Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The spying goes on

Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BULLY BOY CAUGHT SMELLING THE JONESES!" provides you with your laugh for today so please read it. Mike fell asleep tonight and was apologizing on the phone. I told him I used the time to tidy up around my increasingly sloppy living quarters. Seriously. I took garbage out, did some dusting, and got out the Windex for the mirrors. I needed to do that (and more) so it wasn't a problem. He's got work and college and he was finishing a paper last night. He said he is blogging but "nothing much." If it's two words, I'm sure it's worth reading so please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts.

"350 Iraqi Civilians Killed at US Checkpoints in '05" (Democracy Now!)
Meanwhile, the US military has announced 350 innocent Iraqis were killed at US checkpoints last year -- an average of at least six killings per week. A senior intelligence official told Reuters that out of a total 4,000 incidents in which US troops responded to a perceived threat -- less than two percent were later found to have posed an actual threat.

Alice e-mailed (thank you) to advise me that I hadn't posted two items last night that I thought I had. The above is one.

"Two National Guard Charged In Killing of Unarmed Iraqi" (Democracy Now!):
In other Iraq news, two National Guard members have been charged in connection with the February shooting of an unarmed Iraqi near the town of Ramadi. The guard members are currently being held in Baghdad where they will face pre-trial hearings.

This is the second one. Mike covered those yesterday in "Law and Disorder interviewed Suzanne Vega and Collective Soul."

"Pentagon Admits To New Spying of Student Groups" (Democracy Now!):
The list of activist groups monitored under a secret Pentagon program is growing. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network says the Defense Department has admitted to spying on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and anti-war protests at several universities: the State University of New York at Albany, William Paterson University in New Jersey, Southern Connecticut State University and the University of California at Berkeley. De-classified documents show the government intercepted the students' e-mails and planted undercover agents at at least one protest. The government also refused to confirm or deny whether it had spied on activists in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. The disclosure marks the latest case of known government spying under a secret domestic intelligence program, which has also targeted the Quaker movement and other anti-war groups.

That should wake you up to what's going on in this country. Let me suggest you read C.I.'s "On the Dangers of an Unchecked Bully Boy" one more time. This isn't one incident. As Amy Goodman said, "The list . . . is growing." At what point does the country worry? I think we're past that point. I think we should all be alarmed. I can't say anything else on it. If I do, I'll just launch into a huge lecture. Maybe I should? I don't think the readers I have need one. But I will encourage you to discuss the ongoing spying revelations with your friends to make sure everyone is aware of what is going on. Hopefully, you watch Amy Goodman every day or listen (or read the transcripts) and, hopefully, you work hard to get the word out on the program. I do. But I know that some still haven't started tuning in. (I will pick up on that in a minute.) Don't assume that because you know what's going on that means your friends do. We're all busy. We're all stressed. It's easy, especially with all the revelations, for something to fall through the cracks. So make sure this doesn't.

Next Tuesday is July 4th. If you're able to, use the day to introduce at least one person to Democracy Now! You can do that by reading the transcripts together, by listening together or watching together. If it doesn't air in your area or if it airs at a time when your friend (or friends) won't be able to catch it, go online and listen or watch online. If you can't, make a point to talk about the program to at least one friend.

"Report: Military Equipment Costs To Triple" (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile the Associated Press is reporting the annual cost of maintaining military equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to triple next year to more than seventeen billion dollars. Some estimates now put war costs over the last five years at almost half a trillion dollars.

There's always money in the budget for war. What else can I add to that?

I want to talk a bit about C.I.'s "NYT: Does that red light ever burn out, Dexy?" because I think it's worth reading and I also think you may not get much attention on Filikin's latest fluff elsewhere. The New York Times finally assigns someone to Ramadi and they send in The Cleaner. "The Cleaner." Harvey Kietel plays that character in Pulp Fiction but he played it first in Point of No Return. A crime has gone wrong. They call in The Cleaner. He comes out and fixes it so that everything looks nice and it appears no crime has been committed. That's Dexter Filkins. Last week, I was hopeful that Ramadi wouldn't be a massacre. The fact that The Cleaner (who cleaned up Falluja in his reporting) is now "on the beat" worries me.

Read the entry. It tells you what Dexy leaves out, what he sidesteps and how he uses an American fatality to manipulate you.

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: Jonathan Turley, John Stauber, Hannah Sassaman," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue.

Happy talk continues.
In the land of reality, Medea Benjamin and Raed Jarrar examine the neutered "peace plan" put foward by occupation puppet Nouri al-Maliki and the United States. Benjamin and Jarrar remind that a World Public Opinion poll this year "showed 87% of the general population [of Iraq] favoring a set timeline for U.S. withdrawal." This as USA Today reports on the USA Today/Gallup Poll which found that "[a] majority of Americans say Congress should pass a resolution that outlines a plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq" and that "[h]alf of those surveyed would like all U.S. forces out withing 12 months."
In other reality news, Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show, over 5% of Iraq's population is displaced with over 150,000 having fled their home (a figure that does not include those who have been taken in by extended family members). In addition, Reuters notes that the figures for children only: 40,000 displaced children since February 22nd of this year. UNICEF, in its 1996 study (the most recent) looking at the effects of war on children found, for the 1980s: "2 million killed; 4-5 million disabled; 12 million left homeless; more than 1 million orphaned or separated from their parents; [and] some 10 million psychologically traumatized." Using figures up through the 80s, UNICEF found that civilian victims of war "has been rising steadily".
Reuters notes that in Baghdad, one car bomb took the lives of three peopl at a market and wounded at least ten while a second bomb took the lives of three police officers with another three wounded.
Al Jazeera notes that a car bomb in Kirkuk which took the lives of three and wounded at least seventeen. The Irish Examiner notes that the car bomb attack "came three days after a roadside bomb killed the chief of intelligence in Kirkuk" (Associated Press). Also in Kirkuk, Reuters notes "an off duty soldier" was killed by assailants "while driving his car."
Updates on two items. First, we noted yesterday the 10 kidnapped males. Steven Hurst and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (Canadian Press) report that the ten were all Sunni and students who were kidnapped "from their dormitory rooms" at Iraqi Technology University. The AFP reports that the kidnappings took place in "broad daylight" and that the kidnappers used "five sports utility vehicles with tinted windows".
Emma Griffiths (Australia's ABC) reports that the four Russian diplomats -- Fyodor Zaytsev, Rinat Aglyulin, Anatoly Smirnov and Oleg Fedosseyev -- have been confirmed dead by the Foreign Ministry of Russia. The four were kidnapped on June 3rd in Baghdad when their car was attacked by unknown assailants. During the attack a fifth diplomat, Vitaly Vitalyevich Titov, was killed. On Sunday, a videotape was released which showed what appear to be some of the four being killed. While the press reports were circulating, the Russian government noted repeatedly that the murders had not been confirmed. The Mujahedeen Shura Council has asserted since last weekend that they had killed the four diplomats.
Meanwhile, as Amy Goodman noted on Democracy Now! today, "former CIA officer Tyler Drumheller said he repeatedly warned administration over the discredited Iraqi source known as 'Curveball'." Ignoring the warnings and advise, Colin Powell used the information for his now infamous UN speech that Powell has described as a "blot" on his career/record. Yesterday in Washington, DC, Democrats in the Senate held a hearing on the intelligence issue where, among others, Larry Wilkerson and Paul Pillar testified. Speaking of the administration and the intelligence community, Pillar stated, "I would describe the relationship as broken."
Joshua Belile will not be punished for "an obscenity-laced song" performed "to a laughing and cheering crowd." The US military has found no reason to charge him and one unnamed Marine Corps. official tells Reuters that "poor taste, poor judgment and poor timing, not to mention offensive lyrics, do not necessarily amount to criminal conduct." Margaret Neighbor (Scotsman) described the song thusly: "In a four-minute video called Hadji Girl, a singer who appears to be a marine tells a cheering audience about gunning down members of an Iarqi woman's family after they confront him with authomatic weapons." As Sandra Lupien reported June 14th on KPFA's The Morning Show, the song included lyrics such as: "the blood sprayed from between her eyes." As Lupien noted June 15th on KPFA's The Morning Show, the apologetic Belile stated that "People need to laugh at it and let it go." Reuters notes that he has said it was "supposed to be funny" and that he based it on Team America: World Police. (The film that underwhelmed at the box office in 2004 and was put out by the South Park twins.)
Finally, in peace news. NPR actually covered the case of Suzanne Swift. The audio clips can be heard online and lasts 3:58 minutes. The reporting? The segment's over (except for some really bad bumper music) at 3:26 minutes in a report filed by Martin Kaste. The report starts at 0:16 and Swift's case is over by 1:30 minutes. A minute and fourteen seconds may not seem like much but it's more than they've given Ehren Watada.
Today is a day of action for those wanting to stand with war resister Ehren Watada. To sign a petition in support of Watada by clicking here. More information on today's national day of action can be found at ThankYouLt.org and Courage to Resist.