Wednesday, December 23, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi Christians are again targeted, an examination of US labor's role in the movement to end the Iraq War, and more.
Michael Prysner and Iraq War veteran James Circello were on Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton and Charles Goyette discussing their group March Forward! "an affiliate of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition" composed of veterans and active-duty service members. (For those who can't stream or who are not able to listen to streams, there's an excerpt of the interview in yesterday's snapshot.) Information Clearing House has a video of Michael Prysner speaking:
And I tried hard to be proud of my service, but all I could feel was shame. Racism could no longer mask the reality of the occupation. These were people. These were human beings. I've since been plagued by guilt. Any time I see an elderly man, like the one who couldn't walk that we rolled onto a stretcher and told the Iraqi police to go take him away. I feel guilt any time I see a mother with her children like the one who cried hysterically and screamed that we were worse than Saddam as we forced her from her home. I feel guilt any time I see a young girl, like the one I grabbed by the arm and dragged into the street. We were told we were fighting terrorists. The real terrorist was me and the real terrorism is this occupation. Racism in the military has long been a tool to justify the occupation and destruction of another country. It's long been used to justify the killing, subjugation and torture of another people.
Racism is a vital weapon employed by this government. It is a more important weapon than a rifle, a tank, a bomber or a battleship. It is more destructive than an artillery shell or a bunker buster or a Tomahawk Missile. While those weapons are created and owned by this government, they're harmless without people willing to use them. Those who send us to war do not have to pull a trigger or lob a mortar round. They do not have to fight the war, they merely have to sell the war. They need a public who's willing to send their soldiers into harm's way. They need soldiers who are willing to kill and be killed without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow orders to use it.
They can send every last soldier anywhere on earth but there will only be a war if soldiers are willing to fight and the ruling class, the billionaires -- who profit from suffering, care only about expanding their wealth, controlling the world's economy -- understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince that war, oppression and exploitation is in our interest. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to kill and die is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior. Soldiers, sailors, marines, airman have nothing to gain from this occupation. The vast majority of the people in the US have nothing to gain from this occupation. In fact, not only do we have nothing to gain but we suffer more from it. We lose limbs, endure trauma and lose our lives. Our families have to watch flag draped coffins lowered into the earth.
Millions in this country without health care, jobs or access to education have watched this government squander over $450 million dollars a day on this occupation.
Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country to make the rich richer. And without racism, soldiers would realize that they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war.
I threw families onto the street in Iraq only to come home and find families thrown onto the street in this country in this tragic and unnecessary foreclosure crisis.
We need to wake up and realize that our real enemies are not in some distant land, they're not people whose names we don't know and cultures we don't understand. The enemy is people we know very well and can identify. The enemy is the system that wages war when it is profitable. The enemy is the CEOs who lay us off from our jobs when it is profitable. It's the insurance companies who deny us health care when it's profitable. It's the banks who take away our homes when it's profitable.
Our enemy is not 5,000 miles away. They are right here at home. If we organize and fight with our sisters and brothers, we can stop this war, we can stop this government and we can create a better world.
Labor has been a significant force in the push to end the Iraq War and they don't often get the credit for their contributions. On KPFA's The Morning Show today, independent journalist David Bacon brought on US Labor Against the War's co-coordinators Kathy Black and Gene Bruskin and the USLAW's national organizer Michael Eisenscher.
David Bacon: So we wanted to take a look at what's going to happen with the war in Afghanistan and the [US President Barack] Obama administration. But in order to understand that, I thought it might be useful if, Eugene or you, Kathy, wanted to talk about what the change was in relation to the -- in terms of union's relation to the war in Iraq, the change from the way in which US labor has essentially supported, or sometimes with a great deal of conflict but nevertheless supported, most of the other military interventions by the US from WWII on through Vietnam and Central America. So why don't you start us off, Gene, by ta,king about what the historical position of US unions has been in relation to US intervention and what the change was with Iraq here?
Gene Bruskin: Well we have a, I think, the labor movement has, in some ways, not a proud history in how we've judged foreign policy cause we've pretty much accepted whatever the existing government and power structure wanted going back to the Philippines and I mean both the World Wars, of course, and Korea and Vietnam and El Salvador. There was some actually splits in the labor movement but in general what foreign policy was for many years including, you know, in all the post-WW period, is whatever policy we had to oppose the Soviet Union, for example, even if it meant supporting dictatorship supported unions in places like the Philippines and helping with the coups in places like Chile, the labor movement followed suit. So it was a huge break when US Labor Against the War was formed and the scope and the influence of that break is unprecedented.
David Bacon: What, uhm, Kathy, what do you attribute the change to? Aside from -- we're going to talk quite a bit her about US Labor Against the War itself as an organization, but are their changes that have taken place in unions and in our labor movement in terms of, for instance, the rejection of the policies of the Cold War or changes in terms of demographics which provided an opportunity I guess you would say for developing opposition to the war in Iraq which didn't exist earlier in terms of Vietnam, Central America, going all the way back to Korea?
Kathy Black: Yeah, of course all those things are factors. I think there are so many Vietnam war veterans in the labor movement and, in retrospect, people look back on that war -- even those that may have been strong supporters -- and see it in a different light. historically. You know, problems with veterans' illness and just a reflection on the policy has evolved. But I think, frankly, the single biggest factor if you can pick one that helped USLAW organize and galvanize support, it was George W. Bush. You know, I think that certainly there have been historical changes but people in the labor movement were so predisposed to be skeptical of anything he did and suspicious and automatically oppositional that that was probably the single biggest factor that helped us organize and convince people to look at the war from a different perspective.
Philip Maldari: And again, "USLAW" is US Labor Against the War, the acronym. Kathy, uh, one thing that certainly has changed is that there's no longer a Soviet Union. During the Cold War, was the labor -- official labor movement so scared of being red-baited that they uh-uh were backing every anti-communist intervention around the world for fear of being --
David Bacon: Well some actually expelled people, actually expelled whole unions.
Philip Maldari: Oh, expelled unions that had alleged Communists in their ranks, uh-uh, so was it, when the Cold War ended, did that give the labor movement a chance to get out under this fear of being red-baited?
Kathy Black: Uh, they pretty much purged the labor movement of the, you know, of Communist influences well before that so I don't know if I see it as fear but there was enormous complicity in the labor movement as Gene already spoke about.
Gene Bruskin: The most important part of it was that the labor movement had really bought into the fear of Communism and anti-communism because the criticism within the labor movement had been crushed earlier on and so they just bought the policy whole hook, line and sinker.
Kathy Black: They advocated the policy. Not everybody, but there were certainly prominent leaders in the labor movement who-who trumpeted those positions. Loudly.
Gene Bruskin: And so it did, I think, go out, after the end of the Cold War, there was clearly more openness to see what was actually workers' interest as opposed to what we usually called "national interest" which is generally business interest. But now we have not the issue of anti-communism so much as the whole issue of the fight against terrorism which is essentially the same set of logic has replaced -- you know, the Domino Theory is now the spread of terrorism.
David Bacon: And then, perhaps, I think one other factor -- maybe you could comment on this, Mike -- that played into this was the cost of the war on working people. I remember hearing this argument made at the first assembly of US Labor Against the War. And the fact that our labor movement now has a very, very large sector of public workers in it who are much more directly effected by the cost of the war and that there was a basis for saying to the people that if this war goes on people are going to lose jobs.
Mike Eisenscher: That certainly is true --
Philip Maldari: Wait a second, we've got to get your mike on. Go ahead, Mike.
Mike Eisenscher: Uh, that's certainly true. Another factor related to that is that the composition of the labor movement has changed quite a bit and there are now many, many immigrant workers in the labor movement who bring with them experiences in their own country that give them a different view of the international situation and a much more rounded and critical perspective.
David Bacon: So, Gene, the -- sort of compressing the history here a bit -- from the beginning of the war and the occupation of Iraq in 2003 and the convention at the AFL-CIO where the AFL-CIO officially adopted a position calling for the withdrawal of US troops which I believe took place in the summer of 2005?
Gene Bruskin: Right.
David Bacon: Right. There was obviously a great deal of activity that went on in terms of getting union by union opposition to that war organized. Can you kind of like go through that history pretty quickly for us here?
Gene Bruskin: Well what was, in a way, breath taking to many of us was that after US Labor Against the War was launched in January 2003 and then the war happened. We weren't, unfortunately, able to prevent it. But then rather than have the reaction that happened after the Gulf War when the yellow ribbons went up everywhere, people got even angrier and there was just a-a huge wave that summer and all into the next year through every union virtually of any significance in the labor movement -- on the shop floor, at monthly union meetings, at regional meetings and a meetings of international Unions, resolutions went onto the floor and there were really intense debates where people were just saying, "This is not the role of the labor movement to take these kind of positions. We're supposed to just deal with people's job-related issues." And in many cases what happened is vets or military families stood up and said, "Look, you know, I got a son that is about to go over there and I want the troops home tomorrow cause I don't want my kid to die." That kind of stuff --
Philip Maldari: Well let's talk about exactly who's in the army, who is in the marine corps, who's fighting this war. It seems like more often than not, it's the children of the working class. It's not the children of the upper middle class that are uh-uh troops, you know, boots on the ground in Afghanistan right now.
Gene Bruskin: Right. I mean it was clearly a thing where people said, "It's us that's fighting the war, it's -- we're paying for the war and we don't want it." And it came at the time when our rights were clearly under attack from every corner, from the Bush administration. So it was very clear to see that. And we made the link even to the extent of going to Iraq. David Bacon was a part of that on a couple of occasions. And bringing Iraqi trade unionists here to make the link to workers in both countries that we had more in common with each other than we did with the Bush administration, we should oppose the war.
David Bacon: So Kathy, here we are. First of all, the Iraq War is not over yet. But we have a whole new emphasis on increasing US military intervention in Afghanistan. A very different war, one that essentially was described by Obama during his election campaign as the war we should be fighting as opposed to the Iraq War which was the war that we should not be fighting. And there are a lot of important differences between Afghanistan as a country and Iraq as a country and the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. How do you think US unions are going to relate to the war in Afghanistan and what kind of tactics and strategies were developed at the recent national assembly of US Labor Against the War in relation to developing labor opposition to this war
Kathy Black: Well it's a much more difficult task for us now. Bush is no longer president. The solidarity work that Gene referred to, that you were such an important part of, is a harder thing to establish. Afghanistan doesn't have unions although Pakistan does and we do have connections there. But we're not going to be bringing a tour of Afghani union leaders to this country to put that human face and make those direct connections for union people. And uh, and then of course there's the concern that the labor movement feels that they elected Obama, that he's our president and they're loathe at this point to criticize him for almost anything -- and certainly to come out in opposition to a major policy initiative like this. So it's a tougher lift but, unfortunately, we think that events and the trajectory of this war is on our side to build that opposition. And some of the tools -- probably the most important tool that we came out with was this terrific DVD that Michael Zweig, one of our major activists in New York has developed called Why Are We In Afghanistan? And actually it's already having a very positive effect. It was shown here in Pennsylvania there was a big SEIU state worker council and they immediately passed a resolution opposing the war and there have been some other reports like that around the country.
For more information, visit US Labor Against the War. David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. And there's already a link for Zweig's film; however, to correct something, the most important tool is always the same and no one spoke of it.
One small voice
Speaking out in honesty
Silenced, but not for long
One small voice
Speaking with the values we were taught as children
So you walk away and say, Isn't he divine?
Don't those clothes look fine on the Emperor?
And as you take your leave, you wonder why you're feeling
So ill-at-ease--don't you know?
Lies take your soul
You can't hide from yourself
Lies take their toll on you
And everyone else
One small voice speaking out in honesty
Silenced, but not for long
One small voice speaking with the values we were taught as children
Tell the truth
You can change the world
But you'd better be strong
-- "One Small Voice," written by Carole King, first appears on her Speeding Time. [Carole begins a world tour with James Taylor in the new year, click here for information.]
Too much time has been wasted pathetically propping up Barack. We spoke the truth on Bush (those of us who did when it mattered, when it was hard) and we changed the perception. Those of us who do the hard lifting, "the tough lift," we're already doing that, we've been doing that. We don't cut slack for War Hawks. Those of us who've been doing the heavy lifting will continue to do so. Like the Little Red Hen, apparently all by ourselves. And those who are useless will continue to be so. Paul Street (ZNet) observes and names some of the useless:
Another example is Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of the liberal weekly public affairs magazine The Nation. "Whatever one thinks of Obama's policy on any specific issue," Vanden Heuvel proclaimed last month, "he is clearly a reform president committed to improvement of peoples' lives and the renewal and reconstruction of America ... Progressives should focus less on the limits of the Obama agenda," Vanden Huevel intoned, "and more on the possibilities that his presidency opens up."
How Vanden Heuvel could have come to include the word "clearly" in light of the President's numerous rightward and center-leaning policy decisions was something of a mystery, assuming that The Nation's top authority meant what she wrote. As one totals up the president's cumulatively reactionary record of policies (and non-policies) on numerous specific issues - energy, health, war, labor rights, war, militarism - it becomes rather difficult to sustain the image of Obama as anything but a business and war president, certainly not a people's reformer. It was difficult to see a leader of America 's so-called radical left so easily hooked by the deceptive marketing that left author Chris Hedges has written about in connection with the president:
"Barack Obama is a brand. And the brand designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East . Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest."
"... President Obama does one thing and Brand Obama gets you to believe another. This is the essence of successful advertising." 
In some cases even people who call themselves Marxists have run to Obama's whistle. Last November, Carl Davidson, a former Sixties Maoist turned "Marxist" Web-master of "Progressives for Obama," wrote a widely circulated essay claiming that Obama's victory in the presidential election was "a major victory" for left progressives. Badly misusing the terminology of the Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci, Davidson claimed that the Obama administration represented the rise of "an emerging historic counter-hegemonic bloc" containing elements of Marxian/proletarian "class struggle." He strained the bounds of credulity by claiming that the new Obama presidency represented a decisive break with both neoliberalism and corporate liberalism and that the new White House was torn by a major tension between forces representing the capitalist class's "old hydrocarbon sector" and forces representing a progressive new left-leaning "green sector." As the left journalist Arun Gupta quipped, "Obama must have missed Davidson's memo," for the Obama White House had committed to spending $1 trillion a year on the Pentagon but just a "few billion on green jobs, mainly as subsidies to big corporations like the big three [automakers]."
Last January, United for Peace and Justice leader and top U.S. Communist Party official Judith LeBlanc actually called President Obama's appointment of Richard Holbrooke as a special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan last January "an exciting moment for the peace movement, because its possible diplomacy will be the first step...It's incredibly important that the antiwar movement reach out to this envoy," LeBlanc said, "and speak directly to the White House about our concerns."  This was remarkable commentary given Holbrooke's rather unsavory history as a leading U.S. foreign policy operative and commentator over the years - a record that included critical support (in his role as Under-Secretary of State for Asian Affairs in the Carter administration) for Indonesia's U.S.-supported atrocities (bordering on genocide) against East Timor in 1975, promising (in his role as Bill Clinton's special envoy to the Balkans) immunity to Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic (according to Karadzic himself and to former Bosnian foreign minister Mohammad Sacirbey), helping lead (in his role as special envoy to Kosovo) the "diplomatic" charge to the U.S. bombing of Serbia in 1999, providing Democratic support for George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, and serving as a pro-war foreign policy advisor to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. As Holbrooke took up his appointment with a ringing endorsement from the Communist Party's LeBlanc, a left U.S. newspaper reported that "Angry protesters gathered in Me htarlam, capital of Afghanistan 's eastern Laghman Province , to protest deaths of at least 16 civilians in a U.S. raid on a village Jan. 23. The same day, across the border in western Pakistan , a senior Pakistani official said two U.S. missile attacks may have killed up to 100 civilians. In Washington , administration officials refused to answer whether President Obama had okayed the missile strikes." 
Names some. Remember that. He wastes a footnote raving over Howard Zinn and Francy Fox Piven, both members of the Cult of St. Barack and shamefully so in both cases. Apparently Street is happy trashing any and everyone in a 'southern' state but it's too difficult for him to call out those who pushed to put a War Hawk in the White House. I don't want blood, I do want accountability. Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) abandoned everything he ever knew about journalism (or decency) to pimp Barack. In what may be the closest to a mea culpa any of that group will ever offer, Rothschild declares today, "Seems to me that Obama played us all for fools." We'll take that as accountability -- no others offered anything remotely close and Progressive Radio will be added back to the links this week.
It's past time for the left to stop playing so wilfully stupid. As Ava and I pointed out Sunday:
If you're unhappy with the US policy on global warming, you better blame the person in charge. And despite the lunatic ravings of Naomi Klein on Goody's show, Hillary Clinton is not the president of the United States. Though Naomi could screech ("screech" is the only word for it) that Hillary was attempting to "blackmail" developing countries -- "naked blackmail" at that, the offer was the one that the administration wanted proposed. But there was never time to call out the person responsible. Goody offered lots of 'love' segments for Barack. She just didn't hold him accountable. It's not an accident, it's intentional. It happened with his 'surge' speech (as we documented before) and it'll continue to happen. And don't expect any movement in this country when 'left' 'leaders' are too cowed to call out a sitting president. Expect people to continue being Naomi Klein Zombies, wandering around in a daze, having "made a really conscious choice that I was going to enjoy the night."
Learn to stand or continue begging on your knees. We'll return to Michael Prysner to note his explaining an upcoming action:
So I encourage everyone to pay attention to a national march on Washington, DC that's going to happen on March 20th. There's also going to be coinciding marches in Los Angeles and San Francisco. But a large organization of antiwar groups have come together. It was initiated by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition -- you can go to A.N.S.W.E.R.org for information about the march. But we're calling on everyone to be a part of this action. We want soldiers, we want veterans, we want military families and we want all people in the United States who are suffering because of these wars. We're in the middle of a Depression where every month, more and more jobs are being lost. There's this health care debate going on, we're seeing that there's people that are not going to have access to quality health care. Education -- tuition is skyrocketing. We need money so badly, most people, yet we're spending over $500 million dollars a day to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan. So if you're angry about this war which everyone should be, there is something you can do and that's become active in the movement. And the first thing you can do is become involved in the organizing for March 20th and of course participate in that demonstration as well. We need as many people as possible to send a message that the people are not in support of this war and we're going to fight until it's over.
Yesterday's snapshot included:
Meanwhile AFP reports that the Iraqi military is on high "alert" according to the Minister of Defense, Mohammed al-Askari, who states, "We have put our forces on alert in Baghdad, the provinces of Kirkuk and Nineveh, including its capital Mosul, where our Christian brothers will be celebrating their holidays, because we have intelligence indicating they could be attacked during this period." Brothers? How typical of Nouri's flunkies to forget the women. Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports, "At churches in Baghdad this week, Christians are being asked for identification to determine if they have names that security force members recognize as Christian. Some churches around the northern city of Mosul are digging in, surrounding their buildings with giant earthen berms to prevent car bombers from getting too close."
Extra security hasn't helped. Today AFP reports, "With Christmas just around the corner, a bomb attack on a church in the Iraqi city of Mosul killed two passersby and wounded five others, the sixth attack on Christians there in less than a month." Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN add, "This was the second bombing near a church in Mosul in a week. On December 15, four people were killed and 40 others were injured in a car bombing near a church in western Mosul." Actually, it's the third. There were two bombings on December 15th. From that day's snapshot:
Today in Mosul, Iraqi Christians were again targeted with violence. Al Jazeera notes one bombing was at the Syrian Catholic Church of the Annunciation and another exploded at "the Syrian Orthodox Church of Purity and a nearby Christian school". Iran's Press TV counts four dead in one of the church bombings and forty injured which they identify the church as Virign Mary Church which AFP says is the Syrian Orthodox Church of Purity. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Catholic Church (which is billed as "Mariamana Church") was targeted with two bombings -- the first apparently to draw a crowd of which the 4 were then killed and the forty injured. The other church, Issa states, only suffered "material damages to the church" with no one reported dead or wounded. Mohammed Abbas and Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports among Teba Saad Jassim was among the dead ("a seven-day-old baby girl") and quotes a Mosul priest who did not want to be named stating, "We are peaceful people, but we come under attack sometimes. We are the victim of instability in this province."
Deng Shasha (Xinhua) offers this context, "Iraq's Christian community has been estimated at 3 percent of Iraq's roughly 30 million people, and has a significant presence in the Nineveh province, which has been the scene of major security crackdowns by U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces to uproot the insurgency that erupted shortly after the U.S.-led invasion." And don't e-mail me the garbage from the New York Times on this topic. I've already griped at a friend with the paper who wanted that s**t included. Don't note ICCC's bad 'civilian' count. (Which isn't even a civilian count -- it includes police and military -- learn to read idiot press, learn to read.) We already called that count out and revealed how wrong it was (whole days they forgot to include violence and they single-sourced to Reuters). Since we called it out, ICCC's discovered a whole world beyond Reuters and hopefully their December count will be better but their past counts are embarrassments and it takes a real idiot to cite them. Enter John Leland.
In other violence . . .
Reuters notes a Baghdad plastic bag bombing which claimed the life of 1 Shi'ite and left four others injured, a Mahmudiya roadside bombing injured five Shi'ite pilgrims, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured five Sh'ite pilgrims, another Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left twenty-eight people injured, a Baghdad minibus bombing which claimed 1 life and left three people injured and, dropping back to Tuesday for all the rest, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured one person, and a Tarmiya roadside bombing injured three people.
Reuters notes 1 "retired Iraqi army officer" was shot dead in Mosul and, dropping back to Tuesday, Brig Gen Riyada Abdulmajeed was shot dead in Baghdad.
Labor doesn't get enough credit for their work on opposing the Iraq War and David Bacon is a wonderful journalist so we have the lengthy excerpt above. But that means we're postponing something's in order to include it. Tomorrow we'll note that the VA still can't get the checks out -- people never should have believed the lies and the excuses -- and by "people," we mean Congress. Kimberly Hefling (AP) reports that, no surprise, the GI Bill payments due at the start of the fall semester? Some still haven't received them.