Thursday, December 13, 2007

Iowa holds the nation in a death grip

On NPR's Day to Day today, Alex Cohen made a point to visit the only military base in the non-representative state of Iowa. I do not believe there was anything of value in terms of the report itself; however, it does go a long way towards explaining how a tiny, non-representative state is steering the national debate only because the media allows it to and the two big parties cater to it. In 2012, Iowa should be dead last on the 'primary' calendar.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Thursday, December 13, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the UK announces the death of a soldier, the press yawns at the topic of Iraq and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Kathy Rumleski (London Free Press) reports that in Canada's London Monday night (nine o'clock showing), there will be a benefit screening of the Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon and Meryl Streep film Rendition at Hyland Cinema with the War Resisters Support Group of London recieving half the proceeds. The War Resisters Support Campaign works to assist individual resisters in Canada and to fight for the rights of asylum of war resisters. They are calling for a national mobilization in Canada on January 26th. Courage to Resist is calling on people in the US to call the Canadian consulates in the US on January 24th and January 25th as well as to mobilize and with actions and vigils. Actions can take place around the world at Canadian consulates in every country.

In terms of e-mailing, where the pressure needs to be currently is on the these three:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration.

Across the Atlantic, the UK military faces its own rebellion.
Ian Bruce (Scotland's The Herald) reports that "[m]ore than 2000" members of the military "have been reported missing from their units in the first 10 months of this year." Bruce reviews the rates for the last ten years and finds the greatest increase in the Navy and air force. Bruce quotes one service member explaining the toll, "Almost back-to-back tours in units in constand demand impose tremendous strain on wives and kids. I had one mate who left because he suddenly realised his son was five and the guy hadn't been at home to spend a signle Christmas with the kid because of combat deployments. It's nonsense to say overstretch isn't a factor in the numbers going Awol. A six-month tour involves a nine-month absence from home. Soldiers are hauled off for three months' pre-deployment training before they go to hot, sandy places."

In the US, Mark Wilkerson is one of the war resisters who went public in 2006 (others from that year include Ehren Watada, Ricky Clousing and Darrell Anderson).
Patrick Doyle (Denver's 5280) offers an in-depth look at Wilkerson's story -- beginning well before Wilkerson decided to self-checkout and even before he decided to enlist. Like many who came before (and many who have and will come after), Wilkerson applied for CO status and was denied (it would be great if reporters could review the US military's actual policy before writing about this topic). As he was due to return to Iraq for a second tour shortly, Wilkerson attempted an appeal but was told that the appeal would be decided while he was in Iraq. At that point, he self-checked out. At the end of the article, Wilkerson speaks of a brother in the military currently, "His experience has been different than mine. And from what he's seen, the war in Iraq is a good thing. But he hasn't been there. And I hope he doesn't go. I'd rather him disagree with me, and be a little more naive about what's going on there, than form his own opinion by going and coming back, and being miserable. Because then, he'll have seen the truth. And his world will have been ripped apart, like mine."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

The voice of war resister Camilo Mejia is featured in Rebel Voices -- playing now through December 16th at
Culture Project -- that's ten more days -- and based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States. It features dramatic readings of historical voices such as war resister Mejia, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Malcom X and others will be featured. Musician Allison Mooerer will head the permanent cast while those confirmed to be performing on selected nights are Ally Sheedy (actress and poet, best known for films such as High Art, The Breakfast Club, Maid to Order, the two Short Circuit films, St. Elmo's Fire, War Games, and, along with Nicky Katt, has good buzz on the forthcoming Harold), Eve Ensler who wrote the theater classic The Vagina Monologues (no, it's not too soon to call that a classic), actor David Strathaim (L.A. Confidential, The Firm, Bob Roberts, Dolores Claiborne and The Bourne Ultimatum), actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless -- film and TV series, Gregory and Chicken Little), actress Lili Taylor (Dogfight, Shortcuts, Say Anything, Household Saints, I Shot Andy Warhol, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, State of Mind) and actor, director and activist Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Beloved, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rainmaker, Places In The Heart, Dreamgirls, Shooter and who recently appeared on Democracy Now! addressing the US militarization of Africa) The directors are Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati with Urbinati collaborating with Zinn and Arnove on the play. Tickets are $41.. The theater is located at 55 Mercer Street and tickets can be purchased there, over the phone (212-352-3101) or online here and here. More information can be found at Culture Project.

IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

March 13th through 15th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.

Today on
KPFK's Uprising Radio, Sonali Kolhatkar spoke with FAIR's Peter Hart who noted that push by big media to cover the elections as a horserace and to determine what was and wasn't an issue with Hart citing the media down-grading of the Iraq War and the media push on immigration. If you doubt the push, check out the New York Times today. Monica Davey's on the front page with an article on immigration and Iowa. Where the hell's Iraq? Not on the front page. So you have to flip A6 or A8? No. You have to flip all the way to A20. There you will find an early filed article by Damien Cave and Khalid al-Ansary -- one filed so early and that editors cared so little about that the number of Iraqis killed in the Amara car bombings yesterday is . . . 27. By yesterday morning in the United States, the number was already considerably higher than that. But the paper shows no interest. And they bury it on A20. Even with the paper's tiny, low balls, 27 dead Iraqis should qualify as significant news; however, it's buried on A20. Not even on the top of A20, it's the lower half of the paper and isn't even illustrated with a photo.

Iraq is falling off the radar and
Mary Conroy (The Capital Times via Common Dreams) provides a list of losses due to the illegal war which include human lives, monies and "freedom of the press." Conroy notes the images of the dead don't make the news and that includes the many Iraqis slaughtered in this illegal war: "When we do see a photo of an Iraqi killed by U.S. troops, the media distances us by labeling the dead Iraqi 'an al-Qaida-linked militant,' or 'a militiamen loyal to Osama bin Laden.' Remember that photo of a terrorized naked Vietnamese girl running from a napalm attack? Today she would be called 'a Vietcong guerilla' or 'a Ho Chi Minh militant'." Think Conroy is off? Sunday December 2nd, CBS 60 Minutes aired a report from Iraq. The reporter was Scott Pelley and the program is 60 Minutes -- hard hitting journalism, right? As Ava and I noted in our commentary a couple approached Pelley and the camera crew wanting to share photos of their dead children:

Taking a page from Katrina vanden Heuvel's book, Pelley goes the non-journalistic route and instead of holding the photos up to the camera, decides to 'explain' what they show. He declared they were too graphic for television.The parents didn't think so. The parents readily offered the photos which they either always carried with them or carried with them to that Sunday service because they knew a TV crew would be present. The parents wanted to get the story out and a real reporter would have assisted them.Watching Pelley grimace as he looked at the photos and then 'explain' them by merely noting the children had been shot and the photos were too graphic ("They're just too much"), we wondered if maybe
Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn, reporting on East Timor today, would have to, in order to attract network attention to the massacre, say, "Well there was a lot of blood but we can't go into it because it was really, really graphic."?

And that's 60 Minutes -- the most lauded of the network news magazines, the last stand for TV network journalism. But Katrina vanden Heuvel is the editor and publisher of the independent Nation magazine and the magazine wanted a lot of credit for a July feature supposedly telling the story of Iraqis (for it to be that, the reporters would have had to speak to Iraqis) and, in the intro, slide in that the magazine had been presented with dozens of photos of abuse. Where were the pictures? It's an All Things Media Big and Small issue. The photos didn't run in the magazine (or online) and The Nation is allegedly an independent magazine. Iraq's not just sliding off the radar, it's being pushed.

Amy Goodman has repeatedly made the point about when do we get to ask questions about the illegal war? We were told not to question before it started, told not to question during. And when there is a space created by the people to honestly explore realities, our media -- big and small -- continues to fail us. A Scott Pelley or a Katrina vanden Heuvel decides to 'protect' us. The truth shall set you free? Then our media outlets must want us all in shackles and chains.

Ali al Basri and Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the death toll from the Amarah car bombings yesterday climbed to "at least 42" while Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) notes that cell phones are not working in Amarah and that "rumors spread through the city that U.S.-led forces, bent on taking control of Maysan [Province], were to blame" for the car bombings.

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports three Baghdad bombings that targeted a liquor stores and a Baghdad car bombing "near the Italian embassy" claimed 1 life and left five wounded. Reuters notes a Khan Bani Saad roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 woman and injured a man, a Mosul roadside bombing that left four people wounded and, in the continued targeting of officials, a car bombing in Hit aimed that mayor which left 2 bodyguards dead and six people wounded.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports contractor Firas Saadi Hussein was shot dead in Baghdad, a woman was shot dead in Baquba and, in the continued attacks on educators and officials, Dr. Sabah Tariq, dean of Baghdad's Technology University, and his daughter were wounded in a shooting attack in Baghdad. Reuters notes a home invasion in which "a woman who ran a beauty shop" was shot dead in Mosul, a police officer shot dead (with four others injured) in Mosul


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad, four in Baquba and 16 outside Muqdadiyah. Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Hawija and 2 ("father and son") discovered in Dour.

Meanwhile the
BBC notes 1 "British soldier has died following a road accident" in Basra on Wednesday.

Staying on violence, some anthropologists think they're doing noble work by being part of the HTS. They are wrong.
The topic was addressed today on Democarcy Now!:

AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Why don't you lay out what this debate is?

DAVID PRICE: Well, this debate very much cuts to the core of what the appropriate uses of anthropology are, regarding warfare and regarding large ethical issues about what does it mean to have anthropologists embedded with military forces during a time of war. You know, there are large ethical issues about embedding ethnographers with troops. Basically, fundamental research ethics require that research subjects have voluntary meaningful informed consent, that they're told, you know, what's going to be done with the research, and that no harm come to those who are studied. The executive board of the American Anthropological Association weighed these and others issues and made a very strong statement against the Human Terrain program, because it saw it clearly wandering into these very ethical problematic areas and not really showing due concern for the people who are studied.

JUAN GONZALEZ: What specifically is the Human Terrain program? How did it start, and how does it typically operate now in places like Afghanistan and Iraq?

DAVID PRICE: The Human Terrain program is run through BAE, which is a contracting agency. You know, in some ways it's very similar to Blackwater in the way that it works. What they do is they take ethnographers, they take anthropologists, who may or may not have cultural expertise in the areas where they're working, and they take these ethnographers, embed them with the troops, they travel with them, and then they try and advise commanders about taking culturally appropriate action. Now, the claim by Human Terrain is that they can reduce casualties by giving more nuanced information to people in battle situations. But there's a lot more to it than that, especially in that people in the Pentagon see this as being linked to the CORDS program. CORDS program in Vietnam was used to map human terrain, to identify suspected individuals and groups that the military believed were sympathizers for the Viet Cong, who were, in the Vietnam era, targeted for assassination. Now, supposedly what's going on with Human Terrain is that, you know, it's essentially a manners lesson for people in the battlefield. But the problem is, is that there are armed ethnographers. Not all the ethnographers working for Human Terrain carry weapons, but we do know there are instances where they do. They're given the option to do so. So they travel with troops and independently in the countryside, gathering culture information that they bring back and give to the command.

Network of Concerned Anthropologists is an group of anthropologists attempting to stop the betrayal of the field.

There is no 'goodness' in the program. A similar point can be found in Anthony Arnove's discussion
Naomi Klein about her new book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism at the Socialist Worker where they discuss how the nonsense that Iraq is the result of 'mix ups' and intentions gone astray. Here Klein is addressing that nonsense:

Nobody really believes it's about "bringing democracy," and we know there were no WMDs and no 9/11 link. So the idea that economic ambitions for the region could have been an essential motivating force and the centerpiece of the postwar plan seems to be a logical conclusion to draw, based on the evidence we have.
It's not a secret plan. So an effort has been made on the part of analysts to downplay this in the face of overwhelming evidence that this was a priority.
I think the reasons for this are complex, and they include a need to believe in American goodness around the world--Gary Wills talks about the myth of "original sinlessness."
I've been struck in my interviews with the liberal press in this country about the need to believe in the good intentions of even those American politicians who, in every other arena, are treated as truly sinister--people like Dick Cheney or Paul Wolfowitz, who are the butt of every late-night joke.
The point of those jokes is usually that these are really scary characters, especially Dick Cheney. But if you draw a conclusion from this that he might also be capable of being motivated by self-interest and greed, both personally and for his circle of friends, this is seen as completely conspiratorial, and then we revert to the narrative of American "good intentions."
So it's allowable to criticize the execution and criticize the management, and you can say it was ill advised. But you can't say that the intentions were bad.

From there, we'll turn to the issue of Iraq for women.
Feminist Wire Daily notes US citizen Jamie Leigh Jones 2005 gang-rape by employees of KBR in Iraq and was then placed in a 'container' to keep her quiet. It took the intervention of the US State Department to get Jones freed. Yesterday, ABC's Maddy Sauer reported that US Senator Hillary Clinton was "calling for a formal government investigation into allegations that a young female American contractor was gang-raped in Iraq and cites the [warning PDF format] letter Clinton wrote to US Secretary of State Condi Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Attorney General Michael Mukasey:

As I hope you are all aware, recent news accounts indicate that Ms. Jones, a Halliburton/KBR employee in Baghdad, alleges she was gang-raped by her fellow employees and then held under guard against her will in a shipping container in order to prevent her from reporting the horrific crime. She states that she was denied food and water during her detention and told that she would be fired if she left Iraq to seek medical attention. More than two years later, news reports state that no U.S. government agency or department has undertaken a proper investigation of the incident. These claims must be taken seriously and the U.S. government must act immediately to investigate Ms. Jones' claims. These allegations implicate all three of your departments. If one of your departments has already launched a private investigation, I urge you to disclose your findings without delay. If no investigation has been started, I urge you to decide the proper course for an inquiry into these claims and to commence your investigation with the utmost urgency.

ABC's Justin Rood reports that the US House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next Wednesday on the issue. Those who remember the Congress played dumb in the case of Suzanne Swift might hope that Congress has finally decided to do their job but let's wait and see how the hearings go. Meanwhile Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) reports on the armed thugs threatening Iraqi women and girls focusing on two teenagers allowed to enter "a girls' high school" in Baghdad while carrying AK-47s -- and where was the Iraqi police (oh, that's right, they're controlled by the thugs of the Interior Ministry) -- and practice armed intimidation in what is allegedly 'safe' Baghdad. Meanwhile Mark Lattimer (Guardian of London) notes the dangers for women in the Kurdish region:

They lie in the Sulaimaniyah hospital morgue in Iraqi Kurdistan, set out on white-tiled slabs. A few have been shot or strangled, some beaten to death, but most have been burned. One girl, a lock of hair falling across her half-closed eyes, could almost be on the point of falling asleep. Burns have stretched the skin on another young woman's face into a fixed look of surprise. These women are not casualties of battle. In fact, the cause of death is generally recorded as "accidental", although their bodies often lie unclaimed by their families. "It is getting worse, especially the burnings," says Khanim Rahim Latif, the manager of Asuda, an Iraqi organisation based in Kurdistan that works to combat violence against women. "Just here in Sulaimaniyah, there were 400 cases of the burning of women last year." Lack of electricity means that every house has a plentiful supply of oil, and she accepts that some cases may be accidents. But the nature and scale of the injuries suggest that most were deliberate, she says, handing me the morgue photographs of one young woman after another. Many of the bodies bear the unmistakable signs of having been subjected to intense heat.

Turning to US politics. US House Rep and 2008 Democratic presidential contender has been barred from a 'debate' taking place today.
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes, "In campaign news, Congressmember and Democratic hopeful Dennis Kucinich has been excluded from today's Democratic presidential debate in Iowa. Debate sponsor the Des Moines Register told Kucinich he isn't eligible because he doesn't meet local requirements on a local campaign office and paid staff. Kucinich's Iowa field director works out of a home office. The most recent poll of likely Democratic voters shows Kucinich has one percent support in Iowa--the same as Senator Chris Dodd. Nationally, Kucinich has two percent support--the same as Bill Richardson and Senator Joe Biden. Dodd, Richardson and Biden are all taking part in today's debate. In a statement, the Kuncinich campaign called the exclusion 'arbitrary and unreasonable', saying: '[If] the Register has decided to use hair-splitting technicalities to exclude the leading voice of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, the entire process is suspect'." Another candidate running for a party's presidential nomination is Cynthia McKinney who is running on the Green Party ticket. Richard Winger (Ballot Access News) notes that she is currently the only third party candidate "who is trying to qualify for primary season matching funds". Her "Power to the People" campaign took her to Wisconsin yesterday. Judith Davidoff (The Capital Times) reports McKinney declared in her speech, "Politics was never something I wanted to do. . . . There was always something public that was calling me." Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan says of McKinney, "She has always fought against the establishment (and that is why she is not in Congress now, in fact) and she has fought for legitimate voting and for the people of New Orleans. She introduced Articles of Impeachment on her last day as a Congressperson in 2006." Sheehan is running for the US Congress from California, from the eighth district specifically. Justin Elliott (Mother Jones) reports that Sheehan campaign intends to tackle the issue of Nancy Pelosi's knowledge of CIA torture going back to 2002 and quotes Sheehan stating: "Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress should be using their Constitutional authority to end all use of torture. Acquiring information through use of torture on prisoners of war is as inhumane as it is unreliable." Elliott adds: "If I were working at the Sheehan campaign, I would be calling every political reporter in the city and pushing hard to introduce a very simple question into the news cycle: Do Bay Area progressives want to support a Speaker of the House who is personally complicit in the Bush Administration's torture policies."

democracy nowamy goodman