Saturday, October 28, 2006

Kat's Korner: The death of Ani DiFranco?

Kat: Back before Ani DiFranco released Reprieve, I was excited, I was counting down the weeks. Then the CD came out and I thought I had a review for it. I made notes on various scraps of paper and was all set to assemble it into one review.

I never did.

That's not due to the fact that I'm in Ireland dealing with a dying family member. That's due to the news by way of Toni.

I practically grabbed her by the arm and pulled her from my front door to the living room to listen to Reprieve shortly after it came out. We all love Ani but Toni's probably been her biggest and longest fan of my small circle of friends.

I was full of "Isn't it great" and "Isn't it wonderful" talk and basically stepping on every word Toni started to say. Finally, after I shoved her on the sofa and went to the stereo, it hit me that Toni wasn't excited.

I made all the pleasantries I normally would have greeted her with but now I was listening for any indication of something seriously wrong. No indications were given and no words of distress were spoken.

Assuming it was the heat, this was still summer and these were furnace days, I ran to the kitchen for the pitcher of margaritas I'd made earlier and came back with salted glasses. Toni's face lit up like Maggie's. Since she's not quite the booze hound Maggie is, I assumed it was the weather, poured her a glass and headed towards the stereo.

"Do we have to listen?"

Okay, now I was seriously disturbed. This is the woman who drags me to Ani concerts. This is the woman who argued for fifteen minutes with a clerk at Tower over a free poster that was supposed to come with purchase of Evolve. (She got the Ani poster but only after she'd created such a scene that the manager had to intervene.) This is the woman who begged me to help her create an Ani T-shirt in 1994 because she didn't think any of the ones available (on either market) did Ani justice. What the hell was going on?

Hadn't I heard, Toni wondered, Ani was pregnant.


I put on the Who's Tommy and turned the lights down. We listened in silence and didn't begin speaking until the next CD, around the time Janis was singing "Call On Me."

See, the thing is, women have to fight for any kind of artistic credibility. And, for women who've listened to music for any length of time, pregnancy doesn't mean "joy." It usually means soggy.

You start getting 'lullaby' CDs that the artists wouldn't normally put out until after the chart making days were over. Or you get these audio equivalents of "destiny." You get a whole lot of crap, you just don't get any art.

I was never a huge fan of Sarah McLachlan. But she was getting better with each album and, by the time of Surfacing, I was actually starting to enjoy her arc of growth. Then came the news that she was pregnant. I knew the next album would be a retreat. And it was, despite being called World On Fire.

Shawn Colvin's often used these days as an example by some of how women can't really work. The argument goes, it's not 'natural' for women, they have to really work at it. (Well the last few few Bob Dylan albums have felt phoned in -- maybe everyone needs to work a little harder?) They toss out Shawn Colvin and the soggy mush she released post-pregnancy and the overly lit commercials she did. And every woman suffers from that 'logic.'

'Logic' because Shawn Colvin wasn't a rocker before she got pregnant. She was as soggy as she is today long before she had her first bout of morning sickness. But the 'logic' dominates and there are plenty of examples to back it up.

The woman who've left a big impact tend to be childless or else they adopted a child (or gave one up for adoption). That includes Janis who died early. It includes Stevie Nicks, Joni Mitchell, Ann Wilson, and not many others.

Laura Nyro is an artist I love but when she emerged post-pregnancy, the art lost its urgency. Some argue Cass Elliot, whom I love, went into schmaltz after her pregnancy. There are too many arguments to be made to put it down just as 'getting older.' Even Chrissie Hynde who can usually be counted on to kick out the jams when everyone around her is brewing tea and reaching for a caftan began making drippy statements about women's 'nature' as she began having children.

Toni and I started talking about what women we could think of who didn't go into retreat at the first sign of pregnancy? We could name three: Etta James, Aretha Franklin and Carly Simon. We were depressed and you might be able to name more. I actually hope you can.

Lady Soul was always Lady Soul. She might get the worst producer in the world and, goodness knows, she's had some of them. But her work that goes soggy can be traced to that. Etta James? The original 'bad girl' -- the archetype before the Ronettes and the Shangri-Las ever harmonized on their first note. Carly? That keen eye for observation didn't switch to soft focus as a result of Sally and Ben.

Think Toni and I were making too much of it? Did you ever listen to Patti Smith's Dream of Life? That the album which provided one of her best songs ("People Have The Power") could be surrounded with so much corn was heart breaking. Or take the strange career of Pat Benetar who came out belting hard rocking songs in her caberet voice, traded in the tights for shoulder pads and then seemed to turn the whole career over to her husband and lose every fan who'd ever screamed along to "Treat Me Right" with the acoustic drip that was Tropico. The woman who once snarled, "You Better Run" has spent the rest of her career trying to reclaim her fans, often via the blues, but traveling the road with some sort of Cowsills act.

Benatar, the woman who won four consecutives Grammys in the women rock vocals category (all before she gave birth and none since), also provided MTV with the second video they ever played. Not even the blues could allow her to, as the Jefferson Starship once sang, "Find Your Way Back" to her fans.

The two Pats offer an interesting comparison. One was an artistic heavy hitter (Smith), the other a chart topper. Both rocked. Both went soft.

A little over a decade ago, we got another 'year of the women' in rock. The poster girl was Liz Phair. Exile in Guyville was a smart album full of angry thoughts and angry music. It rocked. She had a highly limited vocal range but she got crowned by most as the 'rocker.' Then came the days of Mommy-dom. And her career's never been the same. While her self-titled CD was so idiotic and so art-free, it made more than a few fans wish for the days of Whip Smart, the truth is that Liz Phair was already on the road to soggy.

The reality of pregnancy for many rocking women (I've gone with 'big' names because smaller artists, of any gender, have enough problems trying to break through) is not that different from the average women. It's late nights in the rocking chair, it's blurry mornings where you sit at the kitchen table watching the high chair. It's a lot of yawning, it's a lot adjustment to a new schedule. And, reality, it's still an enormous amount of work that falls mainly on women.

To be a woman in rock is to invert, subvert or spoof the stereotype and possibly there's no energy left for that in the post-birth days? Now an artist could explore these moments, and Toni and I give Carly credit for doing so. But most ignore reality. It's as though when the creative urge strikes them, they're going for a Calgon-take-me-away feel.

And it's drippy and it's sad and it hurts all women. So, for most women I know, the early days of being interested in sharing the news that ___ is pregnant quickly turns into an avoid the topic all together mood. Toni was tying it into an episode of Sex in the City which I never saw but apparently Sarah Jessica Parker and company go to a party thrown by a woman who's become a mother and it becomes a nightmare. (Sarah Jess' Carrie even loses her beloved shoes. Clearly a tragedy akin to Dorothy losing her red ruby slippers.) Even without having seen the episode, I could nod along to Toni's recap of retreat portrayed.

So what does the future hold for Ani DiFranco? The self-described "punk" (she didn't want to be called folk) has always rejected most labels. She's been lesbian, she's been bi-sexual, she's been married to a man, she's spoken of, and sang of, the 'girl police' who want her to be one thing when she wants to be another.

Long before the first wave of concern over the career from dedicated fans, Ani had declared, "I am no poster girl with a poster" ("32 Flavors"). So despite the talent that practically screams for you to say, "Okay, with Ani, with Ani there will be a difference!"; you find yourself quickly realizing that asking her to be a standard-bearer is asking for disappointment and all but inviting her to run the other way.

Now Patti Smith, unlike Pat Benatar, bounded back in the 90s and has stayed strong. Dream of Life sounds, now, like something she just had to get out of her system. Ani shares more similarities to Patti than to Pat so there may be reason to hope. But, to be honest, for too many women who've seen SoggyStock play out (the ever evolving 'happening' that's outlived Woodstock and any other 'event' in the rock era), there's not much reason to hope.

Add in that Ani's had problems in the last few years (which led to a tour cancellation) that interfered with her guitar playing and the 'news' is enough to depress the hell out of you. You might, as Toni and I did, try to find comfort in the fact that, if the sog-fest is temporary, the artist usually rebounds while, on the male end, they often seemed trapped in a cartoon version of themselves.

But that doesn't change the fact that the 'news' depresses us. We're fans of the music, not the artist. If we were fans of the personality, we could probably be as exicted for Ani as anyone who spent the summer breathless over Angelina and Brad's offsprings or Tom and Katie's.

A pitcher and a half of margaritas later, we were ready to listen. "Half-Assed" is probably the best track on the CD. But what we noticed was that this is Ani's album. She's had albums that worked before from start to finish as something more than a collection of songs. Obviously the live albums but the studio ones too (Not A Pretty Face, Little Plastic Castle, Evolve, Educated Guess). But on this one, it's not just the songs that add together for a total portrait, it's the musical accents. I honestly had missed that until C.I. pointed them out.

Reprieve is a CD for the big speakers, no question. But it's also one that you really should put on the head phones for at least once. You'll discover so much more to it if you do. In terms of the production, it's a very textured work. Which is interesting considering that last time around, Ani had surrendered production duties to Joe Henry (Knuckle Down, an album that still hasn't spoken to me). The textures are so wonderful (again, use headphones -- birds, traffic and more) that if Ani's going out, she's going out with a blaze.

"Hypnotized" opens the album softly and it may rank with "Both Hands" for Ani's most beautiful of her gentle songs. "So that's how you found me/ Rain falling around me . . . And you were no picnic/ And you were no prize/ But you had enough pathos/ To keep me hypnotized." On the second track, "Subconscious," the key line is "I know where I'm going/ And it aint' where I've been." That really sums up the album. Reprieve is looking at the world and refusing to take part in the uglier parts. The uglier parts are summed up best in "Millennium Theater:"

While out in TV nation
Under darkening skies
The resistance is just waiting
To be organized.

That's the album. She's looking at where the world is going and where it's been. Of the illustration on the cover, Ani writes in the liner notes: "the cover tree was inspired by a photgraph taken in nagasaki, japan on august 10, 1945 by yosuke yamahata, just hours after the explosion of the atomic bomb." The tree on the cover is half-destroyed, half-alive. That too goes to what she's commenting on this time around. It's a powerful album.

Still, it's hard not to hear "Millennium Theater" now (post 'news') and not worry, or at least wonder, where the 'news' will take Ani next? The fear is soggy in a New Morning retreat.

I hope that's not the case but most women into music can tell you they've pinned their hopes on a person before, "She'll be the one! She is the one!" The comedown is never pretty. While back, around Ray of Light, I can remember some of my friends talking up Madonna as the "one." She was more marketeer than muscian. But she'd had a run on the charts like no one since Olivia Newton-John. So, on the basis of that, there was some excitement even though she was doing the faux British accent, even though she was aspiring for 'respectable.' Today, she seems genuinely puzzled that her stage shows, where the most creativity has always gone, are seen as controversial in a manner that doesn't excite media debate but just brings condemnations. When you go for 'respectable,' maybe you bring that criticism on yourself? It's one thing to court controversy and try for 'edgy' when you're all but passing out snapshots of your vagina, it's quite another when you're reinvented yourself for the last mile.

Ani's no Madonna. There's never been a team of writers or musicians needed for her to produce an album. All Ani's learned, all she's observed, come together on this album. Is Reprieve the swan song?

On 1974's Hotcakes, Carly Simon observed the following in "Think I'm Gonna Have a Baby:"

Platform shoes on table tops
I think I'm going to have a baby
Opinons flying right and left
I think I'm going to tell them maybe
They're puttin' out to many photographs records
Think I'm gonna have a baby, a baby . . .

I'm sure there are many "opinions flying right and left" with regards to Ani's 'news.' And for her, it may be all annoying. (If so, don't follow your press.) But it is a real very concern. Janis Joplin was blazing a trail of exploration and, once she died, she became a cautionary note. The 'boys' can be wild and never suffer the 'afterschool special' portrayals (Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, . . .). The reality is that women are the first overlooked in the histories. That's still true. They'll do their 'exception' and note a Joni Mitchell but, for instance, having just read a 'history of US rock' here in Ireland which lists only one female (Joni) but goes on and on about Jan & Dean, the Rascals, the Bee Gees, the Blues Magoos, and just about every other name of someone with a penis attached to the body, things haven't changed that much. In the late eighties, pop stations in the United States, were going out of their way to attempt to figure out how to play the hits but avoid playing a woman after another. The same 'concern,' then or now, has never been applied to male artists.

So there's a lot that women are up against. When someone manages to carve out their own space, that's cause for celebration. Maybe in forty years, there won't be a need for women to respond to the news that a favorite female artist is pregnant with fears? But that's reality as well.

Of the big name female artists who 'crossed over' (even temporarily) into the 'boys' club' (which is what it is, it's not 'the club,' it's the 'boys' club' and a lot of men in the print set work harder than Spanky of The Little Rascals to keep it that way), the only one to give birth and not cause embarrassment is Carly Simon. She did it by exploring life, what she was doing before. Maybe Ani will follow that path?

Time will tell. After a couple of hours discussing the topic, Toni and I were able to think of one more woman of 'rock' whose work didn't go soggy as a result of motherhood: Tori Amos. So we were left with four.

Right now, we have Reprieve and if you haven't checked it out yet, make a point to. Forget the 'news,' just blast "Half-Assed" out your speakers:

You start trippin
And I start slippin away
I was taught to zip it
If I got nothing nice to say
And down in the Texas of my heart
Driving a really big truck
Headed down a dirt road . . .

NYT: "Report Says Iraq Contractor is Hiding Data from U.S." (Glanz & Norris)

"The arrogance is astounding on the part of KRB," said William L. Nash, a retired Army major general who is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an expert on post-conflict zones.  "It's time for Congress to step in, because this has just gone too far."
The above is from James Glanz and Floyd Norris' "Report Says Iraq Contractor Is Hiding Data From U.S." in this morning's New York Times.  It addresses the latest report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and addresses the fact that there's been no transperancy on the part of Halliburton's KRB (formerly Kellog Kellogg Brown & Root) which stamps everything "propietary information" so that the result is no government oversight is possible.  They don't do that with all documents.  They will release some information to the Pentagon but even with that information they note that it can't be shared with other government agencies or Congress.  It's abuse of "propietary information" which allows KRB to refuse stating something as simple as how many US troops they are feeding.
Is US tax payer money being spent appropriately?  There's no way to check when all you know is how much money KRB was given by the government and not how they spent it. 
John F. Burns offeres "Fighting Split, U.S. and Iraq Renew Vow to Work for Peace" which is dead on delivery.  He focuses on puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Mailki, and his "outburst" last week (Wednesday's press conference) where he rejected notions of timetables and that he'd been involved in planning the raid on the Sadr City of Baghdad.  al-Maliki and Zalmay Khalilzad (US ambassador to Iraq) issued a joint statement.  The implication is that things are better or at least the puppet knows who pulls the strings.  That's already being rejected.
From Borzou Daragahi's "In private, al-Maliki criticizes U.S. policy" (LA Times via San Francisco Chronicle):
The Iraqi prime minister sharply criticized U.S. policy during a private meeting with the U.S. ambassador Friday, pointing to American failure to either reduce violence or give his government authority over security matters.
The criticism in private is the latest example of tension between the two governments and stands in stark contrast with a joint public statement issued after the meeting.
In the statement, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the U.S. Embassy said they had agreed to unspecified "timelines" to make tough political and security decisions on the country's future.
Privately, however, al-Maliki criticized what he called the patronizing U.S. tone toward the Iraqi government and warned U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to respect Iraq's sovereignty, according to two of the prime minister's advisers.
This is also addressed in the BBC's "Iraqi PM says 'not America's man'."  Meanwhile, reality intrudes yet again on Bully Boy's claim of "winning." 
For those who missed it, from PM (Australia's ABC):
KIM LANDERS: While insisting the US is "winning" in Iraq, he also says America is "pushing" Iraq's leaders to make "bold" moves to bring violence under control.
And while he's making it clear America's patience is not unlimited, he's still expressing support for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.
GEORGE BUSH: Look, we'll push him, but we're not going to push him to the point where he can't achieve the objective.
KIM LANDERS: Those comments come just hours after the US infuriated the Iraqi Prime Minister by leading a raid on a Shi'ite militia stronghold in Baghdad without approval from their ally.

Ramadi is thought to be among the hot spots this weekend, so watch for news from there.  Reuters reports that six people have already been killed there today, two roadside bombs have exploded in Baghdad killing one person and wounding at least ten, a roadside bomb exploded in Mahdudiya claiming one life and leaving three wounded, car bombs claimed five lives in wounded at least twenty five in Iskandariya and Dujail, mortars in Baghdad took one life and wounded at least 35, eight corpses have been discovered throughout Iraq, and four people have been shot dead throughout Iraq (including "the head of a women's organization in the town of Hawija") today.
Gunmen have kidnapped 11 Iraqi soldiers travelling in a minibus at a fake checkpoint in a town north of Baghdad, a joint US and Iraqi policing centre said.
The soldiers were wearing civilian clothes and were taken out of the bus at gunpoint after the gunmen found their military IDs.
The abduction took place in Udhaim, some 50 kilometres north of Baquba, a volatile town which has witnessed recent sectarian
Remember that, as reported yesterday by Mike Howell's "U.S. army deserter ready to head home" (Toronto Star), war resister Kyle Snyder is supposed to return to the United States today..
Okay.  This post is being e-mailed.  With the hopes that it will appear.  There's yet another Blogger/Blogspot problem:
001 Connection refusedblog
That's the message Trina's getting, the one Betty's getting and the one I got when I attempted to guest post for Kat.  Blogger/Blogspot has had nothing but problems since last Saturday. (Yesterday, many e-mails came in asking if there was just one morning entry.  There were two.  Three for the day counting the snapshot.  If you can't view them, go to the mirror site where they are all up.)  Right now, we're debating whether there will be a new edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review this weekend?  No one wants to spend hours working on a new edition only to have nothing show up at the site.
Blogger/Blogspot has been notified of the problem which usually translates as in a week or two they may address it.  If the problem's not fixed by Sunday, remember that we do have a mirror site and access that.
It's the weekend, so new episodes of RadioNation with Laura Flanders broadcast Saturday and Sunday from 7:00 pm to 10 pm EST over the radio airwaves of Air America Radio, on XM satellite and online:
As Bush builds a 700-mile wall on the Mexican border, we ask, 'Is there a better monument to the we-don't-see, we-don't-care policies of this White House and Republican Congress?
We tear down the walls, starting with two plaintiffs in the historic New Jersey lawsuit that affirmed the rights of same-sex couples, CINDY MENEGHIN and MAUREEN KILLIAN.
Author and Nation writer JONATHAN SCHELL on why our constitutional government itself is at stake in the mid-term elections.
And actor and playwright WALLACE SHAWN, who says at the crux is the relationship between rich and poor.
Our media roundtable includes ODETTE ALCAZAREN-KEELEY, chief of staff of New America Media and host of "Headlines from the Ethnic Media" on 91.7 FM-KALW in San Francisco, and author and ex-New York Times Middle Eastern bureau chief CHRIS HEDGES.
Also with us, progressives heading to Congress: JOHN HALL from New York's 19th district and Californian FRANCINE BUSBY, who is poised to take the CA-50th seat that Republicans stole from her in a special election in June.
Next weekend, an update on South Dakota's abortion wars with The Nation's Jennifer Baumgardner and others, the latest election protection efforts, and more.
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Friday, October 27, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Friday, October 27, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, US war resister Kyle Snyder prepares to return to the US; a G.I. coffeehouse opens in Watertown, NY; Gerhard Schroder weighs in on the special relationship between Tony Blair and Bully Boy; and the barking puppet of the occupation gets his leash yanked.

Tomorrow Kyle Snyder will return to the United States, Mike Howell reports for the Toronto Star noting that Snyder notes war resister Darrell Anderson's decision to return to the US (Anderson returned September 30th). Like Anderson, Snyder elected to self-check out of the military. For Snyder, that happened in April 2005. As Snyder explains in Michelle Mason's Breaking Ranks, military recruiters were circling throughout high school: "I had just received my high school diploma. I get off of the stage and here's another recruiter right outside the door -- waiting for me. I look back at i now and everything that I'm going through, everything that I've worked through I can retrace down to that moment that I signed the f**king contract." Snyder has addressed how the military broke its contract with him -- such as by refusing to investigate incidents of violence targeting Iraqis.

In August, Synder explained his decision to self-check out of the US military and go to Canada to Karen Button noting, "You know, if they want to help people in Iraq . . . imagine a 15 year-old kid, for the last . . . years all he's seen is [US] military personnel with weapons going through his city. How is that child supposed to believe that the man, in that uniform is helping him? Now, if that child saw a convoy of logs being brought to his city, or a convory of water being brought to his city, still guarded, it would be a completely different situation. That's where the American military messed up. Because they forgot about the perception of civilisation. They forgot about the perception of the Iraqi people."

Kyle Snyder intends to return to the US Saturday and turn himself in. Michelle Mason's documentary Breaking Ranks takes a look at US war resisters who have gone to Canada seeking asylum. In addition to Mason's film, more information on war resisters hoping to be granted refugee status (which the Canadian government has thus far refused to do, unlike during the Vietnam era) can be found at War Resisters Support Campaign.

Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Carl Webb, Camilo Mejia, Pablo Paredes, Aidan Delgado, Ryan Johnson, Joshua Key, Katherine Jashinski, Ivan Brobeck, Robin Long, Kevin Benderman and Clifford Cornell are among those war resisters who have gone public. And that's only the names of those who have gone public. The war resistance within the military is a movement.

Earlier this week, US service members created a website, Appeal for Redress, and are attempting to collect 2000 signatures for their petition to Congress to end the illegal war. From Appeal for Redress:

An Appeal for Redress from the War in Iraq
Many active duty, reserve, and guard service members are concerned about the war in Iraq and support the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The Appeal for Redress provides a way in which individual service members can appeal to their Congressional Representative and US Senators to urge an end to the U.S. military occupation. The Appeal messages will be delivered to members of Congress at the time of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January 2007.
The wording of the Appeal for Redress is short and simple. It is patriotic and respectful in tone.
As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq . Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.
If you agree with this message,
click here.
The Appeal for Redress is sponsored by active duty service members based in the Norfolk area and by a sponsoring committee of veterans and military family members. The Sponsoring committee consists of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, and Military Families Speak Out.
Members of the military have a legal right to communicate with their member of Congress. To learn more about the rights and restrictions that apply to service members
click here.
Attorneys and counselors experienced in military law are available to help service members who need assistance in countering any attempts to suppress this communication with members of Congress.
Several members of Congress have expressed interest in receiving the Appeal for Redress.
Click here to send the Appeal to your elected representatives.

Meanwhile, Citizen Soldier announces the opening, today, of "the first soldiers' coffeehouse of the current Iraq war in Watertown, NY." More information can be found at Citizen Soldier and at Different Drummer, the name of the coffeehouse. It is a movement and for those wanting more information on the importance of the GI coffeehouse to a peace movement should view David Zeiger's Sir! No Sir! documentary.

As resistance and opposition to the illegal war spreads throughout the world spreads, Bully Boy & Friends attempts to remarket/re-brand all week. At the start, the US State Department's Alberto Fernandez was having to eat his own words ("arrogance" and "stupidity" used to describe the war) after the White House first attempted to claim that Fernandez had suffered from mistranslation. We also heard the announcement by Tony Snow, White House flack, that the phrase "stay the course" was being stricken from the official White House language. Wednesday, the Bully Boy attempted to show how involved and concerned he was with the war Wednesday by noting the "93" US troops who had died in Iraq this month when, in fact, the US military's official count before the speech, during the speech and until Thursday morning was "91." While the White House removed one phrase from the official lexicon, Donald Rumsfeld added a new one on Thursday, "Just back off."

While the US administration played word games and offered faulty numbers, chaos and violence continued in Iraq. Despite this, Zalmay Khalilzad (US ambassador to Iraq) and George Casey ("top US general" in Iraq) held a joint press conference where they declared that success was yet again just around that ever elusive corner and it will only take a year to a year-and-a-half for it to show up. (For those who've forgotten, the illegal war began in March 2003.)
Meanwhile a US & Iraqi raid in the Sadr City section of Baghdad, led to a barking puppet of the occupation. Nouri al-Maliki rejected the raid, rejected the notion that he (who holds the position of commander-in-chief of the Iraqi military) had been involved in the planning of the raid, and rejected the "timelines" and "timetable" speak that Khalilzad and Casey had told reporters of the day before.

In his laughable Wednesday press conference, Bully Boy was asked why al-Maliki hadn't been included in the Tuesday press conference held by Khalilzad and Casey?
His response? "I have no idea why he wasn't there," said Bully Boy the 'decider' but not the planner. He added, "I have no idea. I'm not -- I'm not the scheduler of news conferences." Once again, out of the loop.

In Iraq today, Alastair Macdonald (Reuters) reports that Nouri al-Maliki issued "a joint statement with the U.S. ambassador [that] his government had 'timelines' for the resolution of the country's problems". The strings get pulled, the puppet plays along.

Macdonald notes: "The statement appeared aimed at dispelling the impression of mounting friction between Washington and its Iraqi allies". If the 'friction' is gone, does that leave only fiction? Bronwen Maddox (Times of London) labels the whole thing "Operation Cross Fingers" -- surely a 'strategy.'

Monday night in Baghdad, a US soldier went missing and is believed to have been kidnapped. AFP reports that the US military continues searching Baghdad "with armoured vehicles and backed by helicopter gunships" but the soldier has still not been located. AP reports that the soldier has been identified as Ahmed Qusai al-Taei.

The US press had trouble locating the 2800 mark for US troops who have died in Iraq -- a milestone passed this week. (In October 2005, passing the 2000 mark was news. Possibly the press is saving their energies for the 3,000 mark?) 2809 is the current toll since the start of the illegal war with 96 for the month. Or was until the US military announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was injured Thursday as a result of enemy action in Diyala province. The Soldier was transported to a coalition forces medical treatment facility and later died of wounds." That brought the monthly toll to 97 and the number who have died since the start of the illegal war to 2810. October has been the deadliest month for US troops serving in Iraq this year.

Meanwhile a British soldier died today near Basra due to "road traffic" according to the British Ministry of Defense. This brings the total British soldiers who've died this month in Iraq to two and the total since the start of the illegal war to 120.

Among the violence reported so far today in Iraq, is the death toll in Baquba where fighting broke out Thursday. CBS and AP report that 43 people died ("including 24 officers" -- police officers).


CBS and AP report that, in the Diyala province, a group of nine mourners returning from a funeral in Najaf were attacked with four being shot to death and the other five being injured.


The BBC notes five corpses were discovered in Mosul Thursday and that the city is now under a curfew and vehicle ban. Reuters notes that number of corpses discovered in Mosul rose to 12. AFP notes that, "Thursday and overnight," eleven corpses were discovered in Baghdad.


Reuters reports the death of one woman "when two rounds slammed into the house of a Sunni Arab member of parliament, Abdul Nasir al-Janabi, in the town of Mussayab".

Meanwhile a new book, Decisions: My Life in Politics, takes a look at the special relationship between Bully Boy of the US and Tony Blair of England. The book's author? Gerhard Schroder, the previous chancellor of Germany. Jess Smee (Guardian of London) writes that the book takes a look at Blair's rush to please Bully Boy, that Blair now pays for the price for his role in the illegal war, and notes that Blair had no interest in Europe -- Gerhard writes: "Quite the opposite, the country will continue to protect its role as a translantic mediator, even if that is to the cost of the European decision-making process."

In abuse news, Anne Plummer Flaherty (AP) reports: "The Halliburton susidary that provides food, shelter and other logistics to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan exploited federal regulations to hide details on its contract performance, according to a report released Friday."
In England, Michael Evans (Times of London) reports the latest on the seven British soldiers accused of abused prisoners in a Basra prison -- RAF soldier Scott Hughes has testified that he saw eye gouging of a prisoner and the prisoner being kicked "in the lower back". Donald Payne, one of the seven accused soldiers, has already pleaded guilty to war-crimes. In the United States, as Linda Deutsch (AP) reports, US marine John Jodka "pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice in the death of" Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52-years-old, in Al-Hamdaniyah.

In music news, Lydia Howell (Pulse of the Twin Cities) interviews singer, musician, songwriter and activist Michael Franti who says of his trip to Iraq, "I got tired of watching the news every night with generals and politicians talking about the economic costs of war WITHOUT mentioning the human crisis there. Rather than sit around frustrated, I picked up a guitar and a camera, flew to Baghdad and played music on the street." Michael Franti & Spearhead's latest CD is Yell Fire!

Finally, Bob Watada began his latest speaking tour yesterday. He is the father of Ehren Watada who is the first commissioned US officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. Below are dates through Monday:

Oct 27, 7PM
Albuquerque, NM
Location: Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice
202 Harvard Dr SE
Sponsor: Veterans for Peace Chapter 63
Contact: Sally-Alice Thompson, 505-268-5073, 512-463-2014,

Oct 28, 1 -- 4:30PM
Houston, TX.
Sponsor: Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace Chapter 12, Iraq Veterans Against the War , Cy-Fair Democratic Club
Location: Live Oak Friends House, 1318 West 26th StreetEntertainment by Bill Passalacqua and Hank Woji, "
Sir, No Sir"

Oct 28, 6:15PM
Houston, TX
Location: Dan Electro's Guitar Bar, 1031 East 24th Street. "Celebration of Resistance"
Sponsors: Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace Chapter 12, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Contact: Sherry Glover,,
(H) 832-363-1741, (C) 713-929-1132
-Bob Watada, ---- David Rovics

Oct 29, 1PM
Austin, TX
Sponsor: Code Pink/Austin, Veterans for Peace Chapter 66
Contact: Fran Hanlon, 512-454-6572,
Peter Ravella, 512-220-1740
Heidi Turpin, (C)512-565-2242,

Oct 29, 5:30PM
Austin, TX
Café Caffeine -- 206 West Mary
Sponsors: Code Pink, Veterans for Peace Chapter 66, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Contact: Doug Zachary,, (C) 512-791-9824
Heidi Turpin, (C) 512-565-2242,
Fran Hanlon (H) 512-454-6572, ,
Oct 30
Austin High Schools
Oct 31, 7-9PM
Norman, OK
Location: Cleveland County Fairgrounds - Lobby
615 E. Robinson
Sponsor: Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Contact: Jeri Reed, 405-307-0352, cell 405-606-9598,

A full schedule can be found at Veterans for Peace and those interested in hosting a Bob Watada speaking engagement in their area are urged to contact Doug Zachary.

More information on Watada and other war resisters can be found at Courage to Resist.

The e-mail address for this site is

Ava note: Post corrected per C.I. to remove a half sentence re: missing US soldier.

War resister Kyle Snyder returns to the US tomorrow

A U.S. army war deserter who fled his unit in Iraq in 2005 and moved to British Columbia will return to the United States tomorrow and turn himself into the military.
Kyle Snyder, 23, said he decided to cross the border because of the leniency granted to fellow U.S. deserter Darrell Anderson, who was given a less than honourable discharge earlier this month.
Anderson, 24, also served in Iraq and was living in Toronto before he turned himself into the military. Anderson and Snyder met each other while in Canada awaiting refugee board hearings.

The above, noted by Vic, is from Mike Howell's "U.S. army deserter ready to head home" (Toronto Star). Vic noted that Howell has covered Synder and asked that we pair the above with an editorial. Synder's original announced plan was to return to the US next week (first of the month). Howell is reporting the schedule for return has been pushed up. Below is The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Editorial: Kyle Snyder's return to the US is part of a movement of resistance" (and the illustration of Snyder is from that as well):

"I saw my friend completely change into this demon. I saw his soul die right in front of me." That's how Kyle Snyder explained to Mike Howell (Vancouver Courier) watching his friend shoot an Iraqi who was raking rocks. Snyder's time in Iraq was supposed to be spent rebuilding, as he has said in many forums, that's what he signed up for. That wasn't what he saw. There was no reconstruction going on. There were prostitutes being brought to the base, there was a massage parlor right across from Camp Diamond. Possibly that's how the US administration intends to provide opportunities for work to the women of Iraq who have lost most, if not all rights, since the illegal war began?

What does the US administration and the US military intend for young Americans? That's a key question because Kyle Snyder, like many others, signed up with the promise of education and health benefits. As he explains in Michelle Mason's documentary Breaking Ranks, the recruiters were after him. Even attending the five-foot four inches Synder's high school graduation: "I had just recieved my high school diploma. I get off of the stage and here's another recruiter right outside the door -- waiting for me. I look back at it now and everything that I'm going through, everything that I've worked through I can retrace down to that moment that I signed that f**king contract."

After he joined, his fiancee became pregnant while he was on leave. He had been given lots of lofty promises about the health care she'd recieve. That never happened. The baby was never born. Synder blames the military for not providing health care. As he told Karen Button (New Orleans Voices for Peace), "The military took my child."The military didn't do much. They didn't investigate the incident where the Iraqi raking rocks was shot (and lost a leg) which sent a message that Synder shared with Gary Mason (The Globe & Mail), "Basically, what my commanding officers were telling me was I could get angry with anyone in Iraq and, because it was war, it didn't matter what happened. That was not the right answer." This was demonstrated in another incident, recalled in Mason's Breaking the Ranks, where he led a blindfolded Iraqi "into the building into city hall and within five minutes of him being in city hall I heard a BANG."

"I wanted to start a family, I wanted to go to college," Synder said August 13, 2006 speaking to the Veterans for Peace who'd come to the Canadian border. "Basically, the same things I want to do now."

It's a pretty simple dream, nothing big, nothing grandiose -- what many Americans would see as as a basic life, not even "the American dream." Synder's dreams of a simple life were in contrast to his own childhood, as he told Button, "I wasn't a good kid. I didn’t have a good background. I was in foster homes from thirteen to seventeen, then when I was seventeen, I went through a government program called Job Corps. So, from thirteen all the way up, I didn't have parental figures in my life really. My parents divorced; my father was really abusive towards my mother and he was abusive toward me. I've still got scars on my back. I was put in Social Services when I was thirteen. I was an easy target for recruiters, plain and simple."

Which is the story for too many young Americans and those gas bags who want to scream "Volunteer military! Volunteer military!" might do well to look at the economic realities for so many who sign up -- what is "choice," what is "volunteer," when, as Jessica Lynch and many others have demonstrated, there are no other choices?

Gold Star Mother and member of Military Families Speak Out Doris Kent is one of many mothers who can share the sad reality of this war. Her son, Jonathan Santos, died in Iraq October 15, 2004. As she explained to Mike Howell, his main reason for enlisting was to pay for college, ideally to USC or UCLA in California. As she told The Seattle Times, "When he was in Iraq he gathered about 75 books, so somebody named him 'the librian'." [Books for Soldiers is a service that will allow you to select books and to avoid the trip to the post office to mail them.] There is something very sad when the basic, not "the American dream," is untainable for so many in this country.

As Doris Kent told Athima Chansanchai (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), "His junior year, a recruiter got hold of him, and he said, 'Mom, I'm going to earn my own college money.' I said, 'No. I'm going to pay for it.' We argued about it for three months." Earning college money becomes even harder when the current administration has cutting funding to student loans and grants. It's a rush to the economic bottom for the country and one of the few benefitting are military recruiters who prey on the innocent and promise things that they know will never have to be delivered. As Eileen Brennan's character tells Goldie Hawn's Judy Benjamin in the film Private Benjamin, "I don't care. I don't care what your lousy recruiter told you." So it is, and so it always has been.

But each generation of Americans faces fewer and fewer opportunites and real wages have remained, at best, stagnant for the last thirty years. In such a reality, in a nation that doesn't manufacture but does do 'service,' the term 'volunteer' becomes another useless, prettied-up term like 'termination' (for firing) and 'downsizing' (for lay offs).

Bully Boy truly is "the CEO" leader. Just like other CEOs, he is awarded while everyone else gets screwed. While the court's fool (not even jester) John Tierney sees the Wal-Mart model as a 'model for peace,' the reality is far different. In Friday's New York Times, Paul Krugman again noted the huge rewards for the top and the neglect of the middle and bottom: "In the 1960's and 1970's, C.E.O.'s of the largest firms were paid, on average, about 40 times as much as the average worker. . . . In the 1990's, executive stock options proliferated -- and executive pay soared, rising to 367 times the average worker's pay by the early years of this decade."

As Naomi Klein documents in the groundbreaking book No Logo, the 'service economy' is built upon high turnover, little pay and transition but not promotion. True in the country's production is outsourced, true in the countries that are outsourcing. In such an economy, words like 'choice' and 'volunteer' have little meaning but they do provide cover as they sugar coat reality.

So with "choice" meaningless, the recruiters prey. In April 2005, Kyle Snyder followed the examples of Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey and who knows how many others and self-checked out. In Canada, he applied for asylum. No war resister has been granted asylum during the Iraq war (a direct contrast to the Vietnam era). Hinzman and Hughey's appeals are supposed to result in a verdict any day now.

Like Darrell Anderson before him, Kyle Snyder has made the choice to return to the US. Staying is a valid choice and a brave one. It means knowing you may never be able to return to the United States. Even attending a funeral leaves you open to arrest. Snyder's plans currently are to return in November. All summer long the resistance went public and it should have been the story of the summer. You should have read articles, heard and seen reports. That didn't happen. Maybe that's changed. Maybe now the media can grasp that this is a movement and it does deserve coverage. (And, sadly, when we say "the media," we mean independent media. Even The New York Times covered Ricky Clousing's court-martial and sentencing -- click here for Laurie Goodstein's article.)

During the Vietnam era, these actions got more attention and more coverage from the mainstream than they have been getting from independent media. (For a chronicle of the resistance during Vietnam, check out the documentary Sir! No Sir!) Last Thursday, The Nation posted Staughton Lynd's "Soldiers of Conscience" (The Nation) and Amy Goodman interviewed Lynd on Friday's Democracy Now! We'd like to see those two actions as encouraging signs but we're aware that that's just two independent media outlets. When no one else seemed interested, Amy Goodman established that she would try to interview each war resister who went public. (Mark Wilkerson hasn't been interviewed yet.) That was great for 2003, 2004, 2005 and probably early 2006. But this is no longer a case of one person stepping up and then, awhile later, another. This is becoming a movement. And it needs to be covered like one.

Goodman and The Nation, by highlighting Lynd, demonstrated that they grasp it is a movement so we'll slap gold stars on both of them for last week. But the coverage needs to be there and it needs to be coming from more than just two outlets. Translation, if you've got time for a write up of a sit down with the Dalai Lamah, you've got time to do a write up on war resisters.

Unless you just don't care and if that's the case, you need to be upfront about it. Not hiding behind, "I had to skim four books for a review this week!" If you just don't care, then absolutely, the coverage you provided this summer cuts it.

But some people don't have that luxury. For many who are standing up, for many who are gone, for family and friends of all, the war has come home. Maybe not to your gated communities. But it has come home. On Friday, C.I. noted Max Bootsy's inane comment:

". . . the impact here is more isolated because so many soldiers come from military communities which are clustered in a handful of states." Oh really?
American troop fatalties? Alabama: 47; Alaska: 10; Arizona: 66; Arkansas: 35; California: 284; Colorado: 34; Connecticut: 22; Delaware: 12; Florida: 117; Georgia: 83; Hawaii: 13; Idaho: 16; Illinois: 107; Indiana: 56; Iowa: 33; Kansas: 31; Kentucky: 46; Louisiana: 63; Maine: 12; Maryland: 52; Massachusetts: 45; Michigan: 97; Minnesota: 39; Mississippi: 35; Missouri: 48; Montana: 12; Nebraska: 29; Nevada: 24; New Hampshire: 14; New Jersey: 47; New Mexico: 21; New York: 132; North Carolina: 63; North Dakota: 13; Ohio: 125; Oklahoma: 47; Oregon: 46; Pennsylvania: 135; Rhode Island: 10; South Carolina: 39; South Dakota: 17; Tennessee: 58; Texas: 245; Utah: 14; Vermont: 18; Virginia: 83; Washington: 53; West Virginia: 18; Wisconsin: 60; Wyoming: 7.

Whether the number is 7 (Wyoming) or 284 (California), it's not isolated to a 'few' states. And those are just the fatality numbers. The war has come home.

Speaking in August, Kyle Snyder noted, "I am a 22 year-old combat veteran from the Iraq war." He is one of many who have been touched by the war and he's speaking out. His story matters, his stand matters.

He is not alone and shouldn't be covered as if he is or given the impression that he is. He's part of a movement that includes Camilo Mejia, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Aidan Delgado, Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Patrick Hart, Corey Glass, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Kevin Benderman, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Robin Long, Ryan Johnson, Clifford Cornell, Katherine Jashinski, Agustin Aguayo, and many more.

For information on war resisters in Canada, War Resisters Support Campaign is the site. And more information on war resisters who have gone public can be found at Courage to Resist. The latter of which recently noted of Ricky Clousing:

Ricky is currently being held in a military brig at Camp LeJune in North Carolina and it is urgent that he receive your words of encouragement and support! Please write to Ricky today!

The e-mail address for this site is

Note: Post corrected: "Michelle Mason," not "Melanie Mason."

NYT: "42 Iraqis Die as Insurgents Attack Police Near Baquba" (Richard A. Oppel Jr & Kirk Semple)

Police officers acting on a tip about several kidnapped colleagues rode into deadly insurgent ambushes near here on Thursday, resulting in two intense battles that left at least 42 people dead, including 24 police officers, officials said.
Five American service members were killed Wednesday in Anbar Province, the military command reported Thursday, raising the American death toll in October to at least 96, one of the worst monthly tolls of the war.
The insurgent ambushes came as dozens of police officers converged on an area between Baquba and Baghdad, near a town called Khan Bani Saad. Word had come down late on Wednesday from the Interior Ministry that several Iraqi policemen who had been kidnapped days earlier near Baquba, the capital of Diyala Province, were being held south of there, and province officials ordered a raid. But as the police officers rode out, what they found was a large and well-armed Sunni insurgent force. A spokesman for the joint Iraqi-American command center in Baquba described the clashes as "very violent, brutal and heavy."

The above is from Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Kirk Semple's "42 Iraqis Die as Insurgents Attack Police Near Baquba" in this morning's New York Times. Bothered by that news? Well, 'just back off!' Martha notes Jonathan Weisman and Ann Scott Tyson's "Rumsfeld Tells Iraq Critics to 'Back Off'" (Washington Post):

With his chorus of critics expanding deeper into Republican ranks, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told detractors yesterday to pull back as U.S. and Iraqi officials grapple with the uncertainties of laying out Iraq's course.
"You ought to just back off, take a look at it, relax, understand that it's complicated, it's difficult," Rumsfeld said, appearing unusually combative as he sparred with reporters at the Pentagon. "Honorable people are working on these things together," he said, adding emphatically that "no daylight" exists between the U.S. and Iraqi sides.

Rumsfeld's statements are as laughable as Patricia Heaton's looks (pre and post surgery). That is a "known." Another "known" is that Rumsfeld's done a lousy job.

Charlie notes Jack Douglas Jr.'s "Fighting-vehicle repair work piling up" (McClatchy Newspapers):

TEXARKANA, Texas -- As bullet-riddled, bomb-scarred fighting vehicles are slowly towed into the production lines of the Red River Army Depot in northeast Texas, 57-year-old Elnora Harris often wonders about the young soldiers who have been in them, traveling in harm's way through the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is a prevailing thought that hangs over the 3,100 civilian employees at this bustling U.S. Army depot, 15 miles west of Texarkana, which came close to being closed last year until the government decided it was needed. The depot rebuilds thousands of disabled war machines -- some ripped to shreds by enemy fire -- that American troops depend on for safe travel in battle zones.
In a business made brisk by world conflict, Red River officials say they do not have enough money or manpower to keep up with the incoming shipments of crippled combat vehicles. Row after row of disabled Humvees, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, cargo trucks and ambulances line the back lots of the depot -- a graveyard of metal.
Between 6,200 and 7,000 battle-worn vehicles are parked on those lots, and officials say it would cost as much as $65,000 to fix each of the Humvees and $500,000 to $1 million to repair each Bradley. A new battle-worthy Humvee, decked out with high-tech communication gear and state-of the-art armor, costs the government about $190,000. A big Bradley costs $2.2 million, Army officials said.
Even if they are not hit by a bomb or blasted by gunfire, Humvees sustain seven times the wear and tear during war as they do in peace time, making it all the more important that rebuilding them is done efficiently, a Texas congressman said.

The e-mail address for this site is

Thursday, October 26, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

LESS than two weeks before congressional mid-term elections, and with polls showing the Republican Party is in danger of losing control of both houses of Congress, the last thing George Bush wanted was to hold a press conference to defend his Administration's handling of Iraq.
But the US President was forced to, mainly because internal Republican Party polling shows Iraq is a huge negative for Republicans countrywide and must be met head on.
About 75 per cent of Americans believe the Bush Administration has no coherent strategy to deal with what they now see as a civil war.
Republican candidates are racing to distance themselves from Mr Bush and calling for "course correction" in Iraq.
So there was Mr Bush - one moment incredibly defensive, the next aggressive and emphatic, but mostly looking uncomfortable - admitting that his Administration had made mistakes in Iraq and that Americans were losing heart about the whole venture. "I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq", he said. "I'm not satisfied either. But we cannot allow our dissatisfaction to turn into disillusionment about our purpose in this war."

Skip noted the above. It's from Michael Gawenda's "Election fears force Bush into damage control" (Sydney Morning Herald). Skip notes that Iraq's a growing issue in press coverage in his country (Australia) and that the talk has turned to elections there. He wondered whether the talk of Iraq in the US could be seen as resulting from elections as well?

I think that's a good question and that it's at least one aspect of it. I also think that's why a lot of people seem to think they're covering Iraq (in the US) by sprinkling a reference to the fatalities or the polling in their article that has little to do with Iraq. We're getting a lot of trash passing for 'coverage.' Such as an article that doesn't belong in The Nation. It's on Harold Ford Jr. and not only is Ford not someone the magazine should be admiring, the writer also has little idea of what killed Ron Kirk's campaign in Texas. I read the e-mails. We have a large number of community members in Texas and the idea that Corny (as they dub John Cornyn) won because he dubbed Kirk with the "L-word" (liberal) is a joke. In the DFW area, members can tell you that Kirk didn't even feel the need to run commercials for most of the campaign. They can also tell you he was a lousy Dallas mayor, he was pro-business and he was a lousy speaker. That's sound-bytes, that's on the stump. Ron Kirk ran a lousy campaign. I e-mailed Billie for a comment because she loathes Kirk. Billie: "He shucked and jived looking all the while like like Carlton on Fresh Prince. I was never more embarrassed to be a Black woman than to have a candidate who went so far out of his way to distance himself from African-Americans." I also called a friend in the area whose a journalist and he echoed Billie's criticism and added these two points: (1) Kirk ran a weak campaign and had no base; (2) He came off a position (mayor of Dallas) in a city that doesn't have a strong mayor. (The city council outweighs the mayor due to the way the local system is set up.)

That's the reality. Another reality is that chicken ___'s like Martin Frost wouldn't even put "Democrat" on their campaign material. When candidates do that, it's not uncommon that the party begins to be seen as something embarrassing -- when even candidates won't claim it. There has been a long history of that in Texas. But we get nonsense from The Nation (such nonsense that we're not linking to the glossy story).

Considering that the editorial last year stated there would be no endorsement for any candidate who supported the war, the fact that the article doesn't even explore's Ford's stance on that issue and that it comes in an issue that will hit stands the week before the election means that the magazine doesn't walk it the way it talks it with this article.

Far better is Nicholas von Hoffman's "Useful Idiots" -- which Kyle noted and, sadly, it's web only -- no print version for this. Here's Kyle's highlight from the article:

Now comes another piece in The London Review of Books that would have served the world better had it appeared in an American publication. It is ""Bush's Useful Idiots," Tony Judt's essay on "The Strange Death of Liberal America."
Judt is a corking good historian currently running New York University's Remarque Institute. In this piece he directs his anger toward the corps of men and women who, though presenting themselves as liberals, supported the Iraq disaster from the git-go. Of them he writes, "Indeed, intellectual camp followers of this kind were first identified by Lenin himself, who coined the term that still describes them best. Today, America's liberal armchair warriors are the 'useful idiots' of the War on Terror."
Who are the useful idiots who served Bush so well in bringing defeat and disgrace down on our country? He names some of them--Michael Ignatieff, Leon Wieseltier, David Remnick, Thomas Friedman, Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago Divinity School, Paul Berman, Peter Beinart--but without too much head-scratching, others could be added to Judt's list.

Now note, the above? Not worthy for print. The puff piece on Harold Ford Jr.? It will be in print. Which has more value to the reader? I'd argue von Hoffman and, since members have e-mailed complaining about the Ford article, I'd argue that's not an minority opinion.

Kyle notes that when he copy and pasted his highlight, von Hoffman's article was the most e-mailed at The Nation. But, again, it's web only. Not worthy for publication. Kyle asked if we could address Ford? We will, after the election. Cedric's suggested it for a piece at The Third Estate Sunday Review but wants to wait until the weekend after the election. So look for some reality then (and I'm not just speaking of the article we're not linking to). (Let me note that Betty wants this written now and may write about it Monday when she substitutes for Kat. That's fine with Cedric but he doesn't want to write it until after the election.)

So von Hoffman has a serious piece and it's about Iraq but won't be printed and a puff piece on Ford, that avoids the issue of Iraq, gets covered. And you wonder why the war drags on?

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 2787. Right now? 2809. Repeating from earlier today, Iraqi fatalities? CBS and AP note "more than 961 Iraqis have been killed in war-related violence this month, the highest level since The Associated Press began tracking civilian deaths in April 2005. That amounts to an average of more than 41 each day, compared with a daily average of about 27 since April 2005, as more Iraqis fall prey to sectarian death squads affiliated with militias. The AP count includes civilians, government officials and police and security forces, and is considered a minimum based on AP reporting. The actual number is likely higher, as many killings go unreported. The United Nations has said 100 Iraqis are being killed each day." Most deaths go unreported.

Riverbend commenting on The Lancet study, approximately 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the war, (Baghdad Burning):

For American politicians and military personnel, playing dumb and talking about numbers of bodies in morgues and official statistics, etc, seems to be the latest tactic. But as any Iraqi knows, not every death is being reported. As for getting reliable numbers from the Ministry of Health or any other official Iraqi institution, that's about as probable as getting a coherent, grammatically correct sentence from George Bush- especially after the ministry was banned from giving out correct mortality numbers. So far, the only Iraqis I know pretending this number is outrageous are either out-of-touch Iraqis abroad who supported the war, or Iraqis inside of the country who are directly benefiting from the occupation ($) and likely living in the Green Zone.
The chaos and lack of proper facilities is resulting in people being buried without a trip to the morgue or the hospital. During American military attacks on cities like Samarra and Fallujah, victims were buried in their gardens or in mass graves in football fields. Or has that been forgotten already?

But by all means, let's talk about wishy-washy spineless Dems, let's give them cover because it's an election! Skip had a good point and it's why I'm shying more and more away from any election highlights at all here. Everyone's on it from outside and most articles aren't worth the time required to read (or skim). [Bill Fletcher Jr. has an article worth reading at The Black Commentator. For those wanting a serious discussion about elections, click here.]

On highlights. Lewis' e-mail is gibberish where he copied and pasted. He's very excited about an article and it will go into the Sunday evening entry. I'm guessing the link was the problem (he put the link in himself) because it was like an entry here when the link is open. I'm on the phone doing a roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin so I may not have time to respond to e-mails tonight. So I'll note here, Lewis resend without the link and let's see if that makes the text readable. Brandon had a great highlight but I want to take that over to The Third Estate Sunday Review because we've already discussed a feature on that topic for this Sunday's edition.

Liang, we're highlighting now, notes Danny Schechter News Dissector's "Those Vietnam Parallels" (BuzzFlash):

The Vietnamese forced the U.S. into negotiations for the Paris Peace Agreement. When the agreement was continually violated, they brilliantly staged a final offensive that surprised and routed a superior million-man Saigon Army. Can the Iraqi resistance do the same? Insurgent groups reportedly have asked for negotiations and some have secretly taken place.
The Vietnam war ended when the costs rose. The BBC reminded us, "As the casualties mounted so did the questions about how much a threat the Vietcong could really pose. Today another pre-emptive war against an enemy far from home has posed similar questions."
As the insurgency in Iraq escalates and continues to seize the initiative with the capacity to attack where and when it wants, as US and allied casualties rise, is it unthinkable to suspect that another April 30th campaign of the kind that "liberated" Saigon is possible in Baghdad?
Remember the US military made the defense of Saigon the centerpiece of its strategy. The slogan then was "as Saigon goes, so goes Vietnam." The same is now being said of Baghdad.
We have already seen one "fall" of Baghdad. Will it "fall" again? Of course not! Repeat after me. We are winning. Democracy is on the march even if we are no longer allowed to say "Mission Accomplished" or "Stay the Course."

Liang wanted it noted that she's heard this from her family growing up but "I can count on one hand the number of times I can find it in the media." Proving Danny's point that Vietnam is still hidden away (when not revised). We did note this already today, the article, but it meant a great deal to Liang and she hopes everyone takes time to read it. It's too late to go into the round-robin but I hope she'll consider sharing her comments in Sunday's Polly's Brew. And I hope it's okay to note that she has serious concerns for children of Iraqis whose families move to this country (US) if the people/media are going to treat this war (in the years to come) the way they treat Vietnam now.

What will that be like? Who will be the new Sly Stallone starring in the revisionist history? It's worth thinking about and I've stated before that the left better not get into one of their "Oh, it's painful, we won't talk about it" moments. That happened with Vietnam. I think it's in Sir! No Sir! where Jane Fonda makes the comment about how she's always being asked why she has to keep going back to Vietnam and she makes the point that the right always goes back to it. That is exactly how the revisionism on that war managed to obscure reality.

You have to wonder if so many hadn't decided that we shouldn't talk about it whether we'd be in the current illegal war now? Fonda's spoken before about how Coming Home captured some of what was going on in the US, Platoon captured some of what was going on in Vietnam but we didn't have the film that captured how the US got over there in the first place. (A Bright and Shining Lie, wonderful book, when it was filmed was made for cable, not the theaters.)

Documentarians, historians (such as Howard Zinn to name but one) covered reality but most shied from it and it wasn't a conversation we could have. It's still not and that does, I believe, go a long way to explaining how Bully Boy could trick the people of the United States into a war.

The right will keep coming back to Iraq and rewriting it. We'll probably hear the ludicrous lie that it was 'winnable' and that the troops had 'one hand tied behind their backs' because DC wouldn't use all the arsenal. We'll hear all those lies again. It's easy to think that since we know the way it went down, everyone will. But Vietnam was largely avoided in most history classes and it was avoided as a topic in most conversations.

The war is over. The troops aren't home yet, but the war is over. Preventing this from happening in the near future will require people being willing to talk about what went down and why. The nation never healed because the nation couldn't address the problem.

655,000 Iraqis and counting are dead. Thirty years from now, will the nation be grappling all over again or are we going to be smarter this time and address reality?

The scary thing to me is that we're not even addressing it today. It's addressed on campus, in conversations, but it's rarely addressed in the media -- big or small. We saw a whole summer taken off from the topic. Now we're supposed to focus on the elections. Elections don't end wars, people end wars. "Power players" don't end wars. (See Sunday's edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review.) And it's very discouraging to realize that we may well see the fourth year mark of the illegal war before we see the media start to treat it seriously, as more than a sidebar or a starting point for puff pieces. There are execeptions but they shouldn't be exceptions.

If you remember the period and you watch Sir! No Sir!, it really is shocking to see how Vietnam has been rewritten. And, as Jerry Lembcke points out in the film, reality was covered in real time. Not in a few outlets. It was covered. Big and small, it was covered. The lack of coverage today makes me very fearful of how the revisions will go on this illegal war.

This entry's a little different than usual, my apologies. I'm on the road speaking. I will be filling in for Kat tomorrow but it will be late because I have a late flight home. Also don't expect much tomorrow. On Ruth, Cheryl and Joan both wondered if filling in for Kat would mean she wouldn't have a report this weekend? Ruth actually wondered that herself and her focus is going to be on the report. If there's time, she'll also do a post at Kat's site this weekend. If not, she'll just do the report. [Blogger/Blogspot was down yesterday evening so Ruth wasn't able to do a guest post yesterday.]

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danny schechter

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, October 26, 2006.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the puppet's bark continues to resonate, the American troops toll continues to rise as October becomes the month with the highest number of US military fatalities for 2006, and John Howard, prime minister of Australia tries to spin a new excuse for Australia's continued involvement in the Iraq war.
"There are two options.  One is everybody out by midnight tonight, and the second option is everybody out by midnight tomorrow.  I don't think it's cutting and running, I think it's getting out," Seymour Hersh stated to Matthew Hays (Montreal Mirror) summarizing the realities of Iraq today. 
From reality to joke, John Howard.  As Peter Hartcher (Sydney Morning Herald) observers of the coming parliament elections in Australia: "The war in Iraq, also unpopular, is another live risk for Howard. . . . beccause it is such an unpopular policy, Howard cannot win on Iraq."  No, he cannot.  So apparently he's going for the jokes.  AAP reports: "Australian troops must stay in Iraq to maintain the country's friendship with the United States".  Can someone get John Howard to a self-esteem class quickly?   Somewhere a mother asks, "John Howard if everybody jumped off a cliff, would you?"
From Australian joke to American joke, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  AP reports that Rummy wants people to "just back off" on this talk of benchmarks or timelines or, probably, even stopping the violence.  "Just back off!" hollers Rummy who actually did promise you a cakewalk if not rose garden.  Meanwhile, Peter Pace (US Joint Chiefs of Staff chair) was reported by AFP to have stated yesterday that 'another war' would require "brute force" due to other options being "tied down in Iraq".
"Just back off!" hollers Rummy, "just back off!"
Writing of the reality on the ground in Iraq, Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch) observes: "The greatest American mistake was to turn what could have been presented as liberation into an occupation.  The US effectively dissolved the Iraqi state.  It has since been said by US generals -- many of whom now claim to have been opponents of the invasion all along -- that given a larger US army and a more competent occupation regime, all might still have been well.  This is doubtful."
Cockburn also notes that "the Iraqi government has always been weak.  For this, the US and Britain were largely responsible."  Which brings us to the shock still greeting Wednesday's bark from the occupation puppet.  James Hider and Tom Baldwin (Times of London) note: "Nouri al-Maliki anxious to prove he is not a US puppet, criticised a heavy-handed American raid on the Shia militia stronghold in Sadr City, made without his knowledge.  He also repudiated the US assertion 24 hours earlier that his Government has 12 months to quell Iraq's nascent civil war.  'This government represents the will of the people and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it,'
he said."  As Nancy A. Yousseff (McClatchy Newspapers) noted: "U.S. officials and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are increasingly at odds over strategy and goals".  As the AFP noted yesterday, "The joint force did not say whether they had captured their main target."  Today Paul Holmes and Mariam Karouny (Reuters) report that the target "escaped" according to al-Maliki.  The barking puppet has gotten a lot of press in the last two days.  He may need to save the clippings for his scrapbook because,
as Raed Jarrar and Robert Dreyfuss discussed with Amy Goodman on Monday's Democracy Now!, the puppet may be about to be replaced by the US government.
Meanwhile, Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) notes that the US military death toll in Iraq has "reached the highest level in nearly two years on Thursday following the deaths of four U.S. Marines and one Navy sailor in volatile Anbar province."  The US military announced: "One Sailor assigned to 3rd Naval Construction Regiment, two Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 and two Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died Wednesday from injuries sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province."  The BBC notes that Bully Boy "on Wednesday admitted being seriously concerned about the scale of American casualties."  Not 'seriously concerned' enough to get the number of American fatalities correct.  Some people are seriously concerned such as Diana Unger who spoke to CBS' Byron Pitts about her son David Unger: "My son died in a country that I have no idea, really, why we're even there" and, of the Bully Boy, "Unless he puts his daughters over there and he has that real fear everyday of not wanting to turn on the television, that fear that gets into your heart and your head, he can't fathom what that means."
In Tal Afar a man with an "explosive-laden belt" killed himself and left two Iraqi soldiers wounded, Reuters reports.
The BBC reports at least eight police officers were killed by "gunmen" in one attack in Baquba with 25 more wounded and 20 missing while another "attack on a checkpoint" left an additional six police officers dead and ten wounded. Reuters puts the number of missing police officers from the first attack in the previous sentence at fifty and notes that "an Arab local official" was shot dead in Mosul. Update: Reuters raised the number killed in the attack listed first in the first sentence to 28 with the wounded staying the same (25) -- no mention of any change in the figures for the missing.  The fighting in Baquba is ongoing and AP notes 30 killed and 42 wounded in their most recent update.  KUNA reports that Saad Shalash, a journalist and professor, and his wife (name not supplied) were shot dead in Amiriyah.
Reuters reports seven corpses ("shot and bound") were discovered in Mosul yesterday.  CNN reports that ten corpses ("bullet-riddled") were discovered in Baghdad Wednesday.
On Iraqi fatalities, CBS and AP note "more than 961 Iraqis have been killed in war-related violence this month, the highest level since The Associated Press began tracking civilian deaths in April 2005.  That amounts to an average of more than 41 each day, compared with a daily average of about 27 since April 2005, as more Iraqis fall prey to sectarian death squads affiliated with militias.  The AP count includes civilians, government officials and police and security forces, and is considered a minimum based on AP reporting.  The actual number is likely higher, as many killings go unreported.  The United Nations has said 100 Iraqis are being killed each day."
In legal news, AP reports that John J. Jodka has entered a plea of guilty "to charges of assault and obstruction of justice in the [April] death of . . . Hashim Ibrahim Awad in the Iraq town of Hamdaniya."  As CBS and AP note, Jodka's plea follows that of Melson J. Baco who pleaded guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy:  "The group approached a house where the insurgent was believed to be hiding, but when someone inside woke up, the Marines instead went to another home and grabbed 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad, Bacos said.  The squad took Awad to a roadside hole and shot him before planting a shovel and AK-47 to make it appear he was an insurgent placing a bomb, Bacos said.  He was sentenced to a year's confinement; murder and other charges were dropped." 
In other legal news, CNN reports: "Five companies, including a subsidiary of military contract giant Halliburton, billed the U.S. government a total of $62.1 million for administrative operations, which is more than twice the amount those companise spent directly on the projects in Iraq that they had been contracted for, according to a report released Monday by the Office of the Special Inspecter General for Iraq Reconstruction."  Earlier, James Glanz (New York Times) reported on the same government estimate noting: "Overhead costs have consumed more than half the budget of some reconstruction projects in Iraq . . . leaving far less money than expected to provide the oil, water and electricity needed to improve the lives of Iraqis."
In peace news, Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin are among those who continue speaking out.  Denny Boyles (Fresno Bee) reports that Sheehan spoke at Fresno State, Satellite Student Union, yesterday to a "near-capacity and supportive crowd for more than an hour, talking about not only the loss of her son, but what she said was the loss of rights suffered by everyone in America."  Boyles quotes Sheehan: "Last summer I felt my role was to convince people that the war is a lie, based on lies.  Now, I've seen polls that show most Americans believe that to be true.  My job is to activiate those who disagree with Bush and get them to act for peace."  Video of her speaking to press before her speech can be found here (KFSN).  The day before Cindy Sheehan was speaking truth in Iowa City and O.Kay Henderson, of Radio Iowa, has an audio report here.
Meanwhile, Medea Benjamin spoke at Ohil University yesterday.  In a Q&A with The Post, Benjamin was asked about her thoughts on the importance of protesting with the interviewing noting that Benjamin was "removed from the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 2004, Pres. George W. Bush's second inauguration and a Congressional speech by Iraq's Prime Minister (Nouri al-Maliki) this past July, all for anti-war protesting."  Benjamin's response: When governments realize they don't have the backing of their people, they start to find a way out . . . It's both the (continued violence) on the ground in Iraq coupled with loss of support for this war that is forcing even George Bush to start looking for alternatives.  Many times, for activists, it feels like we're not effective.  It feels like we're being ignored or ridiculed or marginalized, which we often are by the mainstream media, but in the end it's often times the protestors who end up convincing the general public of their opinions and changing history, and I think that's what we're saying now."
". . . truth is often denied at first, then grudgingly accepted until it becomes comventional wisdom," Danny Schechter News Dissector notes writing about the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq (at BuzzFlash): "There is a word missing in most of the coverage of Iraq.  It's a ghost-laden word that conjures up distressing memories that Washington and most of our media prefer to keep in that proverbial 'lock box,' hidden away in dusty archives and footage libraries.  The word is Vietnam.  Its absence was never more noticeable than in the coverage this past weekend of the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, marked in Vietnam with celebrations, but largely ignored in America where CNN led with the story of a bride who went missing when she had second thoughts.  Is this denial or is it deliberate?"
In sweat shop labor news, David Phinney (IPS) takes a look at the construction of the US Embassy in Baghdad and quotes John Owen stating, "Every U.S. labour law was broken."  And in other human rights news, Ellen Knickmeyer (Washington Post) looks at what effect the illegal war in Iraq has had on Syria: "silence public demands for democratic reformers here."
Bob Watada beging his latest speaking tour today.  He is the father of Ehren Watada who is the first commissioned US officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.    Below are dates through Sunday:
Oct 26, 7PM
Phoenix, AZ
Location: TBA
Sponsor: Veterans for Peace Chapter 75
Contact: John Henry, 602-400-9179, 408-704-0192,

Oct 27, 7PM
Albuquerque, NM
Location: Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice
202 Harvard Dr SE
Sponsor: Veterans for Peace Chapter 63
Contact: Sally-Alice Thompson, 505-268-5073, 512-463-2014,

Oct 28, 1 -- 4:30PM
Houston, TX.
Sponsor: Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace Chapter 12, Iraq Veterans Against the War , Cy-Fair Democratic Club
Location: Live Oak Friends House, 1318 West 26th StreetEntertainment by Bill Passalacqua and Hank Woji, "
Sir, No Sir"

Oct 28, 6:15PM
Houston, TX
Location: Dan Electro's Guitar Bar, 1031 East 24th Street. "Celebration of Resistance"
Sponsors: Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace Chapter 12, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Contact: Sherry Glover,,
(H) 832-363-1741, (C) 713-929-1132
-Bob Watada, ---- David Rovics

Oct 29, 1PM
Austin, TX
Sponsor: Code Pink/Austin, Veterans for Peace Chapter 66
Contact: Fran Hanlon, 512-454-6572,
Peter Ravella, 512-220-1740
Heidi Turpin, (C)512-565-2242,

Oct 29, 5:30PM
Austin, TX
Café Caffeine -- 206 West Mary
Sponsors: Code Pink, Veterans for Peace Chapter 66, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Contact: Doug Zachary,, (C) 512-791-9824
Heidi Turpin, (C) 512-565-2242,
Fran Hanlon (H) 512-454-6572, ,

A full schedule can be found at Veterans for Peace and those interested in hosting a Bob Watada speaking engagement in their area are urged to contact Doug Zachary.
More information on Watada and other war resisters can be found at Courage to Resist.
Two notes: Those in need of the press brieifing in Baghdad on October 24th can click here for the US military's transcript. [The briefing was quoted in yesterday's snapshot.]
Second note, community one.  Blogger/Blogspot went down yesterday. Elaine's "Daniel Ellsberg, the Mamas and the Papas, Iraq" went up (though she did not know that until she got up this morning -- she assumed when she got the error message that the post was lost). Mike's "Iraq and Tony picks 12 of his favorite Ava & C.I. TV reviews" went up this morning -- he left the computer on all night because he couldn't save or publish and didn't want to lost his post. Rebecca wasn't able to get in (she posts later) but plans to post tonight. Ruth wasn't able to log on (and guest blog at Kat's site).  She hopes to do that tonight but it's iffy.  Wally's "THIS JUST IN! IRAQ RESPONDS!" and Cedric's "Iraq hollers back to the Bully Boy (humor)" also went up yesterday to round that topic out.
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