Friday, March 09, 2007

For Lou and Sanders

13,940. That's the number of e-mails in the public account for The Common Ills today. I knew C.I., Ava and Jess were busy today and that Shirley, Martha and Eli had been asked to work the private accounts. But, having been overly praised by members for my post yesterday, I figured I'd head to the public account to take my lumps from the various right-wingers and centrists who feel the need not just to read a left site like The Common Ills but also to weigh in. I wasn't about to read all of those, I looked for stuff that the heading indicated was to me and found four. Three were in agreement (including one person who defined himself as "a newly recovering Bush supporter" -- he's been clean and sober for exactly 24 days and wrote that when Bully Boy started talking "surge," he finally lost a die hard supporter). One defined herself as a "social liberal and fiscal conservative" and wanted to offer that "The Iraq war really doesn't matter. There are so many other things to focus on, like trade deals that we'll see as a result of Bush's visits abroad." Whatever.

But that number, 13,940, interested me. I checked with Ty to find out if that was particularly large (it seems it) and he said that The Third Estate Sunday Review can usually count on around a 1,000 e-mails a week ("and they all praise Ava and C.I.'s TV commentaries, even when they're noting something else").

As a community member since 2004, I thought I'd write about that tonight to (a) have an easy topic and (b) give something back to the community. In today's gina & krista round-robin, two newer members of the community wished their would be more reflective pieces (C.I. would call it "self-referential") and noted "Origins" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) as the sort of thing they had in mind. Far be it from me not to give back, so Lou and Sanders, this is for you.

In the early days? Jim, Dona and Jess were early, early members of the community. Back then The Common Ills was a blog (with a feature for commenting). I wasn't that early (they were writing C.I. the second day the site was up) but I think I came in around the time Cedric did. Cedric, Julia, Susan and I were the big music lovers in the community early on. I would write e-mails (I tried to keep them short) about a song C.I. quoted or mentioned and a thought or two about music. That led to C.I. suggesting, repeatedly, that I should write something about music. I said no, I didn't want my own site, didn't have the time, but thank you. This led to suggestions that I write a review for The Common Ills. I turned that down as well but thought about how, in college, I'd enjoyed writing about music (and immediately after) when there was still life in the writing. So finally, I wrote something and said, "You do not have to put this up." It was "Kat's Korner Green Day v. the Disney Kids" and it went up. That's when Cedric and I really connected because he wrote me a long e-mail (a very nice one too) via the public account and C.I. forwarded it. I heard a lot about that review (and still do) and it was really nice to read the e-mails from other members. (By that point, Keesha had successfully led the effort to close off comments due to the racist nature of some visitors. It was a community and not a blog.) I learned a lot about Cedric, Susan, Julia, Eli and others. I think, in the seven days after the review posted, I ended up with something like a steady trickle of sixty-plus e-mails. Then, in the second week, the e-mails upped and it was too much for me.

At that point, C.I. was still reading every e-mail that came in and replying to it. It was in January of 2005, when the site got over 500 e-mails in one day, that it began to be too much. That's when, as that number climbed, the automated response was created. At that point, even though there wasn't time to reply to everyone that wrote, C.I. was still reading everything that came in. It took forever for that to change.

Martha and Shirley had been volunteering to help out and finally C.I. took them up on it. Ava and Jess followed and then Eli. (And private accounts followed due in part to make sure members would be read and also because there were some problems logging into the public account.) Now days, it's very rare that a personal response goes out. From C.I. or anyone.
There are just too many e-mails. C.I. doesn't even read them all now, there's not time. Forget doing entries at The Common Ills, there's not enough time just to read e-mails.

So what happens there is that C.I. reads a couple hundred each day (about 2/3s from members and about a 1/3 from visitors). Otherwise, there's a report prepared by Martha and Shirley on what they read (Martha says they just do four paragraphs and keep it brief) or Ava and Jess (Jess says usually, they give an oral report since the gang all lives together now) or Eli. The report sums up the general feel. What do members think isn't getting coverage, what do they feel should be noted, that sort of thing.

When others go through the e-mails, if there's something that needs to be seen by C.I., they move it to a folder and, at some point, C.I. sees that. On weekends, C.I. hits all the accounts solo and tries to read as much as possible. Jim's attitude has always been that the most important thing is what's online. He's not big on reading e-mails (and, at Third, is famous for enjoying arguing back and forth with right wingers when he does reply). Others are less extreme but no one tries to read like C.I.

What kind of responses did people get? Like Gina said, replying to Lou and Sanders, a real reply. In the early days, C.I. would try to note every topic you'd commented on. It wouldn't be "Thanks for writing." Lou was talking about how two of his friends turned him on to the site and wondering how others discovered it? I know for Jim, Dona and Jess one of them found an Iraq entry on that second day and that did it for them. For me, I was searching Joni Mitchell online and came across an entry that that quoted her "Chinese Cafe" so I checked that out.

Was it more personal then was another question Lou had. Yes. But I think it still is. Beth's the ombudsperson and she will handle issues that members have (in her weekly column in the round-robin). With all the community newsletters, there's a chance to comment in that way and we didn't have that in the early days. I can say that C.I. still knows members concerns. There's not a week that goes by, to this day, that C.I. doesn't say, when we're all working on something for The Third Estate Sunday Review, "That can't go in like that, it will offend ___ who takes this very seriously." Or, "If that's really important to the article, leave it in, but take my name off because this is something that won't go down well for ___." Sometimes, I recognize the names, sometimes I don't.

Sanders wondered how it got so large and my answer to that is because C.I. listened. There are topics, and members know this, that C.I. never intended to write about. Never would have weighed in on. But a member is offended or feels no one is addressing something and C.I. will weigh in. With the comments closed (and I agreed with Keesha on that), it especially became important that C.I. speak in the voice of the community. And C.I. knows the lines very well. There will be weeks where C.I. will say no to something for that reason and I'll realize that's come up before and that I'd forgotten. So I think it takes a lot of work (and a strong memory) but it's that "giving voice" aspect that has allowed the community to grow. (C.I.'s shared that it's grown too big. C.I. prefers the old days when every e-mail could be read and responded to.)

It's easy to forget, and Jim is big on making this point, but after the 2004 elections, Iraq got dropped by a lot of websites. The election was "lost" and the Dems were eager to win. You had the usual party hacks (James Carville, Simon Rosenberg, et al) trying to push to the party to right with myths. You had party hacks like Adam Nagourney (New York Times) trying to sell the move-to-the-center and inventing "values voters" which the Dems were out of touch with and could never be in touch with unless they moved to the right.

Some of your left voices today who sometimes write about the illegal war and share that the war needs to end were actually stepping away from the war and, some, were even pushing it -- saying the US needed to stay in Iraq.

I think, right there, C.I. filled a void because Iraq was never a "minor thing" or something to MoveOn from at The Common Ills. The focus wasn't solely on Iraq but, at a time when most were backing off that and trying to water down the Democratic Party via their own web sites, C.I. was seriously addressing Iraq. That was probably one of the biggest things.

It's also true that some writers who were strong got lost in Hurricane Katrina. That was an important subject but there were more than enough people writing about Hurricane Katrina and strong voices on Iraq didn't need to prove their versatility. They needed to keep hitting on Iraq.

I don't care for Juan Cole. I'm not alone in that, I know. Recently, he was interviewed by Steve Rendall on CounterSpin and Steve made the point that he seemed to have changed his opinion on Iraq now that he was for a withdrawal. He told Rendall he had misunderstood his stance. No, Steve had it right. I remember that very well because that's when Cole stopped being noted at The Common Ills. Members were outraged by that.

Cole can pretend otherwise now but the reality is he's not always advocated for withdrawal. (Again, Steve was right.) And that, too often, is what you had from some of the people you might think you could count on. Now either around that time or shortly after, there was an attempt to prevent Cole from receiving another college post. "That's not our battle," said C.I. And it wasn't. It wasn't our battle to scream for Hillary to be included in some debate while ignoring the Green Party. The community is built up of people who want US troops out of Iraq.
If you're not for that, you can have the entire left brigade on your side, but it's not our battle.

Liang has written off a huge number of websites and that's due to the fact that she obviously doesn't matter. Those rushing to link to a comedian who has done stereotypical portrayals of Asian-Americans and mocked Asian-American groups who protested the racism send a message that they really don't care whether Asian-Americans visit their sites or not. Liang has written about this and how, as she saw the comedian popping up at every so-called left site, she kept thinking, "I hope C.I. doesn't start highlighting him." She didn't want to bring it up for a number of reasons. So she was (happily) shocked when C.I. and Ava addressed the nonsense. It's things like that which convey this is a welcoming community. And it's that sort of thing that has helped it grow.

Cedric, Keesha and Betty have all written about how they've been to other sites and felt welcomed until some talking point was to ditch African-Americans from the Dem party or when they objected to something that was obviously racist. They were quickly made aware that they must stay silent or hit the door. And Keesha is very vocal about how much of the left in print tends to do superficial coverage of African-Americans (she's very high on Amy Goodman who she feels is seriously committed to the issue and she's very down on The Nation which she finds to be a joke). These things get noted. And that helps the community grow.

Cross-posting helped as well. James in Brighton and DK used to re-post entries all over the place in Europe. DVD reviews would show up for a day or two (before the site deleted them) that weren't DVD reviews, just re-posts of The Common Ills.

Word of mouth has also helped.

Lou's biggest question was whether the sites would all go dark after the 2008 elections? I honestly don't know. Everyone says yes, pretty much. (Mike and Rebecca have spoken of continuing their sites. Wally's up in the air.) Here's where I have a problem seeing it happen, I just can't imagine the illegal war being over by then. I hope I'm wrong. But if it's not, I don't see The Common Ills ending. I think C.I.'s earned the right to end it. The site takes up so much time. But I don't know that it will. I'm with Jim in terms of believing that if C.I. could just have a few days off, I think the desire to end it would vanish.

But the site's been going since November of 2004 and there's never been a day where there wasn't something new up. Elaine's explained to me that C.I. hates expectations (which I see) and hates feeling that something has to be done, day after day. Add in that, C.I.'s been speaking out against the war since right before it started (Feb. 2003), traveling all over the country, and it's understandable that a break is needed. I was present when the date was set, I believe that was in the summer of 2005. We were doing an edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review and it was really too much for C.I. There were some really personal attacks at the time (related to the cancer scare) and it was just too much at that point. And C.I. just announced it and explained that there was no way to continue anymore without knowing that there was an end date. We all understood that.

I'm writing longer than I usually do, way longer, but what I do here is some scattered thoughts. Once a day, Monday through Friday. And that can kick my ass some days. I'm not doing three entries a day Monday through Friday. I don't have the pressure that Ava and C.I. do (and it is pressure) of knowing that each week at The Third Estate Sunday Review, the first thing the regular readers are going to check out is their review or that the drawing card for visitors is going to be their review. That's a lot of pressure. It wasn't set up that way, the TV thing used to be a group writing project. But once it became Ava and C.I.'s it took off. They've never had a week off. Each Sunday, they have had to deliver a commentary. One week, they addressed film critics, but they still had to deliver that. There are also weeks where they've had to deliver more than one commentary.

Ava's more vocal about it, in terms of the pressure. But they both feel it. They've easily done over 104 commentaries by now. That's a lot. There are TV reviewers who don't do that many and they generally get vacations. Ava and C.I. have never had a week off from their commentaries. And those take a lot of work. They write them very quickly (unless they're waking friends searching down information) but the prep-work takes a lot of time. And Ava's usually very vocal when Jim's really pressing -- she'll note loudly and clearly that she's tired, she'll note that C.I.'s done three columns that week for the newsletters, that she and C.I. have done TV commentaries for Maria, Miguel and Francisco's newsletter and she'll tell Jim to back off or there won't be anything.

(Jim's not trying to be rude or to pressure them. He's honestly the most excited about their commentaries. As soon as they're done, he's always the one who is reading it aloud to the rest of us and no one laughs louder at their jokes than Jim.)

I've seen C.I. walk out of a party to go do an entry, I've seen C.I. try to gobble down lunch while pulling together an entry, working the phones to find out what's happening in Iraq. It's a lot of pressure and it's also got to feel like an anchor at times. The rest of us, as Rebecca will tell you, can write whatever we want. If we piss someone off, they usually forgive us. (Or avoid us.) C.I.'s trying to write something and factoring in all the concerns of members in the community. It's a lot to juggle.

And, in the end, Lou and Sanders, that's why the community has grown: Because C.I. can do all of that. Elaine's always pointing out just the sheer amount of the writing and that's a good point. I've pointed out here that I've never seen C.I. blocked. I never have. I've seen C.I. so tired and exhausted that I've said (and others have as well), "Forget it, go to bed." I've seen C.I. rubbing the eyes and or puking and go back to the computer to finish an entry. I don't believe I've ever heard C.I. say the words, "I don't know what to write." I have heard, "I have no idea what I'm going to write." Often on Sunday evenings, after a thirty-plus hour Third edition and two hours of sleep (on a good Sunday). At those times, C.I. may stare at the screen for a half-hour (once, for an hour) but the tap-tap-tap of the keyboard will start and an entry will be composed.

I have been blocked. I've been blocked many times. Betty has as well and Trina. C.I.'s always the one who can talk us through that. And on that note, as I wind down, Betty's latest is up, "Jumping Jerk Thom Friedman -- he's a gas, gas, gas" so be sure to check it out. Lou and Sanders, I hope that answers some of your questions.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, March 9, 2007. Chaos and violence (though little reported) continues, protests continue, the country of Georgia provides mirth in the illegal war (if not genuine support for the Bully Boy), a US marine is announced dead, footage of another US service member's death is supposedly set to be released, Dems plan receives muted response, and the veterans health care crisis moves from Walter Reed to VA hospitals.

Starting with war resistance.
Agustin Aguayo was court-martialed and sentenced Tuesday. Circles Robinson (Ahora) notes: "Doing the right thing can be costly, but in the end one can at least sleep at night. Ask Spc. Agustin Aguayo, 35, a U.S. citizen born in Guadalajara, Mexico, who was just sentenced by a US military court in Wurzburg, Germany. His crime was a gut feeling shared by a growing number of ordinary citizens and soldiers alike: President Bush's war in Iraq isn't their war." He was sentenced to eight months but given credit for the days he had already served since turning himself in at the end of September. Rosalio Munoz (People's Weekly World) sees a victory in the outcome: "The March 6 military court conviction of pacifist soldier Agustin Aguayo was reversed in the court of public opinon as Amnesty International officially recognized him as a 'prisoner of conscience,' and a battery of progressive attorneys began efforts to get a federal court to reverse the Army's denial of conscientious objector status to Aguayo." Stefan Steinberg (World Socialist Web) sees the line of continuity from one war resister to another, "Aguayo has become the latest in a growing list of US soldiers who are facing trials and courts-martial for refusing to serve in Iraq. Recently, Lt. Ehren Watada, 29, became the first US officer to be tried for refusing to obey a command to return to Iraq. In his defence, Watada argued he was merely following his constitutional rights to oppose fighting in a war he regarded as illegal. The Japanese American described the US invasion and occupation of Iraq as 'an illegal and unjust war ... for profit and imperialistic domination.' Watada's attorney Eric Seitz, had sought to defend his client on the basis of the Nuremburg Principles -- i.e., that soldiers have the duty to disobey unlawful orders in the case of an illegal and unjust war."

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

It is vital that we build a strong counter-recruitment movement to expose lies used by the military to send working-class and poor children to war. We must also lend our full support to the soldiers and reservists who are refusing to fight in Iraq.
[. . .]
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. government learned how quickly the discipline of an army fighting an unjust war can break down. Today soldiers in the field can see the contradictions between the claims of their officers and especially the politicians who sent them to war and the reality of the conflict on the ground. They now know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and posed no imminent threat. And as the Iraqi resistance to occupation grows, more soldiers have come to see that they are fighting not to liberate Iraqis but to 'pacify' them. To end this war, more will need to follow their conscience, like [Camilo] Mejia and the other soldiers who have refused to die -- or kill -- for a lie.

The excerpt above is from Anthony Arnove's
IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal. Arnove has an event on Saturday the 10th and on Sunday the 11th (Ty and Sunny -- for Elaine -- passed on the following):

Saturday, March 10
8 pm
Readings from
Voices of a People's History of the United States
The Great Hall, Cooper Union
as part of the
Left Forum 2007
Free for conference participants and the general public.
With performances by Staceyann Chin, Deepa Fernandes, Brian Jones, Erin Cherry,
Najla Said, Mario A. Murrillo, and other special guests.
Narration and introduction by Amy Goodman, host of
Democracy Now! and
Anthony Arnove (who, with Howard Zinn, authored
Voices of a People's History of the United States)

Sunday, March 11
10 am
Iraq: What's at Stake?"
Cooper Union
Left Forum 2007
Panelists: Anthony Arnove, Christian Parenti, AK Gupta, Nir Rosen, and Gilbert Achcar.

Wednesday, March 14
7:00 pm
"Friendly Fire: An Independent Journalist's Story on Being Abducted in Iraq,
Rescued, and Shot by U.S. Forces"
Judson Church
55 Washington Square South
featuring: Giulian Sgrena the Il Manifesto journalist and author of
Friendly Fire who was abudcted in Iraq, rescued by Italian security forces only to be shot at (Nicola Calipari would die from the gun fire) by US forces while en route to the Baghdad Airport; Amy Goodman and the Center for Constitutional Rights' executive director Vince Warren.
Sgrena is calling for the Pentagon to take responsibility for the shooting.

Yesterday, in the United States, Democrats in the US House and Senate unveiled their plans for Iraq.
Michael Rowland (AM, Australia's ABC) explains the House legislation: "Democrats have been talking about setting a troop withdrawal deadline ever since opposition to the war swept them to power in last year's congressional elections. Today they bit the bullet, unveiling legislation that sets down actual dates. . . . The legislation sets out a set of benchmarks that must be met in Iraq in the coming year. They're mainly to do with quelling the sectarian violence on the streets of Baghdad, the very objective of the president's plan to send an extra 22,000 US troops to Iraq. The House of Representatives speaker, Nancy Pelosi, says the strategy will be given time to work. But she warns the troop withdrawal will be fast-tracked if the re-enforcements fail to make any difference." John Nichols (The Nation), picking up at the benchmarks: "If those benchmarks remain unmet, a slow process of extracting troops would begin under the plan favored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, Wisconsin's David Obey and Pennsylvania's John Murtha, the chair and defense subcommittee chair respectively of the appropriations committee; and Missouri's Ike Skelton, who chairs the armed services committee. The fact that Democratic leaders are talking about attempting to impose a timeline for withdrawal is good. It puts the opposition party in a position of actually opposing an unpopular president's exceptionally unpopular policies. Unfortunately, because the president wants to maintain the occupation on his terms, Bush can be counted on to veto legislation establishing benchmarks and a timeline. So the Democrats find themselves in a difficult position. They plan to expend immense time and energy -- and perhaps even a small measure of political capital -- to promote a withdrawal strategy. Yet, the strategy they are promoting is unlikely to excite Americans who want this war to end. In other words, while Pelosi and her compatriots propose to fight for a timeline, it is not the right timeline."

John A. Murphy (CounterPunch) observes, "The Democratic House has drafted legislation which has no chance of surviving a presidential veto and at the same time does not meet the hopes and aspirations and demands of the overwhelming majority of the American voting public. They have however drafted legislation that makes them feel good. Somehow or other the so-called 'liberal Democrats' are going to be happy about supporting a bill which would kill 60,000 Iraqis and 1,800 Americans because the bill will not alienate the 'more moderate Democrats'." Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) points out: "Anti-war Democrats have also come out against the plan. New York Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, a member of the Out of Iraq caucus, said: 'All this bill will do is fund another year of the war, and I can't vote for that'."

NYU professor Stephen F. Cohen (writing at The Nation) notes: "Unless the United States withdraws its military forces from Iraq in the near future, a war that began as an unnecssary invasion based on deception and predictably grew into a disastrous occupation will go down in history as a terrible crime, if it hasn't already. For Americans of conscience, Iraq has therefore become the paramount moral issue of our time."

On that note, we'll return to
MADRE's "Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq" (which can be read in full in PDF format or, by sections, in HTML). Wednesday, section one ("Towards Gender Apartheid in Iraq") was noted and, Thursday, section II, "Iraq's Other War: Impsoing Theocracy Through Gender-Based." Section III is "The Rise of US-Backed Death Squads" which further documents how the US equipped, trained and facilitated the ongoing femicide in Iraq.

The femicide has its roots in "The Salvador Option," so, as the report notes, it is not surprising to find the same actors involved. Just as James Steel and John Negroponte were involved in the death squads in El Salvador during the 1980s, they teamed up in Iraq with Negroponte acting as US ambassador to the country and James Steele commanding the US troops who trained the Badr and Mahdi militias. While the Bully Boy made noises to domestic audiences about 'freedom' and 'liberation,' "on the ground in Iraq, the Islamist militas were wholly tolerated." Backing, training and arming them "offered an enticing advantage over government troops. For a time, their quasi-official status allowed the US to out-source the violence of its count-insurgency operations without having to answer for the militias' gross human rights violations, including their campaign of terror against the women of Iraq." When not training these militias themselves, the US out-sourced the training to DynCorp which

Working women have been especially targeted because "they commit a double offense -- by advocating a secular society and by being accomplished, working women." But the press has refused to cover this campaign of violence against women as one of the stories coming from Iraq and treated acts of violence against women as incidental to the larger story (it is the story). "To cite just one example, in October 2005, journalist Robert Dreyfuss, known for his authorative and critical analysis of Iraqi politics, reported that in addition to targeting Sunnis, the Shiite Badr Brigade was 'terrorizing Iraq's secular, urban Shiite population.' Although gender-based violence was a central tactic of this terror campaign, Dreyfuss does not mention it. Nor does he explore why a supposedly sectarian militia was terrorizing members of its own sect. Like most media accounts, Dreyfuss' report fails to consider the Badr milita from the perspective of Shiite women. From women's vantage point, the militia is typical of theocratic fundamentalists everywhere. For such groups, asserting control over members of their own religion -- especially women, who are seen as the carriers of group identity -- is a prerequisite to extending control over society at large, including, ultimately, the institutions of the state."

The report notes that the press is not the only grouping that has failed to draw attention to the ongoing femicide and notes the anti-war movement has also ignored the gender violence that is taking place. The clampdown, by the US, on the Iraqi Health Ministry has prevented already faulty data on the attacks from being released. The report uses Maha as an example of how the militias and the police work together in Iraq -- Maha "was abducted from her home in Najaf and trafficked from brothel to brothel in Baghdad for nearly two years. She managed to escape twice and flee to the police station in Baghdad's Amiriyah neighborhood. Both times the police forcibly returned her to the brothel."

Noting the report,
Laura Flanders (writing at The Notion -- Nation's blog) pointed out that 100 female corpses were left unclaimed in a Basra hospital "mutilated . . . families are too scared to pick them up." Flanders is the host of RadioNation with Laura Flanders which airs each Saturday and Sunday, 7:00 to 10:00 pm EST, on Air America Radio, XM radio and online. Saturday's guest will include one or both of her uncles as guests -- Andrew Cockburn and/or Patrick Cockburn. The program's website says Andrew, the blog post says Patrick. Either (or both) will be worth hearing.


AFP reports at least one person died from a roadside bombing in Kirkuk. CBS and AP report that Donald Neil, civilian contractor, was killed while trying to dismantle a bomb. (Location given is "Iraq.")


AFP reports that, in Kirkuk, two Iraqi soldiers were shot dead. Sami al-Jumaili (Reuters) reports that one police officer was shot dead and three more wounded when a police station in Hibhib was attacked -- ten police officers are missing and assumed/feared kidnapped. Australia's The Daily Telegraph reports that the attack included "setting fire to vehicles and destroying the building".


Reuters reports that ten corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Voices of Iraq reports seven corpses were discovered today in the Diala province.

Today, the
US military announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West was killed March 9 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." In addition, CBS and AP report: "On Friday, the Islamic State of Iraq announced it would soon be releasing a video on the death of a U.S. Air Force pilot whose F-16 jet crashed Nov. 27 north of Baghdad, according to the IntelCenter, which monitors insurgent Web sites. The pilot, Maj. Troy L. Gilbert, was listed officially as 'whereabouts unknown' but then reported by the U.S. military as dead following DNA tests from remains at the scene."

Meanwhile, in military news,
Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports that David Petraeus' much noted Thursday press converence "did not offer . . . a strategy for dealing with such attacks, underscoring a major dilemma facing U.S. and Iraqi forces as they carry out what has been described as a last-ditch effort to curb the deadly civil war." Ernesto Londono and Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post), on the same press conference, noted the fact that not only has Petraues upped the escalation numbers but he's dropped Casey's talk of "the summer, late summer" when the supposed, alleged accomplishments of the latest crackdown version will be visible. And the escalation continues to add numbers. Yesterday, it was an additional 2,000. Today, Andrew Gray (Reuters) reports that Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon is requesting more troops for the Diyala province.

BBC notes that Georgia (the country) "will more than double the number of troops it has in Iraq" from 850 to 2,000. 2,000 isn't a large number and some wonder what the US government offered to get the small figure doubled? (Georgia's population is estimated to 4.6 million.)

Things not worth noting in depth. Puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki toured Baghdad -- with a heavily armed squad of bodyguards numbering at least six who shadowed him at all times as he shook hands with Iraqi soldiers at checkpoints. US forces announced another al Qaeda (alleged) leader captured. Don't they get tired of selling that nonsense?

Turning to the issue of health care for veterans,
Ian Urbina and Ron Nixon (New York Times) report on the Veterans Affairs where the government is slow to respond and refuses to anticipate or calculate need resulting in various horror stories such as prolonged waiting for claims to kick in (James Webb returned from Iraq injured from a bombing and had to wait 11 months for the promised and obligated payments to kick in while Allen Curry fell "behind on his morgage while waiting nearly two years for his disability check"). Hope Yen (AP) reports that, testifying before US House Veterans Affairs committee yesterday, Paul Sullivan (one time VA project manager) stated he repeatedly "warned officials" at the VA that "there would be a surge in claims as veterans returned from Iraq and Afghanistan," and that he began sounding the alarm in August 2005. Joel Connelly (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) notes that US Senator Patty Murray, who severs on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has drawn comparisons to today's health crisis for veterans with the illegal war itself: "They have lowballed the cost of this war, and the cost of caring for our soliders. . . . It goes to the top, to the highest level. The Bush administration wants the country to feel there is no cost to war." Rick Maze (The Navy Times) covers an idea by US Senator Larry Craig which would require "issuing veterans an authorization card that would allow them to seek care anywhere could address two longstanding complaints: long waits to see a VA doctor, and long trips for veterans who live far from a VA hospitals." Based on Urbina and Nixon's reporting, 'portability' might be besides the point when "the current war has nearly overwhelmed an agency already struggling to meet the health care, disability payment and pension needs of more than three million veterans." Zooming in on one VA center, Mike Drummond Peter Smolowitz and Michael Gordon (The Charlotte Observer) discover that a 2005 inspection of North Carolina's Hefner VA Medical Center found a substandard facility: "Using the clinically blunt language of the medical bureaucracy, the team describes a facility with poorly trained doctors and nurses who, among other things, cut corners on treatment, manipulated records and did't talk enough with paitents and families." In one tragic example, they note 41-year-old Robert Edward Lashmit who died: "Lashmit's condition and vital signs were not updated during his 19-day stay. Instead, investigators found, his doctor 'copied and pasted the same daily progress note for the entire hospitalization.' That meant information vital to Lashmit's treatment remained the same even as his condition deteriorated. He died of live failure. Later, when investigators asked Lashmit's doctor about pasting outdated records, they said he told them: 'no one told him he could not do it'."

Turning to the scandal of Walter Reed Army Medical Center,
Brooke Hart (NBC News) reports on the scramble as the army attempts to address the disgrace -- the army willl institute a "30-day study of problems at major military facilities" and will establish a complaint hotline for veterans that will be allow for complaints to be registered twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. In another quick fix measures, Alana Semuels (Los Angeles Times) reports that Michael Tucker ( a brig. general) will move from Fort Knox to become the "deputy commanding general of the Walter Reed Army Medical Ceneter." Interviewed by Jake Stump (Charleston Daily Mail), US Senator Jay Rockefeller declares that "[t]he real question is not necessarily what happens at Walter Reed," but the refusal of the US Defense Department to meet the needs of veterans. US Rep Kirsten Gillibrand tells Albany's Time Union that she hopes the Walter Reed scandal starts a new debate on topics such as funding of the VA and veteran's' benefits. Walter Reed Army Medical Center, FYI, is funded by the Defense Department, not the VA. Interestingly, one Congressional rep wanted answers but he appeared to have had them some time sgo. Adam Schreck (Balitmore Sun) reports that US House Rep C.W. Bill Young made frequent visits to Walter Reed with his wife where they "found wounded sholdiers who didn't have adequate clothes, even one doing his rehabilitation in the bloody boots he had on when he was injured. One soldier, ashamed that his mattress was soaked with urine, tried to turn Young's wife away, the Florida Republican recalled yesterday. Another with a serious brain injury fell out of bed and his head three times before someone was assigned to make sure it didn't happen again." For those who've forgotten, Dana Priest, Anne Hulle (Washington Post for the first two) and Bob Woodruff (ABC News) shined the light on the issues in the last few weeks. What did US House Rep Young do since, by his own accounting, he was familiar with many issues that needed addressing? As Florida's Star-Banner notes in an editorial: "The St. Petersburg Times and other media reported on Thursday that U.S. Rep Bill Young, a Republican from Indian Shores and formerly one of the most powerful members of Congress, acknowledged that he knew of the squalid conditions at Walter Reed but failed to disclose them. In one instance, Young recalled one soldier who was sitting his his bed in a pool of urine when Young's wife discovered him. Hospital staff, Young noted, did nothing and when questioned told him, 'This is war. We have a lot of casualties. We don't have enough sheets and blankets to go around.' Young, according to the Times, kept quiet because he wanted to respect family privacy and 'did not want to undermine the confidence of the patients and their families and give the Army a black eye while fighting a war'." What a load of hogwash. By staying silent he allowed the problem to continue and worsen. Staying silent helped no one and, were it not for the press doing their job and his, he'd probably still be silent today.

In protest news,
Frederic J. Frommer (AP) reports that the Occupation Project (ongoing visits, sit-ins, and of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience to put the pressure on elected officials to stop funding the war) continues and focuses on actions in Wisconsin and Minnesota. In Wisconsin, US House Rep David Obey has not met with them but did have four arrested on Monday including Joy First. In Minnesota, US Senator Herb Kohl did meet with them but is quite happy to continue funding the illegal war and play stupid (all his life). Frommer notes that every Tuesday, two nuns, Kate and Rita McDonald, are occupying the office of US Senator Norm Coleman who is a Republican but also "a former anti-war protester himself from the Vietnam era". Despite knowing better, Coleman remains firmly behind funding the illegal war. Also in protest news, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) interviewed Wally Cuddeford about the protests going on in Tacoma which resulted in four arrests Sunday night. Cuddeford explains the purpose behind the protests: "Our goal is to stop military shipments from Fort Lewis going to Iraq. We were successful stopping the shipments through the Port of Olympia and now we're helping our friends in Tacoma stop the shipments there. The shipments are Stryker vehicles, they are speedy combat trasnprots, armed transports. They are the back bone of the occupation.
Half of all the Stryker vehicles to Iraq. If we are able to cut off Stryker vehicles to Iraq we could easily end this occupation."
Clear Channel reports that Ann Wright (retired Army colonel and retired State Department) spoke to the Jefferson Community College about the war ("For us to have gone into Iraq, invaded and occupied it, and not even with the agreement of the UN Security Council, unfortunately it falls into the category of a war of aggression and in my opinion is a war crime.") in an event sponsored by Veterans for Peace and Different Drummer Cafe. She will be speaking at Different Drummer Cafe today at 6:00 pm at 12 Paddock Arcade, 1 Public Square, Watertown, NY.

Danny Schechter and have started a new campaign:

It's Time to Make the US Media Accountable!Are you willing to join and support Mediachannel's "
TELL THE TRUTH" campaign? Help us press the press and move the media to tell the truth and report in more balanced manner, the way so many Canadian and European outlets seem to be able to do.Click here to send an email to U.S. media outlets now!

agustin aguayo

Thursday, March 08, 2007

It's about perspective and humanity

So, it's not tone . . .

That's what Keith wrote in an e-mail prompting me to return to the topic I wrote about Tuesday.

No, it's not tone. It's about humanity. That doesn't mean you write to please Miss Manners, it does mean you have a sense of perspective. Rage, whisper, scream, laugh, write however you want but have a sense of perspective, of humanity. It's not coming through in 'snappy' little book reviews, or top ten lists. It's not coming through from women, supposed feminists, who can't bring themselves to write about Iraq, about the rape and murder of Abeer.

I think Katha Pollitt's book review was as worthless as Anna Nicole Smith coverage and I feel that way because she's supposed to be the feminist at the magazine, at The Nation. Abeer should have been covered elsewhere but, if you read the rag you know, she wasn't. So the in-house feminist was the last chance Abeer had. And Katha Pollitt made herself useless wondering about Hillary Clinton and was it fair for a War Hawk to be held accountable? Was it fair for CODEPINK to birddog HRC? Of course it was fair, she was a War Hawk, a proud and loud one, in the Senate planning to run for president. She comes from a state that would support her being anti-war. She, and anyone else, is a fair target and you are going to target a name because there's no point in following around Senator No Name if you're trying to mobilize.

Now she wants to tell us all about what some stupid neocon wrote. She's being 'pithy,' she's 'sporting,' she's writing up a rhetorical storm, she's just not writing with any sort of a base in reality. It's the sort of thing that will get her pats on the back from others who also ignore Iraq.

Katha Pollitt is one of the biggest disappointments. And when she elected to do her 'end of the year' charity list, there was no indication on the list that she even knew the Iraq war raging, no noting that you could donate to MADRE or war resister organizations, but time to shout out about dumb ass magazines.

The community's Martha wrote the magazine about that idiotic column. They didn't run the letter. But Katha was back with another list and, on this one, she throws out "BE HONEST" that it won't be sunshine and peppermints when the US leaves Iraq.
How stupid is the woman now?

Who has suggested it would be? No one who's covered the subject. Only dippy, little shit heads for The Nation could get away with slamming those trying to stop the war as 'dishonest.' (That's what "BE HONEST" implies, that those trying to end the war are dishonest.) Katha Pollitt has become a joke.

Her own magazine, as C.I. pointed out, ran a sexist poll on HRC. Now CODEPINK birddogging Hillary to end the war results in a scolding from Pollitt. Her own magazine's sexism? Never called out. It may be why she can stay silent on the fact that her own magazine (she writes for it) offers one woman writer for every four males. Now Katha can't speak out about that either.

It's a funny sort of feminism. Book reviews and top ten lists. And a war rages, an illegal war. Women are raped, women are killed. Women live in fear. They're told to wear scarves and stay in their homes, told, when their husbands die, that they are not allowed to leave their homes. In Iraq, where women could drive, where women could wear make up, where women could wear pants, now they can do none of that. The female doctors are told they must only treat female patients and women are told they must not see male doctors. While a health crisis and a "brain drain" grips the country. A health crisis brought on by the more recent bombings and the years of sanctions before the illegal war, a brain drain brought on because those who can afford to leave the war zone that Iraq is frequently do so.

And Katha Pollitt wants to review a book by a male neocon. Or offer a top ten list. Or stick up for HRC.

She wants to do anything but cover Iraq. And she writes for a so-called political journal. (So-called because, under Katrina vanden Heuvel, it's become a campaign journal. If you missed the point, note the magazine's blogs including the latest one.)

Katha Pollitt, who was once a strong voice, writes as though the nation's not at war, writes as though she's off on a flight of fancy depending upon what the book section of the Washington Post or New York Times is covering. She has no sense of perspective anymore.

She wants to tickle, she wants to amuse. She's given up, thrown away, her ability to make a difference. Katha Pollitt, in 2005, wanted to argue that women should be on the op-ed pages of newspapers because they could write. Katha Pollitt, in 2006 and 2007, writing in a weekly, wants to offer up Erma Bombeck with a snap.

I read her now and think, "Grow the hell up." It's embarrassing. It's embarrassing to watch her try to keep up with the little gals of the online world when she's old enough to have a sense of perspective and then some.

As bad as her writing is now, it still passes for a wonderful writing excercise. The topics are sad and tired. But she can take comfort in the fact that, unlike Katrina vanden Heuvel, she can write. It's too bad, however, that Pollitt chooses to waste that talent on topics so beneath her and so beneath the time she's living in.

Go to The Nation now and search in vain for anything noting it's International Women's Day. You can find Katrina's husband, Stephan D. Cohen, writing about Iraq and the need to withdrawal. I doubt seriously Katha will hector him to "BE HONEST" -- not a good idea to go after the boss' husband. And what's up with that? Yes, he wrote for the magazine before Katrina became editor & publisher, but once she did, that should have been the end of it. That's not a judgement on his writing ability, it is noting that you don't publish your spouse when you're put in charge of a magazine. Whether it's your wife or your husband, you really need to stop.

I need to change an earlier statement. Since I looked earlier today, Sumner's found something.
The time signature is 4:29 which probably means it was six something EST (the time signatures on their posts are always off -- as though they were posting from my side of the country). This is from Laura Flanders' "For Women in Iraq, a Sad Day:"

It's Women's Day in Iraq, again, but not the bread-and-roses kind of day women want. The fact is, since the US invasion, every day has been a sick-and-twisted kind of women's day in that country -- a day on which Iraqi women's rights and their lives are under assault.
In the four months following the US invasion and occupation, women's rights groups estimate that some four hundred women were abducted and raped. At the time, the violence was blamed on the general breakdown of society, but there were always women warning that the killings weren't chaotic, they were systematic, and they heralded something worse.
They were right. A new report from the international women's human rights organization
MADRE makes the case that gender-based violence is rampant and made worse by the US presence. As Houzan Mahmoud of the Organization for Women's Freedom, told a MADRE-organized press conference this week at the United Nations, reliable data is hard to gather in Iraq, but when OWFI visited a hospital in Basra last October they found 100 women's corpses, many showing evidence of torture. "The bodies were mutilated and unclaimed because families are too scared to pick them up."

So thanks to the Cockburn family (Laura is Alexander Cockburn, Andrew Cockburn and Patrick Cockburn's nieces), the magazine managed to get something up about International Women's Day right before the sun started setting. Where was Liza Featherbrain? Or had she exhausted herself yesterday by mentioning (but not discussing) "Iraq" twice? It must be really hard for Featherbrain to type "Iraq." That would explain why she couldn't write about, just typing that four-letter word left her all tuckered out.

Am I talking about tone? No. I don't care how anyone speaks. I do care about the useless writing that refuses to acknowledge and explore Iraq. I'm tired of so-called feminists who betray the Iraqi women by staying silent.

Here's an example of people who take it seriously. C.I. was told about a Women's eNews story over the phone. I was over because Dona and I are working on a project right now with some other women. C.I. was so excited that Women's eNews had covered MADRE's report . . . and then came the 'coverage.' It was trying so hard to be center-right to not offend that it was worthless. It's not covering the report, it's giving the administration coverage to hide behind. C.I. asked, "Can I read you something?" We all said, "Sure." It was that. And as C.I. read it we all got more and more outraged. There were twenty-five women working on the project (counting myself and Dona) and we were all outraged. C.I. read it straight, no comments, and we were groaning throughout. At the end, C.I. asked, "So it's not just me?"

No, it wasn't. That was an appallilng article when you consider that it's at a site geared for women. It was cowardly and it was a distortion of the report. The writer probably thought she was being 'fair' by calling the administration for a comment. And maybe she felt the need to water down the report's conclusions because she didn't have a 'balancing' quote. Or maybe she just didn't read the report? At any rate, we all agreed, "You have to call that shit out."

But people don't want to do that for the most part. They want to provide cover and act like if it's pro-female (or supposedly so), it's wonderful. That article was misleading and stripped MADRE's report of its power and truth. (C.I. called the article out. If you're a member, you're not surprised, if you're a visitor, that's just FYI.)

So that's what I'm talking about. Taking it seriously. Taking Iraq seriously and expecting others to and, when they don't, not cutting them any slack. You can rage, whisper, whatever you want. But if you're writing as though Bill Clinton is still in the White House, with your dopey little columns, you're not helping anyone and you're hurting the world. That includes this country because the war has infected our society. The fear that allowed it to be sold, the actions that are going on over there now that some try to ignore. It's destroying us all.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, March 8, 2007, International Women's Day. Chaos and violence continue, the US Congress takes some action, David Petraeus says war is not the answer to Iraq, over 2,000 more US service members will be heading to Iraq, and Maxine Waters cuts through the nonsense.

Starting with news of war resistance.
War Resisters Support Campaign's Lee Zaslofsky writes to the (Canadian) Embassy news weekly regarding the issue of passports: "The fact that the United States requires everyone entering the U.S. to show a passport does not cause problems for AWOL soldiers seeking to enter Canada. Canada does not now have any such requirement. . . . . [I]t seems unlikely that Canada would itself impose a passport requirement on American visitors. For one thing, it would seriously damage tourism to Canada, a major industry that is already in difficulty because of American security concerns. Absent a Canadian passport requirement, Canada will continue to admit Americans on the basis of other forms of ID, as is done now. That means that U.S. soldiers will continue to be able to come to Canada, as do thousands of other Americans, without much difficulty, regardless of whether they are AWOL or not."

War Resisters Support Campaign is an organization in Canada that assists US service members who self-check out the military. This evening, they are holding a benefit feauturing US war resister Joshua Key, Ann-Marie Macdonald and Lawrence Hill. With Hill, Joshua Key wrote The Deserter's Tale and Canada's Macleans offers an excert of it here covering the first house raid Key went on. No quote because there will be a lengthy excerpt from the book shortly.

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

Today is
International Women's Day and we'll focus on women for the next sections. Iraqi women, US women serving in Iraq and young girls whose deaths go unnoted.

Starting with
MADRE's "Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq" (which can be read in full in PDF format or, by sections, in HTML). Yesterday, section one ("Towards Gender Apartheid in Iraq") was noted and and today, section II, "Iraq's Other War: Impsoing Theocracy Through Gender-Based." This section notes how the violence arrived with the start of the illegal war and, originally, it was hoped that the targeting of women was due to the initial upheavel with normalcy to return shortly. Those hopes vanished quickly: "It is estimated that more than 400 Iraqi women were abducted and raped within the first four months of U.S. occupation."

The violence as a means to control is explored and, along with planting flags (a serious issue in the Kurd areas currently), one visual that says "I control this area" is veiled women. Yanar Mohammed explains, "When a political party gains control of an area, it puts its flag everywhere. The flag is a message to your opponents that this is your area and they should not dare to step into it. The veil on women is lifke a flag now."

There was a two-pronged attack here by Iraqis on Iarqi women. The first involved the militias (which the US allowed to flourish): "By summer 2003, Islamist 'misery gangs' were patrolling the streets in many areas, beating and harassing women who were not 'properly' dressed or behaved. The gangs swept through areas and imposed veils, banned women from wearing makeup or pants, and imposed their reign of terror that prevented women from taking part in daily life. When this happened, the hope is, "This will pass." The hope is the American military will do something or the Iraqi government or someone. No one does a damn thing to stop the situation.

But the Iraqi government did all they could to turn this terrorism into legal behaviors: "The US-backed Iraqi government has largely reinforced the Islamist call to restrict women's rights and bar women from the public sphere." This happened repeatedly (maybe Paul Bremer was napping?). Among the examples given is the decision/order given by the Secretary General of the Iraqi Ministers' Council (Khdeir Abbas) issued an order that all female employees would "wear headscarves or be fired." This was followed a year later with an order (from the Interior Ministry) that women should "not leave their homes alone and echoing the directives of religious leaders who urge men to prevent women family members from holding jobs." So the women who hoped the restoration of even a puppet government might bring some "safety" to Iraq quickly learned that the militias and the puppet government were all in it together to terrorize and demonize women. Returning to the women's street protests against Resolution 137 mentioned in section one (which would have stripped women of rights immediately), the report notes that such a protest would not even possible today due to the dangers that were imposed by the militias and then, later, condoned by the US installed government: "Iraqis' US-allied political and religious leaders clearly benefit from the reign of terror imposed by their followers, for as long as women are preoocupied with merely surviving, they are unable to demand accountability from the government for the broad range of economic, social, and political rights that they are denied."

Noting that this pattern/model can be found in Iran and Algeria as well as Afghanistan (which the US more recently swore would provide would provide 'democracy' and 'liberation,' and the US government's long history of backing brutal regimes in order to have access to the area's natural resources, this section concludes: "This economic interest has trumped ideological concerns about 'freedom' or 'democracy' (though US actions are always presented in these lofty terms at home). On the ground, the US cultivated Islamists as an alternative to the rule of socialists or Arab nationalists (like Saddam Hussein), who were less amenable to US control over their countries' reserves of oil and natural gas. Despite the myth of a 'clash of civilizations' between Islam and 'the West,' the US has been very comfortable with reactionary, theocratic leaders in the Middle East."

Mithre J. Sandrasagra (IPS) covers the findings of the report and the presentation of it on Tuesday: "Unfortunately, neither the mainstream press, the alternative media, nor the anti-war movement has identified the connections between the attack on Iraqi women and the spiraling violence that has culminated in civil war, according to MADRE. But, violence against women is not incidental to Iraq's mountin civilian death toll and civil war -- it is key to understanding the wider crisis. Indeed the twin crises plauging Iraqi civilians -- gender based violence and civil war -- are deeply intertwined, the report said."

That describes much of the coverage but seems especially important with regards to
Allison Stevens (Women's eNews) who writes: "Preoccupied with the Sunni-led insurgency, the U.S. military has not been able to stem the rising tide of gender-based violence, according to the report." According to the report? Try reading the report. There's no basis for that bit of nonsense. The report clearly conveys warnings were made before the illegal war started, the US government elected to ignore the warning. On the ground in Iraq, the US military and US provisional government chose to look the other way. Where Stevens is getting that the U.S. military would be doing something about this continued targeting and terrorizing of women were it not for a Sunni-led insurgency is a mystery, but it's not to be found in the report. (In fact, section three, which we'll go over tomorrow, refutes that claim but the claim has been refuted in every section.) The results in Iraq today are not accidental and they are not incidental -- they are the result of a clear, historical policy. That point is made in the conclusion, it is made throughout the report. Reporting yesterday for Free Speech Radio News, Rebecca Myles conveyed that point -- how the theocracy has come into being not in spite of the US but via financing, arms and training from the US.

Yifat Susskind, the author of the report,
writing at Common Dreams, does write "But the US military, preoccupied with battling the Iraqi insurgency, simply ignored the reign of terror that Islamist militias were imposing on women" which is followed immediately by "In fact, the US enabled these attacks: in 2005, the Pentagon began providing the Shiite Badr Brigade and Mahdi Army with weapons, money, and military training in the hopes that these groups would help combat the Sunni-based insurgency."

That is how life became deadly for Iraqis and, specifically, Iraqi women. But what about when their attackers are not Iraqi but American? The case of
Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi demonstrates that, in the US domestic media, outrage and sympathy are in short supply. The New York Times could and did write of her while repeatedly referring to her as a "14-year-old girl," apparently a nameless girl. Carolyn Marshall and Robert Worth were more than willing to leave Abeer faceless and nameless because it's all the easier to sell an illegal war if you render the victims invisible. They could, and somehow did, make the defense's case for them (in supposed reporting -- not opinion writing) despite the fact that the defense hadn't presented their case and despite the fact that it wasn't a known defense. But psychic reporters that they were, they couldn't name Abeer. Nor was the Times interested in telling their readers when James P. Barker confessed to his role in the gang-rape of Abeer. Nor was the Times interested in telling readers when Paul Cortez confessed to his role in the gang-rape. Both men confessed to raping and to holding her down while the other took their turn. Though Steven D. Green denies any involvement, Barker and Cortez have both testified that he shot Abeer's parents and five-year-old sister (while Barker and Cortez were raping Abeer) and that Green then joined them for the gang rape and that Green then shot Abeer dead. Green's involvement will be determined in a civilian court shortly (he had been discharged before the war crimes were common knowledge so he will face a civilian court) but Barker and Cortez confessed to gang raping Abeer. As Captain Alex Pickands noted in the Article 32 hearing: "They gathered over cards and booze to come up with a plan to rape and murder that little girl. She was young and attractive. They knew where she was because they had seen her on a previous patrol. She was close. She was vulnerable."
The world heard about this act of violence (despite the New York Times). There are many more that are never heard of. In his book,
The Deserter's Tale, Joshua Key recounts the murder of a young Iraqi girl (pp. 118-124):

One such distraction that I learned to anticipate and enjoy came in the form of daily visits from a young Iraqi girl who lived with her family in a house across the street from the hospital.
I wish I knew the girl's name, but she spoke almost no English and I knew no Arabic. She was about seven years old. She had dark eyes, shoulder-length brown hair, and -- even for a young child -- seemed impossibly skinny. She usually wore her school uniform -- a white shirt with a blue skirt and a pair of sandals. Every time I was stationed outside the hospital, the girl would run up to the fence that ran between us and call out the only English words, she knew: "Mister, food." Over and over she would say that, and I can still recall her high-pitched, breathless enthusiasm. She seemed fearless, full of energy, and not the least bit frightened by my M-249. She acted as if she didn't even know that she lived in a war zone, and she ran to the fence the same way my own children might have approached a sandbox, piping out, "Mister, food."
[. . . .]
The first time she ran up to me I tried to ignore her. We were under orders not to speak to Iraqi civilians at all, unless authorized to do so by one of our officers. I knew that it would be better for me to have nothing to do with her, and it didn't seem like a good thing for a seven-year-old child to be anywhere near American soldiers standing with assault rifles locked and ready at all times.
"Mister! Food!"
"Go away," I said.
"Mister, food."
I waved my hand to tell her to go away because she cleary wasnt' getting my words.
She kept at me, and I started mumbling at her, "Come on, little sister, you've really got to get out of here."
She stood motionless, kept smiling, and would not leave. Finally, I reached over the four-foot-high, chain-link fence and handed her my MRE.
[. . .]
The girl always ran home with them. She never walked. It seemed like running was the only speed she knew. It didn't matter if it was 125 degrees in the afternoon sun. When the girl moved, she ran. It made me happy to see her flying across the street on those light brown legs.
I wondered what sort of life she would have when the war ended. Would she continue in school? Would she end up becoming a doctor or a teacher?
Her visits were the best part of my days at the hospital, and she was the only person in Iraq -- officer, civilian, or fellow soldier -- whose smile I enjoyed. From my earliest childhood, I have distrusted the smiles of adults because I always wonder they know that I don't. The smile of this child in Ramadi brought me to thoughts of my own wife and children. I wished that Brandi could see this girl and discover what I was coming to know: it was not true that all Muslims were terrorists, children included. The truth was that this little girl was the same as any child growing up in Oklahoma, Colorado, or any other part of the world: all she needed was a little food, a little schoolings, a clean supply of water, and some loving adults to take care of her. She was no terrorist. She was nothing but a child, and everything about her -- waving arms, uncombed hair, and torn sandals -- reminded me that she and her family had the same needs as I did. All they wanted was food, water, shelter, safety, school, and work -- who didn't?
[. . .]
The next week, I was back at my post in front of the hospital. I saw the girl run out of her house, across the street, and toward the fence that stood between us. I reached for an MRE, looked up to see her about ten feet away, heard the sound of semiautomatic gunfire, and saw her head blow up like a mushroom.
Her death was so abrupt and such a shock that I couldn't believe what I had seen. I looked around immediately after she was killed. There were no armed Iraqis within sight, and I had not heard any of the steady drilling sound made by the Iraqi AK-47s. The only thing I had heard was the distinctive sound of an M-16, which doesn't give off a loud, sustained burst of gunfire. It sounds much weaker than the AK-47 and shoots just a few bullets at a time. Pop pop pop. Break. Pop pop pop. Break.
I looked in every direction. The only armed people in the area were my squad mates, posted at various points around and on top of the hospital. My own people were the only ones with guns in the area, and it was the sound of my own people's guns that I had heard blazing before the little sister was stopped in her tracks.
I saw her mother fly out the door and run across the street. She and someone else in the family bent over the body. I could feel them all staring at me, and I could say nothing to them and do nothing other than hang my head in shame while the family took the child away.
Even today I can't help thinking that it was one of my own guys who did it. And I can't help feeling that I was responsible for her death. If I hadn't been feeding her, and allowing her to believe that it was safe to come by daily to say "Mister, food" and to scoop up the MREs that I'd give her, little sister might be alive today. She would be about ten years old now, around the same age as my eldest son, Zackary.

Turning now to the issue of the treatment of US female service members serving in Iraq. Today on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman hosted a discussion with Eli Painted Crow (22 years in the Army, served in Iraq in 2004), Mickiela Montoya (deployed to Iraq in 2005) and Helen Benedict (Columbia University professor). Eli Painted Crow discussed how when another woman reported a rape, it wasn't kept confidential, it was base gossip and everyone knew. Benedict raised the issue of the bathroom buddies. This is the nonsense that's supposed to pass as a response by the military to the assualts on women by the males serving with them [see "Women and the military," The Third Estate Sunday Review). Benedict notes the long shifts served in Iraq (daily shifts) and notes that you can be forced to wake someone to go to the latrine with you. Montoya addressed how some women would use water bottles to urinate in at night in order to avoid going to the latrines and how she carried a knife for protection from males serving with her, not from Iraqis, "That's why I would carry the knife. I remember it was really late and, over there, they don't have electricity. So we run off generators. And, if you scream or if you were to yell for help or anything like that, nobody could hear you" over the generators. Eli Painted Crow noted, "And we're in a hostile environment. So, to imagine, that when you teach a soldier to hate and to be violent, that you can control that on any level is very difficult. You have to remember that we're going over there to kill. We lose a lot of value -- when you're out there -- and so you become this predator, this aggressor, this whole thing that just don't work out, what you consider the enemy. It just become who you are."

Helen Benedict has written (at Salon) on this topic this week: "At the moment, the most shocking case of military sexual assualt is that of Army Spc. Suzanne Swift, 21, who served in Iraq in 2004. Swift was coerced into sex by one commanding officer, which is legally defined as rape by the military, and harassed by two others before she finally broke rank and told. As a result, the other soldiers treated her like a traitor for months. Unable to face returning to the assailant, she went AWOL during a leave at home, and was arrested and put in jail for desertion. At first the Army offered her a deal: It would reduce her punishment if Swift would sign a statement saying that she had never been raped. She refused, saying she wouldn't let the Army force her to lie. The Army court-martialed Swift, and stripped her of her rank. She spent December in prison and was then sent to Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert, far away from her family. She must stay in the Army for two more years, and may face redeployment. The men who assualted her received nothing but reprimanding letters." As noted before, justice would be an immediate, honorable discharge for Suzanne Swift. But 'military justice' is a dirty joke which is why someone who attempted to rape a woman serving under him in Iraq, Daniel Edwards Franklin, was "punished" last month by losing his rank -- not one day of jail time. That is 'military justice.'

And in Iraq?


AFP reports five Iraqi soldiers dead from a roadside bombing in Tuz Khurmatu and two police officers from a car bombing in Mosul. Reuters notes that seven people were wounded in the Mosul bombing (in addition to the two deaths).


Reuters notes two police officers were shot dead in Shirqat, two Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in Balad (three more wounded) and two Iraqi soldiers shot dead in Hawija.

And? Nobody's working, nobody's doing anything on Iraq. Not a damn thing. They're all drooling over Petraeus.
Dan Murphy and Gordon Lubold (The Christian Science Monitor) get giddy over his obvious statement that "there is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq." How do you solve a mystery named Maria? Not by filing press releases but Demetri Sevastopulo and Steve Negus (Financial Times of London) don't want to be left out so they treat it like news, news, news!

Mark Tran (Guardian of London) notes the cracked-up 'crackdown' hasn't prevented the Pentagon from deciding to throw 2,200 more US service members into Iraq. Trans, who filed earlier than most, gets credit for noting that Petraues also spoke of 'encouraging sings' (that was Bully Boy's talking point -- word for word -- earlier this week for those who've forgotten -- and for those wondering why the talking point now comes out of Petraues' mouth in Iraq, buy a clue) but reality on the ground didn't bear that out. The latter point is skipped by the fluffers.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the US House of Representatives have agreed on what to propose with regards to Iraq.
CNN reports that the proposal includes a withdrawal date of August 2008 and that there are "benchmarks." Richard Cowan (Reuters) reports that US Senator Harry Reid elected to unveil the Senate's plan "begin withdrawing soldiers from Iraq within four months and pull all combat troops out by March 31, 2008." Nicholas Johnston (Bloomberg News) writes: "House Democrats said they will seek to force the withdrawal next year of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, a proposal that President George W. Bush's aides immediately said he would veto. The Democrat's withdrawal requirement will be attached to a war-spending measure and is intended to refocus military attention on the U.S. fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Democrats said."

But the details?
William S. Lind (CounterPunch), writing before the plans were officially announced, noted: "That's not pushing a plan, it is pushing on a rope, and the House Democratic leadership knows it. You can almost hear their giggles as they offer the anti-war voters who gave them their majority one of Washington's oldest dodges, 'requirement' the Executive Branch can waive if it wants to." CNN quotes US House Rep Maxine Waters on the proposed House legislation: "This plan would require us to believe whatever the president would tell us about progress that was being made. This is the same president that led us into a war with false information, no weapons of mass destruction, said we would be [welcomed] with open arms, said that the mission had been accomplished. Now we expect him to give us a progress report in their plan by July?"

joshua key

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Guns & Butter and KPFA thoughts

I've had the worst time logging in tonight and was about to give up when Dona said she'd try. I kept getting "page cannot be displayed." Whether she had the luck of the draw or the magic touch, she was able to get to the log in screen. So let me move quickly tonight. KPFA's Guns and Butter today was a really strong interview by Bonnie with Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights. I called Mike so he could listen because he thinks Ratner's one of the coolest people in the world. Ratner was discussing the dangers that had taken place so quickly in our country and noting that in other countries when governments go totalitarian, people think everything's fine and either don't notice or avert their eyes until it is too late.

He noted that the Democrats didn't seem overly concerned about restoring our rights. Habeaus corpus is the bedrock of any democracy and they may work on that at some point but it's not been one of the 100 Days issues. They discussed how when rights were lost it was very difficult to get them back. I should say, when rights were stolen.

They discussed Guantanamo and Lynne Stewart. The Lynne Stewart discussion was interesting and how she was selected for targeting because she was a high profile defense attorney and the administration wanted to intimidate defense attorneys. They then made it a high profile case. But, while they were asking for decades behind bars (for this grandmother with cancer), the judge didn't go along. (I believe the sentence was 23 or 24 months and that's on appeal. We saw the California speaking tour on this, by the way.)

This was a really strong interview and you should check it out if you missed it.

Larry Benksky is leaving KPFA next month. This Sunday, Peter Laufer will host Sunday Salon.
Larry Bensky? He's always been KPFA to me. I really can't remember before he was on. (I may not have been listening then.) He explains his reasons right here. Most of it won't surprise you if you've listened to him but it was a little less cheery then it sounded on Sunday when he announced he was leaving on air.

Not all that long ago, there was a horrible fight. The Pacifica National Board was basically stabbing everyone in the back. They were interested in finding out how much KPFA was worth -- though they maintained that they weren't interested in selling it. They were interested in selling it, my opinion. The people they put in charge were wackos. Amy Goodman was kicked out of WBAI. That's why Democracy Now! now broadcasts from the Firehouse Station. They just kicked her out and tried to keep her off the airwaves. Free Speech Radio News was started by reporters who were basically locked out as well. Bensky was fired. Philip Maldari was either 'disciplined' or fired, I don't remember now. But it was this huge power struggle where the board was, my opinion, trying to destroy Pacifica. Listeners had to fight. (And we did.) (And The Nation weighed in near the end -- late as always.) CounterSpin was censored in terms of what the stations would broadcast, it was just a huge nightmare.

Verna Avery-Brown either resigned in protest of what was happening or was fired. (I believe she resigned.)

How this applies to Bensky is that he was providing national coverage and one of the fallouts from the power struggle was that local control became a huge issue (I believe it always should be) and national programming really didn't exist anymore.

That's been a constant complaint of his. I do understand his feelings on that but I am not eager for a return to the nonsense so I can live without it. It's also true that Democracy Now! can provide national coverage. It's no longer just a Pacifica show, it airs on TV, it airs all over the world, it airs on the web. By the way, while I was in Ireland, C.I. grabbed Fridays for me and one Friday, C.I. noted that someone running for election to the KPFA board was in favor of airing Democracy Now! in the evening.

I agree with the points C.I. made. There is no time in the evening for Democracy Now! The slots are all full. Removing a program to air Democracy Now! then when it would still air once in the morning is insane. The news has moved on during the day. There is no reason to offer a repeat in the evening. Take yesterday as an example, we would have heard in the morning (as we did) that Agustin court-martial would start Tuesday. Then, that evening, we would have heard? That his court-martial would start Tuesday. By the evening, the court-martial was over. We got to hear about that on The KPFA Evening News, what the sentence was, etc. I don't need a repeat in the evening and there is no time to give an hour to non-local programming.

So I didn't feel the pain Larry did when Pacifica lost their national coverage.

I am going to miss him. He usually had several good points to make. I was shocked to discover that Pacifica did not have a pension plan years ago. He is basically screwed and that is really shocking to me.

If Peter Laufer is being groomed for Sunday Salon (I don't know that he is), I only support that if Iraq is going to be one hour every Sunday. I am for that, by the way. It's a two hour program and KPFA has no program whose focus is the Iraq War. That is appalling, it really is. So if they want to make one hour each Sunday be devoted to Iraq, I'm all for Laufer.

If that's not the plan, I don't want Laufer. If that's not the plan, my question is who's being considered? Sandra Lupien has filled in before (and done a good job) and Kris Welch could handle the job as well. I don't know that either woman would want it. But I think since it is one of the 'big' shows on Pacifica, they need to be considering women for the role of host. I think Aaron Glantz should be considered for it as well.

None of those three may want it. That's fine, but they should be on the list of people considered for the job. Of course, I think Bonnie Faulkner could do it but I frequently feel KPFA thinks we should be grateful that we've gotten even one hour of her a week. I enjoy Hard Knocks Radio and would hate to see that team split up but there's talent in that program that could also be very effective at Sunday Salon.

I doubt they'd do it, but maybe they should turn the decision over to the listeners? Allow various people who are interested to do a show or two and then, based on listener response, select the host.

Larry built Sunday Salon. No one's going to be able to do it like he did, nor should they. We don't need an imitation Larry. But out of respect for what the show now is to the station, they should be seriously considering in house talent.

And let me repeat, with not even one show on the station focused on Iraq, they should turn one hour of each Sunday over to that topic. The Peace and Justice Network needs to offer regular, scheduled coverage of the war in a way that listeners can find it. Not by hopping from program to program but by knowing, each week, they can tune in and hear Iraq addressed.

Those are my thoughts.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, March 7, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, pilgrims continue to be targeted; a US war resister was sentenced to 8 months yesterday; in Santa Barbara, JROTC out and The Peace Academy; 3 US service members die; and MADRE charts the violence against Iraqi women.

Starting with news of war resistance. Yesterday, in Germany,
Agustin Aguayo was court-martialed and sentenced. Agustin Aguayo served in Iraq as a medic and attempted to be granted c.o. status. As the military repeatedly refused to do so. Bertrand Benoit (Financial Times of London) notes "Aguayo, a US citizen born in Mexico who enlisted in 2002, had twice failed to obtain an honorable discharge as a conscientious objector and refused to load his weapon while on his first tour to Iraq." That count fails to factor in the civilian court attempts. As his case was winding through the civilian courts and as the military threatened to drag him to Iraq in chains and handcuffs, Agustin Aguayo self-checked out --September 2nd through September 26th. Reuters notes: "A deserter is defined by the U.S. Department of Defense as a member of the armed forces who is absent from their unit or post without authorization, quits their unit to avoid duty or enlists improperly in another service. It can also apply to people who are absent without leave for 30 straight days or more." Obviously, Aguayo was not absent without leave for 30 or more days. The 30 days is a rule of thumb and not etched in stone. However, the military elected to toss that standard out the window.

With his parents present, his wife Helga and his two eleven-year-old daughters Rebecca and Raquel, Aguayo stood trial. In addition,
Charles Hawley (der Spiegel) notes, "thrown in among the couple dozen journalists on hand for the trial were those for whom Aguayo symbolizes a much broader message. They were representatives of the anti-Iraq War movement in the US and in Europe. For them, Aguayo is something of a hero." George Frey (AP) reports that Aguayo (with "a shaky voice") declared: "I respect everyone's views and your decision, I understand that people don't understand me. I tried my best, but I couldn't bear weapons and I could never point weapons at someone. The words of Martin Luther come to mind, 'Here I stand, I can do no more'." Aguayo acknowledged missing movement and pleaded guilty to AWOL, but the judge (Colonel Peter Masterton) found Aguayo guilty of desertion.

On Tuesday,
Ashraf Khalil (Los Angeles Times) reported Courage to Resist's Jeff Paterson expects "Aguayo will get up to a year in jail followed by a less than honorable or bad conduct discharge." Paterson guessed well. The judge sentenced Aguayo to eight months, reduced him in rank (down to private) and he will receive a bad conduct discharge upon completition of his jail time. Bertrand Benoit (Financial Times of London) reports: "Anti-war activists, who had followed the case closely, said the mild sentence was a positive signal to the rapidly increasing number of Germany-based US military personnel who are seeking to avoid serving in Iraq."

The issue of how much time Aguayo will serve appears to be settled.
Mark St. Clair (Stars and Stripes) reports, "Aguayo was credited with 161 days of pre-trial confinement and will serve 79 more days, according to Hilda Patton of the V Corps public affairs office." Or, as Courage to Resist observes, "he should be free within a few weeks!" Present for the court-martial was Iraq Veterans Against the War's Kelly Dougherty. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) quotes Dougherty: "While Agustin is first and foremost a man who is sincerely and morally opposed to war in all forms, he is also a proud example to other soldiers who are also questioning the war in Iraq and who feel like they might want to refuse or they might want to apply for conscientious objector or in some way object and resist this war in Iraq." Iraq Veterans Against the War reminds: "A critical part of the GI movement to end the war in Iraq is service members' refusal to participate in it. Agustin's stance against the war, and his moral decision to refuse re-deployment, sends a message to others in the military that they can refuse to go to Iraq. Agustin is a brave leader, IVAW commends and fully stands behind him."

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

Turning to Iraq,
MADRE has released a report entitled "Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq." The report can be read in full in PDF format or, by sections, in HTML. The report is divided into seven sections. We'll focus on the first section today ("Towards Gender Apartheid in Iraq"). The sections covers the destruction of women's rights and the gender-based attacks that have largely gone unnoticed and unremarked upon. The family law of 1959 (which predated Saddam Hussein's rule) resulted from mass protests by women and allowed women to have their full voices heard in a court of law as opposed to in a religous hearing. This law gave women equal voices, allowed them to divorce, to retain custody, the right to inherent property, etc. Even in the lead up to the illegal war, women still retained rights in Iraq. That would quickly change. First, the appointed (by the US) Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, Paul Bremer, made it clear that women would be sacrificed to public relations spin. Bremer "hand-picked" the members of the Iraqi Governing Council and was happy to side with them (such as when they did away with "Iraq's observance of International Women's Day") -- most obviously with regards to the proposed Resoultion 137 which would have been constitutional law and would replace the 1959 family law and was stopped not due to any concern for women but as a result of Iraqi women taking to the streets and calls from women's organizations and members of the US Congress.

Though Resolution 137 was stopped, it was more important to get a puppet government in place quickly to pass the laws the US wanted passed and "liberation" and "democracy" were not the concerns of the US. That was made obvious by Bremer's refusal to answer the cries for help as violence against women grew more common, by his refusal to "appoint women to the drafting committee of Iraq's interim constitution" or "guarantee that 40 percent of US appointees to Iraq's new government women were women" or "pass laws codifying women's rights and criminalizing domestic violence" or "uphold UN Security Council Resolution 1325 which mandates that women be included at all levels of decision-making in situations of peacemeaking and post-war reconstruction."

Women were targeted for violence and Bremer refused to address it (thereby encouraging the violence by sending the message that attacks on women would not be punished) and he refused to allow them a seat at the decision-making table. This wasn't "liberation" and it wasn't "democracy." As the report underscores, "rather than support progressive and democratically minded Iraqis, including members of the women's movement, the US threw its weight behind Iraq's Shiite Islamists, calculating that these forces, long suppressed by Saddam Hussein, would cooperate with the occupation and deliver the stability needed for the US to implement its policies in Iraq."

In 2005, the US's puppet government began work on Iraq's constitution. "Throughout the summer 2005, the Bush Administration exerted tremendous pressure on Iraqi politicians to complete a draft of the constitution within three months (though the same process took more than 10 years in the United States). At the time, the Bush Administration was in desperate need of a public relations victory in Iraq: it needed a display for US audiences of the 'democratic progress' that had replaced the 'threat of weapons of mass destruction' as the rasion d' etre for attacking Iraq. The Administration was also afraid that failure to meet the timetable for drafting a constitution would trigger new elections in Iraq, which would have likely produced a less compliant government."

Enter Zalmay Khalilzad who sold women out in Afghanistan and apparently was sent to Iraq for the same results. "As in Afghanistan, Khalilzad supported the Islamist factions of the Iraqi constitutional drafting committee. The result was a new constitution that declared Islam to be the official religion of the state and a fudnamental source of legislation." And women were sold out as the US government -- while talking liberation and democracy -- yet again through their lots in with radical zealots who would destroy women's rights.

Page 6 lists examples of how the US allowed the legalization of "Violence against Women" which includes establishing Islam as the Iraq's national religion, barring free speech if it might hamper "public order and morality," allowing the federal court to not be made up solely of judges but by "judges and experts in Sharia" (the report notes that these are "presumably clerics"). Artilce 39 refutes the 1959 family law by turning all matters of "marriage, divorce, alimony, inheritance, and other presonal status issues" over to religious courts where "a woman's legal testimony is worth half that of a man's."

The report documents the reality of life for women in Iraq -- a reality that has been dismissed as "personal problems" by the likes of Bremer and others but the abuses and the violence are rooted in the non-democratic laws that the US government has applauded or looked the other way on and the abuses and violences are rooted in the US government tossing their lot in with religious zealots that they thought would be compliant to their larger goals (which never included liberation or democracy).

How much attention will the report receive? Last week the Minority Rights Group International's
(PDF format) report "Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003" which did include a discussion of the realities now facing women (click here for a summary of that section). The report was largely ignored. Patrick Cockburn did write of it (one of the very few) but he made no mention of the realities facing women in Iraq.

Publications such as the New York Times spent the bulk of 2003 and 2004 ignoring women. Women weren't just targeted for attacks, didn't just see the loss of rights from a US selected government, they also saw themselves rendered invisible by the so-called watchdog. It was as though they no longer existed and it's very likely this report will get no more than one day's attention because Iraqi women have been on their own in terms of the mainstream press throughout this illegal war. It's why the New York Times would say "14-year-old girl" in their laughable articles that were supposed to be covering the Article 32 hearing into the rape and murder of
Abeer and the murder of her five-year-old sister and her parents. It's always a "personal problem" with them, it never results from actions backed by the US, from actions encouraged and endorsed by looking the other way when women are raped, murdered, attacked . . .

What did the US government care about, what did the mainstream press gush over? If you've paid attention at all in the last month and a half, it's the Iraqi oil law that now awaits approval from the Iraqi parliament. Last week,
Antonia Juhasz (writing at The Huffington Post), addressed the proposed law: "If passed, the law would transform Iraq's oil system from a nationalized model all-but-closed to U.S. oil companies, to a commercialized model, all-but-fully privatized and opened to U.S. corporate control. Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, U.S. oil companies were shut out of Iraq's oil industry with the exception of limited marketing contracts. As a result of the invasion, if the oil law passes, U.S. oil companies will emerge as the corporate front-runners in line for contracts giving them control over the vast majority of Iraq's oil under some of the most corporate-friendly terms in the world for twenty to thirty-five years. The law grants the Iraq National Oil Company oversight only over "existing" fields, which is about one-third of Iraq's oil. Exploration and production contracts for the remaining two-thirds of Iraq's oil will be opened to private foreign investment. Neither Iraqi public nor private oil companies will receive any preference in contracting decisions." Echoing that is the Green Party (US) which warns that a "new 'hydrocarbon law' up for approval in Iraq would lead to a prolonged, possibly permanent U.S. presence in Iraq, with U.S. military and Iraqi civilian casualties for years to come" and quotes Liz Arnone ("co-chair of the Green Party of the United States") stating: "The Iraqi hydrocarbon law, if approved by Iraqi lawmakers, will provide lucrative profits for U.S. energy corporations by placing up to 2/3 of Iraqi oil resources under foreign control. The U.S. government, whether led by Democrats or Republicans, will be committed to protecting American energy company operations and investments in Iraq by keeping U.S. troops there."

The warning comes as as The No Bases Network is created.
Kintto Lucas (IPS) reports that, in Ecuador, an international conference has created The No Bases Network (some countries, such as Ecuador, already had a national movement) out of concerns, citing Lina Cahuasqui, "that most of the 1,000 foreign military bases on the planet belong to the United States, which has 737 in different countries. Others belong to Russia, China, the United Kingdom and Italy." Among those attending the ongoing conference is Cindy Sheehan.

Sheehan was recently in Vermont drawing attention to the issue of impeachement and
she wrote about that (at Common Dreams) noting: "We made 13 stops across Vermont (which is bigger than it looks) and found ourselves settling into a routine. First the Iraq Vets would speak. Adrienne was an Arabic linguist for 10 years and knew the intelligence that our country was gleaning from such sources as Ahmed Chalabi was false because she, using her brain, figured out that he had much to gain from the invasion of Iraq. When she brought this up to her commander he accused her of not supporting their unit or the mission. Adrienne now works in a VA hospital in Vermont and hears tragic tales of why our vets have PTSD. Stories of soldiers who were driving down the road in a sandy country that they had no business being in one minute and who awaken to find themselves covered in blood with a body parts in their laps, not knowing if it was their own or one of their buddies." Shay Totten and Christian Avard (Vermont Guardian) report that the results have been 36 towns voting in favor of impeachment hearings for the Bully Boy: Bristol, Burke, Calais, Craftsbury, Dummerston, East Montpelier, Greensboro, Guilford, Grafton, Hartland, Jamaica, Jericho, Johnson, Marlboro, Middlebury, Montgomery, Morristown, Newbury, Newfane, Peru, Plainfield, Putney, Richmond, Rochester, Roxbury, St. Johnsbury, Springfield, Stannard, Sunderland, Townshend, Tunbridge, Vershire, Warren, Westminster, Wilmington, and Woodbury

Turning to Iraq, where the violence continues. Commenting on yesterday's violence targeting pilgrims,
Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, issued a statement condeming "these heinous acts which appear to be aimed at provoking sectarian strife." As Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) notes the count of Shi'ite pilgrims killed on Tuesday is now at "more than 150". As AFP notes, "The killings continued on Wednesday as -- undaunted -- thousands of pilgrims continued their march of devotion, carrying banners and copies of the Koran and marching hundreds of kilometres to Karbala's revered shrines."

Reuters reports six pilgrims were killed in Iskandariya (13 wounded) in a mortar attack, seven dead and 27 wounded in Baghdad from a roadside bomb, seven shot dead in Baghdad with 3 wounded. Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) notes that four pilgrims were shot dead in Dora (8 were injured).


Lauren Frayer (AP) reports on a bombing in Balad Ruz where a man walked into a cafe, set off a bomb, killing himself and at least 30 other people. Mohammed al Dulainy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a mortar attack in Baghdad that wounded a police officer, a Baghdad roadside bomb that killed one person, a car bomb that killed 10 people ("including 6 policemen") and left 42 wounded.


Mohammed al Dulainy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that two police officers were wounded in an attack "in Al Abara town," while a person was shot dead in Muqdadiyah, a person was shot dead in Jurf Al Milah and a person was shot dead in Khaniqeen. Lauren Frayer (AP) notes a butcher was shot dead in his shop in Ramadi.


Mohammed al Dulainy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 10 corpses were discovered in Baghdad,

Today, the
US military announced: "On March 7, an MND-B unit was conducting a route clearance patrol in order to secure a commonly traveled route of improvised explosive devices northwest of the Iraqi capital when they were struck by a roadside bomb, killing three Soldiers and wounding another."

In peace news,
Mary Johnston-de Leon (Veterans for Peace) reports Santa Barbara High School has a new development -- The Peace Academy. After mobilization led to lack of interest in the Junior ROTC program at the high school, it was shut down and Veterans for Peace's Lane Anderson and Babatunde Folayemi have helped the school start The Peace Acadmy which "will provide classes in mediation and conflict resolution, boxing, aikido, martial arts, sailing, fishing, outdoor activities including indigenous rites of passage ceremonies," etc.

Finally, the United Nations will be closing its weapons inspection commission in Iraq.
Evelyn Leopold (Reuters) reports: " The staff of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Agency, known as UNMOVIC, had not been allowed to return to Iraq by the United States since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003." they have not been back since, in the midst of their inspections, Bully Boy gave his 'get out in 48 hours' bullying speech. No weapons were ever found, by the UN or the US, because WMD ever existed.

iraqagustin aguayo

antonia juhasz