Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday rant

This will be a long rant. You'll understand why as you read along.

"The Silence of the Bombs" (Norman Solomon, CounterPunch):
Three years have passed since most Americans came to the conclusion that the Iraq war was a "mistake." Reporting the results of a Gallup poll in June 2004, USA Today declared: "It is the first time since Vietnam that a majority of Americans has called a major deployment of U.S. forces a mistake." And public opinion continued to move in an antiwar direction. But such trends easily coexist with a war effort becoming even more horrific.
In Washington, over the past 25 years, top masters of war have preened themselves in the glow of victory after military triumphs in Grenada, Panama, the 1991 Gulf War, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. During that time, with the exception of the current war in Iraq, the Pentagon's major aggressive ventures have been cast in a light of virtue rewarded -- in sync with the implicit belief that American might makes right.
"The problem after a war is with the victor," longtime peace activist A. J. Muste observed several decades ago. "He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay."
The present situation has a different twist along the same lines. The Iraq war drags on, the United States is certainly not the victor -- and the U.S. president, a fervent believer in war and violence, still has a lot to prove.
Faith that American might makes right is apt to be especially devout among those who command the world's most powerful military -- and have the option of trying to overcome wartime obstacles by unleashing even more lethal violence.
These days, there's a lot of talk about seeking a political solution in Iraq -- but the Bush administration and the military leaders who answer to the commander in chief are fundamentally engaged in a very different sort of project. Looking ahead, from the White House, the key goal is to seem to be winding down the U.S. war effort while actually reconfiguring massive violence to make it more effective. Two sets of figures have paramount importance in mainline U.S. media and politics -- the number of U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and the number of them dying there. Often taking cues from news media and many lawmakers on Capitol Hill, antiwar groups have tended to buy into the formula, emphasizing those numbers and denouncing them as intolerably high.

C.I. asked me to note that, so I did. My opinion? If Iraq's so damn important (I think it is) don't go off on other topics. Stay consistent. C.I. likes Norman Solomon, I admire most of his work. I don't think he's treated the war as seriously as he could or should. The bombings was a topic he wrote about months ago. Now he's writing about it again. Iraq is sometimes his topic, Iraq is sometimes not. I do not question Norman Solomon's talent or his intentions. I will state very clearly that Iraq is not something to be picked up and dropped repeatedly. I will note that we never need another summer like last year when independent media took weeks off from the topic of Iraq.

Later in the column, Norman Solomon notes what the peace movement "needs" to do. You want to influence the movement, stay focused. No one needs to hear from a drop-in visitor. It doesn't sound helpful, it sounds like scolding. (I am sure that is not his intent but that is how it comes off. These are my opinions, not C.I.'s, who will probably tell me, "Gee, I wouldn't have asked you to note the article if I'd known you'd write all of that.")

Iraq is an illegal war and no one's yet to take up Molly Ivins' challenge to focus on Iraq. Don't even say "C.I. does" because C.I. took that up before. The reason C.I. is listened to on Iraq is because C.I. doesn't drop it and go chasing after the latest fancy of the moment. (Rebecca has more to say on that tonight. She is furious and I don't blame her. Had I seen the thing first, I would be writing about that opic.) It is really amazing that the left's strongest commentator on Iraq is my friend. No question, C.I. knows the topic. But, also no question, C.I. didn't set out to do what's going on at The Common Ills.

C.I. didn't want to be a reporter, ended up working several jobs in college because parents said "You will major in journalism" and C.I. said "___ no," and yet there's C.I. on Friday having to report on Liam Madden's press conference because who else is doing it? Today Sunny asked a question that pops up frequently in the e-mails (this time she was asking for herself and not because of an e-mail): Is C.I. really going to stop The Common Ills in November of 2008? To be honest, having spoken to C.I. at length Sunday night, I think so. If it was October 2008 today, the site would cease. It is too much work, it is too much time. C.I. still has the same cold from getting caught in a downpour three weeks ago.

Where are all the commentators on Iraq? A column once a month isn't cutting it. No program dedicated to the topic isn't cutting it. People my age and older have an obligation to be leading this, not whining, "Where are the kids?" Students are active and increasing their activism. They are doing their part. People my age and older have a historical perspective (if they didn't bake their minds completely) that they can bring to this and who does that? Seriously.

Who does that and does it seriously?

While I was on the phone with C.I., C.I. was on another phone attempting to figure out whether two bombings were actually the same and two different news organizations were using different locations. As I listened in on that, I thought how ridiculous. This isn't C.I.'s job, C.I. doesn't get paid for this. But there are people who present as journalists and where are they?

Norman Solomon goes on to note that there are air wars going on. He doesn't mention the children killed in the school attack or any of the others that have been covered at The Common Ills. It's not that it's not being covered, it's that professional journalists aren't doing their damn job. I could go further and note that on May 29th, C.I. addressed something that is the topic of an action alert today but Rebecca's grabbing that. I will note that, like her, I am highly offended that C.I.'s work is built upon and not credited.

At some point, three months?, the bombing of bridges will be the 'big story' and let's all watch and notice how C.I. was telling the truth about that months ago (as with the helicopter crashes) but will receive no credit (as with the helicopter crashes) as people rush in to suddenly pontificate about something that has been ongoing for months while they wasted everyone's time on another topic.

When people e-mail asking, "Why wouldn't you give to independent media?", I always explain that I do contribute to public radio and that, other than that, I have no desire to because I know too many friends (such as C.I.) that give and give and nothing ever changes. Having watched The Common Ills be ripped off for, what, almost three years now, I have another reason. I am sick of it. I told Hilda I'd write something for her newsletter (Hilda's Mix) and have been attempting to think of a topic. I have it now. I'm going to note the top ten times The Common Ills has been ripped off without credit and it will be completed before Friday so it can run in her newsletter on Tuesday.

That's all I've got to say tonight. I'm really disgusted (read Rebecca's post when it goes up later).

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, June 11, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces the deaths of more US service members, bridge bombings continue (and only one reporter notes the strategic importance behind the bombings), The Poetic Ravings of Puppet al-Maliki, and more.

Starting with war resistance. "In the current environment have you seen a lot of resistance to this war among enlisted men, among officers, among young people?" Michael Ratner asked on
WBAI's Law and Disorder today (the program streams online and also airs on other radio stations across the country). "It's interesting," Tod Ensign answered, "This is a good time to talk about it. Because until about a year ago, the Pentagon was claiming that there was not an uptake, there was not an increase in desertions, for example. If you accept their figures as, you know, somewhat accurate, that seemed to be the case -- that the three years before . . . we invaded Iraq had higher desertion rates than the three years after. However, this last year, there's been a pretty substantial increase in the number of desertions and I would say it's increased by at least fifty percent. So that would suggest that, you know, soldiers, to some extent, are voting with their feet. Now, of course, the military always says, 'You know a lot of deserters are driven by family problems or financial issues or they just can't stomach the military" which of course is true, in some cases. But I do think there is an increase in the attitude among soldiers, especially guys that have already served over there that this is an endless war and there's nothing to be gained by them going back again."

And demonstrating how right Ensign is, Nancy Montgomery filed two stories on this subject yesterday for Star and Stripes.
In her first article, Montgomery noted that the US army states 3,300 is the desertion figure for the last year and that "a news report in April citing Army statistics said more deserters were facing courts-martial than in previous years. But [Maj. Anne] Edgecomb said that of deserters outprocessed at Fort Knox, Ky., where many U.S. Army Europse soldiers who desert end up, 70 percent are administratively discharged."
In both articles, Montgomery notes the
Military Counseling Network in Germany which notes the following conditions usually prevent criminal charges: "they must not be on a deployment list; they must not have pending actions against them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice; they have to make it back to the U.S. before 30 days, when an arrest warrant is issued; and they should turn themselves in after 30 days when they've been dropped from their unit's rolls to one of two personnel control centers, Fort Knox or Fort Sill, Okla." In both article, Montgomery reports on 23-year-old Chris Capps who made the decision to self-checkout, "flew to the States and stayed in New York City until he knew he had been dropped from his unit's rolls. After that, Capps said, his commander had no authority over him. Capps turned himself in at Fort Sill. In fewer than four days, he was out of the Army, with an other-than-honorable discharge." Capps explains to Montgomery that he didn't try for Conscientious Objector status because he isn't opposed to all wars and because he "knew a soldier in his battalion who sought and won CO status and didn't want to go through the process. 'The chain of command treated him like [crap],' Capps said." Montogmery's second article focuses more on CO status and includes Vincent La Volpa who was awarded CO status and discharged honorably "in 2005 with a Purple Heart earned during his Iraq tour" whose statements on his CO decision include: "I contemplated the cause and its value. Feeling that the means was not worth the sacrifice for the uncertain end. I felt that I had to make a decision. Am I for this or am I against it? I decided I am against it." In the second article, Montgomery notes MCN's Michael Sharp whoe explains that in 2006, they were dealing with "eight to 10 nes cases monthly" of enlisted needing advice about discharges and that has gone up to "15 to 20" a month.

Also covering the topic yesterday was
Heather Wokusch (OpEdNews) who covers the cases of Kyle D. Huwer, Clifton F. Hicks and "John" (a psuedonym). John self-checked out and is back in the US avoiding his family ("avid Bush-supporters; his uncle works for a weapons manufacturer and his stepfather, for an oil company") but has some contact with his girlfriend "Sarah" who notes the difference between media in Germany and in the US, "Watching the news here [US] really makes me angry, people are so detached from reality. They increse the troop deployments from 12 to 15 months, and no one besides the military families recognizes it. They are sending back national guard people for multiple deployments, no one recognizes it. You hardly hear anything about what that puts on the families, emotionally and financially. I'm deeply mad and sad about that at the same time."
John explains to Wokusch the transformation he had while serving in Iraq and notes, "It was not what I was expecting at all. There are people in Iraq making HUGE sums of money profiting over poorly supervised and ill-run government contracts. When you hear about the cost of the war in Iraq, it's this kind of thing that's doing it, not the body armor, having to pay the soliders a couple of meager extra bucks, or armoring the humvees. It's paying KBP $90 for every time I turn in my laundry while paying poor Pakistani and Filipino workers who work long hours with no days off for years at a time (and handling thousands of bags of laundry) $15 a day." [Note:
Heather Wokusch's article also contains an audio-visual stream option.]

Clifton Hicks is now discharged and some may remember his story from
Peter Laufer's
Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq. In the book Laufer recounts how Hicks father posted one his son's letters home (from Iraq) online and the military's response was "a Field Grade Article 15" (p. 185) which Hicks learned after his woke him up one morning kicking his cot and, pay attention easily shocked Heather Hollingsworth-types, cursing at him. "They were going to throw me in jail for treason." After he was demoted to private and fined $800, Hicks applied for CO status. Hicks told Laufer, "If I don't get it? I have other avenues of approach to get home. I've told them I am not going back to Iraq" and would rather go to prison but "[i]t won't come to that, though, because I think I'm too smart for that to happen to me. Civil disobedience is an option -- just refuse to put the uniform on. Maybe a hunger strike. There's all kinds of things you can do. It's looking like they'll approve it. But if they don't, I have Plan B, Plan C, all the way up to desertion" (p. 187). Laufer's chapter on Hicks ends with Hicks being told he will receive CO status and a discharge. [Reminder, Laufer now hosts a two hour program each Sunday morning on KPFA from 9:00 to 11:00 am PST. The program is not yet named -- though it is airing -- and Laufer's program airs in Larry Bensky's old time slot.]

The movement of resistance within the US military grows and includes Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty 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, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

On today's
Law and Disorder, Todd Ensign noted that Iraq Veterans Against the War has "a chapter up at Fort Drum which is where we have our coffee house [Different Drumer Cafe] and that's the first on base chapter of IVAW that I'm aware of." Dalia Hashad asked him where Fort Drum was and Ensign responded "about sixty miles straight north of Syracuse, almost to the Canadian border and most New Yorkers know it as a reserve base; however, under Reagan it was turned into an active infantry base. Now it's the most heavily deployed division in the US army. It's a very active combat infantry base."

Dalia Hashad: Can you explain for people who don't know what the coffee house is? Or how it came about?

Todd Ensign: Good question. During the Vietnam war, those of us who are older -- in the older generation recall there were over 20 coffee houses that were formed mostly by civilians initially at or near US military bases -- army and marine bases and navy and airforce too. And these were very important in building the GI movement and building the opposition to the war within the ranks. They had an enormous impact. There's a very fine documentary called
Sir! No Sir! that some of your listeners have probably seen that tells that story and it's really pretty amazing to realize that those coffeehouses were often largely run and staffed by soldiers, active duty soldiers".

Mike notes Law and Disorder each week at his site and, here, we'll also probably pick up more from the interview later in the week. Attorneys (and activists) Dalia Hashad, Michael Ratner, Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith host the one hour radio program.]

attempts to silence Iraq Veterans Against the War's Adam Kokesh, Cloy Richards and Liam Madden (as well as others) from speaking out continues. War resister Stephen Funk (who announced his refusal to deploy to Iraq in April 2003) writes (The Huffington Post) about Kokesh and observes, "If Sgt. Kokesh wanted to play it safe, he would have waited to protest until after June 18th, when he was scheduled to be discharged from the Individual Ready Reserve. At that point he would no longer be held accountable to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. But the anniversary of the war happened to fall earlier in the year, and true patriots do not wait until it is convenient or safe to act upon their beliefs. That the military would charge someone so close to discharge with misconduct for such a minor indiscretion shows how desperate they are to contain the emerging antiwar voices among their ranks as discontent with the war continues to rise." Kokesh is specifically targeted for engaging in street theater, Operation First Casualty. [Language warning] Jeff Mullins (The Brooklyn Rail) takes a look at Operation First Casualty and notes that it "is modeled after the Vietnam-era protest action Operation Rapid American Withdrawal that took place in Pennsylvania during the summer of 1970. This variation came out of a brainstorming session among the Washington D.C. chapter of IVAW earlier this year. The vets felt 'tired of just being part of other people's protest,' explained Adam Kokesh, a member of the D.C. chapter. IVAW, a national veterans organization founded in July of 2004, performed the first Operation First Casualty in D.C. this past March." Michael Borkson (Boston IMC) has posted video and photos from Liam Madden's press conference last Thursday (covered in Friday's snapshot, text can also be found in this write up we did at The Third Estate Sunday Review).

While some try to end the illegal war, others are eager for it to continue and the US military is yet again attempting to sell a technique as a "plan."
John F. Burns and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reported this morning on what the US military wants to call the "Anbar model." The thinking is that al-Anbar Province has been a success and the 'plan' that has worked so well there can be exported to other areas. The technique involves attempting to bring Sunni fighters into the process. The reality is this is nonsense for several reasons. al-Anbar is not at peace (even with all the greased palms of tribal leaders by the US military), it was where 10% of last month's US service member fatalities took place, it is where chlorine bombs explode and it only looks like a 'success' because putting all the US military into Baghdad for the lastest version of the year-long-and-ongoing 'crackdown' didn't do a damn bit of good. By comparison to Baghdad, al-Anbar suddenly looks like a 'winner.' In other news from the land of crazy, John F. Burns (New York Times) reported Saturday on puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, who either fancies himself a reborn beat poet or needs to check his meds -- al-Maliki knows his enemies are all over (including Ayad Alawi) and describes them -- Woody Allen couldn't have written a bigger laugh getting line in Bananas -- as "a black ant on a black rock on a dark night."

While someone checks the puppet's dosage, violence continued across Iraq today. As noted many times, the bombings of the bridges is not accidental and it's rarely covered. There were two bridge bombings in the last 24 hours. The one near Mahmudiya resulted in the
US military releasing this statement: "Three Coalition Force Soldiers were killed and six were wounded when the checkpoint they were manning was struck by a suicide car bomb south of Baghdad near Mahmoudiya June 10. An interpreter was also wounded in the attack, which destroyed part of a highway overpass. All the wounded were evacuated to Coalition medical facilities for treatment." ICCC's current total for US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war is 3512. Al Jazeera notes US military spokesperson Christopher Garver who says, "The checkpoint was damaged by the explosion, as was the bridge. The force of the explosion dropped part of the span but it did not fall on anybody." Oh really? CBS and AP note private contractor Donald Campbell stating that he and others "worked with a U.S. army quick reaction force for some 45 minutes to pull trapped men from the rubble, scrambling over the fallen concrete" and CBS and AP note: "At one point, a Bradley armored vehicle with a tow chain pulled a slab off a pinned victime to free him. Then a shot went up, 'Morphine! Morphine!' and a black T-shirt-clad Briton administered painkillers to the freed man" while one person was reportedly crushed by the falling 'span.'

That bombing took place late Sunday.
Reuters notes one today in the Diyala province where "a major bridge" was blown up. Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) is the only one currently noting, "The bombing of this bridge will make the residents of the North eastern parts of the province take one route through the violent city of Baqouba to go to Baghdad, residents said." That is, after all the point, and has been. The bridge bombings have a point and a strategy.

In other violence today . . .


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the heavily fortified Green Zone was again mortar attacked, while two other Baghdad mortar attacks left 7 Iraqis injured, a Baghdad explosion at Al Wathiq square left 3 wounded and a Diyala explosion claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier (2 more wounded). Reuters reports a Samarra roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 2 police officers (three more wounded),


Reuters reports a home invasion in Mosul where 4 women and 1 man were shot dead, a Hawija drive-by shooting that killed 1 Iraq (2 wounded) and the central bank of Mosul's general director, Khaireddine Ahmed, was shot dead along with two bodyguards.


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 17 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

In other media news, as independent media continues to be under attack, News Dissector Danny Schechter's "
Special Blog: Can Our Media Channel Survive?" announces the potential fate of which may shut down: "If we can get 1500 of our readers (that means you) to give $25, we can keep going for another quarter. [PLEASE CLICK HERE TO MAKE A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION ONLINE]"

Finally, independent journalist John Pilger is on a speaking tour with his new book Freedom Next Time and his documentary Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror (which looks at DC, Afghanistan and Iraq). June 11th, Pilger will be in Los Angeles at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (244 S. San Pedro St.) and will discuss his book and show his documentary beginning at 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:00 pm). The price of admission to the even is five dollars. "Directions, maps, and parking info at: by The Center for Economic Research and Social Change, and The Nation Institute, with support from the Wallace Global Fund. For ticket information, call or visit the JACCC. Box office: 213-680-3700 (Box Office Hours: Monday - Saturday: Noon - 5 pm)For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or For more information, email"June 13th finds him in San Francisco showing his film and discussing his book at Yerba Beuna Center for Arts (beginning at 7:00 pm, doors open at 6:00 pm) and the price of admission is $15 general and $5 for students. "Presented by The Center for Economic Research and Social Change, The Nation Institute, and KPFA, with support from the Wallace Global Fund. For ticket information, call 415-978-2787 or order online at In person tickets at YBCA Box office located inside the Galleries and Forum Building, 701 Mission Street at Third. (Hours: Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat & Sun: noon - 5 pm; Thu: noon - 8 pm.) For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or For more information, email"From San Francisco, he moves on to Chicago for the 2007 Socialism conference. At 11:30 am Saturday June 16th, he and Anthony Arnove will participate in a conversation, audience dialogue and book signing (Arnove is the author most recently of IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal) and that evening (still June 16th) at 7:30 Pilger will be at Chicago Crowne Plaza O'Hare (5440 North River Road, Rosemont, IL 60018) as part of a panel of international activists. To attend the conference, the fee is $85. For Saturday and Sunday only, the price is $70. To attend only one session, the cost is ten dollars. "Presented by The Center for Economic Research and Social Change, The Nation Institute, with support from the Wallace Global Fund. Co-sponsors: Obrera Socialista, Socialist Worker, International Socialist Review, and Haymarket Books. For ticket information, call 773-583-8665 or e-mail For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or For more information, email"The Socialism 2007 conference will take place in Chicago from June 14-17. Along with Pilger and Arnove, others participating will include Dahr Jamail, Laura Flanders, Kelly Dougherty, Joshua Frank, Amy Goodman, Sharon Smith, Dave Zirin, Camilo Mejia, Jeremy Scahill, Jeffrey St. Clair and many others.