By their actions in the early days of the Clinton administration, the national Democrats revealed that they viewed the American people more as consumers eager for services than citizens needing honest information to fulfill their duties in a democratic Republic.
Clinton also apparently thought that his magnanimous gesture, especially in letting former President George H.W. Bush off the hook, would win reciprocity from the Republicans. Instead, they took the Democratic scrapping of the Reagan-Bush investigations as a sign of weakness and unleashed the emerging right-wing media against Clinton.
Despite catastrophic political results -- losing control of Congress in 1994 and the White House in 2000 -- the national Democrats learned few lessons from the Clinton debacles. In 2002 and 2004, they reacted to Bush and his "war on terror" gingerly and suffered more defeats.
Finally, in 2006, heeding an increasingly angry "base," the Democrats adopted a tougher stance toward Bush and were surprised by their own success. Yet, even as congressional Democrats were picking confetti out of their hair, they were reverting to their can't-we-all-get-along approach.
On Nov. 8, the day after the election, Bush announced that he was replacing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with former CIA Director Robert Gates. The Democrats hailed the move, thinking that it signaled a new assertion of control by the "realists" from President George H.W. Bush's administration.
After all, Gates had worked for the elder Bush and was a member of the Iraq Study Group, which was planning to urge a drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq. A Newsweek cover illustrated this thesis with a large Poppy Bush in the foreground and a smaller Sonny Bush in the rear.
A conventional wisdom took shape, that Gates gave up his beloved presidency of Texas A&M to undertake the thankless job of walking junior Bush back from the brink.
At Consortiumnews.com, we published a series of contrarian stories about Gates, many drawing from CIA officers who had worked with Gates. They regarded him as the consummate bureaucratic "yes man" who operated with a burning ambition concealed beneath a mild-mannered persona.
That's from Robert Parry's "Democrats' Year of Living Fecklessly" (Consortium News) and he and his sons Sam and Nat have a book event Saturday, November 17th. Details are in the snapshot. They may do other book events but it may not come until next year. So if you're in Arlington, Virginia on the 17th, you need to be at Bus Boys and Poets.
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) is going to be in San Francisco this weekend. She couldn't have picked a worse time. The beaches are closed. The fuel spill yesterday. I'm not minimizing the damage this is doing -- which will be long term impacts -- but to return to yesterday's point, nuclear energy is not 'safe' or 'clean.' If the ship had been carrying nuclear waste to be buried somewhere, the results would be much worse. "Oh, Kat, there would be special containers." You think the ship was planning on a fuel spill? You think they prepared to have a fuel spill? No. And there will be long term impacts and danger from this. Had it been nuclear waste, it would be even worse.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, November 8, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, Blackwater back in the news, Pelosi tries to fool the public again, and more.
Starting with war resisters. September 21st, Nick Watt (ABC's Nighline) examined war resisters and noted the number of people being processed for desertion at Fort Knox "jumped 60% last year" (to 1,414 for Fort Knox -- US military figures) while concluding his report with, "If the total for the first six months of 2007 doubles by year end, it will become the highest annual total in twenty-six years." Michael Sharp of the Military Counseling Network explained to Watt that last year he met with eight to ten people a month seeking a way out of the US military while, in 2007, it is fifteen to twenty a month: "One thing that is clear to me however is that the number is increasing, and the ranks of these people are increasingly higher. I would say take the biggest number you ever get from the military and double it. There is no reason for the military to give out that information."
Watt also spoke with war resister Chris Capps who served in Iraq and then checked out in March of this year, turned himself in after sixty days, and was discharged from the US military.
Capps: How the reporting here outside of America is completely different . . . Yeah, it definitely made me think about what I was doing, what I was a part of.
. . . What was going on outside and what was going on inside Camp Victory were two completely different things. It was like we put a little tiny America inside Baghdad and there was hell breaking loose outside our walls. At first I was thinking about what I was doing. My job was very compartmentalized, you know. . . . That [Abu Ghraib] was kind of a cut clear concise picture of what I was doing in Iraq. I helped repair communications that were being used for things that were just wrong. . . . They've got mixed reactions, they don't know how to react to it. I had a couple of people say, "Wow, that's impressive, that's awesome." . . . I took a Greyhound down to Ok and I turned myself in at Fort Sill.
In Peter Laufer's Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq., Iraq War veteran Kelly Dougherty spoke about how, "My friends and I would discuss refusing. We would dicuss the point at which we were going to refuse to follow orders because we felt that they were putting our lives in complete danger. But as much as we talked, we never did anything. When it came right down to it, you're either going to have to take a stand and suffer maybe the ultimate consequences or you're going to have to suffer maybe the ultimate consequence, which is death. It was like, death is uncertain. I know that if I refuse I'm going to get court-martialed. So I guess I'll just choose possible death." She also states, "I would say it takes a lot more courage to refuse to go and to stand up against the status quo and all your fellow soldiers than it takes to just go along with it." Dougherty is one of the founders of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The organization's chair is war resister Camilo Mejia, the first veteran of the war to resist.
From November 10 through December 16th, Mejia's words will be featured in a new play at Culture Project as it presents Rebel Voices -- based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States. Along with Mejia, the voices of Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Malcom X and others will be featured. Zinn will take part in the November 18th presentation (opening night) and poet Staceyann Chinn and musician Allison Mooerer will hed 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) and actor, director and activist Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Beloved, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rainmaker, Places In The Heart, Dreamgirls, Shooter and who appeared on Democracy Now! today 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 $21 for previews and $41 for regular performances (beginning with the Nov. 18th opening night). 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.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, 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.
"Once the election brought the Democrats into more power than they had been in before, [some of our members] thought, 'Now something's going to happen, things are going to get better and the war's going to start coming to an end.' But at the same time, a lot of people in the military [and] veterans didn't necessarily have a huge amount of faith that just by electing a few more people, it was going to drastically change the course of the war," IVAW's Kelly Dougherty speaking to Will Dean (Philadelphia City Paper). Which didn't happen and who knew Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would adopt a Beasti Boys refrain ("Yes, yes, y'all -- you don't stop). But she and her Posse In Effect or, more accurately, her Posse Ineffectual have done nothing to end the illegal war. Robert Parry (Consortium News) terms it "Democrats' Year of Living Fecklessly" opening with, "One year ago, the Democrats ended Republican control of Congress, stirring millions of Americans to hope that George W. Bush's Iraq War and his assault on the U.S. Constitution finally would be stopped. Twelve months later, many of those once-hopeful voters feel bitter disillusionment toward the national Democratic Party, which has surrendered in showdown after showdown with the weakened President, from continuing to write blank checks for the Iraq War to ceding more power to him for his surveillance operations." Parry provides a Democratic Worst Flops collection, citing the Michael Mukasey Attorney General nomination moving from the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Senate floor, the confirmation of the questionable (that's being kind) Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, the illegal wiretapping, the promise by Pelosi that it would be fixed after Congress' month-long summer break (still not fixed -- though immunity for the criminal actions of communications providers is getting a big push), Senator Carl Levin's historical ignorance, and more. Sidebar, Robert Parry and sons Nat and Sam will be speaking at Busboys and Poets in Arlingtion, Virginia Saturday Nov. 17th from four p.m. to six p.m. discussing their new book Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. Sam and Nat Parry have established their own journalist skills at Consortium News and they and Robert Parry can discuss any of the topics pertaining to the current administration but remember that Robert Parry has been doing investigative journalism for years and, if you're in that area or are visting it on the 19th, you'll have access to one of the most straighforward and determined journalists in this country. More events may be scheduled later but mark your datebooks if you're in the area and note that this is the only event scheduled thus far for 2007. Returning to the dismal Democratically-led Congress, Cindy Sheehan (writing at The Progressive) addresses the Democrats in the House shameful response to Dennis Kucinich's motion to impeach president of vice (nod to Wally and Cedric) Dick Cheney: "Nancy Pelosi's selection as Speaker was groundbreaking, and way past time, as the first female Speaker, but she has been, not only a failure but a disaster to democracy. She admitted it herself last week when she said she would give Congress low ratings, too. She acts like she is a helpless player in this national order of things. If only the world wasn't filled with 'Senators and Republicans,' then she would be able to do her job! If the world wasn't filled with Senators, House Reps, Dems and Repugs, my son would still be alive and I would still be a working Mom in Vacaville, Ca." Let's stay with Fancy Nancy and note her marker: January 4, 2007. In November 2006, voters returned power of both houses of Congress to the Democrats and did so because they wanted the illegal war to end. On January 4th, the 110th Congress was sworn in. On that day, 3006 deaths had been announced. Since the Democratically-controlled Congress was sworn in, 852 deaths have been announced. The November 2006 election was about the war. The polls showed the voters saw it as about Iraq and the politicians certainly knew what it was about. And Fancy Nancy did as well, telling Marc Sandalow (San Francisco Chronicle) in a story published two days before the November election, "This election is about Iraq. . . . If indeed it turns out the way that people expect it to turn out, the American people will have spoken, and they will have rejected the course of action the president is on. . . . A Democratic victory would be in the furtherance of reaching that goal. Absent a Democratic vitory, we'll be there for the next 10 years." She also told Sandalow that preventing the illegal Iraq War "is her greatest disappointment in public life." She needs to add "prolonging the illegal war" to that list. Corporate Crime Reporter's Russell Mokhiber (at CounterPunch) transcribes his questioning of Pelosi from Tuesday that begins with, "Isn't it true Madame Speaker that you single handledly could end the war in Iraq by not allowing the Iraq funding bill to go to the floor of the House?" Pelosi either lies in response or she doesn't even know how Congress works. Mokhiber then points out other thing she could be doing (both the other things and the original action he asked of are things Democratic presidential contender Mike Gravel has repeateldy noted are powers the Congress has) but Fancy Nancy doesn't think it would "be effetive." The Ineffectual evaluating effective? Take a moment to laugh at Pelosi. Pelosi then goes on to declare, "If there is anything that I'm disappointed in is that we haven't been able to end the war." If there's anything she's disappointed in? If? She then lies again about the Senate. The reality is the a filibuster stops a bill dead in the tracks. The reality is day after day roll call votes on Iraq -- as Gravel has pointed out -- sends the message to Americans of who is prolonging the illegal war and who is trying to end it. Pelosi's been useless before, now she's just making herself a public liar. It's why she's sunk to an all time low in local polling (Bay Area). Her negatives are now higher than her positives and that is a first for Pelosi. That's what happens when you no longer represent the people who elected you and, in fact, when you don't even make a pretense of representing them. In the November issue of The Progressive, Lloyd Dangle's Troubletown ("Getting Tough, Dem Style") makes the point about the filubster option -- even a cartoon can convey the reality Pelosi runs from. Pathetic Pelosi, Richard Cowan (Reuters) reports, is now announcing more faux-end-the-war-bills (it's not "legislation" until it passes both houses, is signed or vetoed and, if the latter, the veto is overridden) which takes the weak, non-binding measure that was vetoed last time and pushes it through again with $50 billion more for the illegal war. "We'll end the war by funding it!" Troops would remain in Iraq, the 'classification' systems would be left up to the Bully Boy who could classify 'combat' troops 'police' or 'counterterrorism' troops and not bring a single one home. For those emerging from comas, the Pelosi-led House tried this shell game on the American people once already. It did not go over well.
On polling, CNN reports on the network's new polls with Opinion Research Corp. which finds, "Sixty-eight percent of poll respondents opposed the war, setting a new record." The high in CNN's previous polling for the illegal war was in March 2003 (WARNING: PDF document on past polls) when 72% were on board. In March of 2005, the pro-illegal war and anti-illegal war was evenly matched. By the summer of 2005, those against the illegal war were in the majority and so it has remained for over two years now. CNN expresses suprise that the results would be what they were "despite reports of a reduction of violence" -- maybe because not everyone's so quick to believe the spin?
Gullible brings us to the New York Times and Damien's Dinner Date. General Joseph Fil takes Damien Cave out for "egg rolls and lo mein" and Cave seems to feel the general's buying dinner meant he had to, journalistically, put out. So Cave includes the myth of The Great Return of Iraqi Refugees myth. Amit R. Paley (Washington Post) has a little more self-respect and a little more professional-respect which is why he notes the claims by the Iraqi government of 46,030 Iraqis returning to Iraq "last month" is "counter to the overal trend detailed in a recent report by the Iraqi Red Crescent, which said the number of internally displaced people had more than quadrupled over the past year, reaching 2.3 million by the end of September." The myth/lie has played with the numbers all week as noted in yesterday's snapshot. Allen Pizzey (CBS News) was proclaiming the good news from the Iraqi government "[o]ver the weekend . . . more than 3,000 Iraqi families driven out of their Baghdad neighborhoods . . . have returned to their homes in the past three months." The spin dropped out the "past three months" lie and upped the total number of returned (last month!) to approximately 15,500 individuals. Then it was time to up it even further. If they believe 15,500 they'll swallow 46,000 plus! Throughout this badly spun lie, the numbers have increased at the drop of a hat while the time length has increasingly shortened.
Turning to reality . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing left three Iraqi soldiers wounded, a Hibhib bombing that wounded four people and a bombing "targeting the motorcade of Director of Eductation of Basra." We'll come back to that in a second. Reuters notes 3 police officers killed by a roadside bombing outside Falluja, a Kut roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left four police officers injured while outside Mousl 1 woman was killed in car bombing and five people were injured (the driver of the car was also killed -- the car is presumed to be "a suicide car bomb"). Reuters also notes Basra Qahtan al Moussawi's mortorcade being targeted and the four people injured and explains al Moussawi is "the top education official in the southern governorate of Basra". This is the continued targeting of officials. On Sunday, Hanna Lafta Muhssim was shot dead -- she was a math teacher. Eman Hussein, a Baghdad principal, was shot dead in Baghad and another female principal was shot dead but survived. (The second one was not named) Yesterday Mizher Al-Sheikhi's son was shot dead (Al-Sheikhli belongs to the Islamic Party's political buerau) and -- in the second attack in 4 days, Maj. Gen Abdul-Jalil Khalaf's convoy was targeted.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes that 2 corpses were discovered in Mahaweel and 7 in Thar Thar.
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Center Soldier was killed as a result of wounds suffered when the dismounted patrol the Soldier was part of encountered an improvised explosive device south of Baghdad Nov. 7."
Some violence never gets reported. Some gets reported with only partial details. Some details take longer to emerge. Take shooting deaths on February 7th of this year. From the Feb. 7th snapshot: "Kim Gamel (AP) reports that 3 security guards 'at the government-funded Iraqi Media Network' were shot dead in Baghdad while "a female government official" was shot dead in Mosul. CBS and AP say the number of security guards shot to death reached four." CBS and AP's real time report in full (on the incident): " At about the same time, four guards at a nearby building housing state television were shot and killed on the rooftop. An official at Iraqiya television said the men were hit by fire from security company personnel escorting foreign visitors to the Justice Ministry just across the street. The television official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media." The reality? Today, Steve Fainaru (Washington Post) reports, "Last Feb. 7, a sniper employed by Blackwater USA, the private security company, opened fire from the roof of the Iraqi Justice Ministry. The bullet tore through the head of a 23-year-old guard for the state-funded Iraqi Media Network, who was standing on a balcony across an open traffic circle. Another guard rushed to his colleague's side and was fatally shot in the neck. A third guard was found dead more than an hour later on the same balcony. Eight people who responded to the shootings -- including media network and Justice Ministry guards and an Iraqi army commander -- and five network officials in the compound said none of the slain guards had fired on the Justice Ministry, where a U.S. diplomat was in a meeting. An Iraqi police report described the shootings as 'an act of terrorism' and said Blackwater 'caused the incident.' The media network concluded that the guards were killed 'without any provocation'." But Blackwater insisted they were fired on -- the standby they tried to use for the September 16th slaughter as well -- and the US State Department did what they always do, say, "Blackwater is right!" As Fainaru observes, "The incident shows how American officials responsible for overseeing the security company conducted only a cursory investigation when Blackwater guards opened fire. The shooting occurred more than seven months before the Sept. 16 incident in which Blackwater guards killed 17 civilians at another Baghdad traffic circle." On Democracy Now! today, Amy Goodman asked US House Rep Jan Schakowsky for her reaction to the Post's story:
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Isn't that interesting, though, that we didn't know about that, either, that this is being exposed -- that was February of this year, and it's just being exposed here now? So the untold harm that these companies are creating, in terms of the hatred that they're stimulating -- and Iraqis don't distinguish between those people who are Americans in uniform or out of uniform, and very often, by the way, it looks like a uniform that they're wearing. This is actually helping to recruit more of the terrorists, more people who hate the United States of America. This is counterproductive in every way, except to these companies that are now, because of US taxpayer dollars, reaping billions of dollars for their companies.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Jan Schakowsky, I wanted to read to you a piece, from Jeremy Scahill's piece, that is coming out in The Nation magazine on the bill, on your SOS bill. Of course, SOS, "Stop Outsourcing Security." He says, "The SOS bill is by far the most hard-hitting legislation to target private forces in Iraq, but it's not without its problems. While Schakowsky understands this issue better than most in Congress, there's a potential loophole in the bill that could unwittingly aid the permanent expansion of the war machine." And he says, "Calling for the government to take over from Blackwater, Triple Canopy and Dyncorp, rather than addressing the State Department's already-massive paramilitary force in Iraq, could amount to de facto support for what is already a dramatic unprecedented militarization of the Department's Diplomatic Security Division by the White House. The department's worldwide personnel protection program was originally envisioned as a small-scale bodyguard operation tasked with protecting small groups of US diplomats and other officials in countries around the world. In Iraq, the administration has turned into a paramilitary force several thousand strong. Spending on the program jumped from $50 million in 2003 to $613 million in 2006." Your comment on this?
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Well, I understand what Jeremy, who has done an amazing job with his book about Blackwater -- I understand what he's saying, but I'm a founding member of the Out of Iraq Caucus. I think we should be getting out of there entirely. But we certainly don't, at the same time as this war proceeds ahead, help build this private mercenary army and aid and abet these companies. I think it -- he absolutely has a point, but I think that what we want to do is get out of Iraq, get a new administration, have a diplomatic surge rather than a surge of war all over the globe. The world's on fire right now because of this administration. So I want to deal with that issue, too, but I think that having these private companies being funded at the rate they are by taxpayers is absolutely against our interest over the long term.
In the November 2007 issue of The Progressive, Matthew Rothschild's "Blackwater's Black Eye" (pages 8-9) examines Blackwater and opens with, "The Blackwater scandal tells you almost everything you need to know about what's wrong with the Bush Administration: swagger, wanton violence, impunity, cronyism, and privatization gone made." He goes on to connect the outsourcing of military operations with the outsourcing of all functions and a desire to discredit government. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) addressed this push with Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism, yesterday:
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, Sovereign Deed, you mentioned. Talk about this company.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. Well, this is happening simultaneous to the wildfires. There's a company called Sovereign Deed. It's one of the key -- it's connected to the mercenary firm Triple Canopy, and also a retired brigadier general back from Iraq named Richard Mills is one of the key executives in this company. And they have just announced plans to set up a kind of a privatized FEMA in Pellston, Michigan, northern Michigan, a rural part of Michigan, that happens to have a very modern regional airport. And the idea is that they're going to be turning Pellston, Michigan into their national disaster response center -- once again, only for their members.
So if you go to the Sovereign Deed website -- and I really recommend that people do read about this company in their own words, because what's really extraordinary about it, Amy, and this is where you have some similarities with a company like Blackwater, is that it's run by people straight out of the military and intelligence who now have gone into the private sector, and they're saying to people -- they're scaring people -- they're saying: you can't count on FEMA, you can't count on the National Guard, we live in disastrous times. Their website is just filled with sort of apocalyptic news about terrorist attacks, climate change, all of the -- pandemics, all of the things that we might face. And we think we're going to face them collectively, but their message is: you can't count on the government; I should know, I used to work there last week, or whatever it is. Pay your $50,000 membership and $15,000 annual fees, and this company is stockpiling drugs, fuel, water, and for an extra premium payment, you can get a VIP rescue in the midst of some sort of unnamed disaster. And this is just amazing, Amy.
I mean, think about the way the country responded after September 11. The heroes of that tragedy were the first responders. And when the Bush administration announced the Department of Homeland Security and this whole new era of homeland security, I think people really thought that that meant a support and funding of the public first responders whose mission it is to protect the whole country, everyone, not just the VIPs. Now, here we are, six-and-a-half -- six years later, and the situation in California, we heard once again there weren't enough firefighters; the National Guard was in Iraq; the public sector, you know, despite all the propaganda around Schwarzenegger, there were many, many failures. But now we see this emergence of this parallel VIP privatized disaster infrastructure.
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