Thursday, August 21, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, August 21, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, where is the peace movement?, Barack launches more air strikes and more US troops may be headed to Iraq, and much more.

Let's start with Doug Henwood.  His low rated program Behind The News was evicted from WBAI.  He must be very proud of it because he bothered to keep it alive -- listeners be damned.

He has one more week in August.

If Doug doesn't note Iraq next week, he'll have ignored it for two months.  He covered soccer, mind you, on Behind The Gossip.  He just didn't cover Iraq.

Remembering the high horses he and his wife Liza Featherstone were once on, I'm surprised by that.  Doug insulted a friend of mine (now deceased) who was a leftist but supported the Iraq War.  I didn't support the Iraq War and we just agreed not to speak of it.  But Doug got insulting.

Like he cared.

Now I have to wonder if he did?

Two months of shows and not one damn word on Iraq?

I'm sorry, I thought he was an economist.  He did a show on the sluggish job market in the US back in July.  How much has the Iraq War effected the economy?  As it's drained the US treasury?  As it's left the country in debt for generations?

And now Barack is kicking it back up?

That's not worth a story?

Well, Doug, on behalf of my late friend, "You're full of s**."

Doug probably feels like , goodness, he did a show this week on Ferguson!

Yeah, and that's exactly the problem.

White hosts on Pacifica.  They remember race when ever tensions flare. Then they bring on guests.

Why are there so few African-American hosts on Pacifica?  If you don't count the DC station -- and no one does -- where are the African-American hosts?

I would suggest the world really doesn't need White Doug Henwood deciding to give a show over to Ferguson.  I'd suggest that's exactly the problem.  White hosts controlling the Pacifica airwaves and race being a discussion only when the noble Bwana Doug decides to focus on the topic.

Related: I don't support censorship.

And I allow art wide latitude.

I like Dead Prez.  I have no problem with them being on the air -- most of the time.

I don't understand how playing a song encouraging violence is in keeping with Pacifica's mission statement.  I wouldn't care normally but tensions are high in the US and I'm failing to see how playing this helps:

Backseat of the 'lac, big gat in my lap 
Ready for combat, feelin like Geronimo Pratt 
We had the windows cracked, headed up the strip 
Black rag in my hand, don't want no prints on the clip 
Hollow tips cuz we thorough with this shit my ni**a 
This ain't no game, we bang for uhuru my n**ga 
I take a left at the light, turn off the headlights and ride real slow 
Now holla at me when you see the 5-0 (there they go, there they go!) 
Alrite Dirty, yall boys ready? 
We 'bout to turn drive-bys revolutionary 
Look at 'em run, too scared to pull they guns 
Outta shape from them coffees and them cinnamon buns 
This s**t is fun, how I feel when the tables is turned 
Hollow tips hit yah flesh through yo vests and it burn 
That's a lesson you learn, comin strait from the slums 
And it don't stop till we get full freedom!

As art, I have no problem with it.  Were it to be from autobiographical notes, they still turned it into art.  And I love confessional songwriting.  I don't have a problem with it being played on the airwaves of other stations right now but for Pacifica to be playing it right now?

I'm not sure how that fits the role Pacifica early on cast itself in?

It becomes more problematic when the song is used at the end of a program about the killing of Brown.

And if this is supposed to pass for 'strength' and a position we need to embrace?  I thought Pacifica was created by pacifists for pacifists.

Is playing it meant to foster violence?  Stroke hate?

I have no idea.

But it is interesting how there is so much outrage over the death of one man killed in the US.  (Dead Prez released their song in 2004.  It reflects many deaths similar to that of Michael Brown's but it was written over a decade ago.)

The anger stems in part from the fact that the police are supposed to protect.

I'm not calling anyone guilty, FYI.  I'm not following the case and I trust that Attorney General Eric Holder will ensure that there is a real investigation into what happened.  (Disclosure, I know and like Eric.)

But I'm saying one death prompts such huge outrage across the country and even beyond.

Partly, that's because a police officer -- protect and serve -- was the one firing the fatal shots.

The anger is also based on historic patterns of violence targeting African-Americans in the US.

There have been many Micheal Browns and many Michelle Browns -- though African-American women who have been killed or injured are frequently overlooked by communities when it's time for activism.

But Brown wasn't the first African-American to be killed by the police.

So his death is preceded by many more, many millions more would be my guess -- although it's a guess and I don't know if anyone's ever attempted to arrive at a historical number on this.

But here's the thing.

The police are supposed to protect and serve.  (And maybe they did.  I wasn't there and the main reason to have an investigation is to determine what happens.  Plus, in the US, everyone is presumed innocent unless they're proven guilty.)  (That goes for the police officer and it also goes for Michael Brown with regard to the videotape the police released.)

But what's the government supposed to do?

I ask because the US government is bombing Iraq.

Iraqis are dying.

Millions already have just in the last two decades.

Where's the outrage on that?

I'm not taking anything away from the late Michael Brown -- and we ran US President Barack Obama's words on Brown last week.  (I thought Barack spoke wisely on the issue.  We've ignored others 'speaking' -- tea leaf reading -- on the issue.  Stop sending it.  I won't be part of a mob to convict before facts are known.  And I also don't see this site as a place to pour flammable hate onto an already tense situation.)

But I am asking why suddenly Iraqi lives are worth so little?

By suddenly, I mean the apathy of today versus the mood in 2002.

I'm not asking anyone to stop grieving for Michael Brown.

I am asking why we're not able to enlarge our notion of suffering and to call out what's taking place in Iraq.

Some might argue that with Christians being targeted (as well as Yazidis and other minority religions), the American public feels torn.

They're conflicted, someone might argue insisting that they feel something must be done.


But is bombing the only thing that can be done?

If you're worried about Iraqi Christians, for example, shouldn't you be arguing that the US needs to be opening its arms to them -- especially when other countries are announcing they'll be taking in these targeted refugees.

Michael Brown was apparently a very loved person by all who knew him.  His death -- whatever the cause -- is very sad.  But so are the Iraqis being killed.

"They're terrorists!"

Because the people killing them say that?

Civilian have been dying in the US' bombings of Mosul.  The Western press doesn't really care but Americans should.  Their government is killing innocents -- undisputed innocents -- while trying to target what they say are terrorists.

In and out of Iraq, the US government has a long history of killing 'terrorists' who later turn out to be farmers or wedding guests or reporters or . . .

Where is the outrage?

Jane Fonda  is so upset over Michael Brown's death but she can't say a word about Iraqis?  (Well why be surprised?  For all of her concern over race, African-Americans have never figured prominently in any of the films she produced or the TV show she produced -- 9 to 5 -- or in the one that's she's now producing but has yet to air.)

Jane swore silence wasn't an option on Iraq.  She swore that in 2007.  When a Republican occupied the White House.  Today?

Apparently silence is an option.

And I've decided to follow my friend Jane's lead.

I am going to be silent this fall as I speak on college campuses.  Last spring, I wasted a lot of time defending Jane from a campus craze rumor that's spread from Florida to Washington state and back again: Jane got away with her Vietnam activities because she was really CIA.

I denied it.

Now I'm going to follow Jane's lead of silence and just say, "I don't know."

United for Peace and Justice is silent too.  Not about Jane being CIA -- or maybe they're silent on that as well.  But I mean they're silent on Barack bombing Iraq and  Barack's efforts to send more US troops into Iraq.

I guess these days Leslie Cagan's united for something other than peace?

Fox News notes:

The Defense Department reported Wednesday afternoon that U.S. aircraft have conducted another 14 strikes near the Mosul Dam, which Kurdish and Iraqi forces recently re-took from Islamic militants. The latest strikes took out militants’ Humvees and other targets.

A senior U.S. official also told Fox News that military planners are weighing the possibility of sending more American forces to Iraq mainly to provide additional security “in and around Baghdad,” at the request of the State Department.

Even World Can't Wait is silent other than Debra Sweet.  Dennis Loo's written another one of his reactionary rage pieces (he knows just what happened in Ferguson -- stop the investigation, Dennis knows everything!) but he can't stop to think of Iraq, can he?

Tom Vanden Brooks (USA Today) reports:

U.S. military commanders in the Middle East are urging the Pentagon to intensify the air war against Islamic State targets in Iraq, two Defense Department officials said Wednesday.
Top officers at Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, are urging that the list of targets be expanded, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the plans.

Michael Franti used to sing, with conviction, "We can bomb the world to pieces but we can't bomb it into peace."

Where's that voice today?

Today, the world heard from US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel who declared:

Given the nature of this threat, at President Obama's direction and the request of the Iraqi government, the U.S. military has provided assistance to Iraqi security forces in order to protect U.S. personnel and facilities and support Iraq's efforts to counter ISIL in addition to providing humanitarian assistance.
American air strikes and American arms and assistance helped Iraqi and Kurdish forces blunt ISIL's advance around Irbil, where American diplomats and troops are working, and help the Iraqis retake and hold-Mosul Dam. A breach of the dam would have threatened the lives of thousands of Iraqis as well as Americans at our facilities in Baghdad and prevented the Iraqi government from providing critical services to its citizens.
The United States led an international effort to address the humanitarian crisis that unfolded at Mount Sinjar. As there continues to be an acute humanitarian need elsewhere in Iraq, the U.S. appreciates the partnership of the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy and Australia and the United Nations in helping provide relief. I expect more nations to step forward with more assistance in the weeks ahead.
Overall, these operations have stalled ISIL's momentum and enabled Iraqi and Kurdish forces to regain their footing and take the initiative. As Iraqi and Kurdish forces continue to take the initiative, the United States will continue to support them.
But addressing the threat posed by ISIL to the future of Iraq requires political reform in Iraq. The country's peaceful transition of power last week was important, and the United States will continue urging Iraq's new prime minister to establish an inclusive government that is responsive to the needs of all Iraq's citizens. A united Iraq will be a more secure and prosperous Iraq.
Political reform will make it harder for ISIL to exploit sectarian divisions. The United States and the international community will increase support for Iraq in tandem with political progress.
The president, the chairman and I are all very clear eyed about the challenges ahead. We are pursuing a long-term strategy against ISIL because ISIL clearly poses a long-term threat. We should expect ISIL to regroup and stage new offenses.

  And the U.S. military's involvement is not over. President Obama has been very clear on this point. Our objectives remain clear and limited -- to protect American citizens and facilities, to provide assistance to Iraqi forces as they confront ISIL, and to join with international partners to address the humanitarian crisis.

Does it sound like the US military is moving on?  Or does it sound like they're staying?

The Defense Dept noted today, "Since Aug. 8, U.S. Central Command has conducted a total of 90 airstrikes across Iraq. Of those 90 strikes, 57 have been in support of Iraqi forces near the Mosul Dam."

Where's the outcry?

A functioning peace movement would be calling out the bombings?

But a functioning peace movement would also note that Barack's pushing the US back in on the same 'logic' that Bully Boy said would lead to withdrawal.

As they stand up, we will step down.

That was the way Bully Boy Bush put it.

As Iraq's military stood up, there would be no need for the US military and they would fall back to the US.


Barack says that as the Iraqi military stands up, they will receive more US military support.

It's like a never ending cycle.

And now Barack's doing what with the UN?

From what Marie Harf said in today's State Dept press briefing, you'd assume our 'brave' 'peace' 'leaders' would be up in arms.

QUESTION: You think, Madam, this is going to be major discussion of issue at the United Nations upcoming General Assembly meetings, and because who is funding them and who’s arming them and how to stop this new – many people call new face of terrorism or al-Qaida?

MS. HARF: I think it will be. And as we’ve talked about a little bit, the President will be chairing a Security Council session on foreign fighters, particularly Syria and Iraq. I think it will be an incredibly important decision – or discussion, excuse me – around the General Assembly. When you have this many world leaders in one place, I don’t know, quite frankly, how it couldn’t be.

QUESTION: And you think you need major powers with you like China and Russia?

MS. HARF: We need everyone who will join us in this fight against ISIL.

At the Los Angeles Times, Robin Wright asks what the point of the mission or 'mission' Barack has launched is and how success can be measured:

What does "win" actually mean this time around? It's pretty fuzzy right now. We're in that feel-good phase of having helped prevent a genocide. But what's next specifically — and beyond?
An American role is not likely to stop at the Mosul dam, where fighting reportedly resumed a day after Obama said Iraqi forces, with backup from American air power, had reclaimed it.
How long could this mission last, if the Islamic State does not crumble as quickly as the Iraqi army did? I wouldn't bet on weeks. Or even months. This is a new phase in confronting extremism.

Iraq is a new phase but most in the media prefer to ignore that.  It's not 'sexy' enough apparently.  But it's in a new phase and it could get worse or things could improve.

You never asked for trouble but you've got fire that burns so bright… bright
You turn and face the struggle when all the others turn and hide… hide

You hold your head above the waves above the war they try to wage
You are stronger than their hate

Time for you to walk out walk in your own shoes
 -- "In Your Shoes," written by Sarah McLachlan, first appears on Sarah's new album Shine On

The editorial board of the Christian Science Monitor offers:

Iraq took a big step in that direction last week when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was forced to relinquish power, marking the country’s first peaceful transition of power in more than a decade. His tyrannical, violent rule had not only set the majority Shiites against minority Sunnis, it had also set Shiite against Shiite. His own ruling Islamic coalition had come to realize that sectarian-based politics had failed, threatening not only Iraqi democracy but the country itself. A political vacuum had left Iraq open to attack by the militants of Islamic State (IS), the group previously known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIS.
A newly designated prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, was chosen to counter the threat from IS – precisely because of his ability to work with disaffected Sunnis as well as ethnic Kurds. “The country is in your hands,” whispered Iraq’s president, Fuad Masum, as he charged Mr. Abadi with the task of forming a new government.

Before the April elections, we pointed out that not only did Nouri create the problems but that his continued presence at prime minister provided a common enemy to a variety of groups that, if Nouri weren't prime minister, would find less commonalities amongst themselves and probably splinter.

Shane Harris (Foreign Policy) feels the splintering is taking place:

 ISIS and JRTN aren't natural allies. The former wants to erase Iraq's current borders and establish a caliphate, while the latter has been a largely secular movement that seeks to regain the official power and influence it held before the U.S. invasion in 2003. But they are aligned in their opposition to, and hatred of, outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government. Each side wants him to go, and JRTN recognizes that ISIS stands the best chance of violently overthrowing the Iranian-backed regime in Baghdad.
"The Baathists and ISIS had a marriage of convenience at the start of the takeover of Mosul," said Letta Tayler, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch and a former journalist, who has reported extensively from Iraq on ISIS's human rights abuses and persecution of Shiites and religious minorities. "Baathists got muscle from ISIS, and ISIS got local legitimacy through the Baathists."

But now that marriage may be fraying, to the possible benefit of Washington and Baghdad. 

Regardless of fraying or not, the violence continues.  Margaret Griffis ( reports, "At least 31 people were killed and 28 more were wounded. The low numbers, however, are deceptive. The Iraqi military also reported dozens of militant deaths across the country but gave no solid numbers."

Lastly, music.  Last night, community sites focused on a favorite disco song.  So you got Kat with  "Heart of Glass," Elaine with "Lead Me On,"  Mike with "Rock The Boat, Don't Tip The Boat Over," Marcia with "We Are Family," Ruth with "Enough is Enough," Rebecca with "love to love you baby," Betty with "Upside Down,"  Ann with "Love Hangover" and Trina with "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough."  Without disco would the world even have the dance music of today?  One of the queens of dance music is Jody Watley and she's offered "Connecting Through Music. Paradise.."