Friday, August 25, 2006

Ehren Watada, Iraq and the War Hawks of Independent Media

As you probably know, Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing now has a finding and it's been passed on up the chain to Col. Cynthia Murphy who will make a decision and then pass it up to her superior. The struggle goes on and Watada needs your support so be your own media and broadcast his story in your circles. There will be more on Watada in the snapshot posted in full shortly.

What I want to deal with now is how some of the left (or "left") are taking part in the rollout for another war. The thing the independent media did a great job of with regard to the lead up of the Iraq war was present alternative views. In fact, the mainstream media failed because they refused to offer dissenting views or to question narratives.

So it's rather sad that Democracy Now! has aired yet another 'report' on Sudan and, as with all the others, there's no questioning of the narrative being handed down. For many in the independent media, and this includes many, there is no need to question the narrative that we've been handed. I wonder how they think that makes them any better than the mainstream media?

It appears that we won't get questioning from most of the independent media and that requires we ask a few questions regarding our independent media such as, "How are they any different from the mainstream?" The Darfur issue is pushed by the right and left and there's funds and prestige involved. There's just no need to present any actual thought or difference of opinion. Independent media, with few exceptions, is beating a war drum now and that's pretty disgusting. Amy Goodman has a new book coming out. Let's hope she doesn't again present herself as the last voice of truth because on the issue of Darfur, she hasn't been. Among broadcasters, I'm aware of Bonnie Faulkner's bravery. Amy Goodman's aired the equivalent of every op-ed in the mainstream.

"Save Darfur?" (Joshua Frank, CounterPunch):
George Clooney and a handful of other Hollywood big shots, along with over 164 humanitarian and religious groups, are now calling on the United States to hustle troops over to stop the ethnic conflict. Bin Laden, in his latest radio hit (if it was really him), claimed the Darfur region of the Sudan, which is largely Muslim, would be the next stop for the U.S. imperial armies. Let's hope he's wrong, even if Clooney and Amnesty International desire it. The United States, if troops were deployed, would most likely only escalate the deaths, not end them. There is absolutely no reason to believe that shipping young Americans off to the Horn of Africa to die would result in anything tangible or worthwhile. Sadly, the bloody conflict would likely continue regardless.
Some little-known facts about the Darfur situation: Both sides in the conflict are black, and both sides are Muslim. So, despite what the major news media may say, this isn't an Arab-on-black or Muslim-on-Christian nightmare. And perhaps worst of all, there isn't a good side to be on. Both have committed horrible atrocities, and both want to slaughter the other. Not to mention that entering the region militarily would only feed right into bin Laden's rhetoric ­ much like we did when we shocked and awed Baghdad. So I think it's safe to say that hatred of the U.S. would only increase among closet jihadists in the Middle East and elsewhere if we invaded Darfur. That doesn't make us, or them, any safer.
You may recall that President Clinton did his part to end the violence in the Sudan when he fired a few missiles at a pharmaceutical plant in 1998. It didn't do much good; it led to countless deaths and probably prompted al-Qaeda to attack the United States quicker. There is no reason to believe that an intervention by Bush would result in anything different. And never mind that the United States isn't all that great at "humanitarian interventions".
1992 saw the invasion of Somali, which by most accounts was an utter failure. Thousands of innocent Somalians died while others were brutally raped by UN peacekeeping forces. And for all those who claim that the late 90s Kosovo war a just conflict, don't forget that thousands of ordinary people were killed because of our intervention. Oh yeah, and NATO is still occupying the place.

Possibly if Joshua Frank received a grant, he'd be on Democracy Now! and allowed to present an opposing view? What we saw for July and much of August was wall-to-wall coverage. In that case, though tedious, the coverage was attempting to be brave (if one note). Now? There's no bravery.

I don't think I can stop the war march to Darfur. I don't think I can get out ahead of the hype that the mainstream's pushed repeatedly and independent media has been happy to repeat as well. But I can go on record, as I have already, in saying that Darfur issue has been simplified and that encouraging the Bully Boy to use force in any situation is a lose-lose situation.

I'll be limiting my choices of independent media in the future because I don't like to be lied to. I don't like to be tricked or goaded with false information. It's a real shame that with all the hours and pages devoted to Darfur, Bonnie Faulkner's Guns and Butter remains one of the few programs willing to present an actual dialogue and allow her audience to make their own decisions. It's especially surprising when you consider the fact that Amy Goodman's been quite happy to pair some anti-choice idiot with Kim Gandy or a guest from NARAL but on Darfur she only offers one point of view. Obviously the 'media gods' have issued the orders from on high and the decree is we must get on board for war with the Sudan (and that's what it will be, don't kid yourself). It's time to bed down with the devil (Bully Boy) and tell him, "Destroy, destroy! We are with you." I'll sit this one out and I'll drop independent media that refuses to inform me and instead wants to give me marching orders.

Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, August 25, 2006, chaos and violence continue in Iraq despite the wave of Operation Happy Talk
launched yesterday by US military boys John Abizaid and George Casey that things are looking up and corners will be turned, equally laughable was Brit military boy Charlie Burbridge claiming that a base in Amara hadn't been abandoned. He offers a new punch line today. The inquiry into the death of Jake Kovco continues and Soldier 14 testifies again. But we'll start with the latest on Ehren Watada -- the first US officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.
Late Thursday" J.C.Matthews told the AP that a recommendation had been reached by Lt. Colonel Mark Keith in Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing. Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that the recommendation is "Ehren Watada face a general court-martial for failing to join his unit in Iraq" and Keith "has endorsed two other charges: conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt toward officials." Translation, Keith has endorsed all three charges made on July 5th. As the AP notes, "Keith could have recommended anything from dismissal of the charges to a general court-martial" as he weighed the issues and the testimony given on August 17th. Gregg K. Kakesako notes that Keith did feel that Ehren Watada was "sincere in his beliefs" which "should mitigate any future punishment" and Kakesako outlines the next step: "Keith's decision now goes to Col. Cynthia Murphy, U.S. Army Garrison commander at Fort Lewis, who will review it and then submit her recommendations to Lt. Gen James Dubik".
AP quotes Ehren Watada's civilian attorney, Eric Seitz, stating: "We always believed that when they went so far as to convene an Article 32 hearing that they had alread made a decision to proceed." Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) notes Seitz was left "somewhat astounded" that the charges endorsed by Keith included anything other than "missing the troop movement" because of "important First Amendment issues" that surround the other two charges.
Sarah Olson (Truthout) reports this today (of the August 17th testimony of Denis Halliday: "Halliday was called to testify regarding the impace of war on the Iraqi people. 'The people of Iraq had become used to living under very difficult conditions after the destruction in the name of the United Nations by the United States of the civilian infrastructure, water supplies, sewer systems, electric power, use of depleted uranium and cluster bombs.' Halliday was prevented from providing complete testimony when the investigating officer presided over the Article 32 hearing ruled that the 'consequences of the war or the situation on the ground' were irrelevant to Lieutenant Watada's argument that the war was illegal and that he had an obligation to refuse to fight it." That is the most that's been written of Halliday's testimony to date (which, for the record, wasn't delivered via mime).
Bob Watada continues his speaking engagements in the San Francisco Bay Area to raise awareness of what his son, Ehren, is facing. The events include:

Fri. 8/25
No. Cal. Japanese Christian Theological Forum Berkeley Methodist United Church- chapel 1710 Carleton St/McGee in Berkeley Contact: Laura Takeuchi 510-848-3614

Sir! No, Sir!"
Film Screening & Speakers Santa Cruz Veterans Building Contact: Sharon Kufeldt 650-799-1070

Sat. 8/26
Educational & Cultural Event Berkeley Friends Church; 1600 Sacramento St., Berkeley Contact: Betty Kano 510-684-0239

Sun. 8/27
Speaking Event AFSC building, 65-Ninth St., SF Contact: Martha Hubert 415-647-1119

A complete list of the events Bob Watada will be taking part in can be found
Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling Donald Rumsfeld (703-545-6700) or mailing him (1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000) to say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go." Billie advises that you can use to e-mail the Pentagon. She suggests "Re: Ehren Watad" or "ATTN: DONALD RUMSFELD." Courage to Resist and will continue to offer resources, ideas and inspiration. Get the word out.
Turning to the illegal occupation, violence and chaos continues.
Reuters reports one Iraqi soldier dead and two others wounded from a roadside bomb in Rashad and a "hand-grenade attack on a market in Hawija" left three people wounded. AFP notes the death, late Thursday, of "an Iraqi army officer" with four soldiers left wounded.
AFP notes that five were killed by gunfire in Baquba, two in Tirkit (bakery workers) with three other people wounded, Reuters notes that, in Nasiriya, gunfire claimed the lives of two and left two others wounded.
Reuters notes the discovery, in Qaim, of an Iraqi soldier ("signs of torture") while AFP notes that three corpses were discovered in Kirkuk ("tortured and bullet-riddled bodies").
In other violence, despite the British military flacks that were so eagerly allowed to
spin in this this morning's New York Times, Haidar Hani (AP) reports: "Looters ravaged a former British base Friday . . . taking everything from doors and window frames to corrugated roofing and metal pipes". As Ross Colvin (Reuters) reported yesterday, the base, which had come under nightly, heavy attacks, was abandoned. The AP story today notes: "Iraqi authories had complained that the British withdrawal had caught them by surprise" and allows flack Charlie Burbridge to holler Not-true-we-gave-them-24-hours-notice! Well, Charlie, on a rental, you usually have to give a minimum of 30 days notice. But it is good to know that as they packed up everything they could carry, someone did think to make a quick call saying, "Hey, we're about to split. If there's anything you want, better grab it quick, dude!"
Along with an adequate heads up, Iraqi politicians have other complaints they're sharing.
Aparism Ghosh (Time magazine) reports that Abdul-Azziz al-Hakim states that for over three years Iraqi politicians have persistently requested "and reliable evidence" that "Iran is interfering in Baghdad's affairs" only to be rebuffed. al-Hakim is quoted as saying, "[A]nd for three years we've told them, 'Show us proof.' But they never have." al-Hakim and others speaking to Ghosh make clear that they feel there is no proof and that Iran is being blamed to divert attention from the failure of the illegal war.
This as
Aaron Glantz reports for OneWorld that Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferenczz has declared that Bully Boy and Saddam Hussein "should be tried for war crimes."
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of Baghdad of Jake Kovco continues.
Figuring into the most recent testimony were "
NSW Police scientific officer Stephanie Hales" and Soldier 14. Soldier 14 has made multiple appearances in the hearing. On August 9th, his testimony rejected the so-called buddy system where a pair was responsible for checking one another's weapons at the end of a shift (he also testified that what he said and what the military wrote up in his official statement were quite different). Last Friday, a DNA witness, Michelle Franco, identified some of the DNA on Jake Kovco's gun as belonging to Soldier 14. [Again from last Friday: The Herald-Sun reports that only the DNA "on the pistol's slide" were ruled by expert Franco to be a direct match (DNA on the "trigger, hand grip and magazine" are believed, by Franco, to be Soldier 14's but are "not direct matches."] Soldier 14 has maintained that he did not touch Jake Kovco's pistol (and he's refused to be questioned by the NSW).
At the start of this week, Soldier 14 again testified to the hearing and maintained that the DNA must have gotten on the pistol some other way such as via other equipment he acknowledges that he and Jake Kovco both handled such as a megaphone, a radio or telephone. Also in that testimony, Soldier 14 declared that "people" had warned him that Jake Kovco's widow, Shelley Kovco, was 'out to get him.' That was his excuse for avodiging her. Belinda Tasker (The Daily Telegraph) noted, of that testimony, that Soldier 14's avoidance of Shelley Kovco -- out of fear of being accused of something,apparently -- translates as Soldier 14 aoviding contact with her for "more than three months" and notes that Soldier 14 said "people were telling me" that Shelley Kovco was out to get him. Who these 'people' were warning him of Shelley Kovco will apparently not be explored.
That was some of the previous testimony. Today Soldier 14 testified again (not via video-link and remember he has stated he wants to get back to the apparent calm of Baghdad).
Malcolm Brown (Sydney Morning Herald) reports that the issues today revolved around: "Did you silently cock Private Kovco's pistol?" which Soldier 14 asserted he did not. Soldier 14 has maintained that he saw Jake Kovco a few days prior to his death. Brown describes the process as "a silent cocking operation, where the weapon is stripped down, a round put in he chamber, then reassembled, leaving the round in the chamber." Soldier 14 will also be testifying Monday.
Stephanie Hales' testimony is
characterized by the AAP as asserting that residue tests can not determine "whether Private Jake Kovco shot himself in Iraq or if someone else pulled the trigger" for a variety of reasons including the fact that Jake Kovco's "clothes . . . were destroyed," "the barracks room where PTE Kovco was shot was cleaned before NSW Police arrived in Baghdad to carry out their forensic tests," Jake Kovco's body was washed in a Kuwait morgue, Jake Kovco's hands were not wrapped "in paper bags" and the two roommates were allowed to shower and wash their clothing with no forensic tests being performed.
Finally, in England, British soldier Jason Chelsea has been buried. The
BBC reports that the nineteen-year-old "killed himself because he feared . . . he might have to shoot children" as he asserted he had been told in his training. The BBC notes that: "Earlier this month the MoD released figures showing 1,541 soldiers who served in Iraq are suffering from psychiatric illness."