Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, July 25, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, Ann Wright explains what John Conyers can't grasp (or pretends not to grasp), Katrina vanden Heuvel thinks being editor & publisher means playing favorites, Baraba Lee proves there are some leaders in Congress, Tina Richards proves there are truth tellers, BBC tells about back in the day when the Bush family tried to overthrow FDR, and more.

Starting with war resistance.  Today on KPFK's Uprising, Sonali Kohatkar interviewed  Agustin Aguayo and Helga Aguayo.  Aguayo self-checked out the US military at the start of September on the eve of his second deployment to Iraq (and while his CO requests were being ignored to such a point that they were now fighting in the civilian courts) and turned himself before the end of the month. Earlier this year, in Germany, Aguayo was court-martialed.  He is now speaking out about his experiences.

Agustin explained to Kohatkar that the time since being released from military prison and returning to the United States have been an adjustment becuase "for so long I was part of a system where everything was laid out."  Helga spoke of what it was like for her when the persecution of her husband was taking place, "It's been very difficult. . . . It's been very stressful.  My health has detirated a little but I'm getting stronger."  Helga and Agusin are the parents of twin daughters (12-year-olds).  Agustin declared that he speaks now to get the word out and "something of great importance to me is reaching out to the youth".  Agustin noted the recruitment efforts targeting young people today and hopes that by speaking he can count that "and share with them the other side of the story, the side advertisements and recruiters won't ever tell them."

In addition to the false promises recruiters to make to all children (generally the children of low income families), Kohatkar noted that there is also the promise of citizenship offered to those who will fight in the US military although they are not citizens.  Kohatkar noted that 32,000 immigrants had been naturalized as a result of serving in the US miltiary.

Reflecting on his awakening (it was a religious awakening and Agustin has spoken of it in those terms), Agustin stated, "I came to see myself as what I truly am.  A person that is peaceful. . . . The missions I was participating in were not naturally peaceful ones so I regret some of them."

Helga spoke to the issues of what can be done from the outside.  She termed the period during which the military was persecuting her husband "sheer terror for us" and spoke of living in fear that the military would physically harm if she spoke out or retaliate against him.  What she discovered was, "The louder I spoke, the more support I got.  The louder I spoke, the more media attention it got him.  So I had to get over my fear." 

Where things stand now is that Agustin is "still part of the military" and "basically I have a legal right to appeal my court-martial".  Kohtkar asked what was the worst that could happen right now?  Noting the current "political environment," Agustin pointed out that "recently Marines and soldiers with the inactive-ready reserves have been prosecuted for speaking out."  That would include Adam Kokesh (Cloy Richards and Liam Madden have also been among those harassed).  Agustin also noted how many were leaving the military often "in a quiet way without making any statements, including to their family."  Helga credited IVAW and others with "The moral support, the guidance" they offered and noted, "I do believe that we can stop this war.  You know the politicians have failed us and now it's up to us. . . . Maybe I'm being too optimistic but I think that eventually we can stop this war."

Aguayo is telling his story publicly and The Acorn reports that Aguayo will speak this Thursday from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at Grant Brimhall, Thousand Oaks Library, 1401 E. James Rd., that the event is "free and open to the public" and more information is available by calling (805) 375-9939. War resister Pablo Paredes will also be at the event.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Jared Hood and James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin 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, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

Now let's turn to periodical news and the biggest laugh (cited by friends at two networks and three daily papers), the Peace Resister Katrina vanden Heuvel.  It
was embarrassing enough that (once again) she was pushing a group on her blog (Editor's Cut) whose board both she and her father serve on (without DISLCOSING THAT while lavishing praise on the centrist group).  But she's not a journalist.  She's not a trained jouranlist and she continues to run The Nation as if it is the Palm Beach Social Pictoral and not an alleged independent weekly.

Today she demonstrates that not only may the posts editor and publisher beyond her grasp but so may be basic comprehension.  In the Democratic 'debate' this week, US Senator Barack Obama was asked a question and offered a response.  It demonstrated his lack of experience but Katrina vanden Heuvel drums up the case against Hillary Clinton and pushes the DLC Barack Obama by altering reality.  "In Monday's debate," she writes, "and with the benefit of having time to think through her response, Hillary Clinton posed as the foreign policy sophisticate to Barack Obama the bold leader who did not hesitate to say that he would meet with the leaders of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela."  No that is not what happened.

Transcript of the 'debate' (New York Times) shows Obama was asked if he would "meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?"  The first year.  Would he meet in the first year.  Obama responded, "I would."  Blah blah blah followed. 

David Corn gets it right. And it is a mistake.  (Tim Russert slipped in "insurgent Obama" on NBC's Today this morning.)  There is nothing wrong with diplomatic meetings, they should be encouraged.  But Katrina vanden Heuvel fudges reality to make it appear that's the issue when it isn't.  Obama agreed to meetings his first year in office.  You don't do that.  You don't show your hand in that way and you certainly don't announce first year meetings when you're not even in office.  This has nothing to do with Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez or any other leader, it has nothing to do with other countries.  It has everything to do with the way diplomacy is conducted.  You can indicate you're willing to consider it, you don't say, "Yes, I will have those meetings."   In terms of the way diplomacy is conducted and in terms of the way Obama's mistake will continue to play out, David Corn is correct.

Corn writes for The Nation.  Katrina vanden Heuvel holds the magazine's posts of editor and publisher.  Disagreeing with a writer for the magazine -- someone serving under -- publicly might or might not be 'bad form' but the fact that she then holds up another writer at the magazine is causing huge laughs: "My colleague Ari Berman posted his smart and sharp counter to David's argument . . ."  As the editor and the publisher, vanden Heuvel should give the appearance of detatchment with regards to those working beneath her.  Instead, she picks a favorite.  Again, she's not trained in journalism.  But she sure did provide a lot of laughter today.

Berman also shades reality by changing the issue at stake (the first year vanishes from Berman's critique as it did from Katrina vanden Heuvel's).  Now let's get to the real reality here.  (Friends pushed for this to be noted but that alone wouldn't have gotten it included in the snapshot.)  The tongue baths of Obama from The Nation are appalling.  As Bruce Dixon and Glen Ford have explained, Barack Obama was DLC in 2004.  He only ran from it when it threatened to become harmful.  Katrina vanden Heuvel and Ari Berman are gushing over Obama.  They are far, far from reality.  Barack Obama repeatedly stated in 2004 that the US could not withdraw from Iraq.  He repeatedly (publicly and privately) went on record being opposed to a withdrawal.  Why is it that an alleged left magazine has elected not to explore that and instead play cheerleader for him?  (While giving non-stop hisses to Hillary Clinton.) 

The Nation
's not trying to end the illegal war.  A strong but ultimately meaningless editorial every two years is not trying to end the illegal war.  An article that boasts of "dozens" of photos of abuse to Iraqis being turned over to the magazine that fails to feature any of those photographs isn't trying to end the illegal war or even to be a distant relation of journalism.  But the magazine wants to pretend (and really needs) it cares about the illegal war.  If it cares about the illegal war, it's past time for the magazine to get honest about Barack Obama.  It's beyond time for them to quit repeating the mainstream narrative of how Barack was right about the illegal war before it started unlike Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd without noting that repeatedly in 2004, Barack Obama argued that the US must not withdraw, must 'win' the illegal war, etc.  The one who wants credit for being right that the illegal war was wrong also needs to take his blame for saying that an illegal war should continue to drag on.  Pretending otherwise isn't helping anyone.

Pretending that Congressional leaders are attempting to end the illegal war isn't helping anyone either.  Tina Richards (via Democracy Rising) notes the obvious that's treated as if it must be kept unspoken -- the Levin-Reed Amendment will not "bring our troops home" or "end the war": "I had an opportunity to ask [Senate Majority] Leader [Harry] Reid about how many troops will be abandoned in Iraq.  He bluntly stated, 'we haven't spoken to the military yet, at this stage we don't know.'  We don't know?  They have pushed and prodded for this Amendment and they don't know?  If Members of Congress do not have any idea how large of a future force this amendment calls for, then how can we as military families possibly support it?  Senator Reid has admitted that this proposed 'pull-out plan' does nothing yet leave the decision up to the military leadership, who take their direction from President Bush.  It must be made clear to the public that the Levin-Reed Amendment does not call for a specific withdrawal from Iraq nor does it seek to revamp the American mission in the region."

Funding the war is Killing The Troops.  The message of Tina Richards' Grassroots America and Iraq Veterans Against the War.  It's basic, it's easy to communicate.  Want to bring the troops home safely?  Stop funding the illegal war.  Want to stop the US military air war on Iraq?  Stop funding the illegal war.
Want to stop the illegal war?  Stop farming yourself as the Pep Squad for Democratic Leadership in Congress which refuses to end the illegal war but prefers 'symbolic' action and shell games.

Appearing on KPFK 's Radio Active yesterday, Cindy Sheehan explained to host Michael Slate why she was running for the Congressional seat currently held by Nancy Pelosi (who also holds the title of House Majority Leader).  Sheehan explained that, in light of US House Rep John Conyers' public promises (that the MSM has ignored) in recent days, she was hopeful going into the meeting on Monday with Conyers.  The meeting didn't go well.  Sheehan explained that Conyers said they didn't have the votes "he doesn't want to look foolish . . . Fox News would have a field day with that." Conyers proposed that the answer was in voting for Democrats in 2008.  Sheehan explained that this is an example of how  "the two-party system that really gets nothing done.  Congress has made themselves invalid and irrelevant  . . .  I think it's about time that they do their job."  And if they won't, then it is up to the voters, Sheehan explained, noting that the most recent legislation has shown "more earmarks for defense spending than the Republicans did." 

Today on KPFK  Uprising featured a Global Voices for Justice interview with John Conyers that was taped over the weekend.  Conyers described the situtation as "really bad. We've never been in this situation before, with someone like that in the White House."  But, Conyers wanted the public to understand, "You don't have to be in office to get impeached.  You can get impeached for something you did in office."

Conyers is off his rocker or insane.  The US Congress has never impeached a non-sitting president.  In a two-party system, such a move would provide both parties pause.  It is insane to think (or suggest, as Conyers did) that the impeachment of the Bully Boy can take place after 2008, after he leaves office.  Right now, with him occupying the White House, it is like moving mountains to get the Congressional leaders just to acknowledge the option of impeachment exists.  We're supposed to believe that will change after Bully Boy leaves office? 

Conyers also declared that Congress has "a job . . .  We're supposed to be creating legislation for the country."  If he really believes that lie, then in 2009, won't Congress still have "a job to do"?  Won't they still need to create legislation?

But Conyers wanted to lie and declare that impeachment "means there's no more legislation. . . . That's it."

On Radio Active yesterday, retired diplomat and retired Col. Ann Wright addressed Conyer's nonsense noting that there were plenty of people in DC who could be added to Congressional staffs:  "You can do more than 2 or 3 things at once that there are plenty of young men and young women in this town that could be hired onto committees to do a multiple number of things.  And should not we the people of the United States have a little bit of accountabiliy for this administration when we know what's being going on?  And when we elected a Congress, changed the Congress around so that the Democrats are in charge specifically to get some accountability -- and now those same Democrats are backing off from it." 

Jimmy Breslin addressed the topic of impeachment this week (Newsday via Common Dreams):

The other day, Bush said he couldn't understand why in the world would some people say that millions of Americans have no health insurance. "Why, all they have to do is go to the emergency room," he said.
Said this with the smirk, the insolent smug, contemptuous way he speaks to citizens.        
People, particularly these politicians, these frightened beggars in suits, seem petrified about impeachment. It could wreck the country.           Ridiculous. I've been around this business twice and we're all still here and no politician was even injured. Richard Nixon lied during a war and helped get some 58,500 Americans killed and many escaped by hanging onto helicopter skids. Nixon left peacefully. Mike Mansfield of Montana, the Democratic Senate majority leader, said on television that the Senate impeachment trial of Nixon would be televised and there would be no immunity. That meant Nixon would have to face the country under oath and if he lied he would go to prison. He knew he was finished as he heard this. Mansfield said no more. He got up and left. Barbara Walters, on the "Today" show, said, "He doesn't say very much, does he?"
The second time the subject was Bill Clinton for illegal holding in the hallway.          
This time, we have dead bodies involved. Consider what is accomplished by the simple power of the word impeachment. If you read these broken-down news writers or terrified politicians claiming that an impeachment would leave the nation in pieces, don't give a moment to them.               
It opens with the appointing of an investigator to report to the House on evidence that calls for impeachment. He could bring witnesses forward. That would be all you'd need. Here in the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon came John Dean. His history shows how far down the honesty and honor of this country has gone. Dean was the White House counsel. Richard Nixon, at his worst, never told him not to appear or to remain silent in front of the Congress. Dean went on and did his best to fill prisons. After that came Alexander Butterfield, a nobody. All he had to say was that the White House had a taping system that caught all the conversations in the White House. Any of them not on tape were erased by a participant.          
The same is desperately needed now. Curious, following the words, an investigator -- the mind here sees George Mitchell and Warren Rudman, and you name me better -- can slap a hand on the slitherers and sneaks who have kept us in war for five years and who use failing generals to beg for more time and more lives of our young. A final word in September? Two years more, the generals and Bush people say. 
Say impeachment and you'll get your troops home.          

Meanwhile, David Swanson's AfterDowningStreet goes historical and steers to people to a BBC special entitled "The Whitehouse Coup" which "uncovers details of a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by a group of right-wing American. The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans.  The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush's Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression.  Mike Thomas investigates why so little is known about this biggest ever peacetime threat to American democracy."

In the US currently, US House Rep Barbara Lee put forward proposed legislation in the House today "to prevent permanent military bases in Iraq and bar U.S. control over Iraqi oil resources."  H.R. 2929 passed on a 399 to 24 vote.  It would need to pass the Senate as well before it can be law.  Said Lee, "We must soundly reject the vision of an open ended occupation as bad policy that undermines the safety of our troops and recognize it for what it is: another recruiting poster for terrorists."

In Iraq, CBS and AP report more political trouble for puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki with the "largest Sunni Arab bloc" in Parliament has put its membership on hold and should they resign "al-Maliki's Cabinet would limp along with about a third of its seats vacant and without its billing as a 'national unity' government."

National unity?  Today in Iraq . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 53 dead from bombings in Baghdad alone -- 20 from a car bombing at a check point, 30 from a car bombing targeting people celebrating a soccer victory, 3 from a car bomb in northern Baghdad .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 farmers were shot dead in Kirkuk.  Reuters reports seven people making a pilgrimage to Baghdad were wounded in Kerbala.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports
Mustafa Qaid Mizhir Al Asi was kidnapped in Kirkuk, while 4 were kidnapped in Sadiyah -- the heads of the 4 were later found -- no signs of the rest of the bodies.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 18 corpses were discovered in the capital.  Reuters reports 5 corpses discovered in Iskandairya.

Today, the US military announced: "A 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldier died of a non-battle related cause July 24."

In DC today, a nonsense committe made up of 9 members (including Donna Shalala and Bob Dole) announced recommendations.  This was to address veterans' care.  As the Washington Post's Dana Priest expected, speaking on  NPR's Morning Edition today, there were no specifics on Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the recommendations were instead about systematic changes.  The Final Report can be read [PDF format warning] here. and [PDF format warning] here for the findings.  Your thoughts mayrun along the lines of "What planet have they been living on?"  Proving they are 'hip' and 'with it' they want to create a "My eBenefits" page and it would allow medical information to be shared.  Were they in comas when the Veterans Dept. repeatedly lost computers and put the privacy of veterans medical information at risk?  The panel takes issue (rightly) with the VA for it's refusal to address the PTSD issues of returning service members; however, it then proposes that the VA get increased responsibility in determining the disability pay system.  Does no one see the conflict?  On the one hand, the VA hasn't been recognizing the very serious PTSD issues but on the other they would now be in charge of dispensing the benefit monies.  As AP noted earlier this week, the VA is being sued by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan "on behalf of hundreds of veterans, it charges that the VA has failed warriors on several fronts -- from providing prompt disability benefits, to adding staff to reduce wait times for medical care to boosting services for post-traumatic stress disorder."

Finally, Ron Jacobs (CounterPunch) reports on upcoming actions to follow the Bully Boy and share his Maine vacation with him: "a broad coalition of antiwar groups are holding a protest and covergence over the August 24-26 weekend.  Like the encampment spearheaded by Cindy Sheehan outside of Crawford, Texas last summer, this protest aims to bring the antiwar message to the man who claims the war as his won."  Among those present for the August 25th events will be Agustin Aguayo, David Rovics, the Indigo Girls and Dennis Kucinich.

Got a little couch potato?
Check out fun summer activities for kids.