Friday, June 30, 2006

Put Away the Flags (Howard Zinn)

Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts. Everyone's tired tonight and except C.I. (who may also not be tired) pretty bummed. C.I.? "Well, I think it's liberating." Read Mike's post tonight. He has a column coming out Sunday in Polly's Brew. While the rest of us were saddened by the news of who took a pass on noting the fact that the US is keeping body counts on Iraqis, C.I.'s attitude is that it shows that you don't owe anyone anything. I suppose that's one way to look at it. It may be the correct way to look at it. Rebecca was quoting Joni Mitchell and saying, "Everybody's in it for their own game." That's, sadly, very true.

There's always space for nonsense and half-assed 'explorations,' but reality that matters doesn't stand a chance even on the supposed, brave left net. Which is really funny if you think about it, how they're all running from a story that ran in countless papers -- it's not like they're being asked to 'break' news. Merely to link an article or note it.

Well, it is all their own game in one way or another. It's been a highly depressing week.

Next week, I'm on vacation. I may blog once (possibly even twice) or I may not. Sunny wanted to take a crack at it. So she'll fill in at least once next week. She says she'd love to write every night but not sure if she can. She knows she's got at least one post in her. I appreciate whatever she does (or attempts) and it was very nice of her to insist. (Insist, not just offer. I don't want a Devil Wears Prada type book following me around. I didn't ask her to fill in. She offered and I said I thought it would be too much work. She thinks it could be fun.) So Sunny, smart, funny and, yes, sunny will be subbing for me at least once. I'll be on vacation as part of a four-some and, yes, that includes Rebecca and Flyboy. Rebecca's got Betty filling in for her some. I'm not sure of the schedule, so check out Rebecca's post. I will post here on Monday. Possibly Tuesday. The 5th starts my vacation and I'm gone until the 12th at least.

After that, shortly after, I have another break, work-break, not a vacation, coming down the line. With those two exceptions, I should be here enough to make you sick of me.

"Supreme Court Rebukes White House Over Guantanamo Tribunals" (Democracy Now!):
In a landmark decision the Supreme Court has rebuked the Bush administration for forming military tribunals to try prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. In a five to three ruling, the court said the military tribunals violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention.

What does this mean if the administration ignores it? Will the American people be outraged or will it look the other way and whine, "But we are at war!"?

My faith is gone, by the way, tonight. If I seem odd, you're not sensing something that's off the wall. It's the same all over. Nine to Five quote: "Where you gonna go? Besides, it's the same all over. Face it ladies, we are living in a pink collar ghetto." I'm sure I screwed that up. But I think you got the point. Music trivia, did you know that Dolly Parton came up with the rhythm for that song by knocking her fingernails together (actually running them across each other)? "That song" being the title track "Nine to Five." "Stumble out of bed and I tumble to the kitchen . . ."

"Justices Say U.S. Must Follow Geneva Conventions" (Democracy Now!):
The impact of the case is expected to go well beyond Guantanamo as the justices ruled that the so-called war on terror must be fought under international rules. Legal experts say the ruling challenges the Bush administration's legal defense of harsh interrogation methods, the CIA's secret prisons and the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program. The court ruled that the Geneva Convention must apply to detainees captured in the war on terror. [The Los Angeles Times reported "The real blockbuster in the Hamdan decision is the court's holding that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention applies to the conflict with Al Qaeda -- a holding that makes high-ranking Bush administration officials potentially subject to prosecution under the federal War Crimes Act."] In Thursday's ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote “the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction."

The administration doesn't seem at all bothered by the decision. They've given no indication that they feel they are bound by it. It's hard for me not to wonder what comes next. (Even if I weren't in my current mood.)

"Pentagon Says Homosexuality Not A Mental Disorder" (Democracy Now!):
In military news, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday that it would no longer describe homosexuality as a mental disorder. The Pentagon had come under criticism from the American Psychiatric Association and other groups after it was uncovered that a 1996 document placed homosexuality among a list of "certain mental disorders."

That's from Thursday and I wanted to note it. Better late than never seems to be this week's weak-ass apology.

Okay, new topic. How dumb am I? I've been burning up since I got home. I opened the front door this evening and thought, "It is so hot in here. Why is it so hot?" I turned the a.c. down low and it's cooled off. But after I got off the phone this evening, right before beginning to blog, I went to the kitchen to get a water out of the fridge. I was standing in there and sweating. I thought it was just because I was tired. I went back in a moment ago to get a glass of ice. I'm pouring the water bottle into the ice (I hate drinking out of plastic bottles and wish I didn't buy them but I don't trust my city's water supply or -- for that matter -- the pipes) and I look over to the stove by chance. No, it wasn't on. But the oven was.

Then I remembered that when I came home last night, I turned on the oven. I was going to toss something in while I took a shower but the phone rang and I forgot about it. I took a shower and then collapsed on the bed. The oven has been on this entire time (wasting energy I know, but what's done is done) and I could not figure out why it was so hot in the kitchen.

I can't even remember what I had planned to toss in. I don't have any pizzas in the house and I can't think of anything microwaveable. I did toss two potatoes in, after I turned it off. The oven's hot enough that it should bake those and I might feel a bit less awful about wasting so much energy (the oven's gas, not electric, not that it matters but when there's a blackout, it does come in handy).

"Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror" (Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales interview Dr. Steven Miles, "professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a faculty member of its Center for Bioethics"):
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Gerald Koocher, President of the American Psychological Association a few weeks ago on Democracy Now! The New York Times wrote a piece a few weeks ago saying that the military is turning away from psychiatrists, because of their policy that they should not be involved with interrogations, and is now relying on psychologists. You heard what Dr. Gerald Koocher had to say. There's a growing movement within the American Psychological Association for psychologists to withhold dues from the American Psychological Association, to withdraw from the APA, and the question of whether there will be a resolution put forward that says "no involvement in interrogation." What is your response to Koocher and that?
DR. STEVEN MILES: Well, I think that it's interesting that Koocher talks about the psychologists who did resist the abuses and then says that the ones who participated have to be APA members, or something like that. But there actually is a well-known name, a psychologist by the name of Leso. And Leso participated in the interrogation of a guy called Qahtani. Qahtani was subjected to an incredibly brutal and extended interrogation, which included such stupid things as running three liters of saline into his body, and then when he needed to urinate, keeping him strapped to a table so he had to pee on himself. And then also he was chilled with an air conditioner to the point where his heart actually slowed down. He was hospitalized, and then he was brought out to be interrogated some more after he was re-warmed, and then he was chilled again, and his heart again slowed down.
In addition to that there was a whole set of degrading psychological techniques applied to him, and it appears that this Leso was directly involved in the oversight of that. The complete interrogation log is available on the
Time website. So, the problem -- overall problem, though, is that American medicine was entirely caught off guard by the American military involvement in brutal treatment. This does represent a break in terms of our treatment of POWs compared to World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Gulf War I. And the AMA and the American Psychiatric Association have come out with very good standards, but the problem is they waited four years to do so.
The APA came out about a year after the Abu Ghraib pictures constituting a committee where the clean voting block, by about two-thirds voting block, was people with former military experience. And there was a group think within this process which essentially wound up creating an accommodation between psychologists and, of course, of interrogation. They said that the Geneva Conventions had to apply, but they allowed psychologists to conceal their identity, they allowed psychologists to work with interrogations so long as they were safe and legal in order to make them effective.
Well, this government's definition of what's a legal interrogation is infinitely elastic and so that this is not a profound barrier to psychologists, and it doesn't surprise me that the military will shift over to working with psychologists. In fact, they screen the docs before they go down to Guantanamo to make sure they have no moral objections to force-feeding and then they take the docs who don't have an objection to force-feeding, and those are the docs who get to go to Guantanamo.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain force-feeding.
DR. STEVEN MILES: Well, hunger-striking is a form of political protest by prisoners. It's against medical ethics for prison physicians to force-feed prisoners, because what it’s felt that it does is that by keeping a prisoner alive, it basically extends the abuse of the prisoner, okay? And that's exactly what's happening in Guantanamo. These prisoners have no rights, they have no correspondence, anything like that, and so by feeding them, all that's being done is their indeterminate sentences, their lack of correspondence, and the other types of interrogational abuse are being extended. And so the military is tying them into six-point chairs -- legs, thorax, abdomen and arms -- and then sticking a tube down them, running a bunch of food in, pulling the tube out, and because docs object to this professionally, they're selecting a subset of docs to take down to Guantanamo to do this procedure.
JUAN GONZALEZ: I'd like to get back to your comment where you said that you thought that what was happening in the war on terror was a break with past practices of the U.S. military. How big is that break, really, because obviously there have been instances where client states with which -- or allies of the United States were participating in terror, and there are questions clearly about how the U.S. military acted in Vietnam with the Phoenix Program and other programs where there were documented cases of torture, of captured Viet Cong?
DR. STEVEN MILES: Yeah, I think it’s important to recognize I'm talking here about the military medical system and its treatment of POWs. The subset of issues of the U.S. support for client states that engage in torture has happened commonly throughout South America, for example, is one thing. The Phoenix Program was actually operated in coordination with the government of South Vietnam, in which we supplied lists of people to be captured, interrogated and killed by the South Vietnamese. But with regard to the actual operation, the medical treatment of POWs, we really, I think, have set the standard up until now.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And in your book, you often refer to what happened during World War II and Nazi Germany. And many Americans who are not that familiar with our practices there would say that you're stretching the analogy to begin to compare what we're doing here as a country that is involved in torture with what happened in Nazi Germany.
DR. STEVEN MILES: Well, I think that’s a fair criticism, and the only point that I make about World War II is that's where the standards came from. And I think there's a big difference between what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan and Guantanamo with Nazi medicine, because in Nazi medicine what the docs did was they created this theory of race hygiene and eugenics which justified this wholesale genocide policy.
Similarly in the Soviet Union they developed this -- the physicians developed this concept of sluggish schizophrenia, which resulted in the imprisonment for treatment of dissidents. What this looks like is much more like the experience in South American prisons, where the physicians come in and essentially certify that you're going to be able to take this kind of abuse and then going ahead and monitoring it. And then, in the case of several of the South American countries, there were physicians who wrote false death certificates, some of which were actually disbarred after the reign of terror in various countries and at least one of whom was assassinated after the reign of terror.

The comparison we're not supposed to make (Don't you dare!), he made. I think he handled it wonderfully. (He is Dr. Steven Miles.)

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend but, as much as I hope that, I also hope that you're paying attention to what's going on in Iraq.

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: Barbara Olshansky, Steven Miles," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue. So much so that
Jeffrey Snow (US "Army Col.") tells Reuters the obvious, "I think since we have started Operation Together Forward, you'll find that the number of attacks are going up." He's referring to the "crackdown" in Baghdad. As other news emerged, the latest allegations of crimes committed by US forces, Snow began making noise that "bad" media coverage could "lose" the war. Considering bad media sold the war it would be poetic if "bad" media could end it -- poetic but not likely.
Also continuing is the confusion regarding Romania.
AP leads with the withdrawal is now a dead issue which isn't correct. The Supreme Defence Council said no to "withdrawal." Kind of, sort of. What they're doing (today, at this moment) is dropping the number of troops from 890 to 628. That's today's comprise with an emphasis on "today." Why? The council's decision is meaningless if parliament doesn't back it up. (A point Edward Wong failed to grasp in the Times this morning.) For that reason as well as the fact that it will be parliament who will make the decision whether or not the Romanian troops mission is extended at the end of the year (six months away), Calin Popescu Tariceanu (Romania's prime minister) stated: "The decision was only delayed today."
AFP reports: "In a new blow to the coalition, Poland said it will pull its troops out of Iraq by the middle of next year."
Noting the indifference to Iraq (which I would place with the media),
Danny Schechter wonders if we need a "War Clock" to bring the economic costs home since "[t]he drama of human beings dying and a country like Iraq being devastated doesn't seem to register"?
We need something. Iraq's not registering. We'll probably hear some of it even though it's the 4th Weekend so everyone's rushing off to their vacations. What will we hear?
Ryan Lenz (Associated Press) reports: "Five U.S. Army soldiers are being investigated for allegedly raping a young woman, then killing her and three members of her family in Iraq" in Mahmoudiyah. The alleged crimes are said to have taken place in March and the five are alleged to have burned the body of the rape victim.
CNN is reporting that it was a "deadly" day for children, noting that a clash "between gunmen and Iraqi soldiers left a teenage girl dead" in Latifiya and that one of six corpses discovered in Baghdad was "a boy believed to be between 4 and 6. . . . shot . . . signs of torture." Corpses? AFP reports that four corpses were discovered in Al-Rashaad, near Kirkuk ("bullet-riddled"). That's ten corpses total reported thus far.
CBS and AP report that, in Abu Saida, Sunni Sheik Hatam Mitaab al-Khazraji was gunned down. RTE News notes that three are dead and at least seven wounded from a roadside bomb that went off Kirkuk.
AFP is currently estimating that "at least 14 people" died in violent attacks today (Iraiqi civilians) and the AP notes that Kyle Miller, member of 682nd Engineer Battalion, has been identified by Dean Johnson ("Guard Brig. Gen.") as the National Guardsman who died today in Iraq (a bomb "detonated near his convoy").

The Fourth of July is Tuesday, with that in mind . . .

"Put Away the Flags" (The Progressive):
It was always supposedly for benign purposes that our country went to war.
We invaded Cuba in 1898 to liberate the Cubans, and went to war in the Philippines shortly after, as President McKinley put it, "to civilize and Christianize" the Filipino people.
As our armies were committing massacres in the Philippines (at least 600,000 Filipinos died in a few years of conflict), Elihu Root, our secretary of war, was saying: "The American soldier is different from all other soldiers of all other countries since the war began. He is the advance guard of liberty and justice, of law and order, and of peace and happiness."
We see in Iraq that our soldiers are not different. They have, perhaps against their better nature, killed thousands of Iraq civilians. And some soldiers have shown themselves capable of brutality, of torture.
Yet they are victims, too, of our government's lies.
How many times have we heard President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tell the troops that if they die, if they return without arms or legs, or blinded, it is for "liberty," for "democracy"?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Alexander Cockburn speaks with Laura Flanders on The Mike Malloy Show tonight

Laura Flanders is filling in for Mike Malloy all week on The Mike Malloy Show (which airs live on Air America Radio from ten p.m. to one a.m. EST)

Alexander Cockburn (of CounterPunch and Laura Flander's uncle) is the guest tonight. I'm hoping he's on early because I'm tired but I'm planning on listening. If you're able to, please consider listening as well.

Fast on the fourth

First, to clear something up. An e-mail came in asking me if it was Jess or Ty that told Rebecca about the nightmares? It was neither. They are house guests. That weekend, they weren't C.I.'s only houseguests. If it had been Jess or Ty, I would've picked up the phone to ask either about it. This was a friend of C.I.'s that Rebecca knows and speaks with but I really don't know her. I can't find where (it was last week) I responded to an e-mail by explaining that Rebecca knew about the nightmares but I just found out, like the e-mailer, by reading Rebecca's post. But, no, it wasn't Jess or Ty that told Rebecca. Also Susan wrote in wondering what I was listening to? Right now, I've got the Beatles' Let It Be playing. "Two of Us" is the song on right now because it just started. "Dig A Pony" is my favorite song on the album. After that it's "Across the Universe." It's the 1970 version, not the one they put out a few Christmas' back with nex mixes to try and make a few more bucks. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was my favorite Beatles' album for the longest (and I still love it) but in the last few years, Abby Road's surpassed it. Least favorite? Anything before Rubber Soul. I don't have the Yellow Submarine soundtrack but I have the others. (Released up to the point of Let It Be. I don't scream, "Oh wow! A studio take that was never released! Let me rush to the store!") I have a Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band lunchbox (metal) that I keep each month's bills in. When they come in, they go there until it's the day I write out checks. Susan asked what I'd most like to see in terms of merchandise and that's why I mention the Beatles' lunchbox. I'd love to have a lunchbox with the Mamas and the Papas on it. They used to have those. I think Cass was looking sideways and the others were looking forward (or maybe it's the other way around). The boxes were plastic. I always enjoyed the Mamas and the Papas but I've appreciated them a lot more due to Jess and Mike's enthusiasm and also the double disc Cass CD set that came out. I'll look that up Friday and provide a link. I always liked Cass but I really appreciated her greatness even move after getting that CD. She was one of a kind. If I'm walking for excercise, I'll grab one of those two discs to listen to. (If I'm running or power walking, the songs are not fast paced enough for my workout.)

Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts.

"Sen. Specter Considers Suing Bush Over Signing Statements" (Democracy Now!):
In other news from Washington, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said he is seriously considering suing the White House over President Bush's use of signing statements. Bush has maintained that he has the right to revise, interpret or disregard hundreds of laws on national security and constitutional grounds. Since his election, Bush has issued more than 750 signing statements -- more than all previous presidents combined. Senator Specter raised the possibility of suing the White House during a hearing on the legality of presidential signing statements. At the meeting Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy called the president's use of signing statements a grave threat to the nation’s constitutional system of checks and balances."

Here is how it's supposed to work: Congress debates a bill, both house sign off on it, it becomes a law. Once it's a law, it's the law of the land and we all have to follow it. Younger readers may not be aware of this but while Bill Clinton was president, he was sued by Paula Jones. (I think we all know that part.) Whether or not the case could go forward went to the Supreme Court. The Court said it could go forward because no one was above the law.

Today? Bully Boy doesn't feel bound by laws. He decides which laws he'll follow and which ones he won't. If the "checks and balances" confuses you (a godson called asking me about that, he's very young but in case someone didn't pay attention in high school civics or if they haven't had the course yet), our government, federal, has three branches. The executive branch is made up of the president and people under him. The legislative branch is made up of Congress. The judiciary is our court system with the Supreme Court having the last word. All three branches are supposed to be equal. If Congress passes a law that is in conflict with the Constitution, the Court can overrule it. If the president wants something done he has to follow the laws. He can want a new law all he wants but if Congress doesn't pass it, it's not a law. "Checks and balances" refers to how the system is set up with three equal branches. Each branch has its own powers. The executive branch is supposed to enforce the laws, the legislative (Congress) to make the laws and the Court to rule on them. They are supposed to work together -- not in harmony, there's a built in conflict. What Bully Boy is doing is saying that Congress and the Courts don't matter. That he can do what he wants. That's why he's become so dangerous. It's no longer just a really bad leader, it's someone who's destroying the very system of government that was set up.

U.S. Military Admits Security Not Improving Much In Baghdad" (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile the U.S. military has acknowledged that the security situation has barely improved in Baghdad despite a two-week-old security clampdown involving 75,000 Iraqi and U.S. troops. On Tuesday at least 18 people died in Iraq including a U.S. Marine and three U.S. soldiers."

How bad are things now? So bad that even the Happy Talkers have failure to launch re: the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk.

Cindy Sheehan and Others to Launch White House Hunger Strike" (Democracy Now!):
Code Pink, Global Exchange and Gold Star Families for Peace have announced they will launch a hunger strike on July 4th outside the White House to protest the war in Iraq. Dozens of military family members, veterans, activists and celebrities have vowed to take part in the hunger strike. The list includes Cindy Sheehan, Dolores Huerta, Willie Nelson, Danny Glover, Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. Cindy Sheehan said in a statement: "We've marched, held vigils, lobbied Congress, camped out at Bush's ranch. We've even gone to jail. Now it's time to do more."

I'll be fasting on the fourth. If you're able to do so, please consider joining the fast. I also hope you'll remember the case of Giuliana Sgrena. I haven't seen much in my paper about it (other than an item, one paragraph, about Italy wanting to prosecute Mario Lozana).

"Italian Seeks GI Shooter" (Juan Gonzalez, New York Daily News via Common Dreams):
Italian journalist and former Iraq war hostage Giuliana Sgrena offered yesterday to meet face-to-face with Spec. Mario Lozano, the New York City National Guardsman who shot her in a friendly fire mistake on a deserted road to the Baghdad airport last year."I think that it would be useful for him and for me to have an exchange of opinion," Sgrena said during her first visit to the United States since the shooting.The shooting, which killed Nicola Calipari, the Italian government's second-ranking intelligence officer, just minutes after Calipari had secured Sgrena's release from Iraqi guerrillas, sparked a public furor in Italy.That uproar grew worse after a Pentagon report last year cleared the U.S. soldiers involved. Italian prosecutors, after conducting their own probe, announced plans this week to charge Lozano, a member of New York's legendary Fighting 69th, with murder and attempted murder.But Sgrena, who is still recovering from a gunshot wound that collapsed her lung, doesn't want Lozano to be made a "scapegoat.""These things happened because there is a war," she said during an extended interview with journalist Amy Goodman and myself on "Democracy Now," a daily morning news program carried by hundreds of radio and television stations."We want only the truth, me and the family of Calipari," Sgrena said. "We want only to know what happened."

What's happening in Iraq?

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: Dr. Mona El-Farra, Ali Abunimah, Shlomo Ben Ami, Christian Parenti and Ahmed Rashid," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue.
Five corpses were
found in Baghdad on Tuesday. Other incidents included, in Mahaweel, a roadside bomb took the life of a police officer and three were wounded amd, in Kirkuk, a car bomb took the lives of three and wounded 17. In all, the New York Times estimates that 21 Iraqis died Tuesday and forty-one were wounded.
Today bombs continued. CNN notes a carbomb in Baquba "near a coffee shop" that took at least one life and wounded at least fourteen more. Reuters notes that bombing as well as nother in Baquba which "seriously wounded two" police officers. Reuters also notes a bomb that went off in a Baghdad market and resulted in one death and eight wounded. CNN notes "a roadside bomb targeting a U.S. military convoy detonated" taking the lives of "one civilian and wounding two." The Associated Press notes that Riyad Abdul-Majid Zuaini ("customs director for Central Baghdad") was shot dead by assailants (as was his driver) and that, in Mosul, a clash "between gunmen and police . . . broke out" with one police officer left wounded.
As Amy Goodman noted on Democracy Now!, Russia's lower house of parliament has "criticized the occupying countries in Iraq for losing control in the country." Xinhua reports Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Foreign Minister of Germany, noted, on behalf of the ministery, that they were "outraged and shocked over the terrible fater of our Russian colleagues." KUNA notes that Kuwait has "condmended . . . the killing of Russian diplomats by a terrorist group in Iraq."
There were four diplomats kidnapped on June 3rd in Baghdad after their car was attacked by unknown assailants. During the attack a fifth diplomat,Vitaly Vitalyevich Titov , was killed. On Sunday, a videotape was released which showed what appear to be three of the four being killed. The Mujahedeen Shur Council have proclaimed that they are responsible for the murders.
Reuters reports that Russia experienced "a roadblock" today when it the United States and England "objected to parts of a draft Russian statement on the killings, arguing the text amounted to a slap at the U.S.-led multinational force, which includes 127,000 U.S. troops and 7,000 British soliders". This as another official 'response' is reported: Russian president Vladimir Putin, according to the Associated Press, has sent "special services to hunt down and 'destroy' the killers." Possibly this is what Bully Boy saw when he looked Putin in the eye? Pavel Felgenhauer dismisses the news as "a public relations excercise" to AFP and dubs it "an obvious imititation of those of Bush after September 11."
Meanwhile,[the] Japanese government feels they met their "objectives" in Iraq. Japan's chief of defense, Fukushiro Nukaga, termed the venture "a success" while speaking to the Associated Press and noted that, "The Iraqis are ready to resume control."
But are the bits and pieces of the so-called coalition willing to leave? Reuters reports that Austraila's Brendan Nelson (defense minister) is making noises about not being held 'hostage' by a deadline and comparing his government's position to that of the United States' government.
In other news, apparently there was a poll of so-called insurgents. The Associated Press is all over the so-called news (anonymice, of course) that "insurgents" are pushing for a withdrawal of US forces within two years. Does anyone believe that? Nouri al-Maliki may be meeting with representatives for resistance groups but, despite what an unnamed "senior Iraqi government" official says, it doesn't seem logical that the resistance would propose a two-year timetable. It will be all over the news but to buy into it, you have to suspend all disbelief and then some. (For any who are confused, people -- from various groups -- are willing to risk their lives, give their lives, resort to various acts of violence and they're going to send envoys to tell occupation puppet al-Maliki, "Hey, we're good. Two more years? Sure." Call it the resistance or call it the "insurgency," it's not about a two-year time-line. This very obvious propanganda is American made, my opinion.)
On the issue of "a media feeding frenzy," Dahr Jamail takes a look at the so-called "plan" offered by al-Maliki and notes that resistance groups have "rejected the 'plan' because they do not recognize the Iraqi 'government' as a legitmate entity. These same resistance groups understand that under international law, the current Iraqi 'government' controls nothing outside of the 'green zone,' and its existence violates the Geneva Conventions."
Meanwhile, Iraqi forces have Yousri Fakher Moahmmed Ali in custody and allege that he is the one who blew up the Shi'ite shrine in February. As Amy Goodman noted, the Samarra bombing was followed by "increased fighting" which has resulted in the displacement of at least 150,000 Iraqis. Yusri Fakhir Muhammad Ali is also known as Abu Qudama and Al Jazeera quotes Iraq's national security adviser (Mouwafak al-Rubaie) reports that he "is also wanted for the murder of Atwar Bajhat, a television correspondent for Al-Arabiya news channel who was shot dead along with two of her colleagues hours after the shrine bombing". China's People's Daily notes: "The shrine of Ali al-Hadi, or the al-Hadhrah al-Askariyah, contains two tombs of Ali al-Hadi, who died in 868 A.D., and his son Hassan al-Askari who died in 874 A.D. The two were the 10th and 11th of Shiite's twelve most revered Imams. Shiite pilgrims visit the shrine from all over the world."
The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq estimates a total of 1.3 million are displaced. One of the refugee camps is Baladiyat Refugee Camp set up for the Palestinian refugees. This camp was attacked Sunday June 25th and Omar interviews residents of the camp at Alive in Baghdad.
And finally, the ICRC is noting that "public services have almost ground to a halt" in Ramadi which "has been without power since 22 May." That's when US forces began the seige of Ramadi and power, water and phone services were cut.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The spying goes on

Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BULLY BOY CAUGHT SMELLING THE JONESES!" provides you with your laugh for today so please read it. Mike fell asleep tonight and was apologizing on the phone. I told him I used the time to tidy up around my increasingly sloppy living quarters. Seriously. I took garbage out, did some dusting, and got out the Windex for the mirrors. I needed to do that (and more) so it wasn't a problem. He's got work and college and he was finishing a paper last night. He said he is blogging but "nothing much." If it's two words, I'm sure it's worth reading so please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts.

"350 Iraqi Civilians Killed at US Checkpoints in '05" (Democracy Now!)
Meanwhile, the US military has announced 350 innocent Iraqis were killed at US checkpoints last year -- an average of at least six killings per week. A senior intelligence official told Reuters that out of a total 4,000 incidents in which US troops responded to a perceived threat -- less than two percent were later found to have posed an actual threat.

Alice e-mailed (thank you) to advise me that I hadn't posted two items last night that I thought I had. The above is one.

"Two National Guard Charged In Killing of Unarmed Iraqi" (Democracy Now!):
In other Iraq news, two National Guard members have been charged in connection with the February shooting of an unarmed Iraqi near the town of Ramadi. The guard members are currently being held in Baghdad where they will face pre-trial hearings.

This is the second one. Mike covered those yesterday in "Law and Disorder interviewed Suzanne Vega and Collective Soul."

"Pentagon Admits To New Spying of Student Groups" (Democracy Now!):
The list of activist groups monitored under a secret Pentagon program is growing. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network says the Defense Department has admitted to spying on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and anti-war protests at several universities: the State University of New York at Albany, William Paterson University in New Jersey, Southern Connecticut State University and the University of California at Berkeley. De-classified documents show the government intercepted the students' e-mails and planted undercover agents at at least one protest. The government also refused to confirm or deny whether it had spied on activists in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. The disclosure marks the latest case of known government spying under a secret domestic intelligence program, which has also targeted the Quaker movement and other anti-war groups.

That should wake you up to what's going on in this country. Let me suggest you read C.I.'s "On the Dangers of an Unchecked Bully Boy" one more time. This isn't one incident. As Amy Goodman said, "The list . . . is growing." At what point does the country worry? I think we're past that point. I think we should all be alarmed. I can't say anything else on it. If I do, I'll just launch into a huge lecture. Maybe I should? I don't think the readers I have need one. But I will encourage you to discuss the ongoing spying revelations with your friends to make sure everyone is aware of what is going on. Hopefully, you watch Amy Goodman every day or listen (or read the transcripts) and, hopefully, you work hard to get the word out on the program. I do. But I know that some still haven't started tuning in. (I will pick up on that in a minute.) Don't assume that because you know what's going on that means your friends do. We're all busy. We're all stressed. It's easy, especially with all the revelations, for something to fall through the cracks. So make sure this doesn't.

Next Tuesday is July 4th. If you're able to, use the day to introduce at least one person to Democracy Now! You can do that by reading the transcripts together, by listening together or watching together. If it doesn't air in your area or if it airs at a time when your friend (or friends) won't be able to catch it, go online and listen or watch online. If you can't, make a point to talk about the program to at least one friend.

"Report: Military Equipment Costs To Triple" (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile the Associated Press is reporting the annual cost of maintaining military equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to triple next year to more than seventeen billion dollars. Some estimates now put war costs over the last five years at almost half a trillion dollars.

There's always money in the budget for war. What else can I add to that?

I want to talk a bit about C.I.'s "NYT: Does that red light ever burn out, Dexy?" because I think it's worth reading and I also think you may not get much attention on Filikin's latest fluff elsewhere. The New York Times finally assigns someone to Ramadi and they send in The Cleaner. "The Cleaner." Harvey Kietel plays that character in Pulp Fiction but he played it first in Point of No Return. A crime has gone wrong. They call in The Cleaner. He comes out and fixes it so that everything looks nice and it appears no crime has been committed. That's Dexter Filkins. Last week, I was hopeful that Ramadi wouldn't be a massacre. The fact that The Cleaner (who cleaned up Falluja in his reporting) is now "on the beat" worries me.

Read the entry. It tells you what Dexy leaves out, what he sidesteps and how he uses an American fatality to manipulate you.

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: Jonathan Turley, John Stauber, Hannah Sassaman," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue.

Happy talk continues.
In the land of reality, Medea Benjamin and Raed Jarrar examine the neutered "peace plan" put foward by occupation puppet Nouri al-Maliki and the United States. Benjamin and Jarrar remind that a World Public Opinion poll this year "showed 87% of the general population [of Iraq] favoring a set timeline for U.S. withdrawal." This as USA Today reports on the USA Today/Gallup Poll which found that "[a] majority of Americans say Congress should pass a resolution that outlines a plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq" and that "[h]alf of those surveyed would like all U.S. forces out withing 12 months."
In other reality news, Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show, over 5% of Iraq's population is displaced with over 150,000 having fled their home (a figure that does not include those who have been taken in by extended family members). In addition, Reuters notes that the figures for children only: 40,000 displaced children since February 22nd of this year. UNICEF, in its 1996 study (the most recent) looking at the effects of war on children found, for the 1980s: "2 million killed; 4-5 million disabled; 12 million left homeless; more than 1 million orphaned or separated from their parents; [and] some 10 million psychologically traumatized." Using figures up through the 80s, UNICEF found that civilian victims of war "has been rising steadily".
Reuters notes that in Baghdad, one car bomb took the lives of three peopl at a market and wounded at least ten while a second bomb took the lives of three police officers with another three wounded.
Al Jazeera notes that a car bomb in Kirkuk which took the lives of three and wounded at least seventeen. The Irish Examiner notes that the car bomb attack "came three days after a roadside bomb killed the chief of intelligence in Kirkuk" (Associated Press). Also in Kirkuk, Reuters notes "an off duty soldier" was killed by assailants "while driving his car."
Updates on two items. First, we noted yesterday the 10 kidnapped males. Steven Hurst and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (Canadian Press) report that the ten were all Sunni and students who were kidnapped "from their dormitory rooms" at Iraqi Technology University. The AFP reports that the kidnappings took place in "broad daylight" and that the kidnappers used "five sports utility vehicles with tinted windows".
Emma Griffiths (Australia's ABC) reports that the four Russian diplomats -- Fyodor Zaytsev, Rinat Aglyulin, Anatoly Smirnov and Oleg Fedosseyev -- have been confirmed dead by the Foreign Ministry of Russia. The four were kidnapped on June 3rd in Baghdad when their car was attacked by unknown assailants. During the attack a fifth diplomat, Vitaly Vitalyevich Titov, was killed. On Sunday, a videotape was released which showed what appear to be some of the four being killed. While the press reports were circulating, the Russian government noted repeatedly that the murders had not been confirmed. The Mujahedeen Shura Council has asserted since last weekend that they had killed the four diplomats.
Meanwhile, as Amy Goodman noted on Democracy Now! today, "former CIA officer Tyler Drumheller said he repeatedly warned administration over the discredited Iraqi source known as 'Curveball'." Ignoring the warnings and advise, Colin Powell used the information for his now infamous UN speech that Powell has described as a "blot" on his career/record. Yesterday in Washington, DC, Democrats in the Senate held a hearing on the intelligence issue where, among others, Larry Wilkerson and Paul Pillar testified. Speaking of the administration and the intelligence community, Pillar stated, "I would describe the relationship as broken."
Joshua Belile will not be punished for "an obscenity-laced song" performed "to a laughing and cheering crowd." The US military has found no reason to charge him and one unnamed Marine Corps. official tells Reuters that "poor taste, poor judgment and poor timing, not to mention offensive lyrics, do not necessarily amount to criminal conduct." Margaret Neighbor (Scotsman) described the song thusly: "In a four-minute video called Hadji Girl, a singer who appears to be a marine tells a cheering audience about gunning down members of an Iarqi woman's family after they confront him with authomatic weapons." As Sandra Lupien reported June 14th on KPFA's The Morning Show, the song included lyrics such as: "the blood sprayed from between her eyes." As Lupien noted June 15th on KPFA's The Morning Show, the apologetic Belile stated that "People need to laugh at it and let it go." Reuters notes that he has said it was "supposed to be funny" and that he based it on Team America: World Police. (The film that underwhelmed at the box office in 2004 and was put out by the South Park twins.)
Finally, in peace news. NPR actually covered the case of Suzanne Swift. The audio clips can be heard online and lasts 3:58 minutes. The reporting? The segment's over (except for some really bad bumper music) at 3:26 minutes in a report filed by Martin Kaste. The report starts at 0:16 and Swift's case is over by 1:30 minutes. A minute and fourteen seconds may not seem like much but it's more than they've given Ehren Watada.
Today is a day of action for those wanting to stand with war resister Ehren Watada. To sign a petition in support of Watada by clicking here. More information on today's national day of action can be found at and Courage to Resist.

Monday, June 26, 2006

When does the spying stop?

The above is Isaiah's and it ran Sunday ("Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts 'Bully Boy Finds New Ways to Invade Our Privacy'"). It has to do with some of what I'm talking about this evening. (And Mike and I both enjoyed it and were impressed with the likeness of Alberto Gonzales.)

We're doing things a little different this evening. Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts especially since we're both posting several items but each only focusing on two stories.

"Secret Bush Admin Program Monitors International Bank Records" (Democracy Now!):
The Bush administration has been secretly monitoring thousands of international bank transactions without court-approval. The secret program was enacted shortly after the 9/11 attacks in what government officials say is a crucial weapon in tracking the financing of terrorist activity. The information has been obtained from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT. The organization helps direct trillions of dollars in daily international bank transfers. Officials told the Los Angeles Times the program has been "marginally successful" in tracking the financial activity of al Qaeda. SWIFT executives apparently tried to withdraw from the program after becoming concerned over its legality. The executives were persuaded to continue their cooperation only after the intervention of top government officials, including former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan.

That's from last week and I include it to make sure we're all on the same page. Isaiah's illustration at the top makes the point of exactly where is this illegal spying going to stop? If you need more information, you can check out C.I.'s "Other Items (Nadia McCaffrey discusses the Pentagon lying about her son on Democracy Now! today)." Three papers broke the story last Friday, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the Wall St. Journal. Did the Washington Post cover it? C.I. says they covered it noting that the story had already appeared last Thursday on the New York Times' website. So on Friday, three papers broke the story. Others covered it. That's a point I want to be sure we all grasp. You may have read a breaking story in another paper but if it was breaking the story, it was most likely the paper you had in your hands carrying an article from the three.

"Critics: Financial Spying Echoes NSA Wiretapping" (Democracy Now!):
Critics meanwhile say the financial spying echoes the Bush administration’s wiretapping of Americans without court warrants.
Democratic Congressmember Edward Markey of Massachusetts: "Like the domestic surveillance program exposed last December, the Bush government's efforts to tap into the financial records of thousands of Americans appears to rely on justifications concocted without regard to current law or constitutional protection."

It does echo. It's the same thing. As C.I. pointed out Saturday, the administration could have done what they did legally (if they had probable cause as opposed to being on a fishing expedition). The administration acts as if it is above the law and that what it should be bound by can be dismissed. That was true of the NSA, illegal, warrantless spying on Americans and it's true of the financial spying as well.

Remember the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight from Friday? "We've got terrorists! We've caught them!" That was a staged opportunity that attempted to distract from this story.

"Rep. King: Prosecute NYT Under Espionage Act" (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile, the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee is calling for the prosecution of all New York Times staff members who were involved in exposing the financial spying. In an interview with Fox News Sunday, New York Republican Congressmember Peter King said the New York Times should be prosecuted for violating the Espionage Act.

Remember, right before this item, I brought up The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight?
I did so for a reason. While Peter King postures (along with Dick Cheney and Bully Boy -- and read Wally's "" for Bully Boy posturing) and attacks the press for doing their job (for once), they argue that now, NOW, the terrorists will know we're looking at bank records! They knew that before. But by that logic, we shouldn't be announcing anything, right?

The reason I ask that is because Alberto Gonzales and others have been trumpeting their 'big' bust. Doesn't that let the cat out of the bag to terrorists? As C.I. wrote:

The tiny, toothless fish that were swept up in the net outed the fact that the FBI is pursuing leads on terrorists! We've just told the terrorists that the FBI will look into leads! They now know! They are watching our corporate press closley to find out what we are up to and how we will "fight" them! Now they know that we are willing to use the FBI! By addressing the press yesterday, Alberto Gonzales exposed 'state secrets' and the terrorists know them!

By Peter King, Cheney, Bully Boy and others' logic, announcing the arrest was hurting the 'battle.'

It's all posturing and it's disgusting. It's enough to make you sick to your stomach (transition). But if you're not sick to your stomach, if you're hungry but want something easy to fix, check out Trina's "Burritos in the Kitchen." (Picture me grinning wildly at a camera as though I were Larry King.) Are you a Marilyn Monroe fan? I am. Didn't realize it until I read Betty's "Thomas Friedman Wants It Hot." She is a big Marilyn fan and will tell you that freely. Pinkie and Some Like It Hot may be her two favorite movies of all time. (Only the latter stars Monroe.) But while I was reading her latest chapter, I found myself noting the movies (The Misfits and Some Like It Hot) mentioned and then thinking about others. Please read it, it's funny.

"Iraq snapshot" ("Democracy Now: David Markus, Max Rameu, Nativo Lopez, Dave Zirin," The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue. Bombings continue, kidnappings continue and a corpse was discovered.
In what might get the most attention today, reporting from Baghdad, Nancy A. Youssef (Knight Ritter) breaks the news that the United States now admits to keeping some figures on Iraqis who have died during the illegal war. Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli tells Youssef that "the number of civilian dead and wounded" via US troops "is an important measurement." Chiarelli reveals that "he reviews the figures daily." The US government has denied that any figures were being kept.Bombings?
In Baghdad, Reuters reports that a roadside bomb killed one and wounded at least five and that another bomb resulted in two police officers dead and at least four wounded.
Also in Baghdad, the Associated Press reports that the convoy of Adnan al-Dulaimi ("Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab politician") was attacked and at least one of his bodyguards was killed.
Elsewhere, KUNA reports that two "civilians" were killed in Baquba. Reuters notes that, in Mosul, a police officer was killed Monday with six wounded in an attack while another died was wounded, along with a civilian, as a result of a roadside bomb. And in Hilla, Reuters reports that a bomb has taken the lives of at least 30.
The Associated Press estimates today that "nearly 40 people have been killed in the last 24 hours" in Iraq. This as Hiba Moussa and Michael Georgy (Reuters) report that an estimated that at least 130,000 Iraqis have been displaced due to violence across the country.
Ibon Villelabeitia and Alastair Macdonald (Reuters) report "10 young men, all students from Sunni towns near Baghdad, from a building in the capital" were kidnapped by unidentified "gunmen." In other kidnapping news, CBS and the AP report that "Russian news agency Interfax" is reporting "that the Foreign Ministry has confirmed the death of the Russian hostages in Iraq." In a separate report, the AP notes that "Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed doubt Monday over the authenticity of the video" allegedly showing three of the four Russian diplomats (kidnapped June 3rd in Baghdad) being killed. The four are: Fyodor Zaytsev, Rinat Aglyulin, Anatoly Smirnov and Oleg Fedosseyev.
Reuters reports that the corpse of a police officer ("bullet wounds . . . head and chest") was found near Falluja.
Today on KPFA's The Morning Show, Brian Edwards-Tiekert noted that Sunni leaders are stating that the resistance in Iraq will continue until foreign troops are withdrawn. Edwards-Tiekert also noted that Tariq al-Hashimi has noted Nouri al-Maliki's proposed plan (or "plan") falls for short of the needed goals. Ibon Villelabeitia and Alastair Macdonald (Reuters) explore some of the Shi'ite criticism and some of the Sunnie criticism of the plan/"plan".
Tomorrow is Tuesday, June 27th and that means? Alex Fryer (Seattle Times) reports: "Atlanta peace activists plan a vigil for him at the Georgia state Capitol. In Charlotte, N.C., an anti-war group will show a film and hold a lecture at the public library. In Cleveland, Ohio, there will be a rally at the federal building. And in New York, protesters will converge at an Army recruiting station, an event billed to 'support Lt. Ehren Watada and other resisters of the war in Iraq.'" This as the Seattle Times editorializes that Watada shouldn't serve time but the military should instead "consider a dishonorable discharge." To sign a petition in support of Watada by clicking here.
More information on tomorrow's national day of action can be found at and Courage to Resist.
And finally, next week, July 4th (Tuesday) CODEPINK will be demonstrating against the war in the form or a hunger strike:
On July 4, we will launch an historic hunger strike called TROOPS HOME FAST in Washington, DC in front of the White House. While many Americans will be expressing their patriotism via barbeques and fireworks, we'll be fasting in memory of the dead and wounded, and calling for the troops to come home from Iraq. Read an interview with Diane Wilson to learn more. We're inviting people around the world to show their support for this open-ended fast by fasting for at least one day. Please sign here to join us in DC or to support us in your hometown and encourage your friends to do the same.