Saturday, August 12, 2006

NYT: Glanz hits hard, Cave kisses the boo-boos

Beth Karlson got another meeting with Bully Boy. Her son died in 2003 (Warren Hansen) serving in Iraq. Repeat meetings are more likely if you're someone who insults Cindy Sheehan repeatedly (and pens little statements like: "Why does Mrs. Sheehan think she deserves to speak with him [Bully Boy] again?") She's giddy that Bully Boy held her hand for twenty minutes and, while it may beat serving up meat loaf to hungry students, it doesn't bring her son back. She's giddy over the fact that any day now, she'll be getting some answers about his 2003 death -- the answers, like good news of the war, are apparently just around the corner.

Her primary Operation Happy Talk talking point has been to ask the rhetorical question of how many presidents do you know of that met with families of the fallen? She's now added an answer now: "None that I know of."

When you work in school setting you should probably educate yourself. Or has the Bully Boy's success at flaunting ignorance made many want to play dumb & stupid?

Karlson's pimping hard for her Bully Boy and all giddy that she's learned (since 2005) that two helicopters crashed because of evasive measures. Apparently she missed the press coverage of the crash in real time because that detail was reported then. (Or maybe when the US military spokespeople cleaned up reality with their own statements, she was taken in?)

It's an AP article and if you haven't seen it yet, wait, it will come to you. That's how Operation Happy Talk works. When it does, you'll note that the report presents as though this was her first meeting with the Bully Boy. Guess the who-does-Cindy-think-she-is-to-rate-a-second-meeting line got dropped so she could push her "None that I know of." Operation Happy Talk thrives on flaunting ignorance.

Reality is the someone died almost three years ago and Bully Boy could have gotten her the Army's report some time ago. We'll note "Soldier was killed by troops he trained" from Palo Alto News because the AP forgets to note the struggle it takes to get basic truths from this administration:

Army Spc. Patrick Ryan McCaffrey gave up his job at a Palo Alto body shop to join the Army out of patriotism, and was killed in action in Iraq on June 22, 2004.
Almost two years to the day later, the government is now reporting that McCaffrey was killed by Iraqi soldiers he and other Americans had helped train, several news outlets reported today. The initial report was that he had been killed by insurgents during a night patrol.
High-level American officers are scheduled to visit his mother, Nadia McCaffrey, at her home in Tracy today.

2600 plus American troops have died in Iraq -- where was the coverage the last few weeks? Big media broke some stories, independent media provided non-stop discussions of another region.
Week after week because apparently we can only follow one topic. (Or they think we can.)

Folding Star e-mailed (long term members will remember that Folding Star used to run the website A Winding Road) to share thoughts on the lack of coverage from independent media:

It's ridiculous that any news organization has to be shamed into covering whats going on in Iraq, let alone a non-mainstream one. I hate this stupid media bandwagon where it always has to be ONE story all the time, like nothing else is going on in the world. Most people are probably so used to it from mainstream media that now that they don't even notice it even when they see it from the left, which is a big problem.
With things detioriating in Iraq on a daily basis (as the report you mention from Cockburn clearly should be indicating to the media) they're treating Iraq like it's yesterday's news, nothing to see, move it along.
They're enabling the war to continue just as much as the mainstream media and it's disgusting.

Folding Star's referring to Tuesday's snapshot and you can read the Patrick Cockburn article by clicking here.

a chill that bends
this i swear
you're the fiercest
calm i've been in
try infrared
this i swear
you're the fiercest
calm i've been in
-- "Concertina," written by Tori Amos off her double disc album To Venus and Back

The fiercest calm I've been in? We're into the New York Times now and both articles on Iraq appear on A6. Edward Wong notes of the Green Zone:

The four-square-mile Green Zone protected by layers of concrete blast walls and concertina wire on the west bank of the Tigris River here, encloses baroque palaces built by Saddam Hussein that now house the seat of the Iraqi government and the American Embassy.
[. . .]
Western security advisers confirmed Friday that there have been a recent spate of mortar and rocket attacks on the Green Zone, known to some as the International Zone. It is unclear whether anyone was wounded or killed by the strikes. A spokesman for the American military, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, declined to give details.
"We aren't interested in discussing attacks on the International Zone, their effectiveness or who may be responsible," he said in an e-mail message.

Of course they aren't. If the Israeli government hadn't decided to Bully-Up, it would be one of the more noted events of the summer. (We've noted it here repeatedly and didn't need "security advisers" to do so.) Even with the 'crackdown' and the beefed up on 'roids version 2.0 of the crackdown, it's still a story.

Also in the Times is James Glanz' "An Audit Sharply Criticizes Iraq's Bookkeeping" which has the most e-mail from members. Everyone loves the opening:

An audit by the international accounting firm Ernst & Young portrays Iraq as a country that cannot keep its book straight, where elementary accounting errors of up to a billion dollars are routine and where no one can say how much of the country's oil revenues end up in government coffers.

After that, as Brandon notes in his e-mail, "My mind reels." Not suprising when you're dealing with those dollar amounts. Ernst & Young audited the books and found that deposits are not being tracked properly (leading to some questionable records) and that there is conflict from reports of what amount of oil was pumped from the ground (at the source) and what amount was recorded on the books. Think of this as an inspection that again found failure and, if you get lost in the numbers, take the first paragraph (noted above) and pair it with the last:

The findings echoed those of an earlier audit of the 2004 oil revenues indicating that few reforms had been made in the interim. "The audit reports continue to be critical of the financial and accounting control systems in place," the [United Nations auditing] board said.

When zeroes pile up (after a number), it can be hard to relate to. If you got lost (or squashed) by the zeroes, just focus on the main points (summed up in the opening and conclusion). (There's a paragraph that Jim and I have marked for possible highlighting at The Third Estate Sunday Review. It's the only one that no member's e-mail has commented on but it's making a point that should be noted.) So if you're one of the ones e-mailing about how you've read through the article several times, go to the first and last paragraph. You've got Glanz' report in them. If you're shutting down due to the amounts and want to wade through further, after you review the first and last paragraph, grab paragraphs at random and put it together slowly. Once you've got the main points, the details will fall into place. (Not every member noting Glanz' article wrote to say their minds reeled but enough did to note this. Use it for future articles where the zeroes pile up -- if you're trying to follow the dollar amounts.)

Damien Cave offers "Ex-Iraqi Electricity Chief Named in Graft Inquiry:"

The former Iraqi minister of electricity and several other former ministers and government officials have been charged with corruption or ordered to appear before prosecutors, Iraqi officials announced Saturday, the newest developments in an investigation under way for two years.

Erika notes Glanz' article (in today's paper) and Cave's (online) while wondering whether the latter article on charges are an attempt to distract from the UN audit? Erika, you don't want to make Fool to Cry cry, do you? One report clearly embarrasses the (illegal) occupation (the one by Glanz), the other offers a quick fix. Surely it just happened. We shouldn't doubt our brave Green Zoners, in fact, some would argue they're beyond criticism. No, Erika, I wouldn't argue that and I agree with all the points in your e-mail. The sarcasm was aimed at one person in particular. As for Cave's wonderful writing, it is so wonderful of him to report exactly what he's told. He's doing such an amazing job, isn't he? Aren't we all knocked out by Fool to Cry? It's been an "aggressive" investigation, Fool to Cry tells us and, hopefully, when he leaves the Green Zone, he can write a book about how aggressively federal authorities pursued the Enron case as well. Shining a light where the spokespeople tell him, Fool to Cry is his own lesson in . . . bravery?

Lynda notes "Sheehan Taken To Emergency Room" (KWTX and KTXL via Truthout):

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was being treated Friday evening in the emergency room of Providence Health Center in Waco.
Sheehan, who has been on a liquids-only diet for 37 days as part of a fast in protest of the war, was described as being gaunt and pale as she arrived at the hospital.

[. . .]
Sheehan, who has been on a liquid diet as part of the nationwide "Troops Home Fast" hunger strike, had been treated and released from a Seattle emergency room Thursday night. On doctors orders, she ate for the first time in about 37 days, Burns said.

And KeShawn notes David Swason's "AWOL War Resister Sergeant to Turn Himself in Today" (After Downing Street via Truth Out):

Ricky Clousing, a Sergeant in the US Army, and a veteran of the Iraq War who has been AWOL for a year announced today at the Veterans for Peace convention in Seattle that he will turn himself in later today at the gates of Fort Lewis and face whatever punishment the military chooses to impose.
Clousing said he did not apply for conscientious objector status because he is not certain he would oppose every possible war, such as one fought in self-defense. He said he has spent the past year trying to figure out how to turn himself in, that the military has refused to comment on his status and that he is now choosing to force them to deal with it.
Clousing spoke at a press conference on the campus of the University of Washington. Many supporters of his stand made brief remarks before he spoke. Clousing said he served in Baghdad and Mosul as an interrogator, and that this meant he spoke to Iraqi civilians every day and learned what they thought about the war. Clousing said he witnessed the routine incarceration of civilians with no basis and no ability to contact their families. He spoke in particular of four brothers, the youngest aged 12, locked up for three to four weeks. Physical abuse of civilians and the killing of one Iraqi civilian were among the crimes Clousing said he witnessed.

Links to more reporting on Ricky Clousing are in Friday's snaphsot. And remember that Ehren Watada faces an article 32 hearing on August 17th which is next Thursday. Courage to Resist and are organizing and trying to get the word out for "a National Day of Education" on August 16th.

Closing with some of the reported events in Iraq today. Two US soldiers dead in Baghdad from a roadside bomb (bringing the AP count to 2600). Bombings: AP notes two Iraqis dead when a bomb exploded at a CD shop in Basra. [AFP: "In Basra, Iraq's second largest city, suspected Islamic extremists opposed to Western forms of popular entertainment left a bomb in a shop selling videos and cassette tapes, killing two civilians, according to police." Reuters: "Three die in bomb blast in southern city of Basra, 550 km (340 miles) south of Baghdad, police sources said. Iraqiya state television said the bomb was inside an electronics shop in the mainly Shi'ite city."] Reuters notes two civilians dead in Baghdad from a roadside bomb (three wounded) and seven Iraqi police officers wounded from a roadside bomb in Baquba.

Shooting deaths: AFP notes the shooting deaths of a teacher and irrigation engineer in Amara; two civilians in Baquba; "a clan chieftain . . . Hilla, while a grocer was shot dead in Iskandiriyah";
Reuters notes the shooting death of "Nabil Ghaithan, director of the post office for the Muthanna district" in Samawa; two civilians dead and one police officer in separate attacks in Mosul; "a member of Iraqi intelligence in front of his home in Diwaniya"; and "Police Captain Nuri Juad in . . . Baquba".

Corpses: AP notes twelve corpses were discovered in Suwayrah ("aged between 35 and 45 . . . most had been shot in the head and the rest in the chest") as well as one corpse discovered in Baghdad and two corpses discovered in Kifil. Reuters notes two in Balad ("shot in the head and chest").

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AP count says 2600 American troops have died in Iraq since the (illegal) war began

Two U.S soldiers were killed Saturday when their foot patrol was hit by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad, the military said. The deaths brought to 23 the number of Americans killed in
Iraq this month.
At least 2,600 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The above is from the Associated Press' "Bomb kills 2 U.S. soldiers in Baghdad." Iraq Coalition Casulities places the current fatality number for US troops in Iraq at 2601.

As we noted in Thursday's snapshot, "no one appears to be watching the American fatality count":

As all things media big and small go breathless and stupid over the fact that 4 captors or "captors" of Jill Carroll may or may not have been arrested (three of which would have been arrested back in May) reality's out there and two families in America probably won't be joining the blather. Yesterday the American military announced that on Tuesday a "60 Blackhawk helicopter from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing" crashed. The crew numbered six. Four were found (injured). Two were missing.
As some blather on over (at best) a three month old bust, the US military sneaks out the whisper that the two missing are dead. As well as those two dead,
KUNA reports US army publicist Barry Johnson announced "three soldiers died in attacks in Al-Anabar." Of the three, Reuters reports they "were assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Armoured Division". We're going to drop back to June 15, 2006 for a moment when the Pentagon announced that 2500 American troops had died in Iraq.
For over six weeks, as big media and indy media have provided their wall-to-wall, non-stop coverage of Israel's armed aggression, would you guess that the body count is up to
Let's repeat that. On June 15, 2006 the Pentagon announced 2500.
97 American troops have died since then -- and where is the coverage?
Big media, little media, do American news consumers grasp that since June 15, the number of US troops killed has risen by 97?

On June 15th, the Pentagon announced 2500. On August 12, the Associated Press reports the 2600 mark has been reached. Where has the coverage been? (I'm not referring to AP.) Where has the attention been?

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Chaos and violence continue in Iraq today, Friday, August 11, 2006 with two police officers dead from a roadside bomb in Kirkuk, another police officer shot dead in Mosul and a man on his way to work in Baiji shot dead.  In the United States Ricky Clousing says no to war; in a sotto voice US military flacks give statements about the two US soliders who died in Tuesday helicopter crash and while recruiters struggle to meet their lowered targets, some applicants remain unwelcome.
Starting with the last item, the AP reports on Haven Herrin who would like to serve in the military but she is a lesbian and wink-wink-nudge-nudge no gays or lesbians have ever served in the US military. Reading the report which begins and ends with the Clinton era "Don't Ask Don't Tell," news consumers are probably left unaware that an openly gay man has served in the US military.
While some can't get in, others refuse to serve in an illegal war based on lies. 
Writing for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mike Barber broke the news today that Ricky Clousing would turn himself in.  Ricky Clousing, 24-years-old, checked himself out of the military after serving in Iraq.  Speaking to the AP, Clousing stated, "My experience in Iraq really made me second-guess my ability to perform as a soldier and also forced me to question my beliefs in associating myself".  Clousing's announcement comes on day two of the Veterans for Peace convention in Seattle (which concludes Sunday the 13th).  Clousing questions the legality of the illegal war and "I came to the conlusion that I could not train or be trained under a false pretense of fighting for freedom."  Barber notes that Clousing went AWOL from "Fort Bragg in 2005 after returning from Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division."
Barber broke the news, the AP is all over it.  And gold stars for others?  They'll have to demonstrate that they're going to cover it.  Not, "Look how much I care, today I'll make time for this issue and then next week . . . Back to Israel non-stop!" (or whatever the topic is).  Too much isn't being covered.
Clousing is one of many war resisters.  This week, Meredith May (San Francisco Chronicle) took a look at some who had decided to do a self-check out and go to Candada -- mentioned were Ryan Johnson, Patrick Hart, Christian Kjar, Brandon Hughey, Darryl Anderson.  Brandon Hughey and Jeremy Hinzman will learn  shortly whether they're appeal will allow them to remain in Canada or not.  Other war resisters include Camilo Mejia, Pablo Paredes, Aidan Delgado, Kevin Benderman. Katherine Jashinski.  Camilo Mejia is generally considered to the the "first Iraqi War Resister."  Benderman is attempting to appeal the Court-Martial and has been designated a "Prisoner of Conscience" by Amnesty International. Benderman's case hasn't vanished, just any coverage of it.  That's true of Hinzman and Hughey as well.  Let's be really honest, that's true of the independent media attention on all things having to do with Iraq.  (And remember it was Mike Barber who broke the story.)
Two names more recently in the news are Suzanne Swift and Ehren Watada.  Their cases haven't vanished just because, for example, an announced and filmed interview with Swift's grandfather never aired as Iraq fell off the radar. Watada faces an article 32 hearing on August 17th which is next Thursday.  Courage to Resist and are organizing and trying to get the word out for "a National Day of Education" on August 16th.  Writing of Watada, Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) noted Watada's refusal to deploy to Iraq was a "no" and that: "When we say 'no' the war ends.Ehren is saying 'no.'  He can make a difference.  He is making a difference but it will be a huge difference with quick impact if we show our support."  Noting the work of his parents,  Courage to Resist and, Cedric wondered where the coverage was? 
Attending the conference in Seattle was Cindy Sheehan who is offering Camp Casey III "as a refuge for U.S. troops who desert to resist the war in Iraq." As The State News notes on Bully Boy's low approval numbers, "Clearly, Sheehan is not alone in her position.  But while a large population within the United States disapproves of Bush and the war in Iraq, it seems only a small population is doing something about it."  Sheehan does her part and then some but it "seems" others aren't because of the lack of media attention.  Watada and Swift are 'doing something.'  Across the country, across the world, people are engaged in attempting to end this war, day in and day out.  It's the media that can make it appear nothing is happening or report what's actually going on.  Credit to Barber, AP, May and others in big media who've been covering these issues (especially the press in Hawaii) while others had other things to emphasize (non-stop). Or, as Molly Ivins points out: "The more surprising development is how completely one story drives out another.  At other times, the collapse of Iraq would have been news."  A collapse that has included, as Riverbend (Baghdad Burning) wrote, "There are no laws that say we have to wear a hijab (yet), but there are men in head-to-toe black and the turbans, the extremists and fanatics who were libearted by the occupation, and at some point, you tire of the defiance.  You no longer want to be seen.  I feel like the black or white scarf I fling haphazardly on my head as I walk out the door makes me invisible to a certain degree -- it's easier to blend in with the masses shrouded in black.  If you're a femal, you don't want the attention -- you don't want it from Iraqi police, you don't want it from the black clad militia man, you don't want it from the American soldier.  You don't want to be noticed or seen."
Reuters notes six corpses were discovered in Baghdad ("bound and blindfolded")  Of the six, AP notes that they had all ben shot execution style.  This was the week that, as the BBC noted, the body count at Baghdad's central morgue for July only had been 1,855.  AP noted Dr. Sabah al-Husseini's declaration that "two-thirds of the deaths reported in Baghdad since January were due to violence."
This was the week of the Article 32 hearing to determine whether or not to file rape, murder and arson charges against US soldiers James Baker, Jesse V. Spielman, Bryan L. Howard and Paul Cortez.  (Steven D. Green, who is also accused in the incident will stand trial in US federal court because he was discharged before the incident was uncovered.  Anthony W. Yribe is accused of dereliction of duty for not reporting the incident.)  The incident?  Abeer Qasim Hamza.  Presenting his closing argument in the hearing, Captain Alex Pickands stated, "They gathered over cards and booze to come up with a plan to rape and murder that little girl.  She was young and attractive.  They knew where she was because they had seen her on a previous patrol.  She was close.  She was vulnerable."  The defense (and the New York Times) offered stress of combat and fatigue.  Pickands response?  "Murder, not war. Rape, not war. That's what we're here talking about today. Not all that business about cold food, checkpoints, personnel assignments. Cold food didn't kill that family. Personnel assignments didn't rape and murder that 14-year-old little girl."
It was the story that should have gotten intense coverage.  Rebecca (Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude) has argued Abeer's story is the story of the illegal occupation boiled down to one person.  Instead, as Mike (Mikey Likes It!) has pointed out, you had the New York Times offering the defense's argument and Abeer?  Silence.  She wasn't even named.
This was also the week of yet another poll finding where respondents echoed earlier polls by standing strongly against the illegal war.  CNN found that 60% of Americans responding in their poll were against the war  -- the highest opposition since the war began in March 2003.
Those were among the Iraq related stories that should have received coverage, discussion and exploration. 
Another, in Australia, would be the military inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco in Baghdad.  Belinda Tasker (Herald Sun) reports on Solider 1's testimony which resulted in tears for Shelley Kovco (widow of Jake Kovco) and Judy Kovco (mother of Jake Kovco).  While the family of Kovco has every reason to well up when their lost one is spoken, the press has no excuse to go soft and mushy but, apparently, despite repeated testimony to the contrary, the nonsense of the 'buddy system' is back.  Soldier 1 tossed off a few words (via video-link) and then used Jake Kovco to argue that they'd reworked the "buddy system" since his death.  The press runs with it, failing to note that there witnesses' testimony (as opposed to the statements the military wrote and submitted in their name) that there was no "buddy system" in place.  Ian McPhedran (Courier-Mail) offers a less sentimental view as he weighs in on Jake Kovco's death and Australia's involvement with Iraq: "We're being kept in the dark."
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Everyone is raving about the all-new Yahoo! Mail Beta.

Other Items

Martha's other highlight is Michael A. Fletcher's "The New Camp Casey: Protest Without the A-List" (Washington Post):

James Fain stood guard Thursday under the broiling sun at Camp Casey, the five-acre tract that antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan recently bought on the edge of town as a base for her protests.
Mostly, it was a lonely job. Fain, 21, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, came out from under his tent whenever a car turned in from the two-lane highway that runs past the encampment -- which was not often.

"The protests were originally supposed to start next week," Fain explained. "But the president's vacation is shorter this year. The protesters, these aren't people who have no jobs." So not everyone could make it, he said.
Not that they would see much here at Camp Casey: just a newly laid gravel road, some tents, an American flag, a few volunteers and row after row of small, white crosses representing the U.S. troops who have died in Iraq.
Last weekend, Sheehan, 49, led a small group of protesters here on a march along the narrow, winding road leading to President Bush's 1,600-acre ranch, about seven miles from Camp Casey. And Tuesday, she joined a small group of protesters just outside the Secret Service checkpoint.
But, so far, the demonstrations have been modest, and the news coverage and the reaction have been muted -- which is far different from the reaction Sheehan engendered last year during her 26-day peace vigil here.

In addition to Martha, two members wrote complaining about the article. Martha didn't complain about the writing. I'm not going to do a blow by blow on the Post. I take a pass on that and members know that and why. (And if you don't, you really don't matter here. We're not recruitng.) This isn't the only article or coverage being prepared on this topic. Fletcher's not taking pot shots at Cindy Sheehan or the peace movement. If you're offended by the article, you better be prepared to get a lot more offended because some are planning pot shots.

Some are sharpening their knives with delight and the only thing that might prevent those stories from airing and being printed is that most editors and producers don't think Cindy Sheehan is news.

Why is that? That's really the more important question.

Because indymedia dropped the ball. Dropped the ball on all things Iraq. Cindy Sheehan has been doing the Troops Home Fast (with others), she went to Jordan (with others) to meet with Iraqis and discuss peace, she came back to reopen Camp Casey.

And where's the coverage?

A peace meeting with Iraqis (including five serving in the parliament), an ongoing fast, Camp Casey and where's the coverage?

If you're offended by the article (you shouldn't be, my opinion) or by future coverage, put the blame where it belongs: on the doorstep of independent media which has ignored Iraq day after day, week after week to cover Israel.

Israel's actions were a story, no question. But it was never the only story in the world. Nor was it the only important one. Look What Israel's Doing Now has offered day after day, week after week coverage of Israel. They dropped the ball on Iraq.

That has consquences. You're going to see those consquences play out now. When I started noting that here, the point was to sound the alarm because I was hearing about it when I asked, "Where are the stories?" Indy wasn't covering it, big media felt no pressure to.

If you're offended by the coverage of Camp Casey (or the turnout which has been low due to the lack of sustained coverage and support from indymedia), don't blame big media. They covered it. AP covered it. The Times covered it. Most of you, regardless of where you live, saw it on your TV screens Sunday. Who didn't treat it seriously? Indymedia.

You can pick whatever form you follow, but it's true. (With few exceptions.) I can think of my favorite show, a two hour broadcast. It can provide Lebanaon (and has) each day. There's not been a day that's gone by that they haven't provided a discussion on Lebanon. When they finally do a segment on Iraq, they're not focused on a damn thing that happened this year. They're discussing WMDs.

It doesn't cut it and that kind of coverage hurts.

Ehren Watada goes before the military for his Article 32 hearing on August 17th. The lack of coverage, the lack of support from indymedia is hurting him too. It's hurting the rallies scheduled for September.

There are consquences for the silence being imposed. We see them with Camp Casey III. If you're bothered by it, if you're offended, take it up with indymedia. They haven't covered Abeer. They haven't done anything but Israel. That's not good enough and it doesn't cut it. Someone took issue with Rebecca for noting that Democracy Now! hadn't covered Iraq all month (elections in the US doesn't count as covering Iraq). He just had to insist that the July 26th segment be noted. Rebecca was writing about the August coverage. You drop back to July 26th and kid yourself that somehow that's doing a job. In the real world, it's not. The war didn't stop, just the coverage (from indymedia as a whole). That has conquences and we're seeing them play out now.

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NYT: The paper has at least one grown up still in Baghdad

A belt packed with explosives worn by a man who apparently intended to blow himself up inside one of the holiest shrines of Shiite Islam exploded on Thursday during a police pat down at a checkpoint near the shrine, Iraqi officials said. At least 35 people were killed and more than 120 others were wounded, including Iranian pilgrims, the officials said.
[. . .]
The explosion on Thursday underscored the degradation of security in the spiritual heart of the Shiite-dominated south, an area once believed to be under the tight control of Iraqi and American forces. The most revered Shiite cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, lives just blocks away from the shrine.
Other attacks around Iraq, mostly aimed at civilians, brought the death toll for the day to at least 48, even as additional Iraqi and American troops continued to deploy across Baghdad to try to bring a modicum of security to the capital.

The above is from "Blast Kills 35 Iraqis at Shiite Shrine in Najaf" in this morning's New York Times. If you're reading it and, remembering how the violence in Mosul the Friday before would be ignored by the paper, wondering how Paul von Zielbaur managed to notice actual events or thinking maybe Damien Cave stopped wondering if Mick Jagger dedicates "Fool to Cry" to him, stop puzzling. Apparently the Times has left one grown up in Iraq: Edward Wong.
Wong authored the piece.

On the subject of "Fool to Cry" Cave, we'll be picking up yesterday's embarrassment at The Third Estate Sunday Review this Sunday. There's only so much that can be done at any given time and we were discussing that hideous article at breakfast yesterday. We were already agreed on that before yesterday's e-mails (Ava and Jess note that Fool to Cry was a very popular e-mail topic yesterday) so heads up to that upcoming feature (which Dona swears "Will be done!").

Martha notes that Andy Mosher and Saad Sarhan cover the attack in the Washington Post with "Suicide Bomber Kills Dozens Outside Shiite Shrine in Iraq:"

The bombing was the latest in a string of sectarian attacks in Iraq. Also on Thursday, a Shiite militia was reported to have engaged in heavy fighting with a Sunni tribe in Baghdad, where the Iraqi government and U.S. military forces are pursuing a new security program aimed at stanching religious bloodshed.
[. . .]
Northeast of Baghdad, in the city of Baqubah, a commando brigade from the Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry raided the home of Delsooz Ahmed Mohammed, an ethnic Kurd who serves on the council of Diyala province.
According to another council member, Hussein al-Zubaidi, the commandos insulted Mohammed and broke some of his furniture before a ranking officer intervened and apologized.

Martha has another highlight and a question about it which we'll address in the next entry.

But for this entry, we're going to note the latest from AP:

The bodies of two American service members missing since a helicopter crash were found west of Baghdad, officials said Friday, while gunmen loyal to a radical Shiite cleric torched an office of the Iraqi president's Kurdish party Friday.
About 50 gunmen stormed the office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by President Jalal Talabani, beat up the guards and set the building on fire, said police Lt. Othman al-Lami. The attackers accused the party's official newspaper of criticizing Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed al-Yacoubi.

The sotto-voiced whisper from Centcom that two Americans died. Good thing they could pull the 'captors' story out of mothballs (a May arrest that drove the news cycle on Iraq -- always a small cycle, more like a tricycle, these days). If they hadn't, the press might have asked serious questions about the helicopter going down (it wasn't 'operator error') and not been so quick to accept the official line from Centcom. They might have asked why every detail came out a day after. A helicopter went down. Four were injured. Two were missing. The two were found dead. It's a news stories. But Centcom knows how to distract.

If the press hadn't all packed up and moved elsewhere, we might have serious coverage of what happened. Instead it will be forgotten shortly.

The coverage (mainstream or independent) isn't cutting it. The few who are covering the region (even Fool To Cry) deserve some credit for that in some form. Bad reporting or good, at least they're still covering it. The war hasn't stopped, the coverage largely has. There are consquences for that and we're seeing it play out.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

The possibility of saving Iraq as a viable Arab nation is in question, even if American public opinion forces the withdrawal of US troops. For some American hawks, a dismembered Iraq may not be ideal but would no longer be a strategic threat.
Those were the morbid impressions I formed after two days of discussions with Iraqis gathered in Amman, Jordan, at an unprecedented meeting initiated by
Code Pink and attended by Cindy Sheehan and a smattering of peace activists that included Iraq Veterans Against the War and United for Peace and Justice.
That so many Iraqi representatives wanted to meet with antiwar Americans was a hopeful sign. Attending were official representatives of the Shiite coalition now holding power, the minority Sunni bloc, the anti-occupation
Muslim Scholars Association, parliamentarians and torture victims from Abu Ghraib. Their broad consensus favored a specific timetable for American withdrawal combined with efforts to "fix the problems" of the occupation as the withdrawal proceeds. Recent surveys show that 87 percent of Iraqis hold the same views.
Dr. Habib Jabar, carefully balancing the divisions within his majority Shiite parliamentary bloc, stated that "we don't need American forces to protect us from each other. We have been here 1,000 years. My wife is a Sunni. I don't need the Americans to protect her from me." He is seeking a Shiite consensus to demand that the United Nations Security Council formally end its authorization of the US occupation when it meets this December. At the same time, the US-backed Shiite representative was diplomatically noncommittal on dissolving death squads or the
Badr Corps now operating with little or no restraint by the Interior Ministry. Nor did he acknowledge the plans of dominant Shiite leaders like Abdul Aziz al-Hakim for an autonomous Shiite region running from Baghdad south to Basra, which would require mass removals of the Sunni population.

The above is Tom Hayden's "Iraq Is Dying" (The Nation via Common Dreams). Now we've got another text story on this topic. (Hayden was noted by Jill.) But for visitors who feel there's been coverage of Iraq in indymedia, where is this story? Hayden could tell it. Could have told it at the start of the week. He didn't go on through the Middle East. Nor did Cindy Sheehan. Interviewing Sheehan at Camp Casey III about what happened during the peace movement would have gotten that story out as well as the fact that Camp Casey III is up and running. Too much isn't being covered in the zeal to turn Israel into the only story or whatever the topic de jour is.

The whole thing is like a Rogers & Hart song:

Sing Johnny One-Note,
Sing out with "gusto" and
Just overwhelm all the crowd
So sing Johnny One-Note, out loud
Sing Johnny One-Note
Sing Johnny One-Note out loud

It's been "Johnny One-Note" over and over again. It didn't just happen with the most recent armed agression by the Israeli government. And the Iraq coverage didn't stay strong before everyone went chasing after the one story.

When's the last time you heard of Suzanne Swift? (You can hear her and a discussion of the language used by commanding officers -- derogatory towards Iraqis -- as well as details of the harassment one woman had to endure in this week's The Progressive Radio Show hosted by Matthew Rothschild.) You didn't get discussions of Abeer Qasim Hamza. Everyone shifted the focus off Iraq.

On a slow news week, Iraq usually has to struggle for coverage in the mainstream. For it to have struggle in indymedia is embarrassing. Indymedia, for many, made its name, established its cred, via the Iraq war. When others went along with 'official sources,' indymedia challenged. Right or wrong, as the illegal war continues to rage/wage, people expect that indymedia, brave indymedia, is going to be there offering coverage. That's not the case.

Let's go back to what hasn't gotten radio or TV time, the peace meeting. Brandy notes
Geoffrey Millard's "US Peace Delegation and Iraqi Officials Open Dialogue" (Truthout):

Amman, Jordan - On the 9th of August, what began as the words to a bad joke ("A priest, a shrimp boat captain, an ex-diplomat, and an ex-soldier walk into a room of Iraqis ...") ended as a successful mission of diplomatic communication that found four of its members continuing on into Lebanon to do humanitarian work, including being human shields if necessary.
When CODEPINK co-founder and former shrimp boat captain Diane Wilson was confronted about the usefulness of the Troops Home Fast, she stated: "I got this deep faith, and sometimes you just got to believe, cuz ya'll never know what it will make for ya." In her simple southern way, Dianne somehow knew that this fast would bring something special, and on the day the New York Times published an op-ed on how hunger striking was simply not a successful tool for social change, the shrimper from Texas was packing her bags for Amman, Jordan, as part of a 12-person peace delegation that included CODEPINK co-founders Medea Benjamin, Jody Evans and Gale Murphy; former US Army colonel and US diplomat Ann Wright; ex-state senator from California Tom Hayden; United For Peace and Justice national co-chair Judith Le Blanc; an Iraqi-American, Raed Jarrar, of Global Exchange; Franciscan priest Father Luis Vitale; Congressional candidate against the war Jeeni Criscenzo (D-Calif.); businessman and peace activist Dal LaMagna; a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War; and others.
Not knowing the reactions of Iraqi parliamentarians to Americans caused some bit of nervous energy in the room as the first honored guest was awaited, but the excitement ran just as high knowing that this group was to embark on a road that the Bush administration was refusing to go down. This delegation of peace workers came across an ocean in order to find out what different Iraqi reconciliation plans existed and how they could best get the Iraqi people involved in the US discussion of their future. These plans differed in some details, but the overall objectives were clear: set a timetable for withdrawal of US troops, dissolve the militias, recognize the resistance as legitimate, strengthen the Iraqi army, repeal the Bremer laws, and rework the US-pressured constitution.

Where is indymedia? You want to know reality? (You may not. Stop reading if you're not interested.) Cindy Sheehan went into Camp Casey III with the mainstream thinking it might be a story. They don't think that now. Why? Because indymedia didn't even bother to cover it.
That's reality and that's responsibility. Indymedia didn't live up to its responsibility. By not living up, it let down the peace movement and it harmed Cindy Sheehan's ability to get national coverage. Is Cindy Sheehan a flavor of the month? No members feel that way, I don't feel that way; however, thanks to the lack of coverage from indymedia, a number in corporate media now express that her story is "over." "America's moved on" was one remark I got today.

Has America moved on or has indymedia dropped the ball?

Polls show that America has turned against the war. That's consistent. That's not one poll or two polls, that's a trend. One poll is meaningless. You're not looking for one set of results (someone break it to the Times), you're looking for a trend in opinion that is backed up by other polls and, when it's long term, opinion has hardened.

The country is against the war. It's too bad the country can't get coverage of it because the thought of covering Iraq and Israel was apparently too taxing for some in indymedia.

I'm saying "indymedia" and I'm really not talking about blogs. If someone's done something on Sheehan, the peace meeting or something similar and is offended -- don't be. This isn't about you. (But feel free to note that you wrote something on these topics and include the link and we'll try to note it here. While I'm tossing that out, I don't reply to reporters. Thanks for the invite to Baghdad, Jess and Ava laughed at your e-mail, I'm not replying to you. To be frank, I'm not even reading you. There are currently countless e-mails waiting to be read in the public account. You're no more special than anyone else there just because you have a "name" and are in corporate media. Climb off the cross and deal with reality.)

What's happened, for weeks now, is that events in Iraq aren't discussed. They aren't given the time or attention they deserve and that's dangerous. That's dangerous for Ehren Watada, it's dangerous for the September peace rallies, and it's dangerous for the country. If Iraq slides out of the coverage, indymedia's saying none of it matters. All the work the peace activists have done, all the work media (indy and corporate) have done, none of it matters.

The war isn't over. The troops aren't home. If indymedia says it's not worth covering, corporate media sees that. They follow that.

I don't know of anyone in this community who defends the Israeli government's actions. I don't know of anyone who thinks it's not a story. But I know members are sick of the wall-to-wall, non-stop coverage. They're noting other times this has happened to Iraq.

The reality is, it's happened over and over. Any story, regardless of the topic, can be turned into the must-tell story of the week and everyone chases after it while Iraq doesn't slip to second or thir place, it falls out completely.

This week we heard a discussion of Iraq where the host and the guest obsessed over the 50% of respondents who felt that Iraq had WMDs. The number had gone up. Why was that? The answer is right there in the poll numbers. The same poll found that over 70% of respondents felt life was better for Iraqis.

How could they think that? Because the coverage is start-stop, pick-up-and-then-drop. It's not consistent.

Now if you watch Fox "News," you probably get consistent. Which is the question we've been asking her over and over for two or three months now: Do the War Hawks want the war on Iraq to continue more than the left wants it to stop?

War Hawks and War Cheerleaders don't drop the topic. They're pushing it always. But the media (in all its forms) seems to think it can drop the topic. For indymedia, which is against the war or seen as being against the war, that's frightening.

The respondents to the poll aren't stupid. They're reacting to what's covered and what's not. When Santorum is falsely pushing WMDs, you don't wait until enough weeks have passed for a poll to address the subject in a lengthy discussion. You can't. You're allowing perceptions to form as the lie goes unchallenged.

The better question for the host (whom I enjoy listening to) would have been, "Why haven't we been covering this?" Not in a headline, but in a serious discussion.

Life on the ground in Iraq? Covered in the headlines. And it's just not enough. Forget the 50%. That people can self-delude about the past is only shocking to those who've never attended a class reunion. That they can self-delude about what's going on in front of them, daily events of violence and chaos? That takes real strength. And lack of coverage allows for it.

Abeer was a story that didn't get told. That's too bad. Maybe the thinking is, "I'll cover it if the four are charged" or "I'll cover it during Steven D. Green's trial"? You can't shove Iraq off the radar. It's not fair to Abeer or any of the many who suffer or suffered. Facts and figures only go so far. A face, a story can capture more attention.

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 American troop fatality stood at 2585. Tonight? 2597. As we noted earlier today, June 15, 2006, the Pentagon announced that 2,500 American troops had died in Iraq. That was June 15th. We're not even up to August 15th and we're three shy of a hundred.

Does the coverage convey that? (No, there's no indy coverage and most corporate outlets have shipped their reporters off to Lebanon and surrounding areas.)

What about Iraqis? How many of them have died? Oh, such a sore question with the community that remembers Nancy A. Youssef breaking the story that the US military was keeping an Iraqi body count -- remembers Youssef's story and realizes how little coverage it got. The government won't release that information. It's our's, the government works for us, we paid for it. There's no "national security" implications in a body count. But we can't get it. And what may be worse, we can't get indymedia to cover it (with few exceptions). For over a year now, the US military has kept a count. We don't know what it is. And without pressure, we never will. What we do know is that the UN estimated 100 Iraqis die each day in violence. How much does that register when it's not discussed?

How much does war resistance register when it's not covered? Kayla notes "Building an Intergenerational Movement:"

Joanne Sheehan, 58
Joanne Sheehan is the coordinator of WRL New England and the chair of War Resisters’ International. Her WRL/New England work includes counter-recruitment, supporting the empowerment of high school students through YouthPeace, nonviolence training, and organizing against war and merchants of death. Connected to WRL since she was 22, she served on the Executive Committee, started a local Norwich chapter, and in 1984 co-founded WRL/New England, which started the Stop War Toys Campaign. She has been on the WRI Council since 1983.
When you first joined the WRL as a young activist, did you feel intentionally supported and included? Or was it the strength of the movement at the time and general excitement that captivated you and brought you in?
It was a mix. There were so many young people coming into the movement at that time--there was a horrendous war and a draft, and it was affecting our generation directly. Sometimes I felt very supported and sometimes I didn't. I remember bitchin' and moanin' once in WRL around the Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice about how we needed more women and more young people represented. And David McReynolds turned around and said, "You can do it." And he said it not in a flippant way. And I thought, "No I can't!" So some of that is your own belief in yourself.
At other times there were real style issues. Some older folks had a real issue with activists being "too counter-culture." There were also issues around lesbian-identified groups doing activism. But I never felt that all the older people felt that way, and there were some older folks who had real respect for what you were bringing and not just as some token person under 25 or under 30. I never felt in WRL, “Oh, god, these young hippies!” I felt it in other places, but never WRL. And I was surprised that I never felt that.
Sometimes I felt more tension in gender dynamics than age dynamics. There was so much focus on the guys, because it was the guys who were getting drafted. And it was still early in the Second Wave of feminism. So I always felt it was somewhat harder for me as a young woman.
Within the organizational structure it was primarily young women who were pushing for a change in our process. Young feminists from both the East and West Coast were trying to get more of a participatory process going. There were older people at WRL who were not as supportive of those processes, or took a longer time to come to an understanding of those processes. But there were also older allies who helped develop those processes, and who gave a lot of support to the young people. So over the years the age thing changed as a more collective process was developed.

What's that from? WIN. What's WIN? "WIN Through Revolutionary Nonviolence:"

Welcome to WIN. This is the first issue of the War Resisters League's newest expression of our oldest practice: nonviolence. Although this latest incarnation is new, WIN magazine is not. The Workshop in Nonviolence (WIN), a direct action group in New York City and an affiliate of the Committee for Nonviolent Action and WRL, steadily produced a lively magazine from 1966 to 1983. In that time, a host of dedicated characters contributed to and helped produce WIN, many of whom still work closely with WRL. WIN magazine was full of beautiful artwork and articles covering everything from resistance to the Vietnam War to women’s liberation and gay rights to prisoner uprisings.
It is with a desire to remember the old WIN, and with the same commitment to radical nonviolence, that we introduce a new WIN for a new era of war resistance. Coming at you four times a year, WIN wants to be your movement manual--your organizing resource and your political inspiration--to be scribbled in, photocopied, shared, and talked back to. We want to see you often--in your local bookstore, community space, online, and (of course) on the streets.

There's so much that's not being covered. Even when indymedia and corporate media attempt to cover it, there's so much that goes uncovered. Markus notes Sara Rich "The Waiting Game" (Truthout):

It has now been 60 traumatic days since my daughter - who signed up with the Army as an MP, and after bravely serving one tour in Iraq, chose to go AWOL rather than engage in the two more tours to Iraq that awaited her - was forcibly taken from our home in handcuffs. Like many soldiers, she was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What we didn't know, what she couldn't tell us, is that she was also suffering military sexual trauma. Late the evening of Sunday June 11, 2006, PFC Suzanne Swift was taken to the county jail, where she was strip-searched and orifice-checked. She was denied medical care for an abscessed tooth until the following day. She sat in that cell for two and a half days, a veteran of Iraq combat, terrified that she may be sent back. Outside, supporters of Suzanne's plight lined the sidewalks. The mother bear in me rose up - and I swung into action. I am trying to save my daughter's life.
It has been a long 60 days. While Suzanne is still wearing her jail bracelet, she does so now at Fort Lewis, where she is awaiting her fate. She will continue to do so until she is free. Suzanne's mental health is starting to deteriorate as the Army continues to keep her without charging her. She is with a unit that is not her own. Shockingly, she still is subjected to nasty remarks and public humiliation by other soldiers and sergeants. Each time this happens she calls me in a panic crying her eyes out. One time she was sitting in the common area in the barracks. The other soldiers started taking about how much they despised Lt. Watada, the first officer to refuse deployment to Iraq on the grounds that it is an illegal occupation, and the nasty things they wanted to do to him. Suzanne has great respect for Lt. Watada, and listening to this conversation scared her so much she left the room panicked. She called me and I had to talk her down. It is saddening to Suzanne that the new unit, where she thought she was among honorable soldiers, is itself a place filled with men and women who speak with and act with dishonorable intentions.
Over and over again it is shown to us that being in the Army is no longer a safe place for Suzanne to be. Perhaps I was naive to think it ever was. My grandpa, who was a colonel in the Army, spent his life in the military. I grew up trusting that the military was a safe and fair place for people to work and be a part of. In this Army, men and women live with the threat and reality of sexual abuse and harassment - not from their enemies, but from their own. This is no longer my grandpa's Army.

With the central morgue in Baghad reporting the corpses count for July as being 1850, it's obvious that a great deal isn't being covered. It's also obvious that the so-called crackdown (which started around the time that the 2500 mark was passed), normal or 'juiced,' isn't accomplishing its aims. What is being 'accomplished' is death. Wounds. Injuries. For everyone.
Lily notes Stacy Hafley's "Open Letter to Congress from MFSO Member Stacy Hafley:" (Military Families Speak Out):

Dear Members of Congress,
People ask me every day "So is your husband home safe?"
I usually reply "Yeah, he got home from Iraq several months ago.”
What I really want to say and what's usually going through my head at that very moment is, "NO, HE IS NOT SAFE. HE IS NOT OKAY AND HE ISN"T EVEN THE SAME PERSON."
I understand that this is not an appropriate way to unload my fears and feelings on strangers so I don’t say it.
You don’t know my husband’s name (it’s Joseph Hafley), you don’t know our children (Kobe, Garrett and Jack). You didn’t sit beside me as I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, unable to drive and even stand on some days but still responsible for three small boys while my husband was away. You weren’t there when our house was condemned because of mold and I had to move my children, by myself, with no aid from the Red Cross, the Family Readiness Group or many of the associated soldier-centric agencies who are supposed to help families. It's likely you'll never hear of the constant small tragedies of life that military families must cope with when their loved one is deployed and when they return from combat.
Go to sleep tonight knowing that while you slumber there are mothers and wives crying and pacing in an attempt to console their grief and control their anger. Understand that while you sleep there are mothers rocking their inconsolable children trying to explain to them why daddy is gone. If you wake in the night, look over and notice that there is likely not a person next to you sitting up, sweatng and shaking remembering Iraq because they heard thunder and thought they were under fire. Remember as you have breakfast tomorrow that in thousands of households across the U.S. a family member is bearing the entire responsibility of the household while under the stress of wondering if their loved one has survived another day or reassuring their returned soldier who cannot find a job.
Can you (as our political body) and others see that there is an emotional war raging here not only as they face the front lines in Iraq, but upon their return?
Before you take your next vote on prolonging, funding or engaging in war, consult an Iraqi veteran and take a look at the faces of the soldiers and their families, not just at the numbers on a sheet of paper.
I have decided that from now on when people ask me if my husband is okay I am going to say "NO, he is tormented by the war daily. And until our Representatives here in the State of Missouri look at our husbands, wives, daughters and sons as people; living, beathing, loving, human beings not toy soldiers and focus on getting our troops home, he will continue to not be okay."
Advocating for troop withdrawal,
Stacy Hafley~ Wife of an Iraq war veteran
President, Missouri/Midwest Chapter, Military Families Speak Out

Blogger/Blogspot was down for some of this evening. I'm carrying over some thoughts to Sunday evening's entry. The e-mail address for this site is and corporate media, if you've got a whine, note it, a good laugh always make a day brighter. But trying climbing off that cross because, unless you nailed yourself to it, you're in danger of a nasty fall.

Iraq snapshot

Chaos and violence continue in Iraq today, Thursday, August 10, 2006.  At least 35 die in a bombing, Ehren Watada supporters try to raise awareness of his upcoming Article 32 hearing, no one appears to be watching the American fatality count and a witness in the death of Jake Kovco tells the military inquiry, of his statement, "That's the words that were already on the computer" -- not what he actually told investigators.
As all things media big and small go breathless and stupid over the fact that 4 captors or "captors" of Jill Carroll may or may not have been arrested (three of which would have been arrested back in May) reality's out there and two families in America probably won't be joining the blather.  Yesterday the American military announced that on Tuesday a "60 Blackhawk helicopter from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing" crashed.  The crew numbered six.  Four were found (injured).  Two were missing. 
As some blather on over (at best) a three month old bust, the US military sneaks out the whisper that the two missing are dead.  As well as those two dead, KUNA reports US army publicist Barry Johnson announced "three soldiers died in attacks in Al-Anabar."  Of the three, Reuters reports they "were assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Armoured Division".  We're going to drop back to June 15, 2006 for a moment when the Pentagon announced that 2500 American troops had died in Iraq. 
For over six weeks, as big media and indy media have provided their wall-to-wall, non-stop coverage of Israel's armed aggression, would you guess that the body count is up to 2597.
Let's repeat that.  On June 15, 2006 the Pentagon announced 2500. 
97 American troops have died since then -- and where is the coverage?
Big media, little media, do American news consumers grasp that since June 15, the number of US troops killed has risen by 97?
Starting with peace news, though many in the media continues to ignore Camp Casey III, the Green Party has announced that "Greens Join Cindy Sheehan at Camp Casey."  Bill Holloway states: "We stand by Cindy Sheehan and the Gold Star Families for Peace in calling for an immediate end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.  The Green Party has opposed the war from the beginning, before the invasion was launched."
In other peace news, Karen Button ( interviews war resister Kyle Snyder who went on self-leave from the US army a year ago and is now in Canada.  Snyder addresses his time in the military (including being prescribed Lorazipam and Paxyl for grief -- grandfather passed away, fiancee miscarried) and the 'reconstruction' he saw: "I was in Mosul.  I was in Baghdad.  I was in Stryker.  I was in Scania.  I was in Tikrit. . . Iraq is the size of Texas, it's a small country.  People need to realise that. There were reconstructions of forward operating bases and military bases, but no city work being done.  I mean, none of that.  So, why are engineers there."
Ehren Watada is the first known commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq.  In exactly six days  Courage to Resist and are calling for a "National Day of Education" on August 16th, the day before Ehren Watada would be due to "face a pre-trial hearing for refusing to deploy to Iraq." ThankYouLt.Org notes: "On August 16, the day prior to the hearing, The Friends and Family of Lt. Ehren Watada are calling for a 'National Day of Education' to pose the question, 'Is the war illegal?' This day can also serve to anchor a 'week of outreach' leading up to the pre-trial hearing."
Rod Ohira (Honolulu Advertiser) reports on the upcoming rallies and speaks with Michael McPhearson who speaks of the issue of consciousness being raised by Ehren Watada's actions: "That's the most dangerous to the pro-war people."  Lester Chang (Kauai Garden Island News) reports that Watada's mother, Carolyn Ho, will visit Kauai September 10th (5:30 pm, United Church of Christ in Hanapepe) to talk "to Kaua'i folks about my son's stand and issues that surround that particular stand, and why he thinks the way he does."   On this visit and the actions taking place to support Ehren Watada, his attorney tells Chang: "It is important that public opinion supports Lt. Watada.  I think it will have impact on how the case proceeds." 
Turning to the violence and chaos in Iraq, we'll start with news of bombings.
Of the reported violence today, the one most covered is the one that Elsa McLaren (Times of London) describes this way: "A suicide bomber has killed at least 35 people and wounded 90 near a sacred Shia shrine in the city of Najaf in southern Iraq today."
The explosion occurred, BBC's Mike Wooldridge reports, as "the streets leading to the shrine were packed with pilgrims and shoppers in the middle of the morning".  CBS and the AP quote a man injured during the explosion: "Before I reached the checkpoint, only a few (feet) from the shrine, I heard a huge explosion.  Something hit me on the head and I fell.  I couldn't hear for a while but I saw bodies and human flesh everywhere."  Elsa McLaren (Times of London) reports: "Television footage of the devastation showed the body of a child being laid besides other bloodied corpses on a patch of ground beside a hospital. The dead were marked and numbered with white labels on their foreheads for identification."  AFP notes: "The attacker detonated an explosives-packed vest at a police checkpoint in the historic city of Najaf, a short distance from the mausoleum of Imam Ali, one of the most revered figures of the Shiite faith, police said Thursday."  Reuters reports: " Ambulances drove through the streets of Najaf appealing for blood donations as the scale of the carnage became clear."
Reuters notes that a roadside bomb in Hawija killed two police officers and left two more wounded. Reuters reports: "Six people were killed by a bomb in a restaurant in southern Baghdad".  In Baghdad, three people died and at least five were wounded when mortar bomb landed on a restaurant (this is not the same incident as the bomb that killed six in southern Baghdad).
Reuters reports a police officer shot to death in Falluja, a civilian killed in Mosul and "Maad al-Saadoun, a brother of Sunni legislator Mudhhir al-Saadoun, was shot dead by gunmen in his car in the town of Muqdadiya".  CBS and AP report four police officers were shot dead in Baghdad, AFP puts the number at seven (citing "security and medical sources")..
The AP notes that five corpses were found today.  From AFP: "Baghdad's main morgue last month handled the corpses of 1,850 people from its immediate region alone, most of them gunshot victims, Iraqi health ministry spokesman Qasim Yahia told AFP." Reuters notes: "The July morgue toll of 1,815 marked a big jump over the 1,595 in June and is the largest since the aftermath of the February bombing of the Shiite Golden Mosque of Samarra, which triggered an explosion of sectarian violence.:
On April 21st, Jake Kovco died in Baghdad.  How he died is the main issue of an inquiry currently going in Australia.  Other issues include why the death scene was cleaned up before investigators arrived, how a Bosnian carpenter was confused with Kovco and shipped to his grieving family in Australia (Shelley Kovco, widow and mother of their three children; parents Judy and Martin Kovco).  Soldiers serving in Iraq have been brought before the hearing in person and via "video-link" testimony.  Soldiers are identified not by name but given a number.
Yesterday, "Soldier 14" dropped a bombshell.  Peter Charlton (Courier-Mail) reports that the soldier "told the inquiry that a statement he made to military investigators was not accurate."  The so-called buddy system policy (where they were paired up and responsible for checking each other's weapons to be sure they were unloaded at the end of their shift) doesn't appear to exist.  Which is strange considering how much the hearing had previously heard of it.  Tom Allard (Sydney Morning Herald) notes that Soldier 14 "is the second soldier in Iraq to say their statements were strongly guided by military police."  Allard reports of Soldier 14's statements: "His testimony came as more irregularities about the investigation emerged, with the military failing to pass on to police in NSW a second weapon in the room when Private Kovco died from a gunshot wound to the head."
Dan Box (The Australian) reminds that "Military police investigators also failed to conduct any forensic tests, while the army's decision to clean the room in which Kovco died and the clothes his roommates were wearing meant potentially vital forensic evidence was lost."  The AAP reports that Soldier 30 has spoken (via video-link) to the hearing ("Jake Kovco's commanding officer") and he is claiming that the orders not to preserve the death/crime scene came from him because he saw it as a way "to help boost the morale of his soldiers."  Which is either the biggest lie or the most frightening thing about the hearing this week. 
In America, the legal news is over Nathan Phan will face charges.  As reported by Josh White and Sonya Geis (Washington Post), Lt. Phan is rumored to soon be facing charges for an April 26th incident in Hamdaniyah where US Marines alleged "grabbed an Iraqi man from his home, bound his arms and legs and shot him in the face."  Daniel Strumpf ( traces the other allegations against Kilo Company (Phan is "the commanding officer of the Camp Pendleton based 2nd Platoon of Kil Company in the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment") noting "seven Marines and a Navy corpsman . . . were charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, in connection with the April 26 death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad . . . in Hamdaniya"; and that "six Marines from Kilo Company, three of whom were already charged in Awad's death . . . were accused of assaulting three Iraqi men on April 10".
Finally, in election news, Derrick DePledge (Honolulu Advertiser) reports that Dennis Kucinich (who came in second in ""Hawai'i presedential cacus two years ago") is in Hawaii to campaign for US senator Daniel Akaka.  Next month, Akaka faces Ed Case in a primary race. Case doesn't support a withdrawal of troops from Iraq and though Case would no doubt call it a 'tremendous oversimplification,' he's a War Hawk.  His motto "The Time is Now!" apparently refers to dragging the illegal war on: "The Time is Now to Continue The Illegal War!"  Like a Little Joe Lieberman, Case flounders while Akaka makes Iraq a central campaign issue. Ad DePledge notes, Daniel Akak was one of thirteen senators on June 22nd willing to call for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by July 2007.
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Shame in their game

"They gathered over cards and booze to come up with a plan to rape and murder that little girl. She was young and attractive. They knew where she was because they had seen her on a previous patrol. She was close. She was vulnerable." -- Captain Alex Pickands

CNN reports Alex Pickands (military prosecutor) making his closing argument with the following: "Murder, not war. Rape, not war. That's what we're here talking about today. Not all that business about cold food, checkpoints, personnel assignments. Cold food didn't kill that family. Personnel assignments didn't rape and murder that 14-year-old little girl."

We're pulling that from yesterday because it didn't get reported in the New York Times. It won't be. And there's no pressure on the Times to report it because independent media decided that they can't cover two stories so they'll just ignore Iraq. That's too bad for Abeer Qasim Hamza who is dead and has no one in the press to defend her or her family. She was rendered invisible. You could say that happened in life, under the illegal occupation of Iraq and it happened in death. I think independent media has a lot of shame in their game right now.

I think Bully Boy's having a fun vacation as he doesn't have his feet held to the fire.

Damien Cave who just happened to turn in a front page story this week in the Times that just happens to be a story Centcom was desparately trying all last week to interest reporters on (cell phone usage in Iraq up!) is back today with "On Patrol, Iraqis Prove Eager, Erratic and Green."
If it reads like it was written by a fool, well there's a reason for that.

It takes a real fool to assume that with US forces present an Iraqi woman whose home is being searched will feel free to offer her real opinions of the continued (illegal) war. But Cave's a fool and the military's got him. Meanwhile, in the real world today, the Associated Press reports this:

A suicide bomber detonated a belt of explosives on his body near a highly revered Shiite shrine in southern Iraq Thursday, killing at least 33 people and injuring 108, an official said.

Fortunately for the 'reporters,' it's not Baghdad. So they'll probably be able to ignore it the way they've ignored most of the violence this week.

Rebecca's "amy goodman and democracy now forget that a war rages in iraq," Mike's "Is NYT's Paul von Zielbauer's a pervert?" and Kat's "KPFA leaves me numb" are must read media critiques of the coverage (or what passes for it) of Iraq these days (media big and small).

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NYT: Covering Three Month Old News or "News" as Though It's Fresh

Three American soldiers with the Army's First Brigade, First Armored Division died Wednesday in fighting in Anbar Province, the military said. This week has been particularly brutal for that brigade, which lost another soldier to enemy fire on Sunday.
On Tuesday, a Black Hawk helicopter from the Third Marine Aircraft Wing crashed in Anbar Province with soldiers on board during an "area familiarization" flight, the military said. The cause of the crash, which pitched the helicopter upside down into a body of water, was a mechanical problem, General Caldwell said Wednesday. Divers were still searching for two missing crew members, he said. The remaining four passengers and crew members were in stable condition, the military said.
In Baghdad on Wednesday, gunmen shot dead a fish vendor and four customers in a drive-by shooting near a gas station, an Interior Ministry official said. Six bodies were found on Wednesday in various areas in Baghdad, the official said.
Gunmen shot and killed a police officer in Falluja near his home on Wednesday afternoon, the police said. There was no immediately apparent motive for the killing of the officer, identified by the police as Hazim al-Janabi.

That's all you need to bother reading from Paul von Zielbaur's "Four Arrested in U.S. Journalist's Kidnapping" in this morning's New York Times. Someone e-mailed (a visitor) shocked that I didn't cover "that Jill Carroll's kidnappers have been caught!" I don't usually cover the US military's press releases. There are always lackeys and fools who will run with them. The New York Times always has at least one lackey (at least one) and today it's von Zielbaur.

Now Jill Carroll hasn't said a word. Possibly that's because Sunday (at the website) The Christian Science Monitor begins her eleven-part series. I'm sure that will be worth following. But unless she's trying to save it all for the series, it strikes me as strange that while the US military can't stop trumpeting that (in press release after press release) yesterday, Jill Carroll doesn't appear to have a word to say.

I thought yesterday and I think now that Jill Carroll is being used in a similar way that Jessica Lynch was. As a distraction. What should be the big story yesterday and today?

The US military can't FIND two American soldiers. The helicopter went down. Not yesterday. It went down Tuesday. They didn't announce it until yesterday. Six on board. Four (injured) were rescued. The other two? Search parties can't find them.

That's a story.

Now maybe Carroll's captors or people involved with her capture were captured. I don't know. I know the US military wants everyone to jaw bone about it.

I guess if I were the military and I couldn't account for two soldiers, I'd want everyone to focus on something else to. Thankfully the always useless Paul von is present and accounted for and can reduce the FACT that TWO US soldiers are missing to one sentence in an article that otherwise pulls from the countless press releases and tidbits offered about Jill Carroll's captors or "captors" yesterday.

Two US soldiers are missing.

A journalist might think that was worth more than a single sentence. Paul von's not much of a journalist. And doesn't the heavily pushed "Captors Captured!" story allow the crappy New York Times to ignore the closing statements of the prosecution in the Article 32 hearing of the murder of Abeer and her three family members? Of the alleged rape of Abeer? It all gets to be ignored.

Now you can be like the visitor and get all excited about the latest wave of crap from US military flacks and the New York Times (who appear to be 'serving' together these days) or you can get serious. The terror alert's been raised in this country as well. Do we want to flog that 'story' too?

Josh White and Sonya Geis' "Assault Charge Likely For Marine in Iraq Case" (Washington Post) offer this:

A Marine Corps platoon leader is expected to be charged with assault this week for his alleged role in the slaying of an Iraqi citizen in the village of Hamdaniyah earlier this year, his defense attorney said. That would make him the ninth U.S. serviceman charged in relation to the case.
Officials at Camp Pendleton in California declined to comment on potential charges against Lt. Nathan Phan. But his attorney, David P. Sheldon, said he has been informed that Phan is likely to face assault charges in connection with an April 26 incident involving a squad of Marines with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. Military officials have alleged that the troops grabbed an Iraqi man from his home, bound his arms and legs and shot him in the face.

Do you see it in the Times? No, you don't. They're good at reading their press releases live from the Green Zone but don't kid yourself that it's reporting. And don't kid yourself that the military isn't wanting the story to change and the Times isn't right there helping them take the focus away from real news and put on Happy Talk.

Supposedly four 'captors' have been captured. What's today's date? August 10, 2006. So why is the Times writing about an arrest of three that took place May 19th?

Because the military wants to shift the focus. They've lost two soldiers.

That's the news for today. Not what happened on May 19th.

Are they really the captors of Carroll? I guess Jill Carroll will tell us as her series in The Christian Science Monitor unfolds. But if it's news, if it's real news, this capture, the US military would have been trumpeting it back in May. Three months later? Three months later it's just a distraction from reality the same way the 'rescue' of Jessica Lynch was.

If we had an independent media that was paying attention to Iraq we might be able to see that. But no one is. That's why the New York Times can put out this morning's crap and all the other crap they've offered recently and not be called on it. As though the paper's problem ended (and supposedly began) with Judith Miller.

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