of indigenous Mexican farm workers in California, through documentary photographs. The photographs in People of the Harvest were taken in 2009.
It's no accident the state of Oaxaca is one of the main starting points for the current stream of Mexican migrants coming to the United States. Extreme poverty encompasses 75 percent of its 3.4 million residents.
Thousands of indigenous people leave Oaxaca's hillside villages for the United States every year, not only for economic reasons but also because a repressive political system thwarts the kind of economic development that could lift incomes in the poorest rural areas. Lack of development pushes people off the land.
The majority of Oaxacans are indigenous people-that is, they belong to communities and ethnic groups that existed long before Columbus landed in the Caribbean. They speak 23 different languages.
"Migration is a necessity, not a choice," explains Romualdo Juan Gutierrez Cortez, a teacher in Santiago Juxtlahuaca, in Oaxaca's rural Mixteca region.
In California, indigenous migrants have become the majority of people working in the fields in many areas, whose settlements are dispersed in an indigenous diaspora. This movement of people has created transnational communities, bound together by shared culture and language, and the social organizations people bring with them from place to place.
People of the Harvest documents the experiences and conditions of indigenous farm worker communities. It focuses on social movements in indigenous communities and how indigenous culture helps communities survive and enjoy life. The project's purpose is to win public support for policies helping those communities to achieve social and political rights and better economic conditions. The communities documented in this show are locacted in Arvin, Taft, Oxnard and Santa Paula, Santa Maria, Fresno, Greenfield, Watsonville and Marysville. They include Mixtecos, Triquis, Zapotecos, Chatinos and Purepechas.
The photographs are digital color images, which focus on the relationship between community residents and their surroundings, and their relations with each other. They present situations of extreme poverty, but they also show people as actors, capable of changing conditions, organizing themselves, and making critical decisions.
The project is a partnership between David Bacon, documentary photographer and journalist (The Children of NAFTA, UC Press, 2004, Communities Without Border, Cornell/ILR Press, 2006, and Illegal People - How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, Beacon Press, 2008), California Rural Legal Assistance, especially its Indigenous Farm Worker Project, and the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations (FIOB). Special thanks to Rick Mines and the Indigenous Farmworker Study, funded by the California Endowment, who made the documentation in People of the Harvest possible.
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. Bacon is also on KFPA's The Morning Show each Wednesday discussing labor and immigration issues.
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