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.

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agustin aguayo