Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Steven F. Freeman, Guns & Butter, work

I was taking portraits this morning and sometimes I hate my job. In this instance, I had a woman who got on my last nerve. She wanted this, she wanted that. She wanted to look this way and that way. It's a camera, not a magic mirror. At one point, she was bored complaining so she asked what I liked to do. I said "Follow the news."

Huge mistake. She got really excited (which at least allowed for some useable pictures) as she explained that she did too! She is obsessed (her word) with Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears. Have I been following that news?

I explained to her that I really didn't consider that news that effected or impacted my life. Sailed right over her head. But she explained she didn't just watch "news" on TV (Extra is her favorite "news" program), she also read magazines to keep up with "current events." She read The Star and Us magazine. Sometimes she read People too but she really didn't care for their photos. Too many black & white ones, she explained.

Now if this woman was in her mid-twenties or younger, I might cut her some slack. I might assume she's a victim of the news media that's so distorted what news actually is, that she's not able to tell it when she sees it. But she was well over thirty. She was also well off. Thanks to her marriage. (She proudly referred to herself as "a trophy wife.")

I just kept thinking, "How sad is this? A grown woman who should be educated running off at the mouth about Britney shaving her head or was Anna Nicole doing drugs when she died?" Then I thought of something sadder, that I had to listen to that nonsense while taking her picture. I told her she'd have to stop talking because her lips would be a blur in the photos otherwise. (A lie, but she believed it.)

Sumner told me I really needed to urge people to read "Talking artistic representation with The Common Ills' Isaiah" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) because "it's a lot deeper than it seems." He's read it three times now. I agree and Isaiah's pretty on the ball. (I doubt he's ever even mentioned the words "Anna Nicole Smith.")

Back to the woman, she thought I was strange. (And I may be.) So in fairness, I'll share that she was shocked that I rarely watch TV. I have a little one in the kitchen and I have big one in the living room. I don't usually turn them on. If I'm sick, I will turn them on. I'll camp out on the couch and watch the big TV or take the little one into the bedroom.

I have no idea why. I think it's just the comfort of knowing when I wake up, it'll be on. Like no matter how sick I am, if the TV's on, everything's going to be fine. Leaving it on, means I live. I don't even have to have the sound on (and often don't), just that flickering screeen.

So I got home just in time to catch Guns and Butter on KPFA. This week's show revolved around Dr. Steven F. Freeman's speech. He's with the University of Pennsylvania. He was bothered by the 'flip' in the votes compared to the exit polls when he woke up the day after the 2004 election. He wrote a paper which wasn't supposed to be circulated but was, over all. He's revised it and he was speaking about what he discovered regarding the stolen election of 2004. He noted that Republicans play to win and Democrats tend to play to advance. (Offering that Al Gore's 'defender' during the 2000 recounts ended up being nominated for boards by James Baker.) It was a very interesting speech, with many citations, but not so heavy that you couldn't follow it if you weren't heavy into statistics. (I'm not.) If you missed the program and go to Guns and Butter or KPFA's archives to hear it, there was something at the start of the program, music, that made me think Bonnie was being pre-empted. So give it a few seconds and don't think you're hearing the wrong thing.

That's going to be it for me. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, February 28, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; wounded US service members get targeted by the US administartion; Dems in Congress play "hot potato" with the war (and don't seem to grasp that they'll end up holding it); and US war resister Joshua Key declares, "Iraq is a country and it's going to have to make its own path in history and its own way in life. No other country can do that and you definitely can't do that by means of a gun or a tank. But they have to make their own course and do whatever's necessary for themselves. I think that no outsiders are going to help it or solve the problem."

Starting with news of petty retaliation which, after all, is the Bully Boy's M.O. as demonstrated for the last seven years (if not sooner.) As noted by Aaron Glants today on
KPFA's The Morning Show, Kelly Kennedy (Army Times) is reporting that Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Medical Hold Unit patients are being "told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media" in what is widely seen as a punishment for the recent Washington Post expose on the deplorable conditions at what is supposed to be the United States top facility for military medical care. In addition, Kennedy reports, the soldiers receiving medical care were informed that will move from Building 18 into Building 14 and, just happenstance -- surely, unlike Building 18, Building 14 requires that "reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel."

In a
series of articles that concluded last week, Dana Priest and Anne Hull (Washington Post) examined the realities behind the image of the 'premier medical center' -- focusing largely on Building 18, and revealed problems such as cockroach infestation, lack of heat, lack of water, mice and black mold, clerks that were overworked or didn't care. The answer for the US administration when confronted with reality is apparently the same answer they always reach for "DESTROY." Joe Wilson goes public about Niger, out Valerie Plame (his deep cover CIA wife). Soldiers talk to the press about the deplorable conditions that the administration is fine with them living in? Punish the soldiers.

The Bully Boy who loves strut around in uniforms (with or without codpieces) is far less willing to do anything to actually help the soldiers wounded in his illegal war and the administration's answer to the Walter Reed scandal is to punish the troops with daily inspections and other idiotic chores WHILE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE RECEIVING MEDICAL CARE FOR THEIR WOUNDS.

Turning to news of war resisters,
Tina Chau (Hawaii's KMGB9) reports that Ehren Watada's court-martil has been set for July 16-20 and that the "pre-trial motions are to be heard on May 20 and 21." In June, Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. In August of last year, the military held an Article 32 hearing at Fort Lewis to determine whether or not to go forward with a court-martial. At the start of this month, the court-martial of Watada began and ran for three days -- on the third day, Judge Toilet (aka John Head) ruled a mistrial over the objections of the defense (and initially without even the prosecution in support of a mistrial). Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney, has maintained that the double-jeopardy clause of the Constitution now applies and that he will appeal any attempts to court-martial on that basis.

Lehia Apana (The Maui News) reports that Ehren Watada's father Bob and his step-mother Rosa Sakanishi were at the Maui Community College Library on Monday where Bob spoke to "an energetic crowd" of at least 75 people about his son and how "he believes the judge realized his son had a chance of being acquitted of the charges and therefore forced the prosecution to request a mistrial."

Last Friday the military re-filed charges against Watada, the day prior, as
Conor Reed and Steve Leigh (Socialist Worker) observe was Mark Wilkerson's court-martial and that he issued a statement, "My Conscience is Clear," at his website:

I am now a twenty three year old man. When I made the decision to join the Army, I was a boy. When I made the decision to go AWOL I was still in many ways a boy.I realize in retrospect that going AWOL may not have been the right decision for me to make, but given the circumstances I found myself in at that time, I felt it was the only logical decision for me. I felt as though I wasn't being taken seriously by my chain-of-command. I was crushed when my conscientious objector application was denied. I had failed somehow in conveying in words just what I felt in my head and heart, and that was that I could not, in good conscience, serve as a soldier in the United States Army. I could not deploy to a foreign land with a weapon in my hand, representing my government. I am not willing to kill, or be killed for my government. When I enlisted in the Army, I thought I would be able to, but after Iraq, my beliefs became such that I could no longer participate.This was what I told my chain-of-command. I felt they didn't care what I said or believed. So I fled. I quit my job. No other occupation in the United States punishes you as badly as what the military does for quitting your job. But that's ok. I'm willing to face whatever punishment the government deems appropriate.In my Battalion's Retention Office, there is a quote by Retired Army General Bernard Rogers, and it states "This is a volunteer force. Soldiers volunteer to meet our standards. If they don't meet them, we should thank them for trying and send them home." Well, I enlisted into the Army with the best intentions. I had other options. But I wanted to serve my country. And when I felt my country was doing the very thing we pretend to condone, I took a stand. And to me that is the core of democracy. If the Army feels as though I didn't meet the standards, they should thank me for trying and send me home. There's no lesson prison can teach me. Prison is established for criminals who committed crimes that the majority of our society can say in morally wrong. And with this crime, I don't know if that can be said. Even though I committed a crime, I'm no criminal. And even if I do go to prison, I'm no longer a prisoner. My conscience is clear. I'm no menace to society. I have stayed true to myself and my moral code throughout my life, and that will never change. Just let me live my life, and I know I will live it well.

Susan Van Haitsma (CounterPunch) shares some of her encounters with Wilkerson and observations before concluding: "Mark wanted to help his country, but his country betrayed him. His country capitalized on his honorable intentions, gave him false promises, fed him misinformation, used him to carry out inhumane missions, caused him psychological injury and then punished him by making him an object lesson for his fellow GI's. In fact, Mark is an example of the best kind, for all of us. In the same courtroom where soldiers were sentenced for harming Abu Ghraib prisoners, Mark was sentenced for refusing to harm."

Wilkerson is scheduled to be released in September; however, the judge could release him earlier. Going before a judge Tuesday, March 6th in Germany is war resister
Agustin Aguayo. Workers World notes that he is "charged with desertion and missing movement because of his refusal to go to Iraq." Though not etched in stone, the military has generally attempted to use desertion charges for those who were absent without leave for a month or more. In Aguayo's case, they've elected to toss that (Aguayo was gone from September 2nd through September 26th). Gillian Russom (Socialist Worker) spoke with Helga Aguayo, Agustin's wife, about his case, his feelings about the war, her own and much more. Agustin was a medica and he joined the military to support his family and to help people (he and his wife have two young daughters). Helga explained to Russom that, for her, it was seeing the experiences of military families that made her start questioning the war -- the creation of "geographical single mothers" -- and that for her husband, a book on Iraq's history took him from conscientious objector to the belief "that the war in Iraq has essentially been created of the personal gain of a few people." Helga also notes that her husband saw Sir! No Sir! and "it just revved him up for what he knew he might have to face." He's facing? Agustin Aguayo could be sentenced to as many as seven years in prison if convicted during his court-martial because the military is going for desertion. Why go for desertion?

Aguayo and
Kyle Snyder both were screwed over by the military in different ways and they were among the last ones going public. (Snyder is back in Canada.) Tossing aside the rule of thumb re: desertion to charge Aguayo with that is considered as part of an effort by the military to clamp down on the growing movement.

Aguayo, Watada, Wilkerson and Snyder are part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Joshua Key, 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 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.

Joshua Key, war resister and author of the new book
The Deserter's Tale, speaks with Christina Leadlay (Canada's Embassy Book Review) and notes that the passport requirement for travel back and forth between the US and Canada "would deter a lot of people [who] don't have passports, and if you're on the run and a deserter from the military, you're not going to be able to gain that passport." Joshua, his wife Brandi and their children went to Canada after Key returned from Iraq. There, he has sought refugee status and is currently appealing the denial of asylum. Key describes his decision to join the military as part of "the military's poverty draft" telling Leadlay: "You're stuck. You have no money. There is no other choice. If you want health care, if you want steady pay, and if you're even considering going to college, the [military] billboards pretty well offer it to you. When I joined there was not a wealthy person in the entire operation. I'd never seen a rich person in the military. I'd never seen a politican's son; I'd never seen anybody with any stature. We were all the same . . . coming from places that most people wouldn't even hear of, small towns, farms boys, and you're just looking for a way out."

Key's statements jibe with the study
Kimberly Hefling (AP) reported on last week -- the communities in America that are most directly effected by the US military death toll in Iraq -- almost half of the dead are "from towns . . . where fewer than 25,000 people live" and that "nearly three quarters of those killed in Iraq came from towns where the per capita income was below the national average. More than half came from towns where the percentage of people living in poverty topped the national average."

Sir! No Sir!, noted above, is a study of resistance within the military during the Vietnam era. The amazing documentary, directed by David Zeiger, was recently re-released in a special director's cut version with additional bonus features. In addition, (audio link) DJ Dave Rabbitt interviews Jane Fonda here. DJ Dave Rabbitt, along with Pete Sadler and Nguyen, operated an underground radio station (Radio First Termer) while serving in Vietnam. (He also acts as the dee jay for the soundtrack to Sir! No Sir!)

Returning to Minority Rights Group International
(PDF format) report Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003," we'll note that it examines the abuses minorities in Iraq are suffering. Yesterday, we focused on women. Today, we'll note that the religious and ethnic minoirites (who "make up about 10 percent of the Iraqi population") include Armenians, Baha'is, Chald-Assyrians, Fali Kurds, Jews, Mandaens, Palestinians, Shabaks, Turkomans and Yazidis.

A table on page 12 of the report charts the diminishing Mandaean population in Iraq by looking at the figures for April 2003 and the figures for April 2006. In 2003, 1600 families lived in Baghdad and three years later the figure had dropped to 150. Though that was the largest drop, the Mandaen population diminished in all areas -- Baquba (from 200 families to 40), Diwaniya (from 400 to 62), Kirkuk (from 250 to 75), Kut (from 400 to 65), Missan (from 900 to 300), Nasriya (from 950 to 320) and Ramadi (from 275 to 75). The report notes that "Mandaen or Sabian religion is one of the oldest surviving Gnostic religions in the world and dates back to the Mesopotamian civilisation. John the Baptist is its central prophet and water and access to naturally flowing water remain essential for the practice of the faith. Scholars believes the religion pre-dates the time of John the Baptist, however, and is has a similar creation myth to the Judeao-Christian Adam and Eve story." The report also notes that the Mandaen language has been "listed in the 2006 UNESCO Atlast of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing" and that their faith does not allow them to carry weapons and "forbids the use of violence". The report traces a similar disappearance of Jewish people noting that in 2003 there were "a few hundred" Jews in Baghdad, by 2005, the number had dropped to only 20 and that by 2006 there were only 15 Jews living in Baghdad (most assumed to be "older than 70" years-old).

And in Iraq today . . .


Reuters notes a mortar attack in southwestern Baghdad that left nine wounded, a car bobm in southern Baghdad ("near a vegetable market") that killed 10 people and left 21 wounded, a bomb attack on a Baghdad police station that killed 2 police officers and left two more wounded, a roadside bombing in Riyadh that wounded four Iraqi troops, a mortar attack in Iskandariya that killed a woman and a man, and a mortar attack in Mahmudiya that killed one person and left four members "from the same family" wounded.


CNN reports: "Two brothers of a prominent Sunni politician were shot and killed Wednesday, the Iraqi Islamic Party said in a statement. Salim al-Joubori's brothers were killed in Muqdadiya, north of Baghdad. Al-Joubori is a member of parliament and spokesman for the Iraqi Accord Front, Iraq's biggest Sunni Arab political bloc." Reuters notes a man shot dead ("inside his car") in Tikrit, and the shooting death of Abdul-Haid Mahmoud in Mosul. CBS and AP report that, in Taji, "Eight people died when American helicopters and fighter planes fired on a palm grove".


Reuters notes a corpse discovered in Himreen, and the corpse "of a police colonel who had been kidnapped two months ago" discovered in Baghdad.

Today, the
British Ministry of Defence announced "the death of a British soldiers in Iraq as a result of an incindent on the morning of 27 February 2007."

Dahr Jamail spoke with Nora Barrows-Friedman on KPFA's Flashpoints on a number of topics (click here for Rebecca's summary) and on the violence and the oil law, he stated, "I absolutely find no evidence on the ground to support that statement that this oil law is going to unite Iraq or anything like that. I think it's just blatant propaganda that would go along with the signing of this legislation that is really, the approval of the draff of the oil law essentially which has basically paved the way for western oil companies to finally get their hands on Iraq's oil which is what this has been about or one of the primary reasons the invasion was launched to begin with and so the corporate media, outlets like National Public Radio -- you know the joke on the ground with me and many of my colleagues from the United States who were operating in Baghdad was we would call it 'National Petroleum Radio' or 'National Pentagon Radio' because their reporters always love to embed I saw them ebedded in places like Falluja or in Baghdad, on more than one occassion -- and so that they're now issuing this propaganda that I'm sure would make the Pentagon very happy and of course the US State Department and the Bush administration and the corporations that support them saying that this is a very good thing, a positive thing. It's another way to put a spin on the occupation just like the transfer of soveriegnty on June 28, 2004 was a 'positive' thing, just like the Jan. 30, 2005 'elections' were a positive thing. And we all know, those of us with pulses, where those events have taken us today."

As all the above goes down,
Anne Flaherty (AP) reports that, in the US House of Representatives, "Democratic leaders are developing an anti-war proposal that wouldn't cut off money for U.S. troops in Iraq but would require President Bush to acknowledge problems with an overburdended military. The plan could draw bipartisan support but is expected to be a tough sell to members who say they don't think it goes far enough to assuage voters angered by the four-year conflict." Dana Bash (CNN) reports that efforts continue "to bridge differences within the [Democratic] party after backwing away from legislation that would set condictions on war funding." That would be US House Rep John Murtha's proposal. Bash quotes Yawn Emmanuel making his usual self-serving statements and notes that the Senate's 'bravely' (my mock, not Bash's) decided to postpone debating anything "for at least two weeks." (Insert joke about Bully Boy being "The Decider" here.) Yesterday, US Senator Russ Feingold issued the following statement:

I am working to fix the new proposal drafted by several Senate Democrats, which at this point basically reads like a new authorization. I will not vote for anything that the President could read as an authorization for continuing with a large military campaign in Iraq. Deauthorizing the President's failed Iraq policy may be an appropriate next step if done right, but the ultimate goal needs to be using our Constitutionally-granted power of the purse to bring this catastrophe to an end.

With few exceptions, including Feingold, the Democrats holding Congressional office appear more than willing to take Bully Boy's war and make it their own which is what they do as they rush to grab cover and refuse to call out an illegal war. Meanwhile,
Larry Kaplow (Cox News Service) reports that a "public affairs guidance" note was "sent to units in Iraq from the Baghdad command" which includes generic talking points created by the Pentagon which may also be controlling the Democratic Party judging by their own generic talking points. Meanwhile Edward Epstein (San Francisco Chronicle) reports that there is no backing away from the Murtha plan but don't pin your hopes on it, Yawn Emanuel shows up to offer more talking points. Jill Zuckman and Aamer Madhani (Chicago Tribune) may call it best: "Democrats in the House and Senate are struggling to find the best way to express congressional disapproval of the war and President Bush's troop buildup. They are wary both of going too far and not going far enough" -- "wary being the key word.

Finally, in policy news,
Jake Tapper (ABC News) reports that when US House Rep Marty Meehan "introduces legislation to overturn the ban on openly gay and lesbian troops serving in the military," he will be joined by Eric Alva (a Staff Sgt. "first U.S. Marine seriously wounded in Iraq" -- March 21, 2003) who is now openly gay.

Alva tells Jose Antonio Vargas (Washington Post): "The truth is, something's wrong with this ban. I have to say something. I mean you're asking men and women to lie about their orientation, to keep their personal lives private [. . .] That's one fact. The other factor is, we're losing probably thousands of men and women that are skilled at certain types of jobs, from air traffic controllers to linguists, because of this broken policy."

agustin aguayo