Friday, October 7, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests and teach-ins take place in the US, the New York Times picks up an acoustic guitar and decides to try a confessional song, Iraq has serious water problems, Political Stalemate II continues, and more.
What is life?
Did you read about it
In a magazine?
Never give you what you need
Is there hope
For a mother
And an elf on speed?
-- "To A Child," written by Laura Nyro, first appears on her Mother's Spiritual
Carlos Granda (KABC -- link has text and video) reports, "About 150 people gathered and prayed at La Placita Catholic Church, and then went on a march through downtown Los Angeles. The group, called the Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, is calling for the withdrawal of all troops and private contractors from both Iraq and Afghanistan. Th group is also asking for an end to drone attacks and to redirect all funding for wars to jobs, education, health care and housing." AP notes 14 were arrested "for blocking taffic." That was the plan as explained last week on KPFK's The Lawyer's Guild with Jim Lafferty (7:00 p.m. PST every Thursday; 52 days left in the KPFK archives), Jim spoke with Shakeel Syad about an upcoming action:
Jim Lafferty: And now we're going to turn our attention to activists around the question of the war. We're coming up now to the 10th anniversary of course of the war in Afghanistan and there's a war in Iraq and a war in Pakistan and what have you. And there's a wonderful group in town, the Interfaith Clergy United for Justice and Peace. They've been active in the anti-war movement and social justice movement for some time now. And they are going to hold an action on the 10th anniversary of the war, that's next Friday October 7th, which will include both peaceful and legal protest and a parade and speeches and what have you. But they're also putting into it a feature of civil disobedience and joining us on the air to explain all that my guest is Shakeel Syed. He is the executive director of the Shura Council Mosques of Southern California, that's simply a coalition of the mosques here in southern California. Mr. Syed is one of this nation's really, really great true religious leaders and activists for for peace and social justice and especially I think for religious tolerance. Shakeel Syed, welcome back to the Lawyers Guild Show.
Shakeel Syed: Thanks for inviting me, Jim.
Jim Lafferty: As always. No, no, it's my pleasure. So next Friday, you and as many as a dozen of other members of Clergy United for Justice and Peace and some others who may not be clergy members but are part of that religious community are prepared to get arrested in protest of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why?
Shakeel Syed: Gosh, I think this is an imperative for people of conscience to remind ourselves and our fellow citizens that for ten consecutive years we have been killing innocent people and getting our young men and women killed while destroying our treasure, whatever little is left, and having people like Rose [Gudiel whose story was covered in the first segment of the show] get evicted and so it is time that people should rise up. We are only 24 or 25 people who will be doing this civil disobedience on October 7th in downtown LA but I hope and pray that there would be a mass uprising throughout the country in fact to remind the country, remind the nation, remind our political leaders that we are not going to forget the misadventures of our state.
LAist notes, "The protest, which incorporated religious leaders from many faiths, was scheduled to go from 9 a.m. until noon. Participants planned to engage in civil disobedience as they march from La Placita Church at 535 N. Main St to the downtown Federal Building, where a blessing was planned." Corey Moore and Larry Mantle (KPCC) report, "Protesters spoke from the platform of a truck where labor leaders, Occupy L.A. demonstrators and others denounced the war. They said money should be going to jobs and schools, not bombs."
In Baghdad today, protests took place. The Great Iraqi Revolution notes that chants included, "America Out, Baghdad will always be Free." Aswat al-Iraq notes the activists were "demanding an end to corruption, unemployment and provision of services." Click here and here for video of the protest in Baghdad.
In other news, Al Rafidayn reports concern building over the fact that, as the headline notes, Baghdad is on top of a giant basin of oil but little water and the paper notes efforts are underway to address the potential scarcity of water in the future. Water is an issue in Iraq for many reasons including the lack of potable water (water that is safe to drink) in much of Iraq and also the water issues they have with Turkey (predominately issues of dams preventing the flow of waterways) and Iran (salt polluting the water ways). With so few aquifiers in that region (and Saudi Arabia sitting on several), the government of Iraq must be very worried about what happens in the future, especially if the world moves away from oil as the primary energy source and/or the price of oil drops. New Sabah notes concern in the Ministry of Energy over the decline in the price of oil currently ($90 a barrel in the article; $83 per barrel currently according to AP) and that there might be an emergeny meeting of OPEC to address crude production. This as Baser News reports that the Ministry of Health states that as much as 50% of the water in Baghdad is polluted. And it's not just water in Baghdad that has pollutants. At the end of 2007, Luke Mitchell reported for Harper's magazine from Iraq:
This was in a particularly empty patch of desert beyond even the lonely cinder-block houses and the rock-throwing kids. We had sped past dry concrete canals and abandoned oil drums and rocket-charred tanks, past mile upon mile of flat dirt and rust, and then we found ourselves drving between a series of mirror-black ponds. These pools crept along both sides of the highway, and through the scratchy ballistic glass of our SUV it was hard to tell at first if the liquid within was oil or water. There were no ripples, though -- the pools were thick -- and the hot asphalt smell was strong enough that it had become a taste. Same said the oil came from leaky pipes, that there is no EPA watching over Rumaila. "You have to gve the devil his due here," he said, meaning Iraq. "On a good day, they export 60,000 to 70,000 barrels an hour. If 500 barrels of crude spill on the ground here, what is that? Not more than a half minute of export."
[. . .]
Sam said the groundwater in Rumaila is so salty and alkaline that if you put it in your mouth you would gag and probably throw up.
The water issues are issues a real leader would address and do so quickly. Meanwhile, Iraq's had Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister for five years and no progress on that or any other issue.
Despite his do nothing approach in his first term from 2006 to 2010, Nouri didn't want to give up the post as prime minister. And even though his political slate came in second in the elections, he refused to surrender the post thereby creating Political Stalemate I which lasted over eight months. Al Mada reports that Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya which came in first in the March 2010 elections, announced yesterday that he was no longer going to seek to head the security council. The security council? Never created. The Erbil Agreement, which allowed Nouri al-Maliki to remain as prime minister, was supposed to, among other things, create an independent security council and Allawi was supposed to head it. After Nouri got what he wanted out of the agreement, he went back on his word and trashed the agreement. The Kurds and Iraqiya and the National Alliance have been calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement.
In his statements yesterday, Allawi decried the policies of the government currently and noted the "rampant corruption" taking place. He said there is no partnership nationally and noted the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement. As mixed up and messed up as he sees the national scene currently, he also stated that Iraq's relations with other countries and within the region was being harmed by the current approach of the current government (Nouri).
As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) notes of the Tuesday meet up at President Jalal Talabani's home, that Iraqis were expecting the governmental issues to be discussed but instead the meeting became solely about US troops remaining in Iraq (which they agreed to). He writes of failed opportunities and of a pattern of sewing dissatisfaction and mistrust. Al Sabaah notes that to address the immunity that the political blocs were not willing to grant in that meeting, the notion of an umbrella of immunity under some agreement between Iraq and NATO could take place. But MP Shaun Mohamed Taha tells the paper that the best thing to do would be for Iraq and the US to reach an agreement and save any NATO agreement for a last resort. Al Mannarah, Iraq's independent newspapers, speaks with sources who state that Nouri had already promised the US White House that US troops would remain in Iraq before the Tuesday meet-up at Jalal's house (and Nouri had already promised it, they are right) and that if the blocs had rejected the US military presence beyond 2011, he had promised to sign a memorandum of understanding with the US which would allow US soldiers (billed as "trainers") to remain in Iraq. It's said that Nouri and the US are tossing around the number 5,000 (number of US service members to remain in Iraq) and this in addition to any under the State Dept's banner who might be needed to guard the embassy. Al Sabaah is reporting that the Parliament's Security and Defense Commission has reached a decision about those non-"trainers" (US soldiers) and when they should leave. Committee Chair Hassan Sinead issued a statement saying they should leave by November 11th. Per the Status Of Forces Agreement, they should have until December 31, 2011. Sinead is also insisting that, if soldiers are staying, a deal be made quickly. His announcement may be, in part, an effort to move the process along. (A bluff to move the process along.)
Viola Gienger (Bloomberg News) reports, "Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Iraqi leaders must give the U.S. certain legal protections for its forces in Iraq under any agreement to leave some troops behind after this year." Chris Carroll (Stars and Stripes) reports speaks with national security expert Anthony Cordesman about the issue of immunity and, "Cordesman said the United States and Iraq might not ink a Status of Forces Agreement that explicitly gives troops immunity like the 2008 document now in effect, but there would at least be some agreement to effectively shield U.S. troops, while providing political cover for Iraqi leaders."
Super summer sugar croppin'
In the mornin'
Do you shoppin' baby
Love my lovething
Super ride inside my lovething
You may leave the fair
But you'll be back I swear
Would you love to love me baby?
I would love to love you baby now
Would you love to love me baby?
I would love to love you baby now
I keep hearin' mother cryin'
I keep hearin' daddy through his grave
"Little girl, of all the daughters
You were born a woman
Not a slave"
Oh I hate my winsome lover
Tell him I've had others
At my breast
And only now am I a virgin
-- "The Confession," written by Laura Nyro, first appears on her Eli & The Thirteenth Confession
And this June, Mr. Obama spoke by telephone with the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and indicated he was willing to leave nearly 10,000 troops, according to a Western diplomat and an Iraqi official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions had been private.
'It's the miltiary, acting all on their own, those mean generals!, and maybe Leon Panetta too, that keep pushing to prolong the US military presence in Iraq. It's not Barack. He needs to speak up so that these generals know he's not for this.' You've heard that delusion on programs like Flashpoints Radio (from guests, Dennis Bernstein's not crazy enough to spout that himself) and Democracy Now! and read it at places like The Nation and ZNet. It's apparently the first song in the hymnal of the Cult of St. Barack -- has to be the first one, it's sung so often. (I believe the title is "He's Not Responsible" and it comes right before "It's All Bush's Fault" and "He's Only Been President For ____.") It was never true.
There was not a rogue State Dept or rogue branch of the military working behind Barack's back. This is what he's always wanted. But the press likes to give Barack cover and he has to reach a 55% disapproval rating for the press to decide to provide a little truth (a little well known truth).
It's Barack's war and it's been his war for some time now. Since he rebranded it "Operation New Dawn" just over a year ago, 60 US service members have died, 36 of those in combat (this despite his claim that "combat operations" had ended).
Arango and Schmidt speak to a few Iraqis. We'll ignore the college student -- normally, we'd grab him for the quote -- because the paper's never been at a loss to quote Iraqis in favor of the US is staying in their country. Instead we'll note Hamid al-Mutlaq ("a lawmaker"), "The Iraqi people won't forget what they were subjected to, such as killing, hunger and displacement. The atrocities of Abu Ghraib prison remain in their memory."
On the second hour of today's Diane Rehm Show (NPR), a guest called in about the occupation of the MidEast and the animosity it breeds.
Yochi Dreazen: You know, he mentioned Iraq. I was just there for about a month and came back recently so I'm still mildly incoherent from jet lag. The disconnect between the debate here about troops and the debate there was staggering to me. Here the question was always framed as how many troops will Obama leave? Republicans said too few, Democrats said too many. But the basic idea was that it was his choice, that the US could sort of choose how many to leave. We are, as Nadia  said, more hated there than -- I was the bureau chief there for three years, I spent about five years there -- more hated now than ever before.
[Guest host] Laura Knoy: Really? In Iraq?
Yochi Dreazen: In Iraq. They want us out. There's not a single political party -- [not] the Kurds, none, no matter how pro-American. I spent some time with Ayad Allawi the former prime minister. He was on the CIA payroll. He's as close to America as you can find in Iraq. And he refused to say that he thinks troops should stay and hinted strongly that they want them gone. Some of that is politics. It's an easier thing to say if you're a political leader that you want them out. But we are hated in Iraq and there is no constituency saying we should stay, which is -- my gut is that I don't think there'll be a troop extension. If it is it's going to be tiny. It's not going to be 3,000, it's not going to be 2,000. It'll be 1,000 or 1500 because we are so deeply, deeply unpopular.
-- "Save The Country," written by Laura Nyro, first appears on her New York Tendaberry
"Old men send young people to die in their wars," explained Phyllis Bennis this evening. "The old men who send them don't die very often" in these wars. She was taking part in the action at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church where Iraq Veterans Against the War's executive director Jose Vasquez welcomed those assembled to War Voices. Safia Elhillo kicked things off with a poem entitled "How To Love In War Time" which includes the advice to "clutch your firstborn in your lap" because "all you have lost" is behind you. Phyllis Bennis gave some opening remarks and kicked off the voices with Suraia Sahar who explained, among other things, how Afghans for Peace ended up with that name (Sahar is an Afghan whose family moved to Canada). Other voices included Afghanistan War veteran Brock McIntosh and Military Families Speak Out's Pat Alviso who noted with four deployments already (a fifth to begin in January), her son has lost friends, seen a marriage end and that these and other tolls aren't noted by the recruiters who show up in a lousy economy promising jobs, money and adventure.
Good for Adam (who doesn't need applause to tell the straight truth but does deserve recognition for always stepping up to the plate and doing so). It wasn't interested in war. It didn't care about the Iraq War or even name it. It was a toss-out-everything and hope something sticks. Kevin Zeese is part of Come Home America (no link) and needs to get his act together because he looks like a hypocrite being the public face of that group which is supposed to build bridges across the political spectrum, linking all opposed to the current wars, and yet can't make room for the right in a protest? The reality is that in the next 2 years, the wars could be ended (in less than the next 2) but universal health care is something that will require a lot more ground work and probably many more years. So it look like a fetish prevented a message of strong opposition to war from being sent. (A "fetish" refers to a refusal to be realistic. It's not a dig at single-payer, universal health care which I do support.)
In Canada, Iraq War veteran and war resister Rodney Watson continues to hope for asylum. Yolande Cole (Georgia Straight -- link has text and video) reports it's a little over two years since the US war resister, on the verge of being deported (September 2009), sought refuge at First United Church in Vancouver with his wife and son. He states, "I've been through a lot in my life, and this has been one of the hardest things I've been through, being stuck in these walls. The hardest thing about being stuck here is waving to my wife and son . . . every time they got to the store, or to family dinners, outings, to the park . . . the hardest part for me is saying good-bye." First United Church notes:
The 34th General Council of The United Church of Canada (1992) endorsed "the moral right and responsibilities of congregations to provide sanctuary to legitimate refugee claimants who have been denied refugee status."
Sanctuary should only be considered as a way to right a wrong or to uphold justice. As a public and prophetic witness of the church, it is to be considered only after all legal, administrative, and political appeals for justice have been tried. From this perspective, sanctuary is "moral obedience" and displays ultimate respect for the law and the justice it demands of it.
Rodney Watson, 31, after losing his job and being desperate for income, signed up as a cook for the U.S. army in Kansas City. He was subsequently sent to Iraq for 12 months. He found himself not working as a cook but as an armed soldier securing the kitchen and mess area. After his tour of duty ended in 2006 and a few months before his 3-year contract would end, the US army informed him he would be sent back to Iraq where his contract would unilaterally be extended.
He fled to Vancouver, deeply convicted that his conscience would not permit him to continue to participate in a war that he believed was neither justified nor being conducted in ways he was willing to be a part of. He sought refuge in Canada but Rodney was ordered to leave Canada by Friday September 11 2009, or face deportation. Rodney asked for Sanctuary at First United and came into this building on the evening of Friday September 18th, 2009.
In providing sanctuary for Rodney Watson, the Board of First United Church took the following into consideration:
1. Respect and support for the Law of the Land
The Church has consistently respected and supported the democratically established Law and processes of Justice. However, the Christian Church has also at times embraced actions that challenge and/or obstruct the Law when a law or its implementation is deemed unjust.
In Rodney's case, with reference to his application for refugee status:
A) The Law allows for a process that includes opportunity for a review on humanitarian and compassionate grounds to be held after a deportation order has been issued -- and it also allows for the deportation to be delayed until that hearing is held, but…. (i) Holding the Hearing after Rodney has been deported makes the process moot, since he will receive a prison sentence of at least a year and will have a criminal record that prevents re-entry into Canada (ii) No indication has been given of a willingness to hold such a Hearing before deporting Rodney (iii) The Hearing has been seriously prejudiced by the Minister of Immigration's public statement that "Iraq war resisters are bogus refugee claimants"
B) The legal process has denied Rodney refugee status despite the fact that the democratically elected Parliament of Canada has voted in 2008 and in March 2009 to allow Iraq war resisters to be given refuge in Canada, with the result that…
(i) The intent of the Law (which, as reflected in the Parliamentary majority votes and in Canada's history of providing refuge to Vietnam war resisters and others is clearly to offer refuge to war resisters) has been ignored or contradicted
The Board of First United considers the implementation and process of the Law as not being just -- and believes it would be an injustice for him to be deported at this point. Justice requires that Rodney be given a fair hearing on Compassionate and Humanitarian grounds before being deported -- and that the Hearing take into account the intent of the Law and the decisions of a democratically elected Parliament
2. Conscientious Objectors and Just Wars
The Church has over the ages been willing to accept the need for war as a last resort, carefully applying the Just War doctrine and criteria. When a war has been deemed not to meet the criteria of a Just War, the Church has opposed that war and refused to collaborate in its execution. Equally the Church has upheld (indeed often encouraged) Conscientious Objection by those who choose on the basis of conscience not to participate in a war (or to terminate their involvement in one.
In this context:
A) The war in Iraq is considered by many to be an illegitimate war. (i) The grounds and justifications given for declaring that war have been proved to be invalid. (ii) Canada itself chose not to participate in that war because the justification was suspect from the start.
B) The Church calls on secular society to join it in respecting the right to conscientious objection and Rodney is objecting to being sent back to a war in which he does not believe and cannot in conscience support (In this case a war that most Canadians do not support).
C) Secular society holds individuals personally accountable for their decisions and actions in the context of war. We cannot hold people accountable if we do not give them the opportunity to choose not to participate. Denying Rodney the right to refuse to participate by seeking refuge in Canada, contradicts this basic principle.
Justice requires that Rodney be given the opportunity to make the choice of not participating in a war that in conscience he cannot support -- by being allowed as per the will of Parliament to be given refuge in Canada.
3. Basic justice and solidarity with those treated unjustly.
The Church has consistently stood in solidarity with those who are being treated unjustly. It has also traditionally had strong theological bases for defending the rights of workers/employees in the context of workplace/employment imbalances of power.
In Rodney's case:
A) There is a basic injustice in a unilateral extension of a contract (even when written into the small print of the document that has been signed by both parties. ). Rodney was not in breach of his 3-year contract in any way, when it was unilaterally extended 3 months before it was due to end. The unilateral extension of a contract is an unfair labour practice and an abuse of power.
B) The consequence of deporting Rodney is that an 8-month old child will be deprived of any contact with his father for at least a year -- and possibly longer.
Justice requires that Rodney not be forced to continue being employed against his wishes despite having met his mutually agreed contractual obligations -- and equally that he not be imprisoned for being unwilling to meet unilaterally imposed requirements.
For the reasons outlined above and based on the theological principles and policies outlined in the attached documents, the Board of First United Church is providing refuge and Sanctuary for Rodney Watson.
The first parent trigger law was passed in California last year. It says that if the parents of 51 percent of a public school's students sign a petition (the "trigger"), that petition will result in one of four options: firing the principal, bringing in an entirely new staff, closing the school, or handing over the school to a charter school operator. Rather than triggering a broader process, the specific option -- for example, the specific charter school company -- is part of the petition.
Several very conservative players in national education reform, in addition to Broad, have made parent trigger proposals a key part of their agenda. Many teachers fear the expansion of a privatized education system, and view parent trigger laws as a means for rushing the process forward.
And there is no indication that these laws increase parental voice in their children's education. "You get one shot and that's it, because once that charter is formed, that charter dictates how it will operate," John Rogers, associate professor of urban schooling at UCLA, told NBC's Education Nation. "[Parents] have fewer rights in the context of a charter than they would at a public school."
As trigger laws are introduced in state after state, California's experience is being watched closely. When the trigger law there was up for a vote, Democrats, among them Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (a former field rep for United Teachers Los Angeles), spoke for the bill, although the votes to pass it came mostly from Republicans. Teachers' unions lobbied against it, while a chorus of mainstream media hailed it. Patrick Range McDonald of the LA Weekly claimed it was the product of "minority parents and fierce reformers, who seemed to materialize from thin air."
Not quite. Although some grassroots parents undoubtedly did support the bill, it was the product of powerful political figures, backed by the wealthy foundations that shape much of the country's debate over education reform. SBX54 was written by the Los Angeles Parents Union (LAPU), started in 2006 by the Green Dot charter school company. The LAPU was headed by political operative Ben Austin, who then started another organization, Parent Revolution, to promote and implement the parent trigger law. At its birth, Parent Revolution had a $1 million budget supplied by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the Eli Broad Foundation, the Hewlett-Packard Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.
And we'll note an ongoing exhibit:
This Camera Fights Fascism:
The Photographs of David Bacon and Francisco Dominguez
July 29 - December 4, 2011 and January 14 - February 5, 2012
Tuesday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
David Bacon and Francisco Dominguez have both followed in the tradition of Depression-era photographers such as Dorothea Lange, focusing their cameras on struggle, dissent, immigrants, and workers. Their photographs speak to the global character of contemporary migration. Like the so-called Okies of the Depression, many of today's migrants have been displaced by environmental degradation and wider economic forces.
The title of this exhibition refers to a sign that 1930s folk musician Woody Guthrie often had on his guitar, "This Machine Kills Fascists." These two photographers build a powerful body of visual evidence of the continuing struggle of workers, migrants, and poor people to survive. In this exhibition the photographers responded to images by Dorothea Lange and selected photographs from their own work that draw close connections between the 1930s and today.
David Bacon is a photojournalist who has documented the movements of farm workers, social protest from Iraq and Mexico to the U.S., and the migration of people. He is the author of several books, and many of the images in this show are from Communities Without Borders, Images and Words from the World of Migration.
Francisco Dominguez is a photographer and printmaker. His parents both were farm workers. He documents the struggles of indigenous, immigrant, and poor people in black and white photography.