Saturday, August 04, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: I followed the weeks in California with a family vacation and this was noted in places at different community sites as well as this one but for those visitors who missed it, I am "still around."

In terms of radio, two programs stand out the most from last week.

Friday on Uprising, which airs on KPFK at 8:00 am PST, a conversation took place that I give credit to both the host, Sonali Kolhatkar, and the guest, Stephen Zunes, for having. I might need to say, "Especially in light of the previous Friday's broadcast"?

The previous Friday, Ms. Kolhatkar was speaking with a scholar when it was time for Glen Ford's Black Agenda Report radio commentary. After that, Ms. Kolhtkar asked the scholar to speak of Mr. Ford's points. The scholar was off in Hillary Clinton Is The Devil Land. Which was rather strange because Mr. Ford's commentary was "Barack Obama's Game: Erase the 'Black Problem'." The issues Mr. Ford raised related to Senator Obama were shoved aside as the scholar rushed to list all of Senator's Clinton's negatives.

Yesterday, Ms. Kolhatkar specifically raised the issue of Senators Clinton and Obama to Professor Zunes who was able to address the issues she raised. He did not feel either was that different from the other though Senator Obama's imperialism came with a happy stamp. While it was amazing that a real conversation of the two Senators could take place, it should be noted that I have never heard Professor Zunes stammer or hesitate so much in any interview. By his answers, he had obviously given considerable thought to the issue so I will chalk his nervousness down to the fact that there is a strong push to deny reality when it comes to Senator Obama.

Reality about Senator Obama is that he was against the illegal war before it began, and before he was a member of the U.S. Senate. Reality is also that, by the time he began campaigning for the U.S. Senate, he was publicly against withdrawal from the war he was against. Reality is also that, as former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel pointed out in the Democratic Presidential Candidates YouTube discussion, Senator Obama is funded by corporations. Reality even includes the New York Times explaining a few weeks back that Senator Obama's alleged "small donors" are not donating monies to his campaign. Those small amounts are actually no more than concession sales from his rallies. As the Times explained, and small media ignored, every t-shirt, every bumper sticker, every $4.95 for a key chain is chalked up as a "donation." No, that is not the Howard Dean phenomenon. As the paper pointed out, no other campaign is known to do that or to have ever done that.

Hopefully Friday's discussion is a sign that if we must have non-stop 2008 election coverage, we can at least have reality in the discussion. For that to take place, it will probably be helpful to remove the likes of Patricia J. Williams whose Obama campaigning, passed off as a KPFA interview, included her not only snarling at at a caller with a Mid-Eastern accent and correcting the caller who was, in fact correct, but it also included Professor Patti flying her elitist flag as she gushed repeatedly over the thought that someone who was president of the Harvard Law Review could run for president.

The second program that stood out most strongly was WBAI's Law and Disorder which aired last Monday. C.I. has written about it here and here and Mike has written about it here. The hosts Michael Ratner, Michael Smith and Dalia Hashad used the hour to examine resistance and spoke with Iraq Veterans Against the War's Adam Kokesh, his attorney, and CO and war resister Camilo Mejia who has recently published his account in Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia.

Sgt. Kokesh, speaking of the military's attempt to punish him for taking part in street theater against the war specifically but for speaking out against the illegal war in any form, connected the dots for listeners between the attempts to silence him and the attempts to silence Liam Madden and Cloy Richards also of IVAW. Ms. Hashad rightly noted that the accounts of Sgt. Kokesh's actions in D.C. with the street theater and with the kangaroo court passing itself off as military 'justice' were rife with errors. It is equally true that when not getting it wrong, the press pretty much ignored the story. Which is how you ended up with bright, intelligent and active attorneys needing Sgt. Kokesh to explain who Cloy Richards is.

After the broadcast, Rebecca and I discussed that specifically as we tried to figure out how the three hosts could be unfamiliar with Mr. Richards or Mr. Madden? Then we remembered that Tina Richards has gotten the word out on her son and largely been shut out of independent media. Rebecca pointed out that when Liam Madden held a press conference on Thursday the coverage was non-existent so much so that C.I. ended up writing a first-hand report of the press conference in a Friday snapshot. She and I were surprised that the three hosts did not know about the cases but the more we thought about the lack of coverage of the events, as Rebecca pointed out, "It's surprising even we know about them."

[C.I. note: Ruth noted the silence in this report back in June.]

Mike has noted that Sgt. Kokeh's attorney might have been nervous during his solo interview. That may be. It's also true that C.I. has steadfastly avoided addressing that segment, a sure sign that the guest was disappointing. The attorney is in the military and possibly a civilian attorney would have been better for Sgt. Kokesh's case? Were the case not ongoing, Sgt. Kokesh is appealing, I would not mention that fact. But if an appeal is lost in a few months, I want to have at least raised the issue that a civilian attorney knowledgeable in the Supreme Court needs to be brought onto the team.

The kangaroo version revolved around what those discharged from the military and placed in the IRR, Inactive Ready Reserves or Individual Ready Reserves, are allowed to do? They are not considered part of the military and they are not considered reserves. They do not report for duty. You are not discharged from the IRR, you simply are placed in there for the duration of your contract and then out when your contract expires. Before you are placed in there, you are discharged. This appears to have led to back and forth legal dickering in court.

Credit to Elaine and C.I. for leading the way in this community repeatedly on the issue at stake here: Can the military punish anyone for taking part in street theater while wearing a generic uniform?

Sgt. Kokesh had stripped away all the decorations and insignias from the camos he wore to the protest. In 1970, the Supreme Court answered the question with their verdict in Schacht v. United States which found the military had no standing in theater productions, they had no right or say. Those who want to quickly say, "This wasn't Sunday Park in the George staged on Broadway!," no, it was not. Nor was a Broadway production the reason the Supreme Court had to weigh in. Wearing uniforms, Daniel Schacht and others re-enacted the war in Vietnam outside a military recruiting station. Schacht v. United States specifically addresses street theater and notes this political speech is protected and out of the U.S. military's dominion.

Sgt. Kokesh's attorney was not able to convey those basics clearly when speaking with the three hosts. If, with a receptive audience, he is unable to address it, I do fear how he has and will address it in court.

C.I.'s response on the court case was, "Oh, Ruth, that was weeks ago, who remembers?" In her own phone call, Elaine noted, "That's the whole hog the blame, pass on the credit mentality." Elaine stated she had completely forgotten the court case and is not surprised that others have as well.

"We were working on the feature for The Third Estate Sunday Review," Elaine explained, "and C.I. said an expletive and explained it was going weak and that it was only a shade of what the mainstream media could do. Jim asked what we needed to do differently? C.I. responded use ourselves because what we bring to whatever is what it makes it unique and then C.I. starts saying there was some court case. No one remembers, including me, and C.I., we were on conference call, calls me on my cell. C.I. pinpointed the case down to the years 1969 through 1972. So what we were doing, forever, was trying to remember the various issues we were raising awareness and money on during that time. At some point, I think I mentioned another Dan and that's when C.I. remembered the case. As soon as the title of the case was tossed out, I remembered it as well. We then discussed the case at length and were ready to take that back to the ongoing conference call, I thought, but C.I. wanted to be sure what we were saying was legally sound. I will thank Jess' mother for taking my early morning phone call and listening to the legal points and modifying them. I won't thank the attorney C.I. has on retainer because that's why he's on retainer. So then we compared notes again and brought it back to the group. We were tired and I'm not sure how that went over, the writing, but I do think that then and since we made the point much stronger than was made by Kokesh's attorney in that segment so I share your concern."

Elaine also wanted me to include one other thing, "In terms of the hosts not being familiar with the Supreme Court case, Hashad didn't live through the period so she gets a pass right there. In terms of Ratner and Smith, though I'm not an attorney, I had forgotten it. Jess' mother belongs to many of the legal organizations that the hosts belong to, did live through the time, and she will tell you she had completely forgotten the case herself. As she explained, it's not something that has come up since until now. So I don't fault Ratner or Smith for not knowing of it. I raised money on this in particular and we, C.I. and I, worked that issue on campuses repeatedly and I forgot about. The issue only came out now because we are in another prolonged, illegal war and you once again have it dragging out long enough that the public is again seeing that while the brass is gung-ho, the ones actually doing the work on the ground are both exhausted and appalled by what they are seeing."

The third segment was Camilo Mejia and, as Mike noted, he is a very soft-spoken person. Sgt. Mejia is the first combat veteran of this war to refuse to continue serving. Last Sundy, the gang noted in "Where Have All the War Resisters Gone?:" "Camilo Mejia self-checked out only after the US military ignored their own regulations (and a decision by the military) that non-US citizens could not exceed an eight-year contract, they could not be stop lost or the victims of a backdoor draft. Why did Mejia have to self-checkout and why has that detail not only not been explored but lost from the telling of his story by the media?" Sgt. Mejia stressed the fact that he was one of the many in the military's stop-loss during this interview as well as in on this week with Matthew Rothschild on Progressive Radio. It is an important point and since it has not been addressed in much of the coverage, I will note the following.

From page 189 of Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia:

Not long after listening Mirable's speech, I wrote a letter to Captain Warfel requesting to be sent hom. The letter explained in detail my legal status as a soldier in the U.S. Army without American citizenship -- that prior to our deployment I had been in the military just short of eight years, and by the army's own rules and regulations, eight years represented not only the end of my contract, but also the maximum amount of time a non-U.S. citizen could lawfully be in the armed forces. I also pointed out that my green card was about to expire.

The U.S. military ignored that. Mejia was eventually passed on to "a Captain Mohammad" with JAG. Capt. Mohammad repeatedly avoided the issue until Sgt. Mejia insisted upon asking, "What if my U.S. residency expires? Could the army still keep me then?" At which point, Capt. Mohammed had to admit that they could not. On page 194, Captain Warfel decides that a Colonel Masters in Florida can answer the question for them. While on the phone he learns of " a congressional inquiry" into Sgt. Mejia's case. From pages 196 - 197:

"Hello, sergeant, my name is Kathy Tringially; I work at the Florida National Guard headquarters," she said, without mentioning a military rank, which made me think she was a civilian. "I'm going to ask you a few questions."
"Yes, ma'am," I said. "But how do you know my first name?"
"Well, there is a congressional inquiry on you. Your mother sent a letter to Senator Bill Nelson, from Florida, and he requested an investigation of your case. Now, let me ask you, sergeant . . ."
"Yes, go ahead, sorry." I was really eager to hear what she was about to ask.
"Have you applied for citizenship?"
"No, I haven't."
And when was the end of your eight-year contract with the army?"

"It was May of this year," I said, thinking she had looked at the regulation I had mentioned in my letter to the captain.
It was the third week of September, and my contract with the military had officially ended almost four months earlier.
"Well, then you have to be discharged from the military immediately," she said.
"What about the stop loss?" I asked, referring to the military term for involuntary extension during war.
"You cannot be extended," she said, "unless you have applied for your citizenship and have a court date for becoming naturalized."
"What about the fact that there is a war?" I was both excited and in denial simultaneously.
"The regulation is very clear, sergeant. You have to be discharged from the service. Once you become a citizen, you may reenter the military, but right now you have to be discharged."
"Well, can you say that to my commander?" I asked my beloved Ms. Tringially.
"Yes, sure," she said. "Put him on the phone."
"OK, thank you." I wanted to kiss her. "She says I have to be discharged," I said to the captain, handing back the phone.

"What?" he said with a still deeper frown. "Hello, Kathy? Hello, hello. Kathy, are you there? I lost the signal," he said to me, turning the phone off with his thumb and putting it in the right pocket of his desert pants.
After speaking with Triangially without a problem the entire time, it seemed odd that he'd lost a good signal.

That does seem odd. It even seems unbelievable. More than likely, Capt. Warfel did not want to hear from his good friend "Kathy" at that point. Sgt. Mejia was serving in Iraq in the U.S. military on a contract that had expired months ago and the U.S. military knew that they could not extend, or 'stop-loss,' the contract of a non-citizen. A number of people who slam war resisters want to point to those very same contracts but never seem at all concerned when the U.S. military breaks their contract.

Back in the United States on leave, to address the custody of his young daughter, Sgt. Mejia explained to Matthew Rothschild, he finally had the time to seriously contemplate what he was witnessing and taking part in. It was at that point that he applied for CO status. Later, when he would be court-martialed, the military would attempt to pressure him into rewriting his CO application because he specifically mentions abuses, including abuses of prisoners, and the Abu Ghraib prison story was in the news. The fact that the military had refused to investigate Sgt. Mejia's charges would not look good. But that is another part of his story that falls out in most retellings.

I had intended to note the May-June issue of Extra! this report but, as Rebecca pointed out, another issue is already out. I may pick up Peter Hart's "Transmission Accomplished: Propagandizing the short-lived Iraq War 'victory'" (pages 11 - 13) from the May-June issue when I note the July-August issue.

For now, I will urge you to read a report by the fourth co-host of Law and Disorder,
Heidi Boghosian It is entitled Punishing Protest and put out by the National Lawyers Guild. It is availabe online in PDF format for free or in book form for three dollars via the National Lawyers Guild website.

No title

Today the US military announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died August 2 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province."

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports three Baghdad mortar attacks that wounded six, a Baghdad bombing that killed 1 person (three more wounded), two people wounded in a Kirkuk shooting, three wounded in two Kirkuk bombings, and one corpse discovered in Kirkuk. Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in Haswa on Friday, an Iraqi soldier wounded in Hawija by gunfire, one Iraqi soldier and one civilian wounded by gunfire in Jbela on Friday.

In the latest on the war crimes in March 2006, when Abeer Qassim al-Janabiat was gang-raped and murdered by US soldiers after her parents and five-year-old sister were murdered, Reuters reports Jesse Spielman was found to have "participated in the planning of the attack as the soldiers drunk whiskey and played cards, and acted as a lookout. He was found guilty of four counts of murder, of rape, conspiracy to commit rape, housebreaking with the intent to commit rape, and conspiracy to commit rape. At the start of the hearing, he pleaded guilty to wrongful touching of a corpse, arson, obstructing justice and violating rules against drinking alcohol in a war zone." James P. Barker and Paul Cortez have already been convicted for their actions (which included partipating in the gang rape). Steven D. Green, who maintains he is innocent, has been fingered as the ringleader.

Iraq Veterans Against the War Nate Lewis and Liam Madden have no charges against them. Durinv IVAW's bus tour the two attempted to ask about the policy for entry at Fort Benning.
From Bob Audette's "Ex-Marine's court date for trespassing cancelled" (Brattleboro Refomer):

Madden told the Reformer Tuesday that it wasn't his intention to get arrested at Fort Benning, but added "I don't have a problem taking risks and getting arrested is certainly a risk I would be willing to take.
"The tour was a success," said Madden by telephone from his home in Boston. "We generated a lot of momentum for Iraq Veterans Against the War," including the addition of 21 new members to the group.
Making it difficult to reach out to active duty members were military officials who were hostile to IVAW's message.
"It was apparent that the military started to realize we were coming and was willing to take measures to insure that we didn't talk to any active duty troops," said Madden.
As a way of countering the tactics the military is using, said Madden, future bus tours will spend more time at bases, giving active duty members more opportunity to talk to the anti-war veterans.

Highlights? I'm not in the mood for sports. I'm not in the mood for the useless. I see why Rebecca did a short post last night. A lot of cowards, a lot of gasbags, a lot of election junkies pretending it's 2008 and that we all go to the polls tomorrow. Dave Lindorff is always worth reading and KeShawn notes his "Sad Day? How About a Sad Six-and-a-Half Years" (OpEdNews):

What was Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) thinking when he told Senate colleagues it was a "sad day" when that body started taking its marching orders from an outsider (the president and the director of national security), in passing a new version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that gives the president a free hand to spy on communications of Americans without a judicial review?
Is he implying that this is the first time the Senate has done this? Isn't that exactly what the Senate (and the House) did when they passed the so-called USA PATRIOT Act in October 2001? Isn't that what they did in overturning the Posse Comitatus Act and in altering the Insurrection Act last fall? Isn't it what they did in approving the Military Commissions Act last year, which retroactively okayed the use of torture on captives?
The truth is that the Senate and House have both become little more than rubber stamps for Administration power grabs ever since 9-11. Indeed, since that date, the members of Congress have been willing sell-outs of their own institution, which today bears no resemblance to what the Founders described in Article I of the Constitution--a document which the members have effectively destroyed.
For the past six-and-a-half years we have watched as a group of political midgets have destroyed what hundreds of thousands of our ancestors put their lives on the line to create and defend--a government system that was founded on the concept of individual rights and liberties, and that was structured to limit the power of the executive. Much has been made of a conversation at the White House a few years ago, in which Bush is reported to have told a few Republican members of the House that the Constitution is "just a goddamned piece of paper." In fact, that is what the members of Congress have also decided by their actions--and by their continued inaction.
Prior to 2006, it was primarily the Republicans in Congress who were trashing the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the concept of separation of powers, though with significant Democratic backing. Now, it is the Democrats who are the wrecking crew. Make no mistake: the Democrats did not have to pass this latest piece of legislation, loosing the NSA spies on us all. They had the power to kill that bill in its tracks. Instead, they succumbed to the President's empty threat to label them all "soft on terror" if they didn't give him what he wanted: a blank check.
They caved, just as they did when they had the power to end the war in Iraq last April by cutting off funding for it, and instead, voted to fund it in full.

Rachel notes two programs coming up on WBAI:

Sunday, August 5, 11am-noon
Downtown radio artists Andrew Andrew and guest, Russian artist Andrey

Monday, August 6, 2-3pm
Political satirist Will Durst on his New York opening in "The All-American Sport of Bi-Partisan Bashing"; historian Mike Flynn and Peace Granny Joan Wile talk about "On the Edge," a John Jay College symposium on transgressive art; and poet/editor/essayist Geoffrey O'Brien on his new piece on "The Sopranos " in The New York Review of Books. Hosted by Janet Coleman and David Dozer

Will Durst is one of Wally's favorite comics. If you're only familiar with his writings in The Progressive, make a point to listen. (Make a point regardless, if you can.)

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

The only one doing any real work in the MSM, as Martha points out, today is Sudarsan Raghavan. This is from Raghavan's "In Iraq, a Perilous Alliance With Former Enemies" (Washington Post):

Inside a brightly lit room, the walls adorned with memorials to 23 dead American soldiers, Lt. Col. Robert Balcavage stared at the three Sunni tribal leaders he wanted to recruit.
Their fighters had battled U.S. troops. Balcavage suspected they might have attacked some of his own men. The trio accused another sheik of having links to the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. That sheik, four days earlier, had promised the U.S. military to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq and protect a strategic road."Who do you trust? Who do you not trust?" said Balcavage, commander of the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, his voice dipping out of earshot.
An hour later, he signed up some of America's newest allies.
U.S. commanders are offering large sums to enlist, at breakneck pace, their former enemies, handing them broad security powers in a risky effort to tame this fractious area south of Baghdad in Babil province and, literally, buy time for national reconciliation.
American generals insist they are not creating militias. In contracts with the U.S. military, the sheiks are referred to as "security contractors." Each of their "guards" will receive 70 percent of an Iraqi policeman's salary. U.S. commanders call them "concerned citizens," evoking suburban neighborhood watch groups.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Friday, August 3, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, the puppet tries not to notice the government collapsing around him, the National Lawyers Guild issues a report by Heidi Boghosian on the state of rights in the United States, and more.

Starting with war resistance.  Cindy Chan (Epoch Times) reports on the creation of the War Resisters Support Campaign "launched shortly after an American deserter from the Iraq War named Jeremy Hinzman arrived in Canada seeking asylum that January" in 2004 and how it was quickly realized that both a legal and a political effort would be needed and that's certainly true with both war resisters Hinzman and Brandon Hughey's case now being appealed to Canada's Supreme Court following the Federal Court of Appeal's decision that "rights of conscience" could be applied to "a refugee claimant [who] is a high-level policy-maker or planner of the military conflict" but not "a mere foot soldier".  So apparently Henry Kissinger, for instance, could get refugee status for his war crimes in Canada but Canada will not give asylum to war resisters.  As Chan notes, that was not always the case.  During Vietnam, the Canadian government stood up but that's when they had a prime minister who wasn't a lackey of the United States.  Chan notes that Hughey and  Hinzman are expected to hear this month or next whether the Supreme Court will hear their case.

Just as during Vietnam, war resistance is on the rise.  "I think something similar is beginning to happen now because those same unities coming together to oppose the war say, 'No, we're not going to continue fighting in this war.'  We have the organization I belong to, Iraq Veterans Against the War, we have up to  500 members, the majority of whom have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who are saying, 'No, we're not going to continue to fighting this war.' And you know by the Pentagon's own estimates we have since the war started  8 to 10,000 troops who have decided not to go back to  the war. To put it in perspective, that's a division size element that's been wiped by desertion and AWOL," explains war resister and CO Camilo Mejia on this week's Progressive Radio, Matthew Rothschild interviewed  Mejia who has told his story in the recently released Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia (The New Press).

Matthew Rothschild: Did you get a lot of negative feedback from either people who saw you on the media or from soldiers or former soldiers?

Camilo Mejia: Definitely there was some negative feedback but by and large the feedback was very positive partiicularly when it came from the members of the military.  People in the army, or in the armed services, don't really feel that they have the right to go public with their views and opinions . . . but secretly in a more private way a lot of people came up to me and said they agreed with me although they didn't feel they could do so publicy.  The feedback was very positive.

Mejia described the things he saw at the POW camps for Iraqis and Rothschild asked if he realized then that the Geneva Conventions were being violated?  Mejia replied that he didn't realize it at that point, "It just felt wrong."  Mejia explained that the events "on a daily basis" in Iraq didn't allow him much time for reflection but he had that time while he was on leave back in the US.  He and Rothschild discussed the bond (socialization) within the military and how that can effect choices made.  Mejia stated the people need to "realize that there's a greater tragedy in Iraq . . . The people of Iraq, 90% of the people who are dying are civilians, you know children, unarmed men, women, the elderly, the entire life being destroyed, the infrastructure is being destroyed so we have got to step outside our own fears and our own interests and our own feelings to look at the bigger picture and realize that saying that we're fighting for one another is no reason enough for participating in this criminal war."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, 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 Kjar, 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. IVAW and others will be joining Veterans For Peace's conference in St. Louis, Missouri August 15th to 19th.

Mejia was interviewed on Monday on WBAI's Law and Disorder as was  Adam Kokesh spoke with hosts Dalia Hashad, Michael Ratner and Michael Smith (Heidi Boghosian, the fourth host was not part of this broadcast, but we'll cover Boghosian in a moment).  Kokesh is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and he discussed the military brass' efforts to suppress his freedom of his speech.  Kokesh wore his fatigues (without markings or name tags) in Operation First Casualty in DC (and elsewhere but DC was the one that led to retaliation) which is street theater meant to convey for Americans what life is like for Iraqis during the illegal war. 

"The media stories that  we've read haven't captured this accurately," Dalia Hashad noted.  Kokesh explained that, after the DC action, he got an e-mail which he didn't know what to make of -- was it for real? -- and he discussed it with Tina Richards (Grassroots of America) who explained that her son Cloy Richards had received similar e-mails from people in (or claiming to be) the military and out of it.  So Kokesh replied to the e-mail and the brass response was "which is completely unprecedented" because he had already been honorably discharged by the military and placed in the IRR Kokesh described it as a kick in the stomach and a surprise, "They can't do this, legally there's no grounds for this.  You know it says Article II of the UCMJ  it doesn't apply to the IRR it says in my enlistment contract".  Dalia Hashad asked to explain about the IRR and Kokesh offered that "when you're in the IRR you're only responsibilites are to maintain  a valid address and to show up if called back to active duty."

Michael Smith asked about wearing "a uniform" in street theater?  Kokesh explained that a JAG attorney was activated from the reserves, Jeremy Sibert, for the prosecution team.  Sibert is the Criminal Division Assistant US Attorney in the Del Rio Office [Texas} for the Department of Justice.  Attorney Mike Lebowitz spoke on the program as well and (as requested by Eddie) we'll one more time go over that what Adam Kokesh and others do in street theater is not an issue the military has any say in.  Daniel Jay Schacht took part in street theater during Vietnam.  He and others staged it outside a military recruitment center.  At that point in time, the military thought they had rights that they didn't.  Schacht was arrested for wearing a military uniform in the production.  The military's reasoning was that it gave the armed forces a bad name -- the play, the performance, whatever.  At that point, the military would allow or disallow theater productions the 'right' to utilize uniforms or not.  In 1970, Schacht v. United States was heard by the Supreme Court.  The Court found in Schacht's favor noting that the military had been granting permission to some.  By denying permission to others, this was now a free speech issue.  The US military, the Court determined, had no say in theater productions -- if some could use the uniforms, all could.  The military had no say over what Schacht or anyone said in a theater production when they wore a uniform and they had no say over whether the uniform could be worn.   This was true of all productions, including street theater.  Justice Hugo Black wrote:

Certainly theatrical productions need not always be performed in buildings or even on a defined area such as a conventional stage. Nor need they be performed by professional actors or be heavily financed or elaborately produced. Since time immemorial, outdoor theatrical performances, often performed by amateurs, have played an important part in the entertainment and the education of the people of the world.

Kokesh is appealing and, due to the Supreme Court's 1970 verdict, it should be an easy win; however, Schacht v. United States should have ensured that the matter never went as far as did.

"The idea that citizens are free to dissent is ingrained in the American mythos, a concept even older than the Declaration of Independence itself.  Equally important in this value system is the conviction that no nation state can survive as a democracy unless it safeguards political expression and activity," so writes Heidi Boghosian in Punishing Protest.  And yet, Kevin Egler has a pre-trial date August 9th in the Portage County Municipal Court in Kent, Ohio.  His crime, as David O'Brien (The Record Courier via Common Dreams) explains, placing an "IMPEACH" sign on public party.  And yet, Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) reported last month on the White House's policy of keeping people out of tax payer events -- something clearly taking place throughout the 2004 campaign but the White House put it in writing.  In the United States, the Los Angeles Times reports a record $1 million settlement by the District of Columbia due to the police round ups of demonstrators against the illegal war in 2002.  Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!)  notes that the monies will go "to more than one hundred demonstrators" and that "D.C. previously agreed to pay more than $640,000 to fourteen other demonstrators.  A larger class-action suit covering more than four hundred people awaits trial."  The money involved in the DC payout may seem great but does it really cover the cost of violating people's First Amendment rights?   And many other attacks on free speech and the right to assembly go under the radar.  The National Lawyers Guild has just released Punishing Protest written by Heidi Boghosian (available online in PDF format for free and avaible in book format for $3 at the National Lawyers Guild website).

We're going to zoom in on one section (from page six) and just to provide background (by me, take it up with me, not Boghosian) 2004 was a presidential election.  Though some voices, such as Naomi Klein, sounded alarms about the peace movement allowing itself to be subverted into a get-out-the-vote drive for a candidate who was not calling for an end to the illegal war (Democratic nominee John Kerry), most went along with it.  One of the biggest peace demonstrations took place in NYC during the GOP convention.  In the lead up to the rally and march, the Bloomberg administration denied (wrongly) Central Park access and along with attempting to fight that ban, the peace movement also had to deal with the middle age panice so many (such as Toad) were in the grip of -- alleged lefties who were saying that protesters shouldn't come to NYC or swearing they were leaving NYC for the entire convention.  With that background in mind, on page six Boghosian addresses the importance of the media in providing a light and in demonizing and silencing:

For example, the New York print media engaged in hyperbolic coverage months before the 2004 Republican National Convention.  The cover of the May 17, 2004 issue of New York magazine promoted companion articles, accompanied by a photograph of a protester wrapped in a U.S. flag.  One headline taunted: "Cops to Protesters: Bring It On."  The other read: "The Circus is Coming to Town: A Bush-hating nation of freaks, flash-mobbers, and civil-disobedients is gathering to spoil the GOP's party."  Nearly the entire front page of the July 12, 2004 edition of the New York Daily News contained an exaggerated proclamation: "ANARCHY THREAT TO CITY Cops fear hard-core lunatics plotting convention chaos."  Inside the paper, a two-page headline announced: "FURY AT ANARCHIST CONVENTION THREAT. 'These hard-core groups are looking to take us on.  They have increased their level of violence.' -- Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly."  The Daily News reported how "Kelly and company have to combat a shadowy, loose-knit band of traveling troublemakers who spread their guides to disruption ovre the Internet."
Although the New York Daily News is a tabloid, and prone to sensational headlines, it has the largest circulation and readership in the New York market.

Boghosian then quotes Mara Verheyden-Hillard (NLG's co-chair of Mass Defense Committee) explaining, "Such misleading news coverage is part of an effort to get the activists and the legal community to buy into the police line that there are 'good protestors' and 'bad protestors' and therefore agree that there is a real threat that then necessitates police response to protest.  Take action against the
fictional bad protestors but don't trample on the rights of the 'good' kind of response, which diverts from those who are the real violent actors over and over -- the police."  Also on the press coverage, Boghosian notes a study that found "college newspapers are generally doing a better job reporting on local antiwar events than other local newspapers" while the corporate (alleged grown up) press "fail to research accurate attendance numbers, or fail to mention estimates entirely".  Boghosian covers the varying fees applied to some groups but not to others, police pre-demonstration raids on the premises where activists are staying  (that harrassment also takes place in Canada, as Naomi Klein explains in Fences & Windows) and may 'find' or invent "a housing violation as a pretext to close down the premises."  On page 27, Boghosian addresses the appalling "free speech zones"  in Boston during the DNC convention, the containment pens endorsed by the Bloomberg administration which are a saftey hazard for demonstrators as well as a violation of free speech, the issues of bail, illegal spying, infiltration, court room shenanigans and more.  The report, to be clear, is not focused on the peace movement.  The report is about the erosion of rights in a democracy (or possibly, in an alleged democracy the way things are currently going) and also addresses the war on environmentalists, on Critical Mass and other cyclists.  Among the points Boghosian sums up in her conclusion is this:

Decades ago, government spying, infiltration and disruption tactics of the FBI and CIA against domestic political groups (Counter Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO) led to the establishment of guidelines limited federal investigative power.  Under the Bush Administration many of those guidelines are being loosened or abandoned altogether as the government engages in the same surveillance and infiltration activities through advancing a policy of preemptive "warfare."  And once again, the executive office, working in close coordination with all levels of federal and local law enforcement, is engaging in what Justice Powell called "dragnet techniques" to both intimidate and silence its critics, the very practice that led to the Fourth Amendment and its protections against overreaching government searches and seizures.
By characterizing those who speak out as 'enemies' or 'terrorists,' as the government is increasingly doing, those charged with upholding the constitution are defying it in a cowardly fashion.

Again, the PDF format of the report is available online -- 89 pages -- and it can be purchased for $3.00 at the National Lawyers Guild.

In Iraq realities are captured at Inside Iraq where an Iraqi journalist working for McClatchy Newspapers offers a post that really needs to be read in full but will excerpt from the end:

All these good-doers, thousands of them, in four years, what have they presented to the poor Iraqi Man that they all wish to serve?
Thousands of reconstruction contracts have been awarded -- and the projects said to be implemented.
What are they?
Where are they?  Where are they?
Wouldn't a sinking government jump at the chance to show such accomplishments -- had there been any?
Wouldn't an accused occupier jump at the chance to show some
succesful, truly fundamental infrastructure developments and shout them from the roof tops?
Do we have sanitary drinking water?
Do we have electricity?
Do we have medical services or basic neighbourhood services?
Thank you, but no thank you.
But you see . . . no one asked me.

Great Britain's Socialist Worker notes Oxfam's report and judges it "a daming report on the state of Iraq four years into the occupation" while also noting that Iraqi children "are the biggest losers in the occupation, with 28 percent malnourished, compared to 19 percent before the invasion, while nine out of ten children suffer learning difficulties."  The Oxfam report also found that 70% of Iraqis do not have "access to adequate water supplies."  This as CBS and AP report: "Much of the Iraqi capital was without running water and had been for at least 24 hours, compounding the urban misery in a war zone and the blistering heat at the height of the Baghdad summer. Residents and city officials said Thursday large sections in the west of the capital had been virtually dry for six days because the already strained electricity grid cannot provide sufficient power to run water purification and pumping stations. Baghdad routinely suffers from periodic water outages, but this one is described by residents as one of the most extended and widespread in recent memory. The problem highlights the larger difficulties in a capital beset by violence, crumbling infrastructure, rampant crime and too little electricity to keep cool in the sweltering weather more than four years after the U.S.-led invasion."  They note 52-year-old Jamil Hussein who has two children with "severe diarrhea" due to the water and that he and they will have to continue drinking it.  That's criminal, the potable water is still a longed for dream all this time after the illegal war began is criminal.

In some of the rare reporting on today's violence (the soccer team returned -- or parts of it -- so it's time for everyone in the press to don a jock strap and go into fluff mode) . . .

KUNA reports 3 prisoners killed in "Badoush detention camp" by "the Multi-National Force" (US forces) who used "tear gas, live ammunition and rubber bullets to put down the riots."  Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times) reports: "A spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, said an aide to the cleric was shot and killed Thursday by gunmen in Najaf.  Less than two weeks before, another Sistani aide was stabbed and killed near the cleric's office in Najaf, and another aide was killed a month before in a drive-by shooting."
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 13 corpses discovered in Baghdad today.
Today the US military announced: "Three Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers were killed and 11 others wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated near their patrol during combat operations in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital August 2. Four of the injured were treated for minor injuries and were returned to duty." This brings the August total to 5 US service members killed in Iraq and the total since the start of the illegal war to 3665.

In news of the attempts by the US administration (and elements in the US Congress) to steal Iraqi oil for the benefit of corporations, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) reported today, "Support is growing in the U.S. for Iraqi oil workers striking against the U.S.-backed oil law under debate in Iraq.  The main union representing American oil workers is calling on Congress to stop pressuring Iraq to pass the law and to shift support to the Iraqi oil workers' demands.  In a letter to House and Senate leaders, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard says: 'The oil privatization law now under consideration by Iraq's government is designed to benefit the multinational oil companies; not the Iraqi people'."  And the Iraqi parliament, like the US Congress, is now off on a month long vacation.  Jonathan Steel (Guardian of London) observes, "Glad tidings from Baghdad at last.  The Iraqi parliament has gone into summer recess without passing the oil law that Washington was pressing it to adopt.  For the Bush administration this is irritating, since passage of the law was billed as a 'benchmark' in its battle to get Congress not to set a timetable for US troop withdrawal. . . .  Just as General David Petraues, the current US commander, is due to give his report on military progress next month, George Bush is supposed to tell Congress in mid-September how the Maliki government is moving forward on reform."

Earlier this week the Iraqi Accordance Front withdrew from the puppet government.  Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) reports that "Iraqi and Western observers say Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his inner circle appear increasingly unable to pull the government out of its paralysis.  At times consumed by conspiracy theories, Maliki and his Dawa party elite operate much as they did when they plotted to overthrow Saddam Hussein -- covertly and concerned more about their community's survival than with building consensus among Iraq's warring groups, say Iraqi politicians and analysts and Western diplomats."   Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) reports, "Withdrawals from the government by individual ministers and by political groups was the first sign of the end of al-Maliki's political life, but the U.S. government has remained insistent on keeping al-Maliki at the top of Iraq's leadership" and notes, "Security, basic services, and all measurable levels of Iraq's infrastructure are worse now than under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Nevertheless, the U.S., Britain and Iran all continue to support this government."

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Other Items

In war resistance news, Matthew Rothschild interviews Camilo Mejia on this week's Progressive Radio. The interview and Iraq Veterans Against the War's Adam Kokesh's interview on WBAI's Law and Disorder this week will be noted in the snapshot later today.

In the New York Times, John F. Burns remains locked with Saddam Hussein, apparently forever, even in death. No confirmation to the rumors that as Burns left the grave he muttered "Rosebud." Key detail may be the fact that Burns has enough contact with the 'insurgency' to set up safe passage. That's not a slam on Burns (that's not), but it is rather surprising that safe passage can be set up but the Times really can't cover them. (The US government has been in talks with various elements of the resistance for well over a year now.)

Lloyd notes Sudarsan Raghavan's "Maliki's Impact Blunted By Own Party's Fears" (Washington Post) which examines the break as well as the puppet of the occupation:

As the U.S. military attempts to pacify Iraq so its leaders can pursue political reconciliation, Iraqi and Western observers say Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his inner circle appear increasingly unable to pull the government out of its paralysis.
At times consumed by conspiracy theories, Maliki and his Dawa party elite operate much as they did when they plotted to overthrow Saddam Hussein -- covertly and concerned more about their community's survival than with building consensus among Iraq's warring groups, say Iraqi politicians and analysts and Western diplomats.
In recent weeks, those suspicions have deepened as U.S. military commanders have begun to work with Sunni insurgents, longtime foes of the Shiite-led government, who have agreed to battle the group al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Repeating from yesterday, NOW with David Brancaccio this week:

A strong blow to the Bush Administration's detainee policy, and the military lawyer who dealt it. On Friday, August 3 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), David Brancaccio talks with Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift, whose Supreme Court victory on behalf of his client, a Guantanamo Bay detainee, successfully challenged the Bush administration's detainee policy. It also laid the foundations for the current Congressional debate over how to try those accused of terrorism. Will this development in the war on terror deliver swifter justice or false hope? The NOW website at will offer special insight into detainee treatment through the perspectives of a former prisoner and an army interrogator.

The program begins in airing in most markets tonight.

Peter Spiegel and Alexandra Zavis' "'Depth of misturst' in Iraq unforseen" (Los Angeles Times)
addresses US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' comments yesterday regarding "Gee whiz, who knew?" The reporters observe:

The Pentagon's chief's remarks Thursday were his closest yet to acknowledging that the Bush administration's top political goals for Iraq may not materialize during the buildup, even if it is extended into next spring, the latest the military could sustain the increase. He also is the top Bush administration official to express such concerns publicly.

As the fig leaf of supposed support within Iraq is ripped away from Nouri al-Maliki, AP reports he will be in Turkey on Tuesday and in Iran on Wednesday. Meanwhile, in "A Nail in Maliki Government's Coffin?," Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) reports that the defections "underscore a continuing decomposition of Iraq's U.S.-backed government" and observes:

Security, basic services, and all measurable levels of Iraq's infrastructure are worse now than under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Nevertheless, the U.S., Britain and Iran all continue to support this government.
[. . .]
Withdrawals from the government by individual ministers and by political groups was the first sign of the end of al-Maliki's political life, but the U.S. government has remained insistent on keeping al-Maliki at the top of Iraq's leadership.

Kimberly Wilder (On the Wilder Side) is getting the word out on the Green Party's attempt "to bring in bloggers to our convention" She refers to this node and more information on the Green Party can be found at its website (as well as Wilder's site).

The e-mail address for this site is

US military announces 3 more deaths

Today the US military announced: "Three Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers were killed and 11 others wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated near their patrol during combat operations in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital August 2. Four of the injured were treated for minor injuries and were returned to duty." This brings the August total to 5 US service members killed in Iraq and the total since the start of the illegal war to 3665.

On some of yesterday's violence, Martha highlights this from Megan Greenwell's "Suicide Bomber Kills 13 at Iraqi Police Post" (Washington Post):

On Thursday night, police said, mortar shells hit the Baghdad offices of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the country's largest Sunni political group. The attack came a day after the group announced it would withdraw five of its six ministers from the government in protest against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's policies. In a public statement Thursday, Maliki formally asked the Accordance Front to reconsider its decision.
Meanwhile, police in the northern city of Kirkuk announced that they had found a young boy crying next to the corpses of his five adult brothers. The five were apparently killed in sectarian violence after they and the boy were abducted Wednesday as they drove south out of the city, police said.
News that a child had apparently been present during the killings created nationwide outrage. Newscasters on Arabic-language television stations spoke at length about the incident, and several prominent politicians and religious leaders condemned the kidnappers.

Reuters notes, on the death of the brothers, "Reuters pictures showed an uncle of one of the men, turbaned and wearing white traditional Arab robes, weeping and curled up next to a wooden coffin, the body of his nephew wrapped in a thick patterned blanket.
A cousin of the men said four of them, all day labourers, had gone to help their brother paint the local hospital in al-Rashaad district, about 40 km southwest of Kirkuk." The kidnapping took place as they were headed home and the murders after the family was unable to pay a ransom.
Greenwell also notes that the US military's announcements brought to 80 the announced deaths of US service members for July (since filing, the count has risen to 81). Don't search the New York Times too hard for the same information unless you have time to waste this morning. Reuters notes: "The July death toll, initially put at 74, was welcomed by U.S. commanders as a possible sign that the military build-up was bearing fruit. But by Friday the toll had climbed to 81 on the Web site, on a par with February and March. Including corpses in the count, yesterday McClatchy Newspapers and Reuters combined reported at least 67 deaths in Iraq.

In the Times, you will find the footless and dateline free Paul von Zielbauer's "Marine Is Guilty of Unpremeditated Murder of an Iraqi Man" in which PvZ improves on many of his mainstream peers by actually naming the dead: Hashim Ibrahim Awad. In the Times of Los Angeles, Faye Fiore looks at what happens when the military knocks on a family's door to deliver bad news and focuses on Joane Sutton, wife of the late Greg Sutton.

Olive highlights Edmund Tadros' report in the Sydney Morning Herald which reports 5 Australian soldiers were injured on Thursday and, unlike other reports, does not mention a roadside bomb but states the event is under investigation.

In the United States, the Los Angeles Times reports a record $1 million settlement by the District of Columbia due to the police round ups of demonstrators against the illegal war in 2002.

And Paul Majendie (Reuters) reports on a study in the UK that has found British soldiers were more likely to suffer from PTSD if they were deployed for over "13 months or more in a three-year period."

The e-mail address for this site is

Thursday, August 02, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Unbelievably, the Democratic leadership in Congress seems about to cave in to Bush and grant him, of all things, more power to spy on Americans.
This, even as Alberto Gonzales continues to dissemble about the spying that has already been going on.
But whenever Bush lights the scare fluid, the Democrats jump back in fear.
In his Saturday radio address, Bush said, "Congress needs to act immediately to pass this bill, so that our national security professionals can close intelligence gaps and provide critical warning time for our country."
Bush also said that "FISA was passed nearly 30 years ago, and FISA has not kept up with new technological developments."
He conveniently failed to note that FISA has been updated 50 times over those last 30 years, and 20 times since 9/11,
as the ACLU notes.

The above is from Matthew Rothschild's "Dems Complicit in Bush Power Grab" (The Progressive). Hold on a second, it's noted by Sherry and Rebecca. Rebecca just finished posting at her site when she found an e-mail from Sherry highlighting Rothschild's piece. She called and wondered if there was any way to note it here? Yes, because it goes to straight to not only how we ended up with the unconstitutional Patriot Act, it goes to how we ended up with the illegal war. Democrats won't stand up. They're afraid and some of them are honestly authoritarians who have more than a bit of the Bully Boy in them. No one twisted their arms to vote for what Bully Boy turned into an authorization of illegal war. No one twisted their arms to make them decide to hop on board Bully Boy's attack on Americans's right to privacy (Rothschild notes the Russ Feingold came out strongly against this measure). But how would it look? What if there's another attack? Will we look weak!!!!!

If there's another attack, as the so-called Homeland Security Dept. seems to be telegraphing more and more (often based on the precision detection system known as Michael Chertoff's gut -- let's hope he doesn't eat spicey food anytime soon) who looks bad? The Bully Boy.

He can spin it and sell it anyway he wants but the reality is he identified Osama bin Laden as being responsible for the attacks and he said ObL would be captured dead or alive . . . six years ago. The FBI has taken him off their most wanted. That this took place under the Bully Boy also goes to him. He has had six years to do something, anything, but all he's done is attack the rights of the American people (with Congress' permission). Another attack isn't an indictment of Democratic leadership (other things -- such as the continued illegal war -- may be), it's an indictment of the Bully Boy and a testament to his failures in office. It's that simple. He's had six years to address the problem he's campaigned on repeatedly and another attack will only (yet again) demonstrate that he has never been up to any job other than booze hound.

Many elected Democrats and former members of Congress went along with the illegal war. Some are War Hawks. Some wanted it. It was a plan that began during the Clinton era and many, including Joe Lieberman and Bob Kerrey (now an Air America Radio host -- 'progress'!) were all on board. Bill Clinton himself laid the steps for Bully Boy's illegal war.

Could some of the elected Democrats have risen up in 2002 or before the illegal war started in March 2003? Yes, they could have but few of them did. Some were scared, some were for it, and some were unable to go against the grain. When the Democrats took control of Congress in the November 2006 election, they had the power to end the illegal war. Forget the nonsense about one Senator's sick and the Dems Senate majority is just a sliver. They have the power in the Senate, they have the power in the House. They've refused to excercise it. Mike Gravel has offered many examples of how the Congress could end the illegal war. They've refused the advice.

The other day Yawn Emmanuel, whom David Swanson's pointed out has publicly spoken of how good the illegal war will be for the Dems in the 2008 elections, was boasting of the need to force votes -- meaningless ones -- to put pressure on Republicans. Pressure to get them to end the illegal war? No the real 'pressure" is exposure and the hopes that, once exposed, voters will turn against him and go rushing into the arms of Democrats. Yawn Emmanuel is a bit like a man who terrorizes a woman in order to frighten her so she'll fall into his arms our of fear. In fact, it's as though the nation has been cast in the role of Ingrid Bergman in this remake of Gaslight.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3645. Tonight? 3662. Before we go futher on the topic of the deaths, Tori notes a highlight and asks what is the point of the column? For an exploration of that, read on after the highlight. This is from Norman Solomon's "Media Blitz for War: The Big Guns of August" (Common Dreams):

The media maneuvers of recent days are eerily similar to scams that worked so well for the Bush administration during the agenda-setting for the invasion. Vice President Cheney and his top underlings kept leaking disinformation about purported Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda -- while the New York Times and other key media outlets breathlessly reported the falsehoods as virtual facts. Then Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and other practitioners of warcraft quickly went in front of TV cameras and microphones to cite the "reporting" in the Times and elsewhere that they had rigged in the first place.
Last Monday, the ink was scarcely dry on the piece by O'Hanlon and Pollack before the savants were making the rounds of TV studios and other media outlets -- doing their best to perpetuate a war that they’d helped to deceive the country into in the first place.
The next day, Cheney picked up the tag-team baton. Tuesday night, on CNN's "Larry King Live," he declared that the U.S. military "made significant progress now into the course of the summer. … Don't take it from me. Look at the piece that appeared yesterday in the New York Times, not exactly a friendly publication -- but a piece by Mr. O'Hanlon and Mr. Pollack on the situation in Iraq. They're just back from visiting over there. They both have been strong critics of the war."
On Wednesday, the U.S. News & World Report website noted: "The news that the U.S. death toll in Iraq for July, at 73, is the lowest in eight months spurred several news organizations to present a somewhat optimistic view of the situation in Iraq. The consensus in the coverage appears to be that things are improving militarily, even as the political side of the equation remains troubling."
Such media coverage is a foreshadowing of what's in store big-time this fall when the propaganda machinery of the warfare state goes into high gear. The media echo chamber will reverberate with endless claims that the military situation is improving, American casualties will be dropping and Iraqi forces will be shouldering more of the burden.

Yeah, but that really doesn't excuse the fact that you're refusing to note (a) that July 2007 was the deadliest July for US troops and (b) 73 was a laughable figure on Wednesday. Norman Solomon wants everyone to understand that the illegal war will be switching to air war mode more and more and when that happens US deaths will most likely go down (as during Vietnam) and some pressure may then be off the administration.

That really doesn't excuse publishing a piece at some point on Wednesday (if not today) where the MSM and military lie of 73 is repeated. By Wednesday evening, 80 was already the announced deaths in Iraq. By today, it's risen to 81. The talking point imploded and before a 'war critic' does anything else it is his or her responsibility to note that.

As to the death count that will most likely go down (on the US side) when the air war is in full assault, what do you want, Norman? Seriously, what do you want?

You're a genius, no question, I have tremendous respect for you, but do you really think these scolds are helpful? They aren't. You're tired of the death count (as are we all). And?

Phyllis Bennis (whom I also have tremendous respect for) wants to shoot down Alexander Cockburn on the issue of finding out about the resistance. Now this was actually raised by Tom Hayden months ago and he was mocked (hopefully that was unintentional) on air for it. The host was reading something from the show's blog asking if this was a proposal to start a pen-pal list? Is Cockburn right? (Cockburn and Hayden before he was publicly humiliated, Hayden really hasn't touched on the topic since in any great detail.) So that's not going to be a focus.

Where is the focus going to be? How, Norman, are we going to translate the illegal war? We certainly can't depend upon a mainstream media holed up inside the Green Zone. More marches in DC (brief marches at that -- when Congress isn't in session)?

If the death count for US service members drops to one a month, we'll still note it here. If there was a reliable count on Iraqis (there actually is but no one's forcing the US government to release it -- or even trying to force them to) we'd note it. Instead we note that it is now approximately one million based on The Lancet Study published last October which found over 655,000 Iraqis had died.

The fact of the matter is that the US administration put the breaks on the death announcements, the military was derelict in their duty and went along with it, and the mainstream press -- in fact all the press! -- played dumb. We didn't here, as Tori notes in her e-mail. We didn't suddenly notice this week (or last) that the US military was delaying death announcements by as much as four days. We noted that all month long. We're not a media outlet. But find a media outlet that did -- big or small. Find anyone who prepared their audiences by informing them what was going on?

No one did. Reality, the US military was issued clamp down orders on the death announcements, told to slow them. Reality, military brass, under orders from the White House, began selling the talking point that deaths were down and this would be the lowest month in terms of US military deaths since last year. Reality, their talking imploded. Reality, they knew it would but hoped by delaying the truth, all the print editions would have run, all the gas bags would have moved on to another talking point.

On August 1st, as papers and networks repeatedly ran stories claiming it was the lowest death count since last year, the US military knew damn well that wasn't true (as did the White House) and they didn't correct the record. They announced a few more July deaths later in the first day of August, they announced again today.

That's reality and that's not addressed in Norman Solomon's column. Nor is it addressed exactly what we are to focus on? The deaths? Well, speaking for myself (but I'm sure it applies to others outside the community and I damn well know it applies to community members), we follow the deaths of Iraqis. What is it that the masses aren't doing, Norman?

Now I fully grasp the natural demand of a column that you have an opinion and to express it strongly but what I don't grasp is what's the take-away from your column?

The air war? I believe most are already noting that now (online). Don't focus on the deaths? Is that the edict because it won't fly here. We will note the deaths we can. The very nature of the illegal war? Find an entry here where we've ever called it anything but an "illegal war". Your column doesn't do that. At one point, in one sentence, you refer to the illegal war as "illegitimate and fundamentally wrong". It's illegal. In this community, we've grasped that for some time.

Now if you're getting at the disappointing coverage in small media, use an example other than Frank Rich. But in terms of what most reading your piece are going to take away, it's another scold. You're too good for that and you're too smart for that. Instead of using terms like "the media" and naming Frank Rich, why not go after the real roadblocks? The Nation magazine would be a perfect starting point. What sort of journalistic institution has "dozens" of photos of abuses and refuses to run any? What sort of journalistic insitution of the left hides behind centrists veterans and refuses to cover (in print) the ones who speak out against the illegal war because it is illegal and the ones who refuse to serve in an illegal war?

Norman Solomon wants to again tell readers that it's wrong to focus on the numbers of the dead. That's not because he doesn't care about everyone who dies in Iraq (on all sides -- which he does care very much about), that's because he's fully aware that an air war means US fatalities (the only thing tracked and often the only thing US audiences care about) will most likely go down. He's right. But to steal from Brando (in A Streetcar Named Desire, or Diane Keaton impersonating him for a scene in Sleeper), "And do you know what I say? Ha ha! Do you hear me? Ha ha ha!" First of all, the US administration and military have been caught in a lie that he takes a pass on. Second of all, the mainstream media is guilty of reporting a falsehood -- one they and small media should have known better about. But so what?

What is it that we should be focusing on? Hiding behind centrists? Turning the peace movement over to a pedophile? Attacking war resisters? More actions revolving around DC?
What is it? I've read the column, in full, twelve times and can't figure that out. If I can't, and I will always bend over backwards to see any point Solomon raises, I doubt many others can?

Funding the war is killing the troops, as Tina Richards and Iraq Veterans Against the War note. Funding the illegal war is killing everyone. It's an illegal war, not an "illegitimate" one -- it has many fathers true, but they are known -- and not just "fundamentally wrong" -- it's illegal. "Fundamentally wrong" makes it sound as though Bully Boy meant to pick up fries at McDonalds but got chicken nuggets instead. Illegal.

Brandon notes Amy Goodman's "The Uncounted Casualties of War" (Truthdig) and we'll go out on that (Goodman's points are very clear):

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey is not counted among the Iraq war dead. But he did die, when he came home. He committed suicide. His parents are suing the Department of Veterans Affairs and R. James Nicholson, the secretary of veterans affairs, for wrongful death, medical malpractice and other damages.
Kevin and Joyce Lucey saw their son's rapid descent after he returned from combat in Iraq in June 2003. Kevin said: "Hallucinations started with the visual, the audio, tactile. He would talk about hearing camel spiders in his room at night, and he actually had a flashlight under his bed, which he could use to search for the camel spiders. His whole life was falling apart."
Jeffrey told his family that he was ordered to execute two Iraqi prisoners of war. After he killed the two men, Jeffrey took their dog tags and wore them until Christmas Eve 2003, when he threw them at his sister, calling himself a murderer. A military investigation concluded the story is without merit, but Kevin Lucey says: "An agency investigating itself, I have a lot of problems with that. We fully believe our son." Joyce Lucey added: "It really, to us, didn't make a difference what caused Jeffrey's PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. We know that he came back different, so something happened to him over there."
Jeffrey got worse, secluding himself in his room, watching TV and drinking heavily. Jeffrey was reluctant to seek care, fearing the stigma that he felt accompanied mental-health treatment. Finally, on May 28, 2004, the Luceys had Jeffrey involuntarily committed. The Veterans Affairs hospital released him after three days.
On June 5, 2004, Jeffrey had deteriorated significantly. His sisters and grandfather brought him back to the VA. Joyce said the VA "decided that he wasn't saying what he needed to say to get involuntarily committed. Later we were to find out that they never called a psychiatrist or anybody that could have evaluated him. And they have this all on the record. It said that the grandfather was pleading for his grandson to be admitted."

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