Monday, February 26, 2007

It's a democracy, not a junta

Okay, a lot to cover so we're jumping right in.

"Military mental health services seen lacking" (Megan Rauscher, Reuters):
The psychological needs of U.S. military personnel and their families are straining the current mental health services of the military, concludes an American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force charged with looking into the issue.
"The military is doing a lot of things to take care of the mental health services of the active duty service members and their families and children," Dr. Ronald S. Palomares told Reuters Health, "but there is definitely room for improvement."
Many military families are going without needed mental health services because of the limited availability of such care, according to Palomares, a psychologist on the APA staff and a Task Force member, who has served active duty in the Air Force and Army National Guard.

We've covered that subject here many times. Hopefully, it's now about to get some serious press attention. C.I. passed that along to me on the phone while checking something in the snapshot. I said I'd hit on the topic here because a) the snapshot needed to go up right then and b) it's one of those topics that really needs its own entry.

The topic is Appeal For Redress and no link. There's one in the snapshot and I wouldn't be all that worried if there wasn't.

Appeal For Redress is a petition/group letter to members of Congress where US service members sign on to ask for troops to be pulled from Iraq. You can sign it publicly or anonymously.

The root of this goes back to the Vietnam era where a group signed a letter that the New York Times published. They stood by that letter.

There's apparently no standing by the "Appeal." Lara Logan did a story on the Appeal on 60 Minutes and some are bothered by the story -- don't be. She's not resposible for the fact that the Appeal has turned into something pathetic.

When it started up (October or November), it had the chance to really be something but instead it was watered down and watered down. Now you've got people acting as spokespeople who are so weak that the whole thing has turned into a joke.

Unlike the letter writers to the Times, these people (or the ones who are picked to act as spokespersons) don't feel compelled to do anything. The Appeal says the war needs to end but, for instance, Ronn Catu will do as he is told, whatever he is told.
The Appeal is as useless as a nonbinding resolution in Congress.

Jonathan Hutto is a smart man and one of the original organizers. Somehow the whole thing has gotten beyond its original intent and, no offense to Hutto, it's really just a dopey joke now.

It's a whimpering, little anonymous letter that Congress need not worry will have any follow up. A lunch time poll they can ignore without any fears.

Instead of attempting to water it down and make it so accessible that anyone could (and did) sign it, they could have stayed with the original intent. They might have only had ten people signing on but if the ten people were willing to stand by their signatures, it would have made a difference.

What they've created instead, as it stands today, is the equivalent of e-mail spam. Feel free to delete, Congress, there's no fall out if you do.

The petition says it is time for the troops to come home but if Congress disagrees, the result is a shrug and "Oh well, thanks for listening."

Ronn Canto wants it known that he's not a liberal. Message heard and noted. Canto also expresses the following, "By volunteering we've done more than about 99 percent of the population". He does realize he signed a petition opposing the war, right?

He's done more than about 99 percent of the population? Let's forget, for a moment, that he's not walked in 99% of the world's shoes and just address that.

He's serving in an illegal war. He thinks he's done more than 99 percent of the population and what he's done is aimed at a gun at people in a country that were never a threat to the United States.

When you water down and water down something to the point where it has no meaning, you're left with people like Cantu.

He wanted to serve in the military, there's no applause for that. That doesn't make him any better than a mother who nurses her child, than someone who provides care for a child, teaches a child to read, than someone who volunteers at an AIDS hospice or any number of things. He's demonstrated that he likes following orders and he needs structure so he and the military are a good match. That doesn't make him better than 99% of the population (domestic or world).

There's no need to worship the military. In fact, doing so has hurt the peace movement. Cantu's response on why he should speak out or be listened to should have been, "Because in a democracy everyone has a voice." But that's not where he went. He thinks he has a more of a right to speak than someone who is not serving in the military.

That's not how it works in a democracy.

He's signed a petition calling for an end to the war. Does he realize that? If he thinks the war needs to end, I don't know how he can honestly believe that he's better than 99% of the population.

Hutto had a wonderful idea and the Appeal could have been something wonderful. If you watched the 60 Minutes segment last night, you know it's not. You know it's a toothless thing. It's meaningless. Like a non-binding resolution.

The roots it hails from were serious protest. This is an online petition that doesn't even require you stand by the most generic statements that make up the Appeal.

If people were disappointed by Logan's report, it has nothing to do with Logan. It has to do with the reality sinking in (a reality that should have been clear months ago) that the petition was a meaningless measure that was possibly good for a few headlines but did nothing to end the war.

C.I. was going to offer an alternate take and couldn't find it. Danny Schechter, C.I. thought, had written about the report. C.I. couldn't find it and I can't find it now.

I don't care for an alternate view. (I did tell C.I. I'd read Schechter to see if I could find it, I couldn't.) This was a bunch of people who had a good idea and good intentions and then morphed into something completely different and something largely meaningless. The Appeal is a joke and that's not Lara Logan's fault.

That people want to sign on to it and say troops need to come home and no bases in Iraq but the people signing on are perfectly willing to be brushed aside and be sent to Iraq makes the petition toothless. The letter to the New York Times, during Vietnam meant something because people did go public and they did back up their words.

I feel bad for Hutto who worked very hard on this but at some point you have to ask if sending a strong message or sending something anyone can sign on to is more important? With no teeth, the Appeal became a joke.

That's why Katrina vanden Heuvel could get behind it. She couldn't, and can't, get behind anyone speaking out against the war. She could write twice about the Appeal but not a word about Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ehren Watada, Agustin Aguayo, Mark Wilkerson, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, etc.

I hope Hutto will continue to be active and I hope he will stop trying to play himself off as someone who is non-political. He had good intentions and I'm sorry for him that the Appeal turned into a joke but that is the reality.

The Appeal is not about war resistance. It's not really about anything at this point. It's had it's day and we really need to focus on other things, things that actually matter.

For the record, this war (or any other) won't end by glorifying war. It will end through honesty. Honesty doesn't allow for a pompous jerk to puff out his chest and claim that, because he's gone to Iraq with a gun, he's somehow better than 99% of the people. Elevating any group of voices over others isn't what a democracy is about and elevating service members, who will gladly go serve in Iraq, will kill the peace movement. In the end, the Appeal has wasted time and done more damage than good. That's probably why a peace resister like Katrina vanden Heuvel could hop on board to begin with.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, February 26, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; the Iraqi president is out of the country recovering while one of the vice-presidents is targeted; a group that tried so damn hard to play it apple pie learns that when you're given the spotlight and have nothing to say you bore everyone; the privatization of Iraq's oil moves to parliament; and mass protests took place in London and Glasgow over the weekend.

Starting with news of war resistance. Friday, the
US military decided to charge Ehren Watada again. In June of last year, Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. At the start of this month, he was court-martialed for his stand. Over defense objection, and only after repeatedly hinting to the prosecution that they should request a mistrial, Judge Toilet (John Head) declared the court-martial a mistrial. The US military is attempting to maintain that the double-jeopardy clause doesn't apply. Peter Boylan (Honolulu Advertiser) reported Saturday that Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney, was "surprised" by the decision to refile the charges and that he believes "the Army has made so many bad mistakes in this case that the chances of them having a successful outcome are very slim." Tuesday, The Honolulu Advertiser notes, Eric Seitz will debate Michael Lewis at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa -- the debate is billed as "Lt. Watada's Case and the Legality of the War in Iraq" (12:40 pm to 1:25 pm).

Ehren Watada is part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as
Kyle Snyder, Patrick Hart, Agustin Aguayo (scheduled to be court-martialed in Germany beginning March 6th), Ivan Brobeck, Mark Wilkerson, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Joshua Key, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

In addition
CBS' Lara Logan spoke with a group of people who have signed a petition that states: "As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home." But, as demonstrated in statements to Logan for the piece that aired Sunday on CBS' 60 Minutes, the war not being "worth the price" doesn't mean that any signer won't go. The speakers took great stride to point out that they were good soldiers who would obey every order. Maybe next time they can be ordered not to sign petitions? Coming off less than appealing (Ronn Cantu: "By volunteering we've done more than about 99 percent of the population"), they (or their egos) may have finally buried their own timid action. Putting out the weakest and most rah-rah voices didn't help. Playing politically stupid didn't help. A smart group of service members put the project together and in the weeks since it's been repeatedly dumbed down for public consumption.

Mike noted Friday, The Pooper was crowing about how he was the first to cover the timid group -- as though that's something to be proud of? -- but the reality is many others (including Nora Barrows-Friedman, that's Law & Disorder) had covered it long before the Pooper did.

Jon Cohen (Washington Post) reports on the paper's most recent joint-poll (with ABC) which found that respondes favored "Congressional Democrats over Bush to handle the situation in Iraq by a 54 percent to 34 percent margine"; however, there was also "a five-point increase in the number who trust neither the Democrats in Congress nor the President on the issue". This as Jeff Leys (CounterPunch) reports on how Dems in Congress "are buying the Iraq war lock, stock and barrel. Indeed, fewer votes may be cast against continuing Iraq war funding this year than last". The five-point increase in the Washington Post - ABC poll could increase next go round if Democrats do not start recognizing what's gone on around the country. As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted, "In Election news, five peace activists were arrested on Friday at a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in San Francisco. They held banners that said 'We Need a Peace Presidet' and 'Hillary, Stop Funding War'." The Occupation Project -- where citizens visit and sit in at the offices of their elected representiatives -- is currently going on throughout the country and you can click here for more information. Meanwhile Margaret Taley (AP) reports that Dems in the US Congress are feeling boxed in by the meaningless, marketed phrase that was created to clampdown on dissent but silly fools thought that adding "We" in front of it would 'frame' it.

Meanwhile, as
Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Los Angeles Times) reports, US Secretary of State (and Anger) Condi "Rice spoke out Sunday against efforsts in Congress to limit the role of U.S. forces in Iraq, saying President Bush would not allow himself to be constrained by such a 'micromanagement of military affairs'." Congress, of course, has the right, power and duty to oversee the Iraq war (and bring an end to it). But Rice is fully aware that on the chat & chews she can say whatever she wants and get away with it. It's only when called to testify under oath that things get ugly. All together now, "I believe the title was, 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States'."

Turning from "No one could have guessed" Condi to Ahnold,
Peter Nicholas (Los Angeles Times) notes that Republican governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, spoke with Bob Schieffer on CBS' Face the Nation yesterday where he "reiterated . . . that the U.S. needs to set clear timelines for bringing troops home, lest Iraq devolve into a quagmire with no end in sight."

Also appearing on Face the Nation (PDF format warning) was
2008 Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards who stated, "I think the Congress should use its authority, its funding authority to bring down the troop level an initial 40- to 50,000 out of Iraq, and continue to use that authority to redeploy troops out of Iraq over the next year or so." Also, on the issue of those, such as Hillary Clinton, who cannot or will not apologize for their 2002 vote that led to the illegal war, Edwards declared: "I--I think that there are two issues. One is what the situation -- difficult situation we're in, in Iraq now, what's the right and responsible course, and telling the American people and the world, for that matter, the truth about that. I also think it's important for those of us who were responsible for voting on the resolution in 2002 to say whatever the truth is for us about that vote. For those who voted for it, including me, if we believe we were wrong -- and I believe I was -- I think it's important to be honest about that and to say it. But I think that's an individual decision to be made by those who were responsible."

Meanwhile US House Rep and
2008 Democratic Presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich received an award yesterday. "[T]he only Presidential candidate who voted against the original Iraq war authorization and every funding appropriation since has received the first-ever Champion for Peace Award in Hollywood from a group of families of military members opposed to U.S. involvement in the Iraq War. Military Families Speak Out honored Kucinich for being 'a strong advocate for bringing the troops home now and never wavering from that position despite the politics going on,' said Pat Alviso, leader of the organization's Long Beach and South Bay Chapter." Last week, in Nevada, Kucinich noted, "It must be really tough for Presidential candidates to come before the American people and claim that they were tricked, deceived, misled . . . by George Bush? Well here's one person who wasn't. I saw the same information all these other candidates saw."

Across the Atlantic, in the United Kingdom, over 100,000 gathered in London and Glasgow to march against the war Saturday.
Matthew Cookson (Socialist Worker) reports on the London rally: "The march once again showed the depth, breadth and vibrancy of the anti-war movement. Thousands of students, trade unionists, Muslims, Christians and campaigners joined the protest." offers that "[t]he main emphasis of the London protest was against the war in Iraq" and that demonstrators met up "at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park before marching to Trafalgar Square." Arifa Akbar (Independent of London) spoke with Ceinwen Hilton who participated in the 2003 peace demonstration and explained why she was taking part again, "In 2003, the feeling was incredible. I was delighted that people had made an effort to show just how widely the opposition to war was felt. I remember the amazing feeling I had walking down Shaftesubry Avenue and seeing all the cast of Les Miserables cheering us from the balcony. When we were demonstrating four years ago, 600,000 were not dead. I'll be remembering them on today's march." The protests came with a theme song and a video. Life Style Extra reports that Stop The War Coalition has taken the song "War" and created a video with Tony Blair in it, where he appears to be singing the song, with the hopes of getting it into the top ten next Sunday -- "Mobile users can text PEACE1 to 78789 to download the tune" and you can purchase it here and you can watch the video (no purchase necessary) here. The BBC reports that, along with the London and Glasgow rallies, "Relatives of soldiers killed or serving in Iraq set up a camp outside Downing Street on Friday to coincide with the protest. They handed in a letter to Mr Blair calling for all British troops to be withdrawn immediately and demanding a meeting with him." CBS and AP note: "The speakers in London, and at a second demonstration in Glasgow, Scotland, also voiced fears the United States and Britain could take military action against Iran over its . . . nuclear programme."

Iran? As
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted: "The New Yorker magazine is reporting the Pentagon has established a special planning group within the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to plan a bombing attack on Iran. According to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, the new planning group has been charged with a developing a bombing plan that could be implemented within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from President Bush. Hersh also reveals that U.S. military and special-operations teams have already crossed the border into Iran in pursuit of Iranian operatives." Iran and Iraq were also addressed on KPFA's The Morning Show today with the guest Chris Toensing of the Middle East Report. Philip Maldari pointed out the push to scapegoat Iran for the problems in Iraq, specifically attempting to draw relationships between Iran and roadside bombs, and, as Toensing noted, "they threw it up against the wall, it didn't stick, so back to the drawing board." [Richard A. Oppel Jr. and James Glanz (New York Times) reported this morning on another attempt to pass weapons off as tied to Iran: "But critics assert that nearly all the bomb components could have been produced in Iran or somewhere else in the region. Even if the evidence were to establish that Iran is the source, they add, that does not necessarily mean that the Iranian leadership is responsible."] Maldari noted the attempts by the US administration to draw ties between Muqtada al-Sadr and Iran while ignoring how close Nouri al-Maliki was to Iran and how al-Maliki was in Iran "for decades before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein." Toensing agreed and observed that, "If one wants to look at major Iraqi political figures who've recently been to Iran, the list would be long and they're all allies of the United States."

Andrea Lewis noted the sentencing of Paul Cortez for his role in the gang rape of
Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and Tinsling pointed out how significant it was that two women came out last week to state that they had been raped by Iraqi security forces. Feminist Wire Daily notes the the gang rapes and quote Jodie Evans (CODEPINK) stating, "This is nothing new. Women . . . pay the worst price of the war, they live in total anarchy and in fear for their lives constantly -- [imagine] how easy rape is in that situation." Feminist Wire Daily also notes that Ann Wright (retired army col.; retired State Dept.) has "asked military personnel to refuse potentially imminent orders to attack Iran." This as Michael Smith and Sarah Baxter (Times of London) report: "Some of America's most seniour military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources. Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack."

Writing at Truthout, Wright noted: "George Bush is going to war again. We see it in the Bush administration's rhetoric about Iran's nuclear program. We see it in the Bush administration's commentary on Iran's reported role in training and equipping Iraqis who are fighting US forces that have invaded and occupied that country. We see it in the Bush administration's criticism of Iran's role in funding and equipping Hezbollah in Lebanon. We see it in the Bush administration's direction to the US military to detain Iranian diplomats in Iraq, breach diplomatic facilities, and capture or kill Iranian operatives in Iraq." CNN reports that five Iranians are currently being held by US forces includ Mohsen Chirazi who has been held since December.

In Iraq the never-ending 'crackdown' continues (ongoing since June). Yesterday,
CNN reported that Jalal Talabani had been flown to Amman, Jordan following a collapse. Talabani is the president of Iraq. Today, CBS and AP quote his doctor stating that he was suffering "from exhaustion and a lung inflammation". The presidential post is thought to be ceremonial in Iraq (though those who've read the Iraqi constitution closely dispute this to a degree and also dispute how many powers are actually vested in the country's prime minister position). Serving under Talabani are two vice-presidents, one Sunni, one Shia.
This morning in Baghdad,
an attack was launched against Adel Abdul-Mahdi who is the Shia vice-president of Iraq. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reported that the bomb was not from a car but actually inside the building a conference was being held in. Ahmed Rasheed and Ibon Villelabeitia (Reuters) report that six people were killed in the bombing, 31 were wounded, that Riad Ghareeb (Public Works Minister) was injured and that Abdul-Mahdi had "shrapnel wounds." CBS and AP report that Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraqi's Sunni vice-president, "has urged the Americans to come up with a 'Plan B' in case the current crackdown fails to stem the violence in Baghdad."

In addition to an attempt on the Shia vice-president's life, Iraq was also rolled by a Sunday bombing that resulted in mass fatalities.
Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports: "A suicide bomber pushed past guards at a crowded college campus Sunday and set off a thunderous blast that killed at least 40 Iraqis, most of them female students waiting in line to enter classrooms for midterm exames. The attack was the second in recent weeks to target the mainly Shiite Muslim Mustansiriya University. Even as rescue workers mopped up blood from the college grounds, the Iraqi government insisted that the U.S.-Iraqi security plan launched nearly two weeks ago was succeeding." Also yesterday, Sinan Salaheddin (AP) quoted a statement reported to be from Muqtada al-Sadr noting: "I'm certain, just like all oppressed Iraqis are certain, that no security plan will work and no good will come of any occupier. Here we are, watching booby trapped cars exploding to harvest thousands of innocent lives from our beloved people in the middle of a security plan that is controlled by an occupier who does as he please."



Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that an explosion in southern Baghdad killed two police officers and left another wounded, while a mortar attack in downtown Baghdad killed two people and wounded four. Reuters reports one Iraqi soldier dead and two more wounded in a bombing attack on a "checkpoint near the small town of Abbasi".


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack in Baghdad on "a center of civil defense unit" which utilized "machineguns and grenades" and left three police officers dead and three more wounded.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that 18 corpses were discovered today in Baghdad.

Also today, the
US military announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Forces-West was killed Feb. 26 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province."

Last Friday,
Antonia Juhasz and Kris Welch discussed the privatization of Iraq's oil on KPFA's Living Room. Andy Rowell (Oil Change International) notes today that the "hugely controversial oil law edged closer to approval after Kurds said some key issues had now been resolved between them and Baghdad." Dr Ashti Hawrami, Kurdistan Regional Government's Minister for Natural Resources, answers some basic questions here and raises more questions (and fears) than he addresses. Robert H. Reid (AP) reports that the proposed law has already been approved by the Iraqi cabinet and now will move to parliament.

agustin aguayo
ehren watada
antonia juhasz