Monday, March 03, 2008


"Ohio Labor Leaders Call on Senator Obama to Come Clean on NAFTA" (Hillary Clinton for President):
COLUMBUS, OH - Gary Dwyer, Secretary-Treasurer for the Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council, and Barry Picket, Business Representative, Sheet Metal Workers International Association, Local 24, issued the following letter to Senator Obama, asking him to come clean on press reports that his campaign offered private assurances to Canadian officials downplaying his anti-NAFTA rhetoric.
The letter is as follows:
March 1, 2008
Dear Senator Obama:

We were surprised and disappointed to learn that your top economic adviser reportedly had a secret meeting with a representative of the Canadian government where he dismissed your anti-NAFTA rhetoric.

According to Canadian news outlets, your adviser, Austan Goolsbee, told the Canadian Counsel General Georges Rioux that your criticism of NAFTA is "just politics" and should not be taken seriously.

After a series of misdirections and half-truths, it’s time for you to come clean about your campaign’s communications with the Canadian government about NAFTA. Enough with the non-denial denials and the Washington double-speak.

Many Ohioans are concerned about the issue of trade and we want answers to some simple questions:

1) Did you direct your top economic adviser - Austan Goolsbee - to tell the Canadian government that your speeches railing against NAFTA are just political rhetoric? If so, why?

2) Are you aware that Mr. Goolsbee held a secret meeting with the Canadian Counsel General Georges Rioux? Have you spoken with Mr. Goolsbee about that meeting and will you repudiate his comments?

3) Why has Mr. Goolsbee been unwilling to deny that he discussed your positions on NAFTA with Mr. Rioux? Why won't your campaign disclose the full details about that meeting?

4) Given these reports, why should Ohioans believe that you will act on the campaign promises you have made about NAFTA?

5) Sen. Clinton has issued a comprehensive plan to fix NAFTA. Why haven't you done so as well?

The people of Ohio are eager to hear from you - there’s too much at stake.


Gary Dwyer, Secretary-Treasurer, Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council
Barry Pickett, Business Representative, Sheet Metal Workers International Association, Local 24

Sorry, but if you're telling a foreign government one thing and the American people another, you need to get honest. You actually need to drop out of a political race, but Bambi needs to get honest. There's no excuse for it. Last Tuesday, he cribbed from the statements Hillary made in the debate and then went on to grandstand. If his campaign gave the Canadian government a heads up to the remarks and told them not to worry, he shouldn't be running for any public office. That would mean he lied to the American people.

What do I think happened? He's a cheap little thug who was babied and massaged by a number of 'mentors' including Antoin Rezko. He thinks the rules don't apply to him. Which is why I find it completely believable that he would BETRAY the American people by delivering remarks he'd already informed the Canadian government (which wants to keep NAFTA) not to worry about.

"A Delicate Line for Michelle Obama" (Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe):
Michelle Obama can expect more scrutiny from the right, from the sentiments expressed in her senior thesis -- "I will always be a black first and a student second" -- to her push for more African-American faculty and students at Harvard Law School. So far, she isn't intimidated.
Last week, she said that when rivals use her husband's full name -- Barack Hussein Obama -- they are throwing "the obvious, ultimate fear bomb. . . . When all else fails, be afraid of his name."

Have you read a quote more ridiculous? To use Bambi's full name is to throw the "ultimate fear bomb." It's his name. Michelle Obama's not the idiot she plays. She's a very calculating person. She's attempting to enforce the Bambi rule which is not one. His name is his name. If it's a problem, he could have legally changed it. He didn't. It his name. As Ava and C.I. note in " TV: Recyling the tired and the damaging:"

Once upon a time, in a smarter America, the only way a photo was a smear was if it was 'doctored' or taken without the subject's knowledge. Barack knew the photographer was there, Barack consented to the photo being taken. Now that it's out in public, suddenly it's a "smear." Used to a smear had to be a lie. Saying John F. Kennedy was Catholic wasn't seen as a smear. These days, noting that Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein leads the touchy-feely set to cry "FOUL!" A question for them: Who smeared? Was it someone noting his middle names or his parents for chosing to name him after his father? (He's a Junior.)

His name is Barack Hussein Obama with, I believe, a Junior tossed on at the end. If he has Daddy issues, I'm not surprised. It's not speaking out of school to note that some Juniors go through life with chips on their shoulders. They're always "Little __" or "Junior" and it doesn't age well for some. If he doesn't like his name, he can legally change it. He hasn't done that so it remains his name. People noting that it's his name are not throwing anything other than the truth.

Is he that thin-skinned? I don't think that's the issue. I think he works it to his favor, stomping his feet and having a hissy fit in the hopes that the press will never probe. There's nothing wrong with the name "Hussein." There was nothing wrong with the name "Forbes." (John Kerry's middle name.) Quit acting like every truth told is a smear. What a ridiculous campaign and what a ridiculously immature electorate if they accept that someone noting his middle name is smearing him.

"Roundtable " (The Third Estate Sunday Review):
Jim: Ty, time for one more e-mail.
Ty: Duncan e-mailed wanting to know what people thought of Dan J. Black's post at Iraq Veterans Against the War?
C.I.: No one's speaking so, unless someone jumps in, I'll assume I'm the only one who read it. Let me start with where I feel differently. Redacted is not war porn. That charge was already leveled at it by Slate. I called that out last year and a lot of people reading this will know that and if it's not noted by me, they'll e-mail asking, "Did you see what he said about Redacted?" or "Did you change your opinion about Redacted?" I didn't. It's a great film. I know DePalma, I know he poured his heart into that film. I know sexualization when I see it -- look at the rape scene in The Accused for one example of a crime being sexed up. Brian made an amazing film and I will not pretend otherwise. It may be the finest thing he's ever done and it's certainly up there at the top. Black notes a voyeristic quality to the film. It may be there, it's a matter of opinion. Films are, by the very nature, voyeristic experiences -- they are recorded by a camera -- and voyerism has long been a criticism of DePalma; however, voyerism does not have to mean titalation -- think of Jimmy Stewart's character in Rear Window or for that matter in Vertigo or any film that revolves around someone being trailed. Black had a very angry response to the film and that's great. It's valid from where he's coming from and he told it as he sees it. There's nothing wrong with that. I thought it was a fiery, passionate piece and agreed with all but the issue of Redacted. Someone wants to disagree, that's fine, and they can easily say, "You're friends with Brian! Of course you'd stick up for him!" I would. But I think the film is amazing and I've seen the many who've kept their mouths shut and the many who've made the 'softer side' of the illegal war refuse to step up to the plate. Alone among the giants of his generation, Brian stood up. I'll be kind and not list all the cowards -- I'm not kind to their faces -- but I'm sure the list can easily be compiled by people on their own. Black goes on to call out the audience saying they wanted tittilation. I wasn't at the showing, I don't know what the audience wanted or didn't want. I can't imagine that at a peace festival, people were going to see a film about the war crimes -- similar to Abeer's story -- to get hot and bothered and geared up for sex that night. But, again, I wasn't there. I've probably seen the film four times, maybe five. I didn't see it with a paying audience -- I did buy tickets online but knew I wouldn't be able to go, I just wanted to do my part to help the box office for a strong film with no release pattern -- so I have no idea how the average audience would react to the film. A film has to tell a story, it has to attempt to involve the audience -- unless we're talking about Margarite Duras' films and, yeah, I said it -- the page formula has resulted in cookie-cutter films -- Redacted is not a cookie-cutter film and is not written by the page numbers like a Sy Field disciple -- but it does have acts, whether it's three, four or five, it has acts, it has a central character -- which, as Robert Altman proved with Nashville doesn't have to be a person -- and various conventions. Within those contexts and other elements, it fails or succeeds. Brian knows how to trigger emotions very well, a hallmark of a great director, and he doesn't fall back on the 'ooooh, how sweet' emotion the way same do -- some use it the same way sitcoms use laugh tracks. It's a challenging film and it's a great one. That's my opinion. I hope I've been clear. Black feels a lot of anger and he can direct that at Redacted if he wants. That's fine and I'm not being sarcastic or putting him down. I'm not even saying, "Find another target to rally against!" He needs to rail against whatever he wants to. He's right to be angry in general and in specific I can support him on every other point he's making. But that was a strong film, an amazing one, and Brian put a lot on the line to make that film and he continued fighting for its release. We didn't highlight Black's column at The Common Ills because I would've made these points and done so at greater length. Due to time limits, I'm talking as fast as I can and making points quickly, but if we'd highlighted it, I would have had to have gone into even more detail on the film. I'm already on record loving that film and thankful that Brian had the courage to do what no one else would. Black's very angry, be sure there's a link included, and I applaud that. I think we've had too much complacency. I think we've had too much pick-up-and-then-drop-the-war attention. He can and should rail against whatever he wants and any target he feels is justified. His column should be read. I was talking to a friend with IVAW who said the biggest problem is prettying it up for the media. I understand that. I understand the fear that if you so any emotion other than regret, there is the fear that the media will stop listening. I applaud Black for his entire column -- even the one small part I disagree with. I think he wrote with courage and honesty and I think we need more of that. A lot more. I really worry about some of the coverage of the veterans which -- I'm speaking at large, not of IVAW -- tends to reduce them to "Here's a story that will pull at your heart strings." And we read it and keyed in to pity. They are victims, absolutely, sent into a worthless war, an illegal war, that never should have started. But they are also survivors and I don't always get the sense of that -- especially in PTSD stories. I haven't read it yet, we'll highlight it at The Common Ills tonight, but speaking on campuses last week, two students brought up a thing Adam Kokesh had written. Dona, how much time?
Dona: If you slow down so Ava can be sure to get this down -- I'm joking but everything C.I.'s said was in about 2 minutes and 15 seconds. But seriously, take a breath, this will be the last thing, the last topic.
C.I.: Okay, thank you. Adam Kokesh has a piece that we'll highlight at The Common Ills tonight. I haven't read it. As it was conveyed by two students on two different campuses, he's writing about a reporter who asked him about PTSD and wanted to know about drinking and other things. I don't believe he drinks. But the students felt he was playing 'tough.' They felt he wasn't being real. I stated I hadn't read his piece on that but let's all think about our reactions to the PTSD stories when we hear them or read them in the media or the veterans' health care scandals. And we discussed that in both talks and came to an agreement that sadness and pity were the most common reactions. A survivor doesn't want your pity. A survivor going public is attempting to raise awareness and get some action rolling. So we talked about how the stories could be better structured, the reports, to get at that. And I'm not insulting any reporter and will freely admit that in most stories on health care or PTSD, I will tear up if not cry directly. I cried just listening to one hearing last week. But the issue is what do we do after we cry? Do we forget about it? Do we feel sorry for "them"? Myself, I prefer the anger Black's expressing. It's very much related to what he went through -- I believe he writes that he was always the way he is and likens it to Hyde -- in that it amplified who he is. I think his voice is sorely needed and we need other voices not afriad to get loud, not afraid to say, "I don't want you pity, I want your help." Black makes the point that, like it or not, we're all a part of the Iraq War and that is very true. We're all effected by it -- even if you're living in denial you're effected by how much you work to maintain that denial. At the very core, what veterans were put through any citizen of the United States could have been put through. It shouldn't be a case of "feel sorry for them," it should be a case -- my opinion -- of be outraged that this was done to an American citizen. If they did it to him or her, they could have done it to you. You are no different and no better than they are, but timing and fate sent them over. If pity's your key emotion, pity yourself because "they" are "we." And my own observations of pity would lead me to conclude it's a fleeting feeling for most and having felt it for a moment, they're purged and no longer required to do anything because wasn't pity enough? "Wasn't it enough that I felt pity for a moment? What's next on the agenda!" It's the escape clause. And that can work in a film which is a piece of art that has a beginning, middle and an end but that's not going to work in life and it's not going to result in better health care for veterans, let alone result in an end to the illegal war. I don't know Black -- and let me be clear on that because I was speaking rapidly and may have made some assumptions not based on the text of what he wrote, if so my apologies. But I do know similar anger among some veterans and I do know that when everyone's trying to keep it nice and friendly, there's often someone hurting themselves very badly by trying to ape that behavior. A long with the good his writing does for the country at large, it's equally true that for a veteran who is really trying to keep that anger bottled up, Black's piece is saying, "You don't have to bottle it up, you don't have to deny it, you can talk about it." Some problems some veterans have with the peace movement -- especially true of those not in IVAW, if you read their writing -- can be boiled down to feeling a happy face has to be stamped on everything. I've said before, I think it's long past time to take the training wheels off the peace movement. It's time to stop acting as if everyone's in first grade. That may have been possible in the early months of the illegal war but it's no longer possible now. There are too many veterans who have returned, too many families who have lost loved ones. Everyone can't play the 'I'm not angry, just a little sad' card. It's not what they're feeling and it's hurting them -- as much as it is the peace movement -- to try to put them into those cookie cutter roles. Whenever a friend tells me about a veteran taking their own life, my first thought is usually, "Could they not handle the role they were forced into?" Mike's talked about this -- I'm sorry, I know I've gone on too long.
Jim: No, go on, it's the only thing about Iraq in the roundtable and we may try to pull your points out for an editorial if we don't think of one soon.
C.I.: Okay. Mike's talked about the veterans he sees on Thursday night before they go into Elaine's session and after. And one of the stories he shared, one he was asked to share, was a veteran feeling tempted to just play "Great war. We did great things." card because there was no support -- he may have said little, I'll say no -- from our supposed left media. You're coming back from a war zone, this is me speaking, and landing in a country that doesn't seem to be aware that an illegal war is going on. The ones who seem most aware of it, the ones who cover it, that's really the right wing outlets today. You've got other veterans, yes, if you're lucky enough to live in area with a number of them. But let's remember who's being recruited. Rural areas of this country have resulted in a number of recruits. I can list three suicides without searching my brain where the veteran lived in a rural area. They were all male and, yes, there were veterans from other wars in the area, the immediate area. But not all veterans -- even just of this war -- see it the same way and for a veteran who served in Iraq, the need to talk can be hampered by honest misunderstandings as well by "I don't want to hear that kind of talk!" And on that last point, what is left media's silence but "I don't want to hear that kind of talk!" Because of brave people like Camilo Mejia and Kelly Dougherty and Adam Kokesh and others, a space has been carved out but it is still a limited space. I applaud Black for knocking down the walls and increasing the space and I believe he isn't just helping one veteran by doing so, I believe he's helping many. And -- and, if it's bottled up, if the anger or rage is bottled up, either because there's no one to talk to one on one or because society's not accepting anything but the most limited and limiting range of discussion, that anger's going to be released at some point. We've heard about the abuse of spouses but it's more common for most people to turn the anger back on themselves. I'd be really interested in a study that went around and examined the life after a return, before the suicide to see what the circumstances were in terms of that for a cross-section. I think the military, the health care aspect of it, needs to be sending out questionaires to find out how many veterans feel they have emotional support. How many feel they have it at certain times -- such as in meetings with other veterans -- and how many feel that they don't or that they have it from this hour to that hour. Lastly, and I'm so sorry to go on so long, Black's piece also helps families and friends of veterans. A veteran last week was telling me about a film and I'm blanking on the title. Born on the Forth of July. He couldn't talk to his wife about what he was feeling for the longest. She was supportive but he just couldn't talk about it. He finally thought about the movie and the rage Ron Kovic expresses in it. He rented it and told her that's what he was feeling and if she wanted to know after she watched it and saw how it was going be -- loud and angry -- talking about it, to ask. Which she did and he was loud and angry. But, I mean, we're still not at a place, forget the country, just in left media, where we can all call it an illegal war. You've still got some in left media playing the pity card and using terms like "misguided" and other pretty words providing cover to the administration. So when we can't even get honest, in left media, about what's going on, how can we expect that everyone returning feels they can speak freely about it -- forget details of incidents, I'm just talking something as basic as emotions? So Dan Black did a very powerful, very important thing by being so honest in his piece. He may not feel the same the next time he writes. He may feel he got it out. He may feel he has more to get out. But his expressing what he's going through doesn't just help him, it helps many others and should be applauded.
Jim: Okay. I haven't read the piece yet, I will now make a point to. Thank you to Duncan for e-mailing on it and to Ty for selecting it as an e-mail to include as well as to C.I. who brought Iraq into the roundtable where it belongs. On that note, we're going to have to wind down.

There are typos in the above excerpt (Jim notes at the top that it's a rush transcript). I enjoyed the entire roundtable but that was the end of it and when that subject came up, it gave the roundtable a huge lift. That's not to insult any of the other topics which are worthy but I really enjoyed that section. I think C.I.'s talking about something very important and I had to bite my tongue to avoid jumping in (for obvious reasons).

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, March 3, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military and the British military both say "Woopsie," the US embassy in Iraq is a safety hazard, IVAW gears up for this month's action, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Brad McCall is a US war resister in Canada. Saturday and Sunday he offered original poetry at his site. From Sunday's poem:

You just don't realize,
The damage your really inflicting,
You say you're doing your job,
But I know, your really creating pain and suffering.

You wake up at 4 in the morning,
Preparing for a brand new day,
In this hell that they've put you in.
All these people are creating is enmity, and suffering.

McCall made the decision he could not participate in an illegal war. Currently he is in Canada attempting to be granted safe harbor. Just entering Canada was difficult for McCall. He was detained in September by Canadian authorities when he attempted to enter. And, as
noted Friday, Courage to Resist interview with war resister Robin Long during which Long shares that McCall had a friend return his car to the US and that when the car crossed the border back into the US "they were holding him at gun point, the guy that was bringing his car back, thinking he was the war resister."

War resisters who have moved to Canada were dealt a serious set-back when the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of
Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. Today, Canada's Parliament remaining the best hope for safe harbor war resisters have, you can make your voice heard by the Canadian parliament which has the ability to pass legislation to grant war resisters the right to remain in Canada. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use. That is the sort of thing that should receive attention but instead it's ignored.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara 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, Blake LeMoine, 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, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty 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 addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

IVAW has a DC action this month:
In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

March 13th through 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.
Dee Knight (Workers World) notes, "IVAW wants as many people as possible to attend the event. It is planning to provide live broadcasting of the sessions for those who cannot hear the testimony firsthand. 'We have been inspired by the tremendous support the movement has shown us,' IVAW says. 'We believe the success of Winter Soldier will ultimately depend on the support of our allies and the hard work of our members'." IVAW's co-chair Adam Kokesh will, of course, be participating and he explains why at his site, "But out of a strong sense of duty, some of us are trying to put our experiences to use for a good cause. Some of us couldn't live with ourselves if weren't doing everything we could to bring our brothers and sisters home as soon as possible. The environment may be unking, but that is why I will be testifying to shooting at civilians as a result of changing Rules of Engagement, abuse of detainees, and desecration of Iraqi bodies. It won't be easy but it must be done. Some of the stories are things that are difficult to admit that I was a part of, but if one more veteran realizes that they are not alone because of my testimony it will be worth it." The hearings will be broadcast throughout at the Iraq Veterans Against the War home page an on KPFA March 14th and 16th with Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz hosting and the KPFA live stream will also be available at Glantz' War Comes Home.

"Some people are going to say that we're not upholding our patriotic duty to America, that we're just demoralizing the troops, but if anything we want to make sure that our troops are taken care of the way they should,"
Vermont's WCAX (text and video) quotes Iraq veteran Adrienne Kinne explaining at the University of Vermont to a crowd of over 150 as she and three other veterans explained the upcoming Winter Soldier Investigation. Matthew Howard speaks to WCAX's Bianca Slota abouth how service members are encouraged to see "every Iraqi's a threat or terrorist or insurgenty. You know we never hear the term civilian over there." Howard speaks of "the feelings of betrayal, of ultimate betrayal" after serving in a war based on lies. Slota notes, "Their stories ranged from tales of intelligence intercepts from listening in on conversations of aid workers or journalists to tales of leaving injured Iraqi civilians on the side of the road." Sara Buscher (Burlington Free Press) speaks with Matthew Howard who previews the DC action, "We have footage. We have digital cameras and cell phones. The public doesn't know what dead Iraqis look like, what little children look like when they have their brains blown away by 50-caliber machine guns -- what a mosque look like when we use it for target practice." Andy Potter (WCAX text and video) interviewed Drew Cameron last week and Cameron shared his thoughts on the illegal war, "It's sending very young people to do atrocities, things based not on any reality of the security of this country. If anything, it's destroying the military. It's destroying peoples' lives and families' lives, not to mention all the innocent civilians. Massive amount of destruction."

"The soldiers and marines are just doing their jobs, doing what they were trained for or what they were told to do when they got over there. Things that seem really horrible just become routine -- and they are implicitly or explicitly condoned, or encouraged, by the commanders and the policy-makers," Iraq War veteran
Kelly Dougherty states walking Ariel Leve through for a major report in the Sunday Times of London which also includes Afghan War veteran Perry O'Brien recalling, "Anyone carrying a shovel or any sort of implement that could be used to bury an IED could be considered a target. After dark, you can shoot anyone who is outside. Or anyone who puts anything on the side of the road can be considered a target. You won't find it in writing, but it's an order indicated to soldiers." Iraq War veteran Jason Washburn remembers one mission: "We kick down the door and all we find are a few women holding babies and a couple of kids. We were ordered to take the babies away and put sandbags on the women's heads, tie their hands behind their backs, put them on their knees facing the wall. Here I am zip-tying these women, and my buddy is standing next to me holding these babies asking what do I do with these kids? We stood there, like, oh s**t, what do we do? The squad leader came in and shouted, 'Everybody is bagged and tagged -- everybody!' So we did it." Michael Kramer (Workers World) reports today on an NYC event last month to get the word out on IVAW's action this month and notes, "IVAW member and war resister Ryan Johnson was able to take part in the program from Canada via a live video feed. He is a member of the Winter Soldier Organizing Committee and described the situation of more than 50 absent without leave war resisters in Canada as they courageously struggle for human rights and against deportation. There is now an IVAW chapter in Toronto. More ominously for the Bush administration and Pentagon generals, an IVAW chapter has recently been formed on the Fort Hood, Texas, army megabase."

Starting with news from the weekend. On Saturday, the
UK Ministry of Defence announced, "It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that a British airman was killed in Basra, southern Iraq yesterday, Friday 29 February 2008. The ariman, who was attached to 903 Expeditionary Air Wing, Royal Air Force, died as a result of a rocket attack on the Contingency Operating Base in Basra." They identified him as Sgt. Duane "Baz" Barwood who is survived by his spouse Sharon and their two children Leanna and Rebecca. Since the start of the illegal war, ICCC's total for British forces who have died in the Iraq is 175. Also on Saturday, Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "None of the 26 buildings in the new $740 million U.S. Embassy complex in Baghdad is ready to be occupied. Fire alarms intended to safeguard more than 1,000 U.S. government employees aren't working. Kitchens in some of the buildings are fire hazards. A senior State Department official in December certified that embassy construction was 'substantially complete,' but department inspectors found 'major deficiencies' at the unoccupied embassy, according to their inspection report, which Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif, released Friday." Waxman is the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Goverment Reform and at the committee's website they have a list of the "documents," all in PDF format, released by Chariman Waxman identify 'critical' and 'major' deficiencies in the construction of the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, raising question about the decision of the State Department to certify in December that the Embassy compound was 'substantially complete'." These documents include the letter he sent to US Secretary of State Condi Rice Friday where he informs her that he's scheduling a committee hearing March 12th that State Dept employees -- specifically the Acting Director for the Office of Overseas Building Operations Richard J. Shinnick -- should be present for and "to advise you that if the State Department does not commit by the close of business on March 3 to provide by March 7 the documents the Committee has repeatedly requested and subpoenaed, I will initiate steps to require the Deputy Secretary to appear with the documents at the Committee's March 12 hearing." Waxman's letter summarizes key events including the July 26, 2007 testimony by the State Dept.'s Charles E. Williams (director for Officie of Overseas Building Operations) which declared that the embassy would be completed in September of that year (cost $592 million). Waxman writes that "Williams's testimony turned out to be highly misleading. The Embassy did not come in on time and under budget in September. Although the price tag has increaed to $736 million, the Embassy is still not complete." He notes the letter he sent October 9th of last year (to Condi) where the issue of the fire protection system was raised, "quoted extensively from a report issued in September 2007 by State Department inspectors who documented widespread deficiencies in the Embassy's fire protection and electrical system" and noted an alleged kickback scheme that was ongoing (one person involved in the alleged kickback scheme "pleaded guilty in federal cout in July 2007"). In terms of the State Dept.'s failure to provide information and produce documents, Waxman notes requests made on July 10th, again on October 9th and again on October 19th; that Rice herself stated in her October 25, 2007 testimony to the committee that "we will get the documents to you, Mr. Chairman" but nothing; which led to the issuing of a subpoena on February 9th requiring that the State Dept produce the documents within seven days. That February 15th deadline passed with no documentation being provided and Waxman is now requesting a commitment (received by today) that the State Dept will produce the requested material by March 7th.

Also on Saturday,
Sheryl Gay Stoblerg (New York Times) reported on the trial ballon being floated by the White House and US military command (presumably on orders from the White House) that US troop reduction in Iraq will conclude shortly but may pick back up "before Mr. Bush leaves office, a senior administration official said Friday." For those still not grasping it, Deb Riechmann (AP) reported, "President Bust declined Saturday to promise more U.S. troops withdrawals from Iraq before he leaves office". Sunday saw the arrival in Iraq of Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) noted that military and security checkpoints were already set up throughout Baghdad on Saturday in anticipation of Ahmadinejad's Sunday visit and Mike Mullen, US Joint Chiefs of Staff chair, visiting on Saturday and that both "visits come as violence, which in December reached its lowest level in more than a year, has begun to rise." The BBC puts the Iraqi death toll at 633 for the month of February (an undercount). Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) notes that Ahmadinejad's visit makes him "the first Iranian head of state to visit Iraq in three decades," that some Sunnis protested his trip in Falluja, that the "Shiite ruling elite" listenend attentively, "clearly comfortable" and without need of translation while the US "officials stayed far way from the visiting Iranian delegation" and Ahmadinejad declared in a joint-press conference with Nouri al Maliki, "Iraqis don't like Americans." Michael Theodoulus (The Scotsman) draws a contrast between Ahmadinejad's trip and the trips that the Bully Boy of the United States makes, "The Iranian leader arrived yesterday amid great fanfare on a two-day visit that was pre-announced. By contrast, the US president's visits were hurried and almost furtive. His presence was never revealed before hand for security reasons -- even though the US has 158,000 troops in Iraq -- and he has never stayed overnight." Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) quotes Ahmadinejad stating, "Iran and Iraq are two friendly nations. Both have a common history and civilization. Both of them have deep, intimate sentimental and social relations." AFP reports that the Iranian president "accused the US on Sunday of bringing terrorism to the Middel East". Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond blog) offers a partial transcript of the press conference Ahmadinejad held today ("at the home of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani") including the following:

QUESTION: Are Iranian elements targeting members of the Sunni militias of the so-called Awakening movement? AHMADINEJAD: We did not witness nor did we get any complains from the Iraqi side about this issue. There may be a few incidents along the borders. And this is normal. We have laws and everything will be conducted under the umbrella of our laws.
Q: What about the fate of Iraqi soldiers missing from the time of the Iran-Iraq war?
A: There are few missing. Both sides are cooperating to discover the fate of those who are missing.
Q: What about about the American accusations that Iran supports militias in Iraq?
A: We discussed with the Iraqi side the issues that serve the interests of the two countries. We are not committed to answer the demands of others.

AFP reports that "seven pacts" were signed with the Iraqi government today and that Ahmadinejad recommended US forces leave Iraq: "Without the presence of the foreign troops, the region will live in peace and brotherhood." Deborah Haynes (Times of London) quotes Ahmadinejad stating, "We believe that the major powers who have come to the region from thousands of kilometres away should respect the will of nations and leave this region. That's the best service they can offer these nations." CBS and AP cite the network's Allen Pizzey's call that the visit sends the message "that Iran can't be ignored, or even short-changed as a player here."

Friday's snapshot noted the Mosul kidnapping of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho who remains missing. Independent Catholic News reports, "He had just celebrated the rite of Via Cruis and was on his way back to the Holy Spirit Cathedral when his car was attacked. His driver, Faris, and one of his guards, Rami, were killed. The other guard, Samir, was wounded and was in a very critical condition at the time of this posting. It is not known who has kidnapped 67-year-old archbishop, who is believed to be in poor health and requiring daily medication." ZENIT notes that the funerals for the three men accompanying the Archbishop Friday (all were shot dead) were held on Saturday and that Pope Benedict XVI has repeated his appeal calling for the kidnappers to release Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho. Melissa Gonzalo (Arizon's 12 News -- link has text video) reports on Iraqis in Arizona and Peter Oraha states, "Make me feel that I want to do something but I'm too far. I couldn't do anything to be honest."


Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports Baghdad bombings claimed 24 lives today and left at least sixty people injured. Reuters notes a Shirqat car bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left nine civilians injured. Today CBS and AP report that US military command is stating "regret over the killing of a teenager Friday by a helicopter gunship" while Reuters reports the British military declared today they were "invetigating whether a woman had been killed and three children wounded by a defective artillery shell it had fired in defence of its base in the Iraqi city of Basra" and there is apparently another child who may dead from that assault according to Iraqi authorities "and a hospital source".


Reuters notes police col. Qassim Abid Filaih and 3 guards were shot dead in Basra.

Reuters reports a discovery of a mass grave in Samarra containing 14 corpses believed to have been "either Iraqi police of members" of one of the "Awakening" Councils.

Turning to US politics. Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont hold Democratic Party primaries tomorrow. Campaigning in Ohio Sunday, US Senator Barack Obama had an Iraqi talking point and it was one David Axelrod (Bambi's Karl Rove) was repeating the same day on ABC.
Steven Thomma (McClatchy Newspapers) reports facts aren't Bambi's strong point since he declared that Senator Hillary Clinton should have followed the example of Senator Jay Rockefeller -- chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time -- on the 2002 Iraq vote; Bob Graham was the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Rockefeller voted in favor of the 2002 resolution leading Thomma to penalize them "Five yars for sloppy fact checking." The Chicago Tribune's Frank James disagrees, "I think this is more like 15 yards and loss of a down. The Iraq War vote is only the central premis of Obama's argument for why he should be president. Given that, it seems like he would have absolute command of the facts surrounding the vote. That he doesn't seems curious." Niall Stanage (New York Observer) reports on Gloria Steinem campaigning for Hillary in Austin, Texas. From the article:

There is, she said, "a great deal of pressure at play for her to act like her gender and give in." Several shouts of "No!" came from the crowd. Steinem went on: "It's a way of reinforcing the gender roles, right? Men are loved if they win and Hillary is loved if she loses…But maybe we shouldn't be so afraid of an open convention that actually decides something. After all, it was an open convention in New York City that gave us Abraham Lincoln."

Roseanne Barr notes, "Pigdom lives on. Obama doesn't want to end the war, HE just wants to movie it to pakistan, and those men have nukes . . . our leaders have us at war with a country that has NO ARMY, and they are kicking our asses. . . . YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO WOMEN, NOT SILENCE THEM!!!! HELLOOOOO....!!! HILLARY'S HEALTH CARE PROGRAM IS THE BETTER ONE!!! SHE DIDN'T START THE WAR, AND SHE DIDN'T BLOW ANYBODY!!! SHE DIDN'T VOTE FOR NAFTA, AND SHE DIDN'T INVENT AIPAC." On the issue of Iraq, Joe Wilson (The Huffington Post) explains it:

Barack Obama argues that he deserves the Democratic nomination and Hillary Clinton doesn't because he possesses superior "judgment," as he calls it, on the key issues we face as a nation. As definitive proof he offers one speech he made in 2002 during a reelection campaign for an Illinois senate seat in the most liberal district in the state, so liberal that no other position would have been viable. When he made that speech, Obama was not privy to the briefings by, among others, Secretary of State Colin Powell, in support of the Authorization of Use of Military Force as a diplomatic tool to push the international community to impose intrusive inspections on Saddam Hussein. Would Obama have acted differently had he been in Washington or had he had the benefit of the arguments and the intelligence that the administration was offering to the Congress debating that resolution? During the 2002-2003 timeframe, he was a minor local official uninvolved in the national debate on the war so we can only judge from his own statements prior to the 2008 campaign. Obama repeated these points in a whole host of interviews prior to announcing his candidacy. On July 27, 2004, he told the Chicago Tribune on Iraq: "There's not much of a difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage." In his book, The Audacity of Hope, published in 2006, he wrote, "...on the merits I didn't consider the case against war to be cut-and- dried." And, in 2006, he clearly said, "I'm always careful to say that I was not in the Senate, so perhaps the reason I thought it was such a bad idea was that I didn't have the benefit of US intelligence. And for those who did, it might have led to a different set of choices." I was involved in that debate in every step of the effort to prevent this senseless war and I profoundly resent Obama's distortion of George Bush's folly into Hillary Clinton's responsibility. I was in the middle of the debate in Washington. Obama wasn't there. I remember what was said and done. In fact, the administration lied in order to secure support for its war of choice, including cooking the intelligence and misleading Congress about the intent of the authorization. Senator Clinton's position, stated in her floor speech, was in favor of allowing the United Nations weapons inspectors to complete their mission and to build a broad international coalition. Bush rejected her path. It was his war of choice.

aaron glantz