Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tom Johnson, etc.

So what's to say about the Senate? Draw back promoted as ending the illegal war and we're all supposed to be cheering? I'm beginning to wonder how much of a platform the left truly has? I don't think they (we) have much of one. I think that the center-left saw the problem with the nation as "We don't have an echo chamber!" and they created their own. Which is how we've ended up with what amounts to little more than a cheering section for the Democratic Party that some wish to pass off as the voices of the left.

"The Long Road ... to Nowhere" (Tom Johnson, CounterPunch):
On Sunday, July 8, the New York Times editorial page featured a long piece, "The Road Home," that seemed to turn the Times former role as chief cheerleader for the Bush Administration's "Global War on Terror," into a call to "cut and run."
"It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit," was the first line. A clear and unequivocal statement, that.
The response was quick, massive and overwhelming, as Colin Powell would say. Editorials across the nation trumpeted the Times turnabout, with many seconding the e-notion. Letters in the July 9 Times uniformly supported the call for withdrawal. Even much of the progressive media and press in the US and elsewhere, grudgingly lifted thumbs from computer keyboards long enough to point them up, while trying not to snicker: This is what we have been trying to tell you all along.
Yet "The Road Home" very much presents a uniquely elite US point-of-view and, at bottom, is both fatally flawed and disingenuous. Not to mention profoundly racist and imperialist.
The editorial nakedly points to core US./Western "interests" which the Times speaks for: "To put it baldly, terrorism and oil make it impossible to ignore." It being a "mess" created by 12 years of US./UK bombings and UN-supported sanctions leading to the deaths of at least one million Iraqi people, followed by the US.-led invasion and the endless, bloody, gruesome occupation.
What a mess it is: "At first, we believed that after destroying Iraq's government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq."
It is good of the Times to finally acknowledge that the reality of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq has been the total destruction of the Iraqi state, its military and police forces and its economy -- not to mention the misery brought down upon the Iraqi people, the implosion of the US military machine, the bloodshed, the money spent. So yes, we are obliged to do something: what, exactly remains extremely murky.
But a small shaft of light creeps through the fog: "When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow." It is good that "it" has finally become clear since chaos certainly does need mitigation from time-to-time. But, a cynic might ask, why now?

He goes on to outline why now and how offensive the paper's editorial was. Please read it because praise has been heaped upon that editorial. Maybe that's part of the cheering section too? Will the real left please stand up and speak out? The Senate got away with that nonsense, and got cheered for it in fact, because we have no real independent media to speak of. We have a few lonely outlets, a few lonely voices and we have a huge portion of outlets and voices who have signed up to elect Democrats and will subvert any reality in order to meet that goal. Congratulations, we will have triangulation if this continues come 2008. We will return to having a Democrat in the White House who breaks bread with Republicans and sells out the base. That will be hailed as "progress."

We could fight it and end up with a president that really is left but for that to happen, we'd all have to grow up and some people seem incapable of growth or honesty.

"U.S. Marine convicted in Iraqi grandfather's death" (Reuters):
A military jury found a U.S. Marine guilty on Wednesday for conspiring to kidnap and kill an Iraqi grandfather nabbed from his home and shot dead in the middle of the night last year.
Cpl. Trent Thomas, a Purple Heart recipient who was serving his third tour of duty in Iraq, was convicted of kidnapping and conspiracy to murder, commit larceny, break into a house and make false official statements. A nine-member jury of officers and enlisted Marines acquitted Thomas of other charges that he committed murder, larceny and other acts.
Thomas is one of eight members of an infantry battalion charged in the April 26, 2006, death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad, a disabled Iraqi policeman and grandfather in Hamdania.
The incident was one of a series in which U.S. forces abused or killed Iraqi civilians under questionable circumstances, damaging the image of U.S. troops abroad.

Trent Thomas can and my appeal his sole conviction. The defense offered the argument that the man killed was "a legitimate target" and that's really hard for me to find something nice to say about. I hear something like that and I can't find sympathy. Trent Thomas was following the wrong orders. I could accept that. I could accept that an Iraqi grandfather who hurt no one is dead. I would be upset but I could accept it. They were placed, US service members, somewhere they never should have been in an illegal war. That war crimes take place is not surprising. That the ones responsible are not held trial is an outrage but also not surprising. But when a man is dead who was completely innocent and you're responsible for it, you should show some remorse. Denying reality, saying the grandfather you dragged out of his home and killed was a "legitimate target" makes it really hard for me to work up any sympathy.

I was sympathetic to Lynndie England. (I was not to Charles Garner.) She was someone who was clearly out of her depths and caught up in something she could not control. I would love to have heard a story of her or another service member at Abu Ghraib refusing to take part. But the reality is when someone gets the ball rolling it is very difficult for some people to stand up. That is how Nazi Germany happened. It didn't happen because Germans were "evil." They were whipped up into a frenzy (something the Bully Boy has shown strong abilities to do in this country).

There is a pack mentality and there is a real refusal to be the one standing up and saying no. That's why I fully support war resisters. The paths they choose are not easy ones. Standing up when everyone else is going along is not easy.

So I could have sympathy for Trent Thomas were it not for the fact that even after the innocent man is dead the defense puts forward the nonsense that he was a "legitimate target."

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, July 18, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, the Senate Slumber Party ends, the killing in Iraq continues, and more.Starting with war resister Phil McDowell.
War Resisters Support Campaign notes: "Phil McDoweel is from Warwick, Rhode Island and a former SGT in the United States Army. He joined the Army in 2001 after the September 11th attacks during his senior year at Marist College, in Poughkeepsie New York, where he majored in Information Technology. As part of the First Cavalry division he served in Iraq from March 2004 to March 2005. A month and a half after being discharged in June 2006 he received notification that he fell under the Army's Stop-Loss policy and was to return to his unit at Fort Hood, Texas for a second deployment to Iraq. Shortly after returning to his unit he made the decision not to take part in the illegal war and moved to Canada in October of 2006. His partner Jamine Aponte, joined him a month later in November. They now live in Toronot where they have started their new life."
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Jared Hood and James Burmeister, Eli Israel, 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-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at 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.Iraq Veterans Against the War are among those working not only to end the illegal war but to get across the very basic point: Funding the war is killing the troops. Joel Bleifuss (In These Times) interviews IVAW's Vincent J. Emanuele who hails from Chesterson, Indiana, went to Iraq in March 2003 and credits Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 with giving him "a new perspective" and one he was open about while serving. His opinion of the illegal war, "This war is tragic. It was not needed. To die in this war is a wasted death. Had I died, I would have indeed died for nothing -- or maybe not for nothing, but for oil and dollars and cents. To be brutally honest, the war was a money-making machine. And it hurts to think of it that way and that you have been used.""The war's going to end. It's now really," Tom Hayden declared, about "scheming on the part of Machevilians" as to whether they can continue the illegal war as it is or be forced to scale back (and pretend they're ending it). "The other end is that all the military troops" come home and "the military bases are closed down" but no presidential candidate or member of Congress has the will to end the illegal war because "they've bought into the myth that if they end the war our superpower status will end". "What you do, what will all do will determine the behaviors of the politicans going into the election"Hayden spoke in Pasadena and KPFK's Uprising broadcast the speech today. Members who listen (or already have) and want to share comments or want my comments can e-mail. What we're noting from the speech is factually correct or Hayden's opinions. (Comments about Democracy Now! starting up as a result of the Iraq war, for instance, are wrong. Democracy Now! began in 1996 and it started to follow the 1996 elections.) Hayden's newest book is Ending The War In Iraq.Hayden's opinion is that the most likely outcome on Iraq is a partial withdrawal to mitigate popular outrage due to impending elections and continue the illegal war.He spoke of traveling around the country and being "surprised myself" to find that "the anti-war movement" was so large and notes one possible "reason the peace movement today is invisible" in some ways is due to the fact that "generally, it's led by women." (A comment on the marginalizing of women by the mainstream press.) Hayden also explored the topics of the pillars that support war and how "putting people power to the pillars" can end a war.The pillars propping up war include public opinion (which is now gone and has been gone domestically since 2005), bipartisanship (to make it acceptable, to argue "national security" and -- though not noted -- to silence dissent that could kill the war before it starts), troops and the capabilities to add more troops, the budget (where monies could have instead be spent), American 'prestige' around the world, public perception (including your own).Hayden spoke at length on the pillar of troops noting that if you read reporting closely, as well as the James Baker Circle Jerk, you will find the cautionary notes that "the armed forces will not be able to continue past next spring". He noted the increased difficulty of recruiting and stated this "accounts for many of the military, including leadership, but not all, trying to divert" the Bully Boy away from his illegal war of choice.On the topic of "your own perception and your country's perception," Hayden noted that the illegal war "is a dirty war" with secret prisons, "Americans secretly training Iraqis in the black arts of counterinsurgency," etc. On the issue of Abu Ghraib, Tom Hayden noted the press did not break that story, "Joseph Darby, a prison guard, saw them [photos] on a laptop and, for some moral reason, turned them over to his superiors . . . and then and only then did the military start to investigate and the media begin to pick it up. . .. And we still haven't seen all the photographs." Even in a supposed free society and democracy, Hayden noted, we haven't seen all the photographs.Nor have we heard all the details. In speeches, Sy Hersh enjoys mentioning the sodomizing of at least one child in Abu Ghraib but has yet to write about it. (On Iraqn, Hersh obsession of the last three years, Hayden noted that presidents confronted with a losing and unpopular war often attempt to widen it but his personal opinion was that the power structure in this country would not tolerate expanding the illegal war to also include Iran.) Last week, [Language warning -- F-word throughout the clip for those who may listen at work] Information Clearing House posted a video of an unidentified American male discussing his time working at Abu Ghraib which includes being taught various techniques by the CIA, expressing the belief that everyone imprisoned there was guilty because the Iraqis were guilty of not taking Saddam Hussein out of power themselves, and of an Iraqi women that several Americans had sex with (probably rape, but he doesn't use that term) who ended up killing herself (in prison) which was just as well, according to the male, because she probably would have been stoned when she left the prison anyway. We'll return to the topic of Iraqi women but first, the obsession: Democrats in the Senate.Democrats in the Senate invited Republicans to a sleep-over last night. Kay Bailey Hutchison got her bra frozen, Lindsey Graham put Orrin Hatch's fingers in water causing Hatchet-face to wet himself while sleeping, and short sheeted Tom Coburn's cot causing Coburn to hiss, "So what! You think I care? I'm for smaller government!" It was a public relations stunt on the part of the Democrats, an attempt to rebuild their plummeting ratings. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid started off spewing fire and brimstone but, as Shailagh Murray, Paul Kane and Debbi Wilgoren (Washington Post) observed, that changed quickly: "Although Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) initially warned that votes on legislation to withdraw combat troops could occur at any time during the night, he agreed shortly after midnight to delay even procedural votes until 5 a.m. and to put off until 11 a.m. a vote on legislation to bring home most troops by May." Most? Hold on for that. The usual Party Hacks and Dream The Acceptable Dream types were out in full force. announced, "Republicans in the Senate are planning to block a vote early next week on ending the war. Let's be perfectly clear on this: Republicans are blocking this vote because they know they'd lose. It's time to leap into action. As Repbulican filibuster on Tuesday, we're holding citizens' counter-filibusters on Tuesday night. We'll gather outside Senators' offices and in public places to read first-hand accounts from Iraq vets and military families about the cost of the war. We'll send a clear message to Senators and the media that this isn't about partisan games -- it's about people's lives." Let's be perfectly clear about the pathetic shell game that went on: No proposed legislation was about bringing troops home, no proposed legislation was about ending the illegal war. Let's be perfectly clear, exists to always steer to the path of least resistance. It is not an organization made up of fighters or dreamers. What Tom Hayden was speaking of (and he lavished praise on the pathetic WalkOn) was that the leadership is at a place where they have to do something but ending the illegal war is not the course they will go for unless pushed hard. Fortunately for them, they have supposed independent actors perfectly willing to serve as body guards and publicity flacks giving them cover to continue the illegal war and willing to sell that as an effort to end it.The pathetic Senator Carl Levin made noises, as reported today by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!), about the people wanting "to end the war in Iraq. It is time to change the course. And the reason that we are in control of the Congress is because the American people want us to change course in Iraq." He gives lip service very easy, he just can't follow through (as anyone who's lobbied him over the Guantanamo Bay prison over the last few years can attest). As Amy Goodman noted, this is a debate that (if successful) would mean "most combat troops" (US troops) would leave Iraq "in 120 days". "Combat troops" is a classification. Bully Boy could ensure that none of the approximately 160,000 troops leave simply be reclassifying them. If that point seems familiar it's because we've been making it here for some time -- since the US Congress first played the shell game that was the Pelosi-Reid measure. Party Hacks came out to support that non-action as well. The people didn't buy into the fluff and the Democrats' ratings plummeted. It was thought that by doing the same thing with a p.r. stunt like an 'all nighter' would make the do-nothing party leadership look less pathetic. And certainly the usual pathetic centrists were out in force to prop up the lie that the Democratically controlled Senate was attempting to end the illegal war when, in fact, it was doing nothing of the sort. When independent media joins hands with the Democratically controlled Congress in lying to the people, it shouldn't get a dime of support. Thus far The Progressive has ignored the p.r. stunt which may be because it was a stunt or because the points to make have already been made. (Or a combination.) By contrast, the feel-good spirit of The Nation (which leads to censoring evidence of atrocities) means it's all pom-poms all the time. Robert Parry (Consortium News), a true independent, notes the truth and the reality, "If the Democrats really want to prevail over George W. Bush on the Iraq War and on his authoritarian vision of presidential powers, they would put back on the table two options that their leaders have removed: a cut-off of war funding and impeachment. Rather than all-night debates about resolutions that will go nowhere, the Democrats would make the cast to the American people that Bush has trampled on the Constitution; he has ensared the nation in a catastrophic war by lying; and he has his eyes set on more dangerous chicanery in the months ahead." Edward Epstein (San Francisco Chronicle) notes that the categories that would remain in Iraq had the Levin-Reed measure passed the Senate (it didn't) and then the House would have been "those conducting special operations against al Qaeda, training Iraqi forces or guarding U.S. facilities." Retired army Col. Daniel Smith (Foreign Policy in Focus) addressing the Skelton measure (similar to the Levin-Reed measure) in the House last week and the deployment issue in the Senate notes that "proposed legislation contains all sorts of caveats, exceptions, and restrictions, all of which the president can waive if he determines them detrimental to national security." Nicholas Johnston and William Roberts (Bloomberg News) report the Levin-Reed measure did not pass. 52 for and 47 against was the count. Gail Russell Chaddock (Christian Science Monitor) explains, "Washington's political theater is part of a deliberate political strategy aimed at living rooms across America." Ron Elving (NPR) notes that the theater was meant to get "the country to notice that the White House has enablers in the Senate." Yes, and some are on the Democratic side. Interviewed by the Socialist Worker, Anthony Arnove noted that the Republicans in Congress are backing away from the illegal war in terms of unconditional support but not calling for an end to it and "elements of this approach are actually similar to what many Democratic critics have in mind: troop reduction, not withdrawal; a greater reliance on air power and 'over the horizon' forces rather than boots on the ground; a retreat to bases and the Green Zone in Baghdad; and a shifting of the blame from the United States and its allies to the Iraqis. In effect, it's a 'blame and hold' strategy. Blame the Iraqis for all the problems we created. Hold onto whatever the U.S. military can salvage in terms of military bases in Iraq -- to have some influence over the future of Iraq's massive oil reserves and some ability to continue military operations in Iraq, and to project power against other countries in the region, particularly Iran."Let's be clear, WalkOn pushing the nonsense of Dream In Monochrome and With Fine (Limited) Tuning is nonsense. The illegal war needs to end it will not do so with measures sold to the people as "End the war" that, in reality, continue the illegal war. Possibly it is an accomplishment that US Senators actually had to make statements about how badly the illegal war was going (I didn't see any press accounts that quoted senators speaking of how badly things were for Iraqis during the illegal war -- possibly that didn't make the Talking Points List?), but applauding nonsense is encouraging nonsense. "Funding the war is killing the troops" is a rallying cry of Tina Richards and Iraq Veterans Against the War.On Januray 4, 2007, the Democrats took control of both house of Congress. The US military announced one death in the illegal war that day, "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol was attacked by small arms fire, killing one Soldier in the western part of the Iraqi capital today." He was later identified as Staff Sgt. Charles D. Allen of Wasilla, Alaska, a 28-year-old. The announcement of his death brought the total number of US service members killed to 3006 on January 4th -- the same Dems took control, swept in by citizens wanting an end to the illegal war. Six months later, 616 announced deaths later and the war drags on. Only difference appears to be that these days, the Dems are helping Bully Boy by grabbing an end to help him drag it. Funding the war is killing the troops. Funding the war is killing Iraqis.Bombings?Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 6 people dead from a Baghdad bombing (four wounded), Baghdad mortar attacks left one woman injured and a Kirkuk bombing killed a police officer escorting a pregnant woman to the hospital (another police officer was wounded, "The woman wasn't harmed in the explosion and reached the hospital and gave birth"). Reuters notes a mortar attack in Kut that left three women (sisters) injured, a roadside bombing in Jurf Al-Sakhar that claimed 2 lives (four more injured)Shootings?Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a police officer was shot dead in Baghdad, 7 bus passengers were shot dead riding near Jizani Al Joul, 1 person shot dead in Baquba, 2 men shot dead "near the Dwiliyah village," one woman shot dead "near Al Shima village," a home invasion that left Dr. Firas Abdul Zahraa Hameed dead (his wife was wounded) in Basra, and one person was shot dead in Kirkuk. Reuters notes one person shot dead in Kirkuk, in front of his home and that a village in the Diyala province (not far from the massacre that killed 29 overnight on Monday) another attack occurred that claimed 1 life and left fifteen injured.Corpses?Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 15 corpses were discovered in Baghad today and two corpses were turned over to the Baquba hospital. Reuters notes two corpses were discovered in Mahaweel and one in Daquq. Meanwhile the BBC reports that Suweira is an Iraqi town on the Tigris River that has been the site where "five hundred mutilated bodies dumped into the River Tigris have been washed up in two years". Mona Mahmoud and Sebastian Usher note that many corpses are never identified and that they must be buried quickly (due to the heat and lack of storage)Today, the US military announced: "Two MNC-I Soldiers were killed when an improvised explosive device detonated next to their vehicle during combat operations in western Baghdad Tuesday." And they announced: "One Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier was killed and four others wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated near their patrol during combat operations in an eastern section of the Iraqi capital July 17." ICCC's total currently is 3622 US service members who have died in the illegal war since it began and 43 have died so far this month.And in Iskandariya, Reuters notes, the chief of police -- and five bodyguards -- were kidnapped.Want more holding of hostages? "The Iraq oil was essentially drafter by the US government and forced on the Iraqi government," Antonia Juhasz explained on KPFK's Mid Day News today. The Iraqi oil workers are trying to demonstrate that 'now is not the right time and the oil law is not the right oil law.' The oil law is a 'benchmark' (by the US government) and comes with conditions -- reconstruction funds have been pinned upon it. Unions are protesting the oil law and saying it will rob Iraq of the country's soveriegnty. They are calling for the withdrawal of all foreign forces. This as it's decided to ration electricity in Iraq. Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that news and notes:The plan, launched nearly three months ago, represents the latest break with one of the biggest promises made after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion: that services such as electricity and water would quickly surpass prewar levels. If anything is seen as symbolic of the United States' failure to deliver on its promise that life would be better without Saddam Hussein, it is the lack of reliable electricity. And as Iraqis endure their fifth blazing summer without sufficient power, it is no surprise that resentment toward American forces remains fierce.Returning to the topic of Iraqi women, Ellen Cantarow (CounterPunch) recommends the book Iraqi Women: Untold Stories from 1948 to the Present by Nadie Sadig Al-Ali and notes, "A final chapter on the US invasion and occupation makes clear that Iraqi daily life has shut down. Women fear going into labor at night: they are terrified they and their husbands will be killed on the way to the hospitals. Everyone fears going outside on the commonest of errands -- so much that when people leave the house they say a final farewell: each time may well be the last. Women in particular fear venturing away from home because of frequent assaults by criminal and reactionary Islamic gangs, and by 'militias.' Professionals -- doctors, university professors -- have been killed. Kidnapping for ransom is pandemic."Turning to the US, Aaron Glantz (Truthdig) examines the case of Manny Babbitt who was executed by the state of California and had been awarded the Purple Heart for his tour of duty in Vietnam only to receive the death sentence in 1982 for crimes in 1980: "broke into the Sacramento home of Leah Schendel, a 78-year-old woman he did not know. He stripped the clothes off the lower half of her body, took a hot iron to her vagina, beat her to death and robbed her house. Then, less than 24 hours later, Babbitt struck again. He grabbed a 60-year-old woman out of her car when she was on her way home. Babbitt dragged her into close-by bushes, knocked her unconscious, cracked her chest, stole her watch and wedding ring and fled. The woman, Mavis Wilson, survived." Did Babbitt suffer from PTSD caused by his time in Vietnam? If so, what does that mean beyond Babbitt's own story? Glantz notes: "On May 21, 2006, an Army court-martial at Fort Lewis, Wash., sentenced 20-year-old Spc. Brandon Bare to life in prison for killing his 18-year-old wife, Nabila, with a meat cleaver after he returned from Iraq."

antonia juhasz