Thursday, November 09, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

"The longer we stayed there, the more I opposed the war. The more I know, the easier it is to support withdrawal." US Marine speaks to Socialist Worker

Pru has a highlight and offered that it could hold until Sunday but we'll note it today. First, we're going to note the latest on Ehren Watada. (Those who need or would like an audio version can access the KPFA archives for today's The KPFA Evening News.) The military has decided to move to a court-martial. Keesha notes "Watada to face court martial for refusing to go to Iraq" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer):

The Army says it will court martial Lt. Ehren Watada, the Fort Lewis officer who refused to go to Iraq because he believes the war is illegal.
The base commander, Lt. Gen. James Dubik, agreed with the recommended charges of missing a military movement and conduct unbecoming an officer. But in referring the case today for a court martial, Dubik dismissed a charge of contempt toward officials.

Also highlighting this story, Fred notes Melanthia Mitchell's "Army says Lt. Watada will face court-martial" (AP via Seattle Times):

No date has been set for the trial to begin, Fort Lewis officials said.
Watada was charged with missing troop movement, conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt toward officials for comments he made about President Bush.
The Army later added another specification of conduct unbecoming an officer based on his comments in Seattle during the national convention of Veterans for Peace in August.
Dubik referred only the charges of missing movement and conduct unbecoming an officer, the Army said.

has two highlights. First up, from someone who's been covering the story all along,
Gregg Kakesako's "Army plans 2007 court martial for Watada: They drop one charge but two remain" (Honolulu Star-Bulletin):

Eric Seitz, Watada's attorney, said Watada's court martial will be held next year.
Besides being charged with missing a movement, Watada, who is from Honolulu, is also accused of conduct unbecoming an officer. If convicted, Watada could face up to six years in jail and a dishonorable discharge.
The recommendation to hold a court martial at Fort Lewis was made by Lt. Gen. James Dubik, who commands the Washington Army base. Dubik's decision was based on a recommendation by Lt. Col. Mark Keith, who held the pretrial Article 32 hearing in August.

And what's Ehren Watada thinking? Joan also notes "Army Orders Court-Martial For Hawaii Soldier" (Honolulu's KITV):

"I'm moving forward as I've always had with resilience and fortitude to face the challenges ahead," Watada said.
[. . .]
"Unfortunately the army does want to make a martyr out of him. They have told us they will not enter into any agreement that doesn't include at least a year of incarceration, and that's just simply something we are unable to agree to," Watada's attorney Eric Seitz said.
The maximum penalty for the charges is six years in confinement and dismissal from the service, according to Army officials.

Ehren Watada's family have kept the issue alive by speaking out to the public. Carolyn Ho, his mother, has spoken to many groups. His father Bob Watada, and his step-mother, Rosa Sakanishi, are in the middle of another speaking tour. When they were on their first tour (which concentrated on the West coast), the word came out from the Article 32 hearing. On this tour, all this time later (the Article 32 hearing was in August) comes the news of a court-martial. For a report on a speaking engagement earlier this week, Bonnie notes Beth Brogan's "Father: My son's right not to fight in Iraq war" (The Times Record):

Watada's father, Robert Watada, was in Yarmouth as part of a 24-day speaking tour he hopes will garner public support for his son's case, and shine light on "the true story about what is going on in Iraq today."
While not timed to coincide with the national elections, Tuesday's visit to Maine brought Watada to Yarmouth at the invitation of independent congressional candidate Dexter Kamilewicz of Harpswell. After speaking at the University of Southern Maine, Watada spent Tuesday evening with Kamilewicz at the First Unitarian Church in Yarmouth.
During his campaign, Kamilewicz called for a joint resolution to demand an immediate cease-fire in Iraq and the recall of all U.S. troops. His son, Ben, a member of the Vermont National Guard, was injured while serving in Iraq.
"You've got to stand up in the bright light of day and say things," Kamilewicz said Tuesday night. "Risking an enormous amount to do that is an enormous courage." Robert Watada said Tuesday that his son joined the Army in March 2003 after graduating from college "because Bush said there were terrorists all over the country, so for patriotic reasons he joined the military to join the government's war on terror."
Before he deployed, Ehren's commander told him that as an officer, "he should know everything about the battles he's going to take his men into, and he should be able to explain to them why they're going to be dying for their country," Robert Watada said. "He began to study Iraq and came upon the truth that the president had been lying to the American people and to the military commanders about why we're over there. There were no weapons of mass destruction; there were no chemical or biological weapons, and were no terrorists in Iraq."
Ehren tried to resign several times, his father said, but was refused without reason. When his Stryker Brigade combat team was scheduled to deploy from Fort Lewis in Seattle on June 22, Ehren Watada refused get on the bus.

The tour is raising awareness, a full schedule can be found here, and the issue didn't die. Even when the media wasn't there, his family was. It does make a difference. And you can make a difference by keeping the stories of war resisters active in your own circles. Mark Wilkerson is someone the US military hasn't decided whether to court-martial or not. Agustin Aguayo was taken to Germany which removes him from his wife and kids (and don't think that wasn't a factor in the decision by the military). Kyle Snyder returned from Canada and turned himself in at Fort Knox (Oct. 31st) only to discover that the military that lied to him before was still lying -- at which point he self-checked out again. At this point, he remains underground. Ivan Brobeck turned himself in Tuesday. He is expected to be court-martialed. Joshua Key found out this week that, like Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey before him, the Canadian government was refusing to grant asylum. (He is appealing that. Hinzman and Hughey have been appealing the decision -- the latest which came earlier this year -- and a decision is supposed to made shortly.) Darrell Anderson (whose family kept his case front and center) is departing the military (officially, not a self-check out). Ricky Clousing has been sentenced. Among those sentenced earlier were Camilio Mejia, Stephen Funk, Pablo Paredes, Kevin Benderman and Katherine Jashinski.

It matters. Stopping the war matters. Everyone needs to say their "no" to the war. For those serving the "no" is all the more difficult because they face the prospects of legal punishments and not just angry words. (They also face a dishonorable discharge that will follow them around for the rest of their lives. Those who chose to go to Canada or elsewhere face the prospects of never returning to the US unless they want to face prosecution.) Refusing to cover their brave stands doesn't honor them or their stands, nor does the silence demonstrate a committment to ending the war.

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

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Thursday, the total number of US troop fatalities stood at 2826. Right now? 2839. Thirteen more. The number doesn't reset, it doesn't start moving backwards. Those 2839 are gone as are the 650,000 Iraqis. On the number of Iraqis who have died during the war, The KPFA Evening News noted that the Iraqi Ministry of Health has now released a number: 150,000. The figure is far higher than anything the United States government has offered. (For public consumption, Bully Boy offered the Iraq Body Count number which is based on daily deaths reported by the western, mainstream press that get reported in several mainstream outlets). Unlike the AP story, the broadcast noted the figure was based upon the estimate of 100 bodies brought to morgues and hospitals each day but "that calculation would be closer to 130,000." It's also true, as Dahr Jamail and Riverbend have noted, that not every death results in a trip to the hospital or a morgue. The AP story does note this on the health minister:

"The army of America didn't do its job. . . . They tie the hands of my government," said [Ali] al-Shemari, a Shiite."They should hand us the power. We are a sovereign country," he said, adding that the first step would be for American forces to leave population centres.

An interview today was the most disorganized mess I've ever heard in some time. There are at least seven e-mails on that already. The issue isn't the interviewer, the issue is the grab bag of topics the guest is attempting to squeeze in. At one point he pairs Congress members and generals and then goes into a whine about Congress members. Whether he's attempting to put generals on a higher pedestal or not, that's how it came off to those who heard it and e-mailed about it. Civilian control of the military. That's the principle in this country. If you can't grasp that, you probably need to just throw in the towel. Whether the guest could or couldn't grasp it, who knows? Then it was (and this upset Mia, Megan and Zach especially) that it didn't matter what Congress wanted or what Americans wanted. Uh, yeah, it does.

Advocating listening to Iraqis is one thing and worth supporting. But to be discussing the elections and to offer that Americans wants or desires don't matter is to come off like an insufferable prig who has no concept of democracy. I enjoy the guest most times. But he did appear to be advocating the 'Pottery Barn policy' (which isn't the store's policy) and he was useless. He hit on too many points without developing any of them. He left listeners thinking that he felt the military was higher than the elected officials. (He also failed to note the role of the military, but no one brought that up, so I'll table it.) It was useless nonsense that could have been developed to strong points but instead left people surprised considering whom it was coming from.

Listening to Iraqis didn't appear to include listening to the ones calling for foreign troops to leave -- the group that is in the majority. The war is illegal. Now you can George Packer it and try to wash away guilt (collective or individual) all you want (or pretend to) but you can't circumvent the desires of the Americans and Iraqis -- or ignore the fact that what Bully Boy has done is illegal. It can't be prettied up. It can't be made 'right.' In the end, each country is responsible to its own people. Bully Boy, while giving lip service to 'democracy,' has no respect for it which is why the feelings and safety of the Iraqis didn't enter into the picture when he wanted to wage his illegal war.

This George Packer nonsense (Packer wasn't the guest) that the illegal war can be made 'good' by the outcome is ludicrous. The war was illegal and nothing's going to change that. US presence only inflames tensions and that's been true since the start of the war. To think it can be 'beautified' at this point doesn't make you anymore of a voice for the left than Lady Bird Johnson.

Iraqis are going to have to take control of their own country. It will be messy and that's because there were no steps towards democracy. A puppet government isn't democracy. A puppet government taking orders does not enstill democratic concepts in a society. If the guest wasn't advocating a position of "We can fix it!" then he needs to choose his words more carefully and he needs to narrow down his talking points because he was all over the map. I've never heard of so many e-mails complaining about a guest they liked (in other appearances) before. (Heard of because portions of this entry -- including this -- are dictated. A friend's going through the e-mails to see if anything has come in that needs to be noted in this entry.)

Listening to a puppet government, sheltered from reality in the fortified Green Zone, isn't listening to the Iraqi people. Possibly the guest just had too many points he wanted to make so he was all over the map? I heard it and thought, "Well we won't be noting that." But members wanted it noted so it's noted. 'Strategy' is not the answer and will not change the fact the war is illegal. Attempting to 'help' by dictating and controlling the situation (hence the creation of a puppet government) makes things worse and anyone who can't grasp that an occupation doesn't go pretty calls into question their entire knowledge of the region. Occupation isn't 'pretty' for Palestinians. That no one drew the obvious comparison is rather sad. To think that the US government has any 'moral' ground on which to mediate the mess the Bully Boy caused is crazy. This is a matter for Iraqis. It's their country. The US government's responsibility for the years and years of horrors that Palestinians have lived under (and will continue to) comes from the belief of "We know best" (that's the nice version) and continues because of the belief that the cause of the problem can now mediate it.

If Iraq wants to divide into three sections, that'll have to come from Iraqis, not from Joe Biden or any other American. That's not something that should be imposed from outside. It's not going to be pretty, the situation in Iraq, but the US staying there (and dictating) only makes it worse and only postpones the business of the Iraqi people. They're not children. They need to be allowed to chart their own destiny without foreign interference (foreign aid is owed and then some). The illegal war has been a bloodbath and the withdrawal of foreign forces will more than likely lead to more deaths. In the immediate future. Prolonging the departure only increases the numbers of victims (both while it's prolonged and in the immediate time after the departures). There is no 'moral' leadership that the US government can provide. As Zalmay prepares to leave like Bremer before him, as Rumsfled follows Powell out the door, that's an option Iraqis don't have unless they leave their own country. And that's why the US shouldn't attempt to lead, they always have the leave option because it's a foreign country. That's why a foreign country can't create 'democracy.'

The foolish belief that it can is why we're at the Zinn event and not the other. Though the other has one guest who will no doubt make many strong and insightful points. But we weren't in the mood for "I'm against the war. Now let me tell you why the U.S. can't leave." As for what magazine that nonsense is coming from, I'm confused as well. The person works for another magazine -- is on the masthead of another magazine -- is not on the masthead of the magazine the person was speaking for. Did Lee Siegel teach the magazine nothing? There doesn't need to be cross pollunation. Each magazine should have its own voice. Treating staff as though they're interchangeable doesn't demonstrate that there's any individuality. We didn't note that event because of that person who is loathed by the community for a wide variety of reasons. Ty, Dona, Jim, Jess, Ava and I skipped the event tonight because we have no interest in hearing that drippy voice. Scared by the 2004 conventional 'wisdom' of the 2004 election, the person waded in to announce that the left needed to realize the US needed to stay in Iraq. That person's never had any moral authority but, were that ever in doubt, the 2004 non-thought piece made it quite clear. Since the person works for another magazine -- in an editorial postion -- there's no reason for the person to be at an event for a magazine that stated they'd support no candidate who didn't call for an end to the war. Earlier this year, Voices of a People's History of the United States was presented in NYC. If it travels to your area, please make a point to see it. (Jim says: "See it!")

Now for Pru's highlight, Simon Assaf's "US troops revolt against Iraq war" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

"The longer we stayed there, the more I opposed the war. The more I know, the easier it is to support withdrawal."
US Marine speaks to
Socialist Worker
The growing crisis faced by the US occupation of Iraq was the key issue in midterm elections, taking place in the US as Socialist Worker went to press.
The rising toll of human suffering and violence has led millions of Americans to question the reasons for the invasion - and many now believe that the US is losing the war.
This shift in attitude has penetrated into the US army. Serving soldiers have found an unlikely spokesperson in Liam Madden, a 22 year old Marine Corps sergeant.
Madden considers himself a patriot, but faced with the disaster in Iraq he has begun campaigning openly for the withdrawal of US troops.
"We should not be in Iraq. The war has been badly conducted and poorly executed. The war is not winnable and can no longer be justified," he told Socialist Worker by telephone.
Madden served in the Anbar province of Iraq from September 2004 until February 2005.
The mainly Sunni Muslim region is one of the heartlands of resistance to the occupation, encompassing the restive towns of Fallujah and Ramadi. In November 2004 Marines spearheaded the assault on Fallujah in a battle that sparked a general rebellion against the occupation.
During his deployment in Iraq, "we only really cared about coming home and helping our friends to come home, all other opinions were put on the back burner," said Madden.
"However there is a growing, if silent, anti-war sentiment among the troops. But as professionals we felt we had a job to do and just wanted to get home in one piece.
"Some marines began to oppose the war through personal experience, often the tragic circumstances that you face in Iraq. Others, like myself, questioned the political reasons for the war from the beginning and I became more convinced during my time there.
"I was infuriated at how long we have been in Iraq, and how much longer we were going to stay in a country where people don't want us.
"I am grateful that I survived with no physical or psychological harm."
His opposition to the war grew on his return to the US. Madden and a fellow soldier launched their campaign after they went to a meeting on resistance among US troops during the Vietnam War.
Madden made public his opposition to the war. He spoke to the army newspaper, local press and national news.
For a serving soldier to openly campaign for an end to the war carries enormous risks.
"I was expecting hostility, but I have received overwhelming praise from friends and families, and more support than criticism from my fellow Marines," he said.
"Some things are worth fighting for, I just don’t feel Iraq is one of them.
"The more people who die there, and the longer we stayed there, the more I opposed the war. The more I know, the easier it is to support withdrawal."
Madden took his campaign, Appeal for Redress, to the anti-war GI Special, a daily newsletter for soldiers.
He wrote, "How long can either the incompetence of our policy makers or, possibly worse, their deceit be tolerated?
"When will we decide to do what we do best, stand up and defend our principles?"
He feels the only option is to withdraw.
"If our staying makes the situation worse, and provokes more anti-US sentiment, then it is undoubtedly justified and logical for service members to advocate the withdrawal of US forces."
The following should be read alongside this article: »
Bush and the neocons: rats leave sinking ship» Army newspaper says Rumsfeld must go» Statistics show the growing strength of the resistance in Iraq» The '‘war on terror' and the US on the web
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