Monday, October 23, 2006

2 Highlights

Blogger lost my entire post and that's ridiculous. They can't get their act together after all this time? There were problems Saturday night as well.

I'll add something small to this but will post, hopefully will post, so anyone stopping by knows what's going on.

I'm just reposting things, I don't have an hour of my time to waste while Blogger/Blogspot figures out if it will work tonight or not. I had written about student activism, music, comics and Vietnam. I don't have the time to recreate a lost post. Instead, I'll do two highlights.

"Editorial: Kyle Snyder's return to the US is part of a movement of resistance" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):
"I saw my friend completely change into this demon. I saw his soul die right in front of me." That's how Kyle Snyder
explained to Mike Howell (Vancouver Courier) watching his friend shoot an Iraqi who was raking rocks. Snyder's time in Iraq was supposed to be spent rebuilding, as he has said in many forums, that's what he signed up for. That wasn't what he saw. There was no reconstruction going on. There were prostitutes being brought to the base, there was a massage parlor right across from Camp Diamond. Possibly that's how the US administration intends to provide opportunities for work to the women of Iraq who have lost most, if not all rights, since the illegal war began?What does the US administration and the US military intend for young Americans? That's a key question because Kyle Snyder, like many others, signed up with the promise of education and health benefits. As he explains in Melanie Mason's documentary Breaking Ranks, the recruiters were after him. Even attending the five-foot four inches Synder's high school graduation: "I had just recieved my high school diploma. I get off of the stage and here's another recruiter right outside the door -- waiting for me. I look back at it now and everything that I'm going through, everything that I've worked through I can retrace down to that moment that I signed that fucking contract."
After he joined, his fiancee became pregant while he was on leave. He had been given lots of lofty promises about the health care she'd recieve. That never happened. The baby was never born. Synder blames the military for not providing health care. As he told Karen Button (New Orleans Voices for Peace), "The military took my child."
The military didn't do much. They didn't investigate the incident where the Iraqi raking rocks was shot (and lost a leg) which sent a message that Synder shared with Gary Mason (The Globe & Mail), "Basically, what my commanding officers were telling me was I could get angry with anyone in Iraq and, because it was war, it didn't matter what happened. That was not the right answer." This was demonstrated in another incident, recalled in Mason's Breaking the Ranks, where he led a blindfolded Iraqi "into the building into city hall and within five minutes of him being in city hall I heard a BANG."
"I wanted to start a family, I wanted to go to college," Synder said August 13, 2006 speaking to the Veterans for Peace who'd come to the Canadian border. "Basically, the same things I want to do now."
It's a pretty simple dream, nothing big, nothing grandiose -- what many Americans would see as as a basic life, not even "the American dream." Synder's dreams of a simple life were in contrast to his own childhood, as he told Button, "I wasn't a good kid. I didn’t have a good background. I was in foster homes from thirteen to seventeen, then when I was seventeen, I went through a government program called Job Corps. So, from thirteen all the way up, I didn't have parental figures in my life really. My parents divorced; my father was really abusive towards my mother and he was abusive toward me. I've still got scars on my back. I was put in Social Services when I was thirteen. I was an easy target for recruiters, plain and simple."
Which is the story for too many young Americans and those gas bags who want to scream "Volunteer military! Volunteer military!" might do well to look at the economic realities for so many who sign up -- what is "choice," what is "volunteer," when, as Jessica Lynch and many others have demonstrated, there are no other choices?
Gold Star Mother and member of Military Families Speak Out Doris Kent is one of many mothers who can share the sad reality of this war. Her son, Jonathan Santos, died in Iraq October 15, 2004. As she explained to Mike Howell, his main reason for enlisting was to pay for college, ideally to USC or UCLA in California. As she told The Seattle Times, "When he was in Iraq he gathered about 75 books, so somebody named him 'the librian'." [Books for Soldiers is a service that will allow you to select books and to avoid the trip to the post office to mail them.] There is something very sad when the basic, not "the American dream," is untainable for so many in this country.
As Doris Kent told Athima Chansanchai (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), "His junior year, a recruiter got hold of him, and he said, 'Mom, I'm going to earn my own college money.' I said, 'No. I'm going to pay for it.' We argued about it for three months." Earning college money becomes even harder when the current administration has cutting funding to student loans and grants. It's a rush to the economic bottom for the country and one of the few benefitting are military recruiters who prey on the innocent and promise things that they know will never have to be delivered. As Eileen Brennan's character tells Goldie Hawn's Judy Benjamin in the film Private Benjamin, "I don't care. I don't care what your lousy recruiter told you." So it is, and so it always has been. But each generation of Americans faces fewer and fewer opportunites and real wages have remained, at best, stagnant for the last thirty years. In such a reality, in a nation that doesn't manufacture but does do 'service,' the term 'volunteer' becomes another useless, prettied-up term like 'termination' (for firing) and 'downsizing' (for lay offs).
Bully Boy truly is "the CEO" leader. Just like other CEOs, he is awarded while everyone else gets screwed. While the court's fool (not even jester) John Tierney sees the Wal-Mart model as a 'model for peace,' the reality is far different. In Friday's New York Times, Paul Krugman again noted the huge rewards for the top and the neglect of the middle and bottom: "In the 1960's and 1970's, C.E.O.'s of the largest firms were paid, on average, about 40 times as much as the average worker. . . . In the 1990's, executive stock options proliferated -- and executive pay soared, rising to 367 times the average worker's pay by the early years of this decade."
As Naomi Klein documents in the groundbreaking book No Logo, the 'service economy' is built upon high turnover, little pay and transition but not promotion. True in the country's production is outsourced, true in the countries that are outsourcing. In such an economy, words like 'choice' and 'volunteer' have little meaning but they do provide cover as they sugar coat reality.
So with "choice" meaningless, the recruiters prey. In April 2005, Kyle Snyder followed the examples of Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey and who knows how many others and self-checked out. In Canada, he applied for asylum. No war resister has been granted asylum during the Iraq war (a direct contrast to the Vietnam era). Hinzman and Hughey's appeals are supposed to result in a verdict any day now.Like Darrell Anderson before him, Kyle Snyder has made the choice to return to the US. Staying is a valid choice and a brave one. It means knowing you may never be able to return to the United States. Even attending a funeral leaves you open to arrest. Snyder's plans currently are to return in November. All summer long the resistance went public and it should have been the story of the summer. You should have read articles, heard and seen reports. That didn't happen. Maybe that's changed. Maybe now the media can grasp that this is a movement and it does deserve coverage. (And, sadly, when we say "the media," we mean independent media. Even The New York Times covered Ricky Clousing's court-martial and sentencing -- click here for Laurie Goodstein's article.)
During the Vietnam era, these actions got more attention and more coverage from the mainstream than they have been getting from independent media. (For a chronicle of the resistance during Vietnam, check out the documentary Sir! No Sir!) Last Thursday, The Nation posted Staughton Lynd's "Soldiers of Conscience" (The Nation) and Amy Goodman interviewed Lynd on Friday's Democracy Now! We'd like to see those two actions as encouraging signs but we're aware that that's just two independent media outlets. When no one else seemed interested, Amy Goodman established that she would try to interview each war resister who went public. (Mark Wilkerson hasn't been interviewed yet.) That was great for 2003, 2004, 2005 and probably early 2006. But this is no longer a case of one person stepping up and then, awhile later, another. This is becoming a movement. And it needs to be covered like one. Goodman and The Nation, by highlighting Lynd, demonstrated that they grasp it is a movement so we'll slap gold stars on both of them for last week. But the coverage needs to be there and it needs to be coming from more than just two outlets. Translation, if you've got time for a write up of a sit down with the Dalai Lama, you've got time to do a write up on war resisters.
Unless you just don't care and if that's the case, you need to be upfront about it. Not hiding behind, "I had to skim four books for a review this week!" If you just don't care, then absolutely, the coverage you provided this summer cuts it.
But some people don't have that luxury. For many who are standing up, for many who are gone, for family and friends of all, the war has come home. Maybe not to your gated communities. But it has come home. On Friday, C.I. noted Max Bootsy's inane comment:
". . . the impact here is more isolated because so many soldiers come from military communities which are clustered in a handful of states." Oh really?
American troop fatalties? Alabama: 47; Alaska: 10; Arizona: 66; Arkansas: 35; California: 284; Colorado: 34; Connecticut: 22; Delaware: 12; Florida: 117; Georgia: 83; Hawaii: 13; Idaho: 16; Illinois: 107; Indiana: 56; Iowa: 33; Kansas: 31; Kentucky: 46; Louisiana: 63; Maine: 12; Maryland: 52; Massachusetts: 45; Michigan: 97; Minnesota: 39; Mississippi: 35; Missouri: 48; Montana: 12; Nebraska: 29; Nevada: 24; New Hampshire: 14; New Jersey: 47; New Mexico: 21; New York: 132; North Carolina: 63; North Dakota: 13; Ohio: 125; Oklahoma: 47; Oregon: 46; Pennsylvania: 135; Rhode Island: 10; South Carolina: 39; South Dakota: 17; Tennessee: 58; Texas: 245; Utah: 14; Vermont: 18; Virginia: 83; Washington: 53; West Virginia: 18; Wisconsin: 60; Wyoming: 7.
Whether the number is 7 (Wyoming) or 284 (California), it's not isolated to a 'few' states. And those are just the fatality numbers. The war has come home.
Speaking in August, Kyle Snyder noted, "I am a 22 year-old combat veteran from the Iraq war." He is one of many who have been touched by the war and he's speaking out. His story matters, his stand matters.
He is not alone and shouldn't be covered as if he is or given the impression that he is. He's part of a movement that includes Camilo Mejia, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Aidan Delgado, Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Patrick Hart, Corey Glass, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Kevin Benderman, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Robin Long, Ryan Johnson, Clifford Cornell, Katherine Jashinski, Agustin Aguayo, and many more.
For information on war resisters in Canada, War Resisters Support Campaign is the site. Andmore information on war resisters who have gone public can be found at Courage to Resist. The latter of which recently noted of Ricky Clousing:
Ricky is currently being held in a military brig at Camp LeJune in North Carolina and it is urgent that he receive your words of encouragement and support! Please write to Ricky today!

That was one. Here's the second.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, October 23, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, US troops hit the
2800 fatality mark, Bully Boy sings a few bars of "Daddy Wasn't There," the former head of the US State Department's Iraq intel section tells the BBC there is no 'win' in Iraq, a US war resister who self-checked out and went to Canada announces he is returning to the US, and Ehren Watada's father prepares to take to the road again to raise awareness on his son's stance against the illegal war.
the US military announced the death of a marine in the Al-Anbar Province. He was a member of Regimental Combat Team 5. And the military felt the need to add "This release is not a duplicate of the MNC-I press release #20061022-01, which announced the death of another RCT 5 Marine." That's necessary due to the number of press releases on US troops the military has issued today to cover the large number of US military fatalities in Iraq which has hit 87 this month. The number of US troops killed in Iraq since the beginning of Bully Boy's illegal war of choice now stands at 2800. CNN notes that October has been the deadliest month for US troops this year topping April "when 76 U.S. troops were killed." As John Ward Anderson and Debbi Wilgoren (Washington Post) and John F. Burns (New York Times) noted the record high for US fatalities are November 2004 and April 2004 (137 and 135 respectively.) At BuzzFlash, Cindy Sheehan provides historical perspective: "In the first 3 years, 7 months of the illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq, 2791 of our volunteer soldiers have been tragically killed and in the first 4 years of the illegal and immorcal conflict in Vietnam (which was never a 'war' constitutionally declared by Congress either), 1864 conscripts were killed."
That's just fatalities, not wounded, and just US fatalities. Iraqis are dying and being wounded as well.
Reuters reports three people were wounded in Balad from a mortar and two roadside bombs in Baghdad resulted in five police officers being killed and left 15 wounded as well as two civilians injured. CNN notes a car bomb "detonated on Palestine Street" in Baghdad that took one life and left 13 more wounded as well as a car bomb targeting a Baghdad market which took the lives of four and left six wounded.
CNN reports that four people with "security services for Iraq's oil facilities" were shot dead in their car in Baghdad and that a woman ("the shop's owner") was shot dead when her "hairdresser's shop" in Baghdad was attacked. Reuters notes an Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Balad (four more wounded), a police officer was shot dead in Baiji, "four policemen from the Facility Protection Services" were shot dead in Baghdad,
Reuters reports eight corpses were discovered in Baghdad ("gunshot wounds to the head").
KUNA reports that US forces "broke into offices of Shiite militias in the two cities of Holla and Diwaniya" -- noting that Holla was "the offices of Al-Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia led by Muqtada Al-Sadr" and AFP reports that Amara is now on curfew. Curfews and 'crackdowns,' the hallmarks of 'democracy' and 'liberation' in someone's distorted view of the illegal war.
Staying in the real world before venturing into the soft underbelly of the Bully Boy and his administration, Wayne White's caused a stir.
Speaking to the BBC, the former US State Dept. who headed the Iraq intel "section until last year" stated of the illegal war: "The effort can't be sustained over the long haul, and so we can't stay a course, I think, that requires years and years more. . . . We're not winning. It's apparent."
Apparent to all who can face reality.
In the someone's been watching their Austin Powers in Goldmember DVD news,
Reuters reports Bully Boy's none too pleased with his father: "Earlier this month, the elder Bush was reported to have told a Republican fund-raiser in a Philadelphia suburb that" things wouldn't be so good for sonny-boy if Democrats won control of the US Congress. Reuters reports that the Bully Boy told ABC's This Week, "He shouldn't be speculating like this, because -- he should have called me ahead of time and I'd tell him they're not going to (win)." Possibly Bully Boy's too busy feeling sorry for himself to remember his own response to a question about whether he went to Poppy Bush for advice on starting the Iraq war? Bob Woodward told 60 Minutes Bully Boy responded to that question with: "He is the wrong father to appeal to for advice. The wrong father to go to, to appeal to in terms of strength."
As Bully Boy trots out yet another karaoke version of "Daddy Wasn't There,"
Rupert Cornwell (Independent of London) takes a look at the 'daddy issues' and observes "the psychodrama that has been playing out here for four years, and whose climax may be yet to come -- the relationship between Bush the elder and Bush the younger -- '41' and '43' as they like to call each other . . . It is a tangled tale of love and rivalry, of admiration and intense competition. And it may have brought us the disaster of Iraq. . . . As I write this, the President is closeted in the Oval Office with General John Abizaid, his top commander for the Middle East, trying to sort out the appalling mess. More US troops or fewer, a phased withdrawal, the splitting of the country into some form of confederation (partition lite), or even talks with Syria and the arch-enemy Iran (the one indisputable beneficiary, along with radical Islam, of the mess)? Who knows? Maybe none of the above. As everyone but the White House acknowledges, there are no good options, there are only less bad options."
When not painting himself pathetic, Bully Boy practices denial.
The Guardian of London points out: "Americans, Iraqis and many others must have wondered just what George Bush meant in his weekly radio address on Saturday when he insisted: 'Our goal in Iraq is clear and unchanging. Our goal is victory.' The president's comments can only be counted as bizarre at a time when concerns about the deteriorating situation have reached a 'tipping point' due to a combination of events on the ground in Baghdad, Amara and elsewhere - and the impending decimation of the Republicans in the November 7 Congressional elections. Mr Bush's nonsensical message, a variant of his stock line about 'staying the course,' is likely to be quickly forgotten. The phrase that will be long remembered is that of Alberto Fernandez, head of public diplomacy at the [US] state department: he told al-Jazeera that US policy in Iraq had suffered from 'arrogance' and stupidity'."
After initially disputing that Alberto Fernandez made the remarks,
Sean McCormack of the US State Dept. asserted the remarks resulted from a mistranslation, they tried a time-honored tactic: get the speaker to blame themselves. Mistranslated was always a tough sell because, as CBS and AP note, Fernandez "spoke in fluent Arabic" during the interview. So it was time for the self-flogging. Neela Banerjee (New York Times) reported that Alberto Fernandez that the "senior State Department official apologized Sunday night" for his remarks. CNN reports the apology came via e-mail (so modern!) and that he stressed to CNN he wasn't "dissing" the 'policy' but added that his remarks did not break "new ground". So why the apology?
Regardless, it's too late. Just like
Bully Boy's comparison of Iraq to Vietnam last week, it's out there. As Meg Ryan's character tells Billy Crystayl's in When Harry Met Sally, "You can't take it back. . . Because it's already out there" (written by Nora Ephron, directed by Rob Reiner.) Attempts to disown it are a bit like the administrations quibbles over "deadlines" vs. "milestones." As the White House quibbles, Iraq's deputy prime minister, Barham Saleh, goes into a panice. David Stringer (AP) reports that Saleh spoke with Tony Blair and has stated: "I do believe there is no option for the international community to cut and run." Saleh, when not jetting off to England, stays safe and sound in the heavily fortified Green Zone of Baghdad. No doubt the thought of living with the realities all other Iraqis have had to face since the start of the illegal war must be frightening -- especially the loss of water and electricity which has always been in abundance in the Green Zone. What's good enough for the people of Iraq has never been good enough for the puppet regime. Al Jazeera reports that Saleh pooh-pahhed the "pessimistic tone" -- as would anyone in his secure quarters and lofty lifestyle faced with losing it all should foreign troops pull out.
Steve Kroft (CBS' 60 Minutes) reported Sunday, "More than half a billion dollars earmarked to fight the insurgency in Iraq was stolen by people the U.S. had entrusted to run the country's Ministry of Defense before the 2005 elections, according to Iraqi investigators. . . One of the people praised in former U.S. Ambassador L. Paul Bremer's memoris is a major suspect in the case. Ziad Cattan was in charge of military procurement at a time when the ministry of Defense went on a $1.2 billion buying spree. [Ali] Allawi estimates that $750 to $800 million of that money was stolen." But don't forget it was a windfall for all. As Greg Palast reports, on other thefts, in Armed Madhouse (p. 75): "Who pocketed the loot? Don't ask Mr. Bremer. Before he slipped out of Baghdad, he had a little trouble with CPA [Civilian Provisional Authority] bookkeeping himself. We all lose an expense receipt or two on occasion, but the CPA's petty cash drawer was fatter than most. They kept $200 million in bricks of U.S. currency in a room in Saddam's palace and another $400 million tucked away here and there. Agents could check out these cash bricks, like library books. Unlike a library, they didn't have to return them as long as they brought receipts. One agent took $23 million in a tub of cash and returned with $6 million in receipts. Another took $25 million and returned, it appears, with nothing at all. In all, 363 tons of U.S. currency were shipped to Iraq. Where did the cash go?"
The no-take-backs Bully Boy comparison of Iraq to Vietnam continues to receive attention.
Cindy Sheehan (writing at BuzzFlash) notes the similarities between Bully Boy's talk of presenting the Iraqi government with a timetable to Tricky Dick's oft campaigned on 'secret plan' for Vietnam: "The US plan for withdrawing from Iraq would include disarming militias and training more Iraqi security forces to take over security of the country -- which sounds suspiciously like Nixon's 'Vietnamization' program. With the incipient warmonger Kissinger (we were wondering why Iraq was such an unmitigated disaster?) back in the Oval Office advising George, does this smell like a fiasco to anyone else?" Reminder, Gold Star Families for Peace is staging a sit-in in DC, in front of the White House, November 6th through 9th. BuzzFlash is offering Sheehan's Peace Mom, A Mother's Journey Through Heartache to Activism as a premium (BuzzFlash's portion of any sales go to keep BuzzFlash up and running).
In other peace news, war resister
Kyle Snyder intends to return to the United States from Canada next month as Courage to Resist.reported in an e-mail sent out Friday. In August, Synder explained his decision to self-check out of the US military and go to Canada to Karen Button noting, "You know, if they want to help people in Iraq . . . imagine a 15 year-old kid, for the last . . . years all he's seen is [US] military personnel with weapons going through his city. How is that child supposed to believe that the man, in that uniform is helping him? Now, if that child saw a convoy of logs being brought to his city, or a convory of water being brought to his city, still guarded, it would be a completely different situation. That's where the American military messed up. Because they forgot about the perception of civilisation. They forgot about the perception of the Iraqi people."
Ehren Watada's father Bob Watada is launching another speaking tour to raise awareness on his son -- the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. The tour kicks off October 26 in Phoenix, AZ and is set to conclude November 17th in Atlanta, GA. A full schedule can be found at Veterans for Peace.
More information on Ehren Watada, Kyle Snyder and other war resisters who have gone public can be found at
Courage to Resist. In addition, FluxView has videos of war resisters who went to Canada and information on them can be found at War Resisters Support Campaign.
Finally, (
as Rob and Kara noted this morning) a look at peace activists comes not from The Nation or The Progressive, but Christian Hill (The Olympian) who reports on
Olympia Movement for Justice & Peace and Olympians for Peace in the Middle East member Muhammad Ayub (a doctor inspired by his own observations while serving with the UN in Iraq during the first Gulf War, "I feel like political dissent is actually celebrated, not just stifled."),Veterans For Peace -- Rachel Corrie Chapter 109 member and board member of the Washington Truth in Recruitment Molly Gibbs (mental health counselor, "There are actually more people who share the concern I have than not. Thirty percent are pretty entrenched in beliefs about the country and the moral values that they tend to think exist but in practice don't exist.") and Fellowship for Reconciliation's Glen Anderson (a c.o. during Vietnam, "This is grandparents, this is state employees, this is small-business people. These are local farmers, our carpenters, the people who work for our local phone company and stuff. . . . At some point, we're going to win if we organize smart and if we work hard, and work strategically and smart and build enough grass-roots movement."). Hill provides a look at three peace activists who are part of a movement to end the illegal war.