Monday, January 22, 2007

Jeff Cohen, Mike Whitney

That's Isaiah's latest comic to the left, "Bully Boy's Baby War Steps." Bully Boy, in a wet diaper, crawling around baby-talking, "I-ran, I-ran, I-ran." This is how it starts, with him chattering away. You can be sure "Iran" will figure into the State of the Union speech tomorrow. Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts.

"Can Indy Media Stop the Corporate Media's Hillary Bandwagon?" (Jeff Cohen, Common Dreams):
Prominent pundits seem ecstatic over Hillary Clinton's entry into the presidential race just days after Barack Obama’s media-created candidacy became official. Media talking heads are having so much fun lately they don't seem to notice that our political system is failing to address ever-worsening problems' social, environmental, fiscal and imperial.
Indeed, our country's political decline in recent decades has been abetted by the decline in mainstream media. The same media outlets that were complicit in the disastrous Iraq war are bent on turning politics into an insular celebrity club in which only they get to anoint frontrunners.
If the torch of leadership passes from Bush I to Clinton I to Bush II to Clinton II, it will be a loss for our country -- but a victory for a corrupt Beltway press corps that abhors fresh ideas, especially those that challenge its power and privilege. It was a frightened national press corps that vilified the netroots supporters of Democratic outsider Ned Lamont in defense of pro-war warhorse Joe Lieberman.
For the coming election season to be fact-based and reality-based instead of just power-based, independent media (online and off) will have to play a bigger role in shaping the debate and correcting the record. For example, a recent San Francisco Chronicle news report (headlined "Obama Emerges as Clinton’s Rival for Dems' Left") asserted that Hillary Clinton was "widely regarded as the left's most influential voice inside the now-revered Clinton White House."
Widely regarded? Actually, progressives see Hillary Clinton as having been consistently wrong on the war and a host of other issues, especially trade. Her absurdly bureaucratic healthcare proposal in 1993 -- shaped by and for big insurance companies – was a slap in the face of unions, Congress members and grassroots forces who’d built a movement for simple, nonprofit national health insurance: in effect, enhanced Medicare for All. She helped set back the cause of universal coverage for years.
And far from being "revered," many Democratic activists see the Clinton era as one of decline in which Democrats lost their strong majorities in the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, governorships and state legislatures. It's simple math
The 2008 presidential election is shaping up as a test of the power and capacity of new independent media vs. old conglomerate-dominated media. And a test of grassroots/netroots politics vs. corporatized Democratic politics.

To answer Cohen's question, "no." Indymedia can't stop Hillary Clinton because they can't be serious. They can gas bag as well as any chat & chewer, but they can't be serious. Hillary Clinton is defeatable but that would require more than what independent media offers -- they could, for instance, examine her health care efforts. They might pay special attention, for example, to an article in the New York Times by Robin Toner from 1992.

But instead of addressing the realities, they'll offer sexist language (kind of like was done by independent media when Katie Couric became the anchor of The CBS Evening News) and end up pulling everyone back into The Clinton Dramas that took up most of the nineties. Can they do anything? They'd have to be able to offer something and the reality is that they have little to offer. (If you doubt that, read "Phoning It In, Sailing Along.") The most they'll probably be able to do, if recent history is a clue, would be provide a top ten list -- a little wordier than David Letterman's top ten lists and lacking the humor.

For an alternative take you can read Bob Somerby's latest. Sunny saw it and said, "He's just pulled his own threads again." (He has. But in terms of tone, it's the sort of writing that made him someone worth reading.) "Alternative take" means Bob Somerby is providing an alternative take on Hillary Clinton.

There was an e-mail about The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Roundtable." It stated it understood why I wasn't speaking during parts but noted Mike wasn't and that Dona missed that fact. No, she didn't. Mike spoke more than in the transcript version up at the site. We were e-mailed the notes Ava and C.I. took and told to look at what we'd said and note what was most important to us. That's because Dona and Jim didn't want anyone to lose their most important point. Mike had a very long section that I asked him to remove.

I do work with vets and I wasn't going to address anything that might be one of their issues without their permission. I had one story that I thought was worth sharing but I wasn't sure if it was okay. I had called the man and left a message. I thought it would illustrate something perfectly; however, it wasn't mine to offer without his permission. I didn't offer it. When he did get my message and call, the roundtable was already finished.

Mike, in the section I asked him to pull, was dealing with three hypotheticals, offering examples. He came up with all three on his own. One, however, was similar to what I was sitting on. Because Mike and I are involved, I didn't want their to be any confusion -- I didn't want it to even appear that I had passed on something. I explained that I would prefer it if the hypotheticals went because one was similar to a patients. I wish I could have said, "Pull the ___ one." Doing that, however, would have revealed. So I just asked him if he could pull it. He pulled the entire section (and I thank him for that). I would've asked the same thing of Rebecca because people know we are best friends from way back and there might have been some suspicion. If C.I., who's a friend from way back, had thought up the hypothetical, or even shared a similar story (C.I. talks to many vets), it wouldn't have been a problem because the vets in my current group all know C.I. and would have known that C.I. was bringing up something else. But I have two new members in the current group and I'm especially careful about new members.

Mike had a wonderful, lengthy exchange in the roundtable. I told him that I felt bad for even asking but he was kind enough not to ask any questions and just pulled that entire section.

"A Fool's Errand in Baghdad" (Mike Whitney, CounterPunch):
Let's assume for a moment, that Dick Cheney is the driving force behind the plan to surge in Iraq. Does anyone really believe that the vice president is genuinely concerned about the safety of the Iraqi people?
And, yet, the media still insists that the purpose of the troop-increase is to improve security in Baghdad. Nothing could be further from the truth. The wellbeing of the Iraqi people has never been a factor in the administration's decision-making and it isn't now.
The real purpose of the surge is to pacify Baghdad in order to rebuild confidence among the supporters of the war. Bush needs to prove that he can restore security so the oil giants can make their move and begin developing the world's second largest reserves of petroleum. In a matter of weeks, the al-Maliki government will pass the new hydrocarbon laws which will "issue tenders and signing contracts" to the major American oil companies. This will allow the looting of Iraq's oil under internationally-recognized legal agreements. But if the fighting persists, it'll all be for nothing. No one is going to invest capital to develop oil fields if the country is in the throes of a civil war. So Bush needs to put more boots on the ground and make one last-ditch effort to crush the resistance. And, he needs to do it fast.
It's clearly an act of desperation and few believe he'll be able to succeed. In fact, last week, a number of retired generals appeared before a senate sub-committee on Capital Hill and blasted the strategy as shortsighted and ill conceived. Marine General Joseph Hoar growled that, "The addition of 21,000 troops is too little too lateIt won't work (The administration has shown) "a shocking failure to understand the social and political forces that influence events in the Middle East."

That outlines it perfectly. The war is lost. It has been obvious for some time that the war is lost. This is just an effort by Bully Boy to try to create a new photo op that will provide the desperate-to-believe crowd with a bit of hope.

Five suggested readings (I'm the worst about doing shout outs and usually only remember after I've posted): Ruth's "Ruth's Report," Trina's "Cajun Chicken Wings," Betty's "Thomas Friedman plays at being Chauncey Gardiner" and a joint-post, Cedric's "White House confessions (humor)" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! NEW POLLS WORRY THE WHITE HOUSE!".

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, January 22, 2007. Chaos and violence continue with over 100 Iraqis reported dead, Bully Boy tanks again in the polls (on a 'reality' show, we could vote him off the island by now), the people prove they don't need the approval of 'judge' to argue
Ehren Watada's case in a citizen tribunal on the illegal war held this past weekend, Kurdish forces make like many Iraqis in the military and self-check out, and -- what do you know -- with an eye witness who talked to the press this weekend an unnamed US military flack finally grunts - yeah, maybe they do shoot down US helicopters in Iraq.

Starting with US war resister
Ehren Watada, On February 5th, Watada faces a court-martial. "Judge" Head has 'ruled' that Ehren Watada cannot explain the reasons he reached his decision to deploy to Iraq, he cannot explain which orders he honored in his refusal to fight in an illegal war and he cannot really present his case. Saturday and Sunday, Citizens' Hearing on the Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq was held in Tacoma, Washington and there, in a hearing by, for and of the people, the arguments could be made and were.

Among those testifying were Ann Wright (retired from the State Department, retired US army colonel) who was asked about the duty of
Ehren Watada

Ann Wright: Now that's kind of the heart of it all, isn't it? The conduct becoming an officer? The ability to think. The ability to take care of your troops, to keep them out of harm's way, to explore with your chain of command what's going on, why are you having to do certain things? Trusting in your chain of command that you're asking questions that your seniors are asking, are asking, are asking . . .
And I think what we we see in the case of Lt. Watada is that the entire chain of command has failed starting with the four-star generals that were the advisors to the Secretary of Defense and the president, with General Myers, the chief of staff, [. . .] who was such a weak chairman of the Joint Chiefs that he did not question it, he was a toady of the Bush administration.
We did have one four-star general who spoke out -- General Shinseki, chief of staff of the army -- who questioned. He actually didn't question the war, he questioned the number of troops -- how the war was going to be prosecuted. Our generals in the chain of command have not acted as they should have and it's just kind of gone all the way down. The questioning that really goes up and down in the military because there is a dynamic part of the military it's just not one monolythic group there's a lot of debate going on in the scenes and behind the scenes. [. . .]
For the Lt. to be the one that is carrying the load on questioning the war is a little unfair. There should have been people much higher up that were questioning, as they are now, the retired generals are questioning, but that's a little late. [. . .]
It's hard to question sometimes even though you know it's your responsibility and your obligation to do it. But we see here that we've got very few people in the military who are openly questioning but then you look at the polls in newspapers that are being taken of the service members in Iraq and, what is it, 75% of them say we shouldn't be there. So there is an underground movement of the military itself. They're not the ones that can stop wars from beginning but they're the ones that ultimately are the ground fodder for it and what they start saying, "It's not worth my life anymore" that's when these things will start slowing down. And then it's up to us as civilians be going to our Congress to demand that the Congress stop funding the war. If you want to support the troops bring them home, stop the funding of the war.

Amy Rolph (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reports that David Krieger ("chairman of the tribunal") opened Saturday's proceedings by noting, "We believe that Lt. Watada's contentions about the illegality of the war deserve a full and fair hearing." The Associated Press reported over 400 people were present on Saturday alone. Also appearing was Ehren Watada. Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) reports that Watada declared "Judge" Head's decision to disallow a defense in the court-martial to be "a travesty of justice. That it is a violation of our most sacred due process, and indeed it is un-American." Rolph notes that US war resister Darrell Anderson was also among those offering testimony about what he witnessed in Iraq and the "training that dehumanizes Iraqis". Though arguments can't be made in the court-martial, they were made in in Tacoma. John Nichols (The Nation) blogs at The Notion that: "It appears that the prosecutors do not want to provide Watada with an open and fair forum in which to explain his arguments against the war." Of course, what the prosecution wants or doesn't only matters if the "Judge" rules and he did so when he released his decision on Tuesday of last week.

In a speech given at the Church Center for the UN on December 8th by Watada's mother, Carolyn Ho, (broadcast on
WBAI's Law and Disorder today) she explained how her son began researching Iraq in June of 2005 (one year prior to his going public), the basic research to get to know the country he was going to be deployed to, and, as he studied and studied, he came across the shaping of intelligence, the Downing Street Memos exposing that intel was being fixed, the phoney WMDs claims . . . In January of 2006, she received a call from her son who explained that he had decided he wouldn't deploy to Iraq when the time came. On June 7, 2006, Carolyn Ho recounted, "the day before his 28th birthday, he went public and announced his decision not to deploy when the unit went to Iraq." Key point: "I don't believe that my son has committed any crime and that he should be serving any time,"

Also on Saturday,
Ehren Watada spoke at the Kitsap Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Bremerton. David Vognar (Kitsap Sun) reports that over 70 people turned out to hear Watada explain how. in June, he came to be the first US officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq -- Watada threw the responsibility back to the people noting, "It is the American people who have the power to end this war, but only if they have the will to do so."

Watada is part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes
Kyle Snyder, Agustin Aguayo, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Mark Wilkerson, Joshua Key, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Robin Long, Ryan Johnson, Chris Teske, Tim Richard and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Patricia Sullivan (Washington Post) reported on the January 15th death of Oliver V. Hirsh:

In 1968, Mr. Hirsch was a 22-year-old enlistee from Bethesda, stationed at Almaden Air Force Station in California, where he was a radar instructor and held the rank of sergeant. He joined eight other military men, representing the four branches of the services, who publicly refused to go to Vietnam and chained themselves to ministers at a chuch in Northern California. Their arrests for desertion were a media spectacle, with polic cutting their chains and removing them from a Communion service. The incident also served as one of the early indications that opposition to the war came not just from campuses but also from soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who were serving in the ranks.

Hirsh was among the war resisters sharing their experiences in David Zeiger's
Sir! No Sir! which is now available with bonus footage including Camilio Mejia, Cindy Sheehan and Jane Fonda discussing "the movement then and now." (Also note the DVD of the film is available free of charge to active duty and deployed soldiers.)

Yesterday was also a signifcant day for war resisters.
Patrick Maloney (Canada's London Free Press) noted that Sunday was the thirty year anniversary of Jimmy Carter's pardoning of draft dodgers: "An estimated 50,000 came to Canada, of whom about half remain. Now, in a quiet echo of an earlier generation's anti-war sentiment, the War Resisters Support Campaign is noticing growing interest in Canada as a haven for U.S. soldiers destined for Iraq."

Dan Balz and Jon Cohen (Washington Post) report on the latest Washington Post poll (Washington Post-ABC News) which finds "48 percent of Americans calling the war the single most important issue they want Bush and the Congress to deal with this year. No other issue rises out of the single digits. The poll also found that the public trust congressional Democrats over Bush to deal with the conflict by a margin of 60 percent to 33 percent." And symbolic measures won't build that trust for the Democratic Party, nor will doing nothing. Someone might also want to share those results with independent media -- it will no doubt be a surprise for a great many who ignored Iraq throughout 2006 -- as well as those who tried to sneak it into some fawning coverage of some politician.

In Iraq today . .


Assel Kami (Reuters) reports "[t]wo simultaneous car bombs" which struck "a busy market in central Baghdad." BBC reports 88 dead with 160 more injured. Some of those injured will not recover (die) and some of the dead have likely not been recovered which is why Kami earlier reported 67 dead and 142 injured bu noted "the death toll of 67 could rise." CBS and AP note the immediate aftermath: "body parts strewn on the bloodstained pavement, along with DVDs and compact discs as black smoke rose into the sky." AFP quotes one of their photographers: "There were so many victims they were piled up on wooden market carts, the wounded on top of the dead, and hauled to ambulances and police vehicles. Improvised rescue workers made their way through the carnage amid the cries of those wounded." Mohammed al Awsy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that an "interiro ministry source" states that one car involved was left running with the driver of the car telling "people nearby that he was just buying things and would return very soon."

Al Jazeera notes: "A few hours later at least 12 people were killed and more than 40 were wounded when a bomb exploded in a market in the village of Khalis, near Baquba." AFP reports it as a "bomb placed in a vegetable cart" combined with a mortar attack. Reuters notes that already the death toll on the Khalis bombing has risen -- 14 people dead. Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports a mortar attack "on a primary school in the Sunni stronghold neighborhood of Dora in southern Baghdad, killing a woman waiting for her child and wounding eight students". Reuters notes a boming in Mosul that took the life of a woman left four people wounded (two were Iraqi soldiers and they note: "Two more soliders were killed when troops went to the scene to recover the casualties.") and they note a mortar attack "on a house in the Amil district in southwestern Baghdad" that claimed one life and left another wounded.


CBS and AP report that a teacher "was on her way to work at a girls' school" in western Baghdad when she was shot dead and the man driving the car she was in was also wounded. Meanwhile, CNN reports that a police officer and a police acadmy lecturer were shot dead on their way "home in eastern Baghdad." Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports three shootings -- in Baghdad a "Sunni tribal chieftain" was shot dead in one attack and an employee of a cell phone company was shot dead in another while, in Mosul, an attack left an oil employee dead. Mohammed al Awsy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "a liquor shop owner [Christian] in AL JAMAAIAT area 8km west of basra" was shot dead today "after some clerics in basra warned the liquor shop owners that they should stop selling liquor in basra."


CNN reports 29 corpses were discovered in Baghdad today.

In addition,
Mohammed al Awsy (McClatchy Newspaper) reports that an attack or attempted kidnapping took place when "unknown gunmen tried to storm inside the house of the deputy governor of diyala ABDUL AZIZ AL JUBORI" -- two body guards were wounded "but the deputay governor was not inside the house." A kidnapping took place in Baqubua, Reuters reports: "Khaled al-Sanjari, a local government offical in Baquba," was kidnapped "while he was on his way to work" and the kidnappers "set the office on fire".

Damien Cave (New York Times) and Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) reported this morning, at least 27 US troops died over the weekend in Iraq. The 27 number stops with the two marines who died Sunday in Al-Anbar Province. On Saturday, a US helicopter was shot dead. Everyone on board died, all were American soldiers. The BBC notes today that AFP and CNN have reported (today) that an anonymous US military official has stated it's possible that the helicopter was shot down by "a shoulder-fire missile". This after denying -- as they've done with every crash -- that anything was shot down (they've even insisted -- Willie Caldwell, the Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, has been especially insistant -- that only coalition forces have those capablities in Iraq -- so note that "a shoulder-fire missile" is possible, according to the US military). Ernesto London (Washington Post) reported Sunday (actually Saturday -- which is when the article first made it online, it was "20 dead" in the headline, now downgraded to 19) that Arkan al-Mujamai told the paper "that the helicopter was shot down by a group of Sunni Muslim insurgents, one of whom is his uncle." al-Mujamai stated that "a heavy machine gun" was used.

The 27 deaths include an attack in Karbala.
Leila Fadel and Hussam Ali (McClatchy Newspapers) report: "On Saturday, a civil affairs team of American soldiers sat with local leaders in Karbala's provincial headquarters to discuss security . . . A convoy of seven white GMC Suburbans sped toward the building, breezing through checkpoints, with the men wearing American and Iraqi military uniforms and flashing American ID cards, Iraqi officials said. The force stopped at the police directorate in Karbala and took weapons but gave no reason, said police spokesman Capt. Muthana Ahmed in Babel province. A call was made to the provincial headquarters to inform them an American convoy was on its way, said the governnor of Karbala, Akeel al-Khazaali. But the Americans stationed inside the building . . . had not been informed" because this wasn't a military patrol and, in the attack that followed (grenades, mortars, gunfire), 5 US troops were killed and 3 more wounded. If you've forgotten, a tremendous amount of money was spent on new Iraqi uniforms and a huge publicity push came with that stating that no longer would the resistance or militias be able to impersonate -- that's disproven today and was always disproven because those uniforms don't come off some Mosul sewing machine, they're taken by people working within the forces. Today, the US military announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was killed Monday when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle while conducting combat operations in Ninewa province.

WBAI's Law & Disorder, a discussion by Anthony Arnove and Michael Schwartz was also broadcast today. Many topics were covered. [Mike will be covering this tonight at Mikey Likes It!; Ruth and Rebecca passed on L&D and held the phone up for quotes included.] They spoke, in particular, about the racism at play -- which includes the attitude of those 'sorry' Iraqis who just don't appreciate the illegal invasion the US administration has 'gifted' them with, that those 'bad' and 'backward' Iraqis are just lacking abilities since they can't 'build' a 'democracy' in the midst of the US' illegal occupation, and the racism that forgets who created the secetarian divide (the US). The racism -- that urge to cast 'the other' -- is why they US administration believes that they can recruit more Iraqis to 'pacify' Baghdad and Al-Anbar Province. Schwartz noted that as soon as US troops aren't assinged with Iraqi troops, Iraqi troops melt into the area and disappear -- the desertion rate from the Iraqi army that's rarely noted, especially now when Bully Boy's escalation depends on believing the lie that more US troops on the ground will solve the trick. The admiinstration also believe they can bring the Kurds easily into the Iraqi military. Leila Fadel and Yaseen Taha (McClatchy Newspapers) reported at the end of last week that it wasn't working out quite that way: "Kurdish soldiers from northern Iraq, who are mostly Sunnis but not Arabs, are deserting the army to avoid the civil war in Baghdad, a conflict they consider someone else's problem" and they quote Anward Dolani ("former peshmerga commander who leads the brigade that's being tranferred to Baghdad") declaring: "The soldiers don't know the Arabic language, the Arab tradition, and they don't have any experience fighting terror." If the news of the Kurdish troops doesn't convey how no one wants to fight the illegal US war, Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) report on the latest in souther Iraq where "Shia Arab tribes in the south" are joining the resistance. Jamail and al-Fadhily quote Jassim al-Assadi declaring: "People here have always hated the U.S. and British occupation of Iraq and remembered their grandfathers who fought the British troops with the simplest weapons."

Anthony Arnove, author most recently of IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal, will be speaking in DC this weekend:

*January 27, 5 pm, Washington, DC (with Kelly Dougherty) Busboys and Poets

Arnove will be among many in DC on the 27th.

Bring the Peace Mandate to D.C. on J27!
On Election Day voters delivered an unmistakable mandate for peace. Now it's time for action. Join CODEPINK in a national
march to D.C. on January 27-29, to send a strong, clear message to Congress and the Bush Administration: The people of this country want the war and occupation in Iraq to end and we want the troops home now! See our latest actions, and click here for details.

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