Thursday, January 11, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

And now Congress must use it's main power, the power of the purse . . . . It's time to use the power of the purse to bring our troops out of Iraq.
-- Russ Feingold

The above was featured in Leigh Ann Caldwell's report on The KPFA Evening News (it also aired on Free Speech Radio). We're opening with it and now we're doing Iraq related housekeeping for a bit.

Earlier this week, we noted Aaron Glantz' "More Subpoenas Come Down in Watada Case" (IPS) (which is a great article) and three visitors have e-mailed to steer us to this section:

"I have been very clear about my support for Ehren Watada," she told IPS.

That's independent journalist Sarah Olson speaking to Glantz. Olson interviewed Ehren Watada, the military wants her to testify at his court-martial. Since Ruth's Report went up Saturday a number of visitors want to 'correct' it. There's nothing in there to correct. (And The Third Estate Sunday Review wrote similar comments, "Editorial: Ehren Watada stands and independent media heads for the bathrooms" -- they includes me for visitors who've not been to that site). But since it went up, there has been a number of visitors e-mailing their belief that Ruth's remarks require a correction.

My response? Take it up with Olson. If she needs to tell Glantz that she supports Watada, it's her own fault. And no, she has not "been very clear about my support for Ehren Watada." That is flat out wrong. I'm not quite sure where visitors get their information but Ruth, like most in the community, have followed the press on this and Olson has not been clear. I'm not going to waste time reading any e-mails about how Olson must have been misquoted. Nor am I going to spoonfeed people who haven't followed the issue with a variety of examples.

Note this:

As a journalist, I cannot support or criticize the thoughts of an interview subject. My job is to record those thoughts accurately and provide a public forum for debate.

That's attributed to Olson in an article that she's supposed to be the author of (link goes to Dissident Voice but it's appeared everywhere including at Editor & Publisher). Read it again if it's not clear to you but it is that remark and others like it that demonstrate that she has not been clear. Now maybe that's the legal advice she's getting but she's been all over the map.

If you have a problem, your friends may be happy to listen to you. But they're not going to rush to help you until you make a choice. (And they're going to tell you they can't make the choice for you but will support you regardless.) If Olson believes it is wrong that she's being asked to testify (and, from her statements, she does), then she needs to say (for journalism), "No." Saying it will bring her support but there are things happening all over the world right now -- as opposed to might happens -- so everyone's plate is full when it comes to "I can't talk about what I will do."

If you think it's wrong, you don't testify and you say publicly you won't testify.

She thinks it's wrong so she needs to say she won't testify and, even now, if she does that, we'll be happy to note it and applaud it. But in terms of Ehren Watada, she has not been clear, she has sent mixed signals and, in the example above, it came directly from her. (As a journalist she can't support or criticize -- one moment, then she's telling Glantz that she's always been clear. No, she hasn't.)

A journalist communicates and she has no one to blame, if she feels she's been misunderstood, but herself. Ruth owes no correction and there will be no correction. If what Olson told Glantz is what she feels, the problem is with Olson who has not been clear. Earlier, she bailed out (at the last minute) on an announced interview for The Morning Show because her lawyer didn't think it was wise. (Later, she'd pop up on Democracy Now! with her I-can't-talk-about-my-legal-strategy statements.) There have been a number of articles (a huge number when you consider that other journalists are so rarely noted) and she's come off all over the map. She hasn't not been clear that she supports Ehren Watada. I personally think that is part of the legal advice she's receiving. Whatever the reason, she's been all over the map and anyone following the coverage closely could notice that.

Now to deal with the other visitor complaint -- what's wrong with the US military referring to (Iraqi) women as "housewives"? There's a reason that term went out of usage for most Americans -- and did so decades ago. It's dismissive and it has implications not limited to 'ownership' of a woman by a man and by a house she's been 'provided' with. "Homemaker" is an active term that reflects the tasks done within home.

Does it matter? Yeah, it does. It goes to the way women are seen by the US military. If you missed it, Suzanne Swift was expected to fulfill 'duties' that men didn't have to and the reasons for that include the fact that she wasn't seen as a functioning person by some in the US military but instead as an object there for amusement. With the well documented cases of abuse towards women in this country within the military, it's possibly not surprising that the term "housewife" would be used -- not even surprising that someone who should have come of age knowing the term was "homemaker."

It shows the objectifying and the way that women are seen in the US military. It demonstrates that due to the fact that the term was issued, it was written and issued, with no red flags going up. It goes to a lack of awareness (to put it mildly) that can lead to abuse, that can lead US soldiers to think that a fourteen-year-old girl exists for their sexual violence. In the January 2007 issue of The Progressive, Traci Hukill has an article entitled "A Peculiar Version of Friendly Fire" (pages 17-20). Kelly Dougherty discusses an incident she discussed with Matthew Rothschild last year on Progressive Radio. She's in Iraq and she's there as a member of the US military. For some strange reason, it's thought to be okay to post porn, to distribute it around her. As Hukill writes:

She'd just walked into the common tent shared by her ten-member military police squad to find two lower-ranking guys watching porn, which is against the rules but ubiquitous in Iraq. She told them she didn't want to see any of it. One of them apologized, but her squad leader overheard the exchange and stepped in.
"He wanted to argue with me, so I was forced to defend why I didn't want them looking at women engaged in acts of sex when I'm in the tents," Dougherty says.

Now let's repeat for the slow, she was in Iraq to serve. She was ordered to go there. She shouldn't have put up with that ___. They shouldn't be, women, "instructed to go on their daily run in pairs because someone had been raped on the base" (Tallil Airbase near Nasiriyah). Or how about this story Hukill recounts, a training that's supposed to be addressing these very topics? "A friend in all-male unit related a story in which an obligatory equal opportunity class devolved into a rant against servicewomen, who 'always' said they'd been raped after regrettable drunken liasons." Oh, they said it, did they? They just made it up when they were sober? Jennifer Machmer was raped while serving and the punishment for her rapist? "The commander wrote her assailant up and docked his pay." If you're not getting the problem at this point, then you are probably part of the problem. Hukill notes that there were 2,734 reports of "rapes or attempted rapes from all of its [US] bases worldwide" and from that "just seventy-nine servicemembers were court-martialed for sexual assault."

When "housewife" became a term under criticism (the sixties, there is no excuse for any member of the US military to be using the term today) it had to do with the way women were seen by society. That the term can still be used goes a long way towards explaining how a culture still exists within the US military where rape is never rape, just some woman changing her mind.

Now maybe this is new to you. If so, you can refer to, most recently, Jane Hoppen's "Women in the military: Who's Got Your Back?" (Off Our Backs, volume xxxvi, number 2, pages 14-16) which may bring you quickly up to speed:

Events such as the 1991 Tailhook Association convention, in which more than 100 officers sexually assaulted and harrassed dozens of fellow female soldiers but were never convicted; the 1997 sexual assault scandal at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland; and the 2003 sexual assault scandal at the Air Force Academy have brought the issue of military sexual assault and abuse to the forefront. However, in the past the issue has faded from attention quickly, with the military pledging to police its own, plan for prevention, and clean up the mess. Little seems to have changed though. An official Department of Defense report states that, "Thirty percent of female veterans in a recent survey reported rape or attempted rape during active duty. Thirty-seven percent of women who reported a rape or attempted rape had been raped more than once; fourteen percent of the victims reported being gang raped" (Department of Defense, 2002). This is a disturbing reality during a time when 15 percent of our nation's armed forces are female, with more than 204,500 American wommen serving in the military.

The culture is one that demeans women, that reduces them to objects and the military is still not addressing that culture. That "housewife" (a term that fell out of favor some time ago) could be written for publication and then published by the military demonstrates the culture (and the piggishness still in play). That no one thought, "Well, if they aren't teachers, how about 'mothers'?" but was instead all on board with the pejorative indicates the cultural mindset which still has not caught up with where the country was thirty years ago.

Having now house cleaned visitor issues, Liang notes Ben Hamamoto's "As Watada Pretrial Begins, Local Nikkei Activists Arrested" (Nichi Bei Times):

The pretrial hearing for Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused deployment to Iraq to fight in what he calls an illegal war of aggression, began on Jan. 4 in Fort Lewis, Wash.
Watada, 28, is charged with missing movement and four specifications, or counts, of conduct unbecoming an officer.
The first day of the pre-trial set the parameters of what can be expected from the court-martial. The day also saw protests against the war and in support of Watada, including a "die-in" in San Francisco, at which several Nikkei activists were arrested.
Legality of War Debate
During the four-hour pretrial hearing, the prosecution and defense reportedly argued over what would be allowed during the actual court martial, which is set to begin on Feb. 5. Watada's civilian attorney Eric Seitz requested that the judge allow him to argue the legality of the war in court, by presenting what he called "overwhelming evidence that the war is illegal, beyond any doubt."
According to a report in The Olympian, Capt. Daniel Kuecker, the lead prosecutor, argued that under the "political question doctrine" the courts defer to executive or legislative branch jurisdiction on the question of the war's legality. The executive and legislative branch approved the war in 2003, Kuecker argued, therefore rendering Watada’s motive for missing movement irrelevant to the case.
Judge Lt. Colonel John Head initially agreed that the court martial is only designed to determine what Lt. Watada was ordered and declined to do, regardless of intent. However, the judge later decided that by charging Watada with contemptuous speech as well as with missing movement, the prosecution has effectively made motive relevant.
"Aren't you trying to block these issues from coming in the front door, but opening up the back door?" the judge reportedly asked the prosecution. "You have charged motive as an offense."
Head said he would issue a written ruling on the request later.
Attorney Seitz said that if he were not able to present the evidence in court, he would present it during the appeals process before the military appeals court and the Supreme Court.
"The legality of the Iraq War is not merely a political question. Lt. Watada’s specific intent was to avoid unlawful actions in Iraq," Seitz said in statement which appeared on the Not In Our Name Website. "For the sake of due process, we need the opportunity to raise this issue."

Last Thursday was the start of Ehren Watada's pretrial. And the silence on that from some in indpendent media (see Elaine's "How The Nation isn't cutting it") was appalling -- you sort of got the feeling they watched Somersby rooting for Richard Gere to die. Ehren Watada's stand does matter and his stand and those of others resisting the war is a brave one. It takes tremendous courage to stand up for something you believe in and those who have are surely not surprised by the attacks from the right. Those who've noted the silences from the left? We're flat out appalled. The war resisters are doing their part to end the war. Those who are doing nothing? They're letting it drag 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 number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3006. Tonight? 3018. (AP headlines 3019 by their count.) And Iraqis? Late in the day (very late in the day), a few reports drifted out and, no, it wasn't peaches & creams for Iraqis. From the AP:

On Thursday, police reported at least 45 people were killed or found dead from bombings and shootings, including a 10-year-old struck in a mortar attack in the northern city of Mosul and 37 tortured bodies found in Baghdad.
Gunmen ambushed a minivan carrying Oil Ministry employees in a predominantly Shiite area of Baghdad, kidnapping six of the passengers and the driver after separating people according to their IDs, police said.

In legal news, Skip notes "Soldier gets 18 years for Iraq killings" (Australia's ABC and Reuters):

A US soldier has been sentenced to 18 years in jail for murdering three blindfolded Iraqi detainees during a raid near Tikrit last year.
William Hunsaker, 24, was handed a dishonourable discharge from the military after pleading guilty to murder and attempted murder.
He is one of three US soldiers being tried for the murders by a court martial in the state of Kentucky.
Lawyers for some of the men have said the soldiers were acting under orders to kill Iraqi men who were of military age.
Two days ago 21-year-old Juston Graber pleaded guilty to one charge of aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon.
He was sentenced to nine months in prison.

Antonia Juhasz was among Kris Welch's guests on KPFA's Living Room today. The topic of the show was Iraq and Zach wrote in saying her discussion on the oil stood out to him so we'll note that section.

Antonio Juhasz: On this issue of the troops increase . . . Bush wanted significantly more troops but the military said we don't have anywhere to get them for you, there aren't anymore troops. So the troops that are the addition of the 20,000 is simply going to be extending the tours of troops that are there speeding up the redeployment of troops that have already served. We have to be really clear about who the soldiers are that are part of this increase
[. . .]
This is . . . the critical moment to make our demands very, very clear to the Democrats and one of those demands has to explicity be that this is a war for oil that cannot be allowed to continue and that what the administration is hoping for is that it will suceed in its economic transformation of Iraq which at this point has nearly reached fruition -- which is a new law
developed way before the war in the US State Department, then pushed by US corporations, pushed by the successive appointed governments of Iraq by the US government following the invasion -- for a new law that is now, the al-Maliki govenrmenet has now said that it will put this new law forward to the Iraqi parliament that creates an unprecedented oil victory in Iraq.
So what it does is give the government of Iraq nominal control and ownership of their oil but every function of the oil industry would then be privatized and turned over to foreign companies and the foreign companies would get a form of contract called a Production Sharing Agreement which is not used anywhere in the Middle East not used anywhere in oil rich countries in fact
that gives first 30 years, 30 year contract, and then according to the UK Independent, that the intial contract would give 75% of initial profits to the private companies leaving only 25% for the Iraqis.

Kris Welch: [sardonic] How handy.

Antonia Juahsz: Iraq can best be understood as a pimple of oil that has yet to be plucked.
It has certainly the second largest oil reserves in the world possibly larger. It has 80 known oil fields but only 17 have even begun to be developed. It is those undeveloped oil fields which are all completely within the realm of the new law and then the debate, that the president mentioned in his speech, is over a constitutional amendment to address the existing fields, which are now divided between the Shia and the Kurds in the north and the south, and to bring the control of the existing fields back into the central gover of al-Maliki. And what I believe is that the Bush administration is going to hold onto the occupation and make it larger and make it as big as he can until the law passes and US companies sign contracts and then they have to get work. And they need a security force to do that and that is our troops.

Antonia Juhasz is the author of The BU$H Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time (which is rather obvious to this community since it made the list Martha & Shirley compiled that members voted on). Mia and Megan also noted the interview and Megan noted that she "enjoyed Antonia's point that it is about Iraq, that there is a war and occupation going on. I don't think that there's a desire in many media outlets to cover Iraq and I was very glad Antonia stated the very basic truth that Iraq is still a war while others rushed to cover what might happen tomorrow. Does anyone get how little attention Iraq gets? How little serious attention? I was really glad that Antonia made that point."

On the first point that we noted in the excerpts, Juhasz' point about who will be serving, from Robert Burns' "Pentagon abandons active-duty time limit" (AP):

The Pentagon has abandoned its limit on the time a citizen-soldier can be required to serve on active duty, officials said Thursday, a major change that reflects an Army stretched thin by longer-than-expected combat in Iraq.
The day after President Bush announced his plan for a deeper U.S. military commitment in Iraq, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters the change in reserve policy would have been made anyway because active-duty troops already were getting too little time between their combat tours.
The Pentagon also announced it is proposing to Congress that the size of the Army be increased by 65,000, to 547,000 and that the Marine Corps, the smallest of the services, grow by 27,000, to 202,000, over the next five years. No cost estimate was provided, but officials said it would be at least several billion dollars.
Until now, the Pentagon's policy on the Guard or Reserve was that members' cumulative time on active duty for the Iraq or Afghan wars could not exceed 24 months. That cumulative limit is now lifted; the remaining limit is on the length of any single mobilization, which may not exceed 24 consecutive months, Pace said.
In other words, a citizen-soldier could be mobilized for a 24-month stretch in Iraq or Afghanistan, then demobilized and allowed to return to civilian life, only to be mobilized a second time for as much as an additional 24 months.

Finally, Charlie notes Cindy Sheehan's "Insanity Surge" (BuzzFlash):

Bloody George, the lamest duck in U.S. history is going to soon announce to the nation that he will be sending 21,500 more troops into Iraq, which some call a "surge," some call an escalation, and what I like to refer to as: Operation Increasing Cannon Fodder.
The Hypocrite in Chief has said over and over again, throughout nearly four years of his malevolent and dysfunctional occupation that he would increase troop levels when the "generals on the ground" asked him to. I guess he never said what he would do if his generals on the ground asked him not to send new troops, but apparently one will get his ass canned as Generals Casey and Abizaid recently found out.
We humans for peace and sanity need to descend on our Congressional offices to avert this calamity in the making. This past week, Speaker Pelosi threatened Bloody George with withholding funds for this newest venture into the abyss and WE need to make sure that she follows through with that threat. Bloody George's funds need to be cut off. He can't perpetrate any more murder or perpetuate any more hatred if the cash cow runs dry.

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and the war drags on

ben hamamato
living room