Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sharon Smith, Ruth Conniff

I'm still waiting for the bounce-back to kick in from last week in terms of energy levels. Sunny printed up all the e-mails of thanks re: John Lennon and Yoko Ono that resulted from yesterday's post. I say "thank you" right back. I'm glad so many of you agreed strongly enough to write in. That's not, "They agree with me!" The agreement comes in on how hideous it was for The Nation to distort John & Yoko's classic song for the rag's own agenda. The agreement comes from the power and meaning of the song and the fact that so many of us love that song and hold it very dear. Alex wrote that he wasn't "sure if Britney Spears sampling the song and giving it her usual bad performance would have upset me more." I hear you, Alex. Susan noted that it wasn't that they quoted a song or that they wrote of a song, it was that they deliberately distorted it so they owe an apology. I would agree with that. What they did was dishonest and shameful. It was pulling a Hillary Clinton!

"Hillary's Cojones" (Sharon Smith, CounterPunch):
And Clinton has made clear she has no intention of ending the occupation of Iraq if elected president. In an interview published by the New York Times on March 15, she was explicit on this issue-sounding remarkably like, well, George Bush. A complete U.S. withdrawal from Iraq could turn it into "a petri dish for insurgents and Al Qaeda," she said, adding, "It is right in the heart of the oil region. It is directly in opposition to our interests, to the interests of regimes, to Israel's interests."
Clinton would downsize the U.S. troop presence, pulling them out of urban combat to minimize U.S. casualties while preserving enough troops "for our antiterrorism mission, for our northern support mission, for our ability to
respond to the Iranians, and to continue to provide support, if called for, for the Iraqis."
As the Times reported, "Mrs. Clinton said the scaled-down American military force that she would maintain would stay off the streets in Baghdad and would no longer try to protect Iraqis from sectarian violence - even if it descended into ethnic cleansing." Indeed, Clinton responded coldly to the prospect of such a mass sectarian bloodletting: "This is an Iraqi problem; we cannot save the Iraqis from themselves."
Clinton's candid Times interview seems to place her well to the right of other Congressional Democrats, currently absorbed in an apparently principled fight to pass antiwar legislation through the House and Senate. On March 13, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remarked, "The administration's answer to continuing violence in Iraq is more troops and more treasure from the American people." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated defiantly that Bush "must change course, and it's time for the Senate to demand he do it."
But behind the scenes, Democratic Party Congressional leaders were maneuvering frantically to avoid conflict with the Bush administration's war aims. On March 13, Democrats announced plans to remove a requirement that Bush gain Congressional approval before taking military action against Iran in its military spending bill. Democrats, not Republicans, stymied the Iran proposal during a meeting held behind closed doors, objecting to possible opposition from Israel. As Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley explained, "It would take away perhaps the most important negotiating tool that the U.S. has when it comes to Iran."
The spending bill to be debated in the House this week includes nearly $100 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-more than Bush requested. Its antiwar provisions require most U.S. combat troops to be withdrawn by August 31, 2008. But the President "may waive" these requirements for reasons of "national security," according to the now toothless legislation.
In concrete terms, three months after establishing a majority in Congress, the Democrats have little to show for themselves.

There is a great deal before the excerpt starts. I really wanted to start at the top but I do know there are efforts to distort the current legislation in the House and pass it off as something that will end the war. So when I got to that section of Smith's article, I felt that had to be included.

If you missed some of those efforts, C.I. covers one in the snapshot (posted in full at the bottom of this post) and John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton's "Why Won't MoveOn Move Forward?" is linked to but I'll toss in that link to it from CounterPunch where it also runs.

"Bush to Gonzales: 'You're doing a heck of a job'" (Ruth Conniff, The Progressive): One thing Democrats and Republicans in Congress agree on: There's no sense dragging out the hearings on Gonzales's role in the Administration's politically motivated firings of prosecutors. The Democrats want Gonzales's head, and the Republicans are inclined to give it to them, very soon, just to get this whole embarrassing episode over with.
Even White House Press Secretary Tony Snow sounded tepid in his support for the besieged A.G. during his regular briefing with reporters Monday. And, according to
McClatchy Newspapers, Gonzales's former Republican supporters are making lists of possible replacement Attorneys General, including, ironically, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, who saw the nation through the Hurricane Katrina disaster (for details, see the September 4, 2005 CNN story: "Chertoff: Katrina scenario did not exist"). Besides asserting, falsely, that no one could have anticipated the effects of Katrina, Chertoff assured New Orleans residents that the government would "move heaven and earth" to help them.
Oh, well. So much for disaster management. On to leading the Justice Department.

I'm not sure if I disagree with Conniff (I'm not sure where she's standing in this op-ed) but I do disagree with the notion that Gonzales get tossed and we 'move on.' This needs to be probed by Congress, this needs to have public hearings. I'm tired of things being slipped under the rug and I'm tired of information not coming out. What's gone on in this scandal is the same thing that the administration has done with every other scandal -- they've declared that the laws do not apply to them (in this case, the big law they're ignoring, besides the laws against conspiracy, is by passing the Senate confirmation process). In this scandal, we see all the workings of every other scandal, the willingness to ignore the law, the desire to ignore the other branches of the government, the willingness to lie to the American people.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
March 20, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, protests continued, the state and meaning of the illegal war continues to be debated and Iraqis speak in their own voices, on their own terms.

Today on
KPFA's The Morning Show, Andrea Lewis and Philip Maldari spoke with Tom Hayden and Frances Fox Piven about Iraq (Hayden has a book on Ending the Iraq War due out in June and professor Piven authored The War At Home.). Frances Fox Piven noted that it was time to "begin withdrawal immediately and we also should push for an interim authority in the area made up of other national representatives that's either nations in the area or UN authority that tries to surpress violence while we are withdrawing. We should withdraw as fast as we can. The Democrats are as timid as they are not because they don't have the support of the American people for withdrawal but because they have their eye on the 2008 election and they want to avoid any circumstancing which they can be attacked, including attacked for 'exposing the troops' or . . . adding to the 'losing' of the war, or whatever, politicans are always going to be cautious, especially in a two-party system where there is no alternative to the left of the Democratic Party so they can position themselves very moderately and still hope to gain electorally." Hayden noted that Bully Boy "wants to put the issue to the test in the 2008 presidential election as well. He wants to push it on. It's not unusual for presidents, leaders of the state, the establishment, to want to avoid losing at all costs and escalation is always the answer to losing, you just pass it along so you can say that you finished your term without losing any honor blah, blah, blah." Maldari brought up 1968 and Nixon's secret plan for getting out of Vietnam (apparently the secret plan was the threat of his own impeachment).

Piven: Certainly one of the factors leading to the pull out from South Vietnam was the military themselves who were in --

Hayden: In revolt.

Piven: . . . the GI anti-war movement was escalating, really, beginning in 1970, the prospect of losing control of the military, the prospect of this kind of international disaster certainly had a lot to do with the ultimate pull out from Vietnam. It also had a lot to do with the reluctance of the American military to go to war on that scale again. Instead we had a lot of small wars.

Hayden spoke of the importance of setting a deadline and planning for an orderly departure.
and observed, "No one in the media has ever called for the withdrawal of American troops or setting the deadline for withdrawal." Which is a good time to drop back to the start of the month when John R. MacArthur (
writing for the Providence Journal) noted that withdrawal of US troops also means planning who gets withdrawn -- as in Vietnam, there are many who've aided US troops and who among them will be allowed (most have already been promised that they will be) to leave with the US military. The issue of the financial costs for the illegal war was addressed and how the losses were more complex than some might realize.

Piven: I think that the official figures bring the costs of the wars in Afgahnistan and Iraq up to around 400 billion at this point and yes they are cutting Medicaid and Medicare. And they stopped building low-cost housing. There's a very long list of domestic needs that are going unmet. I think it's a little more complicated than that. All that's true but at the same time I think it's also true that their motives for going into war in the first place had a lot to do with the way war and war time enthusiasm would allow them, at least for a time, to manipulate the American public. They depicted a great menace overseas. They evoked all kind of foreign dragons that nobody could asses in terms of their own experience or their own perceptions, And they created a lot of war like enthusiasm in the United States. And then they used that enthusiasm not only to get themselves elected -- their majority increased in 2002, to get re-elected in 2004 -- but they also used that kind of enthusiasm, and the domination of all branches of government that it gave them, to slash taxes on the very rich and to do that again and again and again. And Tom DeLay said 'nothing is more important in a time of war than cutting taxes'. And they used the war time enthusiasm to push through subsidies for the pharmaceutical companies, for the energy corporations. So . . . the domestic costs to the war are truly profound. They go beyond the simple arithmetic of 'we could have spent the money that went for Iraq on what our children need'. That's true but the war also corrupted democracy to an extent that one can choke on and also allowed them to engage in this very predatory behavior in domestic politics.

Hayden noted the polling of Iraqis and how they want troops out. (A point made in the segment, was also that it's up to the people to educate one another on what withdrawal means as opposed to what it's sometimes portrayed as. He
wrote about this last week at The Huffington Post.) As time ran out, one of the most important points was made. Hayden stated, "The Baghdad government is a sectarian police state that's based on militias and death squads and that's the issue for funding should funding tax dollars go continually to that regime? That was a big issue in '73. It's a big issue today."

And that is who is being supported and the support needs to be questioned. Earlier this month,
Joseph Forrest (Socialist Appeal) interviewed US war resister Darrell Anderson and asked Anderson if he thought the Democrats would be ending the war anytime soon? "No, no," Darrell Anderson replied. "If anything the Democrats will go into Iran or have a draft of something. I have no belief in Hillary Clinton or any of them, because they're all politicians. They're not going to stop the war." Anderson, who self-checked out after serving in Iraq and receiving the Purple Heart, returned from Canada last year to turn himself in and he discussed with Forrest how that went, "I went to turn myself in at Fort Knox and I found the Generals at Fort Knox, and they had the choice to either Court Marshall me or not, and I told them that they're going to have to put my uniform on me and pin my medals to my chest, put me on Court Martial, and that my whole defense is going to be talking about all the war crimes we committed, all the friends I've seen beating prisoners to death, all the times we killed innocent civilians. They told me I was going to go to jail for one to five years, and when I got to the base they started to break, saying, 'Come in quietly and we'll let you go.' I told them no. I was gonna keep talking, and I got to the base and three days later I was sent away with discharge papers, because the soldiers on the base were really reacting to me being there. They were like, 'What the hell is going on? This guy against the war and he has a purple heart.' So they released me. I guess they felt the longer I was at the base, the more trouble I was going to cause, the more soldiers would have gotten on my side, and they felt it was better for the military to get rid of me basically."

Also speaking out was US war resister Dean Walcott who is attempting to be granted refugee status in Canada.
Melanie Patten (The Canadian Press) reports on his participation at the rally in Hallifax where he was received by a "cheering crowd" and declared that, "I'm not a politician I don't know the ins and outs of political theory but I do know that there's got be a better way for a nation to be free whether than us putting a gun in their face and demanding it of them."

Anderson and Walcott are part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes
Ehren Watada, Kyle Snyder, Joshua Key, Agustin Aguayo, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

Protests have been going on since Friday to demonstrate opposition to the illegal war. Yesterday,
Karen Miller (Free Speech Radio News) reported on Saturday's march on the Pentagon and noted this from a speech given by Cindy Sheehan: "We're only part of the world. We're only 5% of the population and we use up to 40% of the resources. It's gotta stop. We have to share with our brothers and sisters around the world. We have to start saying, 'We have enough, do you want to have enough too?' We have to stop demonizing other people to allow our leaders to send our young people off to kill them, to send our young people off -- like my son Casey -- to die for nothing, to die for the war machine." Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted Monday's protests at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday where 44 protesters were arrested and quoted Margio Farr stating, "If people sit down and they refuse to move and they create a dent in the effectivity of the market today, hopefully that will send a message to government officials that this war needs to end and that corporations have to stop profiting off of people's lives."

In the Bay Area yesterday,
many actions took place. Flashpoints Nora Barrows- Friedman spoke with Antonia Juhasz who was at the San Ramon Chevron headquarters and explained, "I have been locked into two barrels since about seven o'clock this morning. We have been blockading the entrance to Cheveron's world headquaters. We've got about a 150 people and we successfully and significantly not only disrupted their business day but definately gave every employee at Cheveron a conversation piece for the day with a full protest against not only their involvement in the war but their advancement of climate chaos and a very successful action. . . . We had a funeral for the last cube of ice that just finished. We also had a tug of war between the Bush administration and Chevron oil executives and the people . . . and we're just now finishing that up. . . . We're here to talk in particular about Chevron's role in trying to steal Iraq's oil through the war and the passage of a new Iraqi oil law . . "

Brian Edwards-Tiekert reported from the protests for yesterday's
The KPFA Evening News.
("It felt like a carnival at the gates to Chevron's world headquarters") and spoke with
Antonia Juhasz who explained the proposed Iraqi oil legislation, "The law changes Iraq from an oil system closed to US oil companies into an oil system in which . . . American oil companies including Chevron could own and control at least two-thirds of Iraq's oil for a generation or more."

The KPFA Evening News yesterday noted actions by the Declaration of Peace at Senator Dianne Feinstein's office in San Francisco that then became a street action with at least 57 people being arrested as well as actions at Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco offices by CODEPINK and others including Sean O'Neill:

O'Neill (president of the Berkeley chapter
Iraq Veterans Against the War): "I speak for the men in my platoon who do not have the opportunity to because they were killed in this pointless military adventure that we call 'Operation Iraqi Freedom.' There's the courage of those like Ehren Watada who stand on a principled, moral ground and with decency say that they will not participate in this mockery of the military and American values. But there are others who, like myself were not quite the same moral fabric, were not as strong as they are, and we went knowing that this was wrong, knowing that this was completely ineffective. We are trying to provide our experiences to you the public so that you know you are right because you are. This war is a travesty."

David Montgomery (Washington Post) reports on DC actions by Iraq Veterans Against the War where thirteen members dressed in "desert camo" as they marched "from Union Station to Arlingotn National Cementary" and "carried imaginary assault rifles, barked commands, roughly 'detained' suspected hostiles with flex cuffs and hoods -- and generally shocked frightened and delighted tourists and office workers." Operation First Casualty was the name of the action and it "aims to bring the story of the war to the American people."
Garrett Reppenhagen: "
We are calling Monday's action Operation First Casualty because we believe that truth was the first casualty of this war. Our aim is to show the American public the truth of the US occupation in Iraq. It is time for the American people to know the truth so they will act to bring the troops home now."

As these and other actions take place (remember Darrell Anderson's quote), the leadership in the US House of Representatives promotes a weak measure. As Robert Knight noted in his Knight Report on
KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday, the Democratic leadership "angling to extend the Republican launched war until the eve of the 2008 presidential election while running out the clock with do nothing resolutions in the House and Senate that impose no budgetary restraints or mandatory withdrawals."

Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber (Center for Media and Democracy) walk everyone through how MoveOn's recent 'polling' (of 'members'), how the 'poll' severly limited options and how the organization's leaders refuse to support US House Reps Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maxine Waters' bill (HR 508). Rampton and Stauber write: "Politically, the Lee amendment cannot pass; fewer than 100 members of Congress are expected to vote for it. However, the same thing is true of weaker legislation that MoveOn is currently supporting, in league with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha and David Obey. The Pelosi bill merely establishes 'benchmarks' of progress in Iraq, so that all Bush has to do is certify that he is making progress on those goals to keep funding flowing for the war. Instead of withdrawing troops this year, the Pelosi bill talks about beginning to withdraw them in March 2008. Even so, it faces united Republican opposition and is not expected to pass the U.S. Senate, even if it is approved by the House of Representatives. And even if it does pass, Bash has already said he will veto it. So why was the Democratic Party leadership so determined to prevent the Lee amendment from even coming to the floor -- and why has MoveOn.org avoided even mentioning the Lee proposal to its members?" Another question is why MoveOn is called a "liberal" organization? The organization began 'reformist' (at best), or "appeasement" (at worst and that's the label many in the Clinton White House tagged it with). The story of MoveOn is told in it's beginnings. It was an organization that came about when there was talk of impeaching then US president Bill Clinton. There were impeachment petitions gathering signatures. The people never supported impeachment and a truly liberal organization might have started a petition entitled "Nobody's Damn Business! Back The Hell Off!" Instead, MoveOn took what the Republicans were pushing for (which had a minority of public support) and said, "Censure! Don't Impeach! And Move On!" If there was a time to fight, that was it. Instead of fighting, MoveOn appeased Republican leadership and provided cover for impeachment by allowing right-wingers to claim that even 'liberals' supported some action by pointing to MoveOn's call for censure. If you found the impeachment circus ridiculous, and many Americans did, remember that the efforts were aided by some 'liberal' groups. It's worth remembering that as we find another situation where the American people (the majority) want real action on Iraq, want a timeline, want troops home. Again, MoveOn is appeasing elected leaders and MovingOn away from their supposed membership.

Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace are among the groups who have come out against the measure backed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. And this is a good place to note Robert Parry's (Consortium News) observation, "George W. Bush and Dick Cheney may deserve the most blame for the Iraq war, but a core reality shouldn't be missed: the four-year-old conflict resulted from a systemic failure in Washingtonn -- from the White House, to congressional Republicans and Democrats, to an insular national news media, to Inside-the-Beltway think tanks."

Ron Jacobs (CounterPunch) raises another issue for the peace movment to consider, debate and discuss: whether a new umbrella organization is needed "that would emcompass the two current supposedly umbrella antiwar organizations: UFPJ and ANSWER"? It's a conversation worth having whatever your position. (The community's position is reflected in this roundtable for The Third Estate Sunday Review. United for Peace and Justice, A.N.S.W.E.R.have done wonderful work and deserve praise. New groups emerging are not a threat, they further the message and promote even more action. As for a larger umbrellas group, it's something to consider and hopefully Jacobs will return to that topic in the future.)

Providing Iraqis the chance to speak for themselves,
Hilba Dawood (Free Speech Radio News) got the views of two Iraqis yesterday. A 44-year-old "businessman" in Baghdad offered that: "Americans have turned Iraq into a guinnea pig. They have tried everything in hand until they have turned Iraq into chaos. They created this chaos waiting to see who was the strongest to be in power. This is not going to work without a good plan." A 35-year-old teacher in Karbala shared, "No one is optimistic. Our people are scared. Though the bombs are a bit less frequent now. The people of Iraq are tired of the situation -- which was a lot better during Saddam's times. No one wants him back but we need security. We don't want the Americans to stay. No single side in Iraq wants them to stay."

Meanwhile the
BBC reports that Iraqi police chief Abdul Hussein Al Saffe ("head of policing in Dhi Qhar province") has stated "that many of his officers were disloyal. They could not be sacked because they had political protection" and "Brigadier General Ghalib al Jaza'aere, said he had been forced to hire 300-4000 officers who were completely illiterate." This comes as Karin Brulliard (Washington Post) reports on events in Duluiyah yesterday ("45 miles north of Baghdad") where people with machine guns surrounded the police station and were told "Repent or die" -- at which point they quit the police force on the spot after which the police station was blown up.


CBS and AP note 5 deaths and 18 wounded in a car bombing at a bus station in Baghdad,
Reuters notes a mortar attack in southern Baghdad that claimed at least 7 lives and left 20 injured. The BBC notes that the wounded included "women and children." CNN reports, "second car bomb ripped through a commercial district in the capital's Karrada neighborhood, killing two people and wounding at least seven others. Karrada is a predominatly Shiite area in central Baghdad." Reuters notes a bombing "near a mosque" that took one life and left three wounded, while a bombing near a police station left five dead and 17 wounded.


Reuters notes a police officer was shot dead just outside of Kirkuk and that 39 people were killed (suspected of . . . something) by "[p]olice and tribal fighters" in Amiriya.


Reuters notes that a corpse was discovered in Kirkuk, one corpse was discovered in Falluja,

Today the
US military announced: "Two MND-B Soldiers died when an improvised explosive device struck the unit's vehicle during a combat security patrol in a souther section of the Iraqi capital, wounding another."

This as
Atef Hassan (Reuters) reports, "British troops in Iraq's southern Basra oil port pulled out of their heavily attacked base in the heart of the city on Tuesday, the first to be handed to Iraqi forces who are slowly taking control of security." Today, PTI reports that a new poll of British sentiment found that only 29% of respondents felt the illegal war was "justified" and that "nearly 60 per cent" felt it wasn't.

Yesterday, at
Inside Iraq, Laith blogged: "Now and while I'm writing these words, the American troops are attacking a part of my neighborhood west Baghdad. At the same time, I got a call from my nephew that some insurgents are attacking her neighborhood south west Baghdad. I'm sure the American army knows about the insurgents but I'm sure they ignore them or let me say they allow them to do everything they want. . . . A question just jumped in my mind, Shouldn't the American go to the place where the insurgents are attacking the civilians? Shouldn't they do their duty as they say to protect Iraqis and fight terror? It looks that the American government and Mr. President Bush don't care about anything except for his own capital friends' interest. The strategy the US army follows in Iraq is not more than another lie to cheat us both Iraqis and Americans and we all, Iraqis and Americans pay the price. . . . I just hope that someone reads these words and tell the poor Americans that your soldiers are not fighting Al Qaida or the terrorists in Iraq as the military commanders claim. They are here to do their role of killing the innocents and to complete the play the politicians started since the American administration decided to get [rid] of its crazy fool agent Saddam Hussein."

Heads up -- Tomorrow on
Democracy Now!, Jeremy Scahill and Naomi Klein are scheduled guests. (Scahill was on today's show as well.)