Tuesday, February 13, 2007

John R. MacArthur, Student strike against the war

On Democracy Now! today, John R. MacArthur was a guest (on "New York Times Trumpets Pentagon's Claims Over Iran Sending Bombs to Iraq") and he made solid points as he generally does. He also posed a question:

So, what’s interesting about Michael Gordon is that when he did the reporting on the phony aluminum tube story with Judith Miller four years ago, he somehow escaped unharmed and is now thriving. He has a book out, as you saw, and he’s doing very well, and he's going around acting like he’s an expert on Iraq, when, in fact, he’s still playing the role of conduit for the official line, the Army line or the government line, depending on who he’s talking to on what day.

How did Michael R. Gordon escape? I believe C.I.'s charted that for some time. There are a number of reasons why he got off.

1) Bash the bitch.

As C.I.'s noted, this popular American past time allowed the focus to be solely on Judith Miller. She wasn't the only one lying in print or on air. Michael Gordon co-wrote her infamous aluminum tubes 'scoop' and he walked while she was nailed. Don't think for a moment it wasn't bash the bitch. Somewhere (with Beta I can't search the way I used to -- with The Common Ills going to beta) C.I. made the point that the game is why Janet Jackson got demonized for the torn top. If you remember, Jackson didn't tear her own shirt off. Justin Timberlake took part in that. But bash the bitch allows it to still be talked of with Jackson being taken to task and Timberlake getting a pass. Bash the bitch is most obvious whenever a man and a woman do the same thing and everyone focuses on the woman's actions. It's not criticizing women, bash the bitch is about a double standard where it's so 'fun' to go after women that the men are given a pass and ignored.

2) The Judith Miller saga has been rewritten.

Some of the earliest and strongest critques of her 'reporting' in the lead up to the war came from socialist publications. There's this notion that media critics were weighing in real time and a lot of them were not (mainstream media critics). Once the criticism started to build and pressure built, some people began to pay attention. But even so, let's remember, C.I.'s pointed this out, well after the war started, CJR (in their magazine) was referring to Miller as a credible reporter. CJR is Columbia Journalism Review and it's supposed to be a media watchdog.

When Miller finally began to get criticism from the watchdogs of mainstream media, most were barking extra loudly to catch up. By the time Miller's being asked to name her sources, she's a 'name' and a lot of people rush to play catch up. (We've seen something similar with regards to 2006 when, for the longest time, C.I. was the only one noting the trash Gordo was putting into print. There's probably confusion over his work now among some. As if the story Saturday was the first problem Gordo's had since Miller left the paper.) So a lot of people who weren't paying attention in real time suddenly rush to play catch up.

It's also true that a lot of lazy 'media critics' went around in 2006 name checking her and her 2002 and 2003 work which did give the implication that (a) she acted alone and (b) the biggest problems at the paper were gone. It was lazy and dishonest (and C.I. called it out in real time). Sometimes they had a new (but tired) book to plug, but there they were in 2006, brought on to discuss Iraq, and having very little to say about Iraq in 2006 (realities or press reports) and thinking they could turn the entire segment into "Judith Miller."

I'll leave it at that. There are other reasons, but those are the two biggest ones. I'll also note that Dexter Filkins was given a pass by our 'brave' watchdogs and, as C.I.'s pointed out for nearly three years now (longer in person, but I'm speaking of at The Common Ills), "If the Judith Millers got us over there, if, it's the Dexter Filkins that have kept us over there." That refers to his lies about the slaughter of Falluja (for which he won an award), that includes giving speeches while in the US about how Iraq had gone to hell (I'm not talking about the one in August, C.I.'s noted those speeches which were given on campuses) while still churning out his rah-rah press. By not admitting the truth in print, even after he was doing so on campuses across the country, by going back after that, back to Iraq, and still turning out his nonsense, he and people like him prolonged the war.

I think that's a really important point because Judith Miller's gone from the New York Times. Gordo's still there (Dexy's "honored" and now only does so from time to time). If The Lies of Judy were the only problem, America would have demanded a withdrawal years ago. Where were the media critics on Dexter Filkins?

"NYT: The soft porn of dizy Dexy" remains one of my favorites (it's very funny). But let's leave his bad reporting that the media critics didn't want to touch (they protect their own -- Judith Miller was hated, another reason she became the focus). Let's note three public details. 1) There was a complaint to the Guild resulting from Dexy's behavior in the Green Zone (which was a wee bit 'exotic' if the complaint was valid). 2) A mainstream reporter who was in Iraq came back and told the tale of how Dexy was all excited because he had an interview with the resistance. He mentioned it to the US military who gave him a dirty look and he cancelled the interview. (Think about that -- not only did he let his strings be pulled but he's telling the US military his plans for the day?) 3) Thomas E. Ricks, in the Washington Post, revealed that when the military had spin to sell, Dexy was there go to guy.

Any of the three should have resulted in people looking at his work, in media critics paying attention to it. Instead, they all took a pass.

Now the lies of Dexy (and others) helped many Americans believe the war was going well. You can't cover Iraq and the press and just focus on Miller. Her kind got the US over there, the Dexys kept the US there by lying to the American people and presenting these stories (if they weren't embed stories, they were heavily dependent upon stringers because the reporters largely stay in the Green Zone for their own safety -- a point everyone should have made clear but that didn't happen in the New York Times until 2006).

So all of that goes to answering MacArthur's question and until people take the above seriously, forget about stopping illegal wars. There will always be tricks, lies and stunts to get a nation into an illegal war. It's the lies, once the war starts, that will determine how long the people are fooled and Dexy stands high on the list of liars.

"Gordo's war-on, still dripping" contains C.I.'s critique of Saturday's story but C.I. didn't just wake up Saturday and start calling Gordo out. Nor did C.I. just note one pre-invasion problems with Gordo's 'reports'.

Please read Kat's "The Grammys" and Jenny e-mailed about Rebecca's "chomsky, robert parry, flashpoints, dixie chicks" wondering if I took the course Rebecca was writing about? No. We were both begged to (Rebecca really had a supreme crush on the guy she mentions) but I stuck to a schedule. C.I.'s attitude was always, "I'm paying for college, I'll take whatever I want." (A good attitude to have.) I heard about the excercise they did in that class in real time but had honestly forgotten about it until Rebecca wrote about last night. (It was many, many years ago.) I think she made wonderful points in her post. (If you haven't read it, she ties in the class excercise into the relationship, in Congress, of Democrats and Republicans.)

"Why We Are Striking" (Columbia Coalition Against the War, CounterPunch):
We, the Columbia Coalition Against the War, are staging a strike followed by a teach-in on February 15th, 2007. We are inviting the entire Columbia community, including students, faculty, staff, and the administration, to join us in publicly and actively opposing the unjust War in Iraq.
We call upon the people of this country-especially our generation-to shoulder the responsibility of bringing an immediate end to this war.
This unjust war began without provocation and continues despite the opposition of the vast majority of American and Iraqi people. This war, criminal in its violation of the Geneva Conventions, has resulted in a catastrophic loss of life-3,300 coalition troops and over 655,000 of our Iraqi brothers and sisters. In the name of this war, and the "war on terror," there has been a broad assault on our civil liberties including the violation of habeas corpus, condoning of torture, and rampant racism against Arabs and Muslims. This war has made the world less safe, and less free.
We strongly encourage the students of Columbia to walk out of classes in opposition to this war. We call on the faculty and administration to set aside business as usual, join our strike, and issue statements of support. Columbia, as a global university, has a responsibility to take a proactive stance against this illegal war.

C.I. passed that on and didn't have time for it in the snapshot. Let's recap the previous three weeks of the C.I. schedule (and Ava and Jess have been on all three as well): DC, Texas, Tacoma. This was supposed to be the relax week. But Monday afternoon, that changed (as it usually does) and now C.I.'s back out on the road again. Dona and Jim are on this trip as well and one of the things they are talking about is the student strike. I admire the dedication but I hope next week is a stay-at-home week without any travel.

I will be going on the (planned) Texas trip. (The trip after DC wasn't planned ahead of time. It was spur of the moment due to the fact that Billie and other Texas members where in DC and their stories had made Ava and Jess curious about Texas.) I need that kind of notice (it's next month) to be able to clear my appointment schedule. I know we'll be going to the Dallas-Fort Worth area (members from that area breathe a sigh of relief that I termed it properly). I also know we'll be doing East Texas. I think Houston and Austin are also on the agenda. I mention that because Eddie e-mailed wondering if I was a part of the trip (I believe everyone doing a site is) and if there were any firm plans? I think the plans are being firmed up by Dona in terms of where on what day. She's offered to handle that so I'm sure it will go very smoothly (she's very efficient). Mike's really looking forward to it (I am as well, but he's really excited about it). Rebecca will be there for at least part of it unless there's an issue with travel. What she and Flyboy are planning to do is to drive. They have a number of friends in states in between so they're planning it as a two or three week trip. Her doctor has already signed off on it. So, barring any problems, she will be there as well.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
February 13, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; will it expand into Iran?; a new poll finds most Americans aren't please with Bully Boy but Congress shouldn't breathe easy, and a war resister prepares for a court-martial next week.

Starting with news of war resistance,
on August 31st of last year, at Camp Casey III, Mark Wilkerson turned himself in. Wilkerson had served in Iraq, applied for conscientious objector status, had the status denied and told that he could not appeal the decision until after he had served his second deployment in Iraq. While on leave before his second deployment, Wilkerson decided to self-check out of the military. He was gone for approximately a year and a half and then, on August 31st, held a press conference with Cindy Sheehan and others standing with him to announce he was turning himself in. Ryan (Indybay IMC) reports that Wilkerson will be court-martialed at Fort Hood (Texas) on February 22nd. Dick Foster (Rocky Mountain News) reports: "As part of his plea agreement with the Army, Wilkerson will serve not more than 10 months in prison. But he also faces a possible dishonorable or bad conduct discharge and a felony conviction on his record." Reflecting on his time serving in Iraq, Wilkerson wrote (last October): "Before I deployed to Iraq during OIF1, I was full of optimism for what we could do to help the people of Iraq. One of our missions, after all, was to 'win the hearts and the minds of the Iraqi people.' And in this reagard, we have failed miserably. In the year I was in Iraq, I saw kids waving American flags in the first month. Then they threw rocks. Then they planeted IEDs. Then they blew themselves and others up in city squares full of people. The only conclusion I can come up with as to why this has happened is the way the American troops have treated the Iraqi people as a whole. From random raids of whole city blocks, to checkpoints that interrupted the daily lives of the Iraqis, to incidents of torture and even massacres, a majority of Iraqis now feel as that the American soliders, once hailed as heroes and saviors, are now seen as conquerors. Civil was has erupted in the streets, and Americans are caught in the crossfire."

Turning to the topic of
Ehren Watada whose court-martial at Fort Lewis last week ended with a mistrial, Ann Wright (retired col., retired State Dept., writing at Truthout) notes: "The US Army prosecution called only three witnesses to meet its burden of providing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Lieutenant Watada had failed to deploy to Iraq and had committed conduct 'unbecoming an officer' for public statements about the war on Iraq he made in June and August 2006. Ironically, in my opinion, the testimony of the prosecution witnesses underscored Lieutenant Watada's professionalism, dedication to duty and respect for the chain of command as he attempted to resolve his ethical and moral concerns about the war. In effect, prosecution witnesses undercut the prosecution's own case against Watada before the jury panel of seven US Army officers." The prosecution bungled their case. Instead of allowing it to continue and risk the military losing, Judge Toilet (Lt. Col. John Head) declared a mistrial. Wright concludes: "As an old soldier with nearly three decades of service, I suggest that the 'good order and discipline' of the Army has not been negatively affected by Lieutenant Watada's actions. Until his unit deployed to Iraq on June 22, Watada had not disobeyed an order from his command. He did not go AWOL. After he was charged, he worked professionally and diligently everyday while awaiting his court-martial. I urge the Army to let the lieutenant, who has acted in good faith, with courtesy and respect for the military and responsibility for his oath to the military and to the country, resign." The Journal News reports that Vietnam war resister David Mitchell (Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice) will speak Tuesday night at 7:00 pm about what he observed while attending Watada's court-martial last week. The location for the speech is the Fellowship of Reconciliation at 521 North Broadway in Upper Nyack.

Watada and Wilkerson are a part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as
Agustin Aguayo (whose court-martial is currently set to begin on March 6th), Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ivan Brobeck, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, 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, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey 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.


CBS and AP report: "A suicide truck bomber blew himself up near a college and a ration office in a mainly Shiite area of the capital Tuesday, killing at least 15 people, officials said, a day after car bombs devastated a Baghdad marketplace." Reuters reports the count of those dead rose to 18 and that 40 are wounded. CNN reports a car bombinb ("outside a bakery in southereatern Baghdad") that left four dead.


Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports that 28 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes that three corpses were found in Mahmudiya.

And today, the
US military announced: "A soldier assigned to Multi-National Force-West was killed Sunday while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province."

Meanwhile the crackdown gets a curfew -- another curfew. David Chazan, reporting for
BBC News, noted the latest curfew announcement from Iraqi Lt. Gen Abboud Gambar: "A curfew on people and vehicles will be imposed at a day to be announced soon around Baghdad security zone. This curfew will be effective from 20:00 to 06:00 local time." Chazan: "The curfews have been tried before and they haven't freed the capital from sectarian violence. This time the borders with Iran and Syria will be closed for at least three days."

Turning to the subject of Iran,
Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported that "Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday that he has no information indicating Iran's government is directly the supply of lethat weapons to Shiite insurgent groups in Iraq" -- Pace: "We know that the explosively formed projecticles are manufactured in Iran. What I would not say is that the Iranian government, per se, knows abou this. It is clear that Iranians are involved, and it's clear that materials from Iran are involved but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit."

Various people in the administration and
war pornographer Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times are pushing a link that has not been established as existing. Dennis Bernstein discussed this with Robert Parry and Larry Everest on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday. Parry: "One has to remember some of the ludicrous stories that Judy Miller of the New York Times published -- including some on the front page of the New York Times which were, in retrospect, laughable. But they're not laughable because they led to the death of so many people." Parry also noted some of the phoney claims used to market the illegal war on Iraq such as: "remember he was going to spray us, he was supposed to have these model planes that were going to fly over the United States spraying us with poisonous gasses." Everest and Parry discussed the likelihood that Bully Boy will attempt to strike Iran, possibly in April, possibly by forcing them to make the first move or possibly after Israel initiates an attack.

John R. MacArthur (Harper's magazine) spoke with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! today noting the 'repoting' on Iran: "And the most damning ommission in the story, if you want to talk about overall perspective, is complete lack of perspective on who's fighting whom, who's shooting at whom in Iraq? Does the Iranian government really have an interest in destabilizing what's now a Shi'ite dominated government? Doesn't make any sense -- if it does make sense to the administration, that the Iranians want to destabilize a Shi'ite-dominated government, when they're a Shi'ite rule nation, then they should explain it. But there's no logic to it, and there's just this massive ommission."

Susan Page (USA Today) reports on the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll which found "six in 10 oppose President Bush's plan to use more troops" in Iraq and that "Seven of 10 say their representative's vote on the war will affect their vote in the next congressional election; more than four in 10 call it a major factor." Where is the New York Times poll on this topic? While other outlets have been providing their polling results for over two months now, the paper of record has been strangely silent.