Monday, September 21, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces deaths, a shoe tosser is dead, the drug situation in Iraq gets some attention, an inquiry in England hears about British soldiers abusing Iraqis ("The detainees were not terrorists or insurgents. They were never tried or convicted of any offense.") with one ending up dead, and more.
Today the US Defense Department issued a release announcing "the death of an airman who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Senior Airman Matthew R. Courtois, 22, of Lucas, Texas, died Sep 20 as a result of a non-hostile incident on Abdullah Al Mubarak Airbase, Kuwait. He was assigned to the 366th Security Forces Squadron, Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation." DoD is supposed to supply the names to the deaths M-NF have announced. Yet again, M-NF 'forgot' to make an announcement. Yesterday M-NF did make an announcement, the US military announced: "JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- One U.S. service member was killed and 12 others were injured when a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter went down inside of Joint Base Balad at approximately 8 p.m. Saturday. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/ The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The cause of the incident is unknown and is under investigation. More information will be released as soon as it becomes available." The two announcements bring to 4346 the number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. Giddy with the Cheese Whiz, Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) added Sunday that only 8 -- only 8! -- US service members have died this month ("among the lowest monthly tolls since the war began in 2003"). The toll is now 9. And the New York Times reported the monthly toll in July and August as 7 for each month. (After the Times reported their monthly total, the US military punked them yet again by upping it to 8. The paper couldn't correct because their entire coverage hung from the hook of "low, low, low!!!!!") In addition, Myers declared, "The helicopter crash was the first since two reconnaissance helicopters collided while under enemy fire in January near the northern city of Kirkuk, killing four soldiers." That would be the last US military crash. The last crash of a US helicopter? Tim Cocks (Reuters) reports, "The last reported incident was on July 17, when a U.S. State Department helicopter crashed near Baghdad, killing two crew members. In January, two U.S. military aircraft came under enemy fire and crashed into each other, killing four soldiers."
Last week (see Wednesday and Thursday snapshots), Ahmed Abdul Latif threw a shoe at the US military in Falluja and was shot. Nawaf Jabbar and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported that Latif fell to the ground after being shot according to eye witness Ahmed Mukhlif who says that then "the four U.S. Humvees stopped and a man stepped out, his rifle pointing toward the wounded Iraqi, and a policeman intervened and prevented the American from firing again." Saturday an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy reports that Ahmed Abdul Latif died in the hospital Thursay and quotes his brother stating, "Maybe now he is at peace." Earlier, an Iraqi correspondent at McClatchy had noted of Ahmed Abdul Latif:
A man who lived through the "cleansing" of Fallujah by occupation forces. Two battles - not one.
He saw his city burn, his friends killed, his neighbours maimed.
His mind broke, and he became imbalanced.
He roamed the streets with long unkempt hair, disheveled clothes and a wild look in his eyes.
Whenever he saw an American military convoy pass, he would shake his fists in the air and raise his voice and swear at them. He would sometimes pick up a pebble and hurl it at them.
In Iraq, Camp Ashraf is where Iranian dissidents belonging to MEK live. They have been in Iraq for decades. Following the 2003 invasion, the US provided protection to Camp Ashraf and declared them protected persons under the Geneva Conventions. The US turned over control of Camp Ashraf to Nouri al-Maliki's government at the start of the year -- after getting assurances from him that he would not assault the camp or ship the dissidents back to Iran. Despite assurance, Nouri launched an attack on Camp Ashraf July 28th resulting in at least 11 deaths, hundreds injured and thirty-six residents hauled away. Yesterday, Michael Holden and Elizabeth Fullerton (Reuters) report that Archbishop Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the Anglican Church, issued a statement on Camp Ashraf. From the Archibisoph of Canterbury's website:
The continuing situation in Camp Ashraf, together with the fact that the 36 people taken from the camp in July have not been released, constitutes a humanitarian and human rights issue of real magnitude and urgency. There is a strong argument in terms of international law that the Ashraf residents are "protected persons". Both the government of Iraq and the government of the United States -- as the agency responsible for the transfer of the residents to another jurisdiction -- have an obligation to secure the rights of these residents and to defend them from violence or abuse.
I am in contact with our own government as well as representatives of other governments to urge that the current situation be remedied urgently. A very significant step towards the long-term security of the residents will be the establishing of a UN monitoring team to visit the camp. Meanwhile I hope that all concerned will listen to what those across the world who are deeply anxious about these human rights violations are saying, and respond as a matter of urgency.
In the same humanitarian spirit I would also urge those who have been demonstrating their concern by not taking food to bring their fast to an end. Further loss of life would only compound recent tragic events.
Saturday Brian Knowlton (New York Times) reported on Camp Ashraf supporters demonstrating in DC. 26-year-old Iranian-American Hamid Goudarzi who is on a hunger strike stated, "I'm getting weaker every day. But I'm here to the end." Knowlton added, "The protesters are calling for the resumption of American protection of the camp until a United Nations presence can be arranged and for the release of 36 members who have been detained since the clash at Camp Ashraf, which is home to about 3,400 people."
Turning to the topic of drugs. Most people are familiar with a "mule" in the drug trade: A person carries drugs -- sometimes swallowing them in a balloon so that they carry the drugs inside of their body -- across a border. On the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera -- video link), Dr. Abdul Rahman Hamid of Al Muthanna Province, explains how camels are used, "The smugglers perform surgery on these animals. They usually cut open the camel's hump, place the drugs inside and stitch them back up and then cover the stitches with the camel's hair so it won't be noticeable. It is criminal what they're doing to these animals." Inside Iraq began airing Friday and Jasim Azzawi explored the topic of drugs which have plauged Iraq in recent years. Iranians have been blamed for the influx, US troops have been blamed, British troops have been blamed, 'security' contractors and other contractors (labor brought in to build or work in non-security roles) have been blamed.
Jasim Azzawi: To discuss the drug problem in Iraq, I'm joined from London by Mustafa Alani, director of security and terrorism studies at the Gulf Research Centre, and from Tehran by Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of political science at Tehran University. Gentlemen, welcome to Inside Iraq. Mustafa Alani, drugs in Iraq prior to 2003 were generally unknown and unavailable simply because users, they went to jail for so many years, and traffickers were executed. Today drug abuse and drug trafficking has become endemic in Iraq, threatening the very fabric of Iraqi society. Has the Iraqi government lost the war on drugs?
Mustafa Alani: I think we still have a chance that if the government has a willing -- the intention to fight the war and the capability to fight the war, I still think we have a chance to save the country. You are right, previous regime was able to basically to maintain the country clean from-from the drug. We had a zero rate of drug using and drug trafficking. In 2007, we have 14,000 drug users in Iraq -- this is an official figure from the Iraqi government. So in four years, between 2003 and 2007, we have 14,000 people start to use drug. The government is certainly blamed here but there is another factor actually. We cannot put the blame only on the government door. Another factor because it is an occupied country, because neighboring countries getting benefits from that. So it is a very complicated picture but the government? I think still we have hope that the government going to act soon with determination and put the fighting drug as a priority. I believe we still have some chance to save the country from the drug problem.
Jasim Azzawi: Complicated? Indeed it is and bleak as the way you portrayed it. And Iran somehow stands accused of facilitating if not perhaps looking the other way for drug traffickers and drug to come from Iran into Iraq, Dr. Sadegh Zibakalam?
Sadegh Zibakalam: [. . .] I must disagree with you, both gentlemen, with you, Dr. Jasim, and also with Mr. Mustafa Alani in London. First of all, I don't think that the fact that there was no drug problem under Saddam regime is any credit to that regime --
Jasim Azzawi: Why is that?
Sadegh Zibakalam: -- as I am sure both you gentlemen -- as I am sure both you gentlemen are aware. There is no such a problem, there is no drug problem in almost all the entire ruthless, police-less state and dictatorship countries. There is no drug problem in North Korea, there was no problem -- drug problem -- under old Communist regime and of course there was no drug problem --
Mustafa Alani: Well this is an achievement.
Sadegh Zibakalam: -- under Saddam. When you have democracy -- when you have democracy, you're bound to have drug problem because it is one of the fundamental questions posed by --
Jasim Azzawi: That argument, Sadegh Zibakalam, is absolutely flawed. You are not going to win any argument by stating that, once you become democracy, then it's okay to have drug problem and it's okay to have abusers --
Sadegh Zibakalam: I am not --
Jasim Azzawi: -- and its okay to have traffickers.
Sadegh Zibakalam: I am not saying --
Jasim Azzawi: That's exactly what you just said.
Sadegh Zibakalam: I am not say -- No, no, no. I am not saying that, if you have a democracy, you must have drug problem. All I am saying, all I am saying is that democracy begins with this fundamental, principle question: Is the individual free to do what he or she likes or is the individual --
Jasim Azzawi: I cannot believe --
Sadegh Zibakalam: -- must do what the state believes --
Jasim Azzawi: I cannot believe --
Mustafa Alani: This is unbelievable.
Jasim Azzawi: -- that a professor of political science, a professor of political science is saying that. Basically, you are justifying drug trafficking, drug abuse, Dr. Zibakalam.
Sadegh Zibakalam: No, no. I am -- I am neither justifying the-the drug traffic or the taking drugs --
Jasim Azzawi: Let me ask you another question.
Sadegh Zibakalam: I'm saying that if you look, you have --
Jasim Azzawi: Is Iran responsible for the drug inundated Iraq or not?
Sadegh Zibakalam: You haven't let me to finish my --
Jasim Azzawi: Go ahead.
Sadegh Zibakalam: -- previous comment.
Jasim Azzawi: Go ahead.
Sadegh Zibakalam: You have the drug problem in-in Germany, you have the problem, drug problem, in the United States. Everywhere that you have democratic society, you have some kind of -- some kind of drug problem. Are you going to tell me that there is no drug problem in-in-in Western societies?
Jasim Azzawi: Indeed --
Sadegh Zibakalam: Are you going to tell me
Jasim Azzawi: Indeed --
Sadegh Zibakalam: no western country --
Jasim Azzawi: -- there is a lot of problems. Sadegh Zibakalam, we started by saying that the strict application of the law under the previous regime prevented anybody from even thinking of using it, let alone trafficking it. But let us move on to Mustafa Alani. Mustafa Alani, if the Iraqi government is busy right now fighting terrorism and insurgency and militias and all that -- and, indeed, it is -- and perhaps, as you said, fighting drug abuse and trafficking is not at the top of its priorities because simply those people are very difficult to catch. Explain to me in that case, how is it possible that fields are being cultivated with poppy seeds in Diwaniya, in Kifil and even in the orchard fame of Diyala [Province]. These are well known, as we say in the Arab world, بهذا الشكل الصارخ المتاحة, so flagrantly available, that any police officer will be able to identify it.
Mustafa Alani: Actually, you have to understand the complication of the issue of fighting drug in Iraq. The political militia involved very heavily. Here the warlord involved. Outside. And I can name the Iranian hand in this. The Iranian have a good reason why to encourage drug use in Iraq. They fighting the drug in their country, no doubt about it. They losing every year, 100 to 200 of their soldiers in fighting the drug. But when it come to Iraq, there a question of turning blind eye for a number of reasons. First, they think that, in the beginning, they thought that if you can allow the drug to go to Iraq, American forces are going to use drug and then you can get benefit. Secondly, most of the dru -- of the people who are involved in smuggling drug, they are involved in smuggling explosives and arms to Iraq. And they have a link to the Iranian intelligence services.
Jasim Azzawi: Is this with the sanction and the knowledge of the Revolutionary Guards [branch of Iran's army]?
Mustafa Alani: Certainly, I think we have the policy of turning blind eye here. Not necessarily they are involved directly but if-if a same smuggler is successful to smuggle arm and explosive to Iraq --
Jasim Azzawi: Let's listen --
Mustafa Alani: to be used against American. Let them -- let him. I don't care whether he smuggle drug as well because, again, there is general benefit from that. But certainly the Iranian government against drugs use inside Iran --
Jasim Azzawi: Let us listen from Sadegh Zibakalam.
Sadegh Zibakalam: Mr. Mustafa's comment and saying that Iran is responsible or a party to drug problem in Iraq and the Iranian officials, Revolutionary Guards, etc, etc, they literally let drugs to be taken into Iraq, Jasim, actually reminds me of what many Iranian leaders say against -- against the Americans, against the British, against --
Jasim Azzawi: What do thaty say? Go ahead and remind us.
Sadegh Zibakalam: -- for doing the same thing -- for doing the same thing to Iran. I mean one -- one after the other Iranian leaders come on the television at the Friday prayers and blame the United States for -- for propagating and spreading drug in Iran and now Jasim is doing the same thing only this time he is blaming Iranian for -- no, no -- the drug problem. We must -- we must be realistic and we must face the reality. Iran is suffering because --
Jasim Azzawi: In that case, Sadegh Zibakalam, explain to me [crosstalk] this, this drugs in the hundreds, if not thousands of tons, coming into Iraq. Where is it coming from because Iraq's neighboring countries are very well known. You have Turkey, you have Syria, you have Saudi Arabia, you have Kuwait. Are you telling me it's coming from
Sadegh Zibakalam: Mr. Jasim --
Jasim Azzawi: -- from these countries or as the report indicates --
Sadegh Zibakalam: No, no, no, no. I-I-I -- You --
Jasim Azzawi: --and the confiscation by Iraqi security officers occasionally shows drugs are coming from Iran.
Sadegh Zibakalam: You asked me the question and I answered you. Iran shares more than one-thousand kilometer border which is mountain and desert and it is not controllable neither by the Iranians nor by the Americans nor by anyone else. And that -- and that one-thousand kilometer border is with Afghanistan. And we all know that Afghanistan is the -- is the motherland for producing narcotic and drug. Iranian, as Mustafa said, Iranians are losing many of their soldiers, Revolutionary Guard, etc, etc. But the point is that the amount of opium which is growing in Afghanistan is so huge that no matter how you hard -- no matter how you hard try, at the end of the day, some smuggler can manage --
Jasim Azzawi: I get the point, I get the point --
Sadegh Zibakalam: -- inside Iran. I'm from Iran.
Jasim Azzawi: -- that the problem is so overwhelming that even the Iranian security borders are incapable of handling it. But, Mustafa Alani, the first shipment that was caught in Iraq was on the 25th of September, 2003. Of all places, it was in Bab Sharqi, downtown Baghdad, after traffickers managed to bribe custom officers on both sides of the border and bring it into Iraq. Will we see an increase in the drug trafficking in the next phase?
Mustafa Alani: I believe so for a very simple reason. I mean if we look at, if you monitor the way, the roots of this, it's coming from Pakistan, Afghanistan to Iran. Iran is basically the-the-the-the major part of the drug coming to Iraq -- if not 99%, it's coming from Iran, from the southern border of Iran into two provinces in Iraq, Basra and Amara [Amara's the capital of Maysan Province] then going to Sulaymaniyah. From Sulamaniyah going to -- first, part of it going to be used in Iraq -- then you have the north route going to Turkey, to European market. Then you have south route going to the Gulf states. So we are going to see an increase if the government's not going to act really --
He will go on to refer to "armed groups" in Iran and Iraq linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard. (Sadegh Zibakalam will never get a word in.) Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports today that crime in Iraq is increasing and quotes Qassim al-Moussawi, publicity flack for Iraq's military, stating that it is one-time insurgent groups and gangs and AP notes, "Some members of Iraq's security forces are also involved, perhaps a sign that militants are still infiltrating the security services."
Meanwhile the Kurdistan Regional Government is highly upset with Oslo's DNO International which is an oil company in Norway (semi-big, it's their fourth largest oil company). The KRG has published [PDF format warning} a letter they sent to DNO objecting to "the recent misleading and incomplete publications by the Oslo Stock Exchange ('OSO') in relation to its internal arguments and disputes with DNO." The KRG feels it was caught in the crossfire "between DNO and OSE" and that the KRG Minister was targeted in the battle with "misleading information." As a result of the harm they feel is being done to their reputation as open brokers, they have decided to:
1) Suspend all DNO's operation and its involvement in the Kurdistan Region with immediate effect, and appoint the other PSC [Production Sharing Contract] Contractor Entities to manage the day to day operations instead. All oil exports will cease and DNO shall not be entitled to any economic interest in the PSCs during the suspension period.
2) The suspension period shall be for a maxium period of 6 weeks, and during which DNO must find ways to remedy, and to our full satisfaction, the damage done to KRG reputation, and once and for all to sort its internal problems with OSE and any other disputes that they may have with any other third parties with respect to any claims related to the PSCs ("Claims").
3) If within this suspension period, DNO satisifes KRG's requirements; all its PSC rights will be reinstated with our continuous support to its operations. However, if DNO fails to remedy the damages caused and fails to remove any other Claims the KRG may consider termination of DNO's involvement in the Kurdistan Region with or without compensation. Any compensation, if offered, will factor in the magnitude of the damages caused to the KRG.
Oil and labor were two topics addressed at the tail end of Democracy Now! today when Amy Goodman briefly spoke to the president of General Federation of Iraqi Workers, Rasim Awadi, and the president of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, Falah Alwan (link has text, video and audio):
AMY GOODMAN: Who is in charge in Iraq?
FALAH ALWAN: I think both the occupation forces and the authorities which were imposed by the occupation itself. As you know, after 2003, the occupation imposed authorities according to dividing the people, dividing the society, according the religion, the language, the tribe, the -- and they imposed a so-called "governing council." Until now, the authority is still as it was before. They created a religious atmosphere of the society. They imposed very oppressive laws against women, against the workers, and against the whole freedoms. Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Falah Alwan, I want to switch gears, as we come to the end of the discussion -- that's oil privatization. [Joe] Biden, our Vice President, was in Iraq promoting privatization. What's happening with oil and workers in Iraq?
FALAH ALWAN: Well, I think privatization of the oil is the economical dimension of the occupation itself. So, it is the main important issue for the occupation to impose the privatization, but there is a mass refusing to this project. That is why they are privatization -- privatizing the oil indirectly by the leases or by the contracts with the companies. You can see that the US administration insists to impose this so-called oil law in the time that they are never intervene to impose a worker law or to urge the Iraqi authorities to expand the workers' rights. I think the privatization of the oil is a strategic task of the US administration. So, it is a main dimension of the occupation.
AMY GOODMAN: Rasim Awadi, you're here in the United States. You're going back to Iraq on Wednesday. Your final message to the American people?
RASIM AWADI: [translated] We first ask that the American people put pressure on their government to withdraw American forces from Iraq. And second, we ask the American people to assist us in reinstalling our infrastructure, from education, water, electricity; all these things that have been abandoned in our society. And during our trip now, we got a lot of support from the American working class through their unions, and we thank them for that support. And the American working class showed their support and willingness to aid the Iraqi working class.
The two are completing a speaking tour in the US that ends tomorrow in DC. Iraq Veterans Against the War notes:
Last week, the tour was in Pittsburgh meeting with AFL-CIO delegates at their national convention, where they passed two resolutions:
[. . .]
Their final stop will be in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to appear at a Congressional briefing to urge U.S. representatives to uphold labor rights in Iraq. Call your Rep and urge them to attend the Iraqi delegation's Congressional Briefing next week, Tuesday, September 22nd at 4:00 PM in the Cannon House Office Building, Room 441.
To find your representative's phone number, use this searchable online congressional directory or call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your representative's office. Remember that telephone calls are usually taken by a staff member. Ask to speak with the aide who handles the foreign policy.
Please Sign the Petition!
We still need your signature on the petition to Sec. of State, Hillary Clinton, calling on her to support the right of workers to organize and collectively bargain in Iraq. To add your name, click here.
Turning to England where an inquiry resumed today at Finlaison House in London with opening statements. BBC explains, "The inquiry, led by Sir William Gage, is focusing on Baha Mousa's [September 16, 2003] death, detainees' treatment and army methods." The Telegraph of London adds that Iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Mousa was 26-years-old when he died and that the inquiry heard from the attorney for Baha's family, Rabinder Singh, who stated, "This case is not just about beatings or a few bad apples. There is something rotten in the whole barrel." Michael Evans (Times of London) reports the UK Defence Ministry's attorney, David Barr, declared the behavior of the British soldiers involved was "appalling" and that he stated, "The mistreatment of the detainees went further than the application of these prohibited conditioning techniques. [. . .] It has stained the reputation of the British Army." Evans notes that the inquiry was shown a tape of Cpl Donald Payne cursing Iraqi prisoners whom he termed "apes" (and there's a minute of the video with his story at the link). The Guardian quotes another Iraqi detainee (not named) stating he heard Baha cry, "Oh my God, I'm going to die, I'm going to die. Leave me alone, please leave me alone for five minutes." (Actually, Rabinder Singh quoted the witness and that's not the full quote. We'll do an excerpt in a moment.) Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) adds, "The lawyer representing Corporal Donald Payne, the only soldier to have been jailed for the Basra crimes, suggested there was a cover-up and co-ordinated attempt to single out his client for blame."
The inquiry will not meet tomorrow but it will meet Wednesday and Thursday and here testimony. They will also meet next week. The inquiry was announced May 14, 2008. Like everything else to do with Iraq in England, it has moved very, very slowly. October 15, 2008, the public inquiry began. William Gage, the chair, declared at the opening of today's hearing, "I know you have, Mr. [Gerald] Elias, one or two things to say, but before you do, can I just say, as everybody hear I am no doubt is well aware, this is the first day of the second session of the hearings in this inquiry. In this session we hope to complete Module 1, which I don't think there will be any problem about. We also hope to complete Module 2 by Christmas, which again I hope there will be no difficulty about, but it does mean that everybody has to concentrate on the essential issues." Rabinder Singh opened by quoting from a 1966 Amnesty International report which detailed the abus of prisoners in Aden by the British military, practices which were banned in 1972 and which, in 1977, were sworn to be off limits by the UK Attorney General when appearing before the European Court of Human Rights. But they were used again.
Rabinder Singh: Some members of Iraq's security forces are also involved, perhaps a sign that militants are still infiltrating the security servicesBaha Mousa, whose name rightly appears in the title of this public inquiry, was a car trader and hotel receptionist, just 26 years old. He had, just months earlier, lost his young wife to illness. They had two young sons, now left as orphans. On September 14, 2003, Baha was taken into custody, a healthy young man, and subjected to beatings over 36 hours which left 93 separate injuries. He died the following day. His father, Colonel Mousa, still grieves for his son and will be here later this week to seek justice at this inquiry. Baha was a human being, yet to his guards, he was known as "Fat Boy" or "Fat Bastard." His last moments are described in the witness statement of D002 at paragraph 54. That is, I think, going to be put up on the screen for us. Thank you. I quote:
"Baha Mousa was in the same room as on the first day but during the second day he was taken to another room. I could hear him and it sounded like he was in the next room. During the evening of the second day, I heard Baha Mousa screaming, 'Oh my God, I'm going to die, I'm going to die. Leave me alone. Please leave me alone for five minutes. I am very tired. I am going to die.' He was screaming all the time and I heard him many times. I could also hear the soldiers shouting at him in English. Baha Mousa was shouting, 'Just let me rest for a minute or two.' After the screaming stopped, I did not see or hear Baha again, but I did not yet know that he was dead."
Kifah Taha Musa Matairi was also a human being, an electrician, but to his guards he was known as "Grandad." He was beaten to within an inch of his life. This resulted in him having acute kidney failure. The others detained at BG Main were also beaten. They were people like us, all human beings. As such they were entitled to basic human rights. Human rights flow from our common humanity, our recognition that others can suffer as we do. Yet to British soldiers, Iraqi civilians were routinely known as "Ali Babas." The detainees were not terrorists or insurgents. They were never tried or convicted of any offense. They were eventually released after an unnecessary time in detention without even being charged. This was not on any view the sort of 'ticking bomb' scenairo that apologists for torture usually imagine when they contemplate the possibility of legalising torture. So it is that there is a path which leads from such clinical musings in ivory towers to a man dying in a filthy latrine in Iraq.
We'll try to continue to cover the inquiry this week. This isn't the "Afghanistan snapshot," but I will note that tomorrow on the first hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show (begins airing and streaming online at 10:00 a.m. EST), Diane's topic will be Afghanistan and her guests will include the Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran (as well as Paul Pillar and Karin von Hippel). That's tomorrow. I will also note a special on PBS Thursday. First, we do not support what Trina, Ava and I have dubbed ObamaBigBusinessCare. PBS Special Report: Health Care Reform airs this Thursday on most PBS stations. It is a 90 minute special (that should start at 9:00 p.m. EST on most PBS stations) which is pooling the talents of NOW on PBS, Tavis Smiley and Nightly Business Report. That is a certainly a pool of deep talent. But I haven't seen the special and if it endorses ObamaBigBusinessCare, don't read that as my endorsement of it. We'll continue to note the special in the snapshots this week. You can see a preview online. Kat's "Kat's Korner: If you can get ahold of it, We Came To Sing! is amazing" and Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Grouch of Wrath" went up last night. We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "What Can Individuals Do To Oppose Warfare State?" (Yubanet):
Americans who voted for peace last November but are getting only more war are increasingly disillusioned as "change we can believe in" pans out to be mere "chump change."
The majority of Americans, polls show, would slash the military budget by over 30 percent yet President Obama has increased it by four percent. A majority of Americans want U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan but the Pentagon will garrison 50,000 in the former indefinitely and dispatch perhaps 20,000 more to escalate the war in the latter.
Since voting doesn't bring the desired change in national policies, people wonder what they can do individually. The answer is quite a lot. "Things have gotten bad enough in the minds of enough Americans that there is an opening for creating a mass movement for real change, and that movement is already growing all around us," writes citizen/activist David Swanson of Charlottesville, Va., in his new book "Daybreak"(Seven Stories Press). Swanson is cofounder of the anti-war After Downing Street Coalition.
He ticks off a number of examples where grass-roots citizen groups won a round vs. the Establishment:
# In North Dakota, farmers defeated efforts by St. Louis-based Monsanto to sell genetically engineered seeds.
# Threatened by corporate big-box stores, Utah local businesses created a successful "Buy Local First" campaign.
# Hundreds of towns and cities have enacted resolutions against enforcement of unconstitutional provisions of the USA Patriot Act.
# Chicagoans who had no good grocery stores banded together to create an organic urban farm and sell produce through a local market.
# Recognizing that America's Great Plains are the "Saudi Arabia of wind power," Rosebud Sioux are building windmills on their South Dakota reservation.
# Americans have created some 300 worker-run businesses.
# More than 100 towns have stopped corporations from dumping toxic sludge on farms.
# Residents of Tallulah, La., banded together to shut down an unwanted juvenile prison.
Swanson writes, "We will not create the necessary rebirth of American democracy by sending e-mails and making phone calls. We must do those things (but they are not enough). We must educate. We must create new media. We must lobby. We must march."