Saturday, July 22, 2006

Grab Bag

It's the weekend. What's more surprising to me is that we're in the seventh month of the year. It's no surprise to me that it's July -- I write my checks too. But it just hit me that it's the seventh month of a twelve month cycle. The year's over half over. There are days when time seems to drag but, honestly, I can't think of one of those in a long time. It seems like since Bully Boy decided to illegally go to war with Iraq, it's been a nonstop treadmill.

I honestly feel like I did when I was a kid in school and it seemed like school had just let out the week before and now it was fall and time to go back. If you have not already, please consider reading Andrea Lewis' "Pentagon cultivating culture of violence against women" which is well written and on a subject worthy of more attention. Lewis is one of Betty's favorites (another reason to read it) and you'll see why if you read the article. Also please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's comments.

"Iraq Snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Chaos and violence continue. Or else just think of the decision of the extended curfew in Baghdad as the capital beginning to note ozone days. The
BBC reports that the Friday daytime ban "now covers most of the day" and that it ends "just two hours before the daily night-time curfew begins." 'Liberation' by unofficial house arrest.
If the 'crackdown' is to cut off all attempts at daily life in Baghdad, how's that hearts & minds strategy going?
AFP reports that in Baquba hearts and minds scatter to the wind when six people were killed and 23 wounded. Killed how? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Among the five dead were an infant and two women. The two adult males are being dubbed 'insurgents' by the US military. The women and the infant? AP trumpets one sentence into a condolence card: "The Americans expressed regret for the civilian deaths." Reuters, using sources other than the military's press release, reports that six, not five (as the AP reports -- the AFP was at the hospital and counted six corpses), were killed and that it came from an air raid bombing of three houses. (AP's iffy on what happened, AFP also calls it an air strike). Though the US dubs the two dead males 'insurgents,' reports indicate that the troops were seen as the 'insurgents.' AFP has an eye witness, Mohammed Omar, who states that the men on rooftop were guards (not an uncommon occurence in Iraq) and they fired at approaching troops believing they were 'insurgents'.
What happened? Probably no one involved, American or Iraqi, can tell you in full. For the military, that's what happens when the people you are supposedly 'liberating' are seen as the 'enemy.' The press release (which the New York Times will probably build from tomorrow -- though we can always hope that isn't the case) outlines (at length) a version of events. Those events aren't reflected in reporting by Reuters or AFP which actually spoke to people involved. And just to repeat, it's a lengthy press release. The AP treats the one 'regret' sentence as though it's prominent or lengthy. It's an afternote. The twenty-three wounded? Women and children in that number as well.
Elsewhere in Iraq today?
AFP reports that, in Baghdad, clashes led to the shooting deaths of three Iraqi soldiers and three Iraqi police officers, as well as the shooting death of "a Christian government official". Reuters notes that "[t]wo Salvadoran[,] . . . four Polish soldiers and an Iraqi transloator were wounded when their convoy was attacked . . . not clear how the convoy was attacked." That was "near Numaniya." In addition, Reuters notes the shooting death of a police officer in Mosul. And, in an update, Reuters is noting that a police officer and a civilian were shot dead "in separate attacks in Muqdadiya."
AFP notes one in Baghdad, "outside a Sunni mosque" that killed one person. Reuters notes that another person died in a roadside bomb near a Sunni mosque in Khalis (two others were wounded).
Reuters reports that three corpses were found near Falluja ("gunshot wounds . . . signs of torture") and that they were wearing the uniforms of Iraqi soldiers while another corpse (headless) was discovered in Kirkuk. In addition to that corpse, KUNA notes that the corpse of a two-year-old child was also found in Kirkuk. AFP notes four corpses were discovered in Baghdad ("signs of torture"). And Reuters is now reporting the discovery, in Muqdadiya, of the corpses of five kidnapped victims.
US military announced that a US marine died Friday in the Anbar province. This as Kristin Roberts (Reuters) reports that "Col. Michael Shields, commander of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team operating primarily in the Mosul area" says that the target of the 'insurgency' is now Iraqi soldiers.
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco continued as attorneys for Shelley Kovco (widow of Australian soldier Jake Kovco) and Judy & Martin Kovco (parents of Jake) sought to establish that
yesterday's 'key witness' had less than impressive qualifications. Conor Duffy reported on PM (Australia's ABC) that Wayne Hoffman faced questions on the 12-point document he'd prepared with it being noted that his document went beyond his area (ballistics) into a "largely speculative" area. (The reference is into Hoffman's statement that the death was a suicide -- which led Judy Kovco to leave the courtroom yesterday.) Duffy notes a number of things the 'expert' was confronted with such as the fact that, although he'd weighed in with expertise and great authority on the matter, "he was unaware there was another pistol in the room at the time of the shooting, and . . . he hadn't read the statements from Private Kovco's room mates." Dan Box (The Australian) reports that 'expert' Wayne Hoffman testified that he hadn't been able "to find any prints on the gun" -- not Jake Kovco's, not anyone's. Box notes: "NSW detectives will now travel to Baghdad to take DNA samples from those soldiers in Kovco's unit after unidentified DNA was found on the gun, including on its trigger." However, although that's been reported previously, it appears the journey to Baghdad is on hold. Conor Duffy (Australia's ABC) reports that although the expectation was for the testimony of soldiers in Baghdad to be heard Monday (via "videolink" as noted earlier this week), that's not the case: ". . . a spokeswoman for Defence Public Affairs says this has been delayed while a request to conduct DNA on more soldiers in Iraq is considered." So to recap, not only will soldiers not testify Monday via videolink (on hold) but the trip to Baghdad to take DNA samples (which had previously been stated to be a go) is now on hold. As Dan Box notes, the original investigation in Baghdad was made "without any foresensic equipment. In fact, no forensic tests were carried out by the military police." Speaking to Eleanor Hall on The World Today (Australia's ABC), Conor Duffy noted that Frank Holles [attorney for Judy and Martin Kovco] raised the issue that Hoffman appeared unaware that "Private Kovco was reportedly dancing around to a Cranberries song and communicating with his wife at the time of his death. 'Have you ever seen a suicide like that before?' he asked."
Also covering the inquiry,
Belinda Tasker (Perth Now) reports that Hoffman stated that his reasons for believing that Jake Kovco pulled the trigger "was the fact that the pistol was his own." Tasker also notes that his two former roomates reported that he was joking with them and "singing along to pop songs" but they claim they did not see anything when the gun went off. Finally, Tasker reports that Shelley Kovco "excused herself from hearing much of the cross-examination today."
In news from American courts,
Kay Stewart (Courier-Journal) reports that Steven D. Green, the former Army solider charged with raping and murdering 14 year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza and then murdering three members of her family, "won't be indicted until at least mid-October, under a motion granted yesterday in U.S. District Court in Louisville' at the request of federal prosecutors who would like it rescheduled to November 8th. The other five charged in the incident, Paul E. Cortez, Anthony W. Yribe, James P. Barker, Jesse V. Spielman, and Bryan L. Howard -- Yribe is only charged with dereliction of duty for failure to report the incident, "are scheduled for a miliary hearing in Iraq beginning Aug. 6" and the federal prosecutors argue that "[t]he same evidence and witnesses are necesaary components in both prosecutions."
In peace news,
Hannah Charry (Hartford Advocate) reports that John Woods passed on his 60th birthday to take part in CODEPINK's TROOPS HOME FAST! Woods is "striking one day a week" (Fridays) for two months and states that: "His anti-war stance is in part something that he attributes to the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder he developed upon returning from Vietnam where he served with U.S. forces as an interrogator in 1969." Charry notes that Kat West is following Woods example and "will be fasting five days a week."
And in Canada,
Ken Eisner (Vancouver's Straight) reports: "Fact: Jane Fonda's biggest fans in her antiwar tours were American GIs. Fact: returning soldiers were the vanguard of the out-of-Vietnam movement by the end of the 1960s. Fact: far more veterans of the military now serving in Congress are Democrats than are Republicans. Fact: U.S. soldiers are deserting at a rate greater than at any time since Vietnam." Though truth is always welcome, why is Eisner reporting that? Because the documentary Sir! No! Sir! is opening at the Ridge. Eisner speaks with the film's director, David Zeiger, who says of the film: "This story has been so thoroughly buried, I knew it would take a lot of digging to get it out there. I thought it would be emotionally draining too, and that's one of the things that scared me off. But what I found as the process went along is that it became much more celebratory. This gave a lot of people a chance to tell their stories within a context that would inspire others. The conversations certainly did conjure up painful memories, but overwhelmingly it was a positive experience for everyone involved."
Sir! No! Sir! is currently playing at:


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There is so much going on right now that a lot falls through the crack. C.I. noted The Smeal Report and I honestly hadn't thought to note it until I saw that. If you haven't been following the ongoing attempts by anti-choice zealots . . .

"Jesus Got Real and Kicked the Anti-Abortionists Outta the Church" (Ann Rose, guesting at The Smeal Report):
Today, about 100 demonstrators showed up at
Jackson Women's Health Organization, the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, to try to shut them down again. But, they were outfoxed, as the clinic had already seen their patients for the day and again the clinic building was empty.
This is the next to the last day of Operation Save America's 8-day siege on Jackson Mississippi, as part of their yearly anti-abortion Summer Event. It's not gone well for them.

That's one of the issues going on. The issue that everyone's focused on is what Israel's doing. Actually, they seem to be focused on justifying what Israel is doing, in most cases. Not everyone is doing that, however. I can think of several strong voices here, including Alexander Cockburn and Norman Solomon but I'm going to highlight an equally strong voice.

"Bush Far From Neutral Player in Mideast" (Helen Thomas, Common Dreams):
President Bush has abdicated the United States' role as an honest broker in the Middle East crisis exploding on two fronts, Lebanon and Palestine.
In failing to call for a U.N-sponsored cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel, Bush has lost his credentials as a neutral player.
In the Arab world, he is viewed as a cheerleader for the Israeli side, not a cheerleader for peace.
A newcomer to the problems of the Middle East, Bush told reporters Tuesday that the root cause of Middle East strife was Hezbollah.
Anyone with knowledge of the region knows most of the problems stem from the nearly 60-year-old Palestinian issue.

While the Arab-Israeli problem has festered, the president has been absorbed with the disastrous U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Bush has gone along with the Israelis in isolating the democratically elected Hamas government in Palestine, which Israel deprives of its tax revenues.
Furthermore, the Bush administration raised no objection when Israel seized and arrested more than two dozen elected Hamas officials in retaliation for a Palestinian guerrilla attack on an Israeli army base and the kidnapping of two soldiers.

Tracing it back to the source also is Ruth Conniff.

"Knucklehead Diplomacy, Bush-Style" (Ruth Conniff, The Progressive):
News about Bush's foul language at the G-8 Summit got disproportionate coverage, of course. If you want to get the US press buzzing, get the President to swear, or fool around with an intern. Never mind the conflagration in Iraq. The more alarming part of the story was Bush's apparent boredom with the meeting of international leaders, his eagerness to go home, where he has "got something to do," and his apparent confusion about geography.
Here's the leader of the free world speaking to President Hu Jintao of China: "Where you going? Home? This is your neighborhood; it won't take you long to get home. . . . You get home in 8 hours? Me too! Russia is a big country, and you're a big country."
The era of cowboy diplomacy may be over, but we have two and a half more years of knucklehead diplomacy to go.
It would be funny if it weren't so terrifying. Remember, right after 9-11 when the big Republican talking point was "thank god the grown-ups are in charge?"
Doesn't have quite the same ring today.

So, if like me, you feel like the days are moving too fast currently, the above is part of the reason. It's a long, long time ago that the biggest concern was turning off the TV before some pundit was yacking about "morality" and bemoaning sex as though it was a world crisis. We have real problems these days but no leader to address them. Some might say that at least things aren't boring but I bet most of us would settle for a little boring right now.

If I've depressed you at the start of the weekend, Betty's "Thomas Friedman says, 'Drop the five on the dresser before moving to the bed'" addresses reality but will make you laugh. (Also check out her "Finally Friday.")

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A bit of everything

Cedric had a wonderful idea, that Mike and I could use the snapshot to add commentary to. Wonderful idea. But so time consuming. There is so much information that C.I. provides that to add commentary to every second, third or fourth piece of information requires writing an essay.
It was a wonderful idea and more than worth a try but what we've decided is that we will continue to post it (we need to be paying attention to Iraq) and we'll add a comment or two on whatever stands out the most to us in that day's snapshot. Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's comments.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Iraq today? Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) sums it up as follows: "A civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims is spreading rapidly through central Iraq, with each community seeking revenge for the latest massacre." That pretty much describes life on the ground. There's also more news in the inquiry to the death of Jake Kovco as well as news on Medea Benjamin and Cindy Sheehan.
Outside Baghdad's Technology Institute, three bombs went off.
AFP notes that a "police patrol" had just passed by and that the interior ministry of Iraq is saying that police were the targets of the bombings. Reuters reports five dead and 22 wounded in the three bombs -- first came the car bomb, then two others went off "apparently targeting a crowd that gathered at the scene."
The other single event getting the most press attention at this time is the kidnapping of at least 19 people.
Al Jazeera explains that fourteen were kidnapped on Tuesday "by gunmen in civilian clothes" and that an additional five were traveling in a vehicle, forced off the road, and then kidnapped. The Associated Press reports that the twenty (they go with the figure of 20) were all employees of the Sunni Endowment and that the agency's response has been to announce they "would stop working effective immediately and that its chairman, Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samaraie, would give more details later." (Reuters also goes with the figure of 19 kidnapped and it taking place yesterday and today.)
Reuters reports that mortar rounds have claimed the life of a two-month-old child and left another child and one adult wounded and that a bombing in Kirkuk has left at least four dead and at least 16 wounded. CBS and the AP note a roadside bombing in Kirkuk that took the lives of two.
AFP reports that Major General Fakhr Abdel Hussein was killed in Baghdad ("in front of his home"). AFP notes that he was "[t]he head of the interior ministry's justice office". In Najaf, Reuters covers the death of the owner of "a women's hair salon" and notes that 3 are dead and 11 wounded after a market was stormed by assailants. AFP also notes: "Gunmen in the eastern suburb of Baghdad Jadida opened fir on a store selling vegetables, killing four people inside. They then planted explosives inside the store and blew it to pieces." Also in Balad, AFP reports, a home invasion has left a child dead and a woman wounded.
Reuters notes a corpse ("gunshot wounds") discovered in Mosul as well as 18 corpses discovered in Mahmudiya ("gunshot wounds . . . signs of torture"). Meanwhile the AFP reports that six corpses were discovered in Baghdad and one in Karbala.
the UN report that found almost 6,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the months of May and June on The KPFA Evening News yesterday, Max Pringle noted that: "In the first six months of the year it said 14,338 people had been killed. The UN report also details the rise in kidnappings particularly of large groups of people. In addition women report that their rights have been rolled back by religious muslim groups both Shi and Sunni. They say that their social freedoms have decreased since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and they are now barred from going to the market alone, wearing pants and driving cars."
Brian Edwards-Tiekert also addressed the report today on
KPFA's The Morning Show, noting that it indicates that "violence is claiming more lives in Iraq now than at any time since the US invasion of that country. The UN estimates 100 Iraqis are dying a day"
Speaking of the report yesterday, UN Secretary-General spokesperson
Farhan Haq noted that "the report raises alarm at the growing number of casualities among the civilian population killed or wounded" and that's a thought echoing in today's press with some noting occupation puppet Nouri al-Maliki's statement from last week that Iraq was getting it's "last chance" or Hoshiyar Zebari's assertion that "months" remain before "all-out civil war" breaks out.
Turning to Australia and the case of Jake Kovco who died in Iraq on April 21st, the inquiry into the events of his final moments continue.
Dan Box (The Australian) reports that: "HOMICIDE detectives will trave to Baghdad to take DNA samples from soldiers who served with Private Jake Kovco after tests revealed unidentified DNA samples on the trigger of the gun that killed him." Speaking on The World Today (Australia's ABC) with host Eleanor Hall, Conor Duffy reported that Detective Inspector Wayne Hayes found "what . . . [he] called a gross amount of someone else's DNA, and that DNA was on the trigger of the gun, the slide and on the grip." Australia's ABC reports that: "As many as 30 Australian soldiers in Baghdad could be DNA tested." Dan Box also reports that the two roommates of Jake Kovco will testify to the board next week "by videolink" from Baghdad. Judy and Martin Kovco, Jake's parents, have been fighting to have soldiers serving with their late son called to testify before the inquiry -- though the testimony will be by "videolink," the 'win' on this is due to their persistence.
And in peace news,
Matthew Cardinale (Atlanta Progressive News) reports on Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin's visit to Atlanta to show their support for Cynthia McKinney in her primary bid (McKinney won the most vote but now faces Hank Johnson in a primary runoff). Medea Benjamin states: "The peace movement is aat a very critical juncture because on one hand, we have managed to capture public opinion. Most people think the Invasion of Iraq was a mistake and want the troops home at the end of the year. 72% of troops themselves say this. You can't continue to have politicians voting for the war. What's new on this is the Iraqi said, not just Iraqi people, but the [Iraqi] President, Vice President, and National Security Advisor".
Medea Benjamin and Cindy Sheehan continue their fast as part of the
Troops Home Fast protest. From CODEPINK:
TROOPS HOME FAST! On July 4, we launched an historic hunger strike called TROOPS HOME FAST in Washington, DC in front of the White House. While many Americans expressed their patriotism via barbeques and fireworks, we're fasting in memory of the dead and wounded, and calling for the troops to come home from Iraq. We're inviting people around the world to show their support for this open-ended fast by fasting for at least one day. Read an interview with Diane Wilson to learn more. Please sign here to to support us and encourage your friends to do the same. Click here to view photos, and read our blogs!
The fast is ongoing, anyone can join at any time, for a single day or more.
Finally, the
BBC reports that four more people kidnapped from the "meeting of the Iraqi Olympic Committee last week" have been released and that the number of those released is now nine.

I want to talk about the fast. I took part on July 4th and I got through with minimal hardship. But these people who are staying on it, they have tremendous will power. I'm going to grab another day. Sunny wants to as well so we'll probably grab a workday that way, when we'd normally be eating lunch together, we can give each other support. I think this is really important because it effects you and, if you're discussing it, if effects the people around you as well. It's a ripple that has impact. CODEPINK is really good at seeing a hurdle and saying, "Okay, how can we leap over this."

Betty and I both tried out the recipe Trina posted this week ("Rosemary Roasted Potatoes in the Kitchen"). Betty wrote about it last night in "Not even cooking with grease (shorter post than planned)." This really was a wonderful recipe. I wasn't expecting it to be because it's a really simple dish; however, that may be why it turned out so wonderful. I ate about half of it Monday night and took the rest into work to share with Sunny on Tuesday. She wouldn't believe me when I told her the recipe so we pulled up Trina's "Rosemary Roasted Potatoes in the Kitchen" so she could see how simple it was to fix. I'm not big on cooking. I'll usually stop on the way home from work most nights and grab a salad or sometimes a little more. But this wasn't difficult to make. Three times, while the potatoes cook in the oven, you have to stir the potatoes. Every fifteen minutes may seem like a bit much but what I did was carry the book I was reading into the kitchen and sit at the table reading. I used the mircowave timer and just stirred when it went off.

The book I'm reading is Lord of the Flies, which most people have probably already read. I hadn't and a patient is using it as a point of reference so I'm attempting to get up to speed. (The author is William Golding.) I do remember this book from English class in high school (I believe it was tenth grade). It was a book choice and I grabbed something by F. Scott Fitzgerald instead (probably The Winter of Our Discontent). Winter? Now that would be nice right now.

Like Cedric, the heat is starting to get to me which makes me think of people who are without air conditioning or not using it due to the high costs. We had a delivery today, it wasn't Sunny's boyfriend Ramon, and I really wanted to go off on the man. He was talking about a report he heard about some elderly people who were having a very difficult time in the heat and offering the opinion that they were just "weak." He felt this would toughen them up and said that we're all spoiled and that a hundred years ago we got along just fine without air conditioning in this country. Yes, and a hundred years ago, ceilings tended to be higher (which really does make a difference since heat rises), we had more trees and woods, we had less concrete buildings blocking the wind.

We've also got hotter summers and that's not open to debate, that's on record. Which is the result of our trashing the environment. I just felt the man was either trying to impress with how "manly" he was or just completely devoid of compassion.

When you realize it's not even the end of July and we still have to face August, it's rather frightening. In terms of elections, you have to wonder how the rise in energy costs will impact the votes of the elderly on fixed incomes? I think that will have an impact.

If you're someone who doesn't get why it was important for Nancy A. Youssef's article that the US government was keeping body counts on Iraqi civilians, read C.I.'s "NYT: Semple's wrong in print but how can he know what no one reported?" which addresses how Kirk Semple got it wrong. If that had been noted (and I'm thinking of one program in particular), Semple might not be writing today that the US government doesn't keep a body count.

I don't think I've noted Ava and C.I.'s "TV: 4 Days in 7th Hell" yet this week. In that, they're taking on the television program 7th Heaven and it's extremely funny. I enjoy it when they do straight criticism, but I also enjoy it when they take a creative angle -- such as with "TV: TESR Investigates: NYC" which completes their Jerry Bruckheimer canon, although I believe he's got at least one new show on the fall season according to Rebecca. The latter review carries over a theme they used for "TV: TESR Investigates" last month.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

World on Fire

The illustration above is Isaiah's latest "Song of the Bully Boy." Mike and I are both using it tonight. The world today? Just nuts and blame it on the Bully Boy. He's set the tone. I look at the illustration above and agree with it, but it also reminds me of a Sarah McLachlan's "World On Fire:"

The world's on fire it's more than I can handle
I'll tap into the water try and bring my share
Try to bring more, more then I can handle
Bring it to the table
Bring what I am able

The world's on fire. I have no idea what I can bring to the table. But I do like Afterglow (the Sarah McLachlan CD the song's from -- it's not Surfacing, but it has grown on me). Cedric suggested Mike and I attempt to use the snapshot as we would headlines. I think it's a lot of stuff to cover but am willing to try. Please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's comments.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
More deaths in Iraq today, the UN issues a body count for Iraqi civilians, questions emerge in the inquiry into the death of Australian soldier Jake Kovco, and news on war resisters and peace demonstrators.
Reuters reports that 59 people died after a bomber drove "his minivan into a busy market on Tuesday, lured labourers onboard with the promise of jobs and then blew himself" and those gathered up. The attack took place in Kufa and police "were pelted with rocks by angry crowds, many of whom demanded that militias loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr take over security". The Associated Press skips that but does note that the explosion took place "across the street from Kufa's gold-dome mosque". Reuters reports that some chants at the police included: "You are traitors!", "Your are not doing your job!" and "American agents!"

That's a pretty important detail to leave out. The Iraqi police, who are seen as puppets and stands in for the United States, are pelted with rocks, called traitors? Including it in the AP coverage might mean letting Americans grasp how much the Iraqis hate the illegal occupation.

When even violence as the sort that took place in Kufa this morning can't get attention, one wonders how many are registering Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Don't Forget the Bloodletting in Iraq" (Editor's Cut, The Nation)? Will we grow used to that violence? Will only larger numbers register in the future? As Howard Zinn wrote (in Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal) "The only way we can stop the mass killing of civilians -- of women and children -- is to stop the war itself."

Katrina vanden Heuvel's column is one I recommend you read. She's addressing two op-eds (one in the New York Times, one in the Boston Globe) and the issue of withdrawal. I was really glad C.I. paired it up with Howard Zinn's book because the reality is that we're not that far in the peace movement. When Zinn wrote his book (highly recommended), it still took years to get out of Vietnam. When Zinn was writing the book, the press was ridiculing and ingoring withdrawl the same way they do today. I give vanden Heuvel a lot of credit for this column. There is a great deal going on but Iraq does matter.

Along with news of Kufa, other news took place as well. The BBC notes that "at least four members of a Shia militia" were killed by British troops. CBS and the AP note that, "near Hawija," a bombing took the lives of seven Iraqi police officers and left two wounded. The AFP reports "a gruesome incident, one sheep seller was killed in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, when a bomb hidden under a girl's severed head exploded as he lifted it". Reuters notes the following: in Baghdad, Abu Ali al-Garawi ("head of Badr in Diwaniya) was shot to death; in Mosul four people died and two were wounded in a bombing; in Habaniya an Iraqi soldier was killed by mortar rounds; in Falluja a "police major" was shot to death; and, in Haditha, three translators working for the US military were shot to death.In addition to the severed head noted above, Reuters reports that 14 corpses were discovered in Mahmudiya ("blindfolded . . . shot at close range").
AFP reports that the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq places the Iraqi civilian death toll at 5,818 for May and June alone (with most of the victims losing their lives in Baghdad).

Tomorrow, a show, you know which one, will probably devote a segment to the deaths since it's been covered (the high numbers). The issue of course will be why it wasn't covered until then?
Do you lead on coverage or do you follow?

Speaking today with Andrea Lewis on KPFA's The Morning Show, Ruth Rosen discussed her recent article, "The Hidden War on Women in Iraq." Rosen explained what led her to focus on the violence targeting Iraqi women and, in one example, explained: "And I also wanted to find out the story behind Abu Ghraib. We never heard. We heard many men sexually humilitaed but if they were humilitated it stood to reason that women would have been at least as humilitated if not more". Rosen and Lewis discussed many topics including women who were held in Abu Ghraib and tortured. Rosen explained, "It does appear that women have been on other bases held as prisoners."
(More on this topic can be found in CODEPINK's "Iraqi Women Under Siege" -- pdf. format.)

This is a good interview. C.I. called Sunny with a heads up and she and I listened during lunch.
Very little attention has been given to the issue of women in Iraq, we're supposed to assume, I guess, that liberation is just on the march. That's not reality but it wasn't reality for Afghanistan either.

The war drags on. Some, wisely, leave the so-called coaliton. Others get called back in. While Japan has withdrawn troops, the BBC reports that Scotland's The Black Watch will be deploying for Iraq for the third time since the start of the illegal war.
Turning to Australia, there are more developments in the case of Jake Kovco who died on April 21st while serving in Iraq. Conor Duffy discussed with Eleanor Hall (Australia's ABC) the fact that "the military officer is Sergeant Stephen Hession. . . . And he's told the board of inquiry that the pistol that show Private Kovco was in a different postion to what it was just before the room was sealed." Dan Box (The Australian) notes the testimony of two military police officers which revealed: "The room where Jake Kovco died was cleaned, stripped of equipment and repeatedly traisped through by fellow soldiers before inverstigators could gather evidence that might have proved crucial in determing the cause of his death." Belindea Tasker (The Courier-Mail) notes that, in addition to the above, "his clothes [were] destroyed before forensic experts could carry out any tests". Reporting on the program PM (Australia's ABC) Conor Duffy reported more events from the inquiry including the fact that including the fact that a letter from Jake Kovco's wife Shelley and two short stories by Jake Kovco were read to the board for "a glimpse into Private Kovco's state of mind". As noted yesterday, Judy and Martin Kovco, Jake's parents, want soldiers serving with their late son to be called to testify before the inquiry.

This went up after lunch. I walked into Sunny's area to grab a file and I thought someone had died in her family. You just have to say "Jake Kovco" and Sunny tears up. (I'm not making fun of her.) After I found out why she'd been crying (she wasn't crying when I walked through but her eyes were blood red), I told her to take a break and wondered why more people can't show the compassion that Sunny does? If we could, the war might be over now.

On Monday's The KPFA Evening News, Wendell Harper reported on the peace movement. Demonstrators, CODEPINK activists, Daneil Ellsberg, labor activists and others came together in Oakland to make their voices heard, many taking part in the Troops Home Fast. What follows are some of the voices (selected by Zach, Marisa and myself) featured in Harper's report:
Protestor 1: "Ehren Watada needs support finacially, because of legal fees, and, of course, the rallies like we're having today."
Protestor 2: "If you're familiar with Suzanne Swift, she's the 21-year-old who just turned 22 on Saturday who was abused by her commanding officer in Iraq, came over here and then refused to go back when she found out she would have to go back to her old unit. She was arrested, put in the brig and is currently in the brig, and her mother is started a campaign to get an honorable discharge for her."
Labor activist: "Two-thirds of the American people say get the troops out now. 80% of the Iraqi people say get the troops out now. 72% of our troops in Iraq say they want to be home by the end of the year and 29% of those say: 'Out now.' What part of 'out now' doesn't this Congress understand."
"I'm Sara and I'm participating in a fast because I'm hoping that it will speak loud enough to people that it will stop this war and stop violence."
"I'm Jane Jackson and I'm hungry for peace."
"I'm Sam Joi and I'm with CODEPINK Women for Peace and we have to be determined that this war is going to end by the end of 2006 no matter what anybody says."
Kurdish-Iraqi woman: "I've been fasting in San Francisco actually for our homeless. These wars are causing refugess around the world. I personally know what it is to stay in refugee camp and not have a meal, to be infected with a meal, they give it to you. I have had that experience, my friends dying, because they gave them wrong food to eat."
Those were some of the voices featured in Wendell Harper's report. (Brian Edwards-Tiekert highlighted some of the voices on KPFA's The Morning Show second hour news break this morning.)
Troops Home Fast reports that "4,117 people are engaging in solidarity fasts around the nation and in 22 other countries" today.

I listened to the report while I was working on the earlier part of this post. It's so rare that the voices of peace are provided. Hearing each other speak and listening will help end this illegal war.

Meanwhile, in Hawaii, KHNL reports a protest in support of Ehren Watada which drew "[a]bout two dozen people rallied in Honolulu" yesterday for 90 minutes on behalf of "a half dozen organizations and churches that believe the war in Iraq is illegal." Watada has refused to deploy to Iraq and engage in the illegal war. Watada has stated: "I felt that going into a war waged out of decption, the administration had lied by manipulating intelligence and deceiving the people, I thought there could be no greater crime."
Another Hawaian, Maui's Chris Magaoay, is interviewed by Ana Radelat (Gannett News Service) who takes a look at war resistors who leave the armed service. Magaoay enlisted in 2004 and "[l]ess than two years later, Magaoay became on of thousands of military deserters who have chosen a lifetime of exile or possible court-martial rather than fight in Iraq or Afghanistan." Magaoay, who went to Candad this year, tells Radelat, "It wasn't something I did on the spur of the moment. It took me a long time to realize what was going on. The war is illegal."
Turning to Canada, we noted war reister Patrick Hart for the first time on March 9th when Lewis steered us to Peter Koch's "Brave Hart." Koch has provided an update noting that, the first week of this month, Patrick & Jill Hart (along with their son Rian) appeared before Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board. There has been no verdict yet but, as Koch notes, "everyone who has received a decision has been denied."

If the New York Times covered Ehren Watada's case (they never have -- not with a report written by someone working for the paper), think of what a difference that could make? It's the sort of thing that could jump start the discussion to another level, the way Cindy Sheehan did last year. But they're not interested in increasing the public dialogue. That was obvious with Gail Collins' nonsense of "I've learned . . . nothing" in Editor & Publisher.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Jake Kovco, Gaza, Danny Schechter

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
The US tries to firm up a commerce deal in Iraq, Jake Kovco's family learns more details and despite all the happy talk, chaos and violence continue with one single event that is being called the "bloodiest" by many.
A US soldier was "fatally wounded" in Baghdad today, the
AP notes pointing out that since Saturday four US soldiers have died "in the Baghdad area." Baghdad, location of the month-plus security 'crackdown.' Sunday, in Basra, a British soldier died and the BBC reports that he was John Johnston Cosby. Also on Sunday, Reuters reports that Laith al-Rawi ("local leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party") was killed in Haditha.
Today, the
AFP notes that six died in Baquba. The biggest attack (AFP calls it the "deadliest since the July 9 bloodbath") took place in southern Iraq. Reuters notes that, in Mahmudiya, "[g]unmen stormed a crowded market" and at least 56 are dead with at least 67 wounded according to "a local hospital" (Ministry of Defence says 42 dead). James Hider (Times of London) reports that along with attempting to downgrade the number of those killed "a Defence Ministry spokesman tried to convince reporters that the deaths had been the result of two car bombs, insisting that no gunmen had been involved. That statement was flatly contradicted by the testimony of survivors."
Alastair Macdonald (Reuters) explores the events and notes Muayyad Fadhil, mayor of Mahmudiya, stating: "There was a mortar attack. Then gunmen came from . . . the eastern side of town. They came into the market and opened fire at raondom on the people shopping." The AFP notes the attack was "a coordinated assualt of car bombs, mortar attacks and rampaging masked gunmen". One victim, Muzzaffar Jassem, tells AFP: "About six cars with at least 20 masked gunmen blocked the market road from two sides, got out of the car and opened fire randomly on women, children and elderly people in the market".
As the violence heats up, the so-called coalition gets smaller.
Reuters reports that Japan has pulled "[t]he last contingent" of their troops out of Iraq today.
In Australia, some feel answers are arriving as to the death of Jake Kovco; however, his family wants more answers. As
Bruce Scates (Sydney Morning Herald) notes: "It has been almost three months since Private Jake Kovco's body was finally returned to Australia." Australia's ABC reports that Dr. Johan Duflou, who performed the autoposy on Kovco, told an inquiry board that "his opinion was the death was the result of an accidental discharge of a weapon." Kovco's parents are requesting that "several soldiers" in Iraq give testimony to the board about the events of April 21st when Kovco became "the first Australian soldier" to die in the current Iraq war. Members will remember the Judy and Martin Kovco as well as the parents of Jake Kovco's widow Shelley (David and Lorraine Small) were bothered, not only by the fact that Kovco's body was lost when it should have been returning to Australia, but also angered by what they saw as an attempt to smear Kovco with baseless rumors.
Kovco died on April 21st but, due to mix ups on the part of the military, wasn't buried until May 2nd.)
Yesterday on
KPFA's Sunday Salon with Larry Bensky, Bensky and Aaron Glantz discussed Iraq and Glantz noted, "The Iraqi paliament is on the verge of putting together a referendum demanding a timetable for the US withdrawal from Iraq and when they put forward that proposal, I think it will become a little bit more difficult for the Bush adminstration to say that we are there to help the Iraqi people when the Iraqi people say very clearly that they want the US military out within a specific amount of time."
Despite Dexy Filkins' 'reporting' for the New York Times, the issue Glantz outlined was one of "the Bush administration [. . .] rounding up these supporters of this idea including some people who are very high ranking in many of the political parties and this is the latest thing that we've been covering, the political crackdown by the US military of the people who want a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. "
Saturday, we linked to a recent Glantz article on this topic.]
In other parliament news, as noted by Brian Edwards-Tiekert on
KPFA's The Morning Show today, Shi'ites stormed out today in protest over the Mahmudiya killings.
In commerce news, Australia and Iraq have reached an agreement over the June 21st death of Abdul Falah al-Sudany's bodyguard by Australian soldiers.
Reuters reports that compensation will be paid to al-Sudany (trade minister) and that al-Sudany has stated: "We don't have any vetoes on importing Australian wheat and we hope to go back to a normal relationship with Australia."
Also in commerce news from Iraq,
CBS and AP report that: "U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Guiterrez arrived in the Iraqi capital for meetings aimed at jump-starting the economy." Though the US press is seeing this as some sort of 'big win,' the AFP reports Abdel Falah-al Sudany (the same trade minister noted in the pervious item) is much more cautious and declared that privatization would not happen "for at least five to 10 years."
Possibly the excitement stems not from a lack of caution but a desire to turn the topic away from
William Lash III -- the topic Gutierrez was addressing this weekend: "Bill was a passionate, committed and hard working individual . . ." following the news that former assistant commerce secretary Lash had apparently killed himself after killing his 12-year-old autistic son.
In peace news,
Eric Seitz, attorney for Ehren Watada, states that there is a date scheduled "tentatively" for "Watada's Article 32 hearing . . . Aug. 17 or 18." Seits tells Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) that this hearing would "determine whether sufficient grounds exist to warrant a court-martial" and that the maximum punishment for Watada's refusal to serve in the illegal war could be 7 and one-half years in prison.
Tommy Witherspoon (Waco Tribune-Herald) reports that the county of McLennan (where Bully Boy's ranch-ette is) is attempting to move Cindy Sheehan's lawsuit against the county into the federal court. The issue is whether or not Camp Casey can return to the activities and protests that first took place last summer or whether the county can now "ban parking and camping along roads leading to" Bully Boy's ranch-ette.
The Legal Defense Network reports that Rhonda Davis participation in a June 3rd rally in support of sam-sex marriage has resulted in the US Navy bringing "discharge proceedings against a 10-year veteran." Davis states: "I am a proud, patriotic American who happens to be gay. My sexual orientation has never stood in the way of getting my job done, and I was looking forward to continuing my Navy career. Unfortunately, federal law places discrimination ahead of national security and gay service members are caught in the crossfire. It is past time for our leaders in Washington to repeal this senseless law and allow gay Americans who want to serve, like me, the opportunity to do just that."

That is a lot of information. I know the spotlight's off Iraq right now for most of the media (mainstream and independent) so I really appreciated the snapshot today. Sunny was thrilled that there was news of Jake Kovco. She's really taken the issues his family has had to face to heart. She asked me to note that of all the sites she goes to that are US sites (blogs, newspapers, etc.), none have given much attention to this news story. She thinks this is a story about the war that "needs to be told."

The thing that stood out to me the most, two things, were the market attack and the desire to shift the subject away from William Lash. Someone who serves in the administration stands accused of killing his twelve-year-old son (who had autism) and himself and the media's not on this? This isn't about being "respectful," this is about ignoring a news story.

If you don't believe that, think back to the way the media played the Andrea Yates story. Or is it only news when mothers are accused of killing their children? He was a professor, he served in the Bully Boy administration. He's dead and so is his child. Apparently, he is responsible for both deaths. So why isn't this a major story?

It's really not even a story. It's already been buried. I'm not calling for a media circus, but I am saying that it deserves much more coverage than it's received. The next time some woman is put through the wringer when she stands accused of killing her child, we should all remember how the media took a pass on this story.

A man stands accused of killing his child and it's just that he must have reached the end of his rope. A woman does it and somehow it's not an 'end of the rope' story or a crime, it's cause for a media circus. In both cases, a child is dead.

To the south, Israeli forces continue their offensive in the Gaza Strip. 92 Palestinians have been killed and 326 injured, in the last ten days of Israeli attacks on Gaza. Saed Bannoura reports.Early this morning, a missile dropped on the home of the Abu Salem family hit just a few feet from a three-day-old baby and his 23-year old mother. The missile did not detonate immediately and the family was able to escape from their home, in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, before the missile exploded. The town of Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza, has been under continuous attack by Israeli forces all weekend. Air strikes and artillery fire from tanks killed 1 person early this morning and 5 yesterday. Yesterday, the Israeli air force dropped missiles onto the Palestinian Foreign Ministry building for the second time in a week, leveling what remained of the building and injuring several neighborhood residents. Palestinian legislator, Mustapha Barghouthi: [Barghouthi]. The Palestinian fighters holding the Israeli soldier had conditioned his release on the release of 1,000 Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israeli jails, a demand which was rejected by Israel. For Free Speech Radio News from, this is Saed Bannoura in Beit Sahour, Palestine.

Just as Iraq has been pushed off the media map, so has the issue of Gaza. But the deaths continue even if the media wants to take their standard pass on covering it. Mike and I are both noting the above headline. I really don't know what to say on this other than I don't know what's more outrageous, the deaths or the lack of coverage. Please visit Mikey Likes It! to get Mike's thoughts. An example of the way the media refuses to cover it in any meaningful way follows.

"'Beat The Press' And Search For Truth" (Danny Schechter, News Dissector):
You are the producer of NBC's Meet The Press. The big story of the week is the escalating war in the Middle East. You want to have a smart discussion of the issues and perhaps inform the public in more depth than they get in the daily news. What do you do?
As former TV talk show producer at CNN and ABC, I know there are many different ways to handle a subject like this and to frame a discussion? You have to decide what guests to book and what angle to take.
And when you are Meet the Press. You can get anyone. There are so many options.
Option 1: You could do something ahead of the pack and discuss how this conflict could be resolved as in what is the basis for ending a war that your own NBC correspondent says can easily get out of control and spread. There are specialists on the region available from the UN and former US envoys like General Zinni who you can book...
Option 2: There are thoughtful INDEPENDENT Lebanese and Palestinians and Israelis. You can book anti-war voices from all sides of the conflict. There are plenty of articulate ones. If that is too adventurous, you can easily call in the respective Ambassadors. This issue is being debated worldwide. Why not on Meet The Press?
Option 3: Reach out to the parties themselves--Hezbollah, Hamas, Israel, US decisionmakers? Shouldn't the audience hear from the newsmakers on the scene or, better yet, the people most directly affected on all sides? I am sure that Lebanese civilians whose homes have been bombed would be happy to tell their stories. Ditto for Israelis. I am sure a fiery people-to-people debate could be organized.
Option 4: Seek out informed third party experts like Juan Cole or other analysts who know alot about the issues to tell viewers what they HAVE NOT heard before. Is this conflict really a case of Israel responding to attacks. as most media outlets and politicians of both parties suggest, in the US suggest? Is there more to the story?
Option 5: Opt to stage a one-sided pro-Israel discussion with Americans who support Tel Aviv's policies, and have no concern for the mounting civilian casualties. Find a has-been politician and self-professed "expert" who wants to expand the war and then use the most watched Sunday news talk show for more saber rattling and calls for a wider war.
Those are all programming options. What would you do? What did NBC do?
Host Tim Russert makes the final call before flying in from his summer house on Nantucket. What does Tim decide? What is your guess--or did you watch the program? (Is he mindful that Boeing, which makes many of the warplanes bombing Lebanon, runs ads on "his" show? Probably not.)
Forget newsmakers from the region. Forget the conflict resolution experts. Forget the warring parties. Forget the US decisionmakers.
Even forget your own NBC correspondents including the veteran and highly respected Israel-based journalist Martin Fletcher who, in a live report from Haifa, breaks a bombshell that is not followed up.
Fletcher reports matter of factly that this war is part of an "Israeli Agenda," five years in the making.
"I think they will never say that publicly," he added. What was HE saying? He was revealing that the IDF and Tel Aviv are pursuing a war plan that was not made by this current Israeli government but earlier by Sharon & his generals. Fletcher says they call it a "work plan." He says its is being implemented "step by step."
He adds, "it will go on until someone steps in and stops them"
Wow, isn't that interesting? Here's something new. A US based (though British born) journalist who lives in Israel and has top sources there, reporting on a pre-meditated Israeli war plan just waiting for a pretext to implement. That is something you or I would want to discuss.
But that is not to be.
His revelation is promptly buried in a cloud of rhetoric and bluster when Meet The Press reveals its guest line-up.
NBC goes Option 5 all the way. They phone it in, producing the predictable by booking their Rolodex regulars always on standby for more face time on TV. Beep them and they are there. The Beltway takes care of its own! Never mind that these two "talking heads" are not at all directly involved.
Welcome Newt Gingrich and Joe Biden.

I have one big criticism about the above (and I'll come off like Jim carping about one of C.I.'s entries), this is a column. If you don't know News Dissector, it's a blog where journalist (radio, TV -- possibly print -- author, documentary filmmaker, you name it) Danny Schechter offers critiques and commentary on the events of the world. Jim will say this to C.I. all the time and, if my opinion is asked, I'll say I disagree. That's partly due to what C.I.'s attempting at The Common Ills. But my point here is that this, as it exists in his blog entries today, is already a column. I think he should have pulled it out of the blog and front paged it on Media Channel. Which just may be my way of justifying my generous helping above grabbed from his blog (I believe it's less than a third and a third is my "fair use" rule -- a third of his blog entry today) but I really do think he's written a stand alone column. (There's at least one more paragraph to this, by the way -- to what I'm calling "the column." There are many other items and commentaries as well.)

It is really worth reading and, had it been a column, I'm willing to bet it would receive a great deal of attention. Okay, Betty and I both agreed that we'd attempt Trina's "Rosemary Roasted Potatoes in the Kitchen" tonight. So I'll post this and head to the kitchen.