Friday, July 28, 2006

Middle East & coverage or lack of it

Firstly, thank you again to C.I. and Rebecca for their help with "From the Mixed-up Mind of Eric Alterman" which really is a joint post between the three of us. Anyone curious about the second name journalist will be disappointed. He apologized. I didn't have time to address both last night and 'up and down defending' Alterman seemed more important. When I was discussing them both, C.I. just listened to my reasoning -- Rebecca was all for Alterman. This morning, C.I. left a message to call ASAP as soon as I was done with my session. I did and we discussed e-mails -- I had already decided that I'd read thirty of them today. I wasn't in the mood to wade through more nonsense about how I was going to rot in hell for defending the Lebanese or the Palestinians. C.I. said, "Well tell Sunny to print up the top thirty right now before the apology isn't in it."

The second writer? C.I. knows him. I said, "You could have told me that last night." C.I.'s response was that it had to be my decision on which one to address last night. So C.I. phoned him and I ended up getting an apology with a note that he'd be happy to apologize over the phone and he included his office number. I called him and we're fine. Near the end, I made a point to say I wasn't posting on him and he said I could if I wanted but I don't see the point in that. He apologized, we spoke. We both have a disagreement and will always have one but the issue's resolved. He said C.I. phoned and started with, "I don't care what you're doing right now, I'm taking twenty minutes of your time and you're going to listen." We laughed about that and a few other things so it really is fine.

The other e-mails? I've gone back and forth on that. I don't believe you promote hate speech so, on the one hand, I'm opposed to quoting from them. On the other hand, I think it's important to understand the reactionary element that does go on. I was talking to Sunny about this and explained that with enough tensions right now, I'd hate to have something up here, a quote or passage, that I then comment on and have some reactionary come by and think, "That's just how I feel! Let's kill 'em all!" So Sunny suggested that I wait on that because the situation's already tense enough.

I will note that those lecturing 'holyness' might ask themselves why they feel they can reduce others to animals? And not just that but animals that it's more than fine to kill, that need to be killed according to many of the e-mails.

Do they really believe, maybe they do, that another living person is worth killing? A child? That's what really bothered me the most about the e-mails, depressed the most, the violence they felt someone deserved (violent death) because of where they were born. I'm old enough to remember when this country was repeatedly whipped into a frenzy over Russians. I'm also certainly familiar with the missionary zeal but I thought the goal there was to "save the souls" and it's just an interesting to hear from apparently religious people who just want to kill.

"Israeli Attacks Escalate in Palestine" (Free Speech Radio News)
Israeli troops withdrew from Northern Gaza early this morning after a bloody two-day sweep that killed over 30 Palestinians. Saed Bannoura reports from the West Bank that Israeli forces continue nightly raids there, taking 22 Palestinians prisoner last night alone:
Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians have increased this week, particularly in the Hebron area. And in Jerusalem today, Israeli police have been preventing anyone under 40 years old from praying in Al-Aqsa Mosque, firing tear gas and concussion grenades at worshipers. Meanwhile, negotiations appear to be underway for a possible release of the Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian resistance fighters in Gaza. Abu Obeidah is with the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, who are holding the captured soldier: "The issue of the soldier we are holding prisoner is not just an issue of the Qassam Brigades, or Hamas, it's an issue of the Palestinian people - there are over 10,000 Palestinians inside the Occupation's prisons, behind bars. The Palestinian people are united, all factions are united. No Palestinian politician can demand that we release the captured soldier with nothing in return." Earlier this week Palestinian groups offered terms for a truce, but the Israeli side has thus far refused to negotiate. So far, the latest round of Israeli attacks has killed over 100 in Gaza.

How does this go on year after year? I think I know one explanation, via those hate filled e-mails. Israel is the "good child." It's the "spoiled child." The US (government and a chunk of the population) acts like a parent playing favorites. Actions that are wrong are wrong when the Palestinians (the "bad child" in this analogy) does them. Actions that are wrong when the "good child" does them? Never addressed. The apple of the parental eye can do no wrong. Ever. So over and over, people look the other way or make excuses. That's why Israel's been able to ignore UN resolutions and international law repeatedly. Like a spoiled child in a playground, it can hit the Palestinians and get hit back but, when they run to Mommy and Daddy, they get told, "Oh, it's not your fault." A neighbor asks, "Was your child in a fight?" and protective parents respond, "Oh yes, that bad Palestine. Why, I don't think we can even let poor little Israel play in the sandbox anymore because that bad Palestine is just so mean."

Time and again, Israel can do whatever it wants and there's no attempt to address its actions. Instead, its: "Here, have a cookie. You are the best. You don't worry about that mean Palestine. You are the best."

That's what I meant this week when I said the press reported ('reported') as though sides were already chosen ("good" and "bad"). A soldier was never "kidnapped" (soldiers are captured) and that one event has allowed them to tear through the occupied territories, destroying everything they wanted to (such as the only power plant) and grab whomever they wanted (such as government officials) and the response has been, "Oh our child is the nice one. Our child is the good one."

In fact, as Normal Solomon has pointed out, some press response has been to justify the the actions and insist that Israel can kick or beat any other child in the playground just because they're the favored child. What is that sort of "judgement" or "evaluation" that Solomon's critiquing but playing "faovrites"? It's not level headed, by any means.

My analogy is not intended to suggest that either party is a child but I'm really sick of sports analogies (no offense to Betty, I followed and enjoyed her's) which are often done to death. I could speak of treating it like a sporting event and Israel as the home team but I think there's something more than rooting for the "home team" going on here. If the home team screws up, someone's going to holler, "You bums!" That never happens. Israel's treated not like a home team but like a favored child. It's accomplishments are praised and its embarrassments are hidden away. The US response is like that of the parent of a forty-year-old man who's been living with a guy for ten or twenty years, never dates a woman, and, if you speak to the parent in denial, you'll be told, "Oh Israel's so thrifty. It shares an apartment to cut down on living expenses. Now let me tell you . . ." as they move the topic to something else.

A thinking parent would look at the situation and say, "Israel's gay." But a parent invested in a myth of who they think the child is (and that the child is not gay -- I'm actually thinking of a patient (and disclaimer, some details are changed to protect the person's confidentiality) I had last year on for this example -- will look at their adult male child, living for countless years with another man (in a one or two-bedroom apartment) and deny, deny, deny.

No reality can enter the picture because the parent has their own reality of "good" and "bad" and, based upon those judgements, the child either is something or isn't something. Before I get e-mails saying, "You're against parents!" -- there is healthy parenting and there is unhealthy parenting.

In the case I'm thinking of, the mother had decided gay was "bad" long ago. She had a forty-year-old gay son. He knew he was gay. He had attempted to discuss that with his mother over the years and, when she sensed on some level where the topic would be going, she would repeatedly change the subject. She had all these problems and was on all these medications which resulted from self-medicating (with a prescription) because she couldn't and wouldn't face reality. She had a daughter who was the "bad" child. The daughter was always "trouble." The woman had decided a long time ago that everything her son was perfect and up to her standards and everything the daughter did was imperfect and an embarrassment.

This was not loving your child because the women didn't know her children. The son was more apt to hide the things he knew she'd disprove of. The daughter was more apt to let it all out there. It is fine to love your children and disagree with things they do, actions they take. It's wrong to deny reality.

When she came to me, she was stressed out beyond belief and nothing was helping at this point (medication wise). It quickly became apparent that she had vested herself in the "good" child giving her grandchildren and he hadn't. At one point, someone had made a remark that possibly he and his boyfriend could adopt and that had sent in her into a tailspin (leading her to seek help) because she couldn't understand why anyone would say such a "nasty" thing about her son.

Did she really love her son? She wanted to. She certainly wanted to. But she didn't know her son enough to be able to love him. For repeated sessions, she would harken back to that conversation but never provide details of the "nasty" thing that was said. She would only say how rude it was to "gossip" and how the woman who'd said that was jealous (and offer a long set of examples for why the woman was supposedly jealous). She had a gay son, an adult gay son who'd been living for years with a partner. Because of her own disproval of gays and lesbians, she couldn't see her son as he was.

Just as I'm not attempting to suggest that Israel or Palestine is a child, I'm not attempting to suggest that sexuality is equal to armed aggression.

The woman couldn't embrace her son because she didn't know him. She embraced a myth and denied evrything that didn't fit into that myth. The responses of the US government, a large part of the press and a healthy portion of the people (led by the government and the press response) do the same with regards to Israel. What they deem "good" they see in Israel, what they deem "bad," they see in others.

There is no sense of proportion in the coverage coming out of the Middle East. There is only a selection of sides and events that fit into their notions of "good" and "bad."

The response in the press is to ignore obvious realities or stay silent. In "And the war drags on . . ." last night, C.I. addressed some questions visitors had asked. One was if C.I. thought Lebanaon didn't deserve financial aid? The question arose from the fact that C.I. had repeatedly commented on the decision of Iraq's puppet/prime minister to announce he was giving $35 million in aid to Israel. That wasn't about Lebanaon for C.I. It could have been victims of a tsunami and C.I. would have raised the same issue. C.I. likened it, the $35 million in aid, to a man at a dining out, grabbing the check for the table with grand fanfare and then, as an aside, whispering to a woman that she'd have to "help" him out.

I actually know the example C.I. was thinking of because a mutual friend (more C.I.'s friend than mine, she's more my acquaintance) is still outraged by that. She was the one who had to "help" him out. Everyone at the table thinks he's wonderful and successful but she paid that bill. It's happen repeatedly in the short time she's been seeing the man and she's quite ticked off about the whole thing. (As are friends and you can include me on that list.) It's never "we" can get the bill, even. It's always him announcing that he will get the bill. She and the people at the table usually take turns but since she's been dating this man, he's picking up the check (and allowing her to pay) everytime they go anywhere.

C.I.'s comments on the proposed aid were in line with you don't offer to foot a bill you can't pay. (If Iraq does have $35 million lying around, why are the children suffering from malnutrition?) When we were on the phone the second time today (our first call was brief because I was between sessions, we had a longer talk during lunch), I brought that up because the previous statements at The Common Ills had been very clear to me and I was surprised that there was confusion over it. (C.I. excerpted from someone's else's post that asked that question as well and that post may have been the reason for the question, my opinion.) C.I. told me the question didn't "bother" because with so many visitors complaining from one perspective, it was actually good to know that there was a visitor who was seriously concerned about Lebanon and needed clarification on that.

I understood that because, law of averages, there must be some people from outside the community who come here and read something without thinking, "Oh, she's being so anti-Israel." There must be some that agree. Just law of averages. But the ones I hear from are the visitors calling for the deaths of all Arabs "in those countries," etc.

We talked about that because Sunny had informed me this morning that a certain someone had written of how he wasn't silent on the issue because he was ignoring it, he just didn't have anything to say on the topic. Apparently that man's only opinions come to him when he was cable and broadcast news. He's stayed silent on this topic not because he's covering anything of value (or anything that couldn't have been covered in the nineties for that matter) but, my opinion, because he doesn't want to address the issue.

C.I.'s addressed it. C.I.'s foucs, as members have demanded (not requested, demanded) is Iraq. The community feels (and I'm a member of the community and I agree with this sentiment) that there is not enough coverage of Iraq from mainstream or independent media. Whenver anything else arises, Iraq is immediately forgotten. It's not put on the backburner because the coverage in what passes for "calmer" these days is such that Iraq's been on the backburner for about three years now. But it loses out completely when a new story comes along.

Some stories are in need of coverage, the immigrant rights movement being one. Some are just nonsense. When the internet works itself into a tizzy over Boston Public, for example, that strikes me as nonsense. Not because the show is a bad show (I've actually watched that show and found it entertaining) but because it was treated as though it was a statement by the Democratic Party. That's just one example. There are other instances where I think, "You know that author/pundit/anchor has been doing that for years and it's been cited for years so why is it a driving story?"

Time and again, Iraq takes the backseat. Looking at the response to Judith Miller online, it's become very obvious that it was, as C.I. noted during and after, a case of "bash the bitch." Miller is gone and with it the interest of so many in the coverage of Iraq. They may note Bully Boy's statement but they're not noting individuals now, are they? Collectively they are silent.

I think Miller deserved the criticism she got. I'm not upset that she's no longer with the New York Times. But do people really think the coverage is any better with her gone? Where is the same sort of keen eye given to the work of Dexter Filkins, Micheal R. Gordon, etc? It's not there. The Washington Post runs a story on a military propaganda campaign (against the American people) and whose name pops up in it as the go-to-guy? Dexter Filkins.

If that had happened before Judith Miller left the New York Times and the name had been Judith Miller, you better believe all the 'brave' critics would be screaming from the rooftops (or at least from their keyboards). But it didn't happen. Dexter Filkins has not been the subject of the sort of probing criticism that Judith Miller was. "The Lies of the Times" includes no place for criticism of Dexter Filkins.

Why is that?

The reason the community demanded that the focus of The Common Ills be Iraq is because one person can't do everything and C.I. is only one person. The Iraq coverage from The Common Ills didn't pull punches, didn't decide that a woman could be slammed for her bad coverage but we'd look the other way on the fact that she had a male co-writer participating with some of the worst stories. The Times over reliance on the laughable SITE wasn't being noted by countless websites. A few others were addressing it, I'm sure. But C.I. didn't say, "Okay, I don't know anyone criticizing SITE, so I better not touch this." Quite the contrary.

If you'd mentioned SITE to C.I. months before the critiques of it started coming from The Common Ills, you would have gotten a blank stare. C.I. kept seeing it pop up and sent out a call to friends (I got the e-mail but I knew nothing about them) asking about the organization. When C.I. got responses and found out about Rita Katz and her group, C.I. didn't look around to see if Slate (I'll use them because I actually read them regularly) was critiquing it or anyone else. C.I. started posting on it.

But a lot of people seem to be attempting to figure out what the "hot" or "sexy" topic is and we get tons and tons of the same topic (same story) at site after site -- and usually the "hot" or "sexy" topic isn't worth that much coverage.

Or take another example, Chris Hedges. I love Chris Hedges' writing. I think he's been very brave about the Middle East and consistently raised issues that others shied away from. Is there another site (e-mail me if there is) other than The Common Ills that's said Chris Hedges needs to name his second source?

If you're a visitor from outside the community you may not know what I'm talking about. Mother Jones magazine did a story on how Chris Hedges (and others) were tricked by a bad source. Two programs aired on television as a result and Hedges wrote (I believe co-wrote) an article in the Times about alleged training camps, this is right after 9-11, teaching people to hijack airplanes. The story is bogus. Hedges spoke with the author of the Mother Jones article and discussed a source who was a fiction. (Hedges didn't create the source. The source was provided to him and other journalists and the source misrepresented himself in every way.)

It was an important story but it didn't get a great deal of attention. What else didn't get a great deal of attention? The story in the Times co-written by Hedges (the paper hasn't run a correction on it all these years later although PBS has provided a correction to their coverage) mentions two sources -- the one outed by Mother Jones and one that we have no idea the identity of. C.I. said Hedges needed to name the other person. He does need to.

He's named one because he was burned. That story was a fiction. The article the paper ran mentions two sources. Who is the other source?

That's why the community wants the focus on Iraq, that sort of thing. Anyone (anyone who subscribes to the Times or is willing to pay for the archived article) could have gone and read it. No one did. The author of the Mother Jones article was interviewed about his article and no one ever raised the issue, "Now in his Times' article, Hedges wrote of two sources. The Mother Jones article quotes him on only one source. Who is the other source?"

It matters. The issue of the resitance to the war matters as well. But exactly what is happening with Jeremy Hinzman (to name only one)? He's appealing the decision that would result in him returning to the United States. (During Vietnam, Canada took in war resisters or "draft dodgers" and AWOL soldiers. Welcomed them.)

He's vanished from the world for all intents and purposes. He could use some support right now before the verdict on his appeal comes in. Brandon Hughey and Patrick Hart as well, to name only two other names I know of and know of from The Common Ills. Did the story stop mattering or did it just lose its "hotness"?

I think the story still matters. I'm not surprised that the mainstream media has ignored it. I am disappointed that the alternative media has not made a strong effort to get Hinzman's name out there repeatedly before the appeal is decided. Sunny showed me a website that wrote "Finally, the New York Times writes about Ehren Watada." (Can you steal anymore obviously from C.I.'s Sunday entry entitled "NYT: Finally reports on Ehren Watada"?) They ran that Tuesday of this week (Tuesday or Wednesday) (the New York Times story -- "Officer Faces Court-Martial for Refusing to Deply to Iraq" -- ran on Sunday). Sunny searched that site and Ehren Watada had been mentioned only once before (when he first announced his decision). There was nothing in that one entry that said, "The Times isn't covering this." The site wrote about the conference and then, weeks and weeks later, remembered Ehren Watada and wanted to slap down the paper for not covering him.

I think that takes hubris. C.I.'s gone over this day in and day out, made that point repeatedly. While others were obsessed with whatever they were obsessed it, C.I. provided commentary on Watada and noted, repeatedly, that the paper hadn't covered this story. Noted that the only thing at the paper about Watada was from the AP. (As has been disclosed elsewhere, C.I. wrote about the paper's lack of coverage of Watada the Saturday before the story ran -- at the urging of a friend with the New York Times. C.I. had written about at length for several weeks, repeatedly each week -- at least three times the week before the story ran.)

"We Are the New York Times!" lisps one man whose writing probably does reflect that because it's so bad. He's a Miller critic. He not a Michael Gordon critic and he's not a Dexter Filkins critic.

While many worked themselves into a frenzy over Bully Boy's hot air about the New York Times ("We Are the New York Times!" is only one example), C.I. noted, from the start, Bully Boy was attempting to reach out to that base and, unless the paper was charged with criminal activity and the opinion makers stayed silent, the whole thing was really unimportant -- Bully Boy boasts and the Times gets to look brave. There's hot air and there's contributions. C.I. makes contributions, day after day.

An entry may be humorous (Dexy as sob-sister has made me laugh repeatedly) and use the humor to make the point or it may be a straight critique. But it's never as useless as "We Are the Times!" or some similar "hot topic" that, in the end, isn't really about a pressing story.

Iraq is off the radar. (Good or bad reporting, the Times is covering it and I'll give them credit for that. While also agreeing with C.I.'s point that you don't do your "today in Baghdad" briefing in the midst of Saddam Hussein articles -- repeatedly -- and call that coverage. As C.I. pointed out, when there is a mass kidnapping of 17 people, that's a story by itself. That's not to be blended in as a small point in an article about Saddam Hussein's hunger strike or something else.)

The situation in the Middle East outside of Iraq has been covered at The Common Ills. C.I. slides in bits and pieces because the focus (demanded/requested) is Iraq.
The reason for the focus is because so few even cover it. I picked up a magazine this evening (I'm at Mike's and came in to attend the meeting, Wally's visiting as well) as I drove in. (I am addicted to bookstores.) The magazine has one real mention of Iraq in it, it comes in an interview and it's one or two questions. (Though I like the interview subject, I wasn't impressed with the interview. The subject has spoken at length on this and other topics. The interview wasn't a probing one. It struck me as very superficial but I went to the site I think is the most superficial online and, sure enough, there's a link.) That's coverage of Iraq?
I'm not reading People or Newsweek. I bought an independent magazine (one that I often enjoy). The issue went to print before Gaza and Lebanon caught the mainstream attention. So where is Iraq? What's the pressing issue? (There is a really bad book review and that may be someone's idea of discussing Iraq.)

Iraq is on the backburner day after day until something else flares up and then suddenly Iraq vanishes from the coverage. The snapshot was created to counter the waves of Operation Happy Talk. I believe, I may be wrong on this, that the Times had done a story (end of the month wrap up) about how low the American troop fatalities were and C.I. was bothered by that. So this was just a one to two paragraph planned thing, Monday through Friday, to combat that sort of nonsense. (As C.I. and I have both noted, but it's almost the end of the month so it needs to be noted again, the press runs with their "end of the month" stories and never corrects them. What do they need to correct? The fatality figures. The military has a tendancy to add one or two -- or more -- names to the month's list a few days after the new month has begun and the press has already reported X.)

The community responded to that, embraced it. There wasn't time for highlights and for the snapshot. Something had to give. C.I. put it to the membership and they went with the snapshot. (Highlights take far less time to do, it should be noted. Tracking down news of war and peace on Iraq can take several hours. With highlights of op-eds, Jess and Ava could work the e-mails and present C.I. with a list of ten to twenty of the suggested highlights they felt were the strongest and C.I. could pick three or four from that list.) The snapshot is time consuming. The coverage of the inquiry into the death of Jake Kovco today bothered C.I. and, when we were on the phone while I was having lunch, I was warned that if another call came through, it was being taken. C.I. was calling journalists in Australia to confirm something ("walk me through" was probably how C.I. put it) before the snapshot went up. (Testimony was delivered that Kovco was reprimanded for 'playing' with his gun. Twice. The testimony was from someone who had direct knowledge of only one incident. Therefore the second incident he was speaking of was "hearsay." But the Australian press was running with that testimony. C.I. didn't think that was appropriate and was also questioning what else was stated. You'll find a link to what few wanted to cover -- refuting that testimony -- in their press coverage and that resulted from the phone calls/"walk me through"s.)

Sunny has pointed out that the Jake Kovco story is one that most Americans don't know. He died in Baghdad on April 21st. His body was supposed to be shipped back to Australia but what arrived was someone else. Their equivalent of Donald Rumsfeld took to the airwaves with theories and speculation (while the family was mourning and before the body had arrived home). Kovco died with two roommates present. Both roommates have offered confliciting testimony. When the investigation started, the investigators were surprised to discover that the crime scene had been cleaned, that Kovco's clothes had been discarded. The pistol (Kovco's) thought to have been used had DNA on it -- some of which is Kovco's, some of which isn't. The mother (Judy Kovco) has walked out on the inquiry at least once and the widow (Shelley Kovco) has left at least once. (Judy Kovco has publically referred to the "Keystone cops.") But this isn't a story to be covered in the United States?

Jake Kovco may have shot himself and he may have shot himself accidentally or intentionally. But there are a number of questions that need to be addressed (including conflicting testimony, the crime scene clean up, etc.). The same media that turned a Michael Jackson case into a circus (a front page one in the New York Times) does not see this as worthy of coverage?

When Americans were held hostage in Iraq, Ted Koppel turned Nightline into "America Held Hostage." When the United States started an illegal war, he covered it (badly) but he didn't make it "Day 151: Iraq War." He moved on to other topics, returning to Iraq every now and then. (Surprising since anytime I've seen his not-so-frequent Times column, he's writing about Iraq.) The administration started an illegal war. The conflict continues. Nightline's not dedicated itself to it, but who has? Listen to public radio and you can find worthy shows on any number of worthy topics. But where is the daily (or even weekly) program focusing on Iraq?

Independent media as a whole isn't doing its job. The United States wages an illegal war and it's treated, as Mike so rightly noted, as an after thought. Radio programs seem to think that a headline here with an occassional report covers it. It doesn't. As C.I. has pointed out, there are many stories to be told. Stories on the peace movement in this country, stories of Iraqis, stories of the funding, stories of . . . It's a long list. It's not surprising that corporate media would take a pass (Nightline seemed to see its mission best as daily tracking Democratic presidents. When Republicans waged war or anything else, it was less likely to be a continued focus.)

Supposedly, there's a consensus among independent media that the war is illegal and needs to stop. I wonder how that happens when the war's not on a back burner let alone a front one? One of the few nice e-mails this week (from visitors) asked me why I note the snapshot each entry? He said it was at The Common Ills and wondered why it was here in full as opposed to just a link?

I don't have the time to do a snapshot. I do appreciate the time C.I.'s putting into those. I also know the topic is important. I'd love to tell you that it just occurred to me one day that since the topic was one dropped from day to day and knowing the work C.I. put into those, I decided, "I'm going to print it in full." That's not what happened. A number of us participated in a roundup for the gina & krista round-robin (Keesha, Brent, Carl, KeShawn, West, Mona, Brandon, Mike, Rebecca and myself with Gina and Krista moderating). Carl brought up the issue of snapshot and noted how much information it was delivering each day. He felt that those of us with regular blogs (Betty and Wally do humor sites, he rightly made a point to exclude their sites due to the focus they have for them) shouldn't ever do a post on a day with the snapshot and not include it. His point was that, yes, the snapshot was available at The Common Ills but a link wasn't noting what was going on. He, rightly, challenged us to either do our own or note it in full each day. Now anyone with a site could reject that. But those of us present agreed that were in error for not including it each day. Even if someone's already read it at The Common Ills, it's a reminder that Iraq isn't "liberated" and the troops are not home. We took the issue to others. Everyone agreed. The Third Estate Sunday Review tries to note it but it's not always easy to get a full edition up in a marathon session. Otherwise, it's noted everywhere except the humor sites. (And that's noted, the round-robin roundtable, with the permission of Gina and Krista as well as everyone participating in the roundtable, just FYI.)

So that's why we include it in full. C.I. started The Common Ills with very strong, very clear opinions of the war. Members count on that. They do care about other issues (and C.I. would probably love to go a day without Iraq -- the snapshot is becoming a nightmare as calls are made day after day to ask, "What am I missing here? This isn't playing out for me.") but at a time when the death toll for all in Iraq continues to rise, when the troops aren't home, when there is no end in sight, there needs to be coverage and, quite frankly, there isn't.

I am not slamming Dave Zirin here. I enjoyed his book and think he's a wonderful voice. He covers sports and if it wasn't for his writing, I wouldn't be following any sports coverage. The World Cup became a story for the left. Maybe it should have been? Maybe it shouldn't have been? But it did become a story for the left with a number of people (who don't usually make sports their beat) rushing to cover it. That's all well and good if they're covering Iraq seriously. If you've taken care of that, each issue or each program, sure, bring in World Cup if you want. But the truth is, most weren't covering it.

I'm thinking of one program in particular (members will know the one I mean) that decided this was an issue. This same program didn't have time to note that the US military was keeping track of the dead in Iraq, a bodycount of Iraqis. That's not covering your bases. A bodycount, despite denails, was news. If you're not covering that and you're covering the World Cup, you're not that different from Dateline or any other useless lifestyle "news" magazine. Nancy A. Youssef breaks a story and the response is silence (with the exceptions of Aaron Glantz and IPS). If the indepenent media can't find the time to cover that, they've got no excuse for their nonsense about what was said on broadcast and cable television, about what sporting event is going on, etc.

That Iraq has to fight for coverage in the mainstream media isn't a surprise. That our independent media chooses to make it compete with 'soft' features is shocking. It's three years after the illegal invasion. I've yet to see an alternative magazine offer up a weekly or biweekly or monthly peace colummist (who writes about the peace movement as opposed to attempting to cover the 'moods' of the world). It's three years later and I've yet to see an "Iraq Watch" weekly, biweekly or monthly column. It's three years after the war and to judge by the so-called criticism, Judith Miller left the Times and the Iraq coverage became excellent. It's three years later and there's not one public broadcasting program that's focus is Iraq. Why do we need the snapshot? That's why.

Those wondering why the war drags on? Look to what's offered three years later and what isn't offered. If the war matters, if gathering in DC matters, if not voting for candidates who support the war matters, if the bodycounts matter, if any of this matters at all, where is the coverage?

It's splattered here and there. It's an after thought picked up when things are calm elsewhere or there's not a 'hot' or 'sexy' story. If the independent media wants to end this war, they're going to need to step up the coverage of it. They're going to need to quit playing around and start addressing realities. When C.I. noted that there wasn't a public radio program that was reporting only on Iraq, Jess read an e-mail to the public account that wondered why that was needed?

The person felt that the war could be covered with everything else. "Like gumbo" he wrote. (I think he was thinking of another dish.) He also felt that even a half-hour weekly program wouldn't have "enough to cover."

When it's covered with everything else and it has to fight with everything else, it loses. If you haven't noticed that, you've not paid attention to the coverage. As for not being enough to fill a half-hour, there's enough on Iraq to fill a daily hour long program and still not cover everything. There are demonstrations, there are fasts (and note how little coverage that's gotten, the mainstream's actually beginning to cover that more and the independent print media still hasn't shown interest), there are people returning, there are the headlines, there can be discussion, there can be press criticism. There are any number of things that could be offered. That C.I.'s the one raising the issue and not someone in public radio is rather sad.

I stopped buying one magazine (the community will know which one) because it does see itself, now, as a lifestyle magazine for the left. That's not surprising since they brought on board a writer who famously spent the post-2004 election period arguing that the US needed to stay in Iraq. (The writer would split hairs over that interpretation. Tom Hayden rightly critiqued that writer's half-assed opinion.)

If you think the horse-race coverage of elections comes solely from the mainstream media, you obviously haven't been paying attention to your print magazines. (Or noted that one woman needs to stop identifying with the beltway -- that might explain her bad writing in a current edition -- unless she's willing to leave independent media.) But as November gets closer and closer, watch for Iraq to become more and more of an after thought as we're all supposed to get caught up in the election.

Week after week, there's some issue we're supposed to be caught up in. Hurricane Katrina was a worthy one, for example. (I would argue the effects of the hurricane that then hit Florida were also worthy but the press, mainstream and independent, wasn't concerned about that -- some Floridians without power for over a month and it wasn't "news.") But week after week, month after month, there's always something that needs to be covered right now (somethings really don't) and, as a result, a three-year-old illegal war drags on.

I keep thinking of Danny Schechter's attempts to do a protest against the media in March of this year as a result of their Iraq coverage and remember how little attention that received. I didn't expect the mainstream media to provide me with coverage. I did assume that the independent media would. He organized the protest with very little help. That's not because he was shy. He would have gone on any show, sat down for any interview, to get the word out on that. Few were interested. Was that the weeks we were supposed to be getting on board for a Marine invasion of Darfur? I forget now but it was some appalling (for the left) cry that was going out that just had to be covered.

Danny Schechter did his protest and a number of people showed up. Not as many as should have shown up (because most didn't know about it) and not as many as he would have enjoyed. But some people did focus on Iraq. Others were busy organizing and reporting on the "Bring the Troops Home and Send Them To Darfur" religious movement.

I think about that now and it upsets me so much. C.I. did note the protest at The Common Ills. C.I. apologized (at The Common Ills) after for not working it more. At the time, I didn't think that was needed and wrote it off as a C.I. thing. (C.I. knows Schechter.) C.I. was already focused on another demonstration and covering a number of other issues. (That's just online activities.) If you'd asked me, I would have said, "Yes, that deserved a lot more coverage -- or any -- in the lead up." But I was under the impression, then, that the independent media was breaking their backs to cover Iraq. (By the way, if you're someone who did cover Danny Schechter's protest, before or after, consider yourselves patted on the back. There were very few of you who made the effort despite the importance of the event. And I'm speaking of the traditional outlets, not blogs.)

That's not the case. To use another example, let's talk about Ehren Watada. Protests were scheduled earlier in June. There was no build up to that from the independent media and there was no real coverage of it either. (Truthout was an exception and I'll add them to my blogroll.) Watada was worthy of coverage when the story of his refusal to deploy to Iraq broke. Then it was silence. (The same with Suzanne Swift. As Mike has pointed out, a promised, recorded interview with Swift's grandfather never aired despite on air claims that it was coming later in the week . . . several weeks ago.) Then he was charged and suddenly the independent media wanted to cover it. It was really weird to get two tiny segments on that, in an hour long show, that both included, "We only have X seconds" and "We only have a minute." Why did we only have that short amount of time?

Because Iraq was an after thought. An hour long show that 'only has a few seconds or a minute' has treated Iraq as an after thought.

The same week, supposedly we were going to learn about the fasters to bring the troops home. But that was another final segment where there wasn't time to address that. The guest was fasting, had been arrested and I forget what else. All of which was crammed into a tiny segment.

It's not just that these weren't the lead segments, it's that when the time rolled around for them, there wasn't time for them. That's treating war as an after thought.

Watching Watada be dropped like a hot potato and then suddenly be a pressing issue after he was charged made me think of Danny Schechter's protest. It went on despite the lack of coverage. But it's true that he got burned and that everyone who attempts to organize right now is getting burned. They're shoved to the side and it's often for "lifestyle" features. That's not cutting it. It's three years later and that's not cutting it.

More recently, repeated time on air and in print has been made to tell us how outraged we should be over the election in Mexico. (**Listen to Matthew Rothschild's Progressive Radio where Elizabeth DiNovella is the guest for Rothschild's interview.**) Not to inform us, not to tell us, but to outrage us. Independent media, in all its forms, has not kept their eye on the ball. They've avoided seriously addressing Iraq.

Some rest on past coverage. Some don't even have that. There are protests coming up, not the ones for individuals (those won't be covered) but the big ones in September.

[**Radio link added. Dona pointed out to me I'd forgotten to add it. I'll include it in Monday's post in case anyone's already read this. I was about to fall over this morning when Wally came in and told Mike and I what time it was so I rushed to get this posted and missed adding some links -- I'm sure there's another one missing in this post.]

Before those come up, independent media should take a strong look at what it's providing. They should be covering the protests before they happen. If they can spend all that time attempting to build interest in a foreign election, they can surely spare the time attempting to build interest in domestic protest of an illegal war launched by the US.

I'm providing the snapshot and ending here. I'll address a book review on Monday and I've written four paragraphs on that which I'll save for Monday. If you feel left hanging, I'm sorry. Wally just walked into the room and mentioned the time to Mike and I. He's already posted and it's very late. I had no idea how late. I've been off in my own world on the laptop.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue. And, as
Peter Spiegel and Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) observe: "Bush's decision to increase the number of U.S. troops in violence-racked Baghdad has forced commanders to extend the tours of 3,500 soldiers and appears to eliminate prospects for significant withdrawals of American forces this year."
And as the US administration prepares to extend the tours of duty of 3,5000 soldiers (who were due to leave Iraq),
Hassan Abdul Zahra (AFP) reports that Abdel Azia Hakim (Shi'ite leader; head of Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) declared in a speech today that the security of Iraq should be left to Iraqis. Zahra also quotes Mahmud Mahdi al-Sumaidaie (iman and Sunni Muslim Scholars Association member) saying: "The US occupiers are responsible for what is going on with the violence and destruction -- they are the ones controlling the security file." This as John Tully (Colonel, commander of the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade) informs reporters that in the Shi'ite section "south of Baghdad" attacks on US troops have incresed "by about 25 percent".
In another sign of how bad things are on the ground in Iraq, new "security" measures are being taken by individuals. At the start of this month,
Terry McCarthy (ABC -- America) reported on how fake identification sells for the US equivalent of ten and fifteen dollars and many Iraqis are puchasing them to reduce risk to their lives at checkpoints and noted: "Now many Iraqis carry two IDs in their pockets and will produce one or the other, depending on who is asking for it." Now Antonio Castaneda (AP) reports a swap greater than IDs: "Fearing sectarian death squads, Iraqis are trading homes with trusted friends from the other sect, surrounding themselves with those who share their faith but creating segregated neighborhoods increasingly wary of one other." Castaneda is reporting from Nasser Wa Salaam but notes the problem is not confined to that one location.
AFP reports the bombing of a Shia shrine "to Imam Askar between the towns of Balad Ruz and Mandalay". This as Reuters notes four are dead in Baghdad from a mortar attack on a Sunni mosque while a roadside bom wounded two police officers in Baquba. AP notes that the Sunni mosque bombing in Baghdad has left nine wounded.
KUNA reports: "Iraqi police source added an improvised bomb exploded in one of the patrolling police vehicles on the main street of Kirkuk, while a similar attack targeted Multi-National Force (MNF) vehicle on the way to Kirkuk."
If the police source is correct, that's a new development -- bombs planted in cars of unsuspecting drivers.
In Kirkuk,
KUNA reports the shooting death of an Iraqi soldier. In addition to that shooting, AFP also notes the Kirkuk shooting deaths ofa police officer "and a bystander"; two shot dead in Tikrit; and "a train station official" shot in Baiji.
In addition,
KUNA notes that "a security personnel from the Al-Qadisya area close to Kirkuk power statiion" was kidnapped.
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco in Baghdad continues.
Australia's ABC reports that "a Lance Corporal" has informed the inquriy that Kovco was "reprimanded twice for misuing his pistol during his deployment in Iraq." Whether or not the witness can affirm to two times should be in doubt because the second incident finds the "Lance Corporal" saying he's 'aware' of it as opposed to knowing it or witnessing. At any rate, the "Lance Corporal" has offered that Jake Kovco was reprimanded for "pointing his pistol at the torso of another soldier" which would probably be pertinent if Jake Kovco were accues of killing one of his roommates. As "Lance Corporal" (or "Soldier Four") makes the news with his statements, Tracy Ong ( covers what everyone else seems to have missed: "But other statements tendered yesterday were at odds with Soldier 4's recollection, many saying they had never seen Kovco playing 'quick draw' -- pulling a pistol out of its holster as quickly as possible -- or mishandling his weapons. One corporal from 3RAR said he had never had to 'pull Private Kovco up on his weapon handling'."
On April 29th,
Damien Murphy, Phillip Coorey, Ed O'Loughlin, Tom Allard and Cynthia Banaham (Sydney Morning Herald) reported: "Private Jacob Kovco grew up with guns. They were part of everyday life in his small home town of Briagolong in the Victorian high country. Come April each year, the four-wheel-drive vehicles from Melbourne would roar through the hamlet late on a Friday night on their way to bush camps in the nearby foothills for the start of the deer hunting season."
In peace news,
Honolulu's KITV reports that a demonstration of support was held last night at Kalani High School for Ehren Watada -- the first commissioned military officer known to refuse deployment to Iraq. Showing their support for Watada (who faces an Article 32 hearing August 17th to determine whether or not a court martial is in order) were the Japanese American Citizen's League of Hawaii, the American Friends Service Committee "and others at the Nagasaki Peace Bell near City Hall" -- including: "Hawaii People's Fund, Code Pink Hawaii, Progressive Democrats of Hawaii, Veterans for Peace, World Can't Wait and Not in Our Name." Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that "Watada has again offer to resign his commisson from the Army and is willing to accept any type of administrative punishment in place of court martial" including "a reprimand, fine and reduction in rank". Watada's attorney, Eric Seitz, tells Kakesako that this is the third time the offer has been made (it was refused twice prior). Courage to Resist and are calling for a "National Day of Education" August 16th, the day before Ehren Watada is due to "face a pre-trial hearing for refusing to deploy to Iraq." ThankYouLt.Org notes: "On August 16, the day prior to the hearing, The Friends and Family of Lt. Ehren Watada are calling for a 'National Day of Education' to pose the question, 'Is the war illegal?' This day can also serve to anchor a 'week of outreach' leading up to the pre-trial hearing."
In The Fifth Book of Peace, Maxine Hong Kingston writes: "During war, mothers dream this dream: she -- mother -- is winged, and flies, swooping down upon the son, the brother, soldier, criminal in danger, and picks him up by the straps of his overalls or by his belt, or catches him up in her arms, and flies him high and away. Unable to fly, she would go to the war in her son's place. She would go ahead of him, walk point herself."
With news of the September events in DC,
David Swanson (American Chronicle) reports that Camp Democracy sets up September 5th with many activities and, among many worthy goals, the intent to build "toward the International Day of Peace on September 21". Swanson notes that Cindy Sheehan "will come to Camp Democracy following Camp Casey (Aug. 16 - Sept. 2 in Crawford Texas)".
Sheehan is currently participating in
CODEPINK's Troops Home Fast. It is day 25 of the Troops Home Fast action with over 4,350 people fasting to the end the war all over the world. The AP reports that Diane Wilson has thus far lost "20 pounds from her 170-pound frame" while taking part in the fast. Of fasting, Wilson states: "Ghandi always called it 'soul power' because it's got a real spiritual component to it."