Friday, September 21, 2007

Kevin & Monica Benderma, United for Peace & Justice

First things first. A Matter of Conscience is a new documentary which details Kevin Benderman's feelings about the Iraq War, his decision to take a stand, the trumped up case the US military created against him, and how he and Monica Benderman view the war. You can see a preview of it by clicking here.

I lost a paragraph due to a problem with the link to the preview. In case it doesn't work, here's the link:

C.I. will note it in the Iraq snapshot on Monday and I'll also be taking it over to The Third Estate Sunday Review this weekend -- possibly bringing it up in a roundtable -- but it will be noted there. Please make a point to check it out if you can. On Monday, I'll write something about it because I realize that not everyone has computer with the capacity or the connection to stream online and I'm also aware that we have physically challenged members in our community. I've e-mailed Hilda and told her I would be happy to write something up about it for Hilda's Mix and she's already replied saying she's thrilled by the idea. So if you can't stream or you wouldn't be able to hear it for whatever reason, you can also check out Hilda's Mix on Tuesday.

In C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" on Wednesday, it was noted that United for Peace & Justice is now using the Just Foreign Policy count. I had an e-mail heads up on that from UFPJ as well. I didn't see it until this evening. My focus was on DC since last weekend and I only got back Wednesday night. I did my sessions on Thursday (including my night group) but I did take off today. By the way, The Nation magazine does not have an article on the Iraq Moratorium in it. They have posted another "online exclusive." There's no excuse for that. That should have been a cover and it should have been on magazine racks in time to make a difference. This moratorium didn't just pop up. Obviously, if I had time to clear this Friday of all appointments, The Nation had time to write about the moratorium and get it on magazine racks. I want to say C.I. told me about it in July -- probably mid-July -- and I'm not doing any sessions on the third Friday of each month as a result. There was plenty of time for the weekly magazine to do a story on it that was something other than "an online exclusive."

Back to United for Peace & Justice. I thank them for considering the issue. I am glad that they have agreed to note the fact that it's not "600,000 plus," it's over a million. This was a huge problem for the organization. I believe it was Tuesday when C.I. gave me a heads up (of last week) that some college students were bringing it up. On Wednesday, C.I. advised it was more college students and high school students. This went on Thursday as well. Mike and I joined everyone on Friday. I think we missed at least one speaking forum but we did catch two -- one at a high school and one at a college. People were outraged. They were offended.

There was no way to disagree with them because they weren't wrong. They were informed, they were active and they were outraged. Phyllis Bennis has a very bad name on campuses. We made that point Sunday. The piece is co-written by Bennis and Eric Leaver. Students don't know from Leaver. Bennis is known. My point there is that she will take the fall for this if she doesn't stop undercounting the Iraqi dead. It's also true that she's a woman and it's always more 'fun' in this society to go after them. That's why Katie Couric is subjected to some of the most extreme criticism (or 'criticism') while Brian Williams and Charlie Gibson get a pass. It's why Judith Miller became a national joke but her frequent co-writer Michael Gordon is still unknown to most Americans.

That's her dance and she'll dance it however she wants and have to deal with the consequences. C.I. had defended all during the first part of last week. It got to the point where defending her meant students would be shutting down. Defending Bennis wasn't worth it. I wasn't present when C.I. attempted to explain at one gathering the best possible reason Bennis was using an undercount (I heard about it from everyone). But C.I. noted then something like, "This is the last time I'm offering any excuse." If Bennis were being slammed for something brave, C.I. would defend her. But there's no defense for undercounting. The peace movement is not about creating a cult for Bennis (nor am I implying she wants that). It's about getting truth and reality out.

So as I listened, last Friday, and heard (I'd been warned about this) a student carry their rage (justifiable rage) at Bennis and Leaver's report over to United for Peace and Justice, I pulled a page from C.I.'s playbook and said I'd offer a possible explanation and I'd do it once and never again.

I offered it and about half the students seemed receptive. (In short, they went to two people who know a great deal on Iraq to write a report so that they could present something that was easy to follow and understand -- something people could use as a reference and also pass on to get the information out.) But about half the students, I could see it in their eyes, were shutting down and shutting me out. That's fine. I'm just a tag along a few weeks a year. But I understand why C.I. (who likes Bennis) took the attitude of, "She's on her own." It's not worth it to the movement.

It's not worth it to C.I. either. My friend has been speaking to students about the illegal war since February 2003 -- before the illegal war started. After the massive, global protests didn't stop the illegal war, C.I. had to face students who had been hyped into believing a massive protest would stop it. C.I. had to carve out a space where the war could be discussed and where students could go from jaded and upset to feeling their own power. In Boston, the day after the 2004 election, I saw C.I. wait to speak. A number of people spoke before. The audience was mainly students. "We just have to try harder" was the message speakers were offering. People listening were dejected. C.I. wasn't feeling chipper either (we'd just learned, this was early in the morning, that John Kerry wasn't going to fight for a full count of the votes in Ohio). The mood in the room can be described as "soggy" at best.

Now I've seen C.I. inspire many times before. When C.I.'s "on," no one can compete. I also know C.I. well enough to know when there's genuine nervousness and I could see there was. We, Rebecca and I, had already been told (by C.I.), "I have no idea what I'm going to say." C.I. went to the mike, took a deep breath, and started talking about failure. Where it failed and how. C.I. has great timing and no fear about pointing out the elephants in the room but even I was shocked. The people ate it up. The crowd went from dejected to inspired.

C.I. talked about what didn't work and what we needed to do next. It was just this "Yeah, we can do this!" movement. Now when C.I. got back to California, the infamous strategy session would take place, where a number of people working against the illegal war would discuss what worked and what didn't. From that would come The Common Ills. I had urged C.I. to do a "blog." I wasn't the only one. But in that compare notes session everyone was asking, "What didn't I do that I could have?" C.I. didn't want to "blog" -- mainly due to not knowing what a blog was. C.I. knew Danny Schechter's site and a few others. If C.I. was online, it was to e-mail.

But this is how C.I. is, C.I. went online and found out about blog hosts or whatever the term is. That was about twenty minutes of work. I found out about it because I was called asking, "I need a title! What do I call it?" C.I. was already setting it up and hadn't even thought of a title. I tossed around a few ideas and C.I. flipped one suggestion around and pulled a book by a scholar who had been a friend (Judith N. Shklar) and read through the first part over the phones. I said, "That's it! 'The Common Ills!'" So C.I. did a little introductory note that first night as soon as the site was set up.

On Saturday, the next day, C.I. did several entries. Mainly because, I'm not telling stories out of school, C.I. had no idea what to write. It was probably Sunday morning when I remembered, "My friend started a 'blog.'" So I logged on to check and I was impressed. There were a lot of comments to the posts. So I call and C.I. tells me about these e-mails that have come in. One was from Keesha and she was arguing for comments to be closed. Jim had written as well and so had a lot of others. I remember about those two for different reasons. Keesha's point was, as an African-American, she was always told there was a welcome mat out but if she had a criticism about a Democrat that had to do with affirmative action -- with a really sorry position on affirmative action -- and she posted it, she would get slammed. That stood out and C.I. was already talking about closing off comments then (but didn't know how to). It would be two weeks later before it would be closed (maybe three). The first time one of those Blue Dogs that haunted the comment threads made a racist remark and the comments were closed immediately.

What I remember about Jim's e-mail (hearing of it) was that he was very passionate about ending the illegal war (still is) and that in the time since Kerry's loss, he felt people were turning on the illegal war. He wasn't wrong. Jim saw what was coming and what we'd all see. WalkOn would drop it completely shortly and it would be forever before they picked it back up. (Norman Solomon, Joshua Frank and Danny Schechter were some of the ones criticizing the dropping of Iraq by WalkOn when it became obvious they had.) A woman whose name I won't try to spell (although I could and get it wrong without feeling bad since she so often gets her pop-cult writings wrong) wrote a piece that was calling for Iraq to be dropped as an issue. She denies that's what she wrote but it is what she wrote and Tom Hayden called her out on that publicly. By January 2005, I would hear Tom Hayden on the radio practically begging a host to focus on Iraq. There was no focus on Iraq.

So Jim was right there. He was also concerned about the nonsense that students didn't care about the illegal war. For those who've forgotten, with no polling, Cokie Roberts showed up on NPR the day after the election (the morning after) claiming that young people hadn't voted. Young people turned out in record numbers but once the myth gets started everyone repeats it. Such as the myth of "values voters" which C.I. called out in real time. That was a four-part series in one day. The New York Times pushed that lie and their polling data never supported it.
That made a huge impression on members.

But this was when the pattern for the site (and not being a blog) really changed. A stranger e-mailed about NPR. They had allowed someone to be an impartial critic of John Kerry's campaign. The media watchdogs (such as Media Matters) had offered critiques about how Robert Kagan was a war supporter so it wasn't fair for him to do that. C.I. took the criticism where it belonged. Forget war supporter, Kagan's wife worked for Dick Cheney in the White House. An NPR reporter whose husband worked for the Kerry campaign wasn't allowed to cover it. The issue was even an appearance of a conflict of interest. C.I. pointed out that a critic of the Kerry campaign shouldn't have a wife working for Dick Cheney. Kagan wasn't a Kerry supporter. The question of whether he was objective when his wife -- if Kerry won --would be out of a job raised the issue of an appeareance of conflict.

That was the first big attention entry. FAIR linked to it, so did many others. I used to make a big deal of that and point out, "You were linked to by ___ and ___ and . . ." C.I. would always get leery about that. (I even printed up pages that linked and made a huge deal out of the on air NPR mention.) C.I.'s attitude was, "If they're linking now and I treat it like it's something huge, what happens when they don't link?" That day would come, C.I. always knew it. You can't be independent and get linked.

There's also the fact that C.I. doesn't churn out 'greatest hits.' The whole point was to get people talking about Iraq and C.I. has been a huge success. When a site harassed a 14-year-old kid, C.I. didn't blink when it came to defending the child. That "news" site was a big site (may still be one) and they had C.I. on the permalinks. C.I. knew defending the child would mean losing the link and C.I. didn't blink twice. It doesn't matter now if people link or not, C.I.'s established a voice online. A community has been built.

But the e-mail on NPR really was showing where the site was going. People didn't want to post comments. They wanted someone to speak the truth and all you have to do is imply that's something not being discussed and C.I. will tackle it. C.I. is fearless.

I'll give two college examples. Let me note, this is how I remember it and C.I. may remember it differently. One of the examples even Rebecca hasn't written about, the other she's probably forgotten. I'll start with the latter. We were on campus. We were outside on a patio/balcony of a high building. Some little boy trying to be macho was saying that the peace movement (this was during Vietnam) was too 'feminine' and operated from 'fear' because 'girls' were afraid. He used as his example, hopping up on the barrier (that was chest level) and sitting on it. He said something like, "All you girls sit nicely in the chairs at the tables, you never sit up here." Well, actually, no one sat up there. C.I. stood up and Rebecca and I knew something was about to happen. C.I. went to where the barrier started, hopped up on it and walked all around it. People were freaking out and gasping. C.I. hopped down and told the guy, "Little boys who think they are daring rarely are." Point made.

The second is the one that I know Rebecca wants to tell. So let me repeat, this is how I remember it. Rebecca was dating a guy and he was an art student. He was doing his senior year project and it was going to be nudes. He was talented and had a campus reputation so there were some professors saying they'd do it. Early on, he asked C.I. and C.I.'s response was, "Forget it." Everyone began cancelling on the guy. They chickened out. When C.I. found out -- this was a week before the project was due -- C.I. said, "I'll do it." None of us believed it. We even forgot about it. Then it was time to go to the exhibit. I remember some guy had a hat like they wore in Vietnam, a peasant hat that, were I younger, I'd remember the name for. C.I. grabbed that on the way to the exhibit and wore it. (Grabbed it off the guy's head. The guy was flattered.) So we're walking in and there are all the senior exhibits and everyone's gloomed in front of one. When we make our way up to it, it's Rebecca's one-time boyfriend (they'd already broken up). It's all these incredible nude drawings and paintings and they're all of C.I.

Our mouths dropped. But C.I.'s attitude was that others who talked big chickened out (neither Rebecca or I had agreed to pose nude, just FYI). It was for art and the guy's project was falling apart. It was actually going to be multiple nudes and more abstract. But when all of his models backed out (including the big talking professors), C.I.'s attitude was, "People it's art! Grow up." Now Rebecca, C.I. and I shared an apartment in college. Rebecca was perfectly comfortable walking around nude. (You could say, "Those were the times"; however, she's still not too concerned. With her body, she can afford not to be.) But Rebecca will tell you she saw me topless once when I was having a huge fit (I was a teenager once) over a torn blouse that I didn't know was torn until I was getting ready for a date. We never saw C.I. undressed except in a towel. I mean, we'd have to go wake each other up if a phone call came in (we had one phone, in the living room) and sometimes we'd be walking in on what I'll politely term "an occupied bed" (such were the times). But we never saw C.I. nude. We didn't think, "Prude!" But we had noted that to each other, Rebecca and I. So it was a surprise to see the most clothed of our trio completely nude in drawing after drawing, painting after painting. C.I. got a painting and a drawing for the posing and still has them. The others sold out before the exhibit was over. The other exhibits usually had one painting sold. If they were lucky. But Rebecca's ex-boyfriend saw his entire project sell. (He still does art by the way and is very talented.)

But, my point, C.I. isn't someone you say "no" to. If you try to box in, C.I. will leap out of the box. One of our professors would always use the term "fearless." I never thought that was correct. More "I don't care." If it needs to be done and it's not being done, point it out to C.I. and it's not a "fearless" nature, it's more of a, "Someone has to say it." I draw the line because I know C.I. and know there is very much an awareness of potential fallout from some things. If it's really controversial, there will be fears. It will be done, but there are fears along the way. To me, that's more brave than someone who is fearless.

If that's not clear . . . I'm looking a glass of lemonaid so I'll use that as an example. If there's an attack on lemonaid and someone points it out to C.I. and C.I. likes/supports lemonaid, C.I. will speak up. C.I. will be fully aware that softdrink drinkers or apple juice drinkers may be offended. There will be, "How bad do you think it will get?" But C.I. will speak out for lemonaid. Knowing what could come as well as what more could come, but still speaking out, I don't see that as fearless. I see it more of confronting fears.

Did that explain the difference I see? I'm going to post this because if I wait, I'll pull the second story. Rebecca has many times. But remember, C.I. is perfectly welcome to say, "I don't know what she's talking about." (I don't think C.I. will care. I've told that to Rebecca before when she's written about the exhibit in a post and then called me to ask, "Do you think it's okay to share this story?") I should probably note that they were amazing art, the paintings and the drawings. Both Rebecca and I felt, "We should have done that!"

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, September 21, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, 'progress' is no where to be found in Iraq, the US loses weapons and the Iraqi resistance reportedly now has them, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Alaam News reports that a US family of five (three children) is seeking asylum in Finland "with local media speculating that it is opposition to the Iraq war" that has led the family to leave the United States and start over in Helenski this week. If true, it would be only the second time this decade that an "American citizen . . . [has] filed an asylum application in Finland during the current decade." Meanwhile IVAW's Michael Prysner (PSL) reports, "The number of deserters is also steadily climbing, with official numbers now reaching over 10,000 since the war began. Many believe these numbers may actually be much higher. The G.I. Rights Hotline reports an average of 3,000 calls a month by new recruits and active duty soldiers who have decided they want to abandon the military. . . . Soldiers against the war have begun organizing within the military. Active duty soldiers started the Appeal for Redress, a petition calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. It was formulated less than a year ago, and has collected over 2,000 signatures of soldiers currently serving in the military. Membership in Iraq Veterans Against the War is nearing 600. . . . Soldiers like Lt. Ehren Watada and Camilo Mejia have set the example, publicly refusing deployment and condemning the war for its illegal and immoral nature."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Derek Hess, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko,Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

Peter Hart spoke with Anthony Arnove (
IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal) on this week's CounterSpin (airing on most radio stations today) about the issue of contractors.

Anthony Arnove: There is effectively a doubling of the US occupation in Iraq right now through the employment of private contractors of whom as many as 50,000 are armed -- effectively private mercenaries working in the employee of the US occupation. Blackwater is operating under the employment of the State Department. What's interesting is that very early on in the US occupation, Paul Bremer -- who was acting as the colonial viceroy -- in his capacity of head of the Coalition Provision Authority deliberately exempted these mercenaries and other US contractors from Iraqi law. And they've created basically a legal black hole in which these mercenaries can operate without any accountability. And the few times there have been incidents in which Iraqis tried to pursue contractors for violations they've been skirted out of the country so as not to have to face any prosecution. They do technically fall under rules of engagement set down for US contractors -- whether that's Pentagon rules or State Department rules. But like we've seen with active duty troops who've engaged in abuses of human rights in Iraq, there's really been no accountability certainly not up the chain of command.

No accountability. And Bremer and the CPA were nothing but a shell game. Bremer stripped Iraqis of oversight and, in fact, the US may not have any legal right to oversight as well. As Naomi Klein explains in her new book
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism:

Bremer's CPA would not try to stop the various scams, side deals and shell games because the CPA was itself a shell game. Though it was billed as the U.S. occupation authority, it's unclear that it held that distinction in anything other than name. This point was forcefully made by a judge in the infamous Custer Battles corruption case.
Two former employees of the security firm launched a whistle-blower lawsuit against the company, accusing it of cheating on reconstruction-related contracts with the CPA and defrauding the U.S. governments produced by the company that clearly showed it was keeping two sets of numbers -- one for itself, one for invoicing the CPA Retired Brigadier-General Hugh Tant testified that the fraud was "probably the worst I've ever seen in my 30 years in the army." (Among Custer Battles' many alleged violations, it is said to have appropriated Iraqi-owned forklifts from the airport, repainted them and billed the CPA for the cost of leasing the machines.)
In March 2006, a federal jury in Virginia ruled against the company, finding it guilty of fraud, and forced it to pay $10 million in damages. The company then asked the judge to overturn the verdict, with a revealing defense. It claimed that the CPA was not part of the U.S. government, and therefore not subject to its laws, including the False Claims Act. The implications of this defense were enormous: the Bush administration had indemnified U.S. corporations working in Iraq from any liability under Iraqi laws; if the CPA wasn't subject to U.S. law either, it meant that the contractors weren't subjected to any law at all -- U.S. or Iraqi. This time, the judge ruled in the company's favor: he said there was plenty of evidence that Custer Battles had submitted to the CPA "false and fraudulently inflated invoices," but he ruled that the plaintiffs had "failed to prove that the claims were presented to the United States." In other words, the U.S. government presence in Iraq during the first year of its economic experiment had been a mirage -- there had been no government, just a funnel to get U.S. taxpayer and Iraqi oil dollars to foreign corporations, completely outside the law. In this way, Iraq represented the most extreme expression of the anti-state counter-revolution -- a hollow state, where, as the courts finally established, there was no there, there.

Contractors in Iraq -- with the permission of the US government and sometimes on the orders of the US government -- have been allowed to act with impunity.
Daniel Howden and Leonard Doyle (Independent of London) provide a look at the rise of outsourcing governmental tasks and note, "A high-ranking US military commander in Iraq said: 'These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There's no authority over them, so you can't come down on them hard when they escalate force. They shoot people.' In Abu Ghraib, all of the translators and up to half of the interrogators were reportedly private contractors."
Rosa Brooks (Los Angeles Times) also addresses the reality of governmental tasks being sold off to the private section, "What's been happening in Iraq -- and in Afghanistan, Columbia, Somalia and the Pentagon and the State Department -- goes far beyond the 'outsourcing of key military and security jobs.' For years, the administration has been quietly auctioning off U.S. foreign policy to the highest corporate bidder -- and it may be too late for us to buy it back. Think I'm exaggerating? Look at Blackwater. Its $750-million contract with the U.S. State Department employees in Iraq is just one of many lucrative U.S. (and foreign) government contracts it has enjoyed (and it's a safe bet that Sunday's episode will be only a minor PR setback for Blackwater). As for Blackwater's most recent slaughter, Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reconstructs the events on Sunday via eye witness testimony: " We have found no Iraqi present at the scene who saw or heard sniper fire. Witnesses say the first victims of the shootings were a couple with their child, the mother and infant meeting horrific deaths, their bodies fused together by heat after their car caught fire. The contractors, according to this account, also shot Iraqi soldiers and police and Blackwater then called in an attack helicopter from its private air force which inflicted further casualties." Apparently unable to speak to Iraqis, Sabrina Tavernise and James Glanz (New York Times) rely on a leaked report from the Ministry of the Interior which "has concluded that employees of a private American security firm fired an unprovoked barrage in the shooting last Sunday," "that the dozens of foreign security companies here should be replaced by Iraqi companies, and that a law that has given the companies immunity for years be scrapped" -- and the reporters offer: "The Iraqi version of events may be self-serving in some points." And the US version may be what? Tavernise and Glanz ignore that prospect. Blackwater's apparently ignoring some things as well. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes, "In Iraq, the private security firm Blackwater USA is reportedly back on the streets of Baghdad despite an announced ban on its activities. The Iraqi government said it had revoked Blackwater's license this week after its guards killed up to twenty-eight Iraqis in an unprovoked mass shooting. But a Pentagon spokesperson said today Blackwater is guarding diplomatic convoys following talks with the Iraqi government." So, as Ian Thompson (PSL) judged it, "Even the Iraqi puppet government leadership spoke up -- but its words were hot air. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki wants to gain credibility and appear to be independent of his U.S. colonial masters." The events appear to answer Thursday's question ("For the US government, it's a quandry: Do they use this moment to provide al-Maliki with a chance to alter his image or do they continue to let greed rule?"): Greed again won out.

Self-serving? Sabrina Tavernise and James Glanz apply that to the report from Iraq's Interior Ministry and it's doubtful they'd ever use the term for the upcoming US report. Along with the issue of equality, there's also the fact that the term is flat out wrong. The Interior Ministry is not self-serving, it's US-serving.
Dropping back to the September 6th snapshot:

Turning to retired generals,
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) reported today, "A panel of retired US generals is urging the United States to disband and reorganize the Iraqi police force because of infiltration by sectarian militias. The generals also report Iraq's security forces will be unable to fulfill their essential security responsibilities independently for at least another twelve to 18 months." Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) explains that the national police force as well as the Iraq Interior Ministry are "riddled with sectarianism and corruption" by the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq headed by James Jones (Marine general) in there 150-plus page report which also finds the Iraqi army at least a year to 18 months away from being able to handle "internal security". Tim Reid (Times of London) reports, "The 20 member-panel also said today that the Iraqi Army was incpable of acting independently from US forces for at least another 18 months, and 'cannot yet meaningfully contribute to denying terrorists safe haven'."

The militias of the Interior Ministry are thugs who terrorize. Who trained them? Who introduced the "Salvador option"? The US. Who has refused to disband them? The US. Self-serving? The Interior Ministry wishes it were self-serving. Then it could really go to town slaughtering 'enemies.' It wouldn't have to worry that one of the many torture chambers they are running might result in a US military 'rescue' of their torture victims. If they were independent and self-serving, all of their torture chambers would be signed off on and not just some.

Today on
NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Rehm spoke with the Washington Post's Karen DeYoung, the Wall St. Journal's Neil King Jr. and Newsweek's Michael Hirsh about a number of topics. On the topic of Blackwater, Hirsh declared, "Often all that happens is that the employee is spirited out of the country. That happened last Christmas Eve when a Blackwater employee shot and killed a guard to a senior Iraqi official inside the Green Zone which was obviously a little politically toxic. And he left, the company has since refused to disclose his name and he has not been prosecuted."

Neil King, Jr. (Wall Street Journal): The thing that is extraordinary about it is that we had the Petraeus hearings last weekend or last week, and all the discussion "we want Iraq to be a country, we want it to step up, we want it to meet all these benchmarks" etc. And yet we don't really actually treat it as a country to the extent that we've got thousands of our own nationals driving around with machine guns and opening fire on people and then being totally immune from the law and as is the case of this shooting last week -- sorry, last December -- where a person shot a security guard who was the personal security guard of the vice-president of Iraq and the person's spirited out of the country. Nobody ever knows what his name was and he's gone. There'll never be -- I mean if you reverse the scenario and imagine any remote corrolary to that in the United States which is literally unimaginable.

A point the paper of record misses. Self-serving also wasn't applied by the New York Times to any of Gen. David Petraeus' many laughable reports to Congress. Rather strange considering
Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London via CounterPunch) was reporting in the midst of the dog & pony show on how Petraues was explaining how he wanted to be President as early as 2004 but thought 2008 would be too soon to run. As Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reported earlier this week, safety "is deteriorating in southern Iraq as rival Shiite militia vying for power have stepped up their attacks after moving out of Baghdad to avoid U.S.-led military operations, according to the latest quarterly Pentagon report on Iraq". If it all sounds familiar it's because it's the same story that's been playing out over and over across Iraq. But this was hailed last week as 'progress.' Let's stick with 'progress' for a bit. Remember how the meaningless soccer victories didn't change anything but were hailed with waves of Operation Happy Talk? Strangely, that's not been the case for a title Iraq actually won. The title? Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reported mid-week that "Iraq holds the world record for both the first and second highest amounts taken in the history of bank robberies." Number one! Number one! In fact, the chart accompanies the article reveals that four of the top five Iraq bank robberies have taken place this year for a total of $282 million (US equivalent). And how about the 'progress' in the spreading of cholera? What had been a crisis for nothern Iraq is now reaching into Baghdad with Andrew E. Kramer (New York Times) reporting that there are now two confirmed cases of cholera in Baghdad. And it's not stopping at Baghdad. Katrina Kratovac (AP) reports that "a baby in Basra" is "the farthest south the outbreak has been detected." "Progress"? Robert Burns (AP) reports that Iraqis control approximately 8 percent of Baghdad -- only 8 percent -- which Burns points out is not a large growth even though Maj Gen Joseph Fil claims it is, "Despite the slow pace of progress towards having Iraqi forces maintain control of Baghdad neighborhoods with minimal U.S. troop presence, Fil said he was hopeful that it would accelerate in coming months." He's hopeful -- that's supposed to have us all glowing.

Well maybe there's 'progress' to be found in oil news? Tuesday
Press TV reported on the bombing outside Beiji of an oil pipeline "causing huge quanties of crude oil to spill into the Tigris River" which has "caused oil to seep into the Tigris River damaging water stations and triggering their temporary closure in Tikrit". And the Tigris flows. Last night AP reported, "City officials urged Baghdad residents Thursday to conserve water and fill up their tanks in case water treatment stations have to be shut down because of an oil spill in the Tigris River." Progress? Just more violence.

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Hawija bombing of the home "of the former chief of Hawija police". Reuters reports 1 Romanian soldier dead from a Tallil bombing that left five more injured, a Kirkuk roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 Iraqi police officer, an Iskandariya mortar attack that claimed 1 life (three more injured)


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 8 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and three female corpses in Basra. Reuters notes that three corpses were discovered in Yusufiya and 1 in Bajwan.

Today the
US military announced: "A soldier assigned to Task Force Lightning died in a non-combat related incident in Kirkuk province Sept. 20." And they announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier was killed in Diyala Province Thursday when an explosion occurred near his vehicle." The deaths bring the total number of US service members killed in the illegal war since it began in March of 2003 to 3794 (ICCC). That's six announced deaths away from the 3800 mark.

Finally, the
CBS Evening News' Armen Keteyian looks into the missing weapons "the U.S. military could not account for" (190,000 of them) and discovers a large number of the Glock pistols have ended up in the hands of the Iraqi resistance: "According to an intelligence source, the U.S. contractor in charge of the Glocks somehow lost track of an entire shipment. That mysterious disappeance is now part of a massive military bribery investigation centered around a contracting office run out of a small trailer at a military base in Kuwait. Eighteen federal investigators are digging into the actions of dozens of high-ranking U.S officers and military contractors."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman

I'm way behind in the e-mails. If you've written, my apologies because I probably haven't even read it. The focus has been on DC and being active. I'm back home (just back) and that's because I'm not missing the Thursday night group. I read four and hope to read more before Saturday (Sunny's on vacation this week and she and her husband are using it to take a nice trip). But two mentioned "again" or "agains". The cover of Naomi Klein's book was supposed to be scanned against the vinyl album covers of either (or both) the Mamas and the Papaps Deliver and The Papas & the Mamas. I left out the "t" or the "st." It seems to have caused confusion. By the way, I don't go back and fix typos. If I've got an error, that's one thing. But, in the few times of my life when I've kept a journal, I've just written (by hand) and moved on. I've carried the same attitude over to this.

"50,000 Iraqis Displaced Since July" (Democracy Now!):
In other Iraq news, new figures show the number of displaced Iraqis his risen by about fifty-thousand since July. The International Organization for Migration says more than two million, two-hundred twenty-five thousand Iraqis have fled their homes since the US invasion.

Of course, there are other displaced Iraqis. The ones imprisoned by the US military. In the snapshot at the end, C.I. notes the fact that there are eleven-year-old children being held in US prisons in Iraq. If that's not disgusting enough for you, wait. A US military general brags about a religious conversion they'll do on the children to "break" them. The number's actually probably far higher than 25,000. But do people grasp how many the official figure is? Prior to the start of the illegal war the official population estimate for Iraq was approximately 26 million. A million have died in the illegal war and approximately two million have left Iraq (externally displaced -- the headline is on the internally displace). That's three million. So out of a population of 23 million, the US military is holding 26,000. I'm very tired but I believe that's one official prisoner for every thousand people. Is that right? Do the math and see how off I am. If the population was still at 26,000,000 (which it isn't), 26,000 are imprisoned.

"State Dept. IG Accused of Covering Up Iraq Fraud" (Democracy Now!):
One of the Bush administration’s top oversight officials is being accused of repeatedly thwarting probes of contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Tuesday, Congressmember Henry Waxman said State Department inspector general Howard Krongard has censored reports and closed investigations to avoid embarrassing the White House. Krongard is accused of refusing to send investigators to Iraq and Afghanistan to probe three billion dollars in contracts. He's also said to have personally intervened to clear labor abuse charges against the lead contractor building the US Embassy in Baghdad. The allegations are based on testimony from seven current and former members of Krongard’s staff, as well as private emails. Krongard took the job in May 2005. He had no previous experience at the State Department.

That's self explanatory. I'd rather turn to an item C.I. notes in the snapshot. In the Kudistan region of Iraq, young women are showing up at hospitals burned. They're saying it was a cooking accident. There's an estimate of one a day. The region has had 'honor killings' but a Newsweek writer thinks what you have is some lovesick girls playing 'copycat.' That is so ridiculous and so offensive.

Young women are endangered and Newsweek wants to provide cover with another dopey myth (like their false claim in the eighties that it was easier for a woman of a certain age to be killed by a terrorist than to get married).

That Newsweek thinks they can again create a 'trend' story and ignore reality is only more offensive when you grasp that Iraqi women are already suffering before a glossy 'news' magazine decides to spin a few tales for their own amusement.

I wish I had more to write tonight. I know everyone blogging tonight is on their way home. (We came back with Rebecca and Flyboy.) So I'll assume everyone is as tired as Mike (he's here) and I are. When I was booting up the laptop, I thought I had something to write about at length but that didn't turn out to be the case.

Mike just had an idea. He pointed out that none of us have noted the Jena Six and we could do an excerpt of Amy Goodman's latest column (which is on that topic) and just make our posts Amy Goodman posts. Today, Democracy Now! offered four stories on the Jena Six, "White School Board Member in Jena Says District Attorney Reed Walters Prevented the Board from Seeing School's Internal Investigation Before Vote to Expel Jena Six," "Harlem Residents Head to Jena Louisiana for Rally to Free the Jena Six," "Voices from Jena: White School Board Member Accuses Jena Six of Committing a Hate Crime, Says Nooses Were Hung from a Schoolyard Tree 'In a Joking Manner'" and "Voices from Jena: African American Educator from Jena Accuses DA of Conflict of Interest in Handling of Jena Six Case." That's not the first coverage from the show on this topic. Yesterday's "Thousands Expected to March in Jena to Protest Pending Charges Against High School Students" included an interview with one mother of the Jenna Six. So you can use those as background if you haven't caught the coverage already (independent coverage).

"Tipping the Scales of Justice in Jena" (Amy Goodman, Common Dreams):
The tree at Jena High School has been cut down, but the furor around it has only grown.
"What did the tree do wrong?" asked Katrina Wallace, a stepsister of one of the Jena Six, when I interviewed her at the Burger Barn in Jena, La. "I planted it 14 years ago as a tree of knowledge."
It all began at the start of the school year in 2006, at a school assembly, when Justin Purvis asked if he could sit under the schoolyard tree, a privilege unofficially reserved for white students. The next morning, three nooses were hanging from its broad, leafy branches.
African-American students protested, gathering under the tree. Soon after, the district attorney, Reed Walters, came to the school with the police, threatening, "I could end your lives with the stroke of a pen." Racial tensions mounted in this 85 percent white town of 4,000. In December, a schoolyard fight erupted, and the district attorney charged six African-American high school students, the soon to be dubbed Jena Six, with second-degree attempted murder.
I recently visited Billy "Bulldog" Fowler in his office. He's a white member of the LaSalle Parish School Board. He says Jena is being unfairly painted as racist. He feels the hanging nooses were blown out of proportion, that in the high school setting it was more of a prank: "This is the Deep South, and [older] black people know the meaning of a noose. Let me tell you something-young people don't."
That night, I went to see the Baileys in their mobile home in Ward 10, one of the black neighborhoods in Jena. Two of the Jena Six, Robert Bailey and Theo Shaw, were ironing their clothes. I asked them what they thought when they saw the nooses. Robert immediately said: "The first thing came to mind was the KKK. I don't know why, but that was the first thing that came to my head. I used to always think the KKK chase black people on horses, and they catch you with rope."
Theo said he thought the students who hung the nooses "should have got expelled, cuz it wasn't no prank. It was a threat." School principal Scott Whitcomb thought the same. He recommended expulsion of those who hung the nooses, but the superintendent overruled him, imposing three days of suspension. Whitcomb resigned.

There will be a big march in Jenna tomorrow. That's going to be it for me tonight. I'll post again Friday. Hopefully, I will have read some of the e-mails waiting.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, September 19, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, when the 3800 marker is reached (3800 US service members killed in the illegal war) will anyone know, bad news keeps on coming for the mercenary company Blackwater, Newsweek (which once invented a 'marriage crisis' for women in the 80s) turns their creative 'minds' to young Iraqi women, the US military brags of the 11-year-old children they hold in Iraq prisons, and more.

Starting with war resistance, today on
KPFK's Morning Review with Gabriel Gutierrez, Gutierrez spoke with two members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, war resister Agustin Aguayo and Maricela Guzman (also with the Service Women Action Network) about their experiences speaking with students about the Iraq War.

Maricela Guzman: For me, when I go to schools, I definitely talk about my perspective in the service. I think it's really important to go to that route. And I do tell them about my experience specifically as a woman veteran. I do tell them that I was assaulted in the service, sexually assaulted when I was in boot camp. And I think it's really important for them to know this and it's been very difficult for me to tell my story over and over but it's really important for them to know this because I want them to understand that there are risks when you join such an organization like this. So it's very critical. And for me, what I've found, I've gotten really good feedback from the kids and I've had, you know I've talked about suicide, my suicide attempt. And I've had kids -- I've talked about seeing a psychologist and it's a big taboo when you go to these communities and this is something we don't talk about -- I'm Chicana and it's something definitely my family would never talk about. For me, talking to these kids afterwards, them coming up and telling me, "This is what happened to me. I was assaulted" or "I've tried suicide." I think, for me, that's very critical. And we're including these organic conversations when we're going to these schools -- even besides military.

Gutierrez asked Aguayo what helped him "make the determination" not to return to Iraq?

Agustin Aguayo: To me, honestly, it wasn't a hard decision once I decided that I could never go back. Basically because I experienced a moral awakening and I was forced to realize who I was. And I had to accept that I could deny myself and cause all this violence against myself or I could stand up and say, "No, I believe this is wrong and I'm willing to accept any consequences." And in the end I think it gave me a . . . feeling of great freedom. So that is . . . a personal moral determination to do what I felt was right is what helped me the most.

Gabriel Gutierrez: And your wife Helga and your two daughters have been involved in the campaign to bring awareness to your case but also in its aftermath once you've now returned. What type of work has that led to with regard to awareness and with regard to work with young people specifically?

Agustin Aguayo: Yes, I've had the privilege of speaking supporting groups that have helped other war resisters, the growing number of them. And now I'm in the position to share with them what I've been through and they, of course, these resisters that are in this path, this crossroads: "What am I going to do?" I've had the privilege of sharing my experience with them and inspiring them. And one of the happiest things I'm pleased with is the
Arlington West Film and speakers program and I think in the peace work nothing is really more important than educating our young because our future really depends on how we take care of our young today and educating them. So going into inner city schools is just so important. And veterans sometimes, we're hesitant. And sometimes we really want to forget everything we've been through, everything we've experienced, our military experience, but I think we owe it to our young people. They need to know what's going on, what we experienced.

Gutierrez asked what the reaction was from students, teachers and recruiters when they speak in schools?

Maricela Guzman: Well for me, it's definitely been very difficult. I know I've been on panels -- it was this year sometime, we went to Fairfax -- and Agustin was in jail at that time and we had a panel, we had recruiters veterans that were for the war and we had Helga and we really got a good reception. It was very interesting because we weren't sure what was going to happen. And really what it came down to was that it was the kids who were asking the hard questions. So it was empowering these kids to ask the questions that needed to be asked. And the most important thing was that they heard from family members. You know, we have a lot of family members . . . who talk to these kids. We don't tell them don't be against the war. We talk about our experiences. We're storytellers we tell them of what we've gone through and I think that's why it's been such a successful program. We've become a family, we've definitely become a family, the people that do this work, the Aguayos are a family to me.

Agustin Aguayo: I think the community, administrators, are very receptive because of our tact and like Maricela said the way we share our stories Basically that's what we do. And I think our stories are so powerful in themselves even people that are for the war which I mean at this point, even people who don't want us to go out they really can't say much because all we are doing is sharing stories and nothing is more powerful than the truth.

As pointed out
Arlington West Film is "doing the work that the mainstream media is not doing". Friday, September 28th, there will be a benefit performance of the musical Hair at 8:00 pm at the MET Theater, 1089 No. Oxford Avenue, Hollywood, CA 90029 with Aguayo and Cindy Sheehan among the speakers.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Derek Hess, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko,Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

In other peace news,
United for Peace & Justice states they are using the Just Foreign Policy count for Iraqis who have died in the illegal war. The report on the state of Iraq has been updated to note the Iraqi dead during the illegal war is over a million. United for Peace & Justice (along with others) will begin Iraq Moratorium on September 21st and follow it every third Friday of the month as people across the country are encouraged to wear and distribute black ribbons and armbands, purchase no gas on those Fridays, conduct vigils, pickets, teach-ins and rallies, etc. That's this Friday. On Sunday, Christine Anne Piesyk (Tennessee's Clarksville Online) provided a list of some actions that will take place:.

Each of these individuals and groups -- a list too long to print here -- have something in common: each have signed up to support the Iraq Moratorium, which will make its debut as a national movement on Friday, September 21. Wear and distribute black ribbons and armbands Buy no gas on moratorium days Pressure politicians and media Hold vigils, pickets, rallies and teach-ins Hold special religious services Coordinate events in art, music and culture Host film screenings, talks and educational events Organize student actions: teach-ins, school closings Iraq Moratorium is designed to take the issue to the people, and no event or action is to small to be of merit in opposing the Iraq war.

Turning to the topic of Blackwater USA, the mercenaries that got into Iraq due to crony connections and whom Paul Bremer made above the law during his reign of King of Iraq before fleeing the country.
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes today, "The private military contractor Blackwater is now believed to have killed twenty Iraqi civilians in a mass-shooting Sunday in Baghdad. The Iraqi government revoked Blackwater's license amidst reports nine civilians were killed when Blackwater guards opened fire. Blackwater says it responded after coming under attack from a roadside bomb. But in its initial report on the shooting, Iraq's Interior Ministry says the guards shot at a small vehicle that failed to make way for Blackwater's convoy to pass. An Iraqi couple and their infant were killed in the attack. The New York Times reports video footage of the shooting shows the child burned to the mother's body after their car caught fire. Blackwater guards and helicopters are then believed to have fired indiscriminately." In the New York Times, Sabrina Tavernise and James Glanz reported this morning that the Ministry of Interior's preliminary report on the incidnet found "that Blackwater security guards were not ambushed, as the company reported, but instead fired at a car when it did not heed a policeman's call to stop, killing a couple and their infant." Joshua Partlow (Washington Post) addresses the issue of stopping and the police officer via . . . interviews (take note NYT): "Traffic police officer Sarhan Dhia, 34, said he was standing under the Iraqi flags next to his white guard shack along the traffic circle when he saw the convoy of at least four armored vehicles approch, traveling against the flow of traffic. He said he jumped out into an intersecting street to prevent cars from entering the circle while the convoy passed. The next thing he knew, he said, gunfire erupted." Sarhan Dhia says there was no bombing. Blackwater originally claimed that their mercenaries were 'returning fire' after they had been shot at. They then declared that their indiscriminate spraying of a civilian area with bullets was their way of responding to car bombing. Their stories -- like the civilian area they shot up -- is riddled with holes. Leila Fadel and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) also operate under the belief that reporting requires speaking to eye witnesses and they speak with Hassan Jaber Salma and Sami Hawas Karim (an attorney and a taxi driver respectively) who both -- as does every other eye witnesses quoted in press accounts -- maintain that Blackwater "opened fire without provocation" and the reporters note the ever changing story by Blackwater. Interior Ministry spokesperson Ali al Dabbagh tells McClatchy Newspapers that, "No country in the world would allow the way they [Blackwater] are operating in Iraq." Multiple outlets (including McClatchy and the New York Times) report that Blackwater helicopters also fired on civilians in the Sunday slaughter. CBS and AP cite eye witness Suhad Mizra who stepped outside of her hair salon ("about 250 meters" from the incident) and remebers, "The sounds attracted my attention so I went outside the shop to see a convoy of SUVs with security guards shooting randomly at the people at low level. We were surprised by this and we rushed inside our shops to avoid random bullets. Apparently, the guards wanted to make their way through the traffic jam made by Iraqi army checkpoint. There was no provocation and the guards were using their ammunition to move quicker in the street. Minutes later, the ambulances arrived to up the wounded and dead." Reality is that this has long been the procedure: to ram through Iraq so that the "high levels" didn't have to wait. An important question the press should be asking is: Who was Blackwater transporting? Among the many times this has happened before, Anne Garrels (All Things Considered, NPR) reports on one: "NPR witnessed a similar scenario two years ago. A State Department convoy, protected by Blackwater, raced out of a compound. Guards immediately shot at the car killing an old man, his son and his daughter-in-law. Blackwater said the car was driving erratically. A U.S. military investigation concluded Blackwater had used excessive force. No one was prosecuted.

Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) informs, "Blackwater is now being accused of another fatal shooting of an Iraqi civilian. An Iraqi engineer living in Britain has revealed Blackwater guards shot his seventy-five year old father in the southern Iraqi town of Hilla last month. Safaa Rabee says his father had pulled over to the side of the road to let a Blackwater convoy pass. But Rabee says the last vehicle in the convoy opened fire when his father pulled back on to the road. An Iraqi police chief told Rabee he has no legal recourse to pursue his father's killers." As the US government continues to attempt damage control, many more of these stories are likely to come out.

Newsweek continues to prove it is the gutter of all news weeklies. In the 'safe' Kurdistan region of Iraq (not safe -- but Newsweek needs their fantasies), young women (teenagers) are showing up at hospitals with burns and many are dying from them (since August 10th alone, 25 young women have died) and the best guess Newsweek can offer is that it's a copy-cat trend by romantic teenage females. As with their notion of the region being 'peaceful,' their notion of women is ridiculously out of touch. Young women have been repeatedly targeted in that area, they've been kidnapped and forced into marriages, they've been persecuted for not being the right sect, go down the list. But romantic young women self-mutilating (to the death!) is the myth they toss out. .

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a roadside bombing in Kirkuk that left five wounded "(four of them are policemen while the fifth man is a civilian)".


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack in Mosul in which 1 Iraqi soldier died, 14 unidentified people died and four Iraqi soldiers were wounded.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports eight corpses discovered in Baghdad.

CBS and AP report: "The military said five U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq Tuesday. Three died following an explosion near their patrol northeast of Baghdad. Another soldier was killed in a vehicle accident in the northern province of Ninevah. On Wednesday, the military said another soldier had been killed in an attack in southern Baghdad. The Multi-National Division-Baghdad soldier was killed by small arms fire while conducting combat operations Tuesday in a southern section of the Iraqi capital, according to a brief military statement. The soldiers' names were not released pending notification of relatives. The deaths raised to at least 3,787 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count." Maybe. (Not a slap down. We noted the string along announcements numbered five deaths this morning.) Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed during a small arms fire attack while conducting combat operations in a southern section of the Iraqi capital Sept. 18." That is in the count of five. Later today, the US military announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier died of a non-battle related cause, Wednesday, in Sala ad Din Province." And they announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed during combat operations in an area weat of the Iraqi captial Sep 19." Reuters count is 3786 since the start of the illegal war. ICCC's total is 3791 US service members killed in the illegal war thus far. The reason for the confusion? M-NF is supposed to announce deaths with the Defense Dept later announcing the names of the dead (after next of kin is notified). But M-NF has been slacking on the job -- it's not a tough job, they just issue press releases all day long. They've 'suceeded' in hiding the dead. And with the 3800 mark looming, let's not kid and pretend this is just an accident. M-NF has a pattern of doing this when every realities are in conflict with the spin coming out of the White House. ICCC has period details and their count includes deaths never announced by M-NF but announced by the Defense Dept when the DoD provides the names of the dead. ICCC's period details indicate that six deaths took place on Tuesday -- six deaths that have been announced.

In other number news,
Prensa Latina reports that there are 25,000 Iraqis imprisoned by the US -- up from 10,000 "a year ago." IRIN reveals that the Iraqi Lawyers Association is asking the parliament to provide the location of all prisoners currently being held and that "[l]awyers representing families of Iraqi detainees have accused the government of concealing information about detainees, including their whereabouts" quoting attorney Ayad Daraji stating, "Hundreds of Iraqis have been detained by the Iraqi police or army in the past three years and their locations and conditions are unknown. There is no evidence as to whether they are alive or not. Families aren't allowed to visit them and this raises big questions about the detainees' situation." As the numbers grow and families often have no idea that members have been imprisoned, Walter Pincuse (Washington Post) reports on a program entitled "religious entitlement" that the US military is using on the prisoners "some of whom are as young as 11" according Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone who brags that the programs will "bend them back to our will." The age should cause further alarm but the realities don't appear to even be sinking in. For instance, CBS News (or "News") Keach Hagey sees it as a topic to have some funnin' with: "But what really emerges from the article -- a summary of a conference call Stone held from Baghdad with a group of defense bloggers -- is a portrait of Stone as a formidable character who's almost as fun to quote as Donald Rumsfeld was." Hagey and others need it get it through their thick skulls that this isn't 'cute' or 'funny' or even 'new.'

Yesterday, Naomi Klein's
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism was released in the US. In it, she details "the love shack" in the Guantanamo prison used as a reward to those terrorized and broken down. There's not a damn bit of difference here except for the fact that the Iraqi prisoners are supposed to be protected by Geneva with no waiver. Though Hagey can't grasp reality staring in his face, it's not 'funny' that 11-year-olds are prisoners. It's not 'funny' that the US -- having taken these children from their families -- think they can 'break' them and rebuild them to their liking. That is what The Shock Doctrine outlines. Erasing memory, starting with a clean slate, refusal to see people as people but as pawns for the US to play with. Those who don't grasp how disgraceful this is are either playing dumb or are historically ignorant. It is not the right of the US military to snatch children from their homes and attempt to do some reprogramming of them. That is a crime and it is in violation of Geneva.

Elaine (Like Maria Said Paz) wrote about the Free Sami Al-Haj -- a journalist imprisoned in Guantanamo for over five years now and subject to the same torture and disregard for basic rights as every other prisoner in Guantanamo -- and concluded, " The real terrorism is the silence we allow ourselves to be forced into out of fear." Or out of stupidty as is the case with Keach Hagey.

In other non-progress news,
Alissa J. Rubin and James Glanz (New York Times) cover the upcoming Red Cross report on Iraqi refugees which notes the "radically reshaping" taking place in Iraq (not unlike the aims in the US prison) which indicates "partitioning the country into semiautonomous Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish enclaves would not be easy" (impossible actually because the three divisions ignore Iraq's minority populations) and note, "The migration data, which are expected to be released this week by the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization but were given in advance to The New York Times, indicate that in Baghdad alone there are now nearly 170,000 families, accounting for almost a million people, that have fled their homes in search of security, shelter, water, electricity, functioning schools or jobs to support their families. The figures show that many families move twice, three times or more, first fleeing immediate danger and then making more considered calculations based on the availability of city services or schools for their children." Peter Apps (Reuters) gets to the point quickly, "Iraq's humanitarian crisis is getting worse and more Iraqis are fleeing their homes despite the recent surge of U.S. troops, aid workers say, with donors reluctant to fund support for millions of displaced. Last week, President George W. Bush presented a relatively upbeat picture of conditions in Iraq and said forces could be cut by around 20,000 by next July. He linked the reduction to improvements on the ground particularly in Baghdad where the surge was centred and the volatile Anbar governorate." There is no improvement for Iraqis. There is, however, the US military bragging that they will "break" 11-year-old prisoners -- how proud their parents must be.
Finally, a voice for peace passed away Friday. As
Amy Goodman (DemocracyNow!) noted on Monday, Dave Cline a founder of Vietnam Veterans Against the War passed away. Margaret Prescod noted the passing Tuesday on KPFK's Sojourner Truth, IVAW's Michael Hoffman offers a look back at Cline. Veterans for Peace has a memorial online and they have created a fund to cover the expenses of Cline's burial. At Sir! No Sir!, director David Zeiger writes of Cline, "Dave and I were from different worlds. I was a middle class kid who came to my opposition to the war and growing radicalism intellectually. Dave, a working class kid from Buffalo, had joined the army and had been wounded three times in Vietnam. It was his last wound, from an NLF soldier at point blank range, that changed everything. The soldier shattered Dave's knee, and Dave killed him with a bullet in the chest. His first realization was it was "pure luck" that he was alive and the other guy was dead. Then it hit him that there was no real difference between the two of them. Finally, the epiphany: It was the NLF
soldier who was fighting for a just cause, while Dave and his comrades were fighting for a lie. In typical Dave Cline fashion he concluded in 1970, 'I had to kill a revolutionary to become a revolutionary.' "

agustin aguayo

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Isaiah, Free Sami Al-Haj and more

Last week, I attempted to prove (here) to an e-mailer that I had read the book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein. He saw the discussion ("Book: Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine") and writes the cover convinced him. Should I let sleeping dogs lie? We didn't do that scan. Community member Vic did that scan. My copy has "No Logo" mentioned under the title. We didn't pack a scanner on the trip to DC. C.I. put in calls to friends and also checked with community members in England and Canada where the book was already released to see if they (a) had it and (b) could scan a copy. Jim was actually supposed to scan it before leaving California to join everyone in D.C. He forgot. So that scan in from Vince and it's the cover of the Canadian copy. If the US copy released today has No Logo mentioned at the top (as in the scan), then they've changed the cover because mine is mentioned below. As long as I'm talking about the cover, one thing that was cut (of many things) from the book discussion was Mike's comment about the cover. He saw the original which featured a wonderful photo of Naomi Klein. This was a test cover over a year ago. She may have felt it was too cheesecakey. (I didn't think it was but it did put the attention squarely on her as opposed to the topic of the book.) Mike had weighed in that had that been used, it probably would've moved off shelves easier. I actually agree with that. (I don't remember what Klein was wearing -- it wasn't a bathing suit, it wasn't a cheesecake pose -- but it was a very nice photo of her and her hair was blonde and not the reddish color it is in the tiny photo on the inside jacket.) (Mike wrote about the test cover at the time. C.I. had been sent it and loved it but had dropped it in the mail to Mike to get another opinion.) (We also discussed the test Klein cover when we discussed Laura Flanders' wonderful Blue Grit -- go to Laura Flanders for more information on Blue Grit.)

Jim was supposed to scan it and to scan it again the Mamas and the Papas vinyl (I think Deliver or The Papas & The Mamas -- it may have been both) to demonstrate this was an actual book cover because I told C.I. that e-mail had ticked me off especially after the guy wrote back and said I could be "guessing" when I went around the book quoting last week. He's going for his masters now and had a ton of things to do before joining everyone (he was actually in DC before Mike and I). He forgot. It was no big deal. Because the scan wasn't done, we had to ask for help (or C.I. had to) and that's also why we have a stockpile of visuals we'll be using in the future. In the past, C.I. has brought a scanner but there was too much to pack for this trip and also the fact that C.I., Dona, Kat and Ava did an immediate turnaround -- they went back to California the weekend prior and were catching a flight Monday morning. We were at a friend of C.I.'s in Georgetown but there was no scanner and C.I. said, "It is too late for me to go around knocking on friends' doors asking, 'Can I use your scanner?' Plus, I'm not putting my shoes back on." Pru had the book and has a scanner but she didn't see the e-mail until late Sunday. (Had she seen it and had we used her scan, it would have been the British cover. Which may be the same. The Canadian cover may be the same as what's on sale now in the United States. But it's not the cover I have. No Logo is mentioned under the title.) Vic was supposed to be credited for the illustration in "A Note to Our Readers" but Jim was tired, Dona was sick and everyone was tired. Ava and C.I. had already headed back to California (for obvious reasons -- the big event --and would that I could look as good as Ava on 2 hours of sleep and C.I. on none!).

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Baby War Hawks Dominate Horse Race" went up Sunday and let me post a smaller version here.


The point this week was that other candidates are being lost while the press train obsesses over the War Hawks. I love this illustration. I honestly couldn't sit through The Flintstones but I did enjoy the way that Pebbles and Bam-Bam were drawn. I remember a dead-end relationship (it may have been during college or right after) where I dated a man who had oh-so many plans but never did anything. Let me be clear, this isn't me saying, "He wasn't making enough money!" My brother took care of my bills (our parents died when we were children) and I had a small trust fund from one set of grandparents by the time I was 18 and my trust fund from my parents when I was 21. Money wasn't the issue. He could have done volunteer work (medical, political, it wouldn't have mattered) but he did nothing. One day, as I waited for us to do something (going to the park would have been enough) but he again stoned and delighted by teenage Pebbles and Bam-Bam, I went to the kitchen, to rinse out the glass I'd been drinking from (water), looked around the kitchen with empty cartons all over (including a thing of rat poison) and told myself it was over. That's my strongest rememberance of any Flintstone's cartoon (I think a record stuck while someone was lip synching) and that was a spin-off. But I did love the drawings.

Free Sami Al-Haj is a petition to free a man who's been held in the prison at Guantanamo since 2002. His crime? Apparently working for Al Jazeera. If the US had any evidence of terrorism, he would have been tried. He never should have been imprisoned.

Sara D. Pursley e-mailed me about this and I checked the petition yesterday to make sure she was on it. If she wasn't, I wouldn't name her. But since she's signed it, I want to note her to be sure she gets the credit for what she's done. This petition will go to Congress.

She is offended by the injustice (and I would say torture but I'm not sure she would so "torture" is my word) and she didn't just say, "Oh, that ticks me off! What's on TV?"

She started a petition and she's getting the word out on it.

I hope you'll consider signing it. The more signatures, the harder it will be for Congress to ignore it. In a perfect world, Democracy Now! would have Pursley on to discuss the petition. (That's not a slam at DN! who has covered the case repeatedly. That is noting that a lot of things are going on right now and a petition might not be seen as news.)

She's putting herself out there and making a difference.

Maybe it's not your thing. If it's not, do something else on something that is your thing.

But ask yourself why it's not your thing and be honest in your reply.

When "terrorism" gets mentioned, a lot of people get nervous. It's how Lynne Stewart ended up convicted for not breaking a law (at best, she broke a guideline -- and did so under the Clinton administration which had the good sense not to prosecute over a guideline). I've shared before the constitutional law professor who called me offended by a column in 'support' of Lynne that ran in The Nation. That was so pathetic and so embarrassing. I think it did more to scare off support than if The Nation had done nothing.

Lynne was good and she did something bad but she's good and blah, blah, blah. Lynne Stewart didn't do anything bad. She did her job, she did what an attorney is supposed to do. She obeyed the law. She never should have been convicted. 'Defenders' who couldn't state that clearly share responsibility for her conviction.

A woman who should be sitting on the Supreme Court or on a stamp or both instead has a conviction that in a few years will be a huge embarrassment to the country. She broke no law.
There was no reason to prosecute her. She's an attorney who gave her life to her profession and don't think the White House didn't notice that just whispering 'terrorism' didn't run off a lot of people who should have been defending her loudly.

It could be you next time. Did you run that red light? Doing so was 'terrorism' under some guideline that Bully Boy decides is as good as a law. If that should happen, I'm sure you'd want people to defend you. Not say 'she did something foolish.' Stewart made no mistakes. As an attorney, she did what was required. She shouldn't have been convicted.

If we had a real left in charge of independent media, that point would have been made loudly and clearly. I heard Michael Ratner, Michael Smith, Dalia Hashad, Heidi Boghosian, Laura Flanders and Amy Goodman defend her. I didn't hear it but I know from others that Dennis Bernstein and Deepa Fernades defended her. Who the hell else?

Where was The Nation -- a weekly who had enough time to turn out a "food issue" -- with a cover story defending Lynne Stewart?

Lynne Stewart is a grandmother, she's dealing with cancer and the judge appears to grasp that the jury conviction was based on hysteria. So chances are, she may not have to go jail or, if she does, have to do a long sentence. I don't care. I am offended that she even has a conviction next to her name. That is a travesty and I find it offensive. I find it highly offensive that so few on the left (I'm a huge supporter of CounterPunch and they did defend her, so let me get in a shout to them) bothered to say a word and that, of the few who did, a great majority chose to offer 'defences' that actually were so watered down they may as well have said nothing.

Sara D. Pursley has done a brave thing. Even today, it's a brave thing because the allegation of 'terrorist' scares off so many. Sami Al-Haj is not a terrorist. He's a journalist. That is his 'crime' and our crime -- all of us who reside in the United States -- is saying nothing while the Guantanamo prison continues to operate in plain sight. Yes, there are secret prisons and people can kid that they don't know about them. But we all know about Guantanamo. We all know about the prisoners. We may play dumb and use terms like "detainees" to soften the reality. These are prisoners who have been held for years. This is a national disgrace. No, it's an international disgrace.

Sara D. Pursley has done a brave thing. Hopefully, you will as well. (C.I.'s mentioning the petition in tomorrow's snapshot. The last item in the snapshot threw off everything today.)

The real terrorism is the silence we allow ourselves to be forced into out of fear.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills)
Tuesday, September 18, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, low and behold the US military announces deaths, Blackwater remains in at least semi-hot water, IVAW deserves tremendous credit and applause for their leadership on Saturday, and more.

Starting with war resistance. On Saturday in DC, demonstrations against the illegal war started a new phase of activism. As
Feminist Wire Daily noted, "Several women's groups, including CODEPINK and the National Congress of Black Women, sponsored a women's convergence earlier in the day before joining the larger rally at the White House before the march." But this was the event at which Iraq Veterans Against the War truly made their presence felt. That is not taking anything away from A.N.S.W.E.R., CODEPINK or anyone else; however, part of the strength of the action may be due to those organizations who refused to participate? Regardless, IVAW's membership continues to grow and their voices are among the surest and loudest out there. Mike Ferner (Dissident Voice) reports on IVAW and we'll pick it up with war resister Eli Israel who is the first US service member to publicly refuse to serve while stationed in Iraq: "Eli Isreal, a native Kentuckian who had already completed a hitch in the Marines and then enlisted in the Army after September 11, 2001, repeated the Enlistment Oath taken by every person joining the military, that swears them to protect and defend the US Constitution against 'all enemies, foreign and domestic.' He asked the crowds on the sidewalks to consider what they would do 'when your leaders tell you to fight an unjust war based on lies. The Occupation of Iraq is a form of terrorism and we refuse to support it!' With his comrades falling quiet and raising their fists high in the air in salute, the former Military Secret Security sergeant who guarded General Petraeus 'and all those other bastards,' said 'We walk in silence for our brothers and sisters who died for a lie. We didn't join the military to become slaves to the military-industrial complex. We joined to serve our country."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Derek Hess, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko,Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

Ferner also recounts how Adam Kokesh provided "one of the most memorable moments of the day" when, leading a march past pro-war hawks, he declared, "Column, HALT! Left FACE!" so that the verterans were facing the pro-war hawks with Kokesh saluting leaving "the gathered eagles momentarily taken aback and the crowd cheering." Rebecca offers her thoughts on Saturday's actions, "i was really impressed with the huge turnout. as you probably noticed, some organizations elected to sit out and not promote the action. even so, even without them, the turnout was huge" and, of the police attacks on the demonstrators, "i imagine we'll see more attacks like that on the people. it's really the only hope there is to continue the illegal war." Escambray notes, "Capitol Hill security guards doused the demonstrators with chemicals after dozens laid on the street to symbolically represent the thousands of US soldiers killed in the Iraq war".

Adam Kokesh was among the speakers and has
posted his speech (at Sgt. Kokesh Goes to Washington): "As we all know now, we were lied into this war and is lies that are keeping us there. They lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction, they lied about Jessica Lynch, they lied about Pat Tillman, and they lied about Al Qaeda and Saddam. And those are just the lies we know about! But I'm not so mad that I was lied to, as I am that I cannot trust my government any more. It astounds me that yet so many Americans want more than anything to trust out government. When will we wake up, and realize that the power of the truth is greater than any force brought to bear by any Army ever fielded?"

Among the other speakers were Ralph Nader. Nader, as many have noted, was not invited to speak at the last big DC rally. Though some cries of "Apologize for the war!" could be heard as Nader began to speak, they died down quickly. (For the record, Nader doesn't owe an apology for an illegal war that he did not start. Nor do those running Al Gore's 2000 campaign need to apologize for an illegal war that Gore did not start.) Nader noted that, "The impeachable offenses of Bush outnumber the impeachable offenses of any US president." He took Congressional 'leadership' to task for their refusal to impeach the Bully Boy. His critique was greeted with huge cheers. And, by the end of his speech, sounded like someone running for the presidency. (Community note, Nader's speech runs in full in today's Hilda's Mix.) Nader has not announced an intent to run but a campaign to draft him into running, "
Run, Ralph Run!", has been started.

Staying with US politics, one effort a draft campaign appears to have not been successful.
Kimberly Wilder (On the Wilder Side) reports on former US House Rep's Cynthia McKinney's decision not to seek the presidential nomination of the Green Party for 2008. The Green Party's convention is scheduled to take place from July 10th through July 13th in Chicago, IL. Last week, the Green Party issued a statement noting that they "will use their presence in various antiwar demonstrations and other events throughout September and October to press the Green Party's demand for immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq" and quotes the co-chair of the party's Peace Action Committee Deanna Taylor stating, "The greatest danger to the peace movement is that organizations and voters who oppose the war are being fooled into seeing the election of Democrats as a step towards peace, stability, and the observance of human rights in the Middle East." In Democratic Party news, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes that "Congressman Dennis Kucinich has accused Democratic Party leaders in Iowa of excluding him from two presidential events this week. On Sunday six of the Democratic candidates were invited to speak to over 12,000 Democratic voters at Senator Tom Harkin's Steak Fry. But Kucinich and former Senator Mike Gravel were not invited. They also weren't invited to a recent Democratic presidential forum in Davenport Iowa. Kucinich said: 'When Party leaders and their allies pre-select which candidates they will allow the voters to hear, it's a disservice to the voters. Iowans deserve better than a rigged game." Saturday, Trina (Trina's Kitchen) recapped some of the developments in Kucinich's campaign including a new staffer, retired Army Capt. Mike Klein, Kucinich's criticism of the illegal war -- "a smokescreen to cover the immorality and criminality of the real reason he took us to war and the reason he refuses to end it: oil" -- his hosting of a student debate in Florida and his campaigning in Hawaii -- the state Democratic presidential candidates tend to write off (at their own risk). TransWorldNews notes of Gravel that the "former Alaska Senator, is not shy about placing the blame for the length of the War in Iraq on the current crop of Democrats eyeing the nomination for President. Especially front runners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, according to Gravel, as they were in a position to do something about the country's involvement [but] when the opportunity presented itself chose to fault others instead of taking the appropriate action."

Turning to the subject of US mercenaries. Blackwater's latest slaughter continues to garner attention. On Sunday, Blackwater fired into crowds and they've repeatedly changed their story ever since. Are the mercenaries in our out?
Martin Fletcher (Times of London) notes that any effort to eject them from Iraq -- any Iraqi effort -- "would be resisted strenuously by the US Government, whose security arrangements will be thrown into chaos if Blackwater can no longer operate in Iraq." Which is why US Secretary of State and Anger Condi Rice spent 15 minutes on the phone with puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) noted that "several contractors predicted Monday that it was unlikely the Iraqi government would carry through with the threat to expel Blackwater."For all intents and purposes they belong to the [U.S.] Department of State," one contractor said of Blackwater employees". Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) reports on "an extraordinary telephone news conference, the US embassy spokeswoman could not answer whether the company was still working for the Americans inside the Green Zone, or what its legal position was along with similar foreign contractors within Iraq." Sengupta also notes the ever changing story of Blackwater for why the opened fire on unarmed Iraqi civilians killing at least 8 on Sunday. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) notes that Ali Dabbagh spoke to the press in Baghdad and noted that the Iraqi investigation "had found that guards with the private security company Blackwater USA had fired without provocation on a Baghdad traffic circle, killing eight people and wounding 13" and that a child was among the dead. As Leila Fadel, Joseph Neff and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) point out, "Whether the Iraqi Interior Ministry will be able to enforce its decision to ban North Carolina-based Blackwater Security from operating in Iraq is likely to be a major test between the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and the United States. Blackwater, founded by a major Republican Party benefactor, is among the most prominent -- and most controversial -- of dozens of companies that provide security to both government and private individuals in Iraq. In 2003, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority exempted the companies and their employees from prosecution under Iraqi law, but Iraqi officials disputed whether that exemption remains in effect, and U.S. officials declined to comment."

Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explored the topic with Jeremy Scahill -- journalist and author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army -- and Doug Brooks who is the president of International Peace Operations Association ("a trade group for the private secuirty industry")

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, clearly, Nouri al-Maliki made the mistake of believing that there is a sovereign Iraqi government for about fifteen minutes over the past twenty-four hours, and it appears now that there's a real diplomatic shuffle going on. Condoleezza Rice called Nouri al-Maliki ostensibly to apologize, but it does seem that the US is putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the Iraqi government not to expel Blackwater.
And, you know, what's important to understand about this is that Blackwater is a relatively small player, in terms of numbers in Iraq. They have about a thousand operatives on the ground inside of the country. But symbolically, this is of enormous importance, because Blackwater is the official mercenary company of the US government. They protect the senior US officials in Iraq, the US ambassador. My understanding is that it was a chief of mission operation that they were protecting yesterday, which could mean that it was a very senior US official that the principal or the noun, so to speak.
But we also have to say, there's nothing new here. Iraqis for four years have been terrorized by these mercenaries, who ride around the country, and they'll do anything to keep their ever-important US lives protected, even if it means shooting Iraqi civilians. And so, if Iraq does follow through on this and expel Blackwater, it would be an extraordinary development.
[. . .]
I mean, the reality here is that every time Iraq has made any kind of noise about prosecuting contractors, the contractors are whisked out. It becomes a major discussion between Washington and Baghdad diplomats. And the fact of the matter is, this is solid proof. There is no sovereignty in Iraq of the government at all. The US gutted out the Iraqi legal system, made it virtually impossible for Iraqis to hold accountable murderers and thugs inside of the country who are foreign operatives. And so, when the Bush administration talks about how great everything is going in Baghdad, we have to remember that when US mercenaries shoot Iraqis, the Iraqis are basically powerless to stop them.

Naomi Klein's
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism is out today in the United States and from the book we'll note this on the lives of Iraqis:

It began, as it often does, with the disappearance of women behind viels and doors, then the children disappeared from the schools -- as of 2006, two-thirds of them stayed home. Next came the professionals: doctors, professors, entrepreneurs, scientists, pharmacists, judges, lawyers.
[. . .]
That is what happenes with projects to build model societies in other people's countries. The cleansing campaigns are rarely premeditated. It is only when the people who live on the land refuse to abandon their past that the dream of the clean slate morphs into its doppelganger, the scorched earth -- only then that the dream of toral creation morphs into a campaign of total destruction.
The unanticipated violence that now engulfs Iraq, is the creation of the lethally optimistic architects of the war -- it was preordained in that original seemingly innocuous, even idealistic phrase: "a model for a new Middle East." The disintegration of Iraq has its roots in the ideology that demanded a tabu rase on which to write its new story. And when no such pristine tableua presented itself, the supporter of that ideology proceeded to blast and surge and glast again in the hope of reaching the promised land.

Democracy Now! today, Doug Brooks declared that the mercenaries (Blackwater, et al) were "better than US soldiers" (Goodman asked that, Brooks replied "Absolutely"). And Jeremey Scahill noted, "Well, I think that most people in the world first learned of Blackwater USA on March 31st, 2004, when four Blackwater operatives were ambushed and killed in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Their bodies were burned, they were dragged through the streets, strung up from a bridge over the Euphrates River. And the Bush administration responded to that attack by leveling Fallujah and destroying the city. In fact, it was the first of a number of sieges against the city of Fallujah, and it really fueled the Iraqi resistance that haunts the occupation to this day. That was the first time that many people heard of any kind of a private security or private military company, a mercenary company, operating in Iraq." The two slaughters of Falluja. Stemming from that incident (caused in part by Paul Bremer shutting down a press because he didn't care for a cartoon mocking him). Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) sidesteps that reality (possibly because Dexy Filkins provided rah-rah coverage of the November 2004 slaughter?) and offers that "One of the most terrifying images of the war for Americans involved four of Blackwater's contractors in Falluja who were killed in 2004, and their bodies hung from a bridge." That was the most terrifying image? For Americans? Tavernise thinks Americans weren't shocked by the bombings in northern Iraq that claimed approximately 500 lives on one day this summer? If Tavernise isn't speaking for the State Dept (a constant problem for the Times), she might want to consider -- among many other attacks -- the June 16, 2006 attack in Youssifiyah in which US service members David Baineau, Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker were killed with the latter two's corpses being discovered after they'd been tortured to death. Clearly the US State Dept saw the Falluja attack as the worst but Tavernise might want to explain why she sees it as such. Tavernise does mange to reveal that an employee of Blackwater (apparently drunk) shot dead the bodyguard of Iraq's Shi'ite vice president on Christmas Eve (2006) and was faced no charges (in Iraq or the US) but got whisked out of the country and she notes that "A law issued by the American authority in Iraq before the United States handed over soverieignty to Iraqis, Order No. 17, gives the companies immunity from iraqi law. A security expert based in Baghdad said Monday night that the order, issued in 2004, had never been overturned." One of the Bremer orders that the press wasn't overly interested in covering in real time.

Staying with the US State Dept for a minute more,
CBS and AP report, 'A congressional committee has launched an investigation into the State Department's Inspector General, alleging that he blocked fraud investigations, including potential security lapses at the newly built U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Also under scrutiny is whether a major security firm was 'illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq,' according to a letter to IG Howard J. Krongard that was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press."

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left two police officers wounded, a Baghdad bus bombing that claimed 2 lives and left five wounded and 3 Baghdad car bombings that claimed a total of 13 lives and left 35 wounded. Reuters notes a bombing in Jalawla that claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi civilians (fourteen more wounded), a Mosul car bombing that left two Iraqi soldiers wounded


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports assailant attacked a representative of Ayatollah Sistani in Basra (Emad Abdul Kareem) while he was departing a mosque leaving him wounded and 1 of his guards dead. Reuters notes a police officer was shot dead in Shirqat.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 9 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes that 3 corpses were discovered in Mosul and 3 in Qaim.

In a novel development, the
US military announced deaths today: "Three Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed in Diyala Province, Tuesday, following an explosion." ICCC's total for the number of US service members killed in the illegal war now stands at 3786 (with 44 for the month). If that number suprises many it may be because the total stood at 3781 Sunday night. As noted this morning, the names of two who had died were announced by the Defense Dept on Monday; however, M-NF never announced those deaths. The usual pattern is what M-NF has done today with the "Three Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed in . . . " After that, the US Defense Dept follows up by releasing the names of the dead after the next of kin has been notified. Altering the process allows them to hide the deaths. M-NF didn't stop putting out their press releases -- they were still, for instance, happy to offer "Soldiers take citizenship oath" -- they just stopped announcing the deaths. They've done that before, they will do it again. Because M-NF finally did their job, Reuters was able to report on the deaths and note the count is 3,784 US service members killed in the illegal war thus far. The 3800 mark looms.

Meanwhile the US people still want US troops withdrawn even if their represenatives (and sadly, an apologist in the peace movement) don't see it as anything to get too worked up over.
CBS' latest poll came out yesterday and 68% still is calling for troops to be brought home.

But there are some lies that are being told to our children every day in order to convince them to sign up to be sent into the Baghdad meat grinder. Proponents of the policy in Iraq are quick to point out that everyone in the military volunteered, but what does that mean if most of them were tricked into enlisting by the lies that recruiters tell every day? It means that to support the troops means to cut through the lies, bring them home, and stop this criminal occupation!

we are back to Adam Kokesh. The above was part of his speech delivered Saturday in DC. Iraq Veterans Against the War have kicked off Truth in Recruiting. Maureen O'Donnell (Chicago Sun-Times) reports on yesterday's actions in Chicago with IVAW's Aaron Hughes explaining, "Every minute that a recruiter's spending with someone from the movement is a minute that they're not recruiting for the war" and O'Donnel notes that five demonstrators were in the army recruiting station on 1239 N. Clybourn, Chicago's WBEZ (91.5 FM) notes that IVAW "hopes to keep the campaign going until the war stops." Chicago's WLS-TV quotes Huges stating, "We are asking people to go befriend recruiters, spend time with them -- find out the real issues. Find out all the things that they're telling you, that they're offering you, and then talk to a veteran and realize how much of that's not true."

Saturday was a strong moment for IVAW and they deserve nothing but praise for their leadership and actions. War Hawks are e-mailing regarding a story and we'll note it here.
Alan Garthright and Hector Gutierrez (Rocky Mountain News) have reported that Iraq vet Ricardo Cortez who was apparently speaking out against the illegal war is now held on charges in an attack on "his estranged wife . . . [and] her companion". If Cortez is guilty, and not to minimize or excuse his actions, it only demonstrates again the way that the Veterans Affairs Dept. is failing veterans who return and need help. This is not the first act of violence -- if Cortez committed it -- committed by a veteran -- in this illegal war or any other -- nor is it as though the civilian population doesn't also get charged with violent crimes. If Cortez did do what he's charged with, this goes to the lack of medical screening for returning veterans and those e-mailing who thinks this 'proves' anything about veterans against the illegal war should be aware that many pro-war veterans have been charged with much worse including murdering their wives. The issue isn't their stance on the Iraq War, the issue is most likely the lack of medical attention that the military is providing to those returning.