Friday, April 13, 2007

Suzanne Swift

Friday . . . barely. The Iraq study group just ended and Mike and I are playing dueling computers as we attempt to post. This first excerpt is something C.I. highlighted earlier this week. I didn't have time to read it then but made a note to check out. It's pretty powerful.
I'm going to assume most regular readers know the story of Suzanne Swift. I chose this excerpt because it focuses on the transformation.

"The Birth of An Activist" (Sara Rich, Truth Out):
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 were that. If it were because of my political beliefs, she never would have gone to Iraq in the first place. Then they tried to say it was because of her own antiwar 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 the rejection of being treated like a "deployment whore" again. This was not a decision; it was a reaction.
All through Suzanne's AWOL time, she was not active against the war. She listened to me as I became more and more outraged at what our administration was doing - abusing our military and committing genocide on the Iraqi people - but she was not involved. When I asked her to speak at a Eugene rally last March, she said she could not speak about the war and her experience. The idea overwhelmed her. So we wrote a piece together, in which she said that maybe the United States needed someone to come liberate us! That gave me a glimmer of hope that she was waking up from this brainwashing and might become politically active.
Two days before her arrest, Suzanne and I watched a video by a young US Army lieutenant named Ehren Watada. He was going to refuse to deploy to Iraq. We were both very impressed and talked about his courage.
Without warning, it happened. Suzanne was traumatically arrested in our home and taken to jail in handcuffs. The Eugene police officers had no warrant - just an email on the police car computer screen saying, "hey buddy will you pick this one up for us?" She was strip-searched and denied urgent medical care for an abscessed tooth for 12 hours. She says she wept harder than ever in the cell by herself that night.
They took her to Fort Lewis a few days later and put her under the supervision of the original harassing sergeant from Iraq. She called me in tears again. I made some phone calls. She was moved to a new unit and a no-contact order was issued for this sergeant. A month later, she was allowed to come home for a visit.
At the Oregon Country Fair, I tried to introduce her to Amy Goodman, but Suzanne refused to engage and merely walked away. I made my apologies to Amy about her abruptness.
Despite her apparent lack of interest, we had a rally for Suzanne on her 22nd birthday at Fort Lewis. Ehren Watada was at the rally, along with his mother Carolyn. Suzanne had an instant connection with Ehren and continues to see him as one of her personal heroes. Suzanne was shocked and embarrassed, but grateful about how many people were there to support her.
There was no overt change in her attitude until one day Suzanne watched the movie "Sir! No Sir!" and suddenly put it all together. She called me in a frantic state, saying, "MOM! I watched the movie! We have to DO something to get the truth to the troops so they will stop fighting" My heart soared, and I started to give her books and other literature about what the administration was doing to our country. She literally devoured the information.
I was invited to attend the national conference for Vets for Peace (VFP), and we asked Suzanne's attorney if she could go. He replied that she was forbidden to attend. We snuck her in anyway. Then some real magic began. She got to meet with a group of powerful veterans: Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and Colonel Ann Wright. This was a HUGE turning point for Suzanne. She spent many hours with other Iraq women vets, and Suzanne's eyes began to sparkle for the first time in forever. She told me, "Mom, these women really understand me. They know what I have been through." It was so good to have these connections for her to build her strength and energy to start speaking out.
We had a press conference that weekend at the VFP conference about Suzanne's case and sexual assault in the military. Many powerful women vets talked about what their experience had been and about their support for Suzanne. What they did not know was that Suzanne was on the second floor looking down on us. She watched the entire press conference with unblinking eyes, and I think this was when she saw just how impactful her speaking out has been on the women of this nation.
I finally, as a mother and an activist, had hope for my daughter's emotional and mental well-being.
As time passed, the military officials at Fort Lewis played their hideous hurry-up-and-wait games with Suzanne's life. Suzanne made some very good friends among the people who started Camp Suzanne; they were caring and supportive. Suzanne found herself leaving the barracks in the evening to go and spend time with them. She also would sneak off base to attend Ehren Watada rallies and wear her Ehren Watada T-shirt. I warned her that it could be used against her, and she wore it anyway. I was bursting with pride.
One night at home, Suzanne was getting ready to head back to Fort Lewis. (She was allowed to come home to Eugene every other week to see her civilian psychologist.) She asked, "What was that lady's name who has the radio show and was at the fair?"
"Amy Goodman," I replied, my curiosity piqued.
She asked, "What is the name of her show?"
I replied, "Democracy Now!" She asked if I thought she could download it onto her podcasts. My heart jumped for joy. I was so excited at the thought of my daughter listening to Democracy Now! When Amy called a few weeks later, I handed the phone to Suzanne, telling her Amy Goodman was on the phone and wanted to talk to her. Suzanne's jaw dropped; she was so in awe of Amy and her work. The next day, Suzanne did her first radio interview on Democracy Now!
When Suzanne was asked by the Army to sign a statement, including a part that says she was not sexually abused, she called me once again, saying, "Mom, do you know what they want me to sign?"
She explained it to me, and I asked her what she wanted to do about it.
She spoke strongly. "I am not going to sign it; it's not true."
This was another turning point where Suzanne could have just signed the paper, not told me what it said in its entirety, and avoided being stripped of her rank and sent to prison. She refused the deal and would not sign. Her attorneys were furious at her for refusing to sign, but she held her ground. The attorneys went back to the drawing board and came up with a new "deal." With this deal, she signed a statement and she experienced a summary court-martial with an uncertain outcome: she would probably go to prison, but it would not be for a year, more likely a month.

Sara Rich is the mother of Suzanne Swift -- that links takes you to the page for Swift where you can find out more information. In addition, please read "Women and the military" (The Third Estate Sunday Review). I helped on that but my help was minimal. Anyone will tell you that. They will also tell you that their help was minimal as well. I don't remember what was going on but I know it was one of those times when we all felt we were hitting a wall. Those of us who participate by phone had hung up and gone to sleep. On the West coast, they were going to continue working. What happened was Ava and C.I. were working on their TV review in another room at C.I.'s. They came back with the thing completed and found Kat, Jim, Dona, Jess and Ty had fallen asleep. They were kind of pissed and kind of mock pissed. They had both been pushing for an article on the abuses of women serving in the military for about six weeks. It was something everyone always agreed with but there was never time because it would involve research. We'd have it on the list of articles to work on, time would run out. The next week, it would make the list again. Since everyone was asleep and the edition was no where finished, Ava and C.I. did all the research. Their plan was that it would all be compiled and we could all work on it. But they pulled it together quicker than they expected and then wrote a very long rough draft. At that point, those of us by phone were back and the gang was up. Jim read the piece out loud. We all thought it was perfect. C.I. and Ava said, "Pull the curse words at least." Dona and Jim gave it an edit to make it tighter. Then we worked on a sentence here and there. That was editing as well. Ava and C.I. deserve credit for that wonderful piece.

Suzanne Swift? As they argue, Swift deserves an honorable discharge with full benefits. When C.I. noted Rich's article this week, C.I. also noted the silence from our 'brave' or 'independent' senators. They were silent on Swift, they've been silent on the abuses women have suffered. Where is their oversight? Or, is it that when troops are serving in a war zone, rapes, harassment and other abuse becomes a 'side issue'? It's a very real issue and Congress should be ashamed for refusing to address it.

Sara Rich has written a wonderful article but one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was because it's the best article about Swift. C.I. was saying privately, and later at The Common Ills, that people pushing the war resister angle were hurting Swift (who hadn't made any public statements to that effect). Would it have changed it any, how the military served up mock justice, if the issue of abuse had been at the forefront? I think it would have.

I think Rich has written an article that makes you identify with what it was like not only for her daughter but also to be unable to do anything to help your daughter other than listen. That's a very tough place to be and I dare you to read the article, even if you think you know every detail of the story, and not be moved.

I also strongly urge any woman in a similar situation to get a female attorney. C.I. was slamming the attorney and the defense being mounted. But "in fairness" (a C.I. catch phrase), noting that maybe a man didn't really get it, didn't really get what it was like to be in that position. He could hear it, he could nod, he could sympathize, but he couldn't really get it. We, C.I. and I, were in agreement that the defense seemed to be based upon, "Some times things happen and we want to address them." There was no rage, no huge sense of injustice that we were getting from the defense being mounted.

When Anita Hill came forward to testify about the sexual harassment she experienced from Clarence Thomas, we saw, the whole nation, that those White men sitting in judgement in the Senate just didn't get it. That became one of the rallying cries that swept in change in 1992 as a result.

I do think that some men can get it. I do not think, even at this late date, that enough of them of a certain age exist to take a chance on it. If you're rich or poor, pretty or plain, barely literate or well educated, it doesn't matter. Women can identify with this because, on various levels, it happens every day. Even if it's something like, as happened to me recently, being followed through a parking garage by a flirting man, you have had that sense of danger, that sense of fear. A woman who won't stop flirting and following a man in a parking garage, I don't think he worries. He might be irritated, but I don't think he's calculating how many footsteps until he reaches his car or scanning the garage to see if there's anyone there who might help if something happened or might be a witness, if nothing else.

What happened to Suzanne Swift wasn't an isolated incident. It wasn't a "misunderstanding." It wasn't any of the excuses some would offer. It's happened too often, to too many women serving, in the last few years to push it off as abnormal. But that's what our Congress did by ignoring it and the other abuses women are suffering.

You know what? I'm rarely even slightly pleased with anything here (but always remind myself, "It's a journal"). The topic of Suzanne Swift is such an important one that it says it all, it writes itself. That's it for me tonight. What's above this paragraph says it all. I see Betty's latest chapter is up, "Flop House." I suggest you do like I intend to do now and read it.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, April 13, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war will reach 3300 shortly (3299 currently), tensions flare between northern Iraq and Turkey and the refugee crisis continues so the US Senate offers help to "up to 500" of the estimated 3 million Iraqis internally and externally displaced.

In war resister news, we'll focus on
KPFA and Brian Edwards-Tiekert. Responding to a commentary by Marc Sapir in The Berkeley Daily Planet last week, Edwards-Tiekert wanted to address the issue of war resisters. Edwards-Tiekert is an important part of KPFA's news staff and does strong work, but appears to think much more is being covered than actually is. Sapir, sharing his feelings and fears regarding KPFA, wrote (this was not the thrust of his commentary), "How could KPFA be a useful tool for the GI resisters' movement, the immigrants' rights and sanctuary movements, the prison reform and opposition movements, the new sds [SDS] (already at 160 chapters), . . . if such an edict is upheld?" Sapir is referring to the fact that KPFA can promote events; however, they can not say "Be there" (as Sasha Lilley explained on the Listeners' Report earlier this month). Edwards-Tiekert grabs the subsection of that sentence and responds (this was not the thrust of his response), "Clearly, he [Marc Sapir] wasn't listening the week Aaron Glantz traveled to Fort Lewis, Washington, to produce up-to-the minute rports on the failed court martial of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada." Was Edwards-Tiekert? Aaron Glantz' reports were largely filed for Free Speech Radio News and re-aired duing the KPFA Evening News and during Aileen Alfandary's newsbreaks during The Morning Show. Sandra Lupien and Alfandary each spoke with Glantz once during the court-martial on programs other than the Free Speech Radio News. But, as Edwards-Tiekert well knows, Free Speech Radio News is an independent program, it is not a KPFA program.

Aaron Glantz did a wonderful job reporting on the court-martial for
Free Speech Radio News, for IPS, for His voice gave out and, possibly, had that not happened he would have done more reporting on it for KPFA. But in terms of reporting (not interviews days after the mistrial was called), Edwards-Tiekert appears to believe that Glantz was reporting on KPFA programs more than he was. This could result from the fact that it was usually announced (by the news staff) that he would be reporting but, in the morning or evening, what instead aired was a rebroadcast (sometimes edited down) of a report Glantz had done for Free Speech Radio News.

Ehren Watada's court-martial is important. His upcoming court-martial (July 16th) will also be important and, hopefully, KPFA will do a better job covering it than they did with the February one. For that coverage, Aaron Glantz deserves praise. KPFA? Not so much. That was February. Since Watada's court-martial,
Agustin Aguayo and Mark Wilkerson have been court-martialed. Aguayo was court-martialed in Germany, possibly that's why it wasn't covered (reading wires doesn't really replace first person reporting)? Wilkerson was in Texas. Texas is much closer to California than DC (Edwards-Tiekert notes KPFA's DC coverage in his response) but it might as well be across the Atlantic. What of Robert Zabala's historic court case? Where was KPFA? Again, reading wire reports (or local press) on air doesn't really replace on the spot reporting.

Edwards-Tiekert muses, "Perhaps Sapir doesn't listen much to the radio station he maligns." As
Ruth pointed out regarded Sasha Lilley's declarations in the Listeners' Report, Lilley doesn't seem to listen a great deal. In the listners' report she maintained that KPFA news staff promoted, on air, the KPFA webpage of local events when, in fact, that wasn't the case. KPFA is an important radio station and a historic one. Edwards-Tiekert is a strong member of the news staff. His commentary (and recent call in on air to Larry Bensky) only fans simmering flames for many. I'm not interested in that. (Ruth may be. She can write whatever she wants in her space.) I am interested in war resisters.

Edwards-Tiekert may feel Watada was covered by the KPFA news. He really wasn't. (Off topic, but needs noting again, Philip Maldari, not part of the news staff, did a wonderful job last summer interviewing Bob Watada.) That false impression may come from on air announcements such as, "Tomorrow morning in the first half-hour of The Morning Show, Aileen Alfandary will speak with Aaron Glantz . . ." -- announcements that were made of coverage that never took place. (That's not a slam at Alfandary. Glantz' voice was giving out early on.) But announcements of intended coverage are not actual coverage. And re-airing reports done for a non-KPFA produced program (Free Speech Radio News) on KPFA news and news breaks does not indicate that KPFA itself provided coverage.

In February,
Kyle Snyder was hauled away in handcuffs (and in his boxers) by Canadian police. Joci Perri (Citizenship and Immigration) stated the arrest was requested by the US military and that deportation was supposed to follow. Did KPFA listeners hear about that on the news? Joshua Key is being 'shadowed.' Winnie Ng reported the incident that happened at her home. She was visited by three men, she was told they were Canadian police. They were looking for Key (Joshua, Brandi and their children stayed with Ng early on after moving to Canada). Ng's character was called into question (including by some 'friends' in Canada) and the police said it never happened. Turns out, it did happen. The Canadian police, WOOPS, did send out one officer . . . with two members of the US military. Has the KPFA news informed listeners about those developments? Dean Walcott self-checked out of the US military and went to Canada in December of 2006. How often has his name came up during news breaks or newscasts?

Here's where the real fault is, the real problem. Four years into the illegal war and
KPFA still has not created a program to focus on Iraq. Flashpoints started to cover the first Gulf War. KPFA can't spare one half-hour or hour a week for a program that focuses on Iraq? Of course they can. The fact that they haven't is more embarrassing than any of the back and forths or the old history (covered in both Edwards-Tiekert and Sapir's commentaries). Is KPFA frozen or paralyzed when it comes to new programming? No. In fact it did an election series for the 2006 elections. One would think that an illegal war was at least as important as a mid-term election.

Dean Walcott, the latest to go public, part of the growing movement of war resistance within the military that also includes
Ehren Watada, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia, 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.

Yesterday in Iraq, the Green Zone was the target of an attack.
AFP notes today that the US military is now saying that the bombing in the parliament's cafeteria killed only one person (but "an Iraqi security officer" maintains "three people died"). Though Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) prefers to call it the "International Zone," as William M. Arkin (Washington Post) notes of the Green Zone, "The Zone is officially known as the international zone, a less inflammatory label that suggests non-U.S. control, but everyone knows the truth." Bushra Juhi (AP) reports that al Qaeda is claiming responsibility for the bombing and that it was a suicide bombing and that the Iraqi parliament met today ("about 90 minutes") but turnout was low due to the traffic ban and to the fact that many were visiting the wounded from yesterday's bombing. While AP repeats that the culprit is thought to be a bodyguard to a Sunni lawmaker, The Australian reports that three cafeteria workers are being questioned as well as "some parliamentary guards". CNN notes that this is due to the suspicion that the bombing was an 'inside job'. Robert Burns (AP) reveals: "The U.S. military will not take over security of the Iraqi parliament building in the wake of the deadly suicide bombing in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, a top commander said Friday. Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, said "it is clear we still have a long way to go to provide stability and security to Iraq." Michael Howard (The Guardian of London) informs, "US officials admitted last night that the bombing of the Iraqi parliament shows that not even the heavily fortified Green Zone is safe any more, despite the security crackdown launched earlier this year in the Iraqi capital." Despite that reality, Robin Wright and Karin Brulliard (Washington Post) report that John McCain, "who this week spoke of 'the first glimmers' of progress in the new U.S. effort, said the attack on the parliament building does not change the 'larger picture'."

Or, as
William M. Arkin (Washington Post) observes, "For the past few weeks, we have been told by the administration and the military that the Baghdad Security Plan and the surge are working. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had his Snoopy in the tank moment walking through a marketplace in a well-oiled photo op, accompanied of course by American Humvees and soldiers and roof-top snipers. The Senator and his delegation then repaired to the 'relative safety' of the Green Zone, speaking of their safe drive to and from the airport to downtown, a trip by dignitaries that is usually made by helicopter. The boast itself spoke volumes about the truth of the Green Zone, and of Baghdad."

Security and refugess was a topic today on
KPFA's The Morning Show, where Andrea Lewis and Aaron Glantz spoke with guests including Dahr Jamail and Sarah Holewinski (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict). (20 minutes in, Dahr speaks for the first time other than the normal greetings.)

Dahr: Well without a doubt, I think offering someone $2,500 when they've had a loved one killed by occupation forces is - is quite an insult especially now with the rate of inflation and the conditions in Iraq. I think the primary thing that I'd absolutely agree with her with is that the Iraqi people who are sufffering right now as we speak and all those who have lost loved ones certainly deserve and justifiably have earned compensation levels that are very, very fair and, in my opinion, I think that they should be compensation levels like we see in the United States when someone dies in a plane crash and there's a lawsuit or when someone dies in a car crash, typically millions of dollars are awarded to someone. How would people in the United States react if they lost a loved one and the government offered them $2,500?
[. . .]
I would start by amending the numbers that Nabil just said. I have updated numbers from meeting with Sybella Wilkes yesterday who is the UNHCR regional public information officer. And according to UNHCR, there are, there's 1.2 million is the minimum estimate they have in Syria alone. The governement of Syria, who UNHCR admitted probably has more accurate figures than they do, estimates there's between 1.4 and 1.5 million Iraqi refugees here [Syria], hundreds of thousands of those are Shia as well. I think people in the US are led to believe that it's only the Sunni population that's leaving and, while they are the majority, it's important to note that there's a giant number and growing number of Shia up here in Syria as well. But really the situation is really -- even just those numbers, as if they're not staggering enough by themselves -- the situation here is UNHCR has only actually registered approximately 70,000 of these people. So that means these are only the 70,000 that literally have so little of anything that they have to literally go there for food and in some way to find some housing. So the crisis is certainly going to grow exponentially as these other Iraqis here, and I have met with many of them, are living on their savings right now. What are they going to do when their savings run out? Syria right now has approximately a 20 to 25% unemployment rate. Add in another between 1.2 to 1.5 million Iraqis, so already that figure is too low. And as time persists, of course, the situation will worsen. And we have between 30 and 50,000 more Iraqis coming into Syria alone every single month.

Andrea Lewis: And Dahr what are some of the refugees telling you, other than concerns about their finances which obviously are important, what other things are you hearing from the people you're talking to?

Dahr: Well I'm actually sitting here right now with two friends who just came out yesterday from Baquba and they're telling me things like the US military has absolutely zero control of that city. There's only one street where one kilometer of that street is controlled by the US military and that's because that's primarily where their base is. The banks in Baquba have zero money whatsoever. It's a ghost town in the middle of the day. There's no marekts open. Of course, no one is working. And, as they described it, al Qaeda is in total control of that entire city and they state that the US military there is doing little to nothing to stop them.

Aaron Glantz: Well that's where Zarchawy was killed and we all remember Abu Musab al-Zarchawy. He was a big enemy and now he's dead and he was killed in Baquba.

Dahr: Right and clearly the situation has done nothing but degrade. As they said, it's like something out of a scene of a movie where literally it's a ghost town, nobody leaves their homes, nobody goes out. Even traveling from there to Baghdad, which is just barely 20 miles away, people just don't even make that trip. For them to even come up to Syria, they had to go, completely bypass Baghdad, and go to the north in order to come up here. Of course it was very far out of their way. But that just gives you an idea of how horrible the security situation is. There's literally no security and no regular life there to be found.

Turning to news from the US Senate,
Reuters reports that legislation passed allowing for the admission of a whopping (yes, that is sarcasm) "500 Iraqi and Afghan translators into the United States a year because their lives are in danger for helping U.S. forces during the wars."

Last month,
Tom Hayden (Huffington Post) noted that it was past time for US citizens to ask exactly who their tax dollars supported in Iraq. This month (at The Huffington Post), Hayden notes: "The time has come to understand the new de facto US policy in Iraq: to support, fund, arm and train a sectarian Shi'a-Kurdish state, one engaged in ethnic cleansing, mass detention and murder of Sunni Arabs." Hayden argues that the training of police fails to acknowledge who is being trained and for what -- as with El Salvador the 'blind eye' is a pretense upon the part of the US government. Tom Hayden proposes a series of recommendations including "peace advocates and critics must focus on the new reality that American blood and taxes are being spent on propping up a sectarian government that wants to carry out an ethnic cleansing of the Sunni population."

Keeping the above in mind and turning to the northern section of Iraq, yesterday
Umit Enginsoy (Turkish Daily News) reported on the conference in DC regarding the the upcoming, proposed referendum that would etermine the fate of Kirkuk (an Iraqi citiy that "sits on nearly 40 percent of Iraq's oil") which Iraqi president Jalal Talabani is pushing (Talabani fell ill as the latest wave of the crackdown began earlier this year, he was represented at the conference by his son Qubad Talabani who is also "the representative for the Kurdistan regional government"). The issues revolve around the oil, obviously, and also around the demographic makeup of Kirkuk and who gets a vote with Turcomen and Arabs concerned over what "hundreds of thousands of Kurds [who] have flocked into Kirkuk in recent years while the number of Kurds expelled under Saddam's regime could be measured by tens of thousands."

Laith al-Saud (CounterPunch) explores the issue of the resettling, "Since the 2003 invasion of the country myth has taken precedence over history and Kurdish politicians have adopted the methods of that other myth-based nation-state in the region-Israel, to establish claims . . . During the invasion, Kurdish peshmerga (militias) entered Kirkuk and established de facto control of the city. Since then, as has been reported by the Center for Research on Globalization, Kurdish militias have forcibly evicted people from their homes, engaged in Murder, assassination and a slow ethcnice cleansing. The first victims in this regard have been the Arabs. Since the Arabs there are largely associated with Baa'th policy they have seen little support from the regime in Baghdad. Less publicized has been the targeting of Assyrians and other smaller minorities in the region. But the largest group in the city -- and the one that promises to be the most resistant to Kurdish aggression -- is the Turcomen. Ethnically Turks, the Turcomen have lived in the area for over eight-hundred years and have strong ties to Turkey."

Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch) notes of the referendum: "The Kurds expect that large areas of eastern, northern and western Ninevah province will join theKRG, not not Mosul city itself because it has an Arab majority. The Kurds are absolutely determined to get what they consider their rights after years or persecution, expulsion and genocide. They rightly think that they now have an historic opportuniy to create a powerful near independent state within Iraq: They are America's only effective allies in Iraq; they are powerful in Baghdad; The non-Kurdish parts of the Iraqi government are weak."

At the conference, the US appeared to waffle (we'll get back to the point).
Michael Kuser and Guy Dinmore (Financial Times of London) note that Turkey's concern is that "an independent Kurdish state" will be created. This stems from Turkey's own issues in the southern part of its country where a historical and ongoing battle by Kurdish inhabitants of the area to gain self-autonamy has been rejected.If Iraq is partitioned off into regions and/or Kirkuk and other northern areas become their own independent body, Turkey's concerns include how such a breaking up could effect their own country. Chris Toensing (Foreign Policy In Focus) summed up the recent conflict within Turkey: "Since the invasion [of Iraq], the Turkish military and security services -- known to Turks as the 'deep state' -- have reasserted themselves, to the detriment of Turkish democracy. They are resisting even the Justice and Development Party's modest efforts to reach out to the country's Kurdish population, and inveighing against any ceasfire with the renewed Kurdish insurgency in the southeast. Far-right social elements associated with the 'deep state' are rallying in favor of chauvinistic versions of Turkish nationalism; in January, one such militan murdered an Armenian-Turkish journalist who sought to reconcile Turks' and Armenians' understanding of the 1915 Aremian genocide."

Another concern on the part of Turkey
pointed out by Kuser and Dinmore is that their border is not respected by "combat rebels from the Kurdish Wokers party (PKK)". Lebanon's The Daily Star reports that Turkish General Yasar Buyukanit has "asked the government" of Turkey "for approval to launch a cross-border incursion into northern Iraq, signaling growing frustration over a lack of action by Iraqi and US forces against Kurdish guerrillas. This follows, as Umit Enginsoy notes, that the head of Iraq's Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, stated last week if Turkey did not stop interfering in Iraq's northern region, Iraq would "retaliate by intervening in Turkey's Kurdish-related matters. The rising tensions come as Turkey's president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, prepares to step down (the parliament electes a new president in May). The Turkish Daily News presents a sample of Buyukanit's press conference where he touched on a number of issues, including political ones.

As the tensions rise and some commentators wonder what the US is doing -- signaling both ways is the answer. Fortunately, the issue is in questionable hands: Hoover Institute's Barbara Stephenson is now a 'diplomat' ("
deputy senior advisor and coordinator to the secretary of state"). In 1998, she was a "homemaker" and apparently $519,200 in donations is all it takes to buy a job at the State Department under US Secretary of State and Anger Condi Rice. (It's also a good little circle jerk since, Rice was "the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute"). Stephenson's main claim to fame/infamy may be her declaration of Iraqis, "They need to want this more than we do." Spoken by the person who some would argue bought her way into an administration.

From the north to the south,
Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) reports on the protests that took place Monday calling for foreign troops (all non-Iraqi troops) to leave the country. Historian Mahmood al-Lamy tells al-Fadhily, "Basra is the biggest southern city and the only Iraqi city that has a port near the Gulf. It is now controlled by various militias who fight each other from time to time over an oil smuggling business that is flourishing under the occupation."
Simon Assaf (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reminds that the protest on Monday (in Najaf) "was the biggest in Iraq since the massive unity demonstrations in the early days of the occupation" and that uniformed Iraqi soldiers joined in the protest.


Hussein Kadhmim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one civilian dead from a roadside bombing in Baghdad, a Baghdad mortar attack that killed one person and left 15 wounded,
"a primary school was exploded in Instar village of Bani Saad," "a public clinic at (Tibtib) village" was bombed, and "LC Falih Hassan of the Iraqi national police was killed today after a road side bomb targeted his vehicle today after noon. Three of his body guards were killed."
CBS and AP note a Baghdad roadside bomb claimed the life of a police officer and left four other officers injured as well as one citizen injured. Reuters reports a second Baghdad mortar attack killed two people and left 8 more wounded, a Hilla bombing killed a police officer and left three others wounded, and a mortar attack in Iskandariya wounded 10 people.


Hussein Kadhmim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a woman wounded during an attack on a police patrol. Reuters reports that Mohammed Abd al-Hameed ("Mosque imam in the northern city of Mosul . . . well known figure in the Sunni Muslim Scholars' Association") was shot dead in Mosul, three guards of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party offices were wounded in an attack in Hilla, and an attack on a barber shop left two people "seriously wounded."


Hussein Kadhmim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports five corpses discovered in Baghdad,
Reporters Without Borders notes that two corpses were discovered in Mosul yesterday: Iman Yussef Abdallah ("journalist for a radio station operated by a group of Mosul trade unions") and her husband. She "was the second journalist to be murdered in Mosul this year and the 13th in Iraq."

Today the
US military announced: "A Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldier died April 12 due to a non-battle related cause." And they announced: "An MND-B Soldier died when a patrol was attacked with small arms fire north of the Iraqi capital. The unit was conducting a security patrol when the attack occurred." [Both were noted last night. They were announced Friday Iraq time.] And they announced: "An MND-B Soldier died and one other was wounded when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device south of Baghdad April 12. The unit was conducting a security patrol in the area when the attack occurred." And they announced: "Two MND-B Soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded when their patrol base came under attack by anti-Iraqi forces south of Baghdad April 12. Two Iraqi interpreters were also killed in the attack." ICCC's total for the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war is 3299 and 52 is the total for the month thus far.

Finally, the
Austin American-Stateman weighs in with an editorial commenting on the decision by the White House to extend tours of duty to 15 months while, at the same time, searching for someone ( a war 'czar' -- "The first and most obvious is that a war szar already exists: the president of the United States is the commander in chief. The novelty of the idea doesn't make it viable.") to run the illegal war in Iraq and concludes, "It is especially troubling when you consider that the Bush administration is asking more and more from military personnel who can't appoint someone else to do their jobs for them."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Laura Flanders, Kathy Kelly

The week is moving fast on my end. Last week, by the way, I highlighted a piece (on Friday) -- Helen Redmond's "Female Chauvinist Pigs?" -- that I praised and noted was from somewhere. It was from International Socialist Review. On things to read, please read Kat's "Joni Mitchell's Hissing of Summer Lawns." I love that album more than I listen to it. The Hissing of Summer Lawns has some amazing songs on it that I will find myself singing out of the blue. But I agree with Kat the problem is the "drone." The music played on the album doesn't make it for me and never has. It's a real shame because I listen to Joni Mitchell quite often but that's a CD I probably only put on once a year. (I have all of Joni on CD. Of solo artists, that's also true of Carly Simon, Peter Gabriel and one or two others.)

"Blue Grit: Laura Flanders on How 'True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians'" (Democracy Now!):
LAURA FLANDERS: Well, there's been a big trend in the left and the center to say, "The way for the Democrats to win next time is to not get snookered by marriage equality and abortion rights." I say the Democrats in denial, their denial is what loses them. Let's face it. I mean, the right doesn't need any more ammunition against Hillary Clinton. What she needs to do -- she's one of the contenders -- is to woo more support on the left. The Democratic leadership is never going to be anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-racial equality enough to be able to persuade their opponents that they're on the same side or they're not a threat. But in constantly running away from their base, who, you know, whether they like it or not, are gays and lesbians, women who support abortion, people of color, they may not like it, but that's the base they’ve got, and that's the base they depend on every time it comes to an election.
AMY GOODMAN: We were just talking about Don Imus referring to Rutgers athletes, women on the basketball team, as "nappy-[headed] hos," and this demand for his resignation. You refer, in your piece, to Ann Coulter, speaking before the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., referring to John Edwards as a "f**got." Talk more about that.
LAURA FLANDERS: Well, we've seen it before. The right will raise a trial balloon, and if it's not shot down fast, it carries on. Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger talking about girlie men. He used that first against the Democrats in the California Assembly. The next thing we know, he's using the word about all Democrats on the stage of the Republican National Convention. I don't think believe that trial balloon from Coulter has burst yet, and I think that it's -- the lesson of the gay and lesbian rights movement and other movements of grassroots folks who, let’s face it, were the first people to be swift-boated in this country -- it wasn't John Kerry. Remember the "welfare queen." The communities we're talking about are the people who have learnt about how to tackle and respond to the right, and they know being nice to a bully doesn't work. You've got to fight back. You've got to stand up. And that's what these candidates have got to learn.
AMY GOODMAN: And what does Peter Pace, the general's comments about homosexuality have to do with the Democrats? What do you think of the Democrats' response to it?
LAURA FLANDERS: Well, when Hillary Clinton was asked what she thought about that, she said she would leave it for other people to decide. That is no kind of a response. You've got to stand up for what's right, and it will serve your interests. Ask somebody like the people I profile in the book, Lupe Valdez, the sheriff of Dallas. No lefty community, Dallas elected its first Latina, its first woman sheriff, its first out lesbian and its first Democrat in twenty years, when they elected a woman who had the chutzpah to stand up and say that she had respect for herself, she wanted other people to respect her, too, she was an agent of change, and she was going to serve the people as the sheriff. She's there doing the work and being exactly what she said she would be.

That's from Monday's broadcast and I wanted to highlight it but this is the first chance I've had.
I've just begun reading Blue Grit (last night) and am enjoying it. That's Laura Flanders' new book. I picked that part of the interview because I knew community members in Texas would enjoy it and because I thought it got to a few things we've been attempting to address at The Third Estate Sunday Review, specifically in "How we got to this point." One of the points we were making there was the shameful behavior which includes, as Flanders notes, Hillary's silence. But it also included this slinking off from a stereotype. "That's not true about John Edwards!" might be shouted out but there was no attempt to stand up and say (a) it's hate speech and (b) it's a stereotype.

For all the hula hoop frenzy over the nonsense of 'framing,' there has been no effort to define, just to take the easy spin (that's all framing is). Elsewhere in the article, Flanders makes a point about how the Democrats should be attempting to big tent it instead of running from gays and lesbians. That reminded me of a point C.I. made in "Roundtable" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):

Ty: Yeah that is the correct count. You basically answered something from each of the fifteen and I'm just trying to think now if there's any major point from them that you missed? We had one e-mail from a woman who identified as a lesbian and you touched on that, on Hillary and Barack's one day of silence, but could you expand on that, could you address gay rights?
C.I.: Sure and anyone else can jump in. The 'brave' ones who think they're doing the Lord's work with this debunk and that debunk don't bother to debunk the nonsense of the Democratic Party's silence on gay and lesbian issues. Larry Kramer, on Democracy Now!, spoke to that issue and it's really easy to dismiss that as "Oh, that's a gay issue." And those segretating may hope people will do so but the truth is there are a lot more people on the outs than on the ins with the Democratic Party. The desire to present their dream candidate, male, that they just know will wow 'em in the south is insulting to everyone including the south. But it's that desperate grip they have for the Big Daddy figure who's going to save them as opposed to building a working coalition. That's still the problem. Before Bill Clinton, it was quite common, in the wake of Poppy Bush's election for some to argue that the Dems would be the party of Congress but they could never have the White House. I'm referring to poli sci articles, not the popular press. And specifically thinking of two papers written by people I know. For too many with a say in determining the direction of the party, the answer, once Clinton was elected, was a charasmatic figure and not a party that could unite under truly universal principles such as fairness.

There's a lot to deal with. The intended plan (that may or may not come off) is for sites to go dark after the 2008 election. In the time between now and then, we're not trying to play nice. We're trying to raise very real issues. I really did assume there would be a drop off as a result of that (which I was fine with) but there's actually been an increase of positive e-mails at The Third Estate Sunday Review. I think that goes to the fact that a lot of people are fed up and are tired of the very real silences on issues of inclusion and fairness coming out of the leadership of the Democratic Party and too many voices. Laura Flanders hosts her show on Air America Radio, 7:00 pm to ten p.m. EST on Saturdays and Sundays. We frequently mention her at Third and that's because she's trying to accomplish something in terms of the way we understand issues.

I'm not comparing the work we do at Third to the work she does. (Nor my own, this is just online scribbles for me at my site.) Flanders is much nicer about it. We generally have her program on during Saturday editions for Third. (I have no idea what she said the last two weeks, both times have been something big going on.) She's a wonderful host and the sort that the network could build real change by building around her. As someone who had high hopes for AAR when it started, I think, as a network, they failed and they continue to do so. For every Flanders, you have a Seder or Maddow who offer nothing but party line points. I think those people do damage by denying the very real problems as they cheerlead a party. I think we saw that would be the way it was for Sam Seder without Janeane Garofalo by his side when Slimey Simon Rosenberg was interviewed (Garofalo wasn't on that broadcast) and Seder refused to question him. Callers and the show's blog were screaming about the pass Seder gave Rosenberg. That is who Seder really is. That's not news today, now most see it. He's a Party boy who won't call out. Rosenberg was a "player" (supposedly a shoe in -- to hear Seder and his blog buddies tell it -- for DNC chair), so Seder gave him a pass. It was as bad as anything the New York Times could have done and Seder could try to defend all he wanted but he blew that interview and did so on purpose. To Maddow's credit, she interviewed Rosenberg with Lizz Winstead and they didn't give Simon a pass. They were actually disturbed by Rosenberg's responses. I don't care for Maddow but I will give her credit for that.

"Prison for a Peacemaker: Interview with Kathy Kelly" (Jack Balkwill, CounterPunch):
The war in Iraq is the longest war in US history, even longer than Vietnam when one considers the first Gulf War extending through the sanctions (with interruptions for bombing, such as Clinton's "Desert Fox"), to the illegal 2003 invasion and current occupation. So from 1991 through 2007 we have continuous war in one form or another for sixteen years.
Through it all, Kathy Kelly has promoted peace for the Iraqi people and attempted to counter the brutal sanctions that, according to UN reports, directly contributed towards the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times, and spent time in prison for her actions. In this interview she tells the story of her struggle for peace, human rights, and social justice together with resulting experiences in jails and prisons in the Land of the Free.
She is interviewed by Jack Balkwill, a Vietnam Vet.
Jack Balkwill: When did you first go to Iraq, and what was your purpose?
Kathy Kelly: In January 1991, I joined the Gulf Peace Team, an international group of peace activists encamped on the Iraq side of the Iraq-Saudi border. I landed in Baghdad on the last plane allowed into the country prior to the war. Traveling by bus to the desert camp, we passed through Kerbala, in southern Iraq. Our team was mesmerized by the city's beauty. Students, gowned and graceful, sauntered along palm-tree lined University streets. Mosques shimmered in the sunlight. All of us voiced a hope that we could one day return to Kerbala.
The Gulf Peace Team camp was already humming by the time I got there. Latrines had been dug, tents were set up, food preparation and clean up tasks were assigned, and in spite of language and cultural differences people were learning about each other.
During the night, on January 16th, 1991, the U.S. began bombing Iraq. 72 of us, from 18 different countries, crawled out of our tents and huddled together, watching planes fly overhead almost once every five minutes.
As the ground war approached, there was more of a chance that we actually would be in the way of invading U.S. forces. On January 28, Iraqi authorities evacuated us to a hotel in Baghdad.
In Baghdad, there was very little electricity available. However, in the women's restroom there was a light. I went there to write and read, from time to time, and there met mothers and children.
The mothers were very friendly to me, and the children, after initial shyness, were glad to play. Sometimes I'd see them again, in the hotel's basement bomb shelter, late at night, when the bombing was more intense. Fathers held children in their arms and reassured them. But the men's faces showed unmistakable anxiety and fear.
We found an old typewriter, abandoned by journalists. It lacked a typewriter ribbon, but I had learned, in Nicaragua and in prison, that if you place a sheet of carbon paper in front of a clean sheet of paper, it will function like a typewriter ribbon. We melted a candle onto the typewriter and soon I was able to produce our team's statement about why we were in Baghdad.
An Iraqi official spotted me managing to type something and soon returned with a document he needed typed in English. We were reluctant, at first --was it right for a team claiming neutrality to assist an Iraqi government official? We asked to read the letter. It was a letter to then Secretary General of the United Nations Javier Perez de Cuellar, asking him to seek an end to bombardment of the Iraqi highway between Baghdad and the Jordanian border.
This road was the only way out for refugees and the only way in for humanitarian relief supplies. Our team had traveled on this road for some distance, en route to Baghdad, and had seen charred and smoking vehicles. Our bus drivers would swerve to miss craters in the road. It was a very dangerous route.
We agreed to type the letter, knowing that according to Geneva conventions warring parties must provide a way out for refugees to exit and a way in for humanitarian relief. The official returned with crumpled stationery, signed by a cabinet level official, and carbon paper that had been used five times over.
Imagine cabinet level correspondence being typed by an extranational from the country bombarding you, on wrinkled stationery, using an abandoned typewriter"working by candlelight.this is what Iraq's government was relying onthen imagine the support available to the Pentagon.
On January 31st, in Baghdad, a bomb hit the servant's quarters of the hotel where we were housed. Iraqi authorities again loaded us onto buses, after stamping visas into passports of 33 members who had asked to stay with families in Baghdad. They told us we would be welcome to visit Iraq some other time. We traveled by bus along a major Iraqi highway leading to the border crossing between Iraq and Jordan.
Desert Storm continued. We called it Desert Slaughter.
Many of the Gulf Peace Team members returned to their home countries to campaign for an end to the relentless bombing and destruction. Those of us who had visas for a return trip to Iraq organized, as best we could, medical relief convoys to bring desperately needed medicines into Iraq.
We hoped that we might safeguard the road between the Jordan-Iraq border and Baghdad, thinking that if authorities from the U.S. and the UK knew that ordinary citizens from their own countries were traveling along that road, delivering medical relief, they might be less inclined to consider every moving vehicle a military target. Announcing the convoy project would give us a chance to remind the U.S. war planners about the Geneva conventions.
A few of us began calling Jordanian pharmacists and charity organizations to learn more about procuring medicines for delivery to Iraq. A Jordanian businessman, Mr. Nidal Sukhtian, heard of our project and decided to donate a semi-truck full of powdered milk. He also volunteered to pay for petrol, hire a driver, and help us out with an interpreter.
Suddenly our project became much more manageable. I took responsibility to contact the media. An NBC TV correspondent decided to cover our departure. I don't remember her name, but I do remember a steady exchange of phone calls setting up the time and date for the convoy to film us loading up trucks with food and medicine and then driving back into the war zone.
The day before our planned departure, someone from the United Nations finally managed to get through to us that our convoy wasn't going to enter Iraq unless we were prepared to ram our way through a UN checkpoint. Sanctions prohibited delivery of almost all goods to Iraq, save for a short list of medical supplies and medicines.
Realizing that our powdered milk shipment could never pass the checkpoint, we divvied up a long list of tasks: offload the semi-truck and return it to the owner, find two small trucks to carry whatever we could find that was on the list, call pharmacies, find a new source for fuel, new drivers, change the press release, change the departure time, in the frenzy of activity, I completely forgot to call the NBC correspondent. She was out in the field waiting to film us, with a full camera crew, and it was raining.
I saw her that night, at the Red Crescent office, where we both had turned up to get documents that would allow us to enter Iraq. She was livid. "I will assure that you and your team never again get coverage from NBC," she said. I murmured how sorry I was. She turned, walked away, and then paused, looking over her shoulder, to add, "I shouldn't even tell you this, but offloading the truck WAS the story." My heart sank.
Had NBC covered the Scottish doctor on our team, tearful as she hauled cartons of powdered milk off of the semi-truck, had this image been beamed into living rooms across the United States, it might have "jump-started awareness about the most comprehensive sanctions ever imposed in modern history.
I still feel ashamed, even now, recalling that story. I feel shame and sorrow because throughout all the years of the long war against Iraq, offloading the truck never stopped being the story.
Just days ago, a UN report stated that one out of three children in Iraq suffers from malnutrition. A combination of sanctions, war and occupation has brought to Iraq the world's worst deterioration in child mortality rate. According to a report 'The State of the World's Children' released by UNICEF in 2007, Iraq's mortality rate for children under five was 50 per 1000 live births in 1990, and 125 in 2005, an annual average deterioration of 6.1 percent.
When the U.S.-led invasion was launched in 2003, the Bush administration pledged to cut Iraq's child mortality rate in half by 2005. Instead, the rate has worsened, now to 130 in 2006, according to Iraqi Health Ministry figures. In February, 2007, Iraq,s Ministry of Water Resources stated that only 32 percent of the Iraqi population had access to clean drinking water, and only 19 percent had access to a good sewage system.
Massive convoys should be going into Iraq, bearing all manner of humanitarian relief. They should be, but they're not, and in December 2006 donor nations cut in half the money they would commit to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
But let me return to 1991, because eventually in late March of that year, our team did return to Kerbala, the city that had so impressed us when we first traveled into Iraq. We stared in awe as we drove along streets devoid of palm trees, lined by wreckage and smoking ruins.
We entered the main hospital and our feet stuck to the floor because the blood was so thick. Beds were smashed; equipment was torn out of the walls. We saw clusters of badly frightened doctors. Henry Selz, who had lived in Lebanon during the civil war there, spotted bullet holes near the rooftops of buildings as we walked along a side street. One elderly woman pulled us aside and began whispering about mass graves. What had happened?
I learned in fits and starts, fitting together pieces of the horror story that still isn't completed.
Margaret Thatcher remarked once on television that after the ceasefire had been declared, Saddam Hussein's generals asked if they could keep their helicopters and the U.S. generals said, "Yes," then they asked if they could keep their attack helicopters-- again the answer was, "Yes." Those attack helicopters swiftly took off in pursuit of insurgents who were rebelling in cities all through southern Iraq: Amarah, Qut, Najaf, Nassiriyeh, Basra, Kerbala.
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, U.S. allies in the 1991 war against Iraq who were helping fund the war, had told President George Bush Sr. to keep Saddam Hussein in power because otherwise uprisings of Shi'ite people in the south could give rise to a dominant Shi'a governance in Iraq that would be sympathetic to coreligionists "next door" in Iran.
Hence the long regime of economic sanctions which kept Saddam crippled externally but strengthened internally --punitive sanctions which were always evaluated only on the basis of whether or not they prevented Saddam from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, and never with regard to how the sanctions affected innocent and vulnerable Iraqis, particularly children.

That's a long excerpt but it's a long interview. One worth reading and I'll leave it at that for tonight except to recommend that you read Ava and C.I.'s "TV: The not-so-universal White Boy blues" which is really amazing.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, April 11, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, Crazy John McCain intends to continue running for the GOP presidential nomination until the men in white coats cart him away, The Savannah Morning News merges with the US military, the International Red Cross issues a report that doesn't contain the preferred amount of happy talk, and the refugee crisis grows.

Today the
US military announced: "An MND-B Soldier died and two others were wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated near their patrol in an eastern section of the Iraqi captial April 11." And they announced: "One MDN-B Soldier died and another was wounded after their unit came under attack in the southern portion of the Iraqi capital April 10." This brings the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 3294 with 47 for the month of April alone, reports ICCC.

We're starting with the above for a reason,
Crazy John McCain. Last week, Crazy John McCain took The John McCain Showboat Express to Baghdad and became a topic of ridicule for his boldface lies that things were getting better in Iraq and that he could walk freely through a Baghdad street. Robert Knigh ( Flashpoints, Monday, April 2nd) described the 'free walk' this way: "McCain, in defiance of various independent reports that Iraq's daily death toll actually increased last month, nevertheless declared that the so-called 'surge' was 'making progress' and that Americans were 'not getting the full picture of what is happening in Iraq'; however a zoom out from McCain's photo op shows that he was actually surounded by orbiting F16 fighter planes, three Black Hawk attack helicopters, 2 Apache gun ships, more than 100 US troops, snipers and armed vehicles, a flak jacket and personal body armour. The presidential contender and Congressional comedian concluded his celebration of April Fool's Day by declaring with a straight face that 'There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today. These and other indicators and reasons for cautious optimism about the effects of the new strategy'."

Crazy John McCain lost some of his luster over that and went on CBS' 60 Minutes Sunday where Scott Pelly asked him about the claims he'd made re: Iraq and Senator Crazy responded, "Of course I'm going to misspeak and I've done it on numerous occasions and I probably will do in the future. I regret that when I divert attention to something that I've said from my message but you know that's just life, and I'm happy frankly with the way I operate, otherwise it would be a lot less fun." Never deny a crazy their fun. Speaking at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, Crazy John McCain was at it again, kissing ass and telling lies and he asserted that he was speaking "to an audience that can discern truth from falsehood in a politician's appraisal of the war," then went on to dub the illegal war as "necessary and winnable" and attempted to drum up sympathy by stating his Crazy Walk through Baghdad left him at the mercy of "a hostile press corps". Crazy spoke of "memorable progress and measurable progress" and some probably fell for the crap. Those who did probably have forgotten the outline General John P. Abizaid presented on March 14, 2006 (link goes to Centcom, click here). He's also bragging about Baghdad where, as AFP notes, "the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a new report that the operation had not yet stabilised Baghdad." His bragging comes as Bruce Rolfsen (Air Force Times) notes "more than 850 wounded and injured service men" and service women "out of war zones during March, according to the Air Force. In February, the Air Force flew out 767 patients.

Senator Crazy went on to declare that the armed battle included a "struggle for the soul of Islam" sounding as insane as the Bully Boy when he originally used the term "crusade." Senator Crazy was, no doubt, amusing himself again with thoughts of bombs being dropped, rockets launched, bullets shot all for a "struggle for the soul of Islam." Senator Crazy remains the undeclared GOP candidate for the 2008 presidential nomination and with all the crazy remarks he makes, it's easy for the electorate to miss some of them. When
Scott Pelly (60 Minutes) pointed out that the majority of US citizens want and wondered to Crazy when Crazy would "start doing what the majority of the American people want?"

Well again, I disagree with what the majority of the American people want.

A memorable, if not winning, campaign slogan if ever there was one.
Crazy John McCain is running for president on the premise that, his words, "I disagree with what the majority of the American people want." Vote Insane! Vote McCain!

Staying with the crazies, the Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, little Willie Caldwell, grabbed his feather boa and marched before reporters to declare, "They're arming the insurgents, dahling." With the five Iranian diplomats still not released (and US military command announcing today that they weren't going to be), Little Willie strutted and made broad statements. Or, as
the BBC put it, "accused." AFP also uses the (accurate) terminology, noting that Little Willie "accused the Iranians of training Iraqi groups on how to assemble explosively-formed projecticles -- a type of armour-piercing roadside bomb that has caused many coalition casualties." Lauren Frayer, AP's frequent embed, paid to write for a living, somehow fails to utilize "accused" once; however, she did take down good stenography for Little Willie and deploy the term "said" eight times in a 300 plus word 'report' (324 -- check my math).

In other Press Shames,
Joe Strupp (Editor & Publisher) reports what's what at The Savannah Morning News these days. On their front page, they are now running a column by Major General Rick Lynch -- at least it may be by him. The paper's editor, Susan Catron, asked of the names at the end of Lynch's opinion column offers happily, "I can't tell if they wrote it or not." Catron also reveals that the paper is not paying the general for his column. Hmmm.

The editor can't state for the record whether or not the column was written by the general and this weekly column (carried on the front page) requires no payment to the writer? For many, that would be enough to raise red flags but Catron's still recovering from the mighty Sunday comics war that so drained the paper's resources

Strupp reveals that the newspaper staff believes (and they are right) that if the column belongs anywhere, it is "on the opinion page . . . Is this appropriate for a 50,000-reader newspaper that purports to be free from government influence? Staff members feel it has undermined the newspaper's credibility and independence."

Turning to news of attempts to increase leisure time,
AP reports that the US "White House is considering naming a high-powered official to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and report directly to President Bush".

There seems to be some confusion here so let's turn to the US Constitution, Article II, section 2 which reads:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

If anyone's confused (and apparently the White House is) the role being discussed is a Constitutionally mandated role for the occupant of the Oval Office. It's really not something that can be "delegated." Possibly Bully Boy's all tuckered out from his vacation in Crawford?
Mimi Kennedy (writing at Truthout) notes that Camp Casey was in full swing in Crawford last weekend with the Bully Boy in town. Kennedy reports that Friday was spent at the checkpoint singing "We Shall Overcome" and chanting "We are here with Cindy/We're here to ask/What noble Cause/We are here with Cindy now" dying Easter eggs and singing; with Saturday revolving around Pink Police actions. On the topic of CODEPINK, they have redesigned their website adding many new features and one of the new campaigns revolves around the video "Toy Soldiers" -- watching it and passing it on.

Cindy Sheehan will be speaking in Indiana Thursday. The South Bend Tribune reports she will deliver "Speaking Peace to Power" at 10:30 Thursday morning on the campus of Saint Mary's College (auditorium in Madeleva Hall). The event is free and open to the public. On last weekend, Cindy (writing at BuzzFlash) notes, "At our five acres of Camp Casey, we also announced phase two of our development from a protest camp to a peace facility. The Camp Casey Peace Institute is partnering with Farm Hands to create a therapeutic farm for Vets and their families and active duty soldiers. We are having our first build on Memorial Day Weekend to put up our lodge building."

Staying with peace news, we'll turn to US war resisters.
Meghan Eves (Canada's Eye Weekly) takes a close look at three war resisters who are among the 300 attempting to find refuge in Canada. Eves notes that Jeremy Hinzman was the first to apply for refugee status and that Hinzman's currently appealing the rejection by the Immigration and Refugee Board "to the Federal Court of Appeals but no date has been set"; that Joshua Key, his wife Brandi and their four children await the response of the Federal Court of Canada on his appeal (all war resisters have been refused refugee status by the Immigration and Refugee Board) and notes his book The Deserter's Tale, and Dean Walcott who self-checked out and went to Canada at the end of last year (December 2006) -- someone could pass it on to Paul von Zielbauer that Walcott and Key both suffer from PTSD.

Key, Hinzman and Walcott are part of a movment of resistance within the military that also includes
Ehren Watada, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia, 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.

Turning to Iraq, yesterday on
Flashpoints, Emily Howard spoke with Darh Jamail about the Doha conference and Iraq. On Iraq, Jamail noted the growing Iraqi refugee problem and how nothing was being done about it. They discussed his recent article at IPS on the topic of refugees and Jamail spoke of how when attacks were on going, the lucky ones were able to buy themselves or a relative out but, having exhausted their money with that, they were left to wander around or live in refugee tents. Those who could afford to get out, such as doctors, have already left. Dahr spoke of how the problem now was that a country was now in a situation where the people trained and needed for basic needs (electricity, water, etc.) are now leaving. Writing today at IPS, Jamail interviews Iraqi refugees now in Damascus including 68-year-old Abdul Abdulla who recalls of his family's time in Baghdad prior to leaving, "We stay in our homes, but even then some people have been pulled out of their own houses. These death squads arrived after (former U.S. ambassador John) Negorponte arrived. And the Iraqi Government is definitely involved because they depend on them (militias)."

Reuters reports that the International Red Cross has declared that "The suffering that Iraqi men, women and children are enduring today is unbearable and unacceptable" (ICRC director of operations Pierre Kraehenbuehl). BBC reports, "Four years after the US-led invasion, the ICRC says the conflict is inflicting immense suffering, and calls for greater protection of civilians." The ICRC issued their report in Geneva today.

The (PDF format) report is entitled "
Civilians Without Protection: The ever-worsening humanitarina crisis in Iraq" and notes:

Civilians bear the brunt of the relentless violence and the extremely poor security conditions that are disrupting the lives and livelihoods of millions. Every day, dozens of people are killed and many more wounded. The plight of Iraqi civilians is a daily reminder of the fact that there has long been a failure to respect their lives and dignity. Shottings, bombings, abudctions, murders, military operations and other forms of violence are forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and seek safety elsewhere in Iraq or in neighboring countries. The hundreds of thousands of displaced people scattered across Iraq find it particularly difficult to cope with the ongoing crisis, as do the families who generously agree to host them.

The report addresses a number of issues including the medical care situation with the 'brain drain' and the violence causing many medical professionals to leave the country at a time when Iraqi hospitals are overcrowed. The report also notes this with regards to the water situation in Iraq:

Both the quantity and quality of drinking water in Iraq remain insufficient despite limited improvements in some areas, mainly in the south. Water is often contaminated owing to the poor repair of sewage and water-supply networks and the discharge of untreated sewage into rivers, which are the main source of drinking waters. Electricity and fuel shortages and the poor maintenance of infrastructure mean that there is no regular and reliable supply of clean water and that sewage is often not properly demanded.

On the subject of prisoners, "Tens of thousands of people are currently being detained by the Iraq authorities and the multinational forces in Iraq" -- often without any news of the prisoners being passed on to their families.

In addition to the above,
Robert Fisk (Independent of London) reports on the latest efforts to turn Baghdad into a series of "gated communities" -- part of the 220 page plan FM 3024 -- which is based on the fact that the easy areas can be 'secured' and then the 'security' can be spread out wider. More logically, as Fisk notes, is the greater of spreading out and depending on Iraqi soldiers, the less loyalty to the US forces and the greater the ties to Iraqis. (Meaning the Shi'ite or Sunni trained officers is more apt to blow off US orders than turn against an Iraqi who may be a threat to the US but is not seen as an Iraqi threat.)


CBS and AP report a Hilla bombing that killed a police officer and left three more wounded, a Mosul bombing that killed a police officers, wounded two more police officers and left six other people injured. Reuters notes mortar attacks in Baghdad that killed one and left 4 others wounded.


Reuters reports two police officers shot dead outside their homes in Kut, Abdul Abbas Hashim ("general director in the Electricity Ministry" shot dead in Baghdad.


Reuters reports 11 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 9 in Mosul.

cindy sheehan

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 ( 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.