Yesterday, both houses of the US Congress demonstrated how quickly they can act . . . when anything stands in the way of their own vacation. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes today, "Congress has approved nearly $100 billion dollars in war spending through September without a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq." Goodman notes the final House vote was 280 for and 142 against and the final Senate vote was 80 in favor and 14 against. In addition, Democracy Now! provided clips of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi -- who demonstrated that sneering at science and academics isn't solely a GOP thing as she used the ridiculously low figure of "over 100,000 Iraqis" dead when the study conducted by the British medical journal The Lancet placed the figure, last year, at over 655,000 -- and House Minority Leader John Boehner -- who demonstrated he could stay "on message" ("terrorists!") even while sobbing like a guest on the daytime TV circuit speaking of their 'personal' battle with an addiction -- Boehner apparently being addicted to illegal war, mass killing, and fantasy. Evelyn Pringle (CounterPunch) observes, "Congress has demonstrated its unconditional love for the Bush administration by handing the war profiteers another $100 billion worth of good reasons to keep the war in Iraq rolling along at full-throttle. [. . . ] And the statements in speeches made by members of Congress while debating the bills don't mean anything because 95% of Americans never hear those speeches. Honest politicians should be out screaming to any reporter who will listen to educate Americans about where the hundreds of billions of tax dollars have ended up. This war is 100 times worse than Viet Nam. At least with Viet Nam, the war profits were not being funneled over the backs of our dead soldiers in plain sight directly into the bank accounts of current and former members of the administrations in power at the time. Nor were they being funneled to the family bank accounts of the Presidents who were in office during the Viet Nam war." The BBC notes that, following the grandstanding of Congress and the Bully Boy, "Hours later, the US military reported the deaths of five soldiers in Iraq." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid laughably announced of the bill that fully funds the illegal war and makes the Democrats equal partners in Bully Boy's illegal war, "The days of blank cheques and green lights for his failed policy are over." By which Reid appears to mean that the US Congress has instead handed Bully Boy a debit card and asked kindly that he please not visit the ATMs too often.
The Democrats full bodied, naked embrace of the illegal war comes at a time when the American people turn ever more against the illegal war. The public began turning against the war in 2005 and, since then, the opinion has only hardened. A CBS poll this week found that 76% of Americans polled felt "the war is going badly" -- an increase of ten percent -- and 61% maintain that the US "should have stayed out" of Iraq. A CBS poll? Well the New York Times has finally agreed to allow their names back on the joint polling and somehow managed to avoid all the media critics who must have been sleeping while CBS issued one poll after another on Iraq the last few months while the paper of little record appeared to suddenly be poll shy. Though they weren't called out on that, they should have been. The poll is, indeed, a joint-poll by CBS and the New York Times -- as were the recent polls billed just as CBS polls because the paper really didn't want to cover the American public's ever growing opposition to the illegal war. But they've put their names back on the poll. And gladly run it . . . under the headline "Poll Shows View of Iraq War Is Most Negative Since Start" . . . on page A16 of today's paper. To no one's surprise at the paper, Janet Elder avoids it like a plague so it's left for Dalia Sussman to write it up. The paper hasn't been in the news business for over a century, it's in the management business and Sussman's happy to do her part. Which is how her ridiculous write up can avoid the issue of withdrawal which the poll found [PDF format warning for the link] 63% of Americans favor (32% wanted no timetable for withdrawal -- Bully Boy's approval rating was 30%). 63% of Americans favorite withdrawal from Iraq? Sounds like a front page headline. (Sussman doesn't even note it in her laughable write up until paragraph nine where it's noted for two sentences and then never built upon or mentioned again.)
Not only isn't it a headline, the Times (again) buries the poll deep inside the paper. When they refused to run with the joint-polling over the previous months, questions should have been asked but possibly people don't actually read the Times anymore, they just visit links? Though this poll doesn't make the front page, another does, on immigration. (The Times is working overtime to sell the Congressional efforts to strip immigrants of their rights -- including immigrants that are American citizens because they were born in the United States.) 63% of Americans say a timetable needs to be set for Iraq withdrawal and the Times publishes that on the same day that the Congress votes to continue funding the illegal war and drops any mention of withdrawal. The poll's not news? 76% saying the illegal war is "going badly" and 61% say the US never should have invaded Iraq and Congress elects to do nothing but it's not news?
Well why not? 3 American soldiers went missing two Saturdays ago -- in an attack that killed 4 others and 1 Iraqi translator, and the paper didn't front page that until seven days after it happened. One of the 3 has now been declared dead and the paper's not interested in front paging that either. (The search continues for the 2 still missing.) However, Michael Gordon's unsourced speculation that Moqtada al-Sadr was in Iran is front page news -- despite the fact that it has no named "American official" source to it, despite the fact that it doesn't include the news that al-Sadr spoke in Kufa today (calling for US troops to leave Iraq). Our Rona Barrett of the Grey Lady leaps to the front page with a story proclaiming al-Sadr has been in Iran despite the fact that, as the BBC noted today, "This was never confirmed."
Exactly whom is Gordo working for because, for a reporter, he appears to miss a great deal? Last week, one of the world's oldest think tanks, Chatham House, issued another report. As expected, the same mainstream media that ignored the previous report (taking Tony Blair to task for getting in bed with the United States and becoming nothing but a lackey to the Bully Boy) foamed over the mouth on this one (including Gordo's own paper -- maybe he can't read?)
The PDF format report "Accepting Realities in Iraq" included a heading entitled "Muqtada al-Sadr cannot be ignored" -- a position Gordo appears to share. However, Chatham House argued that due to his base, popularity and influence, al-Sadr cannot be ignored and strong efforts should be made to bring him into the political process. (Yesterday's news that puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki was replacing the six ministers from al-Sadr's camp who had resigned would indicate that al-Maliki also hasn't read the report.) This at a time when Gareth Porter (IPS) reports that al-Sadr (a Shi'ite cleric) appears to have strong support from the Sunni resistance with the binding factor being their joint demand for US forces out of Iraq. Porter is offering an analysis and building on (and crediting) work done by Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) at the start of this week. Also at the start of the week, Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London via CounterPunch) broke the news that in 2004, the US military attempted to assassinate al-Sadr in Najaf which, surprisingly?, never made it into the New York Times.
But then, so much of the violence doesn't -- the real 'hidden violence' despite the Times' laughable claims last Saturday.
While the US military attempts to divide Baghdad by 'walls' (over the objections of the puppet of the occupation), some Iraqis attempt to divide the capital by bombing bridges. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) notes the latest bombing -- "the bridge linking Al Adil and Al Khadraa neighborhoods in west Baghad" -- as well Baghdad mortar attacks that killed 4 people (15 wounded), and a Baghdad explosion that killed 1 person, a car bombing in Muqdadiyah that killed 4 police officers (6 civilians wounded).
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 20 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes two corpses were discovered in Latifiya.
Reuters also notes the following announced deaths of US service members in Iraq (all announced today): 2 US soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad (Thursday), 1 US soldier killed in Nineveh Province by a roadside bomb (Thursday), 1 US soldier killed by a Baghdad roadside bomb (Tuesday), 1 US soldier killed by in Salahaddin Province by a roadside bomb (Thursday), and 1 US Soldier killed by gunfire (Thursday) in Diyala Province. The six deaths add to a mounting count for the month which ICCC calculates to currently be 93 for the month thus far. Only April has had more US military fatalities with 104 and, of course, May still has six days left in it. ICCC's count for the total number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war stands at 3444.
Among the victims of violence are women though they remain the true hidden victims. Kasia Anderson (TruthDig) interviews Yanar Mohammed (Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq) and asks early on the obvious (though usually unasked) question, "How did the onset of the Iraq war change things for Iraqi women, specifically?" Mohammed replies, "Well, although people on this part of the world think that Iraqi women are liberated, actually, we have lost all of the achievements or all the status that we used to have. It is no longer safe to leave your house and get groceries. We're not speaking here about a young woman trying to reach the university, because that is beginning to get too difficult. We're not speaking here about women who are trying to go back and forth to work and even those of my friends who do that already because they have to--many of the police at work are being killed for sectarian reasons. So, you have to witness all sorts of atrocities just going back and forth to work, and if there is this new [policy] of Sunni and Shiite, checking all the IDs of people, you leave the house and you do not guarantee that you come back safe. [. . .] Well, the myth of democracy has killed already half a million Iraqis, and if it were giving us real democracy, where people are represented according to their political affiliations or their economic understanding or their social justice affiliations, that would have been understood. But the way Iraqis are represented is according to their religion and their ethnicities. It is as if the U.S. administration is trying to tell the whole world that Iraqis are not entitled to political understanding or political activity. The political formula that was forwarded to us is a total insult for a part of the world where the politics are very much thriving and all kinds of politics--with the dawn of the war, thousands of political parties have registered. And they all wanted to be competing, or let's say running into democracy, but who was empowered, who was supported? It's mostly the religious and mostly the ethnic groups, and the women's groups? The U.S. administration wasn't really interested to speak to, let's say, free women's groups. They preferred to bring decorative factors to the parliament, where they look like women, but they all voted for a constitution that is against women. And the constitution at this moment has imposed Shariah law upon us, when in the times before the war we had more of a secular constitution that respected women’s rights. So, it's one more thing lost for this war."
Yanar Mohammed mentioned university students. On Tuesday, the Ibn Al Haitham college faced a mortar attack in Baghdad that left at least 4 students dead and at least 25 wounded while, same day, an attack, in Baghdad, on a mini-bus claimed the lives of 9 students (including two female students). On Wednesday, Baghdad's National Theater was attacked with mortarts leaving at least one person wounded. The theater is where college students and recent college graduates have mounted a new play, The Intensive Care Unit, which castmember Rita Casber described to Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) as "Our play is a miniature of our reality. It conveys the reality the people in Iraq are subjected to." Londono noted that Casber is the sole woman in the cast and late to the cast -- she joined only after death threats (over the 'crime' of wearing a tank top on stage) forced the original actress to leave the production.
On the subject of schools, Alive in Baghdad intervews students at the girls' school in Baghdad, Safina Middle School. The link is not currently working, we'll quote the students next week. Last month, Alive in Baghdad interviewed Hameeda al-Bassam who works a private library in Baghdad and spoke of the difficulties she encounters traveling, in her wheelchair, through checkpoints and scenes of violence to arrive at work. She spoke of inside the library as one of the few places where the chaos and violence has yet to emerge and noted, with regret, that due to the violence she has had to curtail her work week. Please note that the videos have audio and an English translation at the bottom which can serve as closed captioning.
Also on the subject of women in Iraq, the AP reported yesterday that Clenard M. Simmons was given a 30 year sentence after pleading guilty (April 5th) "to four counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of aggravated sexual abuse for five attacks from February 2004 to May 2005" which took place at Fort Hood as well as while he was stationed in Iraq and the victims were five female US service members. The AP noted that "Simmons attacked the soldiers in their barracks, groping and threatening them."
Though frequently ignored and swept under the rug, women serving in Iraq are under very real attack from those serving with them. For more on this, see Jane Hoppen's "Women in the Military: Who's Got Your Back?," Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff's "The Rape of the 'Hadji Girl'," and
Allison Tobey's "Serving in the Rape Zone" (Off Our Backs); Traci Hukill's "A Peculiar Version of Friendly Fire: Female Troops Face Double Danger" (The Progressive); and "Women and the military" (The Third Estate Sunday Review). And always look to what happened to Suzanne Swift. Swift went to Iraq wanting to serve her country (US) and quickly discovered that those above her expected her to serve them. Repeated attempts to stop the abuse and harassment resulted in no action (unless a course in how Swift could learn not to 'invite' harassment is considered 'action' -- anyone thinking it is should have their head examined). Swift self-checked out. As Sara Rich, Swift's mother, has noted, Swift wasn't against the illegal war. Swift wasn't saying, "I will not go back because I'm against the war." She checked out because when the military refuses to discipline their own, you have to take the situation into your own hands. To not do so would be 'inviting' harassment. There's not a (rational) woman alive who should be able to question Swift's decision to self-check out. She was abused, she was harassed, she was the victim of command rape, and the military did nothing. She went through channels and rather than disciplining the ones breaking the code of conduct (and exhibiting criminal behaviors) the military's 'answer' was to 'teach' Swift how not to 'invite' criminal acts upon her person. (Which is similar to the US military's refusal to punish those enlisted males who regularly attack women serving when the women go to take a shower. Instead of coming down hard and sending a strong message that the crime of rape is not tolerated in the US military, the military elects to caution women to 'buddy up' and never visit the latrines alone.) So Swift self-checked out, the smartest thing she could have done and no (rational) woman would say otherwise.
Swift is now against the war and the treatment she experienced (laughably known as military 'justice') went a long way towards opening her eyes. In a climate that regularly rails against the military banning YouTube and blog postings, you might think the gag order imposed upon Swift would raise some righteous indignation but websites have largely been silent. Swift's mother, Sara Rich, is not gagged and Melissa Sanders (Socialst Alternative) interviews her -- Rich explains that her daughter's been extended in the military through January 2009 and, in response to a question about the "sexualized violence against female soldiers," rightly notes,
"We're teaching guys about 18 to kill, and that killing's ok, before they are even allowed to legally drink. If you do that, I mean, who's going to tell them that raping isn't ok?"
Along with Sanders' article, more information can be found at Suzanne Swift's website. (Which her mother runs and the military has no control over Sara Rich.)
Turning to the issue of war resisters, The Shreveport Times reports that Jackie Leroy Moore was arrested in Shreveport today for self-checking out and that he is the fourth self-check out to be arrested in Shreveport this year. Though the military continues to undercount the number of enlisted choosing to self-check out (undercounts for the press, they know the privately held number), this is part of the growing resistance within the military to the illegal war. "It now appears that if this war in Iraq is to end, it will be our soldiers who will have to bring it about," observes Albert Petraca (JuneauEmpire). "Nowadays, our soldiers also know this war is lost. Thankfully, soldiers have begun to take matters into their own hands. From U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada's refusing deployment to Iraq, to the appeal for redress now circulating among active-duty personnel, to Iraq Veterans Against the War's recent decision to support resisters, we are seeing the initial stirrings of what will likely grow into a movement of soldiers in revolt. The Defense Department recently admitted that at least 3,196 troops deserted in 2006, with an 8 percent increase already in the first quarter of 2007. Plummeting enlistment standards are unlikely to fill this void. The life-altering decisions made by these brave men and women are, in many ways, even more difficult than those made by former resisters. Today's volunteer soldier, unlike Vietnam-era draftees, is too often callously scolded by the mostly comfortable for having freely signed a recruitment contract and, therefore, must suffer the consequences. This judgmental attitude reveals a profound disrespect for service men and women who answered their country's call based on a belief that their government spoke truthfully about weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi links to 9/11. We now know that the pretense used to play on their genuine feelings of duty was little more than a pack of lies."
Watada is part of growing movement of resistance within the US military that also includes Joshua Key, Terri Johnson, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty 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.
Heads up, the latest Bill Moyers Journal begins airing in some markets tonight (PBS -- each station can determine when they air an episode) and features Maxine Hong-Kingston. (Transcripts and video will go up at Bill Moyers Journal.)
Finally, independent journalist John Pilger is on a speaking tour with his new book Freedom Next Time and his documentary Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror (which looks at DC, Afghanistan and Iraq). June 7th, he will discuss his book with Amy Goodman at The New School, Tishman Auditorium, 66 West 12th Street, beginning at 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:15). Admission is $5 per person and students (with ID) can attend for free. Pilger will sign copies of his book afterwards and Amy Goodman will sign copies of her latest book (written with her brother David Goodman) Static. "For ticket information, contact (212) 229-5488 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or email@example.com For more information, click here or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org."
June 11th, Pilger will be in Los Angeles at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (244 S. San Pedro St.) and will discuss his book and show his documentary beginning at 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:00 pm). The price of admission to the even is five dollars. "Directions, maps, and parking info at: http://www.jaccc.org/directions.htmPresented by The Center for Economic Research and Social Change, and The Nation Institute, with support from the Wallace Global Fund. For ticket information, call or visit the JACCC. Box office: 213-680-3700 (Box Office Hours: Monday - Saturday: Noon - 5 pm)For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or email@example.com For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org."
June 13th finds him in San Francisco showing his film and discussing his book at Yerba Beuna Center for Arts (beginning at 7:00 pm, doors open at 6:00 pm) and the price of admission is $15 general and $5 for students. "Presented by The Center for Economic Research and Social Change, The Nation Institute, and KPFA, with support from the Wallace Global Fund. For ticket information, call 415-978-2787 or order online at http://www.ybca.org/. In person tickets at YBCA Box office located inside the Galleries and Forum Building, 701 Mission Street at Third. (Hours: Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat & Sun: noon - 5 pm; Thu: noon - 8 pm.) For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or email@example.com For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org."
From San Francisco, he moves on to Chicago for the 2007 Socialism conference. At 11:30 am Saturday June 16th, he and Anthony Arnove will participate in a conversation, audience dialogue and book signing (Arnove is the author most recently of IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal) and that evening (still June 16th) at 7:30 Pilger will be at Chicago Crowne Plaza O'Hare (5440 North River Road, Rosemont, IL 60018) as part of a panel of international activists. To attend the conference, the fee is $85. For Saturday and Sunday only, the price is $70. To attend only one session, the cost is ten dollars. "Presented by The Center for Economic Research and Social Change, The Nation Institute, with support from the Wallace Global Fund. Co-sponsors: Obrera Socialista, Socialist Worker, International Socialist Review, and Haymarket Books. For ticket information, call 773-583-8665 or e-mail email@example.com For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, email email@example.com."
The Socialism 2007 conference will take place in Chicago from June 14-17. Along with Pilger and Arnove, others participating will include Dahr Jamail, Laura Flanders, Kelly Dougherty, Joshua Frank, Amy Goodman, Sharon Smith, Dave Zirin, Camilo Mejia, Jeremy Scahill, Jeffrey St. Clair and many others.
the washington post
cheryl lindsey seelhoff
bill moyers journal