Saturday, July 22, 2006

Grab Bag

It's the weekend. What's more surprising to me is that we're in the seventh month of the year. It's no surprise to me that it's July -- I write my checks too. But it just hit me that it's the seventh month of a twelve month cycle. The year's over half over. There are days when time seems to drag but, honestly, I can't think of one of those in a long time. It seems like since Bully Boy decided to illegally go to war with Iraq, it's been a nonstop treadmill.

I honestly feel like I did when I was a kid in school and it seemed like school had just let out the week before and now it was fall and time to go back. If you have not already, please consider reading Andrea Lewis' "Pentagon cultivating culture of violence against women" which is well written and on a subject worthy of more attention. Lewis is one of Betty's favorites (another reason to read it) and you'll see why if you read the article. Also please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's comments.

"Iraq Snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue. Or else just think of the decision of the extended curfew in Baghdad as the capital beginning to note ozone days. The
BBC reports that the Friday daytime ban "now covers most of the day" and that it ends "just two hours before the daily night-time curfew begins." 'Liberation' by unofficial house arrest.
If the 'crackdown' is to cut off all attempts at daily life in Baghdad, how's that hearts & minds strategy going?
AFP reports that in Baquba hearts and minds scatter to the wind when six people were killed and 23 wounded. Killed how? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Among the five dead were an infant and two women. The two adult males are being dubbed 'insurgents' by the US military. The women and the infant? AP trumpets one sentence into a condolence card: "The Americans expressed regret for the civilian deaths." Reuters, using sources other than the military's press release, reports that six, not five (as the AP reports -- the AFP was at the hospital and counted six corpses), were killed and that it came from an air raid bombing of three houses. (AP's iffy on what happened, AFP also calls it an air strike). Though the US dubs the two dead males 'insurgents,' reports indicate that the troops were seen as the 'insurgents.' AFP has an eye witness, Mohammed Omar, who states that the men on rooftop were guards (not an uncommon occurence in Iraq) and they fired at approaching troops believing they were 'insurgents'.
What happened? Probably no one involved, American or Iraqi, can tell you in full. For the military, that's what happens when the people you are supposedly 'liberating' are seen as the 'enemy.' The press release (which the New York Times will probably build from tomorrow -- though we can always hope that isn't the case) outlines (at length) a version of events. Those events aren't reflected in reporting by Reuters or AFP which actually spoke to people involved. And just to repeat, it's a lengthy press release. The AP treats the one 'regret' sentence as though it's prominent or lengthy. It's an afternote. The twenty-three wounded? Women and children in that number as well.
Elsewhere in Iraq today?
AFP reports that, in Baghdad, clashes led to the shooting deaths of three Iraqi soldiers and three Iraqi police officers, as well as the shooting death of "a Christian government official". Reuters notes that "[t]wo Salvadoran[,] . . . four Polish soldiers and an Iraqi transloator were wounded when their convoy was attacked . . . not clear how the convoy was attacked." That was "near Numaniya." In addition, Reuters notes the shooting death of a police officer in Mosul. And, in an update, Reuters is noting that a police officer and a civilian were shot dead "in separate attacks in Muqdadiya."
AFP notes one in Baghdad, "outside a Sunni mosque" that killed one person. Reuters notes that another person died in a roadside bomb near a Sunni mosque in Khalis (two others were wounded).
Reuters reports that three corpses were found near Falluja ("gunshot wounds . . . signs of torture") and that they were wearing the uniforms of Iraqi soldiers while another corpse (headless) was discovered in Kirkuk. In addition to that corpse, KUNA notes that the corpse of a two-year-old child was also found in Kirkuk. AFP notes four corpses were discovered in Baghdad ("signs of torture"). And Reuters is now reporting the discovery, in Muqdadiya, of the corpses of five kidnapped victims.
US military announced that a US marine died Friday in the Anbar province. This as Kristin Roberts (Reuters) reports that "Col. Michael Shields, commander of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team operating primarily in the Mosul area" says that the target of the 'insurgency' is now Iraqi soldiers.
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco continued as attorneys for Shelley Kovco (widow of Australian soldier Jake Kovco) and Judy & Martin Kovco (parents of Jake) sought to establish that
yesterday's 'key witness' had less than impressive qualifications. Conor Duffy reported on PM (Australia's ABC) that Wayne Hoffman faced questions on the 12-point document he'd prepared with it being noted that his document went beyond his area (ballistics) into a "largely speculative" area. (The reference is into Hoffman's statement that the death was a suicide -- which led Judy Kovco to leave the courtroom yesterday.) Duffy notes a number of things the 'expert' was confronted with such as the fact that, although he'd weighed in with expertise and great authority on the matter, "he was unaware there was another pistol in the room at the time of the shooting, and . . . he hadn't read the statements from Private Kovco's room mates." Dan Box (The Australian) reports that 'expert' Wayne Hoffman testified that he hadn't been able "to find any prints on the gun" -- not Jake Kovco's, not anyone's. Box notes: "NSW detectives will now travel to Baghdad to take DNA samples from those soldiers in Kovco's unit after unidentified DNA was found on the gun, including on its trigger." However, although that's been reported previously, it appears the journey to Baghdad is on hold. Conor Duffy (Australia's ABC) reports that although the expectation was for the testimony of soldiers in Baghdad to be heard Monday (via "videolink" as noted earlier this week), that's not the case: ". . . a spokeswoman for Defence Public Affairs says this has been delayed while a request to conduct DNA on more soldiers in Iraq is considered." So to recap, not only will soldiers not testify Monday via videolink (on hold) but the trip to Baghdad to take DNA samples (which had previously been stated to be a go) is now on hold. As Dan Box notes, the original investigation in Baghdad was made "without any foresensic equipment. In fact, no forensic tests were carried out by the military police." Speaking to Eleanor Hall on The World Today (Australia's ABC), Conor Duffy noted that Frank Holles [attorney for Judy and Martin Kovco] raised the issue that Hoffman appeared unaware that "Private Kovco was reportedly dancing around to a Cranberries song and communicating with his wife at the time of his death. 'Have you ever seen a suicide like that before?' he asked."
Also covering the inquiry,
Belinda Tasker (Perth Now) reports that Hoffman stated that his reasons for believing that Jake Kovco pulled the trigger "was the fact that the pistol was his own." Tasker also notes that his two former roomates reported that he was joking with them and "singing along to pop songs" but they claim they did not see anything when the gun went off. Finally, Tasker reports that Shelley Kovco "excused herself from hearing much of the cross-examination today."
In news from American courts,
Kay Stewart (Courier-Journal) reports that Steven D. Green, the former Army solider charged with raping and murdering 14 year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza and then murdering three members of her family, "won't be indicted until at least mid-October, under a motion granted yesterday in U.S. District Court in Louisville' at the request of federal prosecutors who would like it rescheduled to November 8th. The other five charged in the incident, Paul E. Cortez, Anthony W. Yribe, James P. Barker, Jesse V. Spielman, and Bryan L. Howard -- Yribe is only charged with dereliction of duty for failure to report the incident, "are scheduled for a miliary hearing in Iraq beginning Aug. 6" and the federal prosecutors argue that "[t]he same evidence and witnesses are necesaary components in both prosecutions."
In peace news,
Hannah Charry (Hartford Advocate) reports that John Woods passed on his 60th birthday to take part in CODEPINK's TROOPS HOME FAST! Woods is "striking one day a week" (Fridays) for two months and states that: "His anti-war stance is in part something that he attributes to the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder he developed upon returning from Vietnam where he served with U.S. forces as an interrogator in 1969." Charry notes that Kat West is following Woods example and "will be fasting five days a week."
And in Canada,
Ken Eisner (Vancouver's Straight) reports: "Fact: Jane Fonda's biggest fans in her antiwar tours were American GIs. Fact: returning soldiers were the vanguard of the out-of-Vietnam movement by the end of the 1960s. Fact: far more veterans of the military now serving in Congress are Democrats than are Republicans. Fact: U.S. soldiers are deserting at a rate greater than at any time since Vietnam." Though truth is always welcome, why is Eisner reporting that? Because the documentary Sir! No! Sir! is opening at the Ridge. Eisner speaks with the film's director, David Zeiger, who says of the film: "This story has been so thoroughly buried, I knew it would take a lot of digging to get it out there. I thought it would be emotionally draining too, and that's one of the things that scared me off. But what I found as the process went along is that it became much more celebratory. This gave a lot of people a chance to tell their stories within a context that would inspire others. The conversations certainly did conjure up painful memories, but overwhelmingly it was a positive experience for everyone involved."
Sir! No! Sir! is currently playing at:


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There is so much going on right now that a lot falls through the crack. C.I. noted The Smeal Report and I honestly hadn't thought to note it until I saw that. If you haven't been following the ongoing attempts by anti-choice zealots . . .

"Jesus Got Real and Kicked the Anti-Abortionists Outta the Church" (Ann Rose, guesting at The Smeal Report):
Today, about 100 demonstrators showed up at
Jackson Women's Health Organization, the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, to try to shut them down again. But, they were outfoxed, as the clinic had already seen their patients for the day and again the clinic building was empty.
This is the next to the last day of Operation Save America's 8-day siege on Jackson Mississippi, as part of their yearly anti-abortion Summer Event. It's not gone well for them.

That's one of the issues going on. The issue that everyone's focused on is what Israel's doing. Actually, they seem to be focused on justifying what Israel is doing, in most cases. Not everyone is doing that, however. I can think of several strong voices here, including Alexander Cockburn and Norman Solomon but I'm going to highlight an equally strong voice.

"Bush Far From Neutral Player in Mideast" (Helen Thomas, Common Dreams):
President Bush has abdicated the United States' role as an honest broker in the Middle East crisis exploding on two fronts, Lebanon and Palestine.
In failing to call for a U.N-sponsored cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel, Bush has lost his credentials as a neutral player.
In the Arab world, he is viewed as a cheerleader for the Israeli side, not a cheerleader for peace.
A newcomer to the problems of the Middle East, Bush told reporters Tuesday that the root cause of Middle East strife was Hezbollah.
Anyone with knowledge of the region knows most of the problems stem from the nearly 60-year-old Palestinian issue.

While the Arab-Israeli problem has festered, the president has been absorbed with the disastrous U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Bush has gone along with the Israelis in isolating the democratically elected Hamas government in Palestine, which Israel deprives of its tax revenues.
Furthermore, the Bush administration raised no objection when Israel seized and arrested more than two dozen elected Hamas officials in retaliation for a Palestinian guerrilla attack on an Israeli army base and the kidnapping of two soldiers.

Tracing it back to the source also is Ruth Conniff.

"Knucklehead Diplomacy, Bush-Style" (Ruth Conniff, The Progressive):
News about Bush's foul language at the G-8 Summit got disproportionate coverage, of course. If you want to get the US press buzzing, get the President to swear, or fool around with an intern. Never mind the conflagration in Iraq. The more alarming part of the story was Bush's apparent boredom with the meeting of international leaders, his eagerness to go home, where he has "got something to do," and his apparent confusion about geography.
Here's the leader of the free world speaking to President Hu Jintao of China: "Where you going? Home? This is your neighborhood; it won't take you long to get home. . . . You get home in 8 hours? Me too! Russia is a big country, and you're a big country."
The era of cowboy diplomacy may be over, but we have two and a half more years of knucklehead diplomacy to go.
It would be funny if it weren't so terrifying. Remember, right after 9-11 when the big Republican talking point was "thank god the grown-ups are in charge?"
Doesn't have quite the same ring today.

So, if like me, you feel like the days are moving too fast currently, the above is part of the reason. It's a long, long time ago that the biggest concern was turning off the TV before some pundit was yacking about "morality" and bemoaning sex as though it was a world crisis. We have real problems these days but no leader to address them. Some might say that at least things aren't boring but I bet most of us would settle for a little boring right now.

If I've depressed you at the start of the weekend, Betty's "Thomas Friedman says, 'Drop the five on the dresser before moving to the bed'" addresses reality but will make you laugh. (Also check out her "Finally Friday.")