Monday, August 07, 2006

In the wall to wall coverage of Israel, Iraq falls off the map again

First, I did get Roger Water's The Wall: Live in Berlin this weekend. Susan was right, Joni Mitchell's "Goodbye Blue Skies" is a wonderful version of that song. I'm not crazy about all the performances (the Scorpians for instance), but I also like Sinead O'Connor's take on "Mother" and Waters and Van Morrison teaming up for "Comfortably Numb." I'd recommend it. If you like Pink Floyd's The Wall, you'll be interested in how others interpret the songs. I don't know that you'll be thrilled with all the interpretations but I think you'll find your own favorites. (You might even like The Scorpians's take of "In The Flesh.") Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue in Iraq today, Monday, August 7, 2006 -- even if the "world's eyes" (media) elect to focus elsewhere.
While the failed "crackdown" attempts to beef up Baghdad and
George Casey ("Top U.S. commander in Iraq") holds a press conference to proclaim the military equivalent of "Check's in the mail!" (Casey claims things will be okey-dokey by the end of September) reality suggests otherwise with the AFP reports at least 26 Iraqis dead on Monday and BBC correspondent Paul Wood noting "of John Abizaid ("head of US Central Command") "that this is the first time the generals are talking openly about the possibility of a civil war." And more details emerge into the death of Abeer Qasim Hamza and her family as a US military investigator testifies before the Article 32 hearing.
Before turning to today's violence, we'll note the latest peace news.
On Sunday, Cindy Sheehan returned to Crawford, Texas for Camp Casey III. Last summer, the first Camp Casey's were set up to honor her son Casey Sheehan who died April 4, 2004 as well as the other lost lives of this illegal war.
W. Leon Smith (Lonestar Iconoclast) reports on (and from) the new location for Camp Casey (several acres owned by Sheehan) and notes Sheehan's belief that the new location "will be safer than where we were before, and we won't be in the way as much as we were before. We are good neighbors. . . . If they can't put up with our presence for a few weeks, when our soldiers and the people of Iraq are suffering constantly because of what our other neighbor George Bush did, then I think they need to learn to relax a little bit and learn to live with us because, I promise you, I love Crawford and we will be good neighbors."
As The Lonestar Iconclast notes "
Bush Is Back . . . But So Is Sheehan" which reports this is Bully Buy's "59th" trip to the ranch and that "[a]s of Saturday, he had spent all or part of 384 days (more than a year of his presidency) in the area, which has drawn considerable criticism among those who believe that presidential vacations should be limited, especially when catastrophes abound throught the world."
This August, Bully Boy cuts his vacation short because he's a "
Bully on the Run" ("Bully on the Run") with Sheehan back in Crawford. Angela K. Brown (AP) reports that, on Sunday, "Sheehan and more than 50 demonstrators again marched a mile and a half toward Bush's ranch, stopping at a roadblock" and that the activists began a chant of "This is what democracy looks like! This is what democracy sounds like!"
As the
AFP notes, Cindy Sheehan's return to Camp Crawford follows her trip to Jordan with other activists (including Medea Benjamin, Tom Hayden, Ann Wright, Diane Wilson and others) where ""We met with Iraqi parliamentarians, elected officials, who have peace plans and goals that they want to accomplish in Iraq, and all of them said the occupation is the cause of the problem and the occupation has to end."
For the Bully Boy, the only thing ending is his retreat to Crawford since he will now spend precious few days at his ranchette but
will weekend in Maine this month and hang out at Camp David. Clayton Hallmark (North Texas Indymedia) reports on the Bully Boy's ranchette, which used to be a hog farm (and still house a pig -- at least during vacations), noting that "[t]he new main house is built like a motel but with porch on the back instead of the front"; that the "style is that of an office factory" and that it "was built by a religious commune from nearby Elm Mott, TX (the FBI-decimated Branch Davidians were from Elk, also nearby), out of yellow-beige native limestone".
While Bully Boy is planning on pulling a disappearance stunt (shades of his releationship with the National Guard),
Richard Benedetto (USA Today) reports that Sheehan intends to stay in Crawford until September 3rd.
When Sheehan returned to Camp Casey, others on the
CODEPINK and Global Exchange sponsored trip to Amman, Jordan are hoping to arrive in Lebanon today -- those include Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright. Australia's Sunday Times reports:
"Medea said the group wanted to press congress, ahead of November elections, to support calls for 'a fixed timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and a commitment not to have permanent US bases in Iraq'." (
Marjorie Cohn noted on WBAI's Law and Disorder this morning that "we are now building six to fourteen permanent military bases" in Iraq.)
Jodie Evans reports on the first meeting in Jordan and notes some of the statements made by Iraqis including: "We witnessed with our own experience how American tanks used to break Universities and asked people to loot them. These people who started looting in the beginning were not from Iraq but other countries, Kuwait was involved." CODEPINK's Evans also notes the large number of Iraqis fleeing their country as the illegal war wages on and estimates that the city of Amman contains "about 500,000 Iraqis seeking safe harbor." Along with Evans, Hayden, Wright, Wilson and Benjamin, others on the trip to Jordan were: Dal LaMagna, Franciscan priest Louie Vitale, Gael Murphy, Jeeni Criscenzo, Raed Jarrar, Geoffrey Millard and Barbara Briggs-Letson.
The meeting in Amman is thought to have come about from the
Troops Home Fast actions. The fast continues and it is on day 35 with 4,549 people from around the world participating. The action started July 4th and continues through September 21st. If you're interested in participating, it is an ongoing fast and you can join at any time for a one-day strike, a one-day-a-week strike, or whatever works best for you. More information can be found at Troops Home Fast.
Rawya Rageh (AP) reports on a "suicide truck bomber" in Samarra whose actions have resulted in the death of nine Iraqi troops as well as ten civilians wounded. CBS and AP report two bombs in Baghdad, on Palestine Street ("major shopping area of Baghdad"), resulted in ten people being injured. Reuters reports a roadside bomb near Khalis killed four civilians and wounded at least seven; a bomb in Khan Bani Saad killed two (police officer and a civilians) and left seven more wounded; and, in Faulluja, a roadside bomb claimed the lives of six civilians leaving two more wounded.
Reuters reports that an attack by armed assailants in Baquba resulted in the death of six Iraqi soldiers and fifteen more wounded. The Associated Press notes fighting going on in Iraq, cites Col. Hassan Chaloub (police chief of Sadr City -- a district in Baghdad) noting that three people have died "including a woman and a 3-year-old girl" while "three cars and three houses also were destroyed."
AP also notes that two cars did a drive-by aimed at a barbershop in Baghdad and resulting in the death of "the owner and four customers"; while in Mosul, two police officers in a taxi were shot to death.
I believe the above incidents add up to 35 reported dead in Iraq (and that's not touching on US military claims of "insurgents" killed). Corpses?
AP notes that two corpses were discovered in Baghdad ("hancuffed . . . shot in the head").
From corpses to courts . . . New reports are coming out of the military inquiry into the death and alleged rape of
Abeer Qasim Hamza, the fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl who was killed along with three family members reported by US troops. Reuters reports that the "U.S. military court heard graphic testimony on Monday on how U.S. soldiers took turns holding down and raping" Abeer Sasim Hamza. Elsa McLaren "and agencies" (Times of London) reports that Benjamin Bierce testified on what James Barker told him when he (Bierce) began investigating the incident: " Barker said that he held the girl's hands while Sergeant Paul Cortez raped her or tried to rape her. Barker then switched positions with Cortez and attempted to rape the girl, but said he was not sure if he had done so, Special Agent Bierce told the hearing." After this, Bierce testifies, Steven Green came into the room "put down an AK-47 assault rifle and raped the girl while Cortez held her down". CBS and AP report that: "U.S. soldiers accused of raping and murdering a 14-year-old Iraqi girl in the town of Mahmoudiya last March drank alcohol and hit golf balls before the attack, and one of them grilled chicken wings afterward, an investigator told a U.S. military hearing Monday, citing a soldier's sworn statement."
In peace news,
Caroline Aoygi-Stom (New America Media) notes that the national JACL (Japanese American Citizens League) has taken a non-stand on Ehren Watada (sitting out another issue they could be impacting) despite the fact that "the Honolulu JACL has come out in full support of Watada, backing his decision to refuse deployment to Iraq." Watada is the first commissioned US officer known to have refused deployment in Iraq. Aoygi-Stom notes the latter's statement: "'The JACL Hawai'i, Honolulu chapter supports Lt. Ehren Watada's thoughtful and deliberate act of conscience. We believe Lt. Watada's refusal to participate in a war that violates the U.S. Constitution and international law is a principled act of patriotism,' the chapter said in their statement. 'We believe a staunch defense of the Constitution is in keeping with JACL Hawai'i's primary mission of protecting the civil and human rights of all'."
To read the national JACL's statement you
can click here (PDF format).
Remember that
Courage to Resist and are calling for a "National Day of Education" on August 16th, the day before Ehren Watada would be due to "face a pre-trial hearing for refusing to deploy to Iraq." ThankYouLt.Org notes: "On August 16, the day prior to the hearing, The Friends and Family of Lt. Ehren Watada are calling for a 'National Day of Education' to pose the question, 'Is the war illegal?' This day can also serve to anchor a 'week of outreach' leading up to the pre-trial hearing."
Meredith May (San Francisco Chronicle) reports on the war resistance movement and notes that attorneys in "Toronto and Vancouver . . . compared numbers" and estimate they've advised 200 Americans soldiers who've gone AWOL. War resister Brandon Hughey is quoted saying: "I've always believed if you need to defend yourself or your family from killing, then killing could be justified, but I can't kill someone without a good reason." May also speaks to Patrick Hart, Ryan Johnson, Darryl Anderson and others and May's report is also available as a podcast.

I'm glad C.I. led with Cindy Sheenan. There was a time when Camp Casey would mean independent media would be all over this. Sunny searched in vain for some reporting on it to listen to or a discussion. She gave up and ended up listening to NPR. There's only one topic for independent media now and it's nonstop. I can't imagine that's it's drawing an audience.

I care about the topic and I'm not even interested in listening to independent media because I know it's all I will here. In "And the war drags on," C.I. compared this sort of coverage to an O.J. Simpson car chase. Remember that? Remember how that one story (whether you think it was newsworthy or not -- I didn't) dominated everything? That's how it is now. I'm not pulling out the credit card during the upcoming fundraising. I have no interest in supporting this type of coverage. This one story and one story only, over and over, is why I don't watch cable news. It bores beyond belief.

There's also the fact that, as Jimmy Breslin pointed out with "In Case We All Forgot, Americans Are Still Dying in Iraq" (Newsday via Common Dreams), that Iraq's not getting any coverage. I told Sunny to try listening to Randi Rhodes tomorrow. She'll probably have something on Camp Casey. I racked my brain for something and Rhodes was the only one I could think of who wouldn't be dropping Iraq to go wall to wall. As my hate mail will attest, I think Israel's out of control, I think other countries need to convey that this needs to stop. "Other countries"? Bully Boy's signed off on all of this. He's not going to listen. He'll make noises but only after they've done whatever Bully Boy okayed will it end. Israel bombed a UN station. They knew it was one, it had been there for decades, they were in contact with it. They didn't bomb it once, they bombed it repeatedly, hour after hour. You don't do that unless your key ally (the US) has signed off on your actions.

Is this a story? Yes, it is. But it's not the only story, despite independent media's attempts to portray it as such. Everyone has to jump on the bandwagon. It's like one cable news network covers something and the others glom on it.

I have no interest in listening in my spare time to that. I don't need to hear it over and over and I can't imagine that many do. It's not the only story but it's treated like it was. So Iraq falls off the radar. I've heard the speeches during the fund drives, how only independent media can bring you the coverage you need on Iraq. I guess that won't be part of the pitch this time. But I won't be supporting it. I won't give a dime because I do vote with my pocketbook and I won't endorse this kind of wall to wall coverage that lets Iraq and other important stories take a back seat. It's not even impressive coverage. It's "and now we're playing a clip from a documentary . . ."

I'm tired of it. I was tired of the wall to wall on Mexico before Israel decided that laws don't apply to them. It's ten days until Ehren Watada goes into the Article 32 proceeding but that's not an important story and the people dying in Iraq aren't "newsworthy." It's all such nonsense.
Sunny said she's not even going to try to listen to the independent media tomorrow. She's going to bring CDs and she's going to try to catch Randi Rhodes.

C.I.'s right that it is way past the point where independent media should have provided a program devoted to Iraq. It hasn't. So week after week, there's some new 'hot' story and Iraq never gets the coverage it needs. I support United for Peace and Justice. I have nothing against other organizations working to end the war but that is the organization that spoke to me most clearly in the lead up to the illegal war with Iraq and continues to do so. (I love the women of CODEPINK, for the record.) They don't get the coverage they need.

Sunny's issue about the morning radio programs was don't they check or anything? Don't they say, "Oh, this show's covering Israel, so I'll offer another topic"? They don't appear to. They appear to want wall to wall.

That Camp Casey's re-opening didn't lead to huge coverage demonstrates how out of touch independent media is (or maybe how it just doesn't care). Camp Casey ignited the peace movement. Now, it's reduced to a few seconds if it gets that.

I was on the phone with C.I. during the entry last night (or during part of it) and C.I. said the f-word was going to start popping up so the entry was going up before it did. I understand that. I understand and share the feeling that independent media is a failure right now. All they've demonstrated is that they can do wall to wall the same as any cable network and that they can chase after one story over and over at the expense of everything else.

I didn't even listen to Cat Radio Cafe today. I love the show but was afraid Janet Coleman might be doing the same thing everyone else was. That would have been too depressing. Sunny was already depressed, pointing out that a hundred Iraqis die every day (according to the UN) and that for this month, just for this month of which today is the 7th day, 14 American troops have died. Do you grasp that? I don't think independent media does.

The hate mail didn't make me stop covering the topic. But what made me (Mike and I discussed this today) decide to stop covering Israel's actions is that everyone else is. I don't control independent media. I can (and will) withhold my money. But what I do control is what goes up at this site. So this week, you won't find links on Israel or discussions of it.

14 American troops dead. On the seventh day of August, 14 troops have died so far this month.
Ramadi? Off the radar. Big media wasn't interested in. Now independent media isn't. "Crackdown" II is going on in Baghdad. You think we don't need to know what's going on? You think that's not important?

It's very important. It may not be important to independent media and that's fine. Just don't hit me up for money. Don't expect me to listen to you.

With "Other Items" this morning, C.I. opened with Riverbend's "Summer of Goodbyes..." (Baghdad Burning):

I've said goodbye this last month to more people than I can count. Some of the 'goodbyes' were hurried and furtive- the sort you say at night to the neighbor who got a death threat and is leaving at the break of dawn, quietly.
Some of the 'goodbyes' were emotional and long-drawn, to the relatives and friends who can no longer bear to live in a country coming apart at the seams.
Many of the 'goodbyes' were said stoically -- almost casually -- with a fake smile plastered on the face and the words, "See you soon"... Only to walk out the door and want to collapse with the burden of parting with yet another loved one.
During times like these I remember a speech Bush made in 2003: One of the big achievements he claimed was the return of jubilant 'exiled' Iraqis to their country after the fall of Saddam. I'd like to see some numbers about the Iraqis currently outside of the country you are occupying... Not to mention internally displaced Iraqis abandoning their homes and cities.
I sometimes wonder if we'll ever know just how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis left the country this bleak summer. I wonder how many of them will actually return. Where will they go? What will they do with themselves? Is it time to follow? Is it time to wash our hands of the country and try to find a stable life somewhere else?

I read that and thought of the independent media coverage of the last few weeks and told Mike I didn't want to cover any radio program, I didn't want to provide any links to Israel's actions. I read that and thought, "Riverbend has to go through this every day and no one seems to care right now." I don't know Riverbend but, through her writing, I feel like I do. I won't abandon her to chase after some 'hot' topic. When I was writing of it, it seemed like others weren't addressing seriously. Now it's all that's talked about and that was never my intent.

I read Riverbend's latest post and read her writing about how she can't even drive anymore because of the conditions in Baghdad which no longer is an area safe for women to drive in. They can be killed for that. It's as though Baghdad is now Saudi Arabia. That's the fault of the US. Iraq and Baghdad were modern societies with a recognition of the rights of women. During Mad Maddy Albright's sanctions, women suffered but it was still more advanced than any of its neighbors. That's no longer the case and Riverbend has to live with that -- even if no one seems to care.

I do care. It breaks my heart. She has always had the most personable writing style, you feel like she's talking to you in her posts. They are very conversational, informative but conversational. So it does break my heart to read of the continued decay and how it is impacts Riverbend.

"How the US Army Failed to Notice a Killer: The Legacy of a Drop in Standards" (Trevor Royle,
Scotland's Sunday Herald via Common Dreams):
That didn't happen in Green’s case and when he was shipped out to Iraq in the summer of 2005 he was that dangerous beast: a man with no self-discipline in charge of a gun. The experience of war unnerved him. He found that it was not a computer game but a hellish business in which people literally get blown to pieces and died not like heroes but screaming in agony. One night, he had had enough and the demons in his head took him out of camp and into the house of a blameless Iraqi family in Al Mahmudiyah, slap bang in the heart of the Sunni Triangle.
It's now clear that Green had slipped through the net during basic training and that his instructors failed to pick up on the fact that he was grotesquely unsuited to being a soldier. But here’s the rub: such is the demand for recruits at a time when the US armed forces are over-stretched that the system has been subtly re-focused. Instead of insisting on checks to weed out the misfits, the emphasis has been changed to make sure that as many recruits as possible get through basic training. At a time when Iraq hovers on the brink of civil war, the deaths in Al Mahmudiyah may be just another set of statistics but that they exist at all begs the age-old question. When lives are at stake, who guards the guardians?

Sunny saw that and wanted me to comment on it and pair it with a better highlight. C.I. addressed this on Saturday and we'll get to that in a moment. The part not excerpted is under some impression that only Steven Green allegedly raped Abeer Qasim Hamza. That is not correct. Four of the five others were charged with rape, arson and murder. I agree that Green got into an institution he should have never been allowed into. But that goes to what they were looking for? What were they looking for with Abu Ghraib? They appear to have found exactly what they were looking for in that instance. With Green, it may be something as simple as a recruiter needing to make that quota but he should never been inducted.

Now on Saturday, C.I. addressed some of the nonsense in the New York Times' coverage of the case (such as being unable to name Abeer Qasim Hamza -- a condition/code of silence that continues in print today, see C.I.'s "NYT: Continuing render Abeer Qasim Hamza invisible").

"NYT: Rendering Abeer Qasim Hamza invisible again" (The Common Ills):
If [Robert F.] Worth and [Carolyn] Marshall want to chart the decay of the military company, might they take a moment to wonder what sort of leadership existed that adult males sent by the US to Iraq were able to leer at (and comment on?) a fourteen-year-old girl? So much so that she and others noticed it. Who didn't notice it? And why didn't they notice it?
This nonsense of the leadership was under pressure and one of them needed to leave his command to get his head together isn't cutting it. But as long as the story is driven by the "pressure" (rape as an outlet for pressure? murder as an outlet for pressure?), a lot of questions about leadership (and training and who gets admitted) aren't being answered.
With Green it's already been reported that he had run ins with the law. When he was under age (which I'm not interested in -- others can be, that's their business) but also right before the military took him. Green's one person alleged to have been involved. Worth and Marshall report that there are now doubts that he was the "ringleader" as the press has billed him.
So who got in and how? And what was the training? What was the supervision?
Someone's quoted (anonymous) saying "none of that would have happened if he was around" -- John Goodwin ("commander of Company B"). None of what? The murders, the rape? What about the days where Abeer Qasim Hamza was the object of attention that grown men know better of? At one point, the press (I don't believe the Times did this) made a big deal out of the age (I think it was when they'd finally downgraded to 16) and how in 'that culture' the girl is a woman. Adult males raised in the United States damn well know they don't have sex with a 14-year-old. Long before they raped her, Abeer Qasim Hamza was aware of enough going on to know that they were making her uncomfortable. Her family was aware of that as well -- which is why they were attempting to send her to another home for her own protection.
Now Worth and Marshall can quote a whiner about how everyone in Iraq hates them and you don't know who your friends are or who they aren't. They can quote that until the paper it's printed on decays to dust. That's not the issue. This isn't just murder or just rape (bad enough), this is a sexual assault on a child.
Had it been consensual (which it wasn't), it would have landed them behind bars in the United States. They know that. They knew that growing up.
All the crap in the world about how everybody hates them and they act like they're your friend to your face but the whole time they're plotting against you, is just crap. It's nothing more than crap.
Abeer Qasim Hamza was fourteen-years-old and she was raped. By US adult males. Someone shooting the wrong person because they thought they were under attack -- tragic but it happens. Someone raping a fourteen-year-old girl? Pressure is offered throughout the article. The pressure they were under.
Is the insanity defense going to be used because they'd have to be at least temporarily insane to think rape was okay (one they plotted for some time allegedly). And the rape victim was a fourteen-year-old girl. That's disgusting and the fact that the paper of record can't name her, can't try to report on her story from her angle is disgusting.
Iraqis are rendered invisible day after day in the press reports. Apparently, we have time to track down anonymice who can tell us about the pressure but that pressure never will include what it was like for a fourteen-year-old girl, in her own neighborhood, to be made uncomfortable by what was obvious sexual attention from adult males supposedly their for her neighborhood's protecticion.

People are acting, including Scotland's Sunday Herald, as though the US troops just snapped. That's now what's been reported. They were "eyeing" Abeer. Fourteen-years-old and she's got to deal with the disgusting ogling of adult males, adult males with guns, adult males who are part of the foreign forces occupying her country. Do you think the press has given much thought to what that must have been like for Abeer?

To be so nervous, so bothered by the unwanted attention that she complained to her parents who quickly decided that, for her own protection, they needed to have her go live with neighbors. Abeer never got to do that. She was murdered. She was allegedly raped. Fourteen-years-old. I don't think the press gets how disgusting this is. I think they see it as a murder and nothing more. Certainly, the New York Times in their early coverage emphasized the murder and treated the rape in a secondary manner.

C.I. asked (in "NYT: Continuing render Abeer Qasim Hamza invisible") where the watchdogs were on the press treatment of Abeer? No where to be found. Independent media could address that but that would mean dropping the wall to wall.

As I said earlier, I understood when C.I. said last night that it was post the entry or start dropping the f-word. I feel that way now so let me wind down. Trina's "Jess' Summer Vegetable Blend in the Kitchen" is a recipe I intended to attempt but Trina ended up making it for everyone Sunday afternoon. (I left Sunday evening.) (Thank you to everyone for having me as a guest.)