Thursday, January 20, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, more deadly suicide bombings slam Iraq, Tony Blair prepares to again face the Inquiry, the Inquiry releases a page of testimony which states Blair declared he wanted to go to war and then it was declared that no notes would be kept on that session, calls continue for Tony to release his private correspondence with George W. Bush, a woman from the right wonders where feminists are on the war (and she's correct to wonder), an hour of finger-pointing offers no illumination, and more.
Once again this week, Iraq is slammed with suicide bombings. Despite that, as Mark Leon Goldberg (UN Dispatch) points out, "It hasn't quite made the top of the news here in the United States, but Iraqi is in the midst of a very violent week. On Tuesday, at least 49 people were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a line of police recruits in Tikrit. Yesterday, a suicide bomber driving an ambulance killed 15 people in Diyala. They were also lined up a recruiting station for security forces." And today? First up, Reuters notes a suicide bomber attacked a police station in Baquba. Counting 3 dead (plus suicide bomber) and twenty-seven wounded, Xinhua reports, "A suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into the checkpoint of the main entrance of the provincial headquarters of Diyala police and blew it up, causing severe damages to the surrounding buildings at the scene, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity." Aseel Kami and Rania El Gamal (Reuters) add that "the attack took place in the centre of the city near government buildings, including police headquarters." Ali al-Tuwaijri (AFP) reports that 2 of the dead were police officers and the third was female Iraqi journalist "Wejdan Assad al-Juburi, [who] had been a reporter for the Iraq al-Mustaqal (Independent Iraq) newspaper.)" AFPadds, "A total of 255 journalists and media workers have been killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003, according to the Baghdad-based Journalism Freedoms Observatory." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains the death toll is now at 4 and the number injured at thirty-three and reports another bombing: "Separately, a Shiite pilgrim was killed and nine others were wounded in southern Baghdad's al-Dora district Thursday when a roadside bomb struck a procession of Shiite pilgrims, who were making a three-day trek by foot to Karbala for Arbaeen, police said."
However, those bombings were quickly overshadowed by suicide bombings in Karbala. Xiong Tong (Xinhua) reports twin suicide bombers took their own lives, one after the other, as well as the lives of 45 Shi'ite pilgrims with another one-hundred-and-ten people injured. AFP states the bombers were in cars. John Leland (New York Times) counts three cars. BBC News has a photo essay here. Salar Jaff and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) note that the death toll has risen to 56 and they quote survivor Ghassan Hashim explaining, "I turned and saw my wife covered with blood and she lost her leg! I lost control and fainted. I don't know where my wife is now. It was a mess and crowds were crying everywhere. It was like doomsday." Shashank Bengali and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy's Miami Herald) give the death toll as 63 and cite hospital officials and they observe, "The spate of attacks, which began Tuesday with a suicide bombing that killed 60 people outside a police recruitment center in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, mark the first major spike in violence since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki unveiled a new government in December." Jim Muir (BBC News) warns, "The sudden flare-up of violence over the past three days is bad news for the fledging Iraqi government, for several reasons." Martin Chulov (Guardian) gets right to the point: "The sharp upswing in violence has happened as Iraq remains without ministers to fill the posts of defence, national security and the interior. They are regarded as the most critical positions in the government, yet the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is reluctant to name names more than three weeks after he formed a government and almost 11 months since a national election was held." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) adds, "Al-Maliki serves as acting defense, interior and national security minister." Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) attempts to offer analysis but something's missing in his article or something's missing in his observations. He's commenting on Iraq's civil war (ethnic cleansing) of 2006 and 2007.
Could today's attack have that kind of impact? Probably not by itself. As recently as July of 2009, five Shiite mosques were simultaneously bombed in Baghdad, claimed 29 lives, and it didn't prompt major reprisals.
Today, Iraq has a fully sovereign government, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a Shiite, and the party of the assassinated Ayatollah Hakim (since renamed the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) has a major voice in government. Militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militiamen committed many of the atrocities on Sunnis during the worst of Iraq's fighting, has muted his rhetoric. Last week, in his first major speech since returning home from religious schooling in Qom, Iran he denounced sectarian violence and is giving signs that he wants to focus on a political route to power, at least for now.
Still, the symbolic power of the time and place of this bombing can't be ignored. Millions of Shiite pilgrims are descending on Karbala for Arbain, the culmination of a 40-day mourning cycle for Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad [. . .]
Do you see what's missing? He's saying a renewed civil war is not possible. Why? Because Shi'ites are in control of the government? I'm confused. Who was in charge in 2006 and 2007? Oh, right, same groups. It's not as if Sunnis were in charge then. And, oh, yeah, Sunnis the ones he leaves out when explaining (or 'explaining') why a civil war can't take place today. (And, no, his second to the last paragraph in the article doesn't explain 'right' the article.)
In addition, Reuters notes a Kanaan roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 pilgrim and left two more injured while, overnight, Baghdad "celebratory gunfire" resulted in thirteen people being wounded and Kirkuk "celebratory gunfire" resulted in two people being wounded. "Celbratory gunfire"? Omar al-Jawoshy (New York Times) explains that Nouri's outlawed it -- but apparently it's not enforced -- and quotes Nael al-Aboid insisting, "It is our tradition, to shoot our guns at all celebrations. Guns and swords represent the power of the tribes and the person himself. It is showing happiness, with a touch of manhood." Maybe there's been a little too much touching of manhood in Iraq?
Still on macho posturing, in England on Friday, former prime minister, forever poodle and eternal War Hawk Tony Blair is set to reappear before the Iraq Inquiry to offer additional testimony after his testimony last year just didn't appear to add up.
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Tim Shipman (Daily Mail) reports, "David Cameron yesterday called on the public to pressurise Tony Blair into disclosing his secret letters to George Bush from 2002 promising to go to war in Iraq. Downing Street insisted the former prime minister should drop his demands for secrecy when he testifies at the Iraq Inquiry tomorrow." From yesterday's snapshot:
Rosa Prince (Telegraph of London) notes today that the letters are quoted in recent books by Alastair Campbell (his published diary) and Jonathan Powell and she notes: "Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, criticised the ban. He said: 'It is a bit thick that Mr Blair and Mr Bush have been able to draw on these documents for their own memoirs and to be entirely selective in the use to which they have put them'." Rosa Prince goes on to demonstrate just how much Bush and Blair have quoted from the (private) letters in their books.
David Cameron is the current Prime Minister. With Gordon Brown (who was prime minister between Blair and Cameron) in the office, Blair might have hoped for some cover. Without him, Cameron is making very clear that this is not a "state's secrets" issue and that there is no reason the documents should be hidden from the public. Nigel Morris (Independent of London) reports:
The questions facing Tony Blair at tomorrow's Iraq inquiry hearing are piling up. It emerged last night that parts of Mr Blair's conversations with the United States President George Bush in the build-up to war were expunged from Whitehall records. Sir John Chilcot's team also heard yesterday from a senior civil servant that Downing Street ignored Foreign Office warnings over publishing the infamously exaggerated dossiers on the threat from Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons arsenal. Mr Blair's private secretary at No 10 routinely deleted any mention of his correspondence with Mr Bush from the Government minutes, the inquiry has found out. The disclosure will fuel anger over the failure to release the memos between the two leaders in the run-up to war, which could fill in gaps for when Mr Blair took key decisions over the war. David Cameron, challenged over the refusal to publish the memos, said that he was powerless to order their release.
At 4:30 a.m. EST, Tony Blair will be testifying and CSPAN 2 is supposed to carry it live. Before that happens, there's another revelation. Tim Shipman reports, "Downing Street ordered a cover-up after Jack Straw made an 11th-hour attempt to stop Tony Blair going to war in Iraq, it was claimed last night [it's morning in the UK]. Explosive anonymous evidence given to the Chilcot Inquiry said Mr Blair responded to his Foreign Secretary by insisting that he wanted to go to war. Officials at Number 10 then allegedly ordered that no record was kept of the confrontation." PDF format warning, the document is here. And it is anonymous to the public but the Inquiry knows whose testimony it is.
Combat is considered the "final frontier" for women in the military, though they have already been serving, albeit unofficially and off the books, in combat-related roles throughout the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. It will be interesting to see if it again it becomes a cause célèbre for feminists at the level of say, the 1990s, when women like Democratic Rep. Pat Schroeder and Sara Lister battled openly against the he-skeptics in the Republican Party over gender discrimination in the ranks. The debate became a mostly academic, glass ceiling affair, and eventually opened up many new military positions for women, but not combat.
But that was then -- peacetime -- and this is now -- wartime -- and the feminists have, up to now, been pretty distant from the issue of women in the Global War on Terror, though women now make up some 14 percent of the total Armed Forces and 255,000 of veterans who have served overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq. Truth is, without a draft, the military would not have been able to fight the Long War without them. Women have been flying combat aircraft and serving as military police, gunners, interrogators and prison guards -- as close as it gets to the action.
"It's something whose time has come," said retired Navy Capt. Lory Manning of the Women's Research and Education Institute. She said ending the ban on women in combat would be "a logical outcome of what women have been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Army and Marines have been essentially ducking the policy."
Indeed, everything looks "logical" on its face. Why wouldn't anybody want to be recognized and rewarded for the work they are already doing? No doubt women are missing out on valuable promotions and short changed in so many other areas. However, as the war zone has been going through a 10-year "shock integration" that they had themselves set into motion, feminists and many proponents of full combat equality for women have been rather quiet about all the bad things that have happened to women precisely because of their desire to be treated "just like men" in war.
Unlike Kelley B. Vlahos, I am a feminist. I have not advocated for full combat rights. If asked, I've stated of course women should be equal. Equality doesn't mean happiness. (Nor does it mean unhappiness. Happiness come from within.) Equality should mean fairness. Equality is a goal we should strive for. As Kelley notes in her title, combat is the "meat grinder." I don't know exactly what she wants feminist to have said or not said on this issue and that's not sarcasm. As she notes "feminists have, up to now, been pretty distant from the issue of women in the Global War on Terror". Off Our Backs did a great issue on these very issues and then, shortly afterwards, stopped publication. Once upon a time a number of feminists spoke out against the Iraq War. Robin Morgan, where did you go? Jane Fonda, am I wrong or did you say "Silence is no longer an option" when speaking in DC at the January 2007 rally? Did you not end with, "So thank you for being here and we'll continue to be here as long as necessary. God bless."? We'll continue to be here as long as necessary?
In less than a week 4 US soldiers have died in Iraq, another was injured, the way the week's shaping up the death toll for Iraqis could easily reach 200 or more by Saturday. Does that sound like the war ended? Because it doesn't from where I'm looking.
I'd love to be able to write, "Kelley, you're dead wrong." But when feminists -- especially when the very few that spoke out to begin with -- have nothing to say about the ongoing wars, they're abdicating a seat at the table that a lot of us marched, fought and suffered to have. So in the future, when you want to speak on an issue, how about letting us know if there's a sell-by-date? As in, "I'm saying 'you have me forever' in my speech because it's such a good line but I really just mean as long as a Republican's in the White House." Just give us a little truth in advocacy, please.
I can point to the strong feminists in this community and we're still outraged and calling out the wars. But outside of this community, where could I possibly point? CODEPINK? Antiwar.com remembers their Afghan waffle and they won't take them seriously. Arianna Huffington doesn't claim to be a feminist (and I'll never forget when Cass Ellliot told Arianna how wrong she was on that issue) so we can't count her but she hasn't forgotten the Iraq War and hasn't stopped speaking out against it, to give her credit. Ms. magazine? Let's be kind and ignore the magazine (you're not missing anything -- except Ms. allowing a War Hawk-Council on Foreign Relations to preach what they're calling 'success' in Afghanistan) and turn instead to the tired magazine's very lively blog.
Here's one, Kelley! A feminist is writing at Ms. blog about this issue and her name . . . Well, his name. His name is Kyle Bachan. Good for you, Kyle and I firmly believe men can be feminists. But it is rather disappointing that a woman couldn't or wouldn't grab the topic.
We'll also give credit to Michaela A. Null. To the best of my knowledge, Michela doesn't sponsor or co-sponsor V-Day. She doesn't work with at risk young women. But she still found time -- while many who sponsor V-Day didn't -- to call out the nonsense attacks on the two women who may have been raped -- the nonsense attacks launched non-stop by Naomi Wolf these days. At the Ms. blog, Michaela A. Null rejects Naomi Wolf's latest which is to call for the names of rape victims to be circulated in the press:
Wolf suggests that shielding rape victims is outdated because, well, it's not like we live in the Victorian Era! This is a silencing argument that women hear all the time -- something to the tune of, "There has been so much progress for women. I mean, you can vote, what are you bitching about?" That would be like me saying to Naomi Wolf, "Worrying about government corruption is so outdated, it's not like we live in the McCarthy Era!" Of course, the McCarthy Era is a shameful piece of our history, but it does not mean the government never does anything wrong or unethical now and that people shouldn't be up in arms about wrongdoings.
So, according to Wolf-think, it's of little matter that those who make rape accusations are often re-victimized and harassed and vulnerable to further violence. To shield them from that is to treat them as though they are children! Equity, though -- as distinguished from equality -- is not about infantilizing a group of people and patting them on their heads: Equity is for grownups, based on the idea that in order to achieve a fair and just society, you have to account for the fact that some groups of people are oppressed, disadvantaged and do not have the same access to, say, bodily integrity, justice or safety that other groups of people have.
[. . .]
But for right now we don't live in that ideal world. We still live in a place where women's issues are seen as secondary and where victims of sexual assault are often treated dismissively, disdainfully and even violently. In order to do justice to women and to all victims of sexual assault, we must listen to them. Instead, Wolf is dead set on ignoring the voices of women and victims of sexual assault, publicly condescending to them and asserting over and over that her "23 years of experience" -- a phrase used so repetitiously it became the hashtag #23yrs on Twitter -- means she knows what's best for them and they don't.
I wrote at length about Katha Pollitt's ''Naomi Wolf: Wrong Again On Rape' (The Nation) in Polly's Brew. I'm not sure I ever noted it here. If not, Katha deserves credit -- big credit -- for that column. And for the previous one as well (which I did already note). But the reality is that, with very few exceptions (Katha being one of them), those that are supposed to be voices and leaders are no where to be found on these very important issues. In fact, Katha is the only "name" feminist to have called it out. (That is not meant as a slap in the face to Jill who does great work at Feministe or Jessica Valenti or Amanda Marcotte or any other strong women who became well known on the web and have not allowed their fame to silence them. When I say "name," I'm referring to the hiearchy roll call that exists in feminism -- which we usually pretend doesn't exist, but we all know does.) One publication that has not forgotten the wars or felt the need to fall silent because lefty men might not say nice things about you is Womens eNews and today they publish attorney and professor Wendy Murphy's analysis of what Naomi's calling for:
In a truly just world, no type of crime victim would have their name revealed without their consent. This would help redress growing concerns about threats and intimidation tactics from criminals who hope to escape responsibility for their violence by terrorizing victims into silence.
It's hardly a gender-specific problem, which disposes of Wolf's argument that concealing the identities of rape victims is a form of sexism.
But there is a valid reason to put a thumb on the scale for rape victims. The very nature of sexual violence, indeed the location of the "crime scene" on a woman's body, is such that a public trial is certain to reveal things that are not only highly personal but likely to be protected by statute, common law and even constitutionally-based privacy rights. Unlike robbery cases, rape prosecutions involve the revelation of things like whether the victim became infected by HIV or became pregnant or had an abortion. Because such facts are highly relevant, they must be revealed during the public trial.
Anonymity policies, therefore, are not about "protectionism" so much as due process. They make up for the fact that disclosure of private facts at trial involving a victim--who is not a party to the litigation and thus cannot even argue against disclosure--causes unavoidable harm to fundamental rights. Anonymity polices mitigate the harm by allowing disclosure of private facts without attaching those facts to a publicly-identifiable individual.
These are serious issues, they belong in the public sphere. But let's about the wasting of our public sphere. The polluting of it. On Morning Mix (KPFA's morning show), Mickey Huff and Adam Bessie kicked things off -- and into the gutter -- with a lot of huffing and finger pointing. Excerpt:
Adam Bessie: As you know, anyone with a thought and a connection to the computer can get onto the participatory networks -- Facebook, MySpace and so on. And what was fascinating in the research that we found, in a section called Junk Food News Feed is that [Bessie now yammers away about a male celebrity -- we're not interested] was covered less than the decision to pull out of Afghanistan by Obama [what decision was that Adam Bessie, you moron?] . However, when you looked at what people were talking and writing about on social networks and by the cooler, they were talking more about [male celebrity] according to a Pew study at that time. So basically what we found with the internet, again, was basically unprecious, anybody and everybody can get on there, is that people are really becoming what they eat and after years of consuming junk food news, now they go on social networks and you can create your own junkfood news. Instead of having to watch [female celebrity] on The Today Show, you can have your friend be [mispronounces female celebrity's name] or you can be [again mispronounces female celebrity's name] and write about the trials and travails of your own life or somebody else. And you can also write about celebrities. And so we're now -- The sea change I think we're seeing is that we're participating in this infotainment society.
You think? Adam Bessie surely is participating in it. First off, how is it news that many people are concerned with their own lives? Most people are concerned with their own lives. The Confessions was not Saint Augustine writing about Descartes, it was Augustine writing about himself. The idea that people would write about their own lives should not be shocking to an English professor -- even a junior college English professor. Second, Barack didn't announce he was pulling out of Afghanistan, he announced a troop "surge" into Afghanistan. Sorry professor, your example, which you bring up? You damn well better know what you're talking about. Third, the male celebrity? A sports star. Covered in the sports press during the 'scandal' but Adam Bessie forgets them, doesn't he?
Adam Bessie? Did he have anything to contribute other than a whiney voice and a lot of stupid? Nope. He and Mikey blathered away forever about Barack being compared to Hitler. They did this on January 20, 2011. Point? It was the exact same remarks and 'findings' Bessie already wrote about in this bad December 1, 2008 column at OpEdNews. Who's wasting time? Who's oversaturated with infotainment? (And, as usual, Bessie ignored that Bush was compared to Hitler during the eight years he occupied the White House.)
Then what did we get? Another junior college professor. This one couldn't pronounce "suggest" -- but for some reason included the term in the copy he wrote for himself to read aloud. Robert Abele offered commentary which was snide and ugly and his attempts to link Sarah Palin with the Tuscon shooting were appalling. He 'shaded' throughout. For example, he said right-wing radio is responsible for a number of Republicans believing Barack Obama is Muslim. But Abele didn't explain who was responsible for Democrats believing that. In fact, he didn't even acknowledge that the poll he was referring to found only 46% of Democrats stated Barack was a Christian. Take any of Abele's items and check Bob Somerby's archives at The Daily Howler -- you'll usually see how Abele shaded one thing after another with his half-the-story approach. And why the heck isn't Bob Somerby invited on the program to begin with? Oh, that's right, he's not condemning the people.
"It's so hard," huffed Kristina Borjesson, "to try and get these people to understand that there's a whole universe of information that they should be looking at . . ." And if you're feeling smug and thinking, "Yeah, Tina, sock it to those right-wingers!" . . . Well, you might want to pause. She was referring to the public. You know, "these people." So frustrating, so uninformed. Way to win people over, Borjesson. She then insisted she didn't watch TV news anymore because, in her opinion, "they've made themselves irrelevant with ranting [. . .] opinion journalism." Thanks for sharing your opinion which was opinion -- maybe even ranting? -- but wasn't news. Finger Pointer, condemn thyself.
"In the meantime," she called out from her high horse, "what's going on in Afghanistan? What's going on in Iraq?"
What is going on in either? You didn't find out from her or from the hour long Morning Mix. You know what? That's an hour of radio that we need. What you offered? We don't need that at all. Don't need it, don't want it. You had nothing to offer for a full hour. While slamming the MSM for wasting people's time, you had nothing to offer.
I can sit here all day and call out this outlet and that outlet for not covering Iraq but if I'm not covering it here, I'm a hypocrite because I'm in charge of what goes on here.
By the same token, they are in charge of what they do each Thursday on Morning Mix. Today they were full of themselves and how other people don't cover Iraq . . . as they refused to cover Iraq. Borjesson was insisting that even now we need to be covering the lies that got the US into Iraq. Well, Borjesson, where's that going to take place? You didn't go into those lies, Mickey didn't. But you finger wagged at everyone else, now didn't you?
Land of snap decisions
Land of short attention spans
Nothing is savored
Long enough to really understand
-- "Dog Eat Dog," words and music by Joni Mitchell, from her album of the same name
He's not writing a damn thing. If you were generous, you'd call his bits and pieces "Tweets." It's basically a glorified gossip column with a dozen items.
Nothing is savored long enough
To really understand
Our focus is Iraq. When WikiLeaks did their Iraq release in October, we covered it for two weeks here (here and here) every day. At Third, Ava and I wrote "TV: The WikiLeaks reports" and "TV: Media of the absurd" on the media coverage in real time. The Nation and Greg Mitchell weren't interested in covering the Iraq leaks. Greg Mitchell's still not interested in actually covering anything. He's Louella Parsons offering chatty, breezy gossip items. Or, if you prefer, he's like a character in Heathers, rushing in insisting, "Did you hear? School's cancelled today because Kirk and Ram killed themselves in a repressed homosexual suicide pact."
Greg Mitchell showed up on Antiwar.Radio and the real decay of journalism is hearing the former Crawdaddy writer thinking his gossip blog on WikiLeaks is somehow covering something. He was bragging about how popular the tweets are. And that now he's turning "the live blog" into a book. How about you do something of value right now instead of finger pointing that "The media forgot about it" [WikiLeaks revelations]. And how awful that Scott Horton said that Greg was "doing great work." (In fairness to Scott Horton, he clearly hasn't read the "live blog" Greg Mitchell is doing.) What Mitchell does most days is a Julian Assange watch -- with the same whiff of sexism that was there in his Crawdaddy work and which he carried all through his career.
In every culture in decline
The watchful ones among the slaves
Know all that is genuine will be
Scorned and conned and cast away
-- "Dog Eat Dog"
And be sure that Greg will continue to scorn and con and cast away that which is genuine as he does his bad gossip column. (Which is not a "live blog." Someone explain the term to him. You live blog a trial. He could "live blog" the Iraq Inquiry. But just blogging during the day really doesn't count as "live blogging.") The interview with Mitchell is frightening for just what a condemnation it is of so-called independent media. Around the time Greg's confessing, "Frankly, I don't have time read everything I link to," you realize how little standards he ever had.
The Project Censored List of Top 25 Censored Stories of 2009-2010 includes not one story related to a women's or gender issue. NOT ONE! Does that mean women's issues get lots of attention? We don't think so. Instead, it points to the masculinist bias of even the progressive media and media watchdogs.