Saturday, March 24, 2007

Politicians or citizens asks Howard Zinn

As I write this, Congress is debating timetables for withdrawal from Iraq. In response to the Bush Administration's "surge" of troops, and the Republicans' refusal to limit our occupation, the Democrats are behaving with their customary timidity, proposing withdrawal, but only after a year, or eighteen months. And it seems they expect the anti-war movement to support them.
That was suggested in a recent message from MoveOn, which polled its members on the Democrat proposal, saying that progressives in Congress, "like many of us, don't think the bill goes far enough, but see it as the first concrete step to ending the war."
Ironically, and shockingly, the same bill appropriates $124 billion in more funds to carry the war. It's as if, before the Civil War, abolitionists agreed to postpone the emancipation of the slaves for a year, or two years, or five years, and coupled this with an appropriation of funds to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.
When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them.
We who protest the war are not politicians. We are citizens. Whatever politicians may do, let them first feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not for what is winnable, in a shamefully timorous Congress.

The above is from Howard Zinn's "Are We Politicians or Citizens?" (The Progressive). Lloyd noted it and it says what's needed and a bit more. (A bit more? Elaine had the idea to use the suffragette movement to illustrate a point for something at The Third Estate Sunday Review. Zinn uses another example but makes the point she came up with. I called Elaine to point that out and she said, "Of course.") (Elaine is a huge admirer of Zinn's.) (That's the short version, she's going to open with this on Monday and talk a bit more about it.) So be sure to read it, it's as basic as Norman Solomon's points. And it's strange that these basic points are so obviously ignored by Party Hacks and Flacks. We're opening with it because it's important and more important than anything on Iraq in the New York Times this morning.

Staying with topics that matter, Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale gets another strong review -- Eric highlights John Freeman's "Two new books explore Iraq war" (Louisville Courier-Journal):

"Just a decade ago," begins this broken bottle of a book, "I was playing high school football, living in a trailer with my mom and stepdad, working at Kentucky Fried Chicken, and hoping to raise a family one day in the only town I knew: Guthrie, Okla."
All that changed for Joshua Key in 2002 when -- in his early 20s, his wife pregnant with their third child -- he decided to enlist with the U.S. Army in what he was promised would be a noncombat unit.
But Key was really slated for combat, and his training started right away. It's a familiar tale, full of barking drill sergeants and trauma, and Key's tale has a raw, dangerous, traumatized quality. Key describes without judging -- so the reader experiences along with him his journey toward rejecting the military.
In boot camp, as Key relates it, he and his fellow soldiers are taught Iraqis are "ragheads" and "sand n***ers." In the field, they're encouraged to ransack at will.
Key and his battalion were stationed in Ramadi, where on patrol they searched one to four houses per night. When nothing incriminatory is found, they simply destroy, and when there's nothing to destroy, they steal: gold, money, weapons, a TV. All men in the houses they search are taken away -- where, Key doesn't know.
Key describes other, more malignant scenarios: At checkpoints, he and others take out their frustration on civilians, who are beaten or killed outright, their bodies left to rot in the sun. In one grisly scene, spooked soldiers butcher a group of civilians by accident and then play soccer with their heads.
Key went AWOL while on home leave in December 2003 after being in Iraq for about six months. As an account of what that life is like,
The Deserter's Tale is not full of many surprises. But as a chronicle of the experiences that led one soldier to this irrevocable step, Key's is a grim and necessary book.

The Deserter's Tale really is a must read. It's getting strong reviews and that's coming from the left and the right (the John Birch Society is not the left -- or even the center). (Sunday, we noted Key's book in "2 Books, 10 Minutes.") So if you haven't read it yet, you're really missing something. (And remember, the US military was so enthralled with it, that they apparently started a traveling book club to seek out the author.)

Staying with things that matter, from Alexander Cockburn's "Where are the Laptop Bombardiers Now?" (CounterPunch):

There's plenty of blame to go round. You'd think these days that the cheerleaders for war were limited to a platoon of neocons, as potent in historical influence as were supposedly the Knights Templar. But it was not so. The coalition of the enablers spread far beyond Cheney's team and the extended family of Norman Podhoretz. Atop mainstream corporate journalism perch the New York Times and the New Yorker, two prime disseminators of pro-invasion propaganda, written at the NYT by Judith Miller, Michael Gordon and, on the op ed page, by Thomas Friedman. The New Yorker put forth the voluminous lies of Jeffrey Goldberg and has remained impenitent till this day.
The war party virtually monopolized television. AM radio poured out a filthy torrent of war bluster. The laptop bombardiers such as Salman Rushdie were in full war paint. Among the progressives the liberal interventionists thumped their tin drums, often by writing pompous pieces attacking the antiwar "hard left". Mini-pundits Todd Gitlin and Michael Berube played this game eagerly. Berube lavished abuse on Noam Chomsky and other clear opponents of the war, mumbling about the therapeutic potential of great power interventionism, piously invoking the tradition of "left internationalism". Others, like Ian Williams, played supportive roles in instilling the idea that the upcoming war was negotiable, instead of an irreversible intent of the Bush administration, no matter what Saddam Hussein did. "The ball will be very much in Saddam Hussein's court," Williams wrote in November, 2002. "The question is whether he will cooperate and disarm, or dissimulate and bring about his own downfall at the hands of the U.S. military." (In fact Saddam had already "disarmed", as disclosed in Hussein Kamel's debriefings by the UNSCOM inspectors, the CIA and MI6 in the summer of 1995 when Kamel told them all, with corroboration from aides who had also defected, that on Saddam Hussein's orders his son-in-law had destroyed all of Iraq's WMDs years earlier, right after the Gulf War. This was not a secret. In February 2003 John Barry reported it in Newsweek. Anyone privy to the UNSCOM, CIA and MI6 debriefs knew it from 1995 on.)
As Iraq began to plunge ever more rapidly into the abyss not long after the March, 2003 attack, this crowd stubbornly mostly stayed the course with Bush. "Thumpingly blind to the war's virtues" was the head on a Paul Berman op ed piece in February, 2004. Christopher Hitchens lurched regularly onto Hardball to hurl abuse at critics of the war.
But today, amid Iraq's dreadful death throes, where are the parlor warriors? Have those Iraqi exiles reconsidered their illusions, that all it would take was a brisk invasion and a new constitution, to put Iraq to rights? Have any of them, from Makiya through Hitchens to Berman and Berube had dark nights, asking themselves just how much responsibility they have for the heaps of dead in Iraq, for a plundered nation, for the American soldiers who died or were crippled in Iraq at their urging ? Sometimes I dream of them, -- Friedman, Hitchens, Berman -- like characters in a Beckett play, buried up to their necks in a rubbish dump on the edge of Baghdad, reciting their columns to each other as the local women turn over the corpses to see if one of them is her husband or her son.

Cockburn and Jeffery St. Clair's End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate is out. I'm only half-way through it but it's a strong book -- and not a rehash. Thursday night, we did the roundtable that ran in Friday's gina & krista roundrobin. One of the points Keesha made was that Bill Press, et al, started writing their bad books and suddenly the 'left' stopped appearing on the bestsellers list. That's because the pundit set ('left') were offering tired rehash. We'd already read brave books by other authors on the same topic. As those people (Greg Palast, et al) had done the hard work (and actually had something to say) it became something publishers saw as a 'sure thing' and too many 'authors' were given the chance to make a quick buck with PowerPoint presentations (they appear to have studied book writing under the aegis of James Carville and Paul Begala). Cockburn and St. Clair advance the topic they're covering, this isn't a rehash (or a PowerPoint presentation). I really loved Whiteout and I know a lot of members picked that up after Eli reviewed it for Polly's Brew, but I think this is an even stronger book.

Staying on the strong topics, but turning to radio, RadioNation with Laura Flanders (Saturdays and Sundays, 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm EST, Air America Radio, XM radio and online) has this lineup for the weekend:

The Democratic party's contenders are courting Nevadans, especially the labor movement's all important ground troops. In a big weekend of meetings and rallies we'll check in with D. TAYLOR, Secretary-Treasurer of
Culinary Workers Local 226, the powerhouse casino workers union, and Assemblywoman SHEILA LESLIE, who wants the Democrats' health care policy to shape up. Then, JEFF KISSELOFF, author of the book, Generation on Fire: Voices of Protest from the 1960s, an Oral History, in which witnesses, like, GLORIA RICHARDSON, who was the coordinator of the Cambridge branch of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and PAUL KRASSNER, talk about their motives and actions during the protests of the 1960s.

Afghan activist, and Chair of the
Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Dr. SIMA SAMAR on the dismal state of her homeland post invasion, and KATHERINE SPILLAR, Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine on how our misperception of that country is affecting our policy toward it. Plus, ANNABELLE GURWITCH on her 'full of laughs' film Fired!, which is premiering on the Showtime Network this month.

Now moving to the New York Times. If you have to read anything, Alissa J. Rubin's "9 Die as Assassins’ Blasts Wound Sunni Deputy Premier" which should be "Assassin's Blast" -- he was only wounded by the bombing near the mosque, not by the one near his home. We covered this in the snapshot, there's not much new here. On the topic of the attempted assassination of Salam al-Zobaie, Iraq's deputy prime minister, Leila Fadel and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reported: "The man believed to be behind the attack on al-Zobaie was a personal guard, Waheb al-Dulaimy, from the troubled Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah, said Omar Abd al-Saytar, a leading legislator from the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party." Rubin doesn't have the name in this report. She does note the corpse count for bodies discovered in Baghdad Friday was 26. Otherwise, ignore the paper unless you need laughter at the lack of skepticism given to Condi Rice (in keeping with the paper) and the latest claims that this time, honest, reconstruction is really, really going to start.

We don't note anything that utilizes the laughable SITE even if they note that there's no confirmation of SITE's 'findings.' Basic journalism should have long ago sent Katz and her organization out of the realm of any respectable or psuedo-respectable mainstream news outlet.

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

And there's a bit more to note so I'll do two entries this morning. The e-mail address for this site is