Saturday, March 10, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: Going straight to what I had hoped to write about last weekend: KPFA's monthly report to the listeners which aired March 1, 2007 at 1:00 p.m. P.S.T. Sasha Lilley is the station's interim program director so she was on in that capacity. How the program works is that listeners can call in to speak about their issues with programming: to note something they enjoy, something they do not, something they feel is missing.

The program airs each month and is an hour long. While realizing that there is not a great deal of room on the schedule, my chief suggestion about the program would be that it be expanded to at least ninety minutes, ideally two hours.

As someone who listens online, I can catch a podcast at anytime. My grandson Jayson teases me about the freedom with which I toss around terms like "podcast" these days and he does have a point because not everyone has access to computers. I am sure that includes many people who listen to KPFA over the airwaves and that brings me to my second suggestion for the program: rotate it. I could be wrong, but I believe I have heard it on other days. I am not sure that I have heard it at other times.

I think the report needs to rotate the days it airs as well as the hours. If they are interested in hearing what listeners are concerned with or interested in, providing it always in the afternoon on a weekday really does not allow for that. By airing it at the same time, on different week days, they are getting the same group of listeners plus anyone who is tuning in at that time for that special program.

If the point is to serve the listener, it should air some months at night, some months in the morning hours and some months on the weekends. That would give the various listeners a better chance of being able to weigh in. As it is, it airs in what are work hours for many listeners. Ms. Lilley did note that the station gets calls and e-mails in which listeners share. Since this is a "listener report" possibly it should begin by noting some of those in some form?

So what were the concerns of listeners who called in?

If you enjoy Flashpoints, I do, I would encourage you to call in for the next report because at least two listeners did not enjoy the show. One offered that it was not 'balanced' enough and I think it is more than balanced by the rest of the KPFA schedule. As a Jewish woman, I think I can say that and expect only a minimal number of false claims that "You hate Jews!" As C.I. would say, "I could be wrong." Guns and Butter was mentioned favorably by one listener. Another expressed that she would enjoy expanded interviews on The Morning Show. Her feelings were that just when interviews are getting interesting, it is time for them to end. I did understand her point but having heard some interviews, such as Patricia J. Williams, myself, I am perfectly happy with the length of the current segments. What I did wonder was why, during pledge drives, a special could not be built around an interview Andrea Lewis had done? Often, her interviews with authors are done ahead of time, as she will note on air when that is the case, and instead of featuring a premium, I have wondered why they did not offer an expanded version of the interview?

One caller voiced the opinion that the world music was too obvious and did not offer enough alternative or emerging music. Another listener was quite angry that he had called with a local story tip that had national implications and the story was never followed up on, as far as he knew, and nothing on it ever aired. That caller received an answer. That cannot be said for every caller.

The answer was that each program is responsible for its own content so the answer would vary from program to program as to why they did not air a report on it. It was also noted that the program's all have their own focus and it might not have matched the focus. Ms. Lilley probably addressed this question more than any other.

That may be because there is not a great deal to say other than "Me too!" when someone calls in to say, "I really enjoy ____." Callers with other issues included a woman who would enjoy it if the station would offer more Spanish language programming and a woman who felt that there needed to be more women's programming.

On the latter, I agreed with her one-hundred-percent. Ms. Lilly mentioned that the station does have a woman's program that airs on Monday. I do not listen to that show. It was either the end of July or in August when a guest on the program attempted to discuss Abeer and was just about to mention Abeer Qasim Hamza's name when the host cut her off and changed the topic. That was it for that show and me. Though not mentioned during the report, it is also true that each year KPFA devotes a full day to International Women's Day. But I still saw the woman's point. Panels are often made of male and female combinations on various programs but it is rare that you hear a panel made up of women.

If I had called in, and I was tempted to but did not since I am not in the airwaves-listening area, my problem, the only one that I do not see any attempt to address, would have been: Where is a show that focuses on Iraq?

Let me repeat this, and join Kat and C.I. on making this argument, when the United States is engaged in an overt war, it is not enough to say, "Well, Iraq comes up on various programs." Those of us who remember last summer are well aware that you could go a whole week without hearing about Iraq other than during the newsbreaks and the evening news.

Larry Bensky will be leaving Sunday Salon next month and I will miss him. Kat has written about this and suggested that since KPFA has still not offered a regular program devoted to Iraq, they could take the two hour Sunday Salon and use one hour each week, same format, same title, to cover Iraq. I support that suggestion. Things will always flare up all around the world, including in our own country, and that needs to be covered and discussed. But until KPFA devotes some regularly scheduled time to Iraq, that remains their biggest flaw in my mind.

They are the peace and justice network and free speech radio. Ms. Lilley noted that they were trying to decide on just one slogan to use. But if you are the peace and justice network, you really do need to offer one program that will always cover Iraq. Having Sunday Salon devote one hour each Sunday to the topic does not seem asking to be asking too much. That still leaves the show with another hour during which they can address the arts and other news as needed. Iraq needs to be addressed regularly and at a scheduled time.

Ms. Lilley is a co-host of Against the Grain which airs, for one hour, three times a week. If she is unaware of the need for Iraq to have its own regularly scheduled time, she need only look to the main topics of Against the Grain which has covered race, unions, Hurricane Katrina, North Korea, Israel, Jesus Christ, Africa, global warming, the Democratic Party, and much more but last had Iraq as its scheduled topic in August of 2006. To repeat, the program airs three different shows a week and it last covered Iraq in August of 2006. Before that, I believe you have to fall back to June to catch Iraq as the scheduled topic. So Against the Grain has not addressed Iraq in seven months. If Ms. Lilley doubts that KPFA needs a program to address Iraq, she should consider that fact.

Does seven months of silence convey that the U.S. is engaged in an illegal war in which over 166,000 Iraqis have died? Or that nearly 3,200 U.S. service members have died? I am not seeing that it does. I am seeing that Iraq remains the after thought that can be picked up when there is nothing else to cover. "War As An Afterthought," as Mike so famously wrote in Polly's Brew.

To be frank, I honestly do not know if KPFA digs deep for the world music and I honestly do not care. I honestly feel if you want to listen to one segment of music, that is why record collections were started or, today, CD collections. I do listen to the evening music programs from time to time and enjoy them but, honestly, when the music program comes on during the day, unless my grandson Elijah gets up and starts dancing, I find something else to listen to. In the daytime hours, I want news and discussion.

That is not to say the woman who called in was wrong or that her issue should be brushed off. But that is to say it would not surprise me at all to discover her issue was addressed long before mine was. It is a little easier to urge someone to expand their play list of songs than it is to create a program to cover Iraq which is why Kat's suggestion regarding Sunday Salon devoting one hour to Iraq each week is so solid. It does not create a huge hassle for KPFA. They do not need to attempt to figure where they will find time on their schedule for a program covering Iraq. They just make the fact that one hour each week of Sunday Salon being devoted to Iraq a change, much as they will be changing hosts.

As Ms. Lilley noted in her lengthiest response, each program determines its own focus. That would seem to indicate that Ms. Lilley is at least partly responsible for what Against The Grain elects to focus on. If that is indeed the case, my question to her would be if she really thinks an illegal war that is about to hit its four-year-mark is 'covered' by waiting seven months to address it? The "seven months" figure presumes that it will be addressed this month but that may not happen.

Listeners should not have to hope that a program might address Iraq. KPFA should have long ago provided listeners with a program that devoted regular time to the topic of Iraq. Mr. Bensky's departure allows them to have a chance to do so now without upsetting the schedule in the least.

Ruth note: "Two hours" added by me. I was rushing to get a report up and typed "Ideally an hour" when I meant "two hours."

NYT: "U.S. Soldiers Accused of Shooting Civilians in Sadr City" (Kirk Semple)

The Cheney gang didn't change their behavior with time when they decided to invade Iraq. They picked up where they left off three decades earlier, making up convenient "facts" as they went along. Wolfowitz, formerly Deputy Secretary of Defense, admitted as much. "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."
"Cheney ended up incriminating himself with his attempt at slickness."
Like all unpunished criminals, Cheney has only become bolder and sloppier. The Vice President recently told reporters on Air Force Two that he would speak to them only on the condition that he not be quoted directly but instead be identified as a "senior administration official." Like any common, not so smart crook, Cheney ended up incriminating himself with his attempt at slickness. His words made it clear to anyone paying attention that the Vice President was the
mysterious official:
"I've seen some press reporting that says, 'Cheney went in to beat up on them, threaten them.' That's not the way I work."
His attempt at secrecy was rendered moot by his stupidity. Cheney's comfort with such gross ineptitude is actually quite understandable. He has not only gotten a pass on his past wrong doing, but profited from it. Why worry about looking stupid now?
Even when these men appear to go away they really haven't. Donald Rumsfeld allegedly resigned as Defense Secretary back in November 2006. He is now a "
non-paid consultant" with an office near the Pentagon and seven paid staffers. He is entitled to this arrangement as part of his transition and he still has access to top secret materials. His predecessors managed to clean out their offices quickly and didn't need to hang on indefinitely. Then again they weren't committed to permanent warfare.
Rummy is different, a career criminal who refuses to give up his way of life. Is he shredding proof of "ghost prisoners" kidnapped by the U.S.? Perhaps he is helping plan an attack on Iran. Like bad pennies, he and his friends will keep showing up.

The above is from Margaret Kimberley's "Crazy, Greedy White Men" (Freedom Rider, Black Agenda Report). Kimberly generally gets the last word on Saturday but a new member wondered about that so we'll open with her today. (Having the last word, as Pru can tell you, isn't a bad thing.) So Donald the Rumsfled is still advising the administration? And how many were aware of that?

Vince notes Heather Allen's "A deserter tells of horrors in Iraq war" (Penticton Western) on US war resister Joshua Key's new book The Deserter's Tale:

Joshua Key joined the U.S. army in 2003. At the time, he was a patriotic American who believed the scourge of terrorists in Iraq needed to be stomped out, and that his country needed protection.
But after serving six months, Key’s opinions changed.
"This is the story of what I did to the Iraqi people and what I saw other Americans do to them ... I was made to be a criminal in Iraq, but I am a criminal no longer and I am never going back."
The Deserter's Tale, Key gives an insider's view of the war in Iraq -- and it isn't pretty.
At the recruiting office, he was promised that as a father of three he would never be deployed overseas.
In a matter of weeks, Key was on the ground in Iraq.
He began his tour in Ramadi, a city on the Euphrates River.
Each night he and others from his unit raided between two to four houses -- looking for terrorists or evidence of terrorist activities.
They ripped apart homes, beat the occupants, stole money and possessions, herded the woman and children outside at gunpoint and sent any man five-feet or taller off to prison.
In all of the hundreds of raids, Key says he never found any evidence of wrong-doing.
Because it was so difficult for the Americans to find the real enemy, the soldiers took their aggression out on civilians.
They terrorized them in their homes, on the streets and at checkpoints -- viciously beating them and sometimes killing them.

It's a strong book, worth reading, and it also sets us up for today's New York Times where Kirk Semple offers "U.S. Soldiers Accused of Shooting Civilians in Sadr City:"

American soldiers were accused Friday of opening fire on a car carrying a family in the Baghdad district of Sadr City, killing a man and his two young daughters and wounding his son.
The allegations were made by the man's wife, who was in the car, and members of the Iraqi police, who were at the scene. The American military command said in a statement on Friday that it was investigating an episode in Sadr City involving "an escalation of force," but it could not confirm any details of the account given by the man's wife.
The woman, Ikhlas Thulsiqar, said her family had turned from an alleyway onto a mains treet guarded by American soldiers. Seconds later, she said, a fusillade of bullets ripped into the car.
"They killed the father of my children! The Americans killed my daughters!" she sobbed, sitting crumpled on the floor of Imam Ali hospital in Sadr city where rescuers had taken the victims, including her daughters, 8 and 11, and her son, 7.

If you're thinking this is a front page story, think again. It runs on A6. Apparently "Google, Master of Online Traffic, Helps Its Workers Beat the Rush" -- it doesn't pass for consumer reporting (it's called advertising -- soft copy) but the Times obviously felt Google was something that their readers needed to know about, the deaths of a father and two children were far less important to the Times.

Lloyd notes Karen DeYoung's "Reports of Progress In Iraq Challenged" (Washington Post):

President Bush on Tuesday cited "encouraging signs" of military and political progress in Iraq as his new strategy gets underway. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted that "things are going reasonably well." And on Thursday, Rice's special coordinator for Iraq, David M. Satterfield, described a "dramatic decrease" in sectarian attacks in Baghdad since Bush's plan was announced in January.
But a number of analysts and critics said this week that some of those signs indicate less progress than the administration has suggested. Sectarian attacks in Baghdad are down at the moment, but the deaths of Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops have increased outside the capital. Though Iraqi leaders have agreed on a new framework law for oil resources, the details of how the oil revenue will be divided among competing Iraqi groups remain unresolved.
[. . .]
The administration is under public and congressional pressure to justify the troops and the money it says the new Iraq strategy requires, and Bush is anxious to show that events are vindicating his strategy. The deployment of 21,500 additional troops has already begun, even as Congress debates proposals to withdraw U.S. forces and begins considering the president's request for $100 billion in supplemental funds for the Iraq and
Afghanistan wars this spring. The administration also plans to seek $145 billion more in October -- over and above its defense budget request of nearly half a trillion dollars for fiscal 2008.

Elsewhere, Reuters reports: "A suicide car bomber blew himself up at an Iraqi army checkpoint on the outskirts of a Shi'ite district of Baghdad on Saturday, killing six soldiers and wounding 20 civilians, the U.S. military said."

Turning to radio, we'll start with RadioNation with Laura Flanders (Saturdays and Sundays, 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm EST, Air America Radio, XM radio and online). Which Cockburn is it?
Andrew Cockburn will be on Sunday's show discussing Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, & Catastrophic Legacy and Sunday will also provide "Finally, our regular bookstore hour with CLAIRE BENEDICT of Bear Pond Books and CLARK KEPLER, Kepler's Books and Magazines. What's hot, what's not, at your local bookstore, plus listener recommendations." So no Patrick Cockburn?

Patrick Cockburn (who reports for the Independent of London) will be on today's show discussing "the reality of the Iraq Occupation." So we'll get both Andrew Cockburn (on Sunday) and Patrick Cockburn (on Saturday). The e-mail Martha passed along notes "It's a family weekend on RadioNation this week. Tune in and find out why."

Rachel passes on these upcoming programs (Sunday and Monday) on WBAI -- over the airwaves in the NYC area (and beyond) and also available online (times given are EST):

Sunday, March 11, 11am-noon
Post Warholian radio artists Andrew Andrew and guests.

Monday, March 12, 2-3pm
The NY Neo Futurists and producer Bonnie Metzger on performing Suzan-Lori Parks' "365 Days - 365 Plays"; composer Alice Shields on a concert of "Mioritza - Requiem for Rachel Corrie" for trombone and computer-generated sound; feminist and author Alix Kates Schulman on the 25th Anniversary edition of "Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen." Hosted by Janet Coleman and David Dozer.

A number of members e-mailed to note how much they enjoyed the special programming (hosted by Janet Coleman) last week where the topic was impeachment. If it moved you enough to write about it and if you have the money to donate, you might remember that during WBAI's next pledge drive. And it wouldn't hurt, if you are able to contribute and choose to do so, if you mentioned the impeachment special when you pledged. If you missed the special, you can go to WBAI, pull up the archives and listen (free of charge) to the program or programs on Monday that aired from 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Go by the time and not the title because this was special programming and it may not be listed as "Impeachment Special." If you missed it, there were guests (Debra Sweet, Daniel Ellsberg and others), calls in and a great deal more. You won't catch NPR exploring the topic of impeachment. WBAI's archives aren't, at this point, like KPFA's. With KPFA, they're are making a point to keep all their archives up (over 80,000 programs at this point) and WBAI, unless something's changed recently, is keeping their programs up for no more than 90 days. So if you missed it (or would like to hear it again) don't wait too long. If you're unable to listen, Rebecca's "janet coleman, daniel ellsberg, wbai " and Elaine's "Flashpoints, Impeachment, etc."

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

Ruth is working her latest report as I type this. And lastly, we'll again note the following NYC events:

Saturday, March 10
8 pm
Readings from
Voices of a People's History of the United States
The Great Hall, Cooper Union
as part of the
Left Forum 2007
Free for conference participants and the general public.
With performances by Staceyann Chin, Deepa Fernandes, Brian Jones, Erin Cherry,
Najla Said, Mario A. Murrillo, and other special guests.
Narration and introduction by Amy Goodman, host of
Democracy Now! and
Anthony Arnove (who, with Howard Zinn, authored
Voices of a People's History of the United States)

Sunday, March 11
10 am
Iraq: What's at Stake?"
Cooper Union
Left Forum 2007
Anthony Arnove, Christian Parenti, AK Gupta, Nir Rosen, and Gilbert Achcar.

Wednesday, March 14
7:00 pm
"Friendly Fire: An Independent Journalist's Story on Being Abducted in Iraq,
Rescued, and Shot by U.S. Forces"
Judson Church
55 Washington Square South
featuring: Giulian Sgrena the Il Manifesto journalist and author of
Friendly Fire who was abudcted in Iraq, rescued by Italian security forces only to be shot at (Nicola Calipari would die from the gun fire) by US forces while en route to the Baghdad Airport; Amy Goodman and the Center for Constitutional Rights' executive director Vince Warren.
Sgrena is calling for the Pentagon to take responsibility for the shooting.

The e-mail address for this site is

Friday, March 09, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, March 9, 2007.  Chaos and violence (though little reported) continues, protests continue, the country of Georgia provides mirth in the illegal war (if not genuine support for the Bully Boy), a US marine is announced dead, footage of another US service member's death is supposedly set to be released, Dems plan receives muted response, and the veterans health care crisis moves from Walter Reed to VA hospitals.
Starting with war resistance.   Agustin Aguayo was court-martialed and sentenced Tuesday.  Circles Robinson (Ahora) notes: "Doing the right thing can be costly, but in the end one can at least sleep at night.  Ask Spc. Agustin Aguayo, 35, a U.S. citizen born in Guadalajara, Mexico, who was just sentenced by a US military court in Wurzburg, Germany.  His crime was a gut feeling shared by a growing number of ordinary citizens and soldiers alike: President Bush's war in Iraq isn't their war."  He was sentenced to eight months but given credit for the days he had already served since turning himself in at the end of September.  Rosalio Munoz (People's Weekly World) sees a victory in the outcome: "The March 6 military court conviction of pacifist soldier Agustin Aguayo was reversed in the court of public opinon as Amnesty International officially recognized him as a 'prisoner of conscience,' and a battery of progressive attorneys began efforts to get a federal court to reverse the Army's denial of conscientious objector status to Aguayo."  Stefan Steinberg (World Socialist Web) sees the line of continuity from one war resister to another, "Aguayo has become the latest in a growing list of US soldiers who are facing trials and courts-martial for refusing to serve in Iraq.  Recently, Lt. Ehren Watada, 29, became the first US officer to be tried for refusing to obey a command to return to Iraq.  In his defence, Watada argued he was merely following his constitutional rights to oppose fighting in a war he regarded as illegal.  The Japanese American described the US invasion and occupation of Iraq as 'an illegal and unjust war ... for profit and imperialistic domination.'  Watada's attorney Eric Seitz, had sought to defend his client on the basis of the Nuremburg Principles -- i.e., that soldiers have the duty to disobey unlawful orders in the case of an illegal and unjust war."
Steinberg is correct, Agustin Aguayo is part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Ehren Watada, Kyle Snyder, Agustin Aguayo, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight 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.
It is vital that we build a strong counter-recruitment movement to expose lies used by the military to send working-class and poor children to war.  We must also lend our full support to the soldiers and reservists who are refusing to fight in Iraq.
[. . .]
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. government learned how quickly the discipline of an army fighting an unjust war can break down.  Today soldiers in the field can see the contradictions between the claims of their officers and especially the politicians who sent them to war and the reality of the conflict on the ground.  They now know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and posed no imminent threat.  And as the Iraqi resistance to occupation grows, more soldiers have come to see that they are fighting not to liberate Iraqis but to 'pacify' them.  To end this war, more will need to follow their conscience, like [Camilo] Mejia and the other soldiers who have refused to die -- or kill -- for a lie.
The excerpt above is from Anthony Arnove's IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal.  Arnove has an event on Saturday the 10th and on Sunday the 11th (Ty and Sunny -- for Elaine -- passed on the following):
Saturday, March 10
8 pm
The Great Hall, Cooper Union
as part of the Left Forum 2007
Free for conference participants and the general public.
With performances by Staceyann Chin, Deepa Fernandes, Brian Jones, Erin Cherry,
Najla Said, Mario A. Murrillo, and other special guests.
Narration and introduction by Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! and
Anthony Arnove (who, with Howard Zinn, authored
Sunday, March 11
10 am
Cooper Union
Panelists: Anthony Arnove, Christian Parenti, AK Gupta, Nir Rosen, and Gilbert Achcar.
Wednesday, March 14
7:00 pm
"Friendly Fire: An Independent Journalist's Story on Being Abducted in Iraq,
Rescued, and Shot by U.S. Forces"
55 Washington Square South
featuring: Giulian Sgrena the Il Manifesto journalist and author of Friendly Fire who was abudcted in Iraq, rescued by Italian security forces only to be shot at (Nicola Calipari would die from the gun fire) by US forces while en route to the Baghdad Airport; Amy Goodman and the Center for Constitutional Rights' executive director Vince Warren.
Sgrena is calling for the Pentagon to take responsibility for the shooting.
Yesterday, in the United States, Democrats in the US House and Senate unveiled their plans for Iraq.  Michael Rowland (AM, Australia's ABC) explains the House legislation: "Democrats have been talking about setting a troop withdrawal deadline ever since opposition to the war swept them to power in last year's congressional elections.  Today they bit the bullet, unveiling legislation that sets down actual dates. . . .  The legislation sets out a set of benchmarks that must be met in Iraq in the coming year.  They're mainly to do with quelling the sectarian violence on the streets of Baghdad, the very objective of the president's plan to send an extra 22,000 US troops to Iraq.  The House of Representatives speaker, Nancy Pelosi, says the strategy will be given time to work.  But she warns the troop withdrawal will be fast-tracked if the re-enforcements fail to make any difference."  John Nichols (The Nation), picking up at the benchmarks: "If those benchmarks remain unmet, a slow process of extracting troops would begin under the plan favored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, Wisconsin's David Obey and Pennsylvania's John Murtha, the chair and defense subcommittee chair respectively of the appropriations committee; and Missouri's Ike Skelton, who chairs the armed services committee.  The fact that Democratic leaders are talking about attempting to impose a timeline for withdrawal is good.  It puts the opposition party in a position of actually opposing an unpopular president's exceptionally unpopular policies.  Unfortunately, because the president wants to maintain the occupation on his terms, Bush can be counted on to veto legislation establishing benchmarks and a timeline.  So the Democrats find themselves in a difficult position.  They plan to expend immense time and energy -- and perhaps even a small measure of political capital -- to promote a withdrawal strategy.  Yet, the strategy they are promoting is unlikely to excite Americans who want this war to end.  In other words, while Pelosi and her compatriots propose to fight for a timeline, it is not the right timeline."
John A. Murphy (CounterPunch) observes, "The Democratic House has drafted legislation which has no chance of surviving a presidential veto and at the same time does not meet the hopes and aspirations and demands of the overwhelming majority of the American voting public.  They have however drafted legislation that makes them feel good.  Somehow or other the so-called 'liberal Democrats' are going to be happy about supporting a bill which would kill 60,000 Iraqis and 1,800 Americans because the bill will not alienate the 'more moderate Democrats'."   Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) points out: "Anti-war Democrats have also come out against the plan.  New York Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, a member of the Out of Iraq caucus, said: 'All this bill will do is fund another year of the war, and I can't vote for that'."
NYU professor Stephen F. Cohen (writing at The Nation) notes: "Unless the United States withdraws its military forces from Iraq in the near future, a war that began as an unnecssary invasion based on deception and predictably grew into a disastrous occupation will go down in history as a terrible crime, if it hasn't already.  For Americans of conscience, Iraq has therefore become the paramount moral issue of our time."
On that note, we'll return to MADRE's "Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq" (which can be read in full in PDF format or, by sections, in HTML). Wednesday, section one ("Towards Gender Apartheid in Iraq") was noted and, Thursday, section II, "Iraq's Other War: Impsoing Theocracy Through Gender-Based." Section III is "The Rise of US-Backed Death Squads" which further documents how the US equipped, trained and facilitated the ongoing femicide in Iraq.
The femicide has its roots in "The Salvador Option," so, as the report notes, it is not surprising to find the same actors involved.  Just as James Steel and John Negroponte were involved in the death squads in El Salvador during the 1980s, they teamed up in Iraq with Negroponte acting as US ambassador to the country and James Steele commanding the US troops who trained the Badr and Mahdi militias.  While the Bully Boy made noises to domestic audiences about 'freedom' and 'liberation,' "on the ground in Iraq, the Islamist militas were wholly tolerated."  Backing, training and arming them "offered an enticing advantage over government troops.  For a time, their quasi-official status allowed the US to out-source the violence of its count-insurgency operations without having to answer for the militias' gross human rights violations, including their campaign of terror against the women of Iraq."  When not training these militias themselves, the US out-sourced the training to DynCorp which
Working women have been especially targeted because "they commit a double offense -- by advocating a secular society and by being accomplished, working women."  But the press has refused to cover this campaign of violence against women as one of the stories coming from Iraq and treated acts of violence against women as incidental to the larger story (it is the story).  "To cite just one example, in October 2005, journalist Robert Dreyfuss, known for his authorative and critical analysis of Iraqi politics, reported that in addition to targeting Sunnis, the Shiite Badr Brigade was 'terrorizing Iraq's secular, urban Shiite population.'  Although gender-based violence was a central tactic of this terror campaign, Dreyfuss does not mention it.  Nor does he explore why a supposedly sectarian militia was terrorizing members of its own sect.  Like most media accounts, Dreyfuss' report fails to consider the Badr milita from the perspective of Shiite women.  From women's vantage point, the militia is typical of theocratic fundamentalists everywhere.  For such groups, asserting control over members of their own religion -- especially women, who are seen as the carriers of group identity -- is a prerequisite to extending control over society at large, including, ultimately, the institutions of the state."
The report notes that the press is not the only grouping that has failed to draw attention to the ongoing femicide and notes the anti-war movement has also ignored the gender violence that is taking place.  The clampdown, by the US, on the Iraqi Health Ministry has prevented already faulty data on the attacks from being released.  The report uses Maha as an example of how the militias and the police work together in Iraq -- Maha "was abducted from her home in Najaf and trafficked from brothel to brothel in Baghdad for nearly two years.  She managed to escape twice and flee to the police station in Baghdad's Amiriyah neighborhood.  Both times the police forcibly returned her to the brothel." 
Noting the report, Laura Flanders (writing at The Notion -- Nation's blog) pointed out that 100 female corpses were left unclaimed in a Basra hospital "mutilated . . . families are too scared to pick them up."  Flanders is the host of RadioNation with Laura Flanders which airs each Saturday and Sunday, 7:00 to 10:00 pm EST, on Air America Radio, XM radio and online.  Saturday's guest will include one or both of her uncles as guests -- Andrew Cockburn and/or Patrick Cockburn.  The program's website says Andrew, the blog post says Patrick. Either (or both) will be worth hearing. 
AFP reports at least one person died from a roadside bombing in Kirkuk.  CBS and AP report that Donald Neil, civilian contractor, was killed while trying to dismantle a bomb.  (Location given is "Iraq.")
AFP reports that, in Kirkuk, two Iraqi soldiers were shot dead.  Sami al-Jumaili (Reuters) reports that one police officer was shot dead and three more wounded when a police station in Hibhib was attacked -- ten police officers are missing and assumed/feared kidnapped. Australia's The Daily Telegraph reports that the attack included "setting fire to vehicles and destroying the building". 
Reuters reports that ten corpses were discovered in Baghdad.  Voices of Iraq reports seven corpses were discovered today in the Diala province.
Today, the US military announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West was killed March 9 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province."  In addition, CBS and AP report: "On Friday, the Islamic State of Iraq announced it would soon be releasing a video on the death of a U.S. Air Force pilot whose F-16 jet crashed Nov. 27 north of Baghdad, according to the IntelCenter, which monitors insurgent Web sites.  The pilot, Maj. Troy L. Gilbert, was listed officially as 'whereabouts unknown' but then reported by the U.S. military as dead following DNA tests from remains at the scene."
Meanwhile, in military news, Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports that David Petraeus' much noted Thursday press converence "did not offer . . . a strategy for dealing with such attacks, underscoring a major dilemma facing U.S. and Iraqi forces as they carry out what has been described as a last-ditch effort to curb the deadly civil war."  Ernesto Londono and Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post), on the same press conference, noted  the fact that not only has Petraues upped the escalation numbers but he's dropped Casey's talk of "the summer, late summer" when the supposed, alleged accomplishments of the latest crackdown version will be visible.  And the escalation continues to add numbers.  Yesterday, it was an additional 2,000.  Today, Andrew Gray (Reuters) reports that Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon is requesting more troops for the Diyala province.
The BBC notes that Georgia (the country) "will more than double the number of troops it has in Iraq" from 850 to 2,000.  2,000 isn't a large number and some wonder what the US government offered to get the small figure doubled?  (Georgia's population is estimated to 4.6 million.)
Things not worth noting in depth.  Puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki toured Baghdad -- with a heavily armed squad of bodyguards numbering at least six who shadowed him at all times as he shook hands with Iraqi soldiers at checkpoints.  US forces announced another al Qaeda (alleged) leader captured.  Don't they get tired of selling that nonsense? 
Turning to the issue of health care for veterans, Ian Urbina and Ron Nixon (New York Times) report on the Veterans Affairs where the government is slow to respond and refuses to anticipate or calculate need resulting in various horror stories such as prolonged waiting for claims to kick in (James Webb returned from Iraq injured from a bombing and had to wait 11 months for the promised and obligated payments to kick in while Allen Curry fell "behind on his morgage while waiting nearly two years for his disability check").  Hope Yen (AP) reports that, testifying before US House Veterans Affairs committee yesterday,  Paul Sullivan (one time VA project manager) stated he repeatedly "warned officials" at the VA that "there would be a surge in claims as veterans returned from Iraq and Afghanistan," and that he began sounding the alarm in August 2005. Joel Connelly (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) notes that US Senator Patty Murray, who severs on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has drawn comparisons to today's health crisis for veterans with the illegal war itself:  "They have lowballed the cost of this war, and the cost of caring for our soliders. . . . It goes to the top, to the highest level.  The Bush administration wants the country to feel there is no cost to war."  Rick Maze (The Navy Times) covers an idea by US Senator Larry Craig which would require "issuing veterans an authorization card that would allow them to seek care anywhere could address two longstanding complaints: long waits to see a VA doctor, and long trips for veterans who live far from a VA hospitals."  Based on Urbina and Nixon's reporting, 'portability' might be besides the point when "the current war has nearly overwhelmed an agency already struggling to meet the health care, disability payment and pension needs of more than three million veterans."  Zooming in on one VA center, Mike Drummond Peter Smolowitz and Michael Gordon (The Charlotte Observer) discover that a 2005 inspection of North Carolina's Hefner VA Medical Center found a substandard facility: "Using the clinically blunt language of the medical bureaucracy, the team describes a facility with poorly trained doctors and nurses who, among other things, cut corners on treatment, manipulated records and did't talk enough with paitents and families."  In one tragic example, they note 41-year-old Robert Edward Lashmit who died: "Lashmit's condition and vital signs were not updated during his 19-day stay.  Instead, investigators found, his doctor 'copied and pasted the same daily progress note for the entire hospitalization.'  That meant information vital to Lashmit's treatment remained the same even as his condition deteriorated.  He died of live failure.  Later, when investigators asked Lashmit's doctor about pasting outdated records, they said he told them: 'no one told him he could not do it'." 
Turning to the scandal of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Brooke Hart (NBC News) reports on the scramble as the army attempts to address the disgrace -- the army willl institute a "30-day study of problems at major military facilities" and will establish a complaint hotline for veterans that will be allow for complaints to be registered twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  In another quick fix measures, Alana Semuels (Los Angeles Times) reports that Michael Tucker ( a brig. general) will move from Fort Knox to become the "deputy commanding general of the Walter Reed Army Medical Ceneter."  Interviewed by Jake Stump (Charleston Daily Mail), US Senator Jay  Rockefeller declares that "[t]he real question is not necessarily what happens at Walter Reed," but the refusal of the US Defense Department to meet the needs of veterans. US Rep Kirsten Gillibrand tells Albany's Time Union that she hopes the Walter Reed scandal starts a new debate on topics such as funding of the VA  and veteran's' benefits.  Walter Reed Army Medical Center, FYI, is funded by the Defense Department, not the VA.  Interestingly, one Congressional rep wanted answers but he appeared to have had them some time sgo.  Adam Schreck (Balitmore Sun) reports that US House Rep C.W. Bill Young made frequent visits to Walter Reed with his wife where they "found wounded sholdiers who didn't have adequate clothes, even one doing his rehabilitation in the bloody boots he had on when he was injured.  One soldier, ashamed that his mattress was soaked with urine, tried to turn Young's wife away, the Florida Republican recalled yesterday.  Another with a serious brain injury fell out of bed and his head three times before someone was assigned to make sure it didn't happen again."  For those who've forgotten, Dana Priest, Anne Hulle (Washington Post for the first two) and Bob Woodruff (ABC News) shined the light on the issues in the last few weeks.  What did US House Rep Young do since, by his own accounting, he was familiar with many issues that needed addressing?  As Florida's Star-Banner notes in an editorial: "The St. Petersburg Times and other media reported on Thursday that U.S. Rep Bill Young, a Republican from Indian Shores and formerly one of the most powerful members of Congress, acknowledged that he knew of the squalid conditions at Walter Reed but failed to disclose them.  In one instance, Young recalled one soldier who was sitting his his bed in a pool of urine when Young's wife discovered him.  Hospital staff, Young noted, did nothing and when questioned told him, 'This is war.  We have a lot of casualties.  We don't have enough sheets and blankets to go around.'  Young, according to the Times, kept quiet because he wanted to respect family privacy and 'did not want to undermine the confidence of the patients and their families and give the Army a black eye while fighting a war'."  What a load of hogwash.  By staying silent he allowed the problem to continue and worsen.  Staying silent helped no one and, were it not for the press doing their job and his, he'd probably still be silent today.
In protest news, Frederic J. Frommer (AP) reports that the Occupation Project (ongoing visits, sit-ins, and of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience to put the pressure on elected officials to stop funding the war) continues and focuses on actions in Wisconsin and Minnesota.  In Wisconsin, US House Rep David Obey has not met with them but did have four arrested on Monday including Joy First.  In Minnesota, US Senator Herb Kohl did meet with them but is quite happy to continue funding the illegal war and play stupid (all his life).  Frommer notes that every Tuesday, two nuns, Kate and Rita McDonald, are occupying the office of US Senator Norm Coleman who is a Republican but also "a former anti-war protester himself from the Vietnam era".  Despite knowing better, Coleman remains firmly behind funding the illegal war.  Also in protest news, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) interviewed Wally Cuddeford about the protests going on in Tacoma which resulted in four arrests Sunday night.  Cuddeford explains the purpose behind the protests: "Our goal is to stop military shipments from Fort Lewis going to Iraq.  We were successful stopping the shipments through the Port of Olympia and now we're helping our friends in Tacoma stop the shipments there.  The shipments are Stryker vehicles, they are speedy combat trasnprots, armed transports.  They are the back bone of the occupation.
Half of all the Stryker vehicles to Iraq.  If we are able to cut off Stryker vehicles to Iraq we could easily end this occupation."  Clear Channel reports that Ann Wright (retired Army colonel and retired State Department) spoke to the  Jefferson Community College about the war ("For us to have gone into Iraq, invaded and occupied it, and not even with the agreement of the UN Security Council, unfortunately it falls into the category of a war of aggression and in my opinion is a war crime.") in an event sponsored by Veterans for Peace and Different Drummer Cafe.  She will be speaking at Different Drummer Cafe today at 6:00 pm at 12 Paddock Arcade, 1 Public Square, Watertown, NY.
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The new U.S. commander in Iraq acknowledged Thursday that U.S.-led forces cannot protect all Iraqis from "thugs with no soul" who are bent on reigniting sectarian warfare and derailing a major security crackdown.
In his first news conference since taking over last month, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said he shared "the horror and the sorrow and the sadness" at seeing more than 100 Shiite Muslim pilgrims killed Tuesday by two suicide bombers who mingled in the town of Hillah with throngs heading for a religious commemoration in the nearby holy city of Karbala.
What he did not offer was a strategy for dealing with such attacks, underscoring a major dilemma facing U.S. and Iraqi forces as they carry out what has been described as a last-ditch effort to curb the deadly civil war.
"Some sensational attacks inevitably will continue to take place, though every effort will be made to reduce their numbers," Petraeus told journalists gathered in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

The above is from Alexandra Zavis' "U.S. says it can't protect every Iraqi" (Los Angeles Times).
Martha notes Ernesto Londono and Thomas E. Ricks' "Petraeus Says Boost in Troops May Be Needed Past Summer" (Washington Post) which covers the fact that not only has Petraues upped the escalation numbers but he's dropped Casey's talk of "the summer, late summer" when the supposed, alleged accomplishments of the latest crackdown version will be visible.

Marcia notes Stefan Steinberg's "Increasing numbers of US soldiers refuse to serve in Iraq" (World Socialist Web) which recounts Agustin Aguayo's reasons for resisting (in the excerpt, more is covered in the article):

On Tuesday, March 6, US soldier Agustin Aguayo was convicted on charges of desertion by an American military court in Würzburg, Germany. He was sentenced to eight months’ detention in a military prison. He was also given a dishonourable discharge from the army and stripped of pay and benefits. The US army prosecutor had originally pleaded that Aguayo be locked away for two years.
Aguayo, a 35-year-old American citizen from Los Angeles, was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. In 2002, he signed up for military duty and was one of many Mexican Americans who were deployed to Iraq. In the course of his basic training, however, Aguayo realised he was opposed to war, and in February 2004, applied for a discharge from the army on the basis of being a conscientious objector.
His appeal was ignored, and in the same year, he was sent to serve a one-year tour of duty as a combat medic to Tikrit in Iraq. Since 2004, Aguayo has continually sought permission for a discharge from the army on the basis of his opposition to the war.
When his unit was ordered to return to Iraq for a second tour of duty in early September last year, Aguayo decided he could not obey the order with a clear conscience. After nearly three years of struggling with the US Army to be recognised as a conscientious objector, Agustin Aguayo went absent without leave on September 1, 2006, to avoid his unit's deployment to Iraq. One day later, on September 2, 2006, he turned himself over to the military authorities.
Instead of facing a court-martial, however, his commanding officers insisted that he would be transferred to Iraq--even if army personnel had to forcefully put him on the plane--i.e., with shackles or handcuffs. Aguayo then fled his military base in Germany, and with the help of German anti-war activists, returned to California. He remained in hiding until September 26, 2006, and then, following a press conference in Los Angeles, once again turned himself over to military authorities.

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Pork comes to Sadr City

"We should have an amusement park," said Mr. Daraji, one of two elected mayors in Sadr City, the sprawling Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad where American and Iraqi troops have been peacefully clearing homes since Sunday. "We want to rehabilitate the area so that families can have fun."

The above is from Damien Cave's "Iraqis Seek Role in Rebuilding Their Nation" in this morning's New York Times and read that paragraph above again before we rejoin Daraji's nonsense already in progress:

In an interview at his office, Mr. Daraji said the amusement park was one of several projects that community leaders were pushing American officials to finance in negotiations about how to handle the Shiite Mahdi Army, a militia that has controlled the neighborhood for years.
A concentrated makeover of Sadr City, he said, would support the plan's goals in two important ways: by giving young Mahdi militants jobs as an alternative to lives of violence and by providing residents with proof of the government's ability to improve their daily lives.
Mr. Daraji's requests, however, also reflect a broader effort by Iraqi leaders to dart past "clear and hold" to the more lucrative phase of the new security plan known as "build."
Even as bombings and killings here continue, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has labeled the plan a success. His Shiite-led government has allotted $10 billion this year for reconstruction throughout the country, and, with billions more expected from the United States, Iraqi leaders at all levels are scrambling for a say in how the windfall might be spent.

With ten billion dollars to toss around, all of Iraq's provinces are going to have to compete for that limited money (and for a war torn nation, ten billions isn't a great deal of money). Hospitals are falling apart, most Iraqis who have reliable electricity get it from their own generators, potable water is still not a reality, large portions of the population (such as those from Falluja) live in 'tent cities' now due to the fact that their homes were bombed by the US. And some idiot wants to build an amusement park in what's supposedly the heart of violence in Baghdad?

Pork has come to Iraq and don't think it will be pretty. Don't think, if Sadr City gets the amusement park, it won't be noted and seen as al-Maliki yet again bending over backwards for that section while the rest of the country waits and waits for rebuilding.

Amusement park in Sadr City? What, the militias don't get enough 'joy' stoning women? We do realize that, right? That this is one of the areas that especially captures MADRE's "Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq" (which can be read in full in PDF format or, by sections, in HTML) report of the theocracy that the US is building?

Yes, rebuilding will give jobs -- putting radical Shi'ites in charge pretty much guarantees that none of those jobs will go to women -- but this is a bit like putting a stadium into a town whose streets need repair, which has a huge homeless problem and no working utilities.

But see if the pork doesn't go through. And if it does, see if the tensions aren't enflamed even further as Iraqis across the country see their still crumbling infrastructure, their still crumbling medical care facilities, living with all the problems brought up on by the sanctions and the illegal war and wondering why the hell Sadr City got an amusement park? You can be sure, this is Sadr City, it will not only exclude opportunities for women, it will do so for Sunnis and Iraqi minorities. At best, it will be a cute little place for thugs to gather, at worst it will be the new site for bombings, shootings and mass kidnappings -- a given for any place that people gather so why in the world build a costly, non-essential gathering place when so much of the country lies in ruins? But when you lack the basics (electricity, potable water), you damn well better believe, an amusement park will cause even more tensions and inner and intra hostilities in Iraq.

Note "Iraq: UNHCR Director's mission to region to underscore refugee protection needs" (UNHCR via Reuters):

With an estimated 2 million Iraqis now in nearby countries and another 1.9 million internally displaced, UNHCR is stepping up its work and its support for the uprooted as well as the host countries that have assumed such an enormous burden. Syria has an estimated 1 million Iraqis and Jordan an estimated 750,000. Lebanon has an estimated 40,000 Iraqis.
As our head of international protection, Okoth-Obbo's mission will be focused on the ongoing effort to ensure that Iraqis fleeing their homeland receive international protection; that the required systems are in place, including efficient registration procedures and the ability to identify the most vulnerable; and that there are programmes for the provision of assistance and solutions, including resettlement of the most vulnerable.

But what Iraq needs is for Sadr City to get a pork project while serious issues go unaddressed? Continue to go unaddressed? Bugsy is in Sadr City and don't be surprised if he gets his dream park funded while basic needs remain unaddressed.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

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That's a campaign Danny Schechter and have started. Only if you self-checked out on reality do you think that the banishing of Judith Miller resulted in corporate media coverage making huge strides in the coverage of Iraq.

If so, you obviously didn't notice that, today, a Petraeus gave a dopey speech and the press was all over it at the expense of reality. They filed that story and they refiled it over and over. They must have really thought those faux pearls of wisdom were news worthy because the only other answer was that they avoided covering the violence in Iraq (which included 10 corpses discovered in Baghdad) in order to assist Bully Boy sell the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk.

So one pathetic speech gets made and in time to be covered by the British press early Thursday morning but it's all the media can go on about all day long. You think there's not a problem with the media?

Leila Fadel had an interesting article this week entitled "4 years after invasion, many Iraqis look back with longing" (McClatchy Newspapers) but did anyone read it closely?

Layla Mohammed, a Sunni Muslim mother of three, remembered that heady day four years ago when a noose tightened around the neck of Saddam's statue.
"I felt that I was at the highest point of a roller coaster, just about to plunge into what I hoped would be an exhilarating experience," Mohammed said. "I thought, 'Oh, my God, it's happening. I live to see my sons set free.'"
A pharmacist, she said she'd voted in all three elections that Iraq has had since Saddam was toppled: first for an interim government, then for a new constitution, then for a permanent government. She remembers dipping her finger in purple ink - to indicate that she'd voted - with her two sons and her daughter. Together they held up their fingers and took a family photo to commemorate their future democracy.
"At that moment I felt that I was, at last, a sated human being. I had an opinion and it carried weight! I shall treasure that moment all my life," she said. "If only I could have that moment back; its joy was untainted. Now I know better."
The life of freedom and liberty she was promised never came. Her sons are trying to flee the country. She can't afford to keep her house warm, and no longer goes to her pharmacy in the neighborhood of Hurriyah, a once mixed-sect neighborhood that was emptied of most Sunnis in December.

Hmm. A Sunni woman. Who ran a business. Some might call her a "professional woman." So why is she not going to work? Because a roadside bomb might blow up near the pharmacy? Doubtful. As MADRE's "Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq" (which can be read in full in PDF format or, by sections, in HTML) points out, professional women are among the ones targeted. So, did McClatchy miss the story and if so how? Most likely, the woman doesn't go to work not out of fear over some abstract violence but because, as outlined in the MADRE report, her mixed neighborhood that became
Shi'ite contains thugs who threaten women who don't wear the veil, women who work and, especially, women who work when their husbands are dead. Why is the woman not going to work? Has she heard of threats or has she heard them directly? It's a question that should be asked. Credit, absolutely, for interviewing women. The first string of New York Times Green Zoners (and that was in better days) couldn't do that. But don't questions need to be asked?

So we're not hearing about that. And we've got The Daily Undercount that is the New York Times. Is big media doing an amazing job? Are they conveying, in their articles, the realilties which include that they cannot move freely outside the Green Zone? Have they bothered to tell the realities about the Kurdish areas? (More peaceful in some ways, but targeting minorities and claiming land that will only lead to further tensions.) And what of south of Baghdad? Do news consumers grasp that it's not under US control (or British) and that one of the reasons Baghdad is such a focus is because that's really all that's left?

The escalation numbers rose and there's talk of those numbers being there all summer. Now, it needs to be noted, the crackdown has been juiced up several times but the numbers that rose in August never went down. So what if that happens now? What if, come September, the same numbers are still in Baghdad and Bully Boy's sending more in?

Have you ever heard truth about the violence from US soldiers? Without prompting from Congress. Without a video turning up? Have they ever talked about the house searches realistically (not the ones going on in Sadr City -- those are actually laughable compared to the usual blow the door down, charge in and hit the first male to get everyone inside to drop the floor face down)?

They really don't bother to tell you that Iraqis, in poll after poll, want US forces out. And they really haven't bothered to tell you why that is? Or how many Iraqis US military has paid off for damages to their homes. Or how many the US military has refused to pay.

Where's the big story on the violence directed at US service women from US service men in Iraq? You can read about that in Off Our Backs, The Progressive, Salon, but where's big media with all its big budget? Why is that a story they can't tell?

Because it's a story they won't tell?

What about the issue of war resisters? Granted, a lot of blowhards claiming to be experts on the right would be blowhards regardless but it really helps keep the lie alive if they avoid discussing
the Uniform Code of Military Justice or interviewing someone like Ann Wright who actually taught it. By doing that, by ignoring it, they allow the lie to stand that the obligation to refuse an illegal order is based on the Nuremberg Trials (which the right blowhards dismiss).

So you really think they're doing a good job? We're not talking about errors here (like saying Kyle Snyder turned himself in during the month of November -- that's an error), we're talking about ignoring reality consistently. Shaping the story so that it leans to one side repeatedly while claiming 'balance' and 'objectivity.' Think the media doesn't need to be held accountable?

What about the MADRE report? Did you see it covered in the New York Times? How does that happen? The paper that could run to Rita Katz for her biased take on things can't cover an NGO report? How does that happen?

Iraq doesn't get a great deal of attention. So maybe we're not noticing all that the mainstream media continues to fail to provide.

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, AP's number for the US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3163. Tonight? 3188. 15 more. In seven days. Guess for that to be pointed out, the press wouldn't be able to play dumb on whether or not the talking point of "encouraging signs" was valid or not.

Turning to the topic of Agustin Aguayo, we have two highlights for tonight. First up,
Sabina notes Circles Robinson's "No Medals for Agustin Aguayo" (Cuba's Ahora):

Doing the right thing can be costly, but in the end one can at least sleep at night.Ask Spc. Agustin Aguayo, 35, a U.S. citizen born in Guadalajara, Mexico, who was just sentenced by a US military court in Wurzburg, Germany. His crime was a gut feeling shared by a growing number of ordinary citizens and soldiers alike: President Bush's war in Iraq isn't their war. His conscientious objector (CO) status denied on appeal, Aguayo went absent without leave, or AWOL, last September before a second deployment to Iraq. He had been told he would be taken there in shackles if necessary.
The medic was given a bad conduct discharge, sentenced to eight months in a military prison and stripped of his pay. It could have been worse, as he faced a possible seven years in jail.
Agustin Aguayo says that when he first joined the Army in 2002, he still believed in the US government and he never expected to be in the news. On Tuesday, he was once again a top story as he was convicted for refusing to kill people he doesn't know and who have done nothing to him, his family or his country.
In an interview with Democracy Now, before he turned himself in last year, Agustin Aguayo said: "It's not my job to decide who's going to live or who's going to die. That's something that I've had to deal with morally and that I'm convinced of. Nothing is clearer in my mind that war is wrong. And I won't be a tool of war anymore."
Aguayo had applied for CO status before his first deployment in February 2004 but that was rejected. At the time he felt killing was wrong. But according to his wife, Helga Aguayo, it wasn't until he was in Iraq and read a book on its history that came in a care package "that he realized that the war has essentially been created for the personal gain of a few people." In an excellent interview by Gillian Russom titled "The Court Martial of Agustin Aguayo," Helga added: "What he told me was that for a few corporations, it's in their best interests to keep the chaos going in Iraq."
"When my husband enlisted, we were very ignorant. We had both graduated from college and had no idea about history or the military. Now, our eyes are wide open," Helga Aguayo told Russom.
"In the movies, Hollywood glamorizes the military and makes them look like such heroes, but when he started training, he realized, 'I'm training to kill people,'" added Helga. Camilo Mejia, a young Nicaraguan born US solider, was another similar case. Mejia's wake up call came in Iraq and he wasn't about to go back on a second deployment. He has since dedicated himself to speaking out against the war.
If Aguayo and Mejia and the thousands like them that have left their posts, or refused to deploy in Iraq, knew what they were getting into beforehand they may have never enlisted. Recruitment officers offer of money for college, fast track citizenship, or "to be somebody" lose ground when a young person comprehends the cruelty of taking part in an unjust war against a civilian population.
However, once they are on board the pressures on them are intense and it takes real courage to fly in the face of them as Aguayo and Mejia did. While so called deserters may find themselves with fewer options in a society where education and decent employment are a privilege, at least they can sleep at night.
Agustin Aguayo says that when he first joined the Army in 2002, he still believed in the US government and he never expected to be in the news. On Tuesday, he was once again a top story as he was convicted for refusing to kill people he doesn't know and who have done nothing to him, his family or his country.

News in Cuba, even if not in the New York Times. Is anyone surprised? The same media that shut down debate, discussion and dissent before the illegal war began hasn't demonstrated that they are that concerned with a healthy democracy in the nearly four years since. A healthy democracy would require a free flow of information, would require an informed citizenry. Do you really see that anything's been changed other than Judith Miller no longer writes for a paper?

On Aguayo, Carl notes Rosalio Munoz' "CO Aguayo winning in court of public opinion" (People's Weekly World):

The March 6 military court conviction of pacifist soldier Agustin Aguayo was reversed in the court of public opinion as Amnesty International officially recognized him as a "prisoner of conscience," and a battery of progressive attorneys began efforts to get a federal court to reverse the Army's denial of conscientious objector status to Aguayo.
Aguayo's three-year struggle, supported by his family, to win recognition of his pacifist beliefs and conscientious objection to the war has won support from world and U.S. peace groups, much of the U.S. Latino community and the government of Mexico. It is a compelling story. Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.) has inquired into his well-being in confinement.
Aguayo, 35, is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Mexico and raised in Los Angeles. He enlisted in the Army in late 2002 before the Iraq war was launched. Married with two young daughters, he was working the night shift at a Home Depot and sought to train and work in the medical corps to serve his country meaningfully and develop a new career. The recruiter told Aguayo there was little danger of combat duty, telling him that he had served in "Desert Storm playing cards."
"We were not political then and had no idea a war was imminent," says his wife, Helga Aguayo, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Guatemala. "I had to tell Augie our country was at war while he was in basic training."

What does the House proposal mean? What does the Senate proposal mean? You'll hear about Pelosi, you'll hear about Reid. Will you hear about Lynn Woolsey? Travis notes "Woolsey Calls on Congress to 'Act Boldly,' and Fully Fund a Withdrawal From Iraq:"

Click here for text of amendment (pdf version)

-10 House Members unveil proposal during Thursday morning press conference-

Washington, DC - Calling on the Congress to "act boldly," to end the war in Iraq, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) was joined by 9 of her House colleagues this morning in presenting their plan to fully fund the withdrawal of US soldiers and military contractors from Iraq. Their proposal would provide military commanders with the resources that they need to undertake a systematic withdrawal of all troops by December 31st 2007, by restricting the emergency supplemental funding to withdrawing the troops. Woolsey was joined by: Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congressman Steve Cohen, Congressman Keith Ellison, Congressman Lloyd Doggett, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congresswoman Diane Watson, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Below are her remarks during Thursday morning’s press conference, as prepared for delivery:
"The occupation of Iraq has been an unmitigated disaster.
"Nearly 3,200 American dead and tens of thousands wounded...a bloody civil war ignited in Iraq...our national security jeopardized and diminished...the terrorism threat increased...American prestige around the world driven to an historic low.
"This nightmare must end, and this proposal would do just that - by mandating that any Iraq appropriations must be used to fully fund a safe, orderly withdrawal of American troops and military contractors by December 31st. Actually, we want our troops home to their families by Christmas.
"We have no other choice but to act boldly. A symbolic non-binding resolution on the escalation isn't enough. It's certainly not enough to put restrictions on the President that he can easily waive.
"It's time for Congress to prove itself worthy of the confidence Americans placed in it with their vote last November. It’s time to honor the mandate and assert ourselves as a co-equal branch of government with legitimate constitutional war powers.
"It's time Congress finally caught up to the people we represent, who recognized long ago that the Bush Iraq policy was a train wreck.
"The White House has shown nothing but contempt for public sentiment when it comes to Iraq; if we won’t stand up for Americans on this issue, who will?
"Ours is the mainstream position. We deserve our place in this debate and our seat at the table. We will not be marginalized, and we will be heard.
"We support our troops, and we always have. And the best way to support them today is to get behind a fully-funded withdrawal that brings them home from Iraq."

Will you find out about that in the mainstream coverage? Cedric gets the last highlight, Amy Goodman's "Belafonte Protects the Soul of Struggle" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer):

Harry Belafonte just turned 80. The "King of Calypso" was the first person to have a million-selling album, the first African American to win an Emmy and is perhaps the most recognizable entertainer in the world. Last Saturday, I attended his birthday party at a restaurant adjoining the New York Public Library.
The setting seemed very appropriate, as Belafonte himself is a living library of not only the civil rights movement, but of liberation struggles around the world. In 1944, just before shipping out as a U.S. Navy sailor in World War II, he was banned from the Copacabana nightclub in New York. Ten years later, he headlined there. He knew Rosa Parks, Paul Robeson and Eleanor Roosevelt. He corresponded with Nelson Mandela in prison, when the U.S. government considered the South African leader a terrorist.
Belafonte was a close confidant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He spoke daily with King. The FBI was listening. Taylor Branch, the award-winning author of a trilogy of books on King, was at Harry's party. Belafonte describes how Branch's final book in the trilogy, "At Canaan's Edge," uncovered extensive FBI wiretaps of their conversations.
For fighting for the right to vote and to end segregation, Belafonte says: "We were looked upon as unpatriotic; we were looked upon as people who were insurgents, that we were doing things to betray our nation and the tranquility of our citizens. That engaged the FBI. Everything we talked about was tapped." The FBI even came to his house, when he was away, and frightened his wife and children.
He tells me: "The essential difference between then and now is that no previous regime tried to subvert the Constitution. They may have done illegal acts. They may have gone outside the law to do these, but they did them clandestinely. No one stepped to the table as arrogantly as George W. Bush and his friends have done and said, 'We legally want to suspend the rights of citizens, the right to surveil, the right to read your mail, the right to arrest you without charge.' " His criticism is not limited to Bush (whom he called, while visiting President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, "the greatest terrorist in the world").

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and the war drags on
agustin aguayo