Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Joshua Frank, NYT tries to manage public opinion


The illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Veto" and he had no idea how right he would turn out to be. I'd e-mailed him about it and he wrote that he really thought he was scraping the bottom of the barrel but figured tossing Condi in would make it a little funny. He did it on Saturday and it went up Sunday. Sunday was when Carl Levin proved how spineless he was and you can pair Isaiah's comic with Cedric's "Their own worst enemy " and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! DEMS DESTROY THEMSELVES! " from today.

"Democrats for War" (Joshua Frank, CounterPunch):
The precipitous decline of antiwar sentiment within the Democratic Party has been on grand display over the past few months. The majority of leading Democrats say they oppose the war in Iraq, but still refuse to cut funding. And when Bush vetoes the pork-swollen appropriations bill, which he's promised to do, the Democrats have pledged to compromise, rewrite the bill, and grant President Bush exactly what he wants: more cash and no timetable for troop withdraw from Iraq.
"We're not going to cut off funding for the troops,'' said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin over the weekend on ABC's This Week. "But what we should do, and we're going to do, is continue to press this president to put some pressure on the Iraqi leaders to reach a political settlement.''
Levin also stated that Democrats would take out language calling for troop withdrawal, but reiterated that they would not "vote to cut funding, period." Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York defended Levin as well as the Party's forthcoming concession, "We will try to come up with a way by talking with the White House, trying to compromise with the White House that both supports the troops and yet changes the strategy in Iraq,'' Schumer said on the Fox News Sunday.
The Democrats may not have enough votes to overturn a Bush veto, but they certainly have enough to filibuster the war-funding bill, which at this point is the only way to stop this god-awful disaster. One brave Democrat could take a stand, filibuster, and 40 more senators could then abstain from breaking the filibuster. That is all it would take. Bush would then have to be the one to compromise and produce a plan that was acceptable to the 41 Senate Democrats who want to end the war.

That's just an excerpt but the Democrats have caved again. Do they want to win? Do they know how? Their spineless measures weren't going to end the war, despite the lies. But didn't they push them as something they were proud of? Even so, they won't even fight for them. Do they fight for anything? I am so sick of the cowards that supposedly represent the Democratic Party. They couldn't lose any more if they didn't even show up. That was the game plan before January 2007, if you've forgotten. Filibuster a Supreme Court nominee? Heavens no! With a good portion of the public agains the Patriot Act, they couldn't rouse themselves to fight its renewal. They do nothing. The excuse before was, "We don't have the power! We're the minority party!" No, you're the big cry babies that wants votes and monies but doesn't want to work for them and people are getting sick of it. I may revisit this tomorrow. I'll leave it at that for now.

"NYT: 'Nothing to worry about, think of something else!'" (The Common Ills):
So let's talk Paul von Zielbauer's free floating article (no dateline for one thing, exists in an unnamed land found far, far from the real world) entitled "Army Is Cracking Down on Deserters." Further down the first column, von Zeilbauer gives a definition of "deserter" and though it's little help to anyone in this community, it should be shared with little Tommy Zeller Junior who wrongly and falsely called Ehren Watada a "deserter" in an online piece that the paper refused to correct despite numerous complaints. Little Junior was writing at the Times blog and, if nothing else, his crappy little piece exposed the fact that the Times' blog may claim to include comments; however, it really doesn't. Those trying to leave a comment found out only some type of comments were allowed. You could trash Watada, you could certainly praise Little Junior (something that real life offers little chances of) but you could not point out that Little Junior was wrong -- even something as simple as: "Ehren Watada does not meet the legal definition of a deserter" (Portland) would wait in vain for the comment to ever appear. Now the paper could have excused the lack of correction with "We allow comments!" But, of course, they didn't. A factual inaccuracy in an article could not be pointed out.
So possibly the definition would help Little Junior. von Zeilbauer may not grasp it but the definition really doesn't matter. Here it is:
Soldiers considered absent without leave, or AWOL, which presumes they plan to return, are classified as deserters and dropped from a unit's roll after 30 days.
Though Watada wasn't (and couldn't be) charged with desertion (he reported to his assigned task every day at Fort Lewis and still does), Agustin Aguayo was charged with desertion. Aguayo turned himself and turned himself in less than 30 days after he self-checked out. It's a rule of thumb, it's not binding (the definition).Who else is helped with the crap?
Ignorance is helped and if the paper couldn't do their part to disinform and misinform readers they never would have gotten the bail out that saved them all those years ago.
This article is the perfect example of why they were saved (imagine what kind of a world it would have been -- it certainly would have prevented the official record including the lies that Hiroshima was anything to be proud of). What's happened is that the US military has been forced to admit that there numbers of desertions were wrong. NPR caught them out, von Zeilbaur wrote the story for the Times. (We noted von Zeilbauer's story here). The US military was undercounting.While the big story was the number of self-check outs, the US military clamped down on reality by 'miscounting' (undercounting) and would have continued to use that official (mis)figure to silence the discussion. (With the Times, you don't need a figure to silence discussion, you just need to yell "BOO!" or threaten litigation.) So while Ann Wright, Jeffry House, Kyle Snyder or anyone paying even the least bit of attention could have told you the official numbers were wrong and that the number of self-checks outs was immense and climbing, the US military kept trotting out the same (mis)figure and everyone fell into line accepting their marching orders (this includes many in little media as well). It was like the split yesterday in Edward Wong's two articles -- in the hard news he had to rely on what the US military officially said, in the lighter section he could discuss what he had seen with his own eyes and, for those who have forgotten, the latter fits the definition of real reporting.
So the military got caught out and had to issue the correction. That means that, as von Zielbauer writes, explaining that desertions are at "more than 1 percent of the active-duty force," that they are "in a sustained upswing again after ebbing in 2003, the first year of the Iraq war."Little bits of reality make into the sham of reporting. Tiny, little morsels. Some careful readers may even question von Zielbauer's reporting that prosecution of deserters has been on the rise due to the fact that desertion was higher. That might read about that and wonder, "Well if the US military only discovered, after NPR pointed it out, that their rates were wrong and if they had repeatedly down played the number with one flack even calling them 'insignificant,' how would the US military have known the numbers had risen?" Shhh, you're not supposed to notice that, von Zielbauer certainly doesn't.
The US military issued false data and reality is that those involved in compiling the data knew it was false (as did many issuing public statements).
So now the truth is out and the reality that the long ignored story of self-check outs has been one of the biggest stories (largely unreported) of last year, the year before . . . What's the Times to do? What they were saved to do: manage the public opinion.
Yes, self-check outs are happening in a significant number but, von Zielbauer rushes to reassure, this is not about any opposition to the war. Why, he offers an example of a doctor explaining that a soldier in Alaska chopped off his own thumb to avoid deploying. For the record, maiming yourself does allow you to avoid service, but it's not classified as desertion. It wasn't in Vietnam when you could shoot yourself in order to return to the US.

I meant to note this yesterday and forgot until after I had posted. It's so strong, you'll see it on my links by the end of the week. I kept thinking Sunny would find something and say, "Oh, someone else is calling this nonsense out!" She didn't. (I didn't but Sunny can find nearly anything online.) That NYT article, which some 'lefty' sites have linked to without a critique offered, is nothing but an attempt to manage public opinion. Maybe if it happens repeatedly, someone will call it out. As I remember it, it was C.I. who called out the paper's selling of nuclear energy as a "green" measure. Now you may remember FAIR doing that a few months back. C.I. did it at the start of 2005. The paper manages public opinion and if that is news to you, educate yourself. Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal are two strong examples of critics of the paper who don't scream, "Mean to Democrats!" The two both get exactly what the paper does, what it has always done and will always do. So here they went this week, trying to manage public opinion with: "Yes, desertions are up, but it's only because the troops have PTSD. They want to serve in this war. They really want that." Desertions are up because people do not want to fight Bully Boy's illegal war. PTSD can be found in those who self-checked out and in those who were discharged (or are on leave). But it was a pretty little distraction, wasn't it? Somewhere George and Martha were at their breakfast table and one of them said, "Desertion is up." "What!" "Oh, don't worry, honey, it's not anyone refusing to serve in an illegal war. It's just some people who need medical help." It's crap and thankfully C.I. called it out.

That's all she wrote tonight, I am tired and just want to listen to some music and relax.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills)
Tuesday, April 10, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, Sara Rich continues to tell her daughter's story, the same Congress that won't end the war doesn't listen to the story of Suzanne Swift, and the lies that led to an illegal war are explored.

Starting with the final section of Robert Knight's "Knight Report" on yesterday's

Meanwhile, there's little indication from London or Washington that the occupation will end any time soon. In London a confidential planning document drawn up by the Defence Ministry, called the "Operational Tour Plot," was obtained by the London Telegeraph which today disclosed that British troops will be serving in Iraq and throughout the Arab gulf at least until 2012. And finally in Washington, Congressional Democrats made it perfectly clear they have no serious intention of bringing the war in Iraq to an end before they can capitalize on it in time for the 2008 presidential elections. After a week's recess and backtracking on the non-binding and loophole laden timeline legislation which permits the Bush administration to continue the war in until the next presidential term Democratic leaders retreated even further than they did during the legislative debate. Among the retreaters Senator Carl Levin, the chair of the Armed Services Committee told ABC's This Week that, "We're not going to vote to cut funding." He said that after a veto "There's a number of options. Either we can keep the benchmarks part of the bill without saying that the troops must begin to come back and if that doesn't work what we will leave will be benchmarks for instance which would require the president to certify to the American people that the Iraqis are meeting the benchmarks for political settlement which they have set themselves." And that's some of the news of this Monday April 9, 2007 from exile in New York, I'm Robert Knight for

Flashpoints is archived at its own website and at KPFA (which right now is having archive problems and has archived nothing since early Monday morning) and airs live from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday online and over the airwaves of KPFA, KFCF, KPFB and other stations. (A full transcription of Robert Knight's "Knight Report" appears in Hilda's Mix today.) Knight was speaking, first, of the news from the UK. Sean Rayment (Telegraph of London) notes approximately half "of the country's armed services have now served in Iraq since the war began in March 2003" and that the revelations that UK forces will be in Iraq through 2012 and that report is "in marked contrast to a statement made by Tony Blair in Feburary giving the impression that British troops would remain in Ira for less than two years." On the earlier issue of the Democrats caving, as Joshua Frank (CounterPunch) notes, "The Democrats may not have enough votes to overturn a Bush veto, but they certainly have enough to filibuster the war-funding bill, which at this point is the only way to stop this god-awful disaster. One brave Democrat could take a stand, filibuster, and 40 more senators could then abstain from breaking the filibuster. That is all it would take. Bush would then have to be the one to compromise and produce a plan that was acceptable to the 41 Senate Democrats who want to end the war. But of course, we are more likely to see Dick Cheney drinking margaritas with Cindy Sheehan on the White House lawn before we'd witness this scenario play out." Tabassum Zakaria and Richard Cowan (Reuters) report that Bully Boy has "invited congressional leaders of both parties to the White House next week" to discuss the non-binding, toothless Congressional measure. That is the same measure he has stated he intends to veto and that Senator Carl Levin says, if he vetos, Democrats will immediately rush to fall in line (no power of the purse for Levin).

From the madness of the governments
To the vengeance of the sea
Everything is eclipsed
By the shape of destiny
So love me now
Hell is coming
Could you do it now?
Hell is here
Little soldier, little insect
You know war, it has no heart
It will kill you in the sunshine
Or just as happily in the dark
-- "No One Would Riot For Less" written by Conor Oberst, off Bright Eyes' Cassadaga

Turning to the topic of war resistance,
Paul Rockwell (CounterPunch) offers an open letter to Major General Charles Jacoby Jr. where he reviews the court-martial of Ehren Watada. In June 2006, Watada became the first officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq. In February of this year, he became the first officer to be court-martialed for refusing to deploy. Rockwell notes that the court-martial ended in a mistrial over the objection of the defense, argues that "now is a good time to drop all the charges against the Lieutenant, to bring closure to a trial that, in my opinion, should never have taken place" and concludes that "history will vindicate the courage of Lt. Ehren Watada." Pretrial motions are currently scheduled for May 20th through 21st and the court-martial for July 16th. Watada is represented by the Seattle based Carney Bradley Spellman and his attorneys are Kenneth Kagan and James Lobsenz.

Ehren Watada is part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes Joshua Key, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia, Dean Walcott, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake 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.

At a rally to show support for
Ehren Watada, Sara Rich (AfterDowningStreet.org) writes, she and her daughter Suzanne Swift turned out to show their support and Swift asked, "Mom, where are the kids my age? Where is my generation?" Rich goes on to tell her daughter's story, sexually abused and harassed for the apparent 'crime' of thinking a woman could serve in the military, Swift was betrayed by the very system she attempted to defend. As Rich explains, her daughter did not self-check out because of an objection to the war but to save herself when the military refused to do so. Rich: "Confronting imminent redeployment she went AWOL. Later the Army would contend that she went AWOL because of her mother's political beliefs. I only wished it was that. If it was because of my political beliefs she never would have gone to Iraq the first place. Then they tried to say it was because of her own anti war beliefs. That would have been a dream come true. But the truth was that my daughter went AWOL out of pure fear; fear of what her command had done to her in the first deployment and rejection of being treated like a 'deployment whore' again. This was not a decision it was a reaction."

Suzanne Swift's reaction was perfectly normal, even before you get to the fact that she suffers from PTSD, not only was she abandoned by the military command that damn well should have prevented what she went through, the US Congress -- all those brave talking Senators, male and female -- sat on their collective asses which apparently kept their lips from moving. The military conducted a whitewash investigation (that still found validity and confirmation in some of Swift's charges), her offer was sign a paper saying she lied or face a court-martial. Swift was court-martialed, stripped of her rank, sentenced to 30 days and then placed back in the same system that not only did not refuse to ensure her safety, but failed to after she sought help. To repeat, Congress sat on its collective ass. That's Hillary Clinton, that's Carl Levin, that's Barbara Boxer, that's Russ Feingold, that's Susan Collins, that's Mr. uber-goodness Joe Lieberman.

Rich concludes, "It is amazing to me how much we have to be thankful to the Army for. They tried to break my daughter down and shut her up, and in the process created a strong advocate for women around the world. Imagine if they had done the right thing and protected from MLester in the first place or given her an immediate medical discharge when our attorney contacted Ft. Lewis right after she went AWOL and was diagnosed with PTSD. How simple and right it could have been. But the US military did not understand what they were doing or Suzanne's fortitude." A number of Congressional members who are also attempting to campaign for president have issued the "If only we knew then what we know now . . ." junk to excuse their support for an illegal war. What's their excuse for doing nothing about
Suzanne Swift? She should have received an honorable discharge. Congress should have immediately initiated hearings into what women serving in Iraq are actually having to endure. It's not too late for that nor is it too late to push for Swift to get the honorable discharge she more than deserves.

Rich offers that the people her daughter's age are waking up to the realities and will be showing up at protests in greater numbers. In Iraq yesterday,
hundreds of thousands participated in a Najaf rally against the occupation of the nation by foreign forces. Hiba Dawood (Free Speech Radio News) reported by speaking with Iraqis (an apparently novel and new thing to do when you consider how few others bothered to do so) taking part in the protest. One man noted 4 years have passed since the occupation of Iraq and what happened? Hundreds of thousands were killed, hundreds of thousands were wounded and arrested. They humiliate the Iraqi homes every day. The Constitution says that the Iraqi homes are protected but they invade homes anytime they want. We have to always remember Abu Ghraib and the abuses that has happened there including the sexual abuse against Iraqi women and the killing of those Iraqi women with their families." Ahmed Ali states: "The demands in this demonstration are different than the ones we had in 2005, for example. Then people demanded the condemnation of Saddm Hussein and called for the total and immediate departure of the occupation forces. Today, we demand that there should be at least a timetable set up for troops to leave. Our other demand is that want people in the occupying countries in the removal of their military forces from Iraq."

Following yesterday's cry for foreign forces to leave, the war drug on with all the violence that entails.


AFP reports: "A woman veiled in black and strapped with explosives blew herself up outside a police station in Iraq on Tuesday, killing 16 people, many of them volunteering to joing the polic eforce" in Muqdadiyah. CNN reports a Baghdad bombing targeting Baghdad Univeristy that killed at least six college students and left 11 more injured. CBS and AP report that "a rocket slammed into a schoolyard basketball court, killing a 6-year-old boy. AP Television News videotape showed children's backpacks and books still open on classroom desks, covered with shattered glass and debris. Blood was pooled on the dusty tile floor." -- the count given is 17 wounded. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two other mortar attacks in Baghdad that resulted in one death and four wounded.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) notes an Iraqi soldier was shot in Kirkuk and, in Baghdad, an ongoing clash between Iraqis and US & Iraqi forces has left one Iraqi soldier dead and four injured and that "an eyewitness" says "one American reconnaissance aircraft was shot down." CNN notes that the US military states that "minor damage" was done to a helicopter which did not, according to the US military, crash.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 9 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

Today the
US military announced: "Three MND-B Soldiers died and another was wounded when an improvised explosive device and secondary explosion detonated near their patrol in a southeastern section of the Iraqi capital April 9. " And they announced: "A Soldier assigned to Multi-National Force-West died Monday while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." On the tenth day of April, ICCC is reporting that 45 US service membrs have died in Iraq so far this month. 3292 since the start of the illegal war. 3292 dead. Why?

The mythical mushroom cloud that Condi and Bully Boy pushed? The 16 words in the State of the Union 2003 address (a Constitutional duty of the office of president): "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." That lie was
explored today by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!), La Repubblica's Carlo Bonini and the Washington Post's Peter Eisner -- excerpt:

Amy Goodman: So we're back to the day that President Bush made his statement within the State of the Union address about Saddam Hussein's attempt to get uranium from Africa.

Peter Eisner, what role did the CIA play in this statement?

Peter Eisner: The CIA actually had attempted to block the statement by President Bush relating uranium purchases in Niger. And, in fact, three months before the State of the Union message, on October 7, 2002 -- strangely, the same day that Rocco Martino handed over the documents to Elisabetta Burba -- President Bush was scheduled to deliver a speech in Cincinnati, and the draft of that speech said pretty much what he ended up saying in the State of the Union message. That was, that the British had found that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium in Africa. The CIA was given routinely a copy of that text in advance and argued that that sentence about uranium should be removed. There was quite an argument between the lower CIA officials and White House staff, including Stephen Hadley, at the time the assistant National Security Advisor, now the National Security Advisor, once Condoleezza Rice became Secretary of State. Finally, George Tenet, the head of the CIA, had to intercede on October 7 and demand that the White House remove the sentence describing uranium purchases in Niger. It was quite a dust-up. As a result of that, the White House, burned, decided that in the interim it would not provide advanced text of presidential speeches to the CIA to avoid having to withdraw information that it didn't want to withdraw. So, the day before the State of the Union message, no one at the CIA had seen the text of the State of the Union message, until the night before. Someone just mildly passed a draft text to George Tenet during a meeting, which was not the normal procedure for vetting a document. And basically everyone at the CIA was surprised when President Bush uttered that statement, which had already been excised three months earlier. The response by the White House staff was, "Whoops! We forgot."

Amy Goodman: And yet, what happened? This was still before the President's address?

Peter Eisner: Well, in effect, George Tenet, the head of the CIA, the day before, received the text, handed it off to an aide, and nobody took a look at it. It could have been stopped, but usually, you know, days before, as the text is being prepared, written, analyzed, someone would look at it. In this case, they didn't, although the Bush administration did have allies elsewhere in the CIA that were kind of giving them cover to be able to make this statement, while a vast majority, I would say, of the intelligence community in the United States did not believe for an instant that Iraq was trying to buy uranium or that Iraq was trying to restart its nuclear program.

Carlo Bonini is the co-author of
Collusion: International Espionage and the War on Terror. Peter Eisner is the co-author of The Italian Letter: How the Bush Administration Used a Fake Letter to Build the Cases for War in Iraq. Amy Goodman is the co-author of Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders and the People Who Fight Back and she will be speaking at Faneuil Hall in Boston next Monday (April 16th) with Howard Zinn -- event begins at 7:00 pm.