Saturday, December 30, 2006

NYT: In The Garden of Judith and Miller

Sabrina Tavernise learned nothing from the example of Judith Miller and is bound and determined to have herself crowned the new Judy.

With bylines attached to stories like "U.S. and Iraq Dispute Role of Iranians but Free Them" she will, no doubt, get her wish.

James Glanz is the co-author but anyone who semi-paid attention the Miller dust up is quite aware that gender adds another element to the equaition. It's why the likes of Warren Hogue and Michael Gordon remain cyphers to most people but Judith Miller draws an image of stenographer who will stoop to any low for a 'scoop.'

That was one of the most important lessons about the Miller saga. Another one was that you don't make a fool of yourself after your 'scoop' turns to poop. But Tavernise and Glanz are determined to hang onto their 'scoop' about Iranian 'terrorists' in Iraq.

It blew up twice last week. But like Miller swearing she was "proved f**king right," the two show up in print today with a lot of whispers (and apparently pray no one reads the foreign press).

One of the chief points of nonsense appears to be that the two Iranians may not have been "diplomats." The article can't prove that they're not (doesn't try to, just offers whispers) but the reality is most "diplomats" (even U.S. ones) aren't diplomats. So if you can't back up the whispers, you're just wasting everyone's time.

They pan the official statement from the Iraqi government for fool's gold and note that it's a small slap at Iran -- actually, it's a message to all foreigners (and, yes, that includes the U.S.).
Though the reporters admit that no evidence of wrong doing about the two Iranians was "publicly presented," they're happy to offer you whispers.

Remember, the Green Zone is heavily fortified against reality and skepticism -- as the article demonstrates.

The scoop went poop and, though the Times is loathe to issue corrections (we're still all waiting for the review of Judith Miller's stories that was promised how many years ago?), the smart thing to do would have been to move on. Since it wasn't going to be corrected, pick up a new story to cover. But like Miller at the height of her "I was proved f**king right!" moment, Tavernise and Glanz lack the wisdom to let go.

Both writers have recieved praise here before (Glanz has done a better job charting the contractor stories than anyone at any outlet; Tavernise has the ability -- less and less used -- to put a human face on the war). But they're wrong in print today on the same story they've already covered (this is Glanz' second time, Tavernise's third) and there's really no excuse for it. The way it will work, if this continues, is Glanz will get the same pass the men who co-wrote articles with Miller did and Tavernise will become the lightning rod for the country. That's going to be up to her but with the Miller scandal still fresh in everyone's minds, no one can say she wasn't warned.

Just like the Times wasn't warned (within the paper and outside) that they needed to cover the US military fatalities. October is no longer the deadliest month this year for US troops, December is (and December's not over). By refusing to cover that, they have egg on their face. (And, again, they were warned.) When they did bother to print some fatalities, it was some -- not even all the fatalities announced the day prior by the US military. So Times readers may be confused if and when the paper decides to state the obvious, December was a deadly month for US troops.

As already noted this morning, the month's toll is now up to 109. Yesterday, the US military announced the death of three marines. Search for that in the paper. During Vietnam, the government lied on bodycounts, today it's the paper of record that fudges the bodycount. Not only is December now the deadliest month of 2006 for US troops, it's deadlier than any month in 2005 and you have to drop back to November 2004 to find a month that was more deadly. (And the total count since the start of the illegal war now stands at 2998.)

Today, the US military announced: "An improvised explosive device detonated near a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol, killing one Soldier in a northwestern section of the Iraqi capital Dec. 29." They announced: "One Soldier assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division was killed as a result of enemy action Saturday while conducting combat operations in the Al Anbar Province." And they announced: "An improvised explosive device detonated near a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol, killing one Soldier in a southwestern section of the Iraqi capital Dec. 29. "

And Iraqis? Reuters reports 5 dead and 8 wounded from a bombing in Tal Afar, 36 dead in the Hurriya section of Baghdad from three car bombs that also left at least 77 wounded, 2 dead and 8 wounded from a car bomb in the Mansour section of Baghdad, 1 dead and 4 wounded from a car bomb in the Saidiya section of Baghdad, 36 people dead and 58 wounded in Kufa from a car bomb, and four corpses discovered in Mahmudiya. Some of the wounded will most likely end up classified as dead in the coming days. But currently, that's 80 Iraqis killed today and four corpses discovered. (AP notes that 32 corpses were discovered in Iraq on Friday.)

I started late this morning because I've been under the weather all week and wanted to sleep in today. Betty did read her latest to me over the phone but the main reason I've moved so slowly today is an e-mail from someone who thinks being at a paper means getting a reply. I actually wrote a piece on that but have decided not to post it (for now). Responding, in the end, struck me as rewarding that sort of behavior that thinks you can throw you paper around and expect to cut ahead of everyone waiting for a reply. Martha, Shirley, Eli, Jess and Ava will be back to helping with the e-mails starting Tuesday. Until then, I'm navigating all accounts by myself so, if you're a member, please continue to be patient about replies.

The following community sites have updated since yesterday morning:

Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Cedric's Cedric's Big Mix;
Kat's Kat's Korner;
Betty's Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Mike's Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine's Like Maria Said Paz
Wally's The Daily Jot:
and Trina's Trina's Kitchen

Margaret Kimberley does not have a new column this week (they're retooling the site) but Carl notes Glen Ford's "Selected Predictions, 2007: Obama, Iraq, Impeachment and the CBC's Future" (Black Agenda Report):

On March 20, 2003, the day the U.S. invasion of Iraq began, I published an article in Black Commentator titled, "They Have Reached Too Far: Bush's Road Leads to Ruin for Himself and his Pirates":
"Bush's plan for world domination was doomed before the burning, blasting, thundering, screaming display. The Pirates have accelerated the processes of their own ruin....
"War is the great and terrible engine of history. Bush and his Pirates hope to employ that engine to harness Time and cheat the laws of political economy, to leapfrog over the contradictions of their parasitical existence into a new epoch of their own imagining.
"Instead, they have lunged into the abyss, from which no one will extricate them, for they will be hated much more than feared.
"In attempting to break humanity's will to resist, the Bush pirates have reached too far."
The entire, fantabulous edifice of U.S. "liberation" of Iraq crumbled beyond even corporate media rehabilitation in 2006 -- and with it, neo-con dreams of Iraq as a U.S. base camp for land and energy grabs throughout South and Central Asia. The Bush men and their comrades-in-defeat among the Democrats -- Barack Obama included -- now wail that their ungrateful Iraqi "allies" are holding up an American exit by bloodily consolidating the power they were never supposed to have achieved under the original American blueprint. As was written is 2003, "no one will extricate" the U.S. from Iraq, with our without a grace period. What’s an imperial aggressor to do?

Common sense says, leave now. But common sense is no match for American Manifest Destiny, and has never figured into Washington's Iraq adventure. For the purpose of predicting what the U.S. will do in 2007, we consult a dead Chinese thinker by the name of Mao, one of whose many sayings went: "All the reputedly powerful reactionaries are merely paper tigers. The reason is that they are divorced from the people."
Certainly, the Americans are "divorced" from the 60 percent of Iraqis who
want them dead. However, American armaments are anything but paper and, if Vietnamese (U.S. carpet bombing) and Iraqi (U.S. levels Fallujah) history is any guide, the American military may lash out like a cornered beast before leaving the scene. Maddened by their failure to defeat the Sunni-based resistance, the Americans now toy with the idea of cleansing "anti-American" Shi'ite cleric Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr's forces from Baghdad's Sadr City slum -- home to two million people – with the help of the Dawa and Sciri Shi'ite militias. In other words, U.S. strategists would impose a Shi'ite vs. Shi'ite civil war on top of a Shi'ite vs. Sunni civil war! (Not to mention the low-level Kurdish vs. Arab civil war on the periphery of supposedly "pro-American" Kurdistan, in northern Iraq.)
The American tiger may be insane, but Iraqi Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali Husaini Sistani is not. On Christmas weekend Sistani
vetoed American proposals to isolate co-religionist al-Sadr. It was Ayatollah Sistani who ushered in one-man, one-vote elections, against U.S. wishes, by threatening to bring a million Shi’ites into the streets, early in the occupation. He also brokered a cease-fire in al-Sadr’s series of revolts against the Americans. More than two years ago, the British commander in southern Iraq declared that, if Sistani told him to get out of the country, he'd have no choice but to leave.
Only Sistani can save American face -- what is left of it -- by ordering the U.S. out of Iraq. I predict that’s what will happen, sometime in 2007 -- and sooner rather than later.
However, we are not practitioners of mad tiger psychiatry, and therefore cannot predict what the crazed Bush men will do when told the game is up. Like the rest of the world, we shudder to contemplate the depths of imperial delusions -- the demons that burst forth with murderous fury when a superpower is confronted with defeat.

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December is the deadliest month of the year for US troops in Iraq

With the count now reaching 109 for the month of December, it has become the month with the largest number of US troop fatalities in Iraq. The total number of US troops who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war now stands at 2998, two away from the 3,000 mark.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Friday, December 29, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, Decemeber is now the deadliest month this year for US troops, Ehren Watada finally appears in print in The Nation, is Sabrina Tavernise angling to be the new joke of the New York Times, and the US military reveals how little heart and compassion they have as they move to court-martial a soldier suffering from PTSD -- one they did nothing to help.

Starting with fatality news. Today the US military announced: "Three Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died Thursday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province." Watch for the New York Times to ignore that or Little Man Marcs to report "One marine died" if the pattern this month holds true. The Times can't say they weren't warned when they decided to ignore fatalities and minimize the few that they covered but readers of the paper who depend on it to provide reality (no chuckles) may end up shocked when they discover that today December became the deadliest month for US troops. The three deaths up the total for the month to 107. Prior to this announcement, October had been the deadliest month with 106.

Some outlets report 105 and that has to do with the fact that the US military tends to hold the deaths a bit, and has the since the start of the war, waiting for those first of the month look back press accounts to be published and then noting a death or two afterwards. 106 is the number ICCC uses, 106 is the one we'll go with here. 107 is now the total number of US troops who have died in Iraq this month. The total number of US troops who have died since the start of the illegal war stands at 2996 -- four shy of the 3,000 mark.

US troops have not been the only military fatalities and England's Ministry of Defense notes:
"It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that a UK serviceman was killed yesterday, Thursday 28 December 2006, in Basrah, southern Iraq. The soldier, from 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, was taking part in a routine patrol in Basra City when the Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicle he was travelling in was targeted by a roadside bomb. He was very seriously injured and airlifted to the Field Hospital at Shaibah Logistics Base, but unfortunately died later as a result of his injuries." That death brought the total number of British troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 127.

Turning to the issue of war resistance and starting with The Nation magazine. On page 14 of the January 8/15 2007 issue (a double issue) Marc Cooper has an article entitled "Lt. Ehren Watad: Resister." The Nation makes the article availble online to subscribrs only for whatever reasons but seems unaware that they've published it for all (subscribers and non-subscribers) on Yahoo -- click here. Cooper describes Ehren Watada as "the lighning rod case of resistance" (Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq); and notes the speech he gave in August at the Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle (click here for text at CounterPunch and here at Truthout which offers both text and video of the speech) where Watada declared, "The idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it."; and notes that, in January, "a 'Citizen's Hearing on the Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq,' featuring Daniel Ellsberg and Princeton professor emeritus Richard Falk will be convened in Tacoma, Washinginton, in support of Watada".

January 4th is the date scheduled for the military's pre-trial hearing and Feb. 5th is when the court-martial is scheduled to begin. The US military is attempting to force journalists to testify at the pre-trial hearing (see yesterday's snapshot).

Watada is part of a movement of resistance within the military that includes Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing (who was released from the military brig on Satuday) Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Appeal for Redress is collecting signatures of active duty service members calling on Congress to bring the troops home -- the petition will be delivered to Congress next month.

Resistance takes many forms in the peace movement. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Cindy Sheehan was arrested in Crawford, Texas outside Bully Boy's ranchette along with four other activists. Sheehan called the action a "peace surge" to combat Bully Boy's notions of escalating the number of US troops in Iraq. The AP reports that Sheehan's attorney Robert Gottlieb believes the arrest will have no impact on the conditional verdict the judge issued this month in Manhattan. The Smoking Gun reports that, were Sheehan convicted, the maximum sentence is six months in prison and the maximum fine is $2,000.

In another mother for peace news, Theresa Hogue (Corvallis Gazette-Times) reported last week on Michelle Darr, a mother of six, who was arrested December 12th for attempting to get US Senator Gordon Smith to sign the Declaration of Peace (her third arrest this year for attempting to lobby Smith, she was arrested twice in September) and will face a tril in January. Darr told Hogue, "What they (her children) see me doing is as important as what they don't see me doing. If Im not using my voice and efforts in the cause of the common good, how can I expect them to take initiative when the need arises? I don’t want them to ever think oppression and genocide are acceptable, or that war is a way to solve problems."

Along with courageous acts of resistance like Sheehan's and Darr's, demonstrations will take part around the United States to note the 3,000 mark for US fatalities in Iraq. United for Peace and Justice notes:

Another Grim Milestone -- 3,000 Deaths Too Many
More than 2,990 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. By the time you read this, the death toll may have reached 3,000. We must bear witness to this tragic milestone, even though many people are already beginning their celebrations of the new year. And when we do take action on this occasion, we must remind others that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, women and men have also died in this outrageous war and occupation. Our call to end this war and to bring all the troops home now must be heard in every corner of the country! The killing must stop. Click here for some suggested ways to bear witness.

Military Families Speak Out notes:

MILITARY FAMILIES MOURN 3,000TH TROOP DEATH, PARTICIPATE IN NATIONWIDE VIGILS AND CALL ON CONGRESS TO END THE IRAQ WAR Family Members of Fallen Soldiers and Families of Troops Currently Deployed in Iraq Available for Interview Dec 29, 06 On the eve of the 3,000th troop death, the next horrific milestone in the Iraq war, Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), an organization of over 3,100 military families opposed to the war in Iraq, calls on the 110th Congress to honor the fallen and prevent further deaths by taking action to end the Iraq war. read more »


3000 Deaths Too Many As Bush considers sending thousands of additional troops to Iraq to control the violence, our troop death toll nears the 3,000 mark. It is crucial that we commemorate this grim milestone in Bush's disastrous war by pressuring Congress to bring the troops home NOW, and to stop this insanity NOW! Click here for CODEPINK suggested actions you can take.

Also refer to World Can't Wait's Protests & Vigils Planned the Day After the Number of US Troops Killed in Iraq Reaches 3,000

As the press continues to note that Bully Boy is seriously considering escalating the number of US troops on the ground in Iraq, Warren P. Strobel and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) note: "Two attempts last summer to stabilize Baghdad by sending in more troops failed. The increased U.S. presence led to a brief drop in violence, but as soon as the troops left the neighborhoods where they'd deployed, the violence skyrocketed." That was the crackdown that cracked up and accomplished nothing. It began in June and by August, the US military was noting that, in July, attacks on US forces were up (double the January amount) and bombing attacks on civilians were up 10%. And last week Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reported on the US Pentagon's findings "that the violence in Iraq soared this fall to its highest level on record" and this during the continued increase of US troops in Iraq. But like a greedy tele-evangilist, Bully Boy can just cry out, "Send more! Send more!"


CNN reports a bomber "waited near the house of Sheik Kadhim Hameed Qassim" in northern Bagdad and then detonated the bomb "when the clearic, his security and family members arrived after Friday prayers" leaving the Shi'ite cleric dead and also killing "his brother and severn others" and leaving 15 wounded.


Reuters reports two police officers were shot dead in Jurf al-Sakhar and seven more wounded.
AFP reports a police officer and "a bystander" were shot dead in Hindiya while, in Mussayib, a police officer was shot dead and five more wounded. KUNA reports four Iraqi soldiers were shot dead "southwest of Kirkuk" and a fifth Iraqi soldier was injured while, in nothern Iraq, "two employees who . . . worked for the Petroleum State Company" were shot dead.


KUNA reports that the corpse of a kidnapped police officer was discovered in Kirkuk.

Meanwhile, AFP reports on the increasing demise of communal baths in Baghdad from violence and financial costs: "In its glory days when Iraq was one of the most developed Arab countries in the Middle East, the hammam used to employ 16 people. Today only four permanent staff remains on the payroll as massive inflation takes hold." and quotes the owner of the bathhouse explaining, "The electricity is often down. Gas for heating has become too expensive. We pay 20,000 dinars ($14) for a bottle compared to 1,000 just two or three years ago. How do you expect me to carry on? There are days when it costs me more to open than doing nothing. I love my profession but it's disappearing."

In I-Schilled-for-the-U.S.-military-and-all-I-got-was-a-red-face news, Sabrina Tavernise's 'scoop' in the New York Times had holes blown through it earlier this week and has now fallen apart completely. The US military announced (to her and James Glanz of the New York Times) that they had been holding Iranian 'terrorists' and 'insurgents' since the 12th of December. In the latest development to rip the story of Iranian 'terrorists' to shreds, the BBC reports that the two diplomats who were held by US forces but in the country of Iraq at the invitation of Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, were released. On the detention of the two diplomats, AFP quotes the Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hasan Kazemi Qomi, stating: "Fortunately with the effort exerted by the Iraqi officials, the US forces who firstly denied their arrest were obliged to admit it and under pressure from the Iraqi government to release them. The arrest of these diplomats was carried out contrary to international laws and the Geneva convention."

In the US, the AP reports: "Sgt. Edward W. Shaffer, 24, of Mont Alto, died Wednesday afternoon at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas" after being injured in November 13th bombing in Ramadi and quotes his grandfather, Edward Shaffer, stating that "All they could do was try to keep him comfortable. They couldn't do any more for him." 24 year-old Shaffer is among many troops who die from physical injuries recieved in Iraq but, due to dying after they are shipped out of Iraq, do not get included in the official body count.

Another war related death not included in the count is covered by Megan Greenwell (Washington Post), 29-year-old James E. Dean, who had served in Afghanistan and recently recieved orders to deploy to Iraq, barricaded himself in his father's house on Christmas day, and was killed in an exchange with police officers.

Yesterday, NPR's Daniel Zwerdling reported that the US army's crappy record on addressing PTSD within the ranks just got worse: the army is moving to court-martial Tyler Jennings who suffers from PTSD and was diagnosed with "Crying spells... hopelessness... helplessness... worthlessness" five months ago and received no assistance.

ehren watada

Other Items

How stupid is Little Man Marcs (Marc Santora) or how stupid does he think readers are? Today he writes another one of the New York Times' undercounts -- in so many ways. But let's just focus on US fatalities for the start. From Little Man Marcs' "A Suspect in the Killings of 2 Americans Is Captured in Iraq:"

Four Americans were killed in attacks on Wednesday, bringing the total number of Americans killed in December to 100, according to The Associated Press and making this one of the deadliest months for the military in the past three years.

There were five US troops announced dead by the US military yesterday, not four. You can check yesterday's snapshot or Nancy Trejos' "5 U.S. Troops Added To Death Toll in Iraq:
December's Number Steadily Edging Toward Highest Monthly Tally of '06
" (Washington Post) today. Yes, four of them were killed on Wednesday, the fifth was killed on Thursday -- all deaths were announced by the US military on Thursday and should have been reported by the Times in today's paper. But Santora's proven the last two weeks that he can take five or six deaths and turn them into three in print repeatedly. This isn't an oversight with him, this is a continued pattern.

And as usual with the Times this month (as they attempt to sell the war yet again), they don't open with the reality, they bury it in the midst of an article. Santora's bad article wants to tell you that US forces may have (MAY HAVE) captured one of the people behind the deaths of US soldiers Kristian Menchaca, Thomas L. Tucker, and David J. Babineau in June. One of the parents of the three soldiers is quoted and we'll note her reaction:

Meg Tucker, Private Tucker’s mother, struggled to hold back tears when told the news about the capture. "I'm glad that they caught him if indeed they did, but it doesn’t bring my son back," she said. "We have just gone through the holidays. It has been really tough. We miss him very much. We still get cards and letters from all over the United States, and we appreciate that very much."

Now let's deal with the reality Little Man Marcs can't. The three were not accused of a crime or thought to have taken part in one. There is no indication of that. But they were abducted (Babineau was killed during the attempted abduction, the other two were abducted, tortured and killed) in response to what James P. Barker did to Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and her family. (Four others are accused, Barker has confessed to his part in the war crimes.) Justin Watt came forward in June with the rumors and remarks he was hearing about what five US soldiers had done (gang raped and killed Abeer, killed her parents, killed her five-year-old sister and attempted to set Abeer's corpse on fire to destroy the evidence).

The three slaughtered in June were innocents who got targeted because Barker (who is no longer "alleged" -- having confessed in court) did to Abeer and her family and for what the four other suspects are alleged to have done.

As the Telegraph of London noted September 7th of this year (Akeel Hussein and Colin Freeman's "Two dead soldiers, eight more to go, vow avengers of Iraqi girl's rape"):

The American soldiers accused of raping an Iraqi girl and then murdering her and her family may have provoked an insurgent revenge plot in which two of their comrades were abducted and beheaded last month, it has been claimed.
Pte Kristian Menchaca, 23, and Pte Thomas Tucker, 25, were snatched from a checkpoint near the town of Yusufiyah on June 16 in what was thought at the time to be random terrorist retaliation for the killing of the al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in an American air strike two days earlier.

Now, however, residents of the neighbouring town of Mahmoudiyah have told The Sunday Telegraph that their kidnap was carried out to avenge the attack on a local girl Abeer Qassim Hamza, 15, and her family. They claim that insurgents have vowed to kidnap and kill another eight American troops to exact a 10-to-one revenge for the rape and murder of the girl.

The New York Times was never interested in Abeer, they couldn't even name her when the Article 32 hearing took place into her rape and murder -- they (Robert F. Worth and Carolyn Marshall) could present the defense's 'novel' argument (one that was "not a defense known to the law" according to one military law expert) before even the defense could present it in court, but they couldn't tell you about Abeer. So Little Man Marcs continues the paper's long tradition of rendering Abeer invisible today. He wants to tell you about the June killings but not tell you why they happened. It's a funny sort of reporting.

We'll note this section from Trejos:

On Thursday, one soldier died and another was wounded when a roadside bomb detonated near their patrol north of Baghdad, the military said. A day before, the soldiers had been involved in the capture of four suspected insurgents believed to have planted a rocket on a main road, according to the military.
On Wednesday, a roadside bomb detonated near a patrol southwest of the capital. Two soldiers were killed and one was wounded, the military said. The unit had detained five suspected insurgents the week before after watching them place a bomb in a road.

Polly notes this from the BBC:

A British soldier has been killed by a roadside bomb in Basra, southern Iraq, according to the Ministry of Defence.
The soldier, from the 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, was killed while taking part in a routine patrol in Basra City.
The Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicle which he was travelling in was targeted by a roadside bomb.

That brings the total number of British troops killed in the Iraq war to 127. The total number of US troops killed in the illegal war is 2992 currently.

And Pru notes, "The New York Times story has imploded on them." She's referring to the fluff Sabrina Tavernise was pushing hard and Pru steers us to the BBC as well for this:

US forces in Iraq have released two Iranian diplomats detained in a raid in Baghdad last week, the Iranian state-run news agency says.
The diplomats were handed over to the Iranian embassy in the city on Friday, the IRNA agency said.
The Iranians were among a number of people held during the raid on suspected insurgents.
US officials, who announced earlier this week they were holding the men, have made no comment on their release.
'Iraqi government pressure'
The Iranian diplomats were in Iraq at the invitation of Iraq's president as part of an agreement to improve security between the two countries, according to Iranian officials.
"The American forces admitted, despite their initial denial, they had detained Iranian diplomats and pressure from the Iraqi government for their release fortunately bore results," said Iran's ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi.

For chuckles, you can read Tavernise and James Glanz' December 25th story and for loud belly laughs you can read Tavernise's December 27th report that should be entitled, "YES, IT'S TRUE! I SWEAR ON MY REPUTATION IT IS!" written as the cover story was falling apart and Tavernise was bound and determined to hang on to her scoop -- reality be damned. Surveying 2002 and 2003, Tavernise should be well aware that a woman caught spinning gets bashed and a man generally gets a pass (the real lessons of Judith Miller) so she might want to be a bit more careful before rushing US military fed 'scoops' into print next time.

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NYT: "Crisis in Housing Adds to Miseries of Iraq Mayhem" (Michael Luo)

Along with its many other desperate problems, Iraq is in the midst of a housing crisis that is worsening by the day.
It began right after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, when many landlords took advantage of the removal of his economic controls and raised rents substantially, forcing out thousands of families who took shelter in abandoned government buildings and military bases. As the chaos in Iraq grew and the ranks of the jobless swelled, even more Iraqis migrated to squalid squatter encampments. Still others constructed crude shantytowns on empty plots where conditions were even worse.
Now, after more than 10 months of brutal sectarian reprisals, many more Iraqis have fled their neighborhoods, only to wind up often in places that are just as wretched in other ways. While 1.8 million Iraqis are living outside the country, 1.6 million more have been displaced within Iraq since the war began. Since February, about 50,000 per month have moved within the country.
Shelter is their most pressing need, aid organizations say. Some have been able to occupy homes left by members of the opposing sect or group; others have not been so fortunate. The longer the violence persists, the more Iraqis are running out of money and options.
Shatha Talib, 30, her husband and five children, are among about a thousand struggling Iraqi families that have taken up residence in the bombed-out remains of the former Iraqi Air Defense headquarters and air force club in the center of Baghdad. "Nobody should live in such a place," she said. "But we don’t have any other option."
With many families in such encampments or worse, and many others doubled or tripled up in friends' or relatives' homes, the deputy housing minister, Istabraq al-Shouk, puts the shortage at two million dwellings across Iraq.

The above is from Michael Luo's "Crisis in Housing Adds to Miseries of Iraq Mayhem" in this morning's New York Times. It's the article read -- in a week when it's been hard to say that about anything the paper of little record has offered -- but it's by Luo so that demands a qualifier: Read it print or use the link, but do not attempt to hunt it down at the website later today.

For those confused, in one of the more shameful events of 2006 at the paper, when Luo wrote a very straightforward, very strong news article, the reward for that from New York (after complaints came in -- and no, not readers complaints, the Times doesn't give a damn about the average reader) was to allow a New York based writer to rewrite the piece and water it down -- a piece about Iraq was rewritten by a writer who wasn't in Iraq, didn't know what he was writing about, and Luo's original piece 'disappeared' from the website's "Middle East" listing. (See the snapshot for October 17th.)

So read it in print or use the link, but don't be surprised, if mid-day, you have trouble finding it but can find some watered down version of it by John O'Neil at the website.

The removal of the economic controls didn't just happen, that was part of the US government's attempts to 'shock the system' that Naomi Klein covered in "Baghdad Year Zero" (Harper's magazine). The attacks on the subsidy programs were also a part of that as the US government tried to destabilize the economic system.

The encampments are noted and they include people who once resided in, among other places, Falluja which was slaughtered in November of 2004 and has never been made hospitable again -- though there are six check points, with biometric devices, all around the city. Depleted uranium and white phosphorus were among the weapons used on the city. In the immediate aftermath, though Dexy Filkins couldn't tell readers this, corpses were left in the streets and dogs fed on them. The majority of the people who once lived in the city, those lucky enough to depart before the slaughter (remember that young boys attempting to leave as the slaughter was about to begin were forced back into the city by US forces) have been in encampments ever since. Giuliana Sgrena (Italian journalist) was visiting one such encampment when she was kidnapped. From her book Friendly Fire [pp. 34-35]:

Picture a city of more than 250,000 residents at the gates of Baghdad, on the road to Jordan. This position allowed the Fallujans to develop thriving construction and commercial transportation industries. Thanks to these floursing activities, the city was expanding, with neighborhoods full of new homes and wide, dusty boulevards. This city was almost razed to the ground in the attack of November 2004. According to official Iraqi government sources, 36,955 houses were hit, 3,600 demolished, 2,000 burned, 21,000 occupied. As for the stores and business: 1,800 were completely destroyed, 8,400 were damaged, 250 factories were burned. In addition to these damages, according to Doctor Hafid al Dulaimi, head of the Commission for Compensation of Falluja Citizens, 60 daycare centers and schools were hit and 65 mosques and religious sites were damaged. As if this were not enough, the bombing created environmental problems: among other effects, the city's drinking water was contaminated by sewage. Damages calculated by another member of the commission amount to $600 million but then premier Iyad Allawi recognized only 20 percent, and as of June of last year [2005], had only allocated funds to cover 10 percent. According to Mohammed Hadeed, a Falluja doctor, at least 31,000 city residents are still waiting to be compensated.

Slaughter in November 2004, 2 years and one month later and still residents live in encampments (think tents -- think of it as tent city). 'Democracy' at the end of a gun barrel or 'liberation' via a bomb. Dexy's rah-rah reporting shouldn't have won an award not just because it was laughable and had no relation to reality, but also because it missed capturing this moment for what it was, the end of all hopes for winning hearts and minds. The innocents shot at check points, the nightime house raids, all the daily humiliations would continue to feed into the anger of the slaughter of Falluja.

A similar plan was intended for Ramadi in Al-Anbar province this summer but the so-called crackdown in the capital necessitated pulling US forces in June and after. Which is why the escalation promises more troops not only in Baghdad but also in Ramadi -- what can't be 'won' will be destroyed and that's the reality of the illegal war.

On that point, we'll note David S. Cloud and Jeff Zeleny's "Bush Considers Up to 20,000 More Troops for Iraq:"

The Bush administration is considering an increase in troop levels in Iraq of 17,000 to 20,000, which would be accomplished in part by delaying the departure of two Marine regiments now deployed in Anbar Province, Pentagon officials said Thursday.
The option was among those discussed in Crawford, Tex., on Thursday as President Bush met there with his national security team, and it has emerged as a likely course as he considers a strategy shift in Iraq, the officials said.
Most of the additional troops would probably be employed in and around Baghdad, the officials said.
With the continuing high levels of violence there, senior officials increasingly say additional American forces will be needed as soon as possible to clear neighborhoods and to conduct other combat operations to regain control of the capital, rather than primarily to train Iraqi forces.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

The Committee to Protect Journalists recently released its 2006 report on threats to journalists. Iraq is by far the deadliest place for the fourth year in a row, with 32 journalists killed this year. Sad to say, the violence follows a trend that started with the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
When you step off the elevator at the Reuters news offices in Washington, D.C., you see a large book sitting on a wooden stand. Each entry describes a Reuters journalist killed in the line of duty. Such as Taras Protsyuk. The veteran Ukrainian cameraman was killed on April 8, 2003, the day before the U.S. seized Baghdad. Protsyuk was on the balcony of the Palestine Hotel when a U.S. tank positioned itself on the al-Jumhuriyah bridge and, as people watched in horror, unleashed a round into the side of the building. The hotel was known for housing hundreds of unembedded reporters. Protsyuk was killed instantly. Jose Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish network Telecinco, was filming from the balcony below. He was also killed.
The difference between the responses by the mainstream media in the United States versus Europe was stunning. While in this country there was hardly a peep of protest, Spanish journalists engaged in a one-day strike. From the elite journalists down to the technicians, they laid down their cables, cameras and pens. They refused to record the words of then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who joined British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush in supporting the war. When Aznar came into parliament, they piled their equipment at the front of the room and turned their backs on him. Photographers refused to take his picture and instead held up a photo of their slain colleague. At a news conference in Madrid with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Spanish reporters walked out in protest. Later, hundreds of journalists, camera people and technicians marched on the U.S. embassy in Madrid, chanting "Murderer, murderer."
About four hours before the U.S. military opened fire on the Palestine Hotel, a U.S. warplane strafed Al-Jazeera's Baghdad office. Reporter Tareq Ayyoub was on the roof. He died almost instantly.
When interviewed after his death, Ayyoub's wife, Dima, said: "Hate breeds hate. The United States said they were doing this to rout out terrorism. Who is engaged in terrorism now?" This summer, she sued the U.S. government.
The family of Jose Couso has also taken action. They know the names of the three U.S. servicemen who fired on the Palestine Hotel. On Dec. 5, 2006, the Spanish Supreme Court said the men could be tried in Spanish courts, opening the possibility for indictments against the U.S. soldiers.

The above, noted by Lonnie, is from Amy Goodman's "Shooting the Messenger is a War Crime" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). For those wanting more on the subject, you can read Amy Goodman and her brother David Goodman's Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, And The People Who Fight Back and you can also check out the documentaries The Control Room and Danny Schechter's WMD. All sides suffering in the illegal war includes the unembedded journalists trying to get the truth out -- too often prevented by the US military (putting it mildly) while some outlets choose to embed their reporters with the military. And the outcry? Muted, tapped down, clamped down. Always, don't speak the truth too loudly.

And certainly don't note the changing reasons for going into an illegal war or the changing reasons for staying in one. On that topic, Susan notes Gareth Porter's "Bush Iraq Policy Murky on the Real Enemy" (IPS):

This year saw the emergence of a sectarian civil war in Iraq and much more open Sunni-Shiite conflict in the Middle East. Sunni regimes in the region expressed acute anxiety both about the possibility of the Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq spreading to their own countries and about the growth of Iranian influence.
In that setting, the most striking thing about the George W. Bush administration's policy in 2006 has been its inability to identify the primary enemy in Iraq.
Is it al Qaeda in Iraq? Bush often implies that they are the real enemy, suggesting that the U.S. must fight the enemy in Iraq so it doesn't have to fight them at home. Is it the armed Sunni resistance groups, who were the original target of a U.S. counterinsurgency war that is now an all but officially admitted failure?
Or is it the Mahdi army of Moqtada al Sadr, which has been implicated in large-scale killings of Sunnis in the Baghdad area and which is aligned with Iran in the conflict between Washington and Tehran?
And what about the Badr organisation, which is known to be responsible for mass kidnapping, torture and what many now call ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from predominantly Shiite neighbourhoods in Baghdad?
Is Iraq really about the global war on terror, the alleged threat from Iran, the danger emanating from sectarian war, or simply the administration's desire to claim success against the resistance to the occupation itself? The Bush administration has not been able to issue a clear policy statement on that question.
The original source of the administration's confusion over its primary enemy in Iraq was the decision to sell the counterinsurgency war in Iraq to the U.S. public in 2004-2005 as a struggle between a nascent democratic state and anti-democratic forces in the country.

There's never been a plan (other than dominance -- didn't work out too well, now did it) and the realities are there for anyone who wants to notice.

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 number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 2959. Tonight? 2991. Thirty-two. We should repeat that for the New York Times which hasn't given a damn about reporting the deaths this week (or last), thirty-two deaths since last Thursday. Nine away from the 3,000 mark. And for the month of December (still winding down)? 102. The second deadliest month of the year for US troops in Iraq, not that the New York Times bothers to report that. Four more deaths would tie it with the deadliest and leave the Times in a difficult position of explaining to observant readers, after the fact, how that ended up happening with practically no attention from the paper of record.

When you want to sell the war, you hide the deaths. Bully Boy did that, barred photographs of the coffins returning. Now the Times does something similar by erasing their coverage of the deaths. Can't sell escalation of troops as an 'answer' if you note the reality of the deaths. So the Times . . . just doesn't note reality.

You can find reality in Nolanda's highlight, Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily's "More Troops but Less Control in Iraq" (IPS):

More U.S. troops are expected to be deployed in Iraq in the New Year. Despite obvious rethinking, there is no decision on withdrawal of occupation forces.
The presence of troops may be raised just for their own protection. According to a Pentagon report, U.S. and Iraqi forces are facing close to 1,000 attacks a week now. U.S. forces comprise more than 90 percent of the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq.
According to the White House, 49 countries joined that coalition at the time of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. That number has shrunk to 32, after countries like Italy and Canada withdrew troops this year.
Britain is expected to withdraw its 7,500 troops next year, after pulling out 1,300 earlier this year.
Whatever the numbers, the vital question is whether U.S. troops will continue to do next year what they have been doing this year.
Under the increasing number of attacks and the escalating chaos, it has apparently become U.S. military policy to bulldoze or bomb houses whenever attacks are launched on their patrols. This is particularly the case in places like Fallujah, Samarra, Siniya, Ramadi and other Sunni dominated areas. Sectarian conflict has roared between Shias and Sunnis, who follow different beliefs within Islam.
This year has shown how the U.S. military is dealing with sectarian violence. While it carried out collective punishment in cities like Fallujah and Ramadi, it has ignored Shia death squads. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki leads a Shia-dominated government.

And we'll close with Billie's highlight. In case anyone missed it (see the snapshot), Cindy Sheehan continues to call and be active for peace and was arrested for doing just that in Crawford, Texas today. A nation of, even just a state of, Cindy Sheehan's and the illegal war would be over. Here's Sheehan's "Banana Republics" (BuzzFlash):

One of the talking heads on one of the cable news shows (does it matter which?) said that it was a "great thing for America" that Gerald Ford pardoned the crooked war criminal, Richard Nixon. He said that we don't make public spectacles out of trying our presidents in criminal courts. After all, we are not a "banana republic."
No, the United States of America is not a "banana republic" Mr. Talking Head, but since Nixon got away with his blatant crimes and every President since Nixon has skated away from office after having committed overt and covert crimes, we have on our hands, here, a situation that I am forced now to call: "Bloody George."
Bloody George struts around in a cloud of denial with his fake cowboy swagger, breaking our nation's laws and international laws as if he were immune from life's woes and above any law. What Mr. Talking Head was pointing out to us in his ridiculous commentary was that presidents are above the law that they swear to uphold. Presidents of other countries who are found guilty of murdering 148 people are not apparently above the law -- Bloody George plays banana republic justice in other countries while countenancing none of the same here in the U.S. of A.
Bloody George definitely has a valid reason for believing that he is above the law, because no president in our history has had to pay for any crimes that they have committed. Wars keep occurring because the ones who entangle our citizens in these bloodbaths for profit leave their office and go on to lead comfortably splendid lives surrounded by people who love them.
Tens of thousands of young people who had plans for their futures and loving families who wanted them around until they were 93 (at least) were sentenced to early graves by politicians who receive no sentences for their earthy transgressions. We who have had to bury our children, instead of them burying us in the natural way, will be doing penance for the rest of our lives in a purgatory of pain and regret for the sins of others. How can we prevent such profound grief in the future?
The 110th Congress which will be sworn in shortly has a unique opportunity to reverse this cycle of un-repented and un-punished violence. Bloody George and Dastardly Dick not only deserve to be impeached, removed from office and tried for their malevolent crimes against humanity, but these steps in the sane direction of justice and peace are essential to true justice and true peace.

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and the war drags on

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, December 28, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq with 41 corpses discovered just in the capital, Bully Boy continues to string along the world as he hints at a 'new' 'plan,' the 3,000 mark for US troops killed in Iraq hovers ever closer, Cindy Sheehan continues speaking out and is arrested in Crawford, Texas, and US war resister Ricky Clousing speaks about his decision to stand up against the war and the 73 days he spent in military prison.

Starting with peace news. "I feel like I chose the path that was meant for me." That's Ricky Clousing speaking to Steve Maynard (Washington's The News Tribune) about his decision to say no to the illegal war. Maynard interviewed Clousing in his mother and step-father's home in Washington and the 73 days he spent in a military brig after his court-martial, his plans for the future (long range, college -- "I've always wanted to be a teacher") and his decision to say "no" to the illegal war: "I don't regret my decision to go AWOL in any way. I served my country better by saying 'no' to being in uniform."

Reflecting on the year, Mark Schneider (The Palestine Chronicle) finds reasons for hope in a number of things including war resisters like Clousing:

Closer to home, cheers of love out to the thousands of U.S. soldiers who have gone AWOL instead of violating their conscience to involve themselves in the U.S. genocide of Iraq. Many have rightly fled to Canada, some have faced court-martial and years in prison in the U.S. The first officer to refuse orders is Lt. Ehren Watada, whose mom, Carolyn Ho, this month has been on a speaking tour talking about parents have a duty to prevent their children from participating in illegal wars.
For years I've had this dream of getting hundreds of U.S. moms and dads taking flights into Amman and Baghdad and then dramatically going to find and retrieve (yanking them by their ears?) their soldier-children. What shame that would bring the U.S.! Cindy Sheehan and Fernando Suarez del Solar are vestiges of such a drama.
During a speech at the August, 2006 Veterans for Peace convention in Seattle, Watada cracked emotion stating, "to stop an illegal and unjust war, soldiers can choose to stop fighting it."
The most powerful element of the anti-war movement against U.S. genocide in Vietnam were the returning Vets, resisters and deserters who used their privileged positions to take radical positions and action. Though I have a separate post with a quick run-down of the best movies I saw this year, this is a good segue to
Sir No Sir, a new film documentary (that has been released for rental), about those Vietnam Vets who resisted. In their promotional material, the filmmakers, thank them, have made the obvious links between then and now go to their website and click on the "Punk Ass Crusade" link).
This film will leave you teared up and inspired.

And, if you're in the Phoenix area, you can see Sir! No Sir! this Saturday. Mike Millard (The Phoenix News) reports that David Zeiger's documentary will be shown at the First Annual Peace on Earth Event in Jamaica Plain at 6:00 pm (85 Seaverns St.) and will be followed by a discussion with Halsey Bernard who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and Joe Bangert who served in Vietnam. The event is co-sponsored by Military Families Speak Out and People United for Peace with a two dollar admission fee.

Meanwhile, David Swanson (AfterDowningStreet) reports that the US military continues to attempt to force reporters to be witnesses for the prosecution in the January 4th pre-trial hearing of US war resister Ehren Watada (to be followed by his Feb. 5th court-martial) and quotes independent journalists Sarah Olson ("It's my job to report the news, not to participate in a government prosecution. Testifying against my source would turn the press into an investigative tool of the government and chill dissenting voices in the United States.") and Dahr Jamail ("I don't believe that reporters should be put in the position of having to participate in a prosecution. This is particularly poignant in this case, where journalists would be used to build a case against free speech for military personnel.").

Clousing and Watada are part of a movement of resistance within the military that includes Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Appeal for Redress is collecting signatures of active duty service members calling on Congress to bring the troops home -- the petition will be delivered to Congress next month.

War resistance and the peace movement are the only things that will end the illegal war. This morning, the US military announced: "An improvised explosive device detonated near a dismounted Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol, killing two Soldiers southwest of the Iraqi capital Dec. 27. " And the US military announced: "An improvised explosive device detonated near a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol, killing one Soldier in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital Dec. 27." Since then, the US military has announced: "One Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 was killed in action while conducting combat operations in the Al Anbar Province December 27." And they have announced: "An improvised explosive device detonated near a dismounted Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol, killing one Soldier north of the Iraqi capital Dec. 28." The total number of US military deaths in Iraq for the month of December thus far now stands at 102 -- only four less than the month with the highest count this year (October, with 106). The death brings the total number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 2991 -- nine short of 3,000. [AFP notes: "medical advances mean the number is a lot lower than would have been expected." Which also means a rise in the number of seriously injured.]

Carey Gillam (Reuters) reports that "some 140 demonstrations in 37 states are planned to mark the 3,000th U.S. military death in Iraq, a milestone that is likely only days away" and quotes Military Families Speak Out's Nancy Lessin: "This horrific and tragic milestone allows us to remind this country of the daily unending human toll of a war that didn't have to happen."
As the 3,000 mark edges ever closer, Bully Boy continues to contemplate escalation as a 'new' 'plan' to 'win' the unwinnable war and says he is making "good progress" (he grades on a curve).
CNN reports that Cindy Sheehan has once again stood up to the Bully Boy and his war machine and been arrested in Crawford, Texas (along with four other activists) for doing so. On the possible escalation, AP reports: "Many of the American soldiers trying to quell sectarian killings in Baghdad don't appear to be looking for reinforcements. They say a surge in troop levels some people are calling for is a bad idea."


CNN reports two people dead and 19 wounded from a car bomb in Mosul that apparently targeted "an office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Mosul". The Canadian Press reports
a bombing in Baghdad this morning using two bombs ("opposite a park in the South Gate area") that claimed 9 lives and left 43 more wounded, 12 more killed and 26 wounded by a bombing "near al-Sha'ab stadium in Eastern Baghdad" and a bombing in western Baghdad that killed two people and left four more wounded. Meanwhile Reuters notes a roadside bomb in Hawija that left 3 police officers wounded.


Reuters reports one police officer shot dead in Kirkuk and another wounded, two Iraqi soldiers shot dead in Tikrit and another wounded and a police officer shot dead in Baquba with two more wounded.


Reuters notes 49 corpses discovered in Baghdad and three in Mosul.

On Cindy Sheehan's arrest, AP notes that she and four others "lay or sat" on a road near Bully Boy's ranchette in Crawford, TX for 20 minutes before they were arrested and that they were part of a "peace surge" to refute Bully Boy's talk of an escalation in the number of US troops in Iraq. (The 3,5000 who will go to Kuwait in January will be used as a reserve to deploy as needed.) Waco's KWTX reports: " The five were taken to the Crawford Police Department and a van was dispatched to transport them to the McLennan County Jail. They were charged with obstructing a highway or other passageway, which is a Class B misdemeanor. The protesters told a News Ten crew as they were led into the police department they didn’t know why they had been taken into custody. In the video KWTX posts, Cindy Sheehan states, "They should have arrested George Bush, not us."

ricky clousing
ehren watada

2006: The Year of Living Dumbly (Year in Review)

Coming off the first Camp Casey and the spark Cindy Sheehan brought back to the peace movement, 2006 should have been the year the media truly led -- instead they didn't even reflect.

All Things Media Big and Small travelogued through 2006 looking for a topic that interested them and never finding one. It was a college travel study: 40 topics in 40 days. Nothing was followed up on, just topics ticked off. Then, summer 2006, they apparently thought they'd taxed themselves so that Iraq fell off the radar for six to eight weeks. Jimmy Breslin, among others, sounded an alarm, but there was no indication that anyone in media was listening.

In one of the most surreal moments of 2006, the media watchdog FAIR issued a report card for PBS' NewsHour. Among the findings was the deplorable fact that, in the six months studied, the NewsHour had not featured one peace activist as a guest. The fact found FAIR in glass houses territory because, during the same period, their weekly half-hour program CounterSpin had also not featured one peace activist as a guest -- a fact they seemed to be unaware of.

That study, more than anything else, crystalized the problems of independent media in 2006. They wanted the mainstream media to be more diverse, to report with follow ups, go down the list, but there was no desire to use their own outlets to change anything.

If you agreed with FAIR that the NewsHour should, for instance, feature more female guests, you might wonder why CounterSpin's ratio of male to female guests was even worse than the NewsHour's? Noting the problems with big media is important but doesn't it come off as more than a bit meaningless when, in your own forums, you don't use the power you have?

A peace activist invited on the NewsHour would have been wonderful -- but it didn't happen. The fact that independent media also took a pass more often than not was an abdication of both power and responsibility.

Here's how bookings largely work -- people see something. They see something covered somewhere and they think, "Hey, maybe we should cover that?" Bravery in bookings rarely exist. So possibly NewsHour bookers read The Nation?

If so, they'd have no reason to book a peace activist because The Nation wasn't interested in Iraq in 2006. You could flip through issue after issue and never find a single story on a rally, an event, an organizer . . . You got a lot of coverage of the same topics big media covered, from a different perspective.

That's called responding, it's not called leading. And The Nation, a weekly, led the way for the worst trend in independent print media for the year: Democratic Party organ.

The parody The Elector pretty much summed up the best known left magazines in 2006. Having editorialized in 2005 that they would not support the campaigns of any candidates who did not call for an end to the illegal war, in 2006, The Nation (and others) couldn't tear themselves from those same candidates. You could find a Hillary Clinton cover, but a candidate for ending the war (Democratic or any other party), who could have actually benefitted from coverage (cover or otherwise), didn't get the build up. By the time they were profiling Harold Ford Jr. in their issue that hit the stores right before the election, they were no longer scraping the bottom of the barrell, they were outside the barrell, face down in the gutter.

A number of visitors have e-mailed an intended highlight, an article in an issue that will arrive to subscribers this week. It will appear in the January 8, 2007 issue. The topic is the Appeal for Redress petition. The article is in a 2007 issue (that most subscribers still haven't received and isn't in the stores yet) and supposedly, to the visitors, that makes up for the fact that in 2006, the magazine could do an entire issue on food but couldn't write one word about the biggest story to emerge in 2006 related to Iraq: resistance within the military.

The petition is a story and it's one worth covering. It's also true that signing a petition is a bit easier than saying "no" to the illegal war. It's a MoveOn type of activism, the same sort of behavior that the "Oy vey, kids today" critics slam in column after column. In media big and small, the usual desk jockey grumps dusted off those old columns (which predate the sixties) and gas bagged about how kids today just aren't active. So while the petition is a story, is newsworthy, that The Nation chooses to make this the first story they do on war resistance in print is rather sad.

The story of 2006?

War resisters. Ehren Watada, Ricky Clousing, Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, and Katherine Jashinski should have been covered in 2006 but most of the time, they weren't. They joined Joshua Key, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, and Kevin Benderman as members of the military who have said no. From June through September, Watada, Clousing, Snyder, Anderson, Wilkerson and Aguayo all went public and the independent media response was (at best) underwhelming.

Take Ivan Brobeck who returned from Canada and turned himself in on election day. Who noted that? It's called The Full Brobeck. November 6th, on KPFA's Flashpoints, Nora Barrows-Friedman interviewed him and . . . no one else did or bothered to report on him. The web site Common Dreams did run a press release put out by Courage to Resist which was apparently supposed to pass for coverage that Brobeck was returning from his self-check out and returning with an open letter to the Bully Boy.

Rolling Stone and Left Turn managed to run print articles on Watada. Left Turn is a monthly, Rolling Stone is a weekly that focuses more on entertainment. How they managed to cover it when the weekly, political magazine The Nation couldn't is a question people should be asking?

Sign a petition, vote, and call it a "Sweet Victory," apparently.

The Nation, in 2006, was about as political as the Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs across the country. In print, week after week, it seemed to revel in just how useless it could be -- such as the 'philosophical' rant of AlterPunk about how the New York Times shouldn't run unsigned editorials -- which, as dubious a basis for a column at it was, might have carried some (mild) weight were it not for the fact that The Nation runs . . . unsigned editorials.

Among the many useless articles was one by Ruth Conniff in the June 26, 2006 issue of The Nation which was entitled "How to Build a Farm Team" ("Identify candidates. Add money. Watch the numbers grow."). This was one of the many articles that demonstrated The Nation was more concerned with being a party organ for the Democratic Party than in covering the issues that mattered. Or possibly you'd prefer the April 24, 2006 issue which covered the 'issue' of injecting religion into politics to win seats (for Democrats) with Dan Wakefield ("religious progressives are making a comeback"), Frances Kissling (who actually raised issues), and Michael Lerner ("The left's most powerful weapon could be a spiritual vision of the world.").

There was time to chase celebrity ambulances ("Can Schwarzenenegger Be Defeated?" asked on the cover of the June 5, 2006 issue -- all politics are local -- when a celeb's involved, apparently). There was time to visit the world of What If? (the February 6, 2006 issue featured not one but twenty pretend State of the Union addresses). And always, there was time to send how-to lists to the Democratic Party (one example: March 20, 2006 issue contained Fred Block's "A Moral Economy" -- "To seize the political moment, Democrats need a better narrative.")

In what might have been an attempt not to "forget the ladies" (Abigail Adams would be so pleased), the May 22, 2006 cover proclaimed "It's Mother's Day." Now someone at the magazine missed the point that Mother's Day was created for peace so instead you got the classicist "The Motherhood Manifesto" by Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. (Women without children got no shout outs in 2006, for those wondering.) The insulting article was an adaptation of an insulting book published by . . . Nation's Books.

Well if Simon & Schuster can use 60 Minutes to promote their wares, why not The Nation? The most 'radical' suggestion in the article? Start "a whole new conversation about motherhood". Redbook couldn't have put it better. That article, more than any other, may capture The Nation in 2006 -- three-plus-pages leading up to the start a conversation "answer." (As Trina noted: "It read like a make-work project that was done between luncheons.")

Start a conversation, sign a petition, VOTE, VOTE, VOTE! If it gets any worse in 2007, look for the cover story: "The Revolution Starts With You: Brush After Each Meal!"

When this community (at all the sites) began noting the silence on the peace movement and on war resisters by The Nation, e-mails occassionally came in to correct us.

Let's deal with Christian Parenti first. He did write an article about the peace movement that was available online only. The May 8, 2006 issue did contain a different article by him, "When GI Joe Says No." If you can find one war resister named in the three page article, please e-mail. Find one person who said no to the Iraq war -- one "GI Joe" saying "no" to the current war -- in the article. You can find history about Vietnam soldiers who said no, but there's no war resister in the article. The article Parenti wrote featuring Camilo Mejia, among others, was an online article only.

The other thing that gets pointed out in e-mails is that there were two stories on Ehren Watada. In fact, an e-mail on that came in this weekend. Quote: "You are forgetting the two articles on Ehren Watada." No, I am not. I am talking about the magazine that I pay for and no article on Ehren Watada appeared in print in 2006. The articles visitors (who all claim to read the magazine but apparently just visit the website) refer to were "online exclusives." In fact, the authors of that piece have a new "online exclusive" that went up December 19th and the question that should be asked of the most recent article is why, since they obviously participated in the tele-conference Ehren Watada held in November (when the US military announced their intent to court-martial him -- scheduled for Feb. 5th), they're only now writing about it (and in passing)?

While both Off Our Backs and Ms. devoted whole issues in 2006 to address war and peace , The Nation was more interested in providing their food issue, their green (environmental -- don't think for a moment the Green Party got coverage in The Nation) issue and the non-stop, never ending Hurricane Katrina issues. But the war itself? Four years in and The Nation rarely gave a damn unless it could be worked into a "Vote!" article.

The official slogan was "Nobody owns The Nation" but 2006 played out like the slogan was: "The Nation, tip-sheet for the Democratic Party!" And we can't leave this topic without noting the shameful attempt to draw a line between the magazine and Harry Belafonte. While that piece was written for the Washington Post (and published there) an extended version went up at the website. As shameful in its own way as uninviting Belafonte from speaking at Coretta Scott King's funeral (addressed on Democracy Now!), The Nation really hit a low with that column -- a low in a year of lows.

Another low happened when The Nation, Democracy Now! and about every left and 'left' outlet decided to continue to give a platform to the man they portray as a Cassandra but whom the mainstream media has noted was twice arrested in stings to capture sexual predators. As Chrissie Hynde once sang in "How Much Did You Get For Your Soul," "How much did you, How much did you, How much did you get?" He went around the country with Seymour Hersh slamming the peace movement (and wanting to turn it into the military -- presumably with himself as commander), he ridiculed and mocked Cindy Sheehan in an independent weekly, and despite that, despite the mainstream media's reports of two busts for seeking out sex with underage girls online, he was given a platform repeatedly.

Let's move over to radio. Air America Radio became more of a joke than ever as it lost both Janeane Garofalo and Mike Malloy -- two who could and did pull in audiences -- and replaced them with the second string. In fact, AAR's business model appears to be that of a new-age coach, "Everyone gets to go on the field . . . whether they're qualified or not!" (Randi Rhodes and Laura Flanders remain the strongest reasons to listen to the ever failing and flailing network.) Air America Radio is both commercial radio and listener supported radio -- and it couldn't stay out of the red despite running dual models. In terms of the 'master plan,' it appears to have become "Let's stomp out community radio and shove our national programming off on local areas." Getting into bed with Clear Channel only made that model all the more obvious.

Then there's Pacifica Radio, the nation's oldest public radio network. People like Margaret Prescod, Deepa Fernandez, Dennis Bernstein, Nora Barrows-Friedman, Sonali Kolhatkur, Aaron Glantz and more did actually cover the war and they deserve credit for that but, as Micah pointed out, it's also true that Pacifica offered at least two election programs this year (one national -- weekly program, one on KPFA -- daily program) yet still no program dedicated to covering the Iraq war. The illegal war hits the four year mark in March and there is no program devoted to the topic of it. Flashpoints began as an outlet to cover the first Gulf War. Since Pacifica has cancelled their peace program (Peacewatch, in 2003), the omission becomes more glaring each day.

The response to this year's fundraiser for the Pacifica Archives should have been a wakeup call. In a year when the economy meant many fundraising targets were not met, the Pacifica Archives fundraiser exceeded their target goal. The fact that the theme was "Voices for Peace and Non-Violence" should have been an indication that audiences would welcome this sort of coverage.

Instead, it fell to individual shows and, since none has Iraq as it's focus, the results were frequently disappointing. Flashpoints deserves special credit for their outstanding coverage. Iraq is not their focus but they picked up the slack and then some by interviewing more war resisters than anyone else, by regularly airing reports from Dahr Jamail and others and by, honestly, paying attention to what was going on. In doing that, they didn't lose focus on the occupied territories.

What other Pacifica programs too often featured was tired guests talking about tired topics. Want to buy some New Kids On The Block CDs? No? Didn't think so. But the tired topic of Judith Miller continued to pass for 'media criticism.' That was truly embarrassing, hearing guests drag out Miller over and over in 2006 when she penned not one word for the New York Times in 2006. But they kept heading to the well on that even though the well was dry and then some.

Now Miller wasn't the only one at the Times who sold the war before it started and in its early days, nor was the Times the only mainstream outlet that sold the war. But it's just so much fun to play Bash the Bitch one more time apparently. It's allowed a great many to keep their heads down and not get called out for their own actions. More importantly, in 2006, the war was still being sold and focusing on the departed Miller provided a lot of cover to the Dexter Filkins, Michael Gordons, et al.

What Miller (and others -- including Gordo) did in the run up to the war is important, is historical. But in 2006, if you're going on a radio show to talk about the war and the press or doing so in print, you need to be able to cite something a bit more contemporary than articles that ran in 2002 and 2003. As we've long noted here, if (IF) Judith Miller and her crowd got us over there, it was the Dexter Filkins that kept us there. But, outside of Danny Schechter, name a media critic that addressed Filkins.

The Washington Post outed Dexy as the go-to-guy for the US military when they wanted to plant a story. The reaction to that article? CounterSpin addressed it in headlines for a few seconds before rushing on to the very hot topic of Bill O'Reilly. Bill O'Reilly, a national joke, and Dexter Filkins. CounterSpin was apparently comfortable addressing O'Reilly and apparently scared to address Dexter Filkins. Not scared to address the Times, mind you, because they and their guests were fond of bringing up Judith Miller. They just lacked the spine and the bravery to address Dexter Filkins.

For those who don't know, the slaughter of Falluja was covered by the 'award-winning' Dexy. The lies go straight to the embedded, ditch digging Filkins who had no wall between himself and the military and who reportedly allowed them to vet his 'award-winning' copy before he turned it into the Times (which would explain why his report took DAYS to make it into print).

Though CounterSpin didn't applaud his disclosures in speeches, other outlets did. Those disclosures aren't brave, they're the sort of things you say when you're speaking to an audience made up of people who no longer buy the lies of war. But along with his reporting not being questioned, many rushed to applaud him as brave for noting that the war was lost. Noting that in a speech to a small audience, never in print. By not telling readers the truth, year after year, the likes of Dexy have kept the US military in Iraq as much as any Judith Miller got them over there to begin with. A real independent media, a brave one, would have addressed that a long time ago. Instead it was play dumb . . . all year long.

Which brings us back to the summer of 2006 when the Israeli government went into wack-job mode (or further in) and independent media dropped Iraq (as though it were Afghanistan?) to jump on the non-stop bandwagon, the 24-7 wall-to-wall coverage.

There was no time to cover Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing in August (when Democracy Now! tried to sneak it into their headlines weeks later they confused at least one indy media writer who wrote that a decision had been reached -- when it hadn't and wouldn't until November -- and he cited DN!'s coverage as the proof). They were all obsessed with this one story (Israel) and no programmer appeared to think, "You know, practically every show is covering this topic, we should cover some of the events related to Iraq or anything else because I honestly doubt anyone wants to hear 24-7, day after day, week after week about one topic." But independent media seemed to have a really hard time supporting war resisters -- as though they were all suffering from Revisionist Rambo damage. (That might also explain the inability to review the brilliant documentary Sir! No Sir!)

Along with Watada's Article 32 hearing, this included the revelations during the August military inquiry into the rape and murder of fourteen-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, the murder of her parents and the murder of her five-year-old sister. They were murdered by, and Abeer was raped by? The US military. When James P. Barker confessed in court in November "alleged" was no longer an adjective that was needed. But even Barker's confession didn't prompt independent media to cover Abeer. Democracy Now!, The Nation, no one rushed in to cover the war crime. They still haven't. They couldn't cover it in August and they didn't cover it in November when one of the accused confessed and gave his account of what the others (allegedly) involved did. Now nickled and dimed conventional wisdom could gas bag on Hurricane Katrina -- in an attempt at gas bag cute -- and any number of topics. But could she write about Abeer? No, which, if you ask me, qualifies as "a real stab."

Robin Morgan's "Their Bodies as Weapons: Rapes in conflict zones result from the idea that violence is erotic, and it pervades the US military" (The Guardian of London via Common Dreams) is a strong article but it's also true it has had little competition. Other than Off Our Backs, no one else has seen Abeer as a story worth telling in independent media. Maybe it's too embarrassing to admit that while the wall-to-wall was being provided, Abeer was being ignored? Maybe Abeer wasn't seen as 'economic' and, goodness knows, our independent media was all about 'economcis' (so much so, James Carville could have been the editor of many publications). The reality is that "property" was once defined to include women and children as well as slaves and serfs of all ethnicities and races and 'living wages' do not combat and end racism, sexism, homophobia or any other issue. Robin Morgan perfectly captured the various elements at work when adults think they have a 'right' to rape a 14-year-old girl.

Also ignored during that period was CODEPINK's Troops Home Fast, the fast that led to a meeting between activists and Iraqi parliamentarians in Jordan to discuss peace. If you're asking, "What meeting?" -- well, take that up with indepdendent media. (And before a visitor writes, "The Nation had a piece in an issue this summer . . ." No, they didn't. They had an "online exclusive" by Tom Hayden about the trip to Jordan -- a piece that someone decided was worth posting online but not printing.) Or how about the fact that the US military was keeping a body count on Iraqi deaths? Nancy A. Youssef broke that story, that the US military had been doing that for almost a year, in June. That news lost out to elections . . . in Mexico -- what independent media was all geared up to make the summer story until they dropped everything to head off to the Middle East.

How bad was the summer when independent media forgot Iraq? Cindy Sheehan had Camp Casey III in Crawford and where was independent media? Democracy Now! broadcast Mark Wilkerson's announcement that he was turning himself in and that was it -- for them and for all of independent media. When even Camp Casey can't register, you better believe independent media forgot Iraq. Ironically, while Camp Casey III couldn't register, various independent media voices were giving interviews citing their 2005 work on Camp Casey as evidence as the kind of power independent media can have -- while ignoring Camp Casey III.

Sadly though, we're not done. There was also Camp Democracy in D.C. which did take place, day after day, workshop after workshop, it just took place with little to no independent media coverage. John Nichols (who did write about it online), Elizabeth Holtzman, Ann Wright, Antonia Juhasz, Ricky Clousing, and more. What was it? Camp Casey moved to DC to be part of Camp Democracy on Constitution Ave, right there on the Washington Mall. Impeachment, the war, immigration rights, and much more were addressed each day. It began on the fifth of September and was due to close on the 21st but had to be extended because it proved so popular. Along with those already named, others participating included Danny Schechter, Diane Wilson, Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Ray McGovern, Dave Lindorff, Kevin Zeese, Jennifer van Bergen, Howard Zinn, Kim Gandy, Elizabeth de la Vega, Mark Karlin, Raed Jarrar, Robert Greenwald, Jim McGovern . . . The list goes on. Enough people to launch the mastheads of several independent magazines and then some. But you didn't get much coverage of it.

If you're interested in coverage of it, David Swanson's website offers this:

For the holidays this year, give your loved ones some TRUTH:Camp Democracy lasted for 18 days this past fall; 18 days of workshops, press conferences, education, and actions. Some of the highlights have been captured in a 45-minute documentary. You and your friends and family can listen to the wisdom of Howard Zinn, Jeff Cohen, Elizabeth Holtzman, Col. Ann Wright, Ray McGovern, Iraq War vets, Iraq War resisters, Hurricane Katrina survivors, and many more. Watch the Bush Crimes Commission verdict being delivered to the White House and hear a panel of experts lay out the case for impeachment. See Helga Aguayo tell the story of her husband's refusal to serve in Iraq. Camp Democracy can continue to educate and engage those newly awakened to the issues before us; those who were there can remember the lessons learned. Read more about the DVD.
Purchase the DVD. They're $17 each. The cost of shipping and handling is included.

Now they couldn't cover Camp Democracy but, after the election, the same independent media wanted to tell you it was all about Iraq. I personally believe that Iraq did influence the election and think the polling bears that out, but if independent media thinks so, shouldn't the polling have been their wake up call? Shouldn't they have stopped offering their laughable excuses for not covering Iraq ("The public doesn't care . . ." -- or as 'Truth' Conniff 'bragged' on KPFA, no one in her community has been effected by the illegal war), rolled up their sleeves and started addressing Iraq?

Didn't happen. Instead it was time to gasbag about who deserved credit for the 'wins.' And amazingly, though it was the one demographic that could be most easily verified, they managed, in all their hours of gas baggery, to avoid mentioning women were the deciding factor. Reality check for all the bean counters who ignored or forgot the gender gap, in the US women are in the majority. So the next time you schedule your gas baggery, you should do a check to see who you have on, or give print space to, to discuss the way women voted -- in 2006, women's votes weren't discussed which might be expected from the mainstream media, but which is appalling from independent media.

Along with Iraq, Iraq related stories such as war resisters and women, race and youth also lost out. You really wouldn't know it to read the gas baggery (The Progressive was the worst here but no one's hands were clean) on the immigrant rights wave but young people led that. They led it, they fueled it and they moved the nation. The gas bags and the desk jockeys could bemoan the so-called apathy of youth today (in fact, The Nation awarded a prize to the student who wrote about how apthetic her peers were -- in those contests, it always helps to repeat false stereotypes) but to do so, they had to ignore reality. That meant ignoring who led on the immigrant rights demonstrations, that meant ignoring the students across the country who are actively protesting the war and, most of all, that meant ignoring Gallaudet. Months and months of campus protests by students (who won a victory) and they got ignored. It's hard to repeat the (false) line on apathy and cover Gallaudet so maybe that's why our independent media ignored the story? Or maybe it was because hearing impaired and deaf students were just 'too different' from those making decisions in our independent media? Regardless, the students of Galladuet, the students leading the immigration rights movement, the students standing up against the war, deserved credit they never got.

Race? If you missed it, independent media remains largely White. The Ego Of Us All dies and it was time for a non-stop outpouring. Coretta Scott King dies and she's either included as an after thought or ignored. Don't kid that it wasn't about race. Coretta Scott King was more than "the wife of." She was politically active until the end. She spoke out against the illegal war, she spoke out against homophobia. From the moment that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died, she was thrust into the lead role and took it because Dr. King's mission was not to be a footnote in history. Both for his legacy and for the struggle that still needed to be fought, she took on the leadership role and her thanks from (White) independent media was to be ignored or relegated to an aside for 2006. It was racism. And it was sexism. And it was disgusting.

All of the above added up to make 2006, for independent media, The Year of Living Dumbly. I would say that there's no way 2007 could be worse but I'm afraid some would eagerly accept that as a challenge.

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