Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Should The Notion be finger-pointing?

In the post that follows (I'm doing links now, it's already written), I refer to C.I. and Mike. For anyone who stumbles by and doesn't know who they are:
Mike of Mikey Likes It! and C.I. of The Common Ills (and The Third Estate Sunday Review).

I like Liza Featherstone, I enjoyed her book on Wal-Mart but I'm not sure what she's attempting in "Time to Move Beyond Bush-Hating" at The Nation today. Does the peace movement need more life? Yes, I believe C.I. and I discussed that fact months ago at The Third Estate Sunday Review (in March). However, we both made the point that the peace movement's worked completely on their own. United for Peace and Justice did their work with little help. I'm reading Featherstone writing about it after the fact, but I didn't see anything leading up to the event.

Featherstone noted a column by Andrew Rosenthal. I believe Mike and C.I. covered that weeks ago. I further believe C.I. made the point that Rosenthal might be attempting to egg on the movement, to start a fire under them. That may be what Featherstone is doing as well. But over three years after the illegal war began, when The Nation has yet to do even a monthly column on the peace movement, or provide a roundtable or any of the other things that no one in independent media is doing (Featherstone has to note Rosenthal's column, that appeared in the New York Times for a reason, none of our independent magazines are covering the peace movement on a regular basis nor was independent media interested in Iraq when Rosenthal's column ran.)

The peace movement? I don't like slams on it. It would be one thing if independent media had done anything to help, but they really haven't. Featherstone's points aren't shocking to me; however, when the peace movement's had to fend for itself for some time, I don't think that The Nation, The Progressive, the embarrassing In These Times (Teen Political) or any of the magazines really have a right to scream and yell. (CounterPunch has featured reporting on the peace movement.)

If that's too hard for independent media to grasp, let me spell out for them. From the magazines to Democracy Now!, none of them went to Camp Casey to report on Cindy Sheehan this summer. They were nowhere to be found when Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing took place. The Nation did publish a column on the trip to Jordan (by Tom Hayden) but it was a 'web exclusive.' It should have been in print. (I am a print reader.)

Independent media dropped the ball all summer long on Iraq. So it just strikes me as strange that Featherstone's writing about a protest that almost didn't come off and was iffy until days ago and it's time to gripe about the peace movement?

The same words, except for the last sentence, spoken by her in a roundtable discussion with activists from various peace groups, wouldn't offend me. Nor would the words if they were written as a preface to a serious exploration of the topic. But this just strikes me as one more time someone wants to say, "Oh that peace movement!"

That peace movement that does all the work by itself. Let's be clear, when we passed the 2600 mark, AP noted it. Did indymedia? Yes, two or so weeks after someone noted it. It was already past 2600 by that point. The fact that the US military started keeping body counts on Iraqi citizens who died, where was that coverage? That story broke in June.

Here are the sentence I have a problem with: "Note to protesters and Democrats alike: W's approval ratings are back up. Running against him isn't good enough anymore." Read the next item and then I'll discuss my problem with those sentences.

"Buyer's remorse: The Bush story the press won't tell" (Media Matters):
The [Wall St.] Journal has hardly been alone in straining to push a Bush-is-back angle. On Monday, The Boston Globe published the GOP-friendly article, "
9/11 anniversary events boost White House," which cited two polls published last week that put Bush's job approval rating at 42 percent. Later in the piece, the Globe quoted pollster Andrew Kohut, president of Pew Research Center, yet the Globe noticeably omitted any reference to a new Pew poll that put Bush's rating at a dismal -- and unchanged -- 37 percent. The Globe, eager to write up Bush's' rebound, simply ignored any evidence to the contrary. (On Monday, ABC's The Note, a driving force in propping up the recent Bush-is-back press narrative, actually singled out the Globe journalist who wrote the misleading article as being "brilliant" and "ahead of the curve." That's how the press game works inside the Beltway; write something misleading that boosts Bush, and you're singled out for praise by your peers.)
Even if all the hopeful, GOP-fed chatter about a bounce were to hold true, it would mean the president would likely end the year right where he started it; around 42 percent. There's not a single White House aid or Republican campaign consultant who in January would have been happy with the president treading water for the entire year. But that's exactly what he's done and the press, unburdened by any historical context, now treats that like an emerging success story.

Why did Bully Boy bounce up? Could it be because he scared the nation again? He, Cheney and Rumsfeld tarred and feathered war critics. How did the left respond?

With history lessons. Dopey lectures about what fascism was. That's not how you combat his lies. You do it by loudly rejecting the lies. Hurricane Katrina did that. It loudly rejected the lies because you couldn't spin what was on your TVs and in your papers. Heaven help us if we'd been counting on columnists of the left (as opposed to the photos and other reporting) because he would have slid by again. We would have been left with historical lessons.

The left needs to get serious. We offered examples in "The Fear" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) but if that was too esoteric, let's take it to a basic level. You are Lover A. You are involved with Lover B. Person C comes to you and says Lover B is cheating on you. When you hear that, you don't want to hear a history of what infidelity is or a lecture on monogmay through the ages. You want to hear that it's true or not true. (Of course, in that instance, most, if not all, want to hear that it's not true.) But the left, when the administration was offering the Nazi appeasers nonsense, saw it as the time to turn in the column where they noted how much they'd learned over the years about historical events from the past.

That's not cutting it. Again, we go over this in "The Fear." When a patient comes to me, regardless of the problem, what they are hoping for, what they need before we can address the problem, is to know that no, their situation is not something that's only happened to them, that they aren't "weird" and that we can work together. Where any of the left gasbags, going back six decades for a history lesson, thought they were helping anyone, I have no idea.

But Bully Boy's up and it's because he's tarred and feathered again and the response to that had to come from the left so when the left is ineffective, the smear works a little. Now The Nation had a column calling people out for using inflammatory language. But that column didn't run when the latest smears were going on. That column ran months ago. When these smears started, where was The Nation?

Where was the column that said, "It's an insult, it's not true and it's beyond the pale"?

C.I. had the idea for "The Fear" and when that was tossed out, I understood immediately. When people come to me for their first session, they are very nervous. I see how The Fear works and I see that the left still rushes in to sport their knowledge base but can't offer the reassurance that's needed upfront.

There were a variety of ways to respond to that smear. Responding by digging back six decades to deliver a history is ineffective.

I'm glad Liza Featherstone wrote what she did if it's something that's going to be developed. But if that's all there is? It just don't cut it. The American people are against the war and independent media did nothing with that this summer. We got "Food" issues. We got wall-to-wall Israel. One laughable commentator (and remember, I condemned Israel's actions -- and took flack for it -- when they started the latest attacks on Gaza) said, near the end of the wall-to-wall coverage, that it was interrelated to Iraq and we needed to make the connections.

I don't disagree with the idea that they have connections. I do disagree, and find laughable, the idea that independent media provided viewers, listeners or readers with connections. What they demonstrated was Iraq is so unimportant that we can dump the coverage of it. People don't make connections that way. Want them to see the connections between illegal occupations, for example? Then you discuss both. You don't just shine a light on one for five or six weeks, then show up in the last week and say, "Well people should be making connections."

Independet media did a disgusting job this summer. There are exceptions. But the majority ignored Iraq, ignored the fasts, ignored the activism, ignored the trip to Jordan, ignored the Iraqi body count, ignored Ramadi, ignored the 2,600 mark, ignored Abeer, ignored prety much everything.

Back in March, C.I. and I both noted that new things were needed, that the March protests, though inspiring, needed new life. That's not slamming the peace movement. That such a huge turnout too place was a testament to everyone organizaing and participating. I'm also bothered that Featherstone's calling for something new and lively and she has to go to a candidate's rally. I'm sure any new candidate is going to have a fresh rally. That's a given. In the meantime, CODEPINK spent the summer coming up with new and novel ways to register opposition to the war. That included protesting War Hawk Hillary Clinton's speech which earned them a tut-tut (if not a mention) from The Nation's Peter Rothberg. Apparently some War Hawks must be not challenged. (Which would explain the noticeable silence that greeted a brave action on the part of Medea Benjamin.)

It that's it on the topic, no, I'm not happy with Liza Featherstone's "notion." If "more" is something I'm supposed to wait several months for, The Nation should check out their circulation figures because I know one person's already dropped it due to the lack of coverage of Iraq and I know another who's subscription runs out in November and will not be renewing because Iraq's vanished.

C.I. and I were talking about the latter because we were both surprised that the person in question had decided not to renew. While The Nation has issues it needs to cover and needs to popularize concepts, ideas and issues. Not to do so, would be to blow a moment. But not to grasp how important Iraq is to Americans at this point and how much they are looking for direction and perspective is blowing a moment. I don't know how to say that any clearer.

If it helps any, the person who will drop The Nation in November will also drop The Progressive when the subscription runs out (and the person is a community member who will be writing on this topic in Friday's gina & krista round-robin). But independent media's failed. It has flat out failed and there's no way to pretty that up.

Liza Featherstone seems to feel that the peace moevement needs to move beyond what she labels Bush-bashing. First of all, people need a face. They need a face for an issue. Bully Boy is that. To move beyond that, they need coverage that links things together. There's been none from independent media for the bulk of the summer. That has nothing to do with the peace movement. Activisim has gone on. Ricky Clousing and Mark Wilkerson and Darrel Anderson haven't been written up in The Nation this summer. That's not the fault of CODEPINK, United for Peace & Justice, A.N.S.W.E.R., Not In Our Name, or any other peace group.

If Featherstone's unhappy with the state of the movement, which she appears to be, instead of looking to some candidate's rally, she needs to look to her magazine and The Nation needs to get serious about this war. In print, there was nothing to suggest they were all summer long.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, September 19, 2006, violence and chaos continue in Iraq, Bully Boy went to the United Nations and so did activists, a soldier pleads guilty to a war crime, Camp Democracy continuesin Washington, DC and, in Australia, Shelley Kovco tells the military inquiry into the Aprtil 21st Baghdad death of her husband, "'Sorry' just doesn't cut it after the first time."
Starting in Australia, on April 21, 2006, Jake Kovco became the first Australian soldier to die in Iraq. For months now, a military inquiry into his death and the problems immediately after (including the destruction of evidence and losing his body) has been ongoing.
Belinda Tasker (Herald-Sun) reports that the head of the inquiry, Group Captain Warren Cook, has stated: "It is the intenion of the board to say . . . Jake Kovco did not committ suicide. . . . I can't make it any plainer than that."
Eleanor Hall (ABC's The World Today) summarized: "It wasn't suicide. In a surprise announcement this morning, the Preisdent of the Board inquiring into the death of Private Jake Kovco in Iraq interrupted an address from one of the Kovco lawyers to say that he had already ruled out that the young soldier deliberately took his own life."
Dan Box (The Australian) reports that Colonel Leslie Young ("representing [Jake] Kovco's interests") declared that the hearing should issue a finding of accidental death or "return an open verdict" due to the destruction and loss of evidence. Box quotes Young: ""Have you ever received direct evidence that Jake was handling his weapon when it discharged? The answer is no."
This follows (see yesterday's snapshot) the statements made by Judy Kovco, mother of Jake Kovco, to Kerry O'Brien in an interview on ABC's 7:30 Report. Judy Kovco discussed her feelings regarding the inquiry, how "the evidence so far, there is no way known, no, he did not shoot himself" and that she believes the military would cover up "an accidental shooting by somebody else or a murder". Conor Duffy (ABC's The World Today) reported that the announcement of no finding of suicide came as Lieutenant Colonel Holles "was speaking for Jake Kovco's parents, Martin and Judy, and he began addressing the board and tell them why they shouldn't find suicide."
Following the announcement that the inquiry would not issue a finding of suicide, Shelly Kovco, Jake Kovco's widow, addressed the inquiry.
ABC's PM provides a recreation of some of her statements including: "I had explained to Tyie that Daddy's mates were bringing him home so that we could say goodbye. I then had to explain to my son why we weren't picking Daddy up. No mother ever wants to tell their children their Daddy has died and they won't see him again. But out on top of that, they didn't bring Daddy home, it was another man, we have to go get Daddy in a couple of days, is pretty hard and confusing on him and me."
Tyrie is the young son of Shelley and Jake Kovco (under five-years-old) and the couple also has a younger daughter, Alana (a one-year-old).
Conor Duffy reported on the statements to Eleanor Hall (ABC's The World Today), "Eleanor, so far Shelley Kovco has remained silent throught the entire three months of the inquiry, and today she was dressed in black and she gave an emotional address, and it really revealed the extent of her anger and the sense of betrayal she feels towards the Defence Force and to the Government."
Belinda Tasker (Herald-Sun) reports that it was a five-page statement and that Shelley Kovco was "[s]obbing as she read" it. The statement directly addressed Brendan Nelson's actions. Nelson is the Defense Minister and his breathless, uninformed gushing to the media helped no one (and may have tarnished his own 'rising star'). Dan Box (The Australian) reports her stating, "Brendan Nelson has said Jake was cleaning his pistol, and then he changed his story . . . These things shouldn't have been said to the media until the truth was known."
Shelley Kovco also addressed the pain caused by some of the rumors that were circulated. (We didn't note them here when they were circulating as gospel, we won't note them now but we will note that she addressed them, and the pain they caused, in her statement.) Belinda Tasker reports that Shelley Kovco stated "she did not hold either of her husband's roommates, Pt Ray Johnson and Pte Rob Shore, repsonsible for his death . . . Likewise, she said she did not believe another soldier, Pte Steve Carr, whose DNA was found on Pte Kovco's pistol, was to blame."
Also speaking was David Small, Shelley Kovco's father. Dan Box (The Australian) reports he spoke "outside the inquiry" to reporters and "said the family held Alastar Adams, the Australian consular official in Kuwait City who sealed Kovco's casket, responsible for the confusion over the body's transport." And what did Small say to the inquiry? Conor Duffy, on ABC's PM, reported: "Shelley Kovco was followed onto the stand by her father David Small, a former military man who also attacked the Defence force, saying the bungled repatriation had almost caused him to return his medals. . . He also attacked the facilities used to return Private Kovco's remains to Autralia, saying staff at the Kuwaiti morgue was illiterate and little more than fridge mechanics and cleaners." Small is quoted stating: "We have no reason to believe that Jake's death is anything but a tragic accident. However, we think that something has been withheld, perhaps with misquided good intentions. For Shelley and the kids' sake, if anyone knows anything that hasn't been said please come forward now and not in some years time as it will only increase the pain."
According to Dan Box (The Australian), it will be "about six weeks" before the board of the inquiry turns "a final report . . . [over] to the chief of the defence force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston".
Meanwhile, as noted by Aileen Alfandary on KPFA's The Morning Show, today, Bully Boy went to the United Nations (and spoke to French president Jacques Chirac, before speech making). Bully Boy went to the United Nations and so did activists "calling for an immediate end to the war in Iraq" (Alfandary). Alfandary spoke to Leslie Cagan (United for Peace and Justice) moments before the protests were to begin. Cagan: "We are out on the streets of New York because President Bush is addressing the UN General Assembly and we're here to say no to his war, it's time to end the war, bring all the troops home and no new wars."
As CBS and AP note, Bully Boy's speech included the cry "Stand up for peace." No word on whether that was greeted by UN delegates with snorts of derision or boos and hisses.
Gertrue Chavez-Dreyfuss (Reuters) reports on what took place outside with
"[t]housands of protesters including former American soldiers rallied . . . urging the U.S. government to end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home." The article quotes Raed Jarrar, "People in Iraq also want to end the war. We want our country back."
From the Bully Boy to another war war criminal -- in England, Corporal Donald Payne pleaded guilty "to inhumanely treating civilians detained in Iraq between Sept 13 and Sept 16 2003 in Basra, Iraq" (Telegraph of London). The Guardian notes that Payne ("one of seven British troops who went on trial today facing charges linked to the death of an Iraqi civilian") was pleading guilty to chrages that "relate to the death of Baha Musa, 26, an Iraqi civilian in Basra". Jeremey Lovell (Reuters) reports that Musa is said to have had "93 injuries on his body, including a broken nose and ribs" and that "another detainee was so badly beaten that he nearly died of kidney failure."
This as Reuters reports British military has announced that two British soldiers died in Iraq on Monday (British Iraq fatalities now stand at 118) and the BBC reports that the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, is calling "for urgent actions from Iraqi leaders and the international community to bring Iraq back from the brink." The brink? As AFP notes, "Violence continued unabated Tuesday" in Iraq.
CBS and AP report, in Baghdad, 10 people are dead and 19 wounded as a result of a "rocket attack". A car bomb, AFP reports, claimed the lives of two more people in Baghdad. Outside Baghdad, Reuters reports one dead (two wounded) from a car bomb al-Rasheed; two dead (seven wounded) in Mahmudiya from mortar attacks; and, in Baquba, two dead from a roadside bomb.
AFP notes a police officer was shot dead in Baquba. Reuters notes that eleven people were shot dead today "across Baquba" and that two people were killed in Najaf.
Reuters reports that 11 corpses were discovered in Mahmudiya.
Meanwhile, AFP reports that John Abizaid ("US Central Command chief") told Congress that he thinks "this level probably will have to be sustained through the spring and then we'll re-evaluate". He was speaking of the fact that 140,000 US troops are currently in Iraq. Lolita C. Baldor (AP) reports that Abizaid also spoke of the option of adding more troops "or extending the Iraq deployments of other units if needed." Apparently no one's supposed to remember the talk at the end of 2005 -- about drawing down the numbers. In June, the number was 127,000. It's now 140,000 -- like everything else the Bully Boy attempts, it goes the wrong way.
In peace news, Camp Democracy continues its activities in Washington DC -- free and open to the public and open through October 1st. Camp Democracy's activities today revolved around media activism and tomorrow's activities focus around Women's Peace Day and is joint-sponsored by NOW and CODEPINK (among those scheduled to participate is Howard Zinn). . A complete schedule can be found here.
And, in Berkeley, Judith Scherr (Berkeley Daily Planet) reports on the agenda for this evening's city council meeting which includes a vote on the "resolution to support Lt. Ehren Watada". Ehren Watada is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. In August, an Article 32 hearing was held. Last Friday, the military tried to sneak in a new charge ("conduct unbecoming an officer" for statements made at at the Veterans for Peace conference held in Seattle -- here at CounterPunch and here at Truthout). More information on Watada can be found at Courage to Resist and ThankYouLt.org.