Thursday, March 29, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

While the headlines will read that the Senate voted to withdraw U.S. troops in Iraq, the peace movement recognizes that the Senate bill will extend the war not end it. The exit date in the bill is merely a goal for the removal of combat troops, and there are large loopholes that would allow a commander in chief to keep as many troops as s/he wants in Iraq. The bill provides $123 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- nearly $20 billion more requested by Bush.
The real issue now is whether the Democrats will cave into President Bush’s threatened veto by providing a funding bill with no exit requirements or whether they will challenge the president further. If they cave they will have given Bush new life -- he will no longer be a lame duck, but rather will remain "the decider." The Congress will be seen as a "lame Congress." How they respond will be determined after their April recess.
Many peace advocates held a demonstration shortly after the vote to protest the extension, rather than end of the war. The "occupation" of the Hart Senate office building emphasized that the Democrats have the power to end the war and highlighted the deaths of U.S. soldiers and Iraqis with a series of gravestones and photos. Below is an article published in The Hill describing the protest as well as a link to video of the event.

The above is from Kevin Zeese's "Senate Passes $123 billion More for Iraq and Afghanistan Wars" (Democracy Rising) and Melanie noted it. She also noted, with distress, a piece by writer that's been the topic of phone calls from last week through Sunday: William Greider.
Now I defended him on the phone when former Rolling Stone-rs noted that he had contributed nothing to the dialogue or understanding of Iraq, when his most recent book was termed "touchy feely crap, his current editor's influence." But I have my limits.

"Breathtaking" he tells us the Congress' non to semi-action is. Well, the Greider everyone knew in the 80s wouldn't have hailed a Boland amendment that set goals for defunding the Contras (goals, no enforcement) as "breathtaking." In fact, I'm not even sure that incarnation had "breathtaking" in his vocabulary.

In fairness to him (and I'll get calls griping for including this), I'll note what I noted in phone calls, in Rolling Stone he was (a) expected to write serious analysis and (b) was given the space to do it. Today, he writes for a magazine where he'd have to elbow past Party Hacks (among others) and one that's not interested in thinking. Thinking can interfere with talking points. And when your magazine exists as a long list of memos to the Democratic Party, you really don't have space for thought.

The eighties was what kept coming up because the topic of the phone calls was Rolling Stone (venting about it's sad current state), because the 80s had a Democratically controlled Congress and a Republican in the White House, so his name came up quiet often. The writer who did serious analysis is nowhere to be found. It's as though he saw the acclaim the right-winger got for his sleight scribbles and decided he'd be the alternative to it and add the weight of inspirational.

Again, I defended him on the phone. Not now. (Friends feel free to call back and say, "I told you so." I was wrong, everyone else was right and I'll state that individually in call after call.)

Would a similar version of the Boland Amendment be "breathtaking"? The 80s version would have rightly decried it and noted that people would continue dying. There wouldn't have been a desire to hand out passes to the Democratic Party.

An angry visitor wondered why "All of you have to spoil this great moment?" He went on to list community sites. I'm not responsible for what other people write. You'll have to ask them your ridiculous question. (I'm sure they'll laugh as loudly as I did when Ava read the e-mail to me.)

"This great moment" currently includes the privatization of Iraqi oil as a "benchmark" that must be met. That's something "great"? That the Democratic leadership is on board for the privatization of Iraqi oil? Iran was stripped from the measures. That's a "great moment"?

If you're naive enough to believe that under current proposals (yet to be reconciled), the US is pulling out of Iraq, possibly you're one of the ones saying lame things like, "They only just now got into power!"

Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize they were born on election day in November 2006. I didn't grasp that, being newborns, they hadn't lived with the Iraq war the way the world has for four years and going. Well, with that information to process, they deserve to be praised through the roof. For people who knew nothing about the war prior to election day November 2006, this was truly "breathtaking."

Of course, the reality is that not only were none of them birthed on election day 2006, a healthy portion of them have supported the illegal war in previous Congresses. The reality is that, like Evan Blah, they put off discussing any plans for Iraq before the election. Good thing because the current plans endorsed by both Houses wouldn't have won them control of Congress.

There's a lot of rah-rah over the aspect of health care for veterans (something that shouldn't have taken four years to address and that doesn't deserve praise for doing what is obviously desperately needed at this point) and possibly that's why no one's called the bills out on the very obvious crap that there are no funds going to the Red Cross and Red Cresent that sent out a plea for help before either house began debating. But the bill isn't about helping Iraqis, it's about punishing them, punishing the "naughty children" who just haven't met their end of the obligation. Puppet governments don't have a lot of say. al-Maliki takes his orders from the White House, not the Iraqi people.

Do the bills to be reconciled say one word about the monies owed to Iraq? Reperations isn't a word I'm seeing.

Spinach, they've got. I like spinach. I eat a ton of it. But I'm failing to see what spinach in the United States has to do with the displaced in Iraq or the alarming (and disgusting) level of child malnutrition in Iraq. Maybe I'm just missing that aspect?

Is there anything more Republican than rushing in to back the privatization of a public industry while ignoring the welfare of children? Outside of stealing elections, I'm having a hard time thinking of anything.

There are plenty of Party Hacks (I'm not calling Greider a Party Hack) that you can seek out who will tell you the sweet lies you need to sleep easy tonight. I'm not interested in that crap.
The Party Hacks, Flacks and Cheerleaders apparently are which is why they get dry in the mouth with excitement over veteran's health care but fail to notice Iraq's given "benchmarks" and nothing else.

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, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3230. Tonight, ICCC's count is 3244. The Council of Foreign Relations tells you that casualties are down, US ones, in February. (They mean "fatalities.") Yeah, they were down by three from the previous month. If we want to play that game (as opposed to looking at the real trends), Feb. 2007 was higher than Feb. 2006, Feb. 2005 or Feb. 2004. January 2007? Only January 2005 had higher numbers. December 2006 was higher than Dec. 2005, Dec. 2004, and Dec. 2003. The Council of Foreign Relations also tells you that Petey Beinhart's thinks the Dems are right. That should indicate to any thinking person that their actions are troubling.

PB (whom I know, disclosure) has been wrong on the war from before it started. He's cheerleaded it, he's done everything to prolong it. Now PB think they're right? Why is PB even considered an authority on Iraq? How wrong do you have to be for people to stop seeking out your opinion on the topic?

What's really going on is that what's happened in Congress has allowed gas bags who've spent months avoiding Iraq to dust off their lack of knowledge for one more round. BE HONEST, if you had nothing to say about Iraq in the months before now, why should anyone take you seriously now?

If you never addressed the gang rape and murder of Abeer, the murder of her parents and her sister, why should anyone give a damn what you think now?

If you've offered no support to those brave enough to say "no" to the illegal war, why exactly should anyone be interested in one damn word you have to say now?

It's Invasion of the Gas Bags and they don't know (or else just stay silent) about Madre's report, about anything. They come rushing in with their set talking points that they dusted off from the last time they gas bagged and they think we've all been awaiting their next not-so-bold move. (Nod to Ani diFranco's "Next Bold Move.") It's as though they've sat out the class for the entire semester and now want to show up in the last class before the final and waste everyone's time while they try to catch up.

BE HONEST, is never covering Abeer a source of pride, something that speaks to qualifications to address the topic of Iraq now? (Note, The Nation finally mentioned Abeer in print, their April 2nd issue and, no surprise, it comes via a column by Alexander Cockburn.) (While The Nation's been consumed with elections, Cockburn's CounterPunch has addressed the illegal war.) If we're lucky, the Party Hacks who seem to populate so much of The Nation will tear one another limb from limb over some candidate and the real writers at the magazine will be able to rebuild it to somewhere what it once was -- a journal of thought with the occasional strong reporting.

For any visitor confused, Micah's found a thought piece, Jon Basil Utley's "Left-Right Alliance Against War?" (Foreign Policy in Focus)

The leadership of both parties supports war and empire. The Republican establishment’s war promoters include the big conservative foundations, congressional leadership, old-line media such as National Review and the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, and the Religious Right’s Armageddonites. The recent Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) meeting suppressed any antiwar debate, while speaker after speaker denounced foreigners, immigrants, and Arabs. Cheers resonated for PATRIOT Act author John Yoo, and John Bolton was a banquet speaker. The current Republican presidential front-runners all favor continuing the wars in the Middle East.
Against the above some lonely libertarians and a very few constitutional conservatives opposed attacking Iraq, both in 2003 and before the first Gulf War in 1990. Although many Republicans opposed the Kosovo war, they did so mainly because a Democrat, Bill Clinton, started it. The rationale for that U.S. intervention, like with Iraq, was also based on
Most Democratic congressional leaders also voted for the Iraq war. Outsider Howard Dean, a vocal opponent of the war, was blown away by the Democratic establishment in 2004. In a recent Washington Post
analysis, political scientist Tony Smith explains why the Democrats can't put together a successful vote against the Iraq war. Many of the Democrats, according to Smith, are influenced by an ideology of using American military power for Wilsonian ends. They take their cues from "special interests...that want an aggressive policy-- globalizing corporations, the military-industrial complex, the pro-Israel lobbies, those who covet Middle Eastern oil." The policies of these powerful "neo-liberals," Smith writes, coincide with those of the "neo-conservatives."
War is Washington's big business. The
military industrial complex has never been more profitable. Last year, 15,300 earmarks for defense spending went to projects carefully designed to gain adherents in every state. The F-22 fighter plane, for instance, has 1,000 subcontractors in 43 states. Electronic chips and secret superweapons are so complicated that profits can be hidden all along the production line well beyond the scrutiny of outsiders. Even newly planned missiles for Poland to "defend Europe" from Iran may be less about a grand strategic design than simply about selling more arms. Russia’s resultant concerns and European dismay are considered inconsequential.
Over and over, Washington's
War Party trumps the views of most business interests as well as the foreign policy and academic establishment. The consequences of Washington having made enemies of nearly a quarter of the human race, the Muslims, are only now unfolding. Yet the War Party continues to look for new conflicts, next with China, to justify the vast budget for weaponry mostly irrelevant to the War on Terror. The recent CPAC meeting and much of the conservative media are, for instance, full of dire warnings of a great Chinese military threat to America.
Beyond Left and Right
To change Washington from its cowboy, shoot-first approach to a more cooperative stance with other nations is not just a matter of defeating George Bush. Opposing new wars, whether in Iran or elsewhere, requires cooperation of the Left together with libertarians and constitutional conservatives. There is now a convergence of interests. The Left today is a minority and can’t expect to win power alone. The Republicans, because of the war, are splitting apart. Concern for deficits and constitutional freedoms have driven out libertarians, while immigration issues split business interests from the cultural conservatives.
To work together, the Left and Right must first confront their differences. There are past animosities and fundamental divergences in worldviews. Arguments that move one side have little effect on the other. In general the Left is more focused on America’s shortcomings and emotional issues, while the Right fears the outside world and looks to simplistic military solutions for most problems.

Now it's a bit much for Party Hacks because it requires thought and not just parroting talk points in print (they are the Carville and Begala of the print set). Micah wrote he didn't agree with every point in the essay but wondered why The Nation couldn't offer that kind of exploration?

Here's a question for Micah, why can Iraq Veterans Against the War offer thought pieces when the magazine can't? Brendan notes Vic Blazier's "What have we become?:"

It's now four years since we invaded Iraq. FOUR YEARS, dammit! It's time the America people looked themselves in the mirror and asked some painful questions. Namely, are we a nation full of self-righteous hypocrites? Not sure? Think good and hard while pondering the following...
Regarding the legitimacy of preemptive warfare- The world agrees it was wrong when Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and even Saddam Hussein did it. Why then is it permissible for America to preemptively invade other sovereign nations?
Regarding the justifications for the Iraq invasion- Why did the U.S. ultimately spit in the face of the U.N. to invade Iraq for apparently spitting in the face of the U.N.? Why did we use dangerous nuclear weapons in the form of depleted uranium (DU) as we invaded Iraq looking for supposed "dangerous nuclear weapons programs"? Will we also use our "dangerous nuclear weapons" on Iran in order to keep them from obtaining "dangerous nuclear weapons"? If not, are we providing others, perhaps Israel, with similar weapons for use on their enemies much as we feared Iraq and Iran would if they secured advanced weaponry?
Regarding who and who can't have WMD's- Why are we, the only country in the world to actually use nuclear weapons on another county (TWICE!), reserving the right to determine who can have this technology? If we're so worthy of our right to have nuclear weapons, why are we considering the use of nukes on another country (Iran) in order to stop them from developing the same weapons we use so willingly? Since countries that actually have nuclear weapons are left unmolested by the U.S., are we inadvertently encouraging other countries to race for Nuclear Club status as a form of deterrence against American empirical aggression?
Regarding spreading democracy- The American people went to war in Korea and Vietnam to stop the spread of communism -an unsavory but, none the less, internationally recognized form of government. Why are we now the ones spreading our own form of government throughout the World? Is this a democratic ideal that we should be proud of?

Taking a break for community business here. As many guessed, Hilda is the one starting the new community newsletter mentioned in Polly's Brew Sunday. It will publish on Tuesdays and the biggest difficulty was, believe it or not, a name. Kat suggested Hilda's Mix and Hilda wanted to be sure Cedric wouldn't be bothered by that (Cedric's site is Cedric's Mix) which, of course, he wasn't. Hilda is deaf and her primary focus is going to be serving those members of the community. She's got an interview with a disabled vet for the this Tuesday's edition. Ava and I will be do a column each week on radio programs (yes, this morning was serving as an introduction to that). Democracy Now! has transcripts available, Free Speech Radio News makes a text version available of their headlines (and prior to that, Eli was transcribing the headlines for members of the community who could not hear them). But there are a number of programs that have been discussed here (more often by Ruth -- who will have a report this weekend, I benched her and told her to take last weekend off) that they read a thing or two about but would like an overview to. Robert will type a column written by him and his wife (who is blind) and that will be a weekly column. I've written about this in depth for tomorrow's gina & krista round-robin. Hilda's e-mail address is at the top of the column and if you'd like to sign up for Hilda's Brew, please e-mail her. It will be a "mix" and the first newsletter, about 80% completed, is very strong. So I hope there is a lot of interest among the community in this newsletter. Francisco, Maria and Miguel have a piece in the first edition (and an interview with Hilda for their El Espiritu Sunday) and Francisco asked me to note that their newsletter started off slowly "until we started offering English translations for every piece, so don't assume Hilda's newsletter is not universal in appeal. This is something you do not want to miss." I'm not sure what I'm going to write about after the first six weeks, but I'll be doing a weekly column. (I've already lined up six friends with disabilities/challenges who've agreed to talk about their experiences -- the first of which is done and will run Tuesday. After the six weeks, I may stay with that or try something else.) West has agreed to do a weekly illustration and says, "It won't be on the level of what Isaiah does, but I'll share what I've learned and enjoyed from The World Today Just Nuts." I'm sure I'm forgetting something but it's discussed in the gina & krista round-robin so check your inboxes tomorrow morning. And take a minute to salute Gina and Krista who did the first community newsletter. We now have that, and the bi-weekly one from the UK Computer Gurus, Polly's Brew each Sunday, El Espiritu also on Sundays and now Hilda's Mix on Tuesdays.

Back to topic, we'll close with Charlie's highlight, (PDF format) "Military Families Speak Out Responds to Senate Vote To Continue Funding For Iraq War:"

Contact: Riptide Communications, 212-260-5000
Nancy Lessin, Military Families Speak Out, 617-320-5301

Washington, D.C., March 29, 2007: Today, Military Families Speak out, the largest organization of military families speaking out against a war in the history of the United States, issued the following statement in response to the vote in the U.S. Senate to provide continued funding for the Iraq war:

"The Senate has now joined the U.S. House of Representatives in abandoning our troops by passing legislation that will provide funding for a continued U.S. military occupation of Iraq. While leaders in both the House and Senate point to the deadlines or time limits in both versions of the supplemental appropriations bill, the reality remains that the Senate version of the bill contains only non-enforceable 'guidelines' for troop withdrawal, and the House version has exceptions to their August, 2008 'deadline' that would allow tens of thousands of troops to remain in Iraq indefinitely. With three U.S. troops and countless Iraqi children, women and men dying each day, with thousands more being wounded both physically and psychologically, end dates -- even if they were enforceable -- that extend into spring and summer of 2008 are simply unacceptable.

"People across this nation voted in November for an end to the war, not for Congress to provide President Bush with the funds to continue it. Our loved ones were first betrayed when they were sent off to fight a war based on lies. Congress is now continuing that betrayal by failing [to] cut off funding for this unjustifiable war.

"Miliary Familes Speak Out renews our calls for Congress to use their 'power of the purse' to support our troops and de-fund the war. We call on Congres to fund our troops by funding a safe and orderly withdrawal from Iraq and by funding care for our troops when they return home. This is the 'funding for troops' that is desperately needed.

"Leadership and courage, two character traits that our loved ones rely on every day as they put their lives on the line, seem to be in short supply on Capitol Hill. We hope that as the Supplemental Appropriations bill goes through the House-Senate Conference Committee and then back to the floors of the House and Senate, we will see our elected officials stand up for our troops and for our nation by ending the funds that allow this unjustifiable war to continue and providing the funds for a safe and orderly withdrawal and the care they need when they get home."

Military and Gold Star Families, members of Military Families Speak Out and its national chapter Gold Star Families Speak Out are available for interview.

For more information about Military Families Speak Out see

BE HONEST, do you really think a gas bag carrying water for Dems in Congress has spent as much time thinking about the illegal war has as the families in Military Families Speak Out? (No, they haven't.) The e-mail address for this site is

and the war drags on