Friday, April 20, 2007

You just never know

When I first heard of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision this week banning D&E late term abortion without exception to the woman's health, it literally took my breath away. The sweeping indictment against women from this Supreme Court decision suddenly enveloped me. In one tragic stroke of the pen by these male justices - in one court decision - on this day - our lives as women were diminished. And what does this mean for the protection of Roe V Wade and the safety of women's right to choose an abortion without the interference of the state? It doesn't look good. Is this a slippery slope for more outright repression of us all? The U.S. Supreme Court, obviously informed by the religious right, is looking like the Taliban.
I harkened back to Monty Python's film the Meaning of Life where, in jest, "every sperm is sacred" was touted. Indeed, these justices obviously view women as but vessels for sperm and lacking an independent spirit. Our very lives are inconsequential to them as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg so eloquently and firmly expresses in her dissent.
I harkened back to the days of pre-abortion rights and of women dying of botched abortions in the back allies of America; of women seeking some place in the world ­ another state, another country ­ to have a safe abortion; of the discussions we all held of planning and organizing airplanes filled with women to be transported out of America for good health care and safe abortions; of integrating expansive sex education in schools and teaching young girls about every conceivable bit of safe sex information (condoms, the pill, whatever) to prevent them from incurring an unwanted pregnancy.

-- Heather Gray, "The Supreme Court Looks a Lot Like the Taliban," CounterPunch

Thank you, Heather Gray. One of the best written pieces yet on the topic of when the Court declared war on American women. I wanted to open with that and had about four other things I was planning to write about.

I'll note that if I was on the East Coast tonight, I'd be at Trina's because tonight's Rebecca's surprise baby shower. They're doing a shorter version (one hour) of the Iraq study group that Mike, Tony and Nina started up. Then, Rebecca's going to be surprised with a shower. A number of people in the study group were asking about a shower and everyone had held off during the critical months of the pregnancy early on. But she's passed through that period and she's feeling more active so Elaine thought it was time for a shower. Some of Rebecca's family will be there (and some friends, including her friend T) and some of Flyboy's will as well. Rebecca has no clue. I should say "had" because it should have already started, due to the time difference.

Was it this time last year that Rebecca miscarried? I may be off a few months (earlier or later). She had a long history of miscarriages. (She's also had one abortion as she's noted at her site.) She was used to it. She was sad but she was used to it. She came out here and stayed for a few weeks. Then she and Flyboy left on their vacation. They decided to get remarried on their vacation and made plans to adopt. No one, including Rebecca, expected her to get pregnant again, let alone to have the first pregnancy that she could carry to term. So this is a big deal.

And I think about that a lot because it just goes to show, you just don't know. Sometimes you just don't know and it turns out great like with her pregnancy. Sometimes you just don't know and it turns out miserable such as the Court's decision that women, their reproductive rights and their health do not matter.

You just never know. Like Thursday. I tagged along with C.I. for the speaking thing that C.I.'s written about in "And the war drags on . . ." We were doing a thing after (to high schoolers) and I figured it would be fun (and hopefully give me some ideas when I had to speak to high schoolers). C.I. said it probably wouldn't be "fun" but I was welcome to go with. So we went and I couldn't believe the woman who spoke before C.I. Forget drinking the Kool Aid, that woman snorted it in powder form. She went on and on with all these platitudes about the war that had nothing to do with the realities of Iraq. I sat in the back so I could only see the faces of women on my row. They looked bored. The women seated at tables in front of me seemed to be checking their watches a great deal more than usual. When the woman finished, and she gave this perky, little speech about Iraq with a smile plastered on her face, like Petulia Clark advocating war, the woman asked if there were questions or comments and there was only silence.

I couldn't figure the women out. They were professional types. And very nice to me before and after. They weren't cold. But I just really didn't feel a connection. I was also far from charitable in my private thoughts which were along the lines of, "Is anybody home in there?"

The silence just lingered as Ms. Perky looked around the room over and over for a hand darting up that never did. So then C.I. got introduced and began speaking and I know C.I. is a great speaker (one I steal tricks from all the time) but I thought, "Lost cause."

Ms. Perky had spent a good portion of her speech on "duty" and slamming war resisters -- in non-specific terms, just little platitudes about "What would that have meant for Valley Forge?" and other bits of nonses -- so I figured C.I. would address war resisters early on and was only surprised by the way C.I. chose to do it.

After Ms. Perky, I assumed C.I. would sail through (quick and leave -- that's what I would have done because the room seemed unreachable). Instead C.I. starts ticking off names very quickly and says that those are the names of war resisters today and each one has a story, each one has friends and family. C.I. spoke of the difficulties one family had last Christmas, the steps they had to take to meet up together. I think the technique there was to present very quickly the names and then to slow it down so that stories really registered. I may not be explaining that very well. C.I. spoke of the departure to Canada a war resister had just made and the goodbyes that were exchanged between family members. From where I was sitting, I could see the spines straighten and the crowd wake up. I wasn't sure at that point if that was a good thing because who knew whether that was because they were identifying or because they were offended?

C.I. was finishing up with the third or fourth war resister when a woman stood up. C.I. was encouraging to her but, honestly, I thought, "This woman is going to rip C.I. apart." She wanted to speak but it took her a bit to do so and C.I. left the podium and went to stand beside her, to show support and indicate that she should take the time needed to compose herself. When that woman finally spoke, it all just came tumbling out. Her ex-husband had been a war resister in Vietnam who self-checked out and she talked about how the country had changed and she'd seen it change. Her comments were amazing. I was stunned, I think all of us listening were. And when she finished there was silence which, honestly, again had me wondering about these women.

But C.I. kept the conversation going and then other women did start joining in. Some would stand when they spoke. Some would stay seated. But this group that I dismissed as apathetic was anything but.

Laura Flanders wrote something awhile back asking where are the women being presented on TV to discuss Iraq? I'm sure she knew what she was addressing wasn't only that women weren't being invited to the discussions but that this was sending a message. It sent one to these women. They spoke of the revisionism that had gone on in this country post-Vietnam about Vietnam, about war in general, there disgust with it and the fact that they felt they were the only ones who felt that way. They talked about how limited the discussions were. (Issues of war itself not being addressed, for instance.) But they repeatedly stressed how a conversation was going on and they didn't feel welcomed into it. So Laura's points probably included women like these women, the impact that was being created by not presenting women on this topic.

They knew Cindy Sheehan and had a lot of admiration for her. But Sheehan, who is a very powerful voice, speaks as a mother who has lost. It's a powerful and amazing voice. But these women (who were far too wealthy to have children who would have to sign up to get college tuition) could respect Cindy's work but didn't feel that their own voices could offer much to the dialogue. They were wrong and quickly saw that. It was this amazing conversation and I wish I'd taken notes, especially on C.I.'s closing comments about how Sheehan wasn't given a platform, she made one and everyone in the room could do that in some fashion in their own lives.

You better believe those women will. The woman who organized the event was shocked. She really didn't know where the group stood on Iraq. But the topic had been avoided and avoided in monthly luncheon after monthly luncheon and she had recently been elected and felt the subject needed to be addressed. If anyone was more shocked than that woman or me it would have to be Ms. Perky who could have caught flies and tennis balls in her wide open mouth as one woman after another wanted her turn to speak out against the war.

Three of the women specifically mentioned The Nation (which is why C.I. addressed it last night). They read the magazine (I don't know if they bought or subscribed, they used "read") and they felt the magazine had done nothing to encourage women to speak out. One knew Katrina vanden Heuvel's name and the other two, and many other women, were shocked to learn a woman was editor and publisher of the magazine and had so little (I'd say "nothing" which is the same term one of the three women used) to say about the war. They knew the names of Katha Pollitt and Patrica Williams. One of the women brought up "the rape of the young girl" and C.I. provided the background on Abeer, and said she was still offended that Abeer hadn't been covered. Which led to a long discussion of how coverage might be different if women were in charge. (That's when one of the women brought up the fact that a woman was editor and publisher of The Nation and "it hasn't changed a single thing".)

It was just a really amazing thing to watch. All these women (whom I'd written off as apathetic about the world around them) speaking and able to identify all these ways that women are discouraged from speaking on this topic, all these ways that discussions have been limited and constrained and how that came into being with "each layer of rewriting" Vietnam. One woman (and I applauded her loudly when she was done) compared the revisionism on war to the same sort of silences imposed by the McCarthy hearings.

As anyone who drops by here knows, I'm not afraid to share my thoughts and I guess I sometimes forget just how much of a loud mouth I am and how that's not true for every woman.
I was making that point to C.I. after as we were headed to the high school and C.I. said, "Which, if you think about it, is why GreenStone Media was created -- for women who are not being invited into the conversation." I thought that was a really good point.

There's been a lot of slamming of GreenStone Media including by some feminists who you think would know better. It's easy to dismiss this group as well off but I think the fact that they were well off says a great deal. If women who see themselves as in charge of their lives and have advantadges that many women never will have can feel and follow the silences being imposed, imagine how much worse it can be for women whose financial situations aren't as strong?

I got what they were attempting but I really got it after seeing the transformation in those women. And it reminded me of how my reaction to ever-returning backlash is to get louder. That comes from growing up in a large family, a working class family, and coming of age when feminism was flourishing. But my whole life is what I want. I've been self-employed for most of my life. I haven't had to cater to a boss. Someone pisses me off on a photography assignment? Screw you, I don't need this job. So I have been fortunate in that.

What if I had a nine to five job, or had a nine to five job and gave it up to focus on child rearing, during the backlashes? Please don't think I've ever believed an independent woman was valued by this society. But I could see that and say, "Screw it." Imagine if you weren't in that position and you were served up society's message over and over?

It really is important for women to use their voices. And that's something we can all do in our own lives, in our own circles. If you're not a loudmouth like me, you might think, "Oh, I'm not going to speak up." You might let something pass. Don't. Carve out a space for you because, by doing that, you're carving out a space for another woman as well.

I think both genders are prone to burn out but I think with most women having more on their plate, their burn out is more severe. I also think (these are my opinions only) that a lot of us tend to put the burnout on hold (the way we do with so much of our needs) so when it does arrive, it's much more pronounced than it might be for men. I'm not talking about mid-life crisis, I'm talking about burn out.

So this weekend, if you do nothing else, carve out a space. If you're reading this and you're a man, you may be thinking, "Oh, that doesn't apply to me." Yes, it does. You can ask a woman her opinion. And, if you're a woman, don't wait to be asked.

Wrapping up, Betty's "Friedman takes a trip" went up tonight. Read it. Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, April 20, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces the death of another service member, "development" passes for an answer in Baghdad ("Time-shares" is next), Helga Aguayo explains the status of her husband (war resister Agustin Aguayo), and Bobby Gates finally gets to act out his long held dream to be Marisa Tomei.

"The investigating officer said that it was in the best interest of the military to discharge him and that he believed that Agustin was sincere. However, higher ups in the chain of command -- that never met with my husband -- decided that he wasn't sincere and just didn't really give a reason, just said that he didn't qualify as a conscienious objector,"
Helga Aguayo speaking to Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) today. Helga Aguayo sketched out
how her husband came to see the illegal war as immoral while serving in Iraq, how he attempted to receive CO status, the obstacles there and a great deal more including the the convictions of missing movement and desertion. On the latter, she noted that it "is unheard of for people that are gone less than thirty days -- soldiers that are gone less than thirty days." Aguayo was gone from
September 2nd through September 26th. The rule of thumb is that if you are gone less than 30 days, desertion isn't even a possible charge. Not only was Aguayo gone less than 30, he turned himself in. Helga Aguayo explained how the two felony convictions mean trigger an automatic appeal:

Helga Aguayo: And the other thing is that Agustin will not be discharged. I'm getting congratulations -- 'Oh, congratulations, he's coming home' -- we don't know when he's coming home, one. And, two, he actually will not be discharged from the military for twelve to twenty-four months from now, because he got a bad-conduct discharge and it's such a serious offense. He has two felonies. It goes onto an automatic appeal, and because of that, he will remain active-duty, which means he has to abide by the standards that is required of every soldier. He could potentially be charged with anything else during the time that he's on voluntary or involuntary leave or administrative leave. They'll give him of the three, if it's approved. And we won't know if it's approved.

Amy Goodman: Could he sent back to Iraq?

Helga Aguayo: I hope not. I don't think so. I think it would be -- I mean, Agustin's gotten a lot of support. And I, you know, would definitely just go to the press and go to the people. I don't think it would be in their best interest to do that.

Agustin Aguayo's repeated attempts to receive CO status demonstrate the need for the system to be fixed. As does the case of Robert Zabala who had to take the issue to the civilian courts to be awarded his status. The two, and many others, illustrate the problems with and arbitrary nature of the way the US military chooses to recognize (or not) CO status.
This is why the
Center on Conscience & War has declared May 14th the day to lobby Congress to pass a law that would "protect the rights of conscientious objectors".

Aguayo is part of a movement of war resistance within the military that also includes
Ehren Watada, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, 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.

Turning to news in Iraq, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates landed in Baghdad Thursday to provide war weary Iraqis and US service members with a bus and truck show of My Cousin Vinnie.
David S. Cloud, Alissa J. Rubin and Edward Wong (New York Times) report that he visited "to press Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq to move faster on Sunni-Shiite reconciliation at a momment when Mr. Maliki's ability to deliver appears limited, at best." This allowed Bobby Gates to attack the part of Lisa with vigor as he stomped his feet in the safety of the Green Zone.

Bobby Gates: Well I hate to bring it up because I know you've got enough pressure on you already. But, we agreed to get an oil law passed as soon as we installed you. Meanwhile, ELEVEN MONTHS LATER, no oil law, Iran is making us nervous and our bully clock is TICKING and the way this war is going, I ain't never going to see the theft of Iraqi oil.

While Gates was telling/ordering al-Maliki to step it up,
Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reported that it really doesn't make a great deal of difference: "Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces. Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iraq policy since 2005, had dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said."

As most play mum on that revelation,
Mark Tran (Guardian of London) notes, "Washington today said it would take political reconciliation in Iraq into account when it decides this summer whether to reduce troop numbers." Translation? There will be no real reduction unless the people insist upon it. Just more stalling tactics on the part of the US installed puppet and more bluster from the bullies of the US administration. Meanwhile, the government of Turkey has set a deadline. KUNA reports that Turkey now has: "a 'specific timetable' for trans-borders operations including intrusions into northern Iraqi, Turkish NTV news website reported Friday. . . . The plan, envising the intrusion of thousands of Turkish troops into northern Iraqi areas to hunt rebel Kurds, is about to be a reality, according to the report."

Meanwhile in "New Listings" news, need a getaway? How about some place just east of a river, a gated community with rustic charm?
CBS and AP report that gated communities are coming to Baghdad in the form of "a three mile wall": "When the wall is finished, the minority Sunni community or Azamiyah, on the eastern side of the Tigris River, will be gated, and traffic control points manned by Iraqi soldiers will be the only entries, the military said."

Gated communities? And people think the US administration has no ideas in the tank.
While the US administration continues their attempts at stand up,
Tom Clifford (CounterPunch) notes the very real increase in Iraqi deaths including that last month was the deadliest in the last 12 months and that the escalation has claimed at least 7,400 reported deaths. And in some of the reported violence today in Iraq . . .


AFP reports a Nasiriyah bombing that killed 4 "including an 11-year-old girl". Reuters reports an eastern Baghdad mortar attack the killed 1 person and left 4 injured as well as a truck bombing in Falluja that killed 2 people and left 37 wounded. Lebanon's Daily Star reports that gunfire and helicopter fire were used around a mosque as US forces attacked what they hope are 'guilty' people since they killed four -- however, they originally denied the deaths and the attack only to correct that later on..


Reuters notes two police officers shot dead in Baquba and eight wounded, 1 person was shot dead in Falluja (2 more injured), and 1 person shot dead in Kufa. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports: "Employees working for the North Oil Company were targeted in Kirkuk by gunmen yesterday evening. The gunmen attacked the employees' while they were coming to Baghdad, the incident took place on Karkuk-Baghdad motorway when the insurgents opened fire injuring 4 employees."


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 19 corpses discovered in Baghdad on Friday.

In addition, the
US military announced today: "A Task Force Marne Soldier was killed and two were wounded when a rocket struck Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah Thursday night."

And in news of activism,
Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report) notes the national Make Hip Hop, Not War tour which attempts to welcome important segments that have otherwise been overlooked. Ford writes: "The 'Make Hip Hop, Not War' movement finds only lip-service support from the white-dominated anti-war 'movement,' which finds itself unable to include the most anti-war segment of the American public: Black people. Rosa Clemente, of Pacifica's New York radio station WBAI and a founded of the National Hip Hop Political Convention, says, 'This is why the anti-war movement is not working. How are you going to have an anti-war movement that marginalizes Black people?'"