CELEBRITY POLITICS... On a perfectly pleasant evening at the end of May, my colleague Gavin Martin and I were sitting with most of the E Street Band and a few dozen others in the bar of the Merion Hotel in Dublin after a Springsteen show. It was getting on towards midnight. The room was conversationally loud. I was drinking red wine because I can't stand Guinness, never mind my last name.
The noise level rose noticeably as another troupe entered. It was U2, in full, and their manager, Paul McGuinness. Gavin and I looked at one another in trepidation. We knew what probably came next and sure enough, 'round the corner of the couch came a man dressed in a ginger suit with ginger hair, possibly the recent victim of some surgery but nonetheless recognizable as Bono Himself.
Himself did not plop down on the couch--there wasn't room and both Gavin and I have trained ourselves against obeisance even to godlike celebrities. So Bono leaned over and began to engage us in conversation. He spewed out theories, analyses, opinions and attitudes. All he got back were monosyllables and mumbles. We weren't talked out, exactly. Maybe kind of dumbfounded, that He was living out such a perfect caricature of himself.
That's a little unfair because He did eventually ask what we were working on. I don't remember what Gavin said, because I was busy inventorying what I didn't want to talk about: Not my book about why American Idol is evil (because I feared the response) and not the one about the civil rights movement (because I didn't want to lose my temper about that moronic songs that says Martin Luther King did not lose his "pride" when he was assassinated, as if MLK were a preening, pretentious pop star). So I said, "Actually, I've been thinking a lot lately about celebrity politics and how ineffective they are."
I have been. I started at No Nukes (the MUSE concerts) which did succeed, with help from Three Mile Island, in shutting down the U.S. nuclear power industry for 25 years. But after that, I couldn't think of a problem that actually gained a solution from celebrity involvement: AIDS is a bigger crisis than ever, hunger is rampant precisely where hunger was rampant at the time of Live Aid, nuclear power is making a comeback in the States, and celebrity endorsements failed to elect the last several Presidents. (Which is one reason the McCain-Palin complaint that Obama is nothing but a celebrity is preposterous--they wish.)
Then again, my thinking wasn't so sharp that night. Bono seized my statement and, with a look of determination, declared: "I think I know something about that. And you're dead wrong." I said, well, not as far as I could see. He said, "No. It does work...I think we should have a debate about this, Dave. A public debate."
I responded that I had a satellite radio show called Kick Out the Jams, two hours every Sunday, and we could do that debate any week he'd like. He said that sounded good to Him, I said I'd put the folks at Sirius to work on it that very night. We parted soon after. A weird story, I thought, but put in a call to Sirius just in case.
He had plenty of wiggle room, Gavin being my only witness. But the next night, Bono told my wife, "Tell Dave not to forget about our debate." Paul McGuinness was standing right next to them, too.
U2's New York office took a couple weeks to get back and then said that the debate would happen, after the band completed recording its new album. (The release date has now been pushed back to January.)
I figure, if it does happen, I can't exactly win--celebrity counts for something, after all--even with the facts on my side. I also think it'll be fun, and some additional listeners (and readers--RRC will of course provide a transcript) will get the point. Which is empowerment of those who are not celebrated, who are in fact the wretched of this Earth. Those people have voices, too, and the solution to many of these problems is to hear them, speaking for themselves, not through a bullhorn controlled by Bono and Bob Geldof into the ears of politicians who are deaf as a matter of principle.
And if it doesn't happen, believe you me, I'll have even more fun. I'm thinking that, now that the record is due in January, the time to begin the count for Kick Out the Jams Held Hostage is probably March 1-it's not only a Sunday next year, it's also my birthday.
Of course, I'd rather present the debate.-D.M.
That's a piece by Dave Marsh from the latest issue of Rock Rap Confidential and the entire issue is posted online (and people are encouraged to share and repost sections of it). You'll find music essays, reviews and more. In addition, if you have satellite radio:
LET'S GET SIRIUS... Since 2004, RRC editor Dave Marsh has had a music and politics show on Sirius Satellite Radio, Kick Out the Jams, that features great music, a variety of special artist and activist guests, and Dave's provocative commentary. Sundays 10 AM to Noon, Eastern Standard Time. Sirius Channel 33, Disorder.And Dave now has a second show on Sirius, which is all politics. It's called The Land of Hopes and Dreams on Sirius Left (Channel 146) on Sundays from 2PM-5PM (Eastern Standard Time). To get a taste of the new show, go to www.rockrap.com/LOHAD.mp3.
Now to Carly Simon who has an album coming out shortly. It's titled Never Been Gone and Carly's redoing "Never Been Gone" (which originally appeared on 1979's Spy album). That's not the only song she's redoing. She'll also redo her number one hit "You're So Vain," her Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe winning "Let The River Run," her first hit "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be," the hit she penned with Doobie Bro. Michael McDonald "You Belong To Me," her comeback hit "Coming Around Again," the rock classic "Anticipation," No Secrets' hit "The Right Thing To Do" ("You're So Vain" appears on that album as well), a Tori Amos favorite "Boys In The Trees" (title track to Carly's 1978 album) and "It Happens Every Day." I love the last song. I love all those songs. But I love the last song from 1983's Hello Big Man and am not talking about it here because we're talking about doing a Carly Simon roundtable at Third and, if so, I want to make my point during that. In addition to those songs, Carly is recording "No Freedom" and "Songbird" (the latter of which has a beat that's just staying with me -- it's not a fast song, by the way).
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Friday, August 28, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, Human Rights Watch's report on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community gets some attention, a Shi'ite leader is mourned, from the start of the month until yesterday there have been 471 reported deaths and 1,822 Iraqis reported injured, Steven Lee Myers is a tiny man but a huge fool, and more.
Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD – Two 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldiers died of wounds suffered following an improvised explosive device in eastern Baghdad Aug. 28 at approximately 2:30 a.m. The Soldiers names are being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin and release by the Department of Defense. The incident is currently under investigation." The deaths bring the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4336.
Before Steven Lee Myers wrote his dumb ass blog post at the New York Times website, I thought we could wait on unpacking the violence this month until, golly, the month ended. But whores are always lying and Steven's no reporter. August 1st, McClatchy reported 1 soldier dead in Mosul. August 2nd, 8 people were reported killed and twenty injured. August 3rd, 23 were reported dead and sixty-five wounded (these include late reporting of the day before's violence -- these are the deaths reported that day -- also note that we will not include Swine Flu deaths and that US military deaths and contractors will not be noted in this count). August 4th, 2 dead and nine wounded. August 5th, 9 reported dead and twelve reported injured. August 6th, 8 dead and thirty-two injured. August 7th, 59 dead and injured one-hundred and ninety-eight wounded. August 8th, 1 death was reported and two people injured. Because there is an UNDERCOUNT every month of the reported dead and because ICCC's count is WAY OFF each month on civilians, we've started monitoring the reported toll at Third. Third noted August 16th, there were 122 reported deaths in Iraq the previous week and 414 reported wounded ("Last Sunday found the press reporting 6 deaths and 12 people injured. Monday saw 61 deaths reported and 252 injuries. Tuesday saw 11 dead and 57 wounded. Wednesday's numbers were 11 dead and 21 injured. Thursday 25 lives were claimed and 51 people were wounded. Friday there were 2 reported deaths and 6 reported injured. Saturday saw 6 dead and 15 injured.") Third noted August 23rd resulted in 211 reported deaths and 950 wounded. ("Last Sunday saw 13 reported dead and 41 reported injured. Monday saw 24 dead 59 wounded. Tuesday the reported death toll was 5 and 24 were reported injured. Wednesday 102 were reported dead and 572 wounded. By Thursday evening, 22 were reported dead with 67 injured. Thursday night 33 more deaths were reported and 145 wounded. Friday saw 8 deaths reported and 31 people wounded. Saturday saw 4 dead 11.") This week? August 23rd 4 dead and eleven injured. August 24th, 11 dead, twenty-nine wounded. August 25th, 4 dead, nineteen injured. August 26th, 4 dead and ten wounded. August 27th, 4 dead and fifty-one wounded. Leaving out today, that's 27 dead and 120 wounded this week. ICCC shows 413 dead. That's incorrect. Use the links, there have been 471 reported deaths -- not including today -- in August and 1,822 reported injured. That's Reuters and McClatchy with one inclusion of Xinhau. Use the links. So Steven Lee Myers, you stupid liar, ICCC's count is not "invaluable" -- it's not even correct, you stupid moron. That the New York Times can't do their own count tells how damn little Iraq and Iraqis matter to them. So Steven Lee shows up whoring again and hoping we're all so stupid we mistake it for reporting. He not only whores on the civilian count, he whores on the number of US service members killed.
"In Iraq," Steven types, "fewer American soliders have died this month -- seven, including two in a roadside bombing early Friday -- than any other month of the war, a figure that . . ." The month isn't over. How many damn times do we have to point that out each year? Hmm. And how many were reported dead in July in the first days of August? 7. 7 were reported dead. The same damn number that outlets like the New York Times trumpted at the start of August as "lowest!!!!!"
He can't tell you that. From the August 4th snapshot:
Late yesterday, DoD announced: "Staff Sgt. Johnny R. Polk, 39, of Gulfport, Miss., died July 25 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds suffered when his vehicle was struck by anti-tank grenade on July 23 in Kirkuk, Iraq." That July 25th death was never reported by M-NF and, again, was only announced late yesterday -- long after the outlets had done their 'end of the month' pieces. This happens over and over and the press falls for it everytime -- like saps, like suckers.
Yeah, they fell for it at the start of the month and, late August 3rd (after all the outlets had done their month-in-review pieces on July), the US military finally, FINALLY, announced a July death.
I'm not in the mood for nonsense. We are talking numbers, they are not supposed to be fluid, they are supposed to be fixed. That's why they are numbers and not ranges. Do you get the difference you damn glorified general studies major or that just beyond your highly limited education? I'm not in the mood.
Steven Lee Myers did an early roll-out on how the military wants August spun: Low deaths for civilians! Lowest month evah for US military! Evah! In fact, the whole thing reads like Maj Gen John Johnson wrote it. He gave a press briefing yesterday at the Pentagon (he appeared via videolink from Baghdad) and about the only thing of interest there was that he was asked about the 135,000 US troops in Iraq and didn't correct on that number. We'll come back to his briefing later in the snapshot.
Steven Lee Myers' cluelessness reminds me of two friends. One is a producer, the other is a singer. The singer wanted an arrangment in B flat. The singer then insisted that the arrangement was in some other key and the producer replied that the singer wouldn't know a car key from a music key "but let's go over to the piano right now and I will teach you a musical key." The singer let it go and sang the arrangement as arranged. I'm reminded of that story when I think of Steven. Who was right? The song was recorded as the producer wanted. The singer hit number one with it and it's also gave the singer the longest number of weeks in the Hot 100 -- more than any of the singer's other hits. (Yeah, I'm avoiding gender and trying to keep this very much a blind item.) Like the singer, Steven Lee Myers doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. And yet he's doing the early roll out and this is what we'll have to put up with because the press never self-corrects. (Nor does the press have a good beat that you can dance too.)
This was the month the the Project for Excellence in Journalism noted a 92% drop in Iraq coverage took place from the first part of 2007 "to the middle of 2009." So we get less coverage and, thanks to the likes of Steven Lee Myers, we get worse coverage.
One of the few outlets -- the very few media outlets -- which has not forgotten Iraq is NPR's The Diane Rehm Show. Diane Rehm tripped last Thursday and while she recovers from her fall, guest hosts are filling in. USA Today's Susan Page filled in for her today and Iraq was addressed during the second hour (the international hour) with panelists David Ignatius (Washington Post), Barbara Slavin (Washington Times) and Janine Zacharia (Bloomberg News).
Susan Page: Lots of developments in Iraq this week, including the death of a Shi'ite leader. Tell us what's happening there, Barbara.
Barbara Slavin: Abdul Aziz al-Hakim headed something which used to be called the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI. It changed it's name to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, taking out "Revolution." But it's a very important organization it was essentially created in Iran by Iran's Revolutionary Guard corps in the 1980s, after the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War. The Hakims returned to Iraq after the US overthrew Saddam. And Abdul Aziz al-Hakim has had lung cancer for some time and so this is not unexpected. But it still happens at a very delicate phase where we are anticipating elections in Iraq next year and there is a reorganization going on among the Shi'ite parties. His party, others affialiated with Moqtada al-Sadr -- a militant leader, with Ahmed Chalabi whom we'll talk about in a little bit have formed an alliance that excludes the prime minister who is a Shi'ite, Nouri al-Maliki. And they are all manuevering to see who will take power as the US withdraws from Iraq.
Susan Page: How important is this situation, David? And how perilous for US interests?
David Ignatius: Well as the US now withdraws its forces in ernest from Iraq -- we've pulled back from the cities and are really not a factor in day-to-day security -- we are seeing an increase in violence and in political chaos in the country. The death of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim a figurehead for the Shi'ite religious parties, is an example of this but in every direction I look in Iraq, I see similar uncertainty. Maliki is increasingly cocky about his own role as prime minister and I-I think has decided he can go it alone separating himself from the other Shi'ite parties. He's got his own complicated dealings with Iran. You've got the Kurds who are pushing for their own interests ever more stridently. I think the question that we need to think about is: Going forward in Iraq, is this project of the new Iraqi state that was created in 2003, after the United States invasion, do Iraqis think it's going to continue? And are they going to buy into it? And are they going to make the deals that would be part of having some kind of viable country and democracy? And right now it's really tough to be confident about that.
Susan Page: Janine?
Janine Zacharia: Just to follow up on what David was saying, I think the August 19th co-ordinated attacks where nearly 100 people were killed and 600 were wounded and US forces who were pulled back on June 30th were sitting on the outskirts and couldn't get in there because the Iraqis had not invited them, I think that this is something the US is going to be looking closely at going forward and we have to see how that's going to effect Obama's promises of doing a complete US pullout by the end of 2011. Just quickly on al-Hakim, some people have said that he's been, because of his illness, as Barbara said, he hasn't been as important day-to-day in Shi'ite politics right now and one US diplomat I spoke to said they're hoping actually this will clear the way for fresh Shia leadership within that party who can challenge Moqtada al-Sadr who is the more radical concern for them.
Susan Page: David.
David Ignatius: I've met Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's son Ammar who's the new leader of this party. We had a long and very interesting breakfast conversation and he's the sort of young man who, you know, when you meet him and talk to him, you think, "Gee, maybe things are really going to work out in this country." He is surrounded by some of the toughest, meanest politicians and I think of this nice, young man, this cleric from Najaf, getting eaten alive by the -- by the wolves of Baghdad.
Susan Page: You mentioned, Barbara, Chalabi, a familiar name to Americans from the very beginning of the Iraq War. What happened this week to an aid of his?
Barbara Slavin: Yeah, well, the twists and turns involving Ahmed Chalabi are just incredible. This is the guy, to remind people, who led Iraqi exiles after the Gulf War, who lobbied so hard to overthrow Saddam Hussein, who presented information to the media about alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction that didn't turn out to actually exist in Iraq once the US got there and he also, throughout this time, had maintained good relations with Iran -- which makes sense if you're an Iraqi Shia, since Iran is the neighbor and the biggest Shi'ite country. And what we have now is more evidence that his connection with the Iranians are closer perhaps than we even thought. The Washington Times has a front page story today about the arrest of a top aide to Chalabi on charges that he was a liason to an Iraqi Shi'ite militant group called the League of the Righteous which, among other things, is believed responsible for the execution-style murder of five US marines in 2007. And Chalabi, of course, denies it, the aide denise it, but, uh, senior US military officials say that, indeed, Chalabi's links and the links to this group are-are documented and that Chalabi has been playing both sides of the fence.
The article Barbara Slavin's referring to was written by Eli Lake who notes, "Mr. Chalabi is a top Iraqi politician best known in the West for helping to persuade the Bush administration to go to war to remove Saddam Hussein from power. In 2004, he sat with first lady Laura Bush during Mr. Bush's State of the Union address to Congress." Lake quotes anonymice US officials (three). The aide's name is Ali Faisal al-Lami.
For those late to the party on who the League of Righteous is, we'll drop back to the June 9th snapshot:
This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."
That's what Barbara Slavin was referring to and she noted that she was only citing one example of the group. Another involves British citizens. From the August 6th snapshot:
Jason Swindlehurst, Jason Creswell, Alec Maclachlan, Alan McMenemy and Peter Moore, all British citizens, were kidnapped in Baghdad May 29, 2007. Jason Swindlehurst and Jason Creswell were dead when their bodies were turned over to the British authorities after the two leaders of the group bragging about having done the kidnappings were released from US custody. (The same group, and why the brothers had been imprisoned originally by the US, bragged about their actions in assaulting a US base and killing 5 American soldiers.) The British government considers Alec and Alan to be dead (the families remain hopeful) and it is thought (by the British government) that Peter Moore is alive. The group taking credit for the kidnappings and for the deaths of 5 US soldiers is alternately called the Righteous League or the League of Righteous by the press. The press? They got press this week, see Monday's snapshot, because Nouri met with them to bring them back into the government. As noted in the Tuesday snapshot, the press spin that the group has given up violence is false. Their spokesperson says they will not attack Iraqis but that they will continue to go after US service members.
Recapping: the League of Righteous has claimed credit for the deaths of 5 US soldiers and credit for kidnapping 5 British citizens, at least 2 of whom are known to be dead. In addition, British outlets noted last month that the Iraqi government appeared to be involved in the kidnappings (see the July 31st snapshot if you're late on this story). Gareth Porter (Asia Times) reported in August that recent developments demonstrate how Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation and US-installed thug, has long been working with the League of Righteous:
The history of the new agreement confirms what was evident from existing information: the League of the Righteous was actually the underground wing of the Mahdi Army all along, and the Sadrist insurgents were secretly working closely with the Maliki regime against the Americans and the British - even as it was at war with armed elements within the regime. The contradictory nature of the relationship between Maliki and the Sadrists reflects the tensions between pro-Sadrist elements within the regime - including Maliki's Da'wa Party - and the anti-Sadrist elements led by the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The relationship between Maliki and the US was also marked by contradictions. Even though he was ostensibly cooperating with the US against the Sadrists in 2007 and 2008, the Maliki regime was also cooperating secretly with the Sadrist forces against the Americans. And Maliki - with the encouragement of Iran -- was working on a strategy for achieving the complete withdrawal of US forces from Iraq through diplomatic means, which he did not reveal to the Americans until summer 2008.
That was earlier this month and no one really followed up on what Gareth Porter was reporting. But that is the League of Righteous. Nouri has some ties to it and now the Washington Times is stating that three US government officials (who may or may not be telling the truth) are stating that Ahmed Chalabi also has a relationship with them. On The Diane Rehm Show, Steve Roberts has also been filling in for Diane and Monday's show featured him with a panel discussing Iraq and Afghanistan with three people. I'll provide a link to it and note that Steve did a strong job filling in but the guests were decidely unimpressive and that's why we didn't note it.
While we're in the US, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan has been on Martha's Vineyard protesting the continued illegal war and the Afghanistan War and the undeclared war on Pakistan. Mike Seccombe (Vineyard Gazette) reports her events included a press conference where she stated of Barack Obama, US president, "Just because he's better than Bush doesn't sell me, because practically everybody in the world is better than Bush." George Brennan (Cape Cod Times) adds, "Like she has since her son, Casey, was killed in Iraq in 2004, Sheehan is using the backdrop of a presidential vacation to make her pitch for peace. It's an effective way to get her anti-war protests attention, she said. 'The only change in foreign policy has been a change for the worse,' she said, wearing a pink T-shirt with a peace symbol and the words, 'Peace. Love. Vineyard'."
The White House states that due to a funeral, Barack will be leaving the island. Not the funeral that has the world's attention. That funeral hardly gets noticed in the US -- outside of those mourning the passing. BBC News (link has text and video) reports that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's body has been taken to Baghdad and "PM Nouri Maliki and hundreds of officials met the coffin of Hakim, the leader of one of Iraq's most powerful Shia parties, at Baghdad airport. The body is to be taken to the Shia shrine city of Karbala, before being buried in Najaf on Saturday." Xinhua quotes Nouri stating at the airport, "We lose you in a delicate and sensitive period, when we are in need of a strong an experienced man." That's always been Nouri's problem, like Melissa on thirty-something, he needs a man. Al Jazeera hails al-Hakim, who died Wednesday, as "the most powerful Shia politician in Iraq". A memorial service was held yesterday in Tehran and the central government in Baghdad has declared a three-day mourning period. CCTV has video of Nouri at the memorial service in Baghdad. Alsumaria provides this sketch of al-Hakim's life:He is the son of Grand Ayatollah Mohsen Al Hakim and the youngest of his ten children who most of them were killed during the former regime.Abdul Aziz Al Hakim co-founded the Islamic Revolution Supreme Council in Iraq and fled the country in the early eighties after his family was chased and assassinated. He lived in Iran leading the Iraqi opposition against the regime of former President Saddam Hussein.Sayyed Abdul Aziz Al Hakim returned to Iraq on April 17 2003 following the topple of the former regime.He gained an influential political role when he took over as head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq after his elder brother, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Baqer Al Hakim, died in a car bombing.
Jomana Karadsheh (CNN -- link has video and I'm told it includes the shot of the thousands reaching for the coffin that CNN was running throughout the afternoon -- footage which resulted in a high number of e-mails to CNN about the funeral because that footage caught a number of American viewers' attention) reports that security was tight in Baghdad with streets "sealed off Friday, and Iraqi air forces helicopters hovered overhead. Sobbing mourners beat their chests and heads, a traditional Shiite way of mourning. They swarmed around the coffin trying to touch it as it was carried into the Kadhimiya shrine, one of Shiite Islam's holiest." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) notes, "The black turban signifying his family's descent from the prophet Muhammed was placed on Hakim's coffin which was covered in flowers and placed on a covered platform on the tarmac." Gulf Times reports that Ammar al-Hakim (his son) led the mourners and wore a black robe and turban while President Jalal Talabani was the first mourner to speak and stated, "He was a leader, a devoted fighter of Iraq. We are confident that the void left in his family and in the Supreme Council will be filled by the men of his family, such as Ammar al-Hakim."
The security was tight but how tight is underscored by the decision to hold that memorial ceremony at Baghdad International which means that the US forces were also out in force. Camp Victory is a US base (not handed over to iraq) and it surrounds Baghdad International Airport. Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Nineveh Province roadside bombing which claimed 1 life (civilian) and wounded an Iraqi soldier and, dropping back to last night, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 2 people and left four injured.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Nineveh Provincial Council member Tariq Ali Abbawi was assassinated last night. Reuters notes the US military shot dead 1 man and injured another stating the two were suspected bombers and, dropping back to last night, note an attack in Mosul on Iraqi police which claimed the life of 1 young girl and left another civilian injured.
None of that was included in the earlier count. Yesterday, US Maj Gen John Johnson spoke to the press and Military Times' Bill McMichael asked about Sahwa, aka Sons Of Iraq, aka "Awakening." These are the Sunnis the US government armed and trained (they
dispute arming them) and paid to stop fighting US troops. Nouri al-Maliki does not want to bring them into Iraq's security forces. Many a reporter has WRONGLY stated that they've been brought in. Since November. They have not been brought in. Johnson stated that of the "over 90,000 Sons Of Iraq," only "about 20% of them will be integrated into the Iraqi security forces" and he then stated that "over 3,300, as I said, have already been pulled into the Iraqi ministries" and then he would say that was just in Baghdad and throughout Iraq there were "a little over 13,000 that have been integrated into Iraqi security forces, either into the army or into the Iraqi police" -- no, that's not really 20% which is why it appears he's helping Steven Lee Myers, neither can handle numbers. And when you can't handle 20%, I really fear for your wait staff. I mean, however do you tip? Like Steven Lee Myers, another US general tried to play down the violence today. Diana Elias (AP) reports that Gen George Casey yammered away about "ebb and flow" -- he sounds like a Righteous Brother but not, however, a member of the League of Righteous.
Human Rights Watch released "'They Want Us Exterminated': Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq," a 67-page report [PDF format warning] click here, last week. In the US, it's received more attention this week than last. Wayne Besen (Windy City Times) noted of the revelations about the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community, "In Iraq, 'extremism' is too mild a word to describe the acts of those who abuse gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people." Rex Wockner (San Francisco Bay Times) adds, "The killers invade homes and grab people on the street, HRW reported. Victims are interrogated for names of others before being murdered. Torture practices include supergluing victim's anuses shut, then feeding them laxatives." At CounterPunch, David Rosen notes the report and attempts to find some larger points:
Sexuality, and the attendant issue of "honor" killings, provides a unique window into the alleged clash of civilizations. It is that sphere of human existence in which the twin dimensions of being human are forged. In sex, the truely human (i.e., consciousness) and the truely animal (i.e., physicality) are unified into a singluar experience. This unity is lived out as both species reproduction and erotic pleasure.
Sexuality is also one aspect of socio-personal life that is very much sharpened by "civilization," by cultural values and religious beliefs as well as by the marketplace and battles between geopolitical empires. Peoples, nations and civilizations have struggled for millennia over the meaning of sexuality, whether for men, women or young people and whether defined as hetrosexual or homosexual.
Explicit and aggressive sexuality is a powerful force dividing the West from, for example, the Arab and Islamic world. It is one of the most threatening dimensions of Western capitalism's cultural system that is pushing ever-deeper into the intimate, private lives of people throughout the world.
For many, the experience of globalization resonates less in the plunder of a nation's natural resources or the exploitation of its collective labor power than in the flood of erotic sensibilities challenging established power relations. This apparent assault often provokes the greatest resistance.
I do not believe David Rosen is attempting to state or imply that same-sex attraction and relationships are new or just emerging in Iraq. Someone will e-mail to protest. To be clear, HRW's report makes a point of noting that LGBTs are not new to Iraq and they're certainly not new to any region or area.
Finally Sherwood Ross (Veterans Today) weighs in on Lawrence Velvel's America 2008 (Velvel is the Dean of Massachusetts School of Law at Andover):
Iraq's bloodshed is worse, Velvel writes "because today we not only have a years-long unwinnable war, but also torture, kidnappings and renderings to foreign countries for torture, many years of detention without trial of people who are innocent, the use of massive private armies to help carry out Executive policies" suppression of the media far beyond anything experienced during Viet Nam"the use of Executive Branch lawyers to write professionally incompetent secret memoranda giving clearance to awful policies, and the use of retired generals who are making a fortune from the Pentagon to spread its gospel on the mainstream media."
Today's wars of aggression are being waged, Velvel notes, because previous Washington officials were not held to account for their crimes: "Lyndon Johnson retired to his ranch, Nixon received a pardon and went back to San Clemente, McNamara became the long time President of the World Bank, Kissinger became richer and richer (and secretly advised Bush and Cheney on Iraq)"Wolfowitz was given a sinecure at the World Bank, lawyers who facilitated the misdeeds---such as Jay Bybee and John Yoo---are federal judges or professors at leading law schools."
TV notes, and all PBS programs begin airing tonight in most markets. NOW on PBS offers:Would you pay more in taxes to fix roads and rail?The majority of American goods are transported by trucks, even though freight trains are greener and more fuel-efficient. Where should America be placing its bets for moving our economy and what would you personally sacrifice for it?This week, Correspondent Miles O'Brien looks at the contemporary needs, challenges, and solutions for transporting vital cargo across America, and how those decisions affect the way you live, work, and travel.This program is part of a PBS-wide series on the country's infrastructure called "Blueprint America."On Washington Week, Gwen sits around the table with David Broder (Washington Post), Karen Tumulty (Time magazine), David Wessel (Wall St. Journal) and Pete Williams (NBC News).Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe and her guests Karen Czarnecki, Ann Friedman, Irene Natividad and Tara Setmayer discuss the week's news on this week's edition of PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The Wasteland Where do the millions of computer monitors, cell phones and other electronic refuse our society generates end up? Some of it is shipped illegally from the U.S. to China, reports Scott Pelley, where it is harming the environment and the people who salvage its valuable components. Watch Video
Financial Weapons of Mass Destruction Steve Kroft examines the complicated financial instruments known as credit default swaps and the central role they are playing in the unfolding economic crisis. Watch Video
Birdman Forrest Bird's invention, the respirator, has saved millions of lives and, approaching his ninth decade, he's still living his life to the fullest, flying his airplanes and working 12-hour days. Morley Safer reports. Watch Video
60 Minutes Sunday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
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