Sunday, December 27, 2009

And the war drags on . . .

Capt. Margaret H. White began a relationship with a warrant officer while both were training to be deployed to Iraq. By the time they arrived this year at Camp Taji, north of here, she felt what she called “creepy vibes” and tried to break it off.
In the claustrophobic confines of a combat post, it was not easy to do. He left notes on the door to her quarters, alternately pleading and menacing. He forced her to have sex, she said. He asked her to marry him, though he was already married. He waited for her outside the women’s latrines or her quarters, once for three hours.
"It got to the point that I felt safer outside the wire," Captain White said, referring to operations that take soldiers off their heavily fortified bases, "than I did taking a shower."

The above is the opening of Steven Lee Myers' "Women At Arms" (New York Times). Myers goes on to sketch out the fears of reporting sexual assault (getting caught in the back-and-forth, not being believed, retaliation, etc.) and notes that only about 10% of military sexual assaults get reported, with 2908 sexual assaults reported for Fiscal Year 2008. The idiot Kaye Whitley (no, Kaye, you and your fan club doesn't need to e-mail), who has worked hard to discredit others in Congressional hearings (we've documented it here) and who always minimizes any issue, is quoted saying the increase in reported assaults is a good thing because it means people are more comfortable reporting them. Kaye's such an idiot. The increase most likely means an increase in sexual assaults. But Kaye will spin and lie forever. Just like the hearing where she wanted to trash a sexaul assault victim and the victim's testimony. Best moment of the year was probably when Katie Couric caught Kaye lying and Kaye had to 'take a break.' In a functioning Pentagon, Kaye Whitley (who infamously refused to testify to Congress at one point) would have been canned long ago.

And let's note something else because Steven Lee Myers doesn't. He's not covered this subject before and he refers to a program that Kaye lied to him about. The fiscal year reporting that we noted above? It's not all the reported sexual assaults. It doesn't include Kaye's pet program. This is the program that has outraged victims' rights advocates -- rightly outraged them. Kaye has pimped a program where you can get 'help' by not reporting your assault. Supposedly, this is to help women and supposedly it helps women. Yet Kaye can provide no proof of that, not even hard numbers when asked for them by the Congress.

Here's reality, as any sexual assault survivor knows, you can't live in shame and recover. But Kaye's program exists to promote shame. And your first clue to that is that Kaye refuses to tell how many women (it's a small number, I'm told) use her program and then go on to report sexual assault to a criminal division. It's a small number because her little program isn't about helping or care giving, it's about hushing up what's taking place. Loretta Sanchez gets that and had some harsh comments in a hearing for Kaye. If Steven Lee Myers had done some real research and not just run with what Kaye told him (she's always been her own best self-promoter), maybe some of those realities could have been included.

March 20th there's a DC action being called by A.N.S.W.E.R. and others.


They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4371. Tonight it remains 4371. Turning to some of the violence reported today . . .


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Bahgdad bus bombing which claimed 1 life and left four people wounded and a Salahuddin Province bombing which claimed 4 lives and left twenty-six people wounded. Reuters adds a Kirkuk roadside bombing left four police officers injured and a Kirkuk sticky bombing injured a police officer.


Reuters reports 1 person shot dead in Kirkuk today and drops back to Friday to note the US military shot dead 1 man in Kirkuk "wouned another and captured a third".

Meanwhile Qais Mizher (Washington Post) reports Shi'ites demonstrating against Nouri al-Maliki in Karbala. The paper's Michael Hastings reported on the rise in attacks on various leaders (political, religious and educational) yesterday. Ned Parker and Nawaf Jabbar (Los Angeles Times) explore that issue:

The assassinations have cast a pall over Anbar province, which was the center of the Sunni Arab insurgency until late 2006, when tribesmen revolted against the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq.
It is unknown who is behind the new wave of killings and whether the violence can be traced to Al Qaeda in Iraq, or tribal or political disputes preceding national elections in March. The attacks Saturday raised concern that the region, and possibly the nation, could be entering a new era of uncertainty and violence, with elections, a new government, and the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces on the horizon.
Mahmoud Hussain Jassem Obaidi, a respected tribal leader, was killed when a bomb exploded outside his home in Abu Ghraib, an area between Fallouja and Baghdad, which was once a vital link for armed groups entering the capital.

New content at Third:

Voices Against War: resisting conflict
A new book on the history of anti-war movements in Britain illuminates the stories of those who refused to fight in the First World War. Chris Bambery looks at their struggle
Eyebrows might be raised at the news that the Imperial War Museum in London is endorsing a new history of anti-war movements in Britain from the last century.
They might be raised even higher at the news that the museum has the largest archive in the world of sound recordings of anti-war campaigners.
These have been turned over to the author Lyn Smith, who has charted opposition to war from the First World War through to the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The result is a new book, Voices Against War: A Century Of Protest. It’s a fascinating and rich read.
Socialist Worker readers will be familiar with some of those interviewed towards the end, such as Tony Benn and Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition, Kate Hudson and Bruce Kent of CND, and Reg Keys and Rose Gentle of Military Families Against the War.
But the book also charts how a smaller anti-war movement, opposing the 1999 Nato bombing campaign against Serbia, ensured activists were steeled in understanding the role of imperialism and rejecting notions of “humanitarian intervention”.
This ensured that they could react rapidly and effectively to the declaration of the “war on terror” after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Other chapters describe the growth of pacifism between the First and Second World Wars in reaction to the horror at the useless slaughter unleashed in 1914.
The book records the confusion over how to respond to Adolf Hitler, the anti-bomb movement of the late 1950s – including arguments between supporters and opponents of direct action – and a raw and honest account of the 1980s women’s peace camp outside the US cruise missile base at Greenham Common.
But for me the most interesting chapter is on those who refused to fight in the First World War.
Some 1,600 conscientious objectors were dragged before tribunals, branded as cowards, jailed, beaten and sentenced to hard labour. After the war ended they were barred from voting for five years. Sixty nine died in detention.
Many refused to fight because of their religious beliefs, but several of those featured in Voices Against War refused because of their left wing views.
One objector describes walking 11 miles to join a 10,000 strong anti-war protest addressed by Keir Hardie, the founder of the Labour Party, just as further down Whitehall the cabinet was drafting its declaration of war.
Two leading lights in the Independent Labour Party, Fenner Brockway and Clifford Allen, founded the No Conscription Fellowship in November 1914.
In 1916 both men were arrested after handing out leaflets opposing the introduction of conscription. They were jailed for two months and, shortly after their release, jailed once more for refusing to enlist.
Allen served 16 months in prison before being released on grounds of ill health. Brockway was only released six months after the war had ended.
The heroism of these men is striking (women were not subject to conscription in this war).
Yet their accounts point to a failure. The opposition to the war from the left was largely pacifist and stressed the need for a common humanity.
So there was no sense that war was and is central to capitalism or that it was working people who would make the most sacrifices.
Before 1914, many opposed to the capitalist system saw socialism as inevitable – whether they supported change through parliament or revolution.
They believed that the job of socialists was to prepare and advance their message through education and by standing in elections.
In practice they largely accepted the division between economics and politics that is central to parliamentary “democracy”.
So activists tended to focus on one particular feature of the system. Trade unionists looked to strikes and struggled for economic gains.
Supporters of women’s rights fought for the vote. Elected representatives focused on political change through parliament and the council chamber.
This meant that in 1914 they did not have an overall analysis of what underlay the war drive, or how to halt it.
Anti-war left wingers found they could rally and demonstrate against war up until the point where it was declared, but they had no strategy once it had begun.
Most fell in behind the “national interest”. Keir Hardie was
heartbroken. But he kept his pacifist position until his death in 1915.
The individual protests of those who refused to fight fitted in 1914.It seemed to be the only way to make a stand when even labour and trade union leaders had rallied to the flag.
Yet across Europe the mood began to turn against the war as it brought galloping price rises, wage freezes, bans on strikes and, in the case of Russia, Germany and Austria, hunger.
On Clydeside in the west of Scotland as early as 1915 a mass rent strike against ruthless landlords forced the government to introduce rent controls.
Shop stewards in Glasgow’s key engineering, shipyard and armament factories came together in the unofficial Clyde Workers’ Committee to coordinate resistance.
The leading lights in the Clyde Workers’ Committee were anti-war as individuals. They belonged to left wing parties.
But they also accepted a division between economics and politics. Their prime concern as a group was work in the trade unions to win and defend pay and conditions.
Their political activity was confined to the weekend, when they might make anti-war speeches.
The British government – sensing a weakness – went on the offensive, portraying the leaders of the Clyde Workers’ Committee as “unpatriotic” and “pro-German”. It used
war-time emergency legislation to arrest and deport key activists.
The Glasgow school teacher John Maclean was a fierce critic of the committee’s refusal to come out openly as anti-war, so much so that he was excluded from its meetings.
More clearly than anyone else in Britain, Maclean argued the working class had no interest in a war fought for profits and markets.
He went on to support the 1917 Russian Revolution, led by the Bolsheviks, and held it up as the shining example of what needed to be done.
He was also one of the few people on the British left who argued to support rebellions against British colonialism in Ireland, vigorously defending the 1916 Dublin Uprising as a blow against imperialism and war.
The British ruling class retaliated by ensuring that Maclean was sacked from his job and sending him to prison three times for sedition.
Yet despite his strengths, Maclean was wedded to the old model of socialist organisation that stressed education along with electoral interventions. He did not look to a new, Bolshevik-style approach that combined a sharp ideological edge with being grounded in the daily battles of working people.
The First World War ended with soldiers and workers in first Russia and then Germany refusing to sacrifice themselves for the “sacred cause” of their country’s war effort.
In 1917 the October Revolution took Russia out of the war. The following year mutinies in the German forces spilled over into revolution and saw Germany leave the war, ending the conflict.
In the underground conditions of pre-war Russia, the Bolshevik Party and its main leader, Lenin, had argued that whatever areas of work individual party members might focus on, the aim was to mobilise workers with revolution as a goal. This was seen as perhaps not happening immediately, but not in the distant future either.
In 1914 Lenin argued that the First World War was an imperialist conflict in which workers had no interest, and that the main enemy was at home.
Revolution on the domestic front was the key to ending the slaughter.
One of the key reasons the Bolsheviks won the popular support needed to make a revolution was that they were the only resolutely anti-war party. Workers, peasants and soldiers knew it would deliver on its pledge to end the conflict immediately.
This did not mean the Bolsheviks refused to participate in strikes, demonstrations and protests alongside those who were not 100 percent pro-revolution or even anti-war.
It meant it put itself alongside these people while continuing to educate, agitate and organise.
This seems to have carried us a long way from the central narratives of Voices Against War.
But at its close, as the book focuses on the recent movement against the Iraq war, you get a sense of what is possible in the fight against a world where economic competition repeatedly spills over into military competition.
And you also get a sense of what will be required to cleanse the world of war for once and for all.
Voices Against War: A Century of Protest by Lyn Smith is available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop. Phone 020 7637 1848 or go to
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Earlier Beth posted her look back on the year. (Thank you, Beth.) Martha and Shirley plan to do their year-in-books post by New Year's Eve but say it may be ready before then. Isaiah's going to have two comics this week (that's before this Sunday). Ruth will be examining the year in radio and she thinks that will be done on Thursday or Friday. Kat will do the year in music and says, "It will be at the last minute!" I'll do a year-in-review of some sort as well. On the first.

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