Wednesday, December 06, 2006

John R. MacArthur on the "Centrists"

I'm not in a good mood. So let me start off with something that did brighten my day. I don't know John R. MacArthur (who publishes Harper's). I know C.I. thinks highly of him. I know that along with Lewis Lapham's astue commentaries, they've tackled Iraq seriously (it was in Harper's, and not The Nation, that Naomi Klein's "Baghdad Year Zero" was published -- the benchmark piece on Iraq to this day in my opinion). I know he stood for the First Amendment when a lot of people rushed to toss it aside for short term gain.

So, knowing all of that, I shouldn't be surprised that he would tackle the political assassination of John Murtha.

"'Centrist' Democrats Want It Both Ways" (John R. MacArthur, Providence Journal via Common Dreams):
Besides, if Emanuel and the Democratic caucus have recognized the merits of opposing the suicidal American occupation of Iraq, then why did they smash John Murtha's bid to become majority leader? Last year, Murtha courageously broke ranks with his party's establishment by calling for a rapid pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq (he cleverly calls it "redeployment"), but his initiative attracted little congressional support. Even so, as a Pentagon insider and Marine Corps veteran, Murtha cut a high profile in the war debate, so voters aiming to protest Iraq may well have mistaken the Pennsylvania Democrat's position with his party's position.
Following Murtha's defeat, the next House speaker, the increasingly anti-war Nancy Pelosi, was pilloried in the press for backing Murtha against Steny Hoyer, an early supporter of Bush's Iraq folly. Evidently taking its cue from Emanuel, The New York Times's editorial page declared that because of his near-indictment in the Abscam scandal, "Mr. Murtha would have been a farcical presence in a leadership promising the cleanest Congress in history" and tut-tutted that Pelosi "has managed to severely scar her leadership."
Received wisdom is a bipartisan taste, and right-wing columnist John Podhoretz was also happy to take the Emanuel feed, calling Murtha in The New York Post Pelosi's "sleazy born-again-peacenik buddy" and arguing that the Democrats won Congress "in spite" of Pelosi and her anti-war allies. "Rather, [the Democratic victory] was the handiwork of Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Democrat who recruited the right candidates, raised money for them and made sure they knew what themes were working, according to Democratic polls."
I think that Murtha would have weathered the Abscam video tape (after all he did turn down the proffered bribe), especially if it was contrasted with the corrupt awarding of vast amounts of money to Halliburton and the other sleazy defense contractors currently looting Iraq. And Podhoretz is simply wrong on the politics: Emanuel's batting average, 9 for 22, doesn't justify his crowning as the mastermind of victory. You could just as easily say the Democrats won in spite of Emanuel.
Of course, House Democrats haven't suddenly become Puritans. A bigger reason for the hostility to Murtha is that he meant what he said about leaving Iraq and would have quickly forced the issue come January when the 110th Congress convenes. For now, the "centrist" Clinton wing controls the party's agenda and wants to have it both ways -- responsible critics who support the president's alleged mission of democracy building in Baghdad.
Things are worse in the Senate. The brightest hope for the anti-war Democrats was Ned Lamont's insurgent candidacy, which nearly knocked out Bush's loyal war ally, Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Here I was wrong again, and this time I am sorry. I thought Lamont would carry not only anti-war Democrats, but also fiscally conservative Republicans appalled by the sheer cost of Iraq.
Unfortunately, collusion between the national Republican Party and a significant minority of the Democratic Party in Connecticut rescued Lieberman and, for the time being, Bush's war policy. In a 51-49 Senate, Lieberman holds the balance of power on Iraq, since he can always threaten to switch to the Republicans and throw control to Dick Cheney, who as vice president can vote to break ties.
The New York/Washington power elite, dominated by Bush and the Clintons, doesn't have the guts or the honesty to admit that Iraq is hopeless and that U.S. soldiers are being killed and mutilated for nothing more than Bush's vainglory. The power elite's spokesman, the champion equivocator and ace sloganeer Thomas Friedman, provides the purest distillation of the current conventional thinking on Iraq. The other day, The New York Times's star columnist was still clinging to the fantasy that America could have "properly occupied" Mesopotamia and even now could send more troops and "crush the dark forces in Iraq and properly rebuild it."
Friedman and many Democrats haven't figured out that lots of Iraqis view America as a dark force of colonialism and don't want our version of "progressive politics."

That is an amazing column and I was very tempted to go with the first half. I may have chosen my excerpt wrong. I love the entire thing. On a day when I felt lied to and hyped (and worse) (Gates was confirmed among other things and a lot of hype is coming from the left on the laughable report assembled by the James Baker Circle Jerk), this really did reach me. (Robert Parry did as well, he's in the snapshot; however.)

I'll assume MacArthur will get some of the hate mail that Ava and Jess have seen in the public account to C.I. for noting the assassination. That's what it was. John Murtha was taken out. That's not "I am in love with Murtha!" I'm not. But to pretend that the hit job, which some on the left and 'left' participated in, didn't happen is to be willfully ignorant. I think your committment to telling your truth has to be greater than a desire to run with the pack for you to make the needed calls. So please read MacArthur's column. It cheered me up.

If you missed the Senate vote on Robert Gates for Secretary of War, only two senators voted against him and both were Republicans. One was "Man on Dog" Rick Santorum. He's been the butt of many jokes for good reason. How sad is it when the joke of the Senate votes correctly (for the first time) and Democrats can't?

Pretty sad. MacArthur makes the point (before the excerpt I chose) that the Democratic Party may be less pro-war and more anti-anti-war. I think that's likely. They remain the party with no stand.

Myself? The Green Party is looking very good right now. If I do vote Green in 2008, I will be noting it here. You can see it as an "enorsement" because that's what it will be. I know C.I. doesn't do endorsements and I understand why. C.I. doesn't even share support during a primary until friends have made up their own minds. I hope you'll make up your own minds as well. But if I do go Green, I will be noting it because they do not get attention. What they get is "Don't run a candidate!" The Democrats do not own votes and if this is how they're going to excercise their "control," they don't deserve votes in my opinion.

I've always supported the Democratic Party blindly. This election cycle, I did take the pledge (the same one C.I., Rebecca, Ava and many other women who'd opened their pocketbooks to the party before took) not to donate to any candidate who was anti-choice. I followed that. I'm a soft touch for a direct mail and always have been. Call me on the phone and I'm usually offended. Partly because I have an unlisted phone number by choice (so I don't enjoy it when my number is given out by magazines or candidates I've donated to) and partly because if I'm not running out the door, I'm relaxing. I can, and do, say, "Don't ever call me again" and hang up the phone.
A direct mailing, done well, can usually result in my reaching for the check book. I don't feel generous to the Democratic Party today.

I'm tired of the weakness on display in the Democratic Party, the constant caving, the refusal to stand up for what is right. The excuse for the last six years have been "we're not in power!" That doesn't matter. You can take brave stands and motivate the people. Even if you lose, people will realize that you will fight. Fighting has left the Democratic Party handbook and been replaced with caving. It was a sad day today (and the hearings yesterday didn't make for a great Tuesday either). I'm sick of championing a party that won't stand up.

With reproductive rights being disowned and trashed, the Democratic Party is not my party. It doesn't matter that women swept them back into power. They show no indication of acknowledging that anymore than they seem willing to stop the war.

It was a really sad day. Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts, he's a little more upbeat tonight. Mainly because of the reaction to "Jim Lafferty, Law and Disorder, peace movement," which is wonderful.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, December 6, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the James Baker Circle Jerk finally spews,
Dow Jones reports ten US soldiers dead in Iraq today from two IEDs, and the Democrats demonstrate that "bipartisan" is Beltway Latin for "Screw the voter."
Starting with the vocab lesson first, for all the gas bagging after the election by The Elector (in all their forms) and all the talk of "change" and "listening to the people," Democrats -- swept into power by voters wanting change -- demonstrate that "bipartisanship" is just Beltway Latin for "Screw the voter." First up was the character assassination took John Murtha out of the running for the post of House Majority Leader and allowed War Hawk Steny Hoyer to be installed. Last week Dems were supposed to be cheerleading around the nation over Silvestre Reyes who was being installed as House Intelligence Committee chair. "Yeah, Silvestre!" was the kind of "critique" the public got as the gas bags of the left (and 'left') tried to paint over the fact that others were (again) passed over. Now,
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes an interview Reyes gave to Newsweek where he expressed his desire to send an "up to 30,000" additional US troops to Iraq.
The vocabulary lesson is not limited to House Dems, Democrats on the Senate Armed Service Committee collectively stated, "Screw the voter." As
Robert Parry (Consortium News) observes, "Despite winning the Nov. 7 elections largely due to public anger over the Iraq War, congressional Democrats crumbled in their first post-election confrontation with President George W. Bush on the future direction of that conflict."
As elected Dems attempt to 'educate,' the mainstream press attempts to present the marginalized as the norm. Though polls repeatedly demonstrate US citizens want US troops out of Iraq, though polls repeatedly demonstrate that Iraqi citizens wants US troops out of Iraq, Big Media thinks they can pull one over on the public again.
Tossing Judith Miller onto the stake and burning her as the public scapegoat is supposed to satiate the masses and allow
War Pornographer Michael Gordon to get off scott free again. (Gordo was Miller's writing partner quite often including on one story that was mentioned in the Times' mini-culpa.) Norman Solomon (Common Dreams) observes that Gordo and David Sanger have both contributed articles pushing the "the US must stay myth" and concludes: "What's now going on in mainline news media is some kind of repetition compulsion. And, while media professionals engage in yet another round of conformist opportunism, many people will pay with their lives."
It's not limited to the New York Times, but to stay on Gordo and the Times,
FAIR notes that, on November 15, 2006, Gordo was on CNN telling Anderson Cooper "while the politicians in the United States would like to see a withdrawal of forces, particularly on the Democratic side, that's simply not realistic given how precarious the security situation is at this point in time" and drawing a comparison between Democrats who actually call for a withdrawal (there are a few of those) and 'insurgents': ". . . there are a significant number of players in Baghdad today who don't mind if the Americans withdraw. These are the militia leaders. They would be happy if the United States withdrew . . ." Now does any of that sound anything like a policy judgement or recommendation?
Because when attempting to foist his bad book off on the public, Gordo refused to weigh in on the war itself,
telling Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!), "Well, that's a policy judgement and a political judgement that's really beyound the scope of our book."
But now, he can can make those judgements? Of course he can, he made them during the invasion as well -- in fact, he made them on CNN. March 25, 2003,
Gordo took the CNN airwaves (Aaron Brown's now cancelled show) to cheerlead a US attack of a civilian target, a TV station, stating, "And personally, I think the television, based on what I've seen of Iraqi television, with Saddam Hussein presenting propaganda to his people and showing off the Apache helicopter and claiming a farmer shot it down and trying to persuade his own public that he was really in charge, when we're trying to send the exact opposite message, I think, was an appropriate target." Three year later, Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) noted to Gordo that his [Gordo's] remark were "condemned by many journalism organizations around the world" and Gordo sputtered: "Well, I think, when -- you know, I don't know what was in General Franks' mind . . ." Blah, blah, blah. Gordo can't own his own mistakes, neither the can the paper.
Judith Miller was one person. The dog pile on her while others were ignored created a climate of impunity. Ditch digger Dexy is outed as a the go-to-boy (outed by a mainstream daily) for the US military and, if noted, it's reduced to an aside. While everyone obsessed and dog piled on Judith Miller's pre-war 'reporting' (which included co-writers), there wasn't time to call
sob sister Dexy out. Even now, as the paper's attempts to marginalize US public opinion is called out, who's noting the story, filed from Iraq, that couldn't find a single Iraqi who wanted the US to withdraw (a position held by the majority of Iraqis)? No one.
Miller's departure changed nothing at the paper. But bash-the-bitch and golden oldies did allow many to feel, three years later, that they were 'commenting' as they again trotted out the name "Judy Miller." The only thing surprising about Gordo is that
his war porn has taken so long to be called out.
Qais Al-Bashir (AP) reports a mortar attack in the Sadr City section of Baghdad which took 8 lives and left "dozens" wounded. while in Iskandariyah, a bomb claimed 4 lives and left at least 12 wounded. The US military reports a blast "near the Old Ministry of Defense building in the Rusafa neighborhood of central Baghdad" which killed at least 15 Iraqis and left 25 more wounded. Reuters reports that a bomber "blew himself up inside a minibus" in Baghdad resulting in 3 other deaths and at least 16 people wounded
KUNA reports a British soldier wounded in Basra "after armed clashes between British troops and an armed group". Conflicts in Basra have already resulted in the British pulling embassy staff out of the area. Reuters reports a police officer was shot dead in Hawija while a police brigadier was wounded in an attack in Baghdad and his driver shot dead, another shooting attack in Mosul left a college professor wounded, and in Khalis an attack on a farm workers traveling in a bus left one dead and eight wounded. On the college professor, CNN notes this is "a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki pledged that the government would protect professors and students in the wake of a Sunni insurgent group's threat to target professors and students."
Reuters reports three corpses were discovered in Mahmudiya, one in Kirkuk and a headless one in Mosul. And, in an update, Reuters notes that 48 corpses ("gunshot wounds . . . signs of torture) were discovered in Baghdad.
US military notes: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier was killed during combatoperations in the Iraqi capital Dec. 3" and also says 'Woops! We issued the information on two deaths in two different press releases Sunday!' ICCC counts 2907 US troops dead in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. And AFP notes that the total of US troops who have died in Iraq has passed the 2900 mark and counting. This comes as Dow Jones reports that 10 US troops have been killed in Iraq today and cites MSNBC on the "two incidents involving improvised explosive devices." That would take the 2907 up to 2917. And possibly it will also give the New York Times and others still silent the chance to note that the 2900 mark was passed?
The James Baker Circle Jerk released their report today. The thing that should stand out the most is that the 142 page report is actually 96 pages (with illustrations) and that 36 pages are end credits -- including a special spotlight for each member. Apparently, notions of a group shot were ditched due to the fact that a visual like that would have most Americans asking who those Circle Jerkers were supposed to reflect? They're old, they're White (one African-American), they're male (one woman). "Tell Us What To Do About The War, Rich Gramps?" could be the working title.
Having stroked each other raw, the Circle Jerk spews 79 recommendations. With few exceptions, they're all based on a principle: "Stupid Iraqis! We will educate you!" You see that in "Recommendation 76" and its focus on "civilian tasks" and "key civilian agencies, including Treasury, Justice, and Agriculture" which "need to create similar technical assistance capabilities." Every now and then, a concrete recommendation stumbles in such as "Recommendation 72" which addresses the requesting of funds for the war ("should be included in the President's annual budget request, starting in FY 2008: the war is in its fourth year") or noting that need to keep an accurate count of incidents of violence and death.
But in the end, you're left with gas bags tasked to do the job that Congress should have. In the real world, the people's
Iraq Study Group released their findings last week. Using the same phrase, The Nation notes a poll by World Public Opinion who will release their full results tomorrow. The summary of the polling is currently available. From that:

*1,326 Americans were surveyed.

*75% of respondents desire talks between the US and Iran (something Bully Boy is nixing,
click here)

*58% of respondents want a timetable for withdrawal

*78% of those who identified Democrat "think U.S. forces should be out within two-years or less, including 61 percent who favor a one-year or less"

*Withdrawal is supported even stronger by respondents "if the majority of the Iraqi people say they want the U.S. to commit to withdraw U.S. forces"

From the summary: "A poll of the Iraqi public conducted by in September 2006 found that 71 percent want U.S.-led forces to commit to withdraw within a year." Again, the full results will be released tomorrow.
William Roberts (Bloomberg) reports that Tom Vilsak (who declared he was running for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008) has called for the withdrawal of "most American troops from Baghdad and southern Iraq" and declares, "We have created an opportunity for the people of that nation and its government to make fundamental decisions for themselves. We have given them enough time."
Nancy Trejos (Washington Post) reports that Nouri al-Maliki wants a "regional conference on stabilizing his country but rejected a proposal from U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that it take place outside Iraq."
Finally, in peace news US war resister
Ehren Watada is noted as the United Methodists reflect on 2006: "United Methodists rallied in support of Army Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, who has refused deployment to Iraq because he feels the war is 'morally wrong' and 'a breach of American law.' He faces charges of missing troop movement, conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt towards officials. United Methodists joined a vigil and rally at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, where Watada is being held."
And as
Indybay IMC notes, "December 8th through 10th with be National Days of Action to Support GI resistance and GI rights." More information can be found at Courage to Resist and in the Bay Area, "Friday, December 8th, 7:30pm at the College of Marin in Kentfield, segments of the film "Ground Truth" will be shown, and Iraq combat veteran-turned-war-resister Darrell Anderson will speak. Also that evening, at 7:30pm at the Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda, the film "The Ground Truth" will be shown, and there will be a panel with Rev. Michael Yoshii, and Bob Watada and Rosa Sakanishi. That night in San Jose, there will be a reception and fundraiser for Kyle Snyder at 6pm at the San Jose Friends Meeting House. On Saturday December 9th, there will be a peace vigil in support of Lt. Ehren Watada, in front of the MLK, Jr. Library in San Jose from 12-4pm. Read more about these events."

democracy nowamy goodmanjuan gonzalezthe new york timesmichael r. gordon
the washington postnancy trejos
robert parry
norman solomon
ehren watada