Friday, March 02, 2007

The unmentionable?

Back in October, I 'wrote' "Kat's Korner: The death of Ani DiFranco?" ("wrote" because I dictated it over the phone to C.I. -- I was in Ireland and computer-free). Today, I check the public account at The Common Ills and there's a prissy little twit who's all pissy with me over the review. She'd just stumbled onto it and apparently can't read.

She took me to task for not liking the CD mainly. Which is proof that she didn't read my review because I praise Reprieve like crazy. Not only that, I placed it at number two on my year's top ten for 2006.

Now in the review proper, I was addressing a number of things including that women who have children, women who rock, tend to go soggy. I noted there were exceptions (Toni and I have three in that review -- Aretha Franklin, Carly Simon and Etta James) and noted that I would be thrilled if others could think of more names to put on the list. But I noted that women who had children tended to hit the sog-wall and that, for many, it was a temporary thing. Somehow this upset twit so that she had to tell me how insane that was. Now her only example was her own sister who doesn't rock and doesn't make music as far as I know so I have no idea how she thought she'd disproven me.

She could have. That was my point of reference for the review. Ani's made her finest album and it should be a time of great joy but, as Toni passed on, Ani was now pregnant. I noted Pat Benetar, Patti Smith and Laura Nyro as examples (there may be more) of women who hit the sog-fest wall when they did their post-pregnancy albums.

Now twit can disagree with my take on pregnancy and rock. She doesn't even have to back it up, she can just say, "You're wrong." I really don't care. But I do care that she is so illiterate that, when supposedly reading a review that praises the album over and over, she wants to e-mail me that I trashed the album. I did no such thing. Learn to read, you idiot.

Can women have children and stay true to themselves, avoid the sog-fest? Carly, Aretha and Etta did. But Liz Phair didn't. And Liz is more true to the norm than the exceptions are.

Having kids is a lot of work. It's also true that some don't seem to focus on their art. (That can be due to a label rushing you into the studio. It can also be due to the fact that you have little to write about. I don't care for the rock boys playing cowboys writing about the road any more than I care for superficial songs about parenthood.) I note all of this in the review.

When it went up, months ago, I got a lot of e-mails from visitors on it. Some disagreed with my theory and that's fine. Most agreed and shared their own moments when someone they were so into released the first post-baby album. But until today, no one accused me of hating Reprieve and trashing it.

The reason for that is because I praised the album. I still praise it. I still listen to it.

But this is an issue and I'm sorry that twit doesn't think so. Women have had to grapple with many responsibilities. In Russia, at the turn of the last century, some women were grappling with whether or not marriage was even possible to combine with a lived life. They weren't the first to ask that question. Katharine Hepburn, of course, famously explained that she didn't think she could have children and a career and that she made the choice to have a career.

I remember the turmoil that greeted Hepburn's remark. I think it's because we like to think we can have it all. Then we're surprised we're so tired, of course. But these are issues women have been grappling with for some time.

You can disagree that it takes a lot to juggle everything, you can disagree with women who decide they can't do everything and make choices, but you can't deny that there's a struggle.

I know Toni is always the person called on when her parents or any older relatives are sick. That's another task that tends to fall on women more often than on men. (Though I hope that's changing. I do think there have been changes and I do credit that to the second wave of feminism last century that put these questions forward and challenged assumptions on roles. I think that gave many women the affirmation to make choices and to stand up for themselves. I think it also sent a message to men. I know there are men who are feminists and men who are pro-feminists and I hope there's some improvement in the way things are today.) I'm lucky in that I have a large family so we can spread that out. (But when it has to do with our extended family in Ireland, that does tend to fall on me because I am self-employed so I have the easiest time of taking off.)

The twit seemed offended that I had raised the issue of women who rock going soggy after the child is born. I also noted that women tended to leave that phase and end up with mature work while many men ended up stuck in the eternal adolescence singing the same songs they were doing when they were in their 20s which is rather sad when they're over 50.

What will happen to Ani? I don't know. I noted that she doesn't like labels and she doesn't want to be the standard bearer. I belive I also noted that she shouldn't have the pressure put on her. But if you've listened to music over time, if you've followed women as well as men, I'm sorry that the notion of the sog-wall is any surprise to you. You can disagree but this is something many women discuss. I almost didn't write about it. I was in Ireland and hadn't done any reviews because I was caring for a dying relative. I didn't expect to be gone so long (I believe I was gone over 6 weeks). I had no reviews in this time. I called C.I. who had kindly volunteered (because I was feeling guilty) to take notes and string together a review from that. I don't remember now what the other album was, but I explained that I was going to do that one and C.I. asked, "What about Ani?" I then explained what I was feeling about that. C.I. pointed out, "Kat, a lot of people think that, fear that, few write about it." Which is true and why I did write about it.

I'm sorry the twit was offended and bothered by the Sex in the City episode Toni mentioned that I note in the review (and note that I didn't see the episode) but if she's got a problem with that show, she should probably take it up with people working for the show or fans of it. (I don't generally watch TV.) Most of all, twit should learn how to read. I didn't trash Ani's Reprieve. I praised it.

Again, the response was huge on that review with visitors citing their own examples.
That doesn't mean "We're right!" That does mean enough women have noticed it (I heard from some male visitors about that review but the majority were women) that it is worth exploring.

There were a number of e-mails noting the three exceptions (and there was one woman that was noted as an exception that I'm forgetting) (Judy Collins! She came up in five e-mails). (I'd add Joan Baez as well.) Whether they were writing about Etta, Aretha or Carly, the feeling was that those women were conveying something. Aretha sometimes writes. Etta usually covers. But both Etta and Aretha found a way to convey something. Carly, who generally writes the majority of her songs (or co-writes), really plumbs the depths of her world. That's probably why Carly could avoid the sog-fest. "Fairweather Father," to name only one, doesn't pretend like it's all sugar & spice. Aimee Mann, for the same reason, could probably sidestep the sog-fest. I hope Ani does.

And to be clear, for those who didn't read the review (including twit), sog-fest means you're doing weak songs -- weak musically, sketched out lyrically, that sound like you're hoping to place them in some soft hue baby commerical.

Now Betty's latest -- ''Thomas Friedman's immoral non-authority'' -- is up so check it out.
Now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, March 2, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; the non-issue of rape (to follow the US coverage) turns out to be not such a non-issue (surprising only to big media); Walter Reed continues to be a problem for the Bully Bully (similar to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the incompetence of management); Amnesty International issues a statement about a US war resister; and the targeting of minorities in Iraq continues to be a minor story in the mainstream media (domestic).

Starting with war resisters,
Agustin Aguayo faces a court martial in Germany Tuesday, March 6th. Amenesty International has released a statement:

Amnesty International is closely monitoring the case of
Agustin Aguayo, a US army medic who is scheduled to face a US court-martial on 6 and 7 March in Wurzburg, Germany, for his refusal to deploy to Iraq.
In February 2004,
Agustin Aguayo applied for conscientious objector status. He says that he began developing doubts about war shortly after enlisting in the army and that he now feels that he cannot participate in any war based on his moral objections to hurting, killing or injuring another person. Whilst his application was being considered, Agustin Aguayo was order to deploy to Iraq where he received formal notification in July 2004 that his application had been turned down. The army's Conscientious Objector Review Board had found that he did not present clear and convincing evidence of his beliefs.
Agustin Aguayo served a year in Iraq where he says he refused to carry a loaded gun. He says that "I witnessed how soldiers dehumanize the Iraqi people with words and actions. I saw countless lives which were shortened due to the war. I still struggle with the senselessness of it all . . ."
Agustin Aguayo's unit was ordered to redeploy to Iraq in September 2006, he did not report to duty and went absent without leave (AWOL). He has been charged with desertion and missing movement and is currently held in pre-trial detention at a US military base in Mannheim, Germany. If convicted on both these charges he could be sentenced to up to 7 years in prison.
Lawyers for
Agustin Aguayo filed a write of habeas corpus in US federal court in August 2005, asking for his honourable discharge from the army as a conscientious objector. This request was denied and a subsequent appeal turned down. The judge wrote that "Though Aguayo stated that his Army training caused him anguish and guilt, we find little indication that his beliefs were accompanied by study or contemplation, whether before or after he joined the Army."
Amnesty International is sending a delegate to observe the court-martial proceedings in Germany next week to learn further details about the case and assess whether
Agustin Aguayo would be a prisoner of conscience if convicted and imprisoned.

Speaking with Gillian Russom (Socialist Worker), Helga Aguayo, Agustin's wife, stated the following on war resisters: "They're important because they're taking a stand that all the Americans who are against the war can't really take. They're making it difficult for the Army to continue their mission. My husband's a paramedic, and medics are needed desperately in Iraq. I think that these soldiers who stand up and say, "I won't do it," are frustrating the plans of these particular units. It's important for the antiwar movement to adopt these soldiers and say that this guy has taken a remarkable step. We need to support him because he's doing what we would do if we were in his position."

Meanwhile, US war resister
Kyle Snyder was arrested last Friday at the request of the US military who have no jurisidiction in Canada. Snyder served in Iraq, then self-checked out of the US military and went to Canada. In October of 2006, he returned to the United States to and on October 31st, he turned himself in at Fort Knox only to self-check out again the same day (no, AP, he did not turn himself in during the month of November -- AP seems to have confused Snyder with Ivan Brobeck who turned himself in November 7, 2006 -- election day). Snyder was arrested the day before his planned wedding ceremony (the wedding has been rescheduled for this month). The British Columbia police, at the US military's request, at the residence he shares with Maleah Friesen (the woman he'll be marrying this month) and US war resister Ryan Johnson and Johnson's wife Jenna. As Sara Newman (Canada's Globe & Mail) reported, the police showed up at the door, asked for Kyle and when he came to the door in his boxer shorts and robe, they grabbed him and refused to let him either change into some clothes or bring any along with him. Snyder told Vancouver News: "I couldn't believe it could happen that way. The only thought that was going through my head was I thought Canada was a completely separate country, thought it was a sovereign nation. I didn't know they took orders from the United States." ForLawyers Against the War's statement click here. Snyder tells Newman: "Basically the next step is to keep doing what I'm doing, go on with my life. I'm planning on getting married to a very wonderful woman, and I am planning on trying to find the best way to move on with my life." Before he decided to return to the US, Kyle enjoyed working with disabled children.

Another US war resister in Canada is Joshua Key (as his wife Brandi and their children) and he's put his story down on paper in
The Deserter's Tale. Reviewing the book, Martin Rubin (Los Angeles Times) quotes Key: "I never thought I would lose my country, and I never dreamed that it would lose me. I was raised as a patriotic American, taught to respect my government and to believe in my president. Just a decade ago, I was playing high school football, living in a trailer with my mom and step dad, working at Kentucky Fried Chicken, and hoping to raise a family one day in the only town I knew. . . . Back then, I would have laughed out loud if somebody had predicted that I would become a wanted criminal, live as a fugitive in my own country, and turn my wife and children into refugees as I fled with them across the border." Rubin observes, "One of the book's great pleasures is in seeing the author's personal development, the journey he has taken, turning away from violence and destruction to become more humane. 'One's first obligation, Key says, 'is to the moral truth buried deep inside our own souls.' He understands a soldier's obligations under the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg doctrine not to participate in atrocities. He has pad a stiff price for his desertion: exiled in Canada (where he may not be able to remain) and shunned by much of his family. Near the end of his tale, Key insists that he is 'neither a coward or a traitor.' He is believable, as he has been from the outset, and through his words and the actions he describes, he conveys hard-earned honesty and integrity. In this testament of his experience in military service in Iraq he is making a substantial contribution to history."

Aguayo, Snyder and Key are part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as
Ehren Watada, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, 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, 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,
Brian Murphy (AP) notes that Iraq's health ministry says 1,646 Iraqi civilians died in Iraq in the month of February while the AP count is 1,698 and the UN "and other groups often place the civilian death count far higher." (For good reason including the mainstream rarely notes deaths of Iraqis who do not fall into one of three groups: Shia, Sunni or Kurd.) On this week's CounterSpin, Peter Hart addressed last week's hula-hoop -- bad Americans don't care about the deaths of Iraqis as witnessed by a poll that found most estimated 9,000 Iraqis had died in the illegal war. Hart noted that people get information from their media so the finger pointing might need to point at the media. Equally true is the fact that attempts to count the number of Iraqis who have died are met with the right-wing screaming "Foul!", muddying the waters and the mainstream media playing dumb as though there's no way to sort out the truth. (Most recently, this was seen when The Lancet's study found that over 655,000 Iraqis had died. Instead of noting that the sampling method used was a standard method used by the US to estimate deaths, the media played dumb.) Without any sort of standard number used in the press (and note, AP runs their monthly toll but rarely notes a running total), it bears noting that the US military keeps a running tally.

Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) broke that story last summer. The US military refuses to release that number to the American people. Presumably, they utilize the numbers when evaluating how their 'mission' is performing. Since a democracy is built upon the foundation of the will of the people and since Congress is currently debating whether to do anything, the American people would benefit from knowing that number (an undercount to be sure and the US military only admits to keep a count since June of 2005).

The American people would also benefit from reality in the reporting. While rape has been a topic in foreign press and on the ground in Iraq, the US press (mainstream) has dropped the issue -- or thought they had. It pops back up today.
Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports that a claim by a group in Iraq that they had "kidnapped 18 interior Ministry employees in Dyiyala province in response to claims that Shiite-led security forces had raped a Sunni Arab woman" was followed by police discovering the corpses of 14 police officers in Baqubah. AFP quotes Uday al-Khadran ("mayor of Khalis, the slain officers' hometown in Diyala province") stating: "They were found in the streets of Baquba. Their throats had been cut and their hands were bound." Al Jazeera quotes their reporter Hoda Abdel Hamid: "Sabrin al-Janabi did come and say that she was raped by three Iraqi security forces. The government at first reacted by saying that it will conduct an investigation. . . . Hours later, the government came back and said the three men were cleared of that accusation, that Sabrin al-Janabi had come out with false accusations, and that the three men would each be given a medal of honour. That has caused a big uproar among the Sunni groups." AFP observes: "The alleged rape of Janabi -- who appeared in a video broadcast on Arab news networks to complain of being raped by interior ministry officers -- has triggered a bitter row at the highest levels of the Iraqi state."

If that sounds at all familiar, you probably heard
Dahr Jamail and Nora Barrows-Friedman discussing that on KPFA's Flashpoints Tuesday. Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) report today on Wassan Talib, Zaineb Fadhil and Liqa Omar Muhammad -- "[t]hree young women accused of joining the Iraqi insurgency movement . . . [who] have been sentence to death, provoking protest from rights organisations fearing that this could be the start of more executions of women in post-Saddam Hussein's Iraq." The fairness of the trials are in question as is the women's guilt.

Fairness is nowhere to be found in the puppet government. Minority Rights Group International's
(PDF format) report "Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003" drives that home. While the mainstream continues to speak in terms of Shia and Sunni with the occasional Kurd tossed in, minority groups in Iraq are regularly targeted for violence, death, and theft. As the report notes: "The Armenian Church of Iraq said it was working with government officials to obtain the return of property that the former regime had forced it to sale. Although the church was paid fair market values for six properties in Mosul, Basra, Kirkuk, Baghdad and Dohuk, it was coerced. Church officials said discussions with the transitional government yielded no results in 2005." Let's hope they don't take a check for payment or they may find themselves in the same situation as the Mandaens in Baghdad whose property was taken by the post-invasion installed government and was given a check for 160 million dinar ($100,000 in US dollars) but, when they attempted to deposit the check, they "were told that the signature was not legitmate, and payment was refused." Let's also hope the Armenian Church also has some form of documents -- also not easy in the post-invasion. From the report: "According to Zaynab Murad of the Cultural Association of Faili Kurds, during the Anfal campaign Faili merchants and traders were summoned to an emergency meeting and told to bring all their documents. When they complied, they were arrested. Their documents were confiscated and they were sent to the Iraq/Iran border without their families. To reclaim property today, those documents must be presented. 'The question is -- who owns [sic] the documents that prove that they are true owners of the property?' he said."

Brian Murphy (AP) notes that "4 million Iraqis are displaced within the country or are refugees abroad, mostly Sunnis who fled to neighboring Syria or Jordan, international agencies estimate." Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports that, in Baghdad, "Maliki has taken a tough line, labeling as terrorists everyone living in homes that were taken by force and informing parliament they would be arrested." That, of course, doesn't apply to the minority groups whom al-Maliki has been more than fine with seeing stripped of property.

Reuters reports that Philippe Douste-Blazy (France's Foreign Minister) is sounding the alarm that Iraq could be partitioned at any point as the chaose continues and that he stated: "We think that the only solution, we have already said so, is to have a withdrawal by 2008 of the international forces which are in Iraq today and at the same time the restoration of the rule of law."

As Iraq crumbles further, the US Congress dithers and dallies.
AP reports: "House Democratic leaders have coalesced around legislation that would require troops to come home from Iraq within six months if that country's leaders failed to meet promises to help reduce violence there, party officials siad Thursday. The plan would retain a Democratic proposal prohibiting the deployment to Iraq of troops with insufficient rest or training or who already have served there for more than a year. Under the plan, such troops could only be sent to Iraq if President Bush waives those standards and reports to Congress each time. . . . The Senate, meanwhile could begin floor debate on Iraq as early as next week." Ned Parker (Times of London) notes that prior to "the US November midterm elections four out of five voters siad that if the Democrats won Congress US troop levels in Iraq would fall." Those four out of five aren't idiots, that's how it was sold by a number of outlets. It's just not what's happening currently.

Military Families Speak Out's Nancy Lessing spoke with Dennis Bernstein on KPFA's Flashpoints and noted: "There is no military solution, there is no good outcome from the US military occupation continuing, it's only going to make more deaths. So we're at that moment where we're at that moment again where, I think, the majority of people at all levels of this country understand that there is no military solution and yet we have Congress not doing what it needs to do -- which is to cut the funds for continuing the war and bring the troops home. So we as military families and together with Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War will continue to be building the movement. And I've said it before on this program and I'll say it again, we do understand that it's never been a politician that's ended a war it's always been a social movement and so our goal is to build our movement as strong as it needs to be to get Congress to do what it needs to do."

They have released an open letter to Congress (PDF format)

We are asking that, as leaders in Congress, you exercise leadership. Your voice is needed now more than ever. Tell the American people the truth about President Bush's funding request. President Bush is not asking for more funds for the troops. He is asking for more funds to continue a war that should never have happened, a war that is killing so many U.S. service members and leaving even more physically and psychologically damaged on a daily basis. This is a war that has killed untold numbers of Iraqis, is draining our national treasure and cultivating a growing hatred against our nation. Hope, a rare commodity for us these days, is even harder to find within the current morass of non-binding resolutions and rhetorical statements in Congress about preventing "surges" and changing strategies. Hope is hard to find when we see so many in Congress adopting the morally indefensible stand of opposing escalation of this war, while poised to support its continuation.It is not too late for you to do the right thing. We ask you to exercise your leadership, stand up and call for the de-funding of the Iraq War. Stand strong when you explain that de-funding the war is not de-funding or abandoning our troops. Let the American people know what we as military families and Veterans know -- that de-funding the war will not leave our trooops without equipment or supplies. Stand strong when you explain that there are sufficient funds available to bring our troop shome quickly and safely, and that if more funds are ever needed, Congress has the ability to re-program monies from the Department of Defense budget to use for this purpose. Stand strong and fight to bring our troops home.Stop telling us that you don't have the votes and work to secure them. That is what leaders do.Right now, it seems that you cannot see the political upside of doing what we and the majority of people in this country are calling on you to do. It is important that you understand the political downside of allowing this war to continue. If you provide further funding for the war in Iraq, it will no longer be President Bush's war. You will be co-owners. You will share responsibility for the continued chaos and loss of life in Iraq. You will have lost the opportunity to provide leadership when it is sorely needed. You will have given license to more years of a failed policy and countless deaths.

John Walsh (CounterPunch) places blame both on elected Democrats and on "the 'mainstream' peace movement" which he argues should be demanding actions such as filibusters but instead plays 'nice': "Whenever a UFPJ group goes to 'lobby' the Congressmen or Senators, the unwritten rule (violated by the present writer on many occasions) is to 'make nice'. Do not risk weakening the 'relationships' with legislators and staff is the mantra. It is all carrot and no stick. And what are the results? No filibuster. Continued war. And from first hand experience, when one threatens the legislator with supporting another candidate in the coming election, a pained look comes over the UFPJ 'facilitator,' and one can rely on being tut-tutted into silence."

In Iraq today . . .


CNN notes 10 dead and 17 wounded from a car bombing "at a popular used-car lot in Baghdad's Sadr City" and a car bomb "near an Iraqi National Police patrol in the Saydiya neighborhood in southwestern Baghdad" that killed one police officer and left two more wounded. Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports that it was three police officers wounded in that bombing (with one dead). Robert H. Reid (AP) reports a roadside bomb "southeast of Baghdad" killed one Iraqi soldier. Reuters notes a mortar attack in Iskandariya that either killed 4 and left 20 wounded (US military) or killed eight people (Iraqi police) that is provided "the reports were referring to the same incident."


BBC reports: "Two players from the Ramadi football club are shot dead by gunmen as they take part in a training session". Reuters notes that the two men were Mohammed Hamid (27-years-old) and Mahommed Mishaan (23-years-old).


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad
Reuters reports 6 corpses were discovered in Balad.

CounterSpin today, Peter Hart interviewed Mark Benjamin about the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal. Why now is it getting attention? (As opposed to 2004 when Diane Sawyer reported on the medical scandals in April 2004 -- not mentioned on the program.) Benjamin felt there was more interest/acceptance in something other than happy talk on both the part of the public and the press. Another reason it's getting more attention now is because Dana Priest and Anne Hull didn't file a one day story that they picked up on weeks later. It was a series of articles and Bob Woodruff's return to ABC News (Tuesday) with a hard hitting look at what he (he was injured while reporting in Iraq) went through and what service members go through helped focus attention. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Major General George Wieghtman was fired as the head of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center yesterday. Today, Steve Holland (Reuters) reports Bully Boy is "[s]crambling to answer an outcry over shoddy health care for U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq" and has made the announcement that "a bipartisan commission" will be created "to review health care for military veterans." And Holland and Kristin Roberts (Reuters) report that "U.S. Army Secretary Francis Harvey has resigned after reports that troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were being poorly treated at the Army's top hospital". CBS and AP note that Harvey has been in charge "since November 2004."

iraqagustin aguayo
kyle snyder
nora barrows friedmanflashpointsdahr jamail
dennis bernstein
nancy lessing

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Haiti, David Rovics

Okay, I have two things I want to highlight tonight (plus the snapshot -- always want to highlight the snapshot). First up is a topic that's been discussed on KPFA's Flashpoints this week, massacres in Haiti. This is from Wadner Pierre and Jeb Sprague's "Haiti Under a State of Siege" (CounterPunch):

Nearly two months since U.N. troops began launching heavy attacks that they say are aimed against gang members in poor neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, roadblocks and barbed wire remain in place and the atmosphere is grim.
Mercius Lubin of the Boston district of Cité Soleil told IPS that an assault earlier this month left his only two children dead. "It is the noise of MINUSTAH's (the U.N. peacekeeping force) fire that awoke us."
It was about 11 p.m. on Feb. 1, he said, and the family was sleeping on the floor because U.N. soldiers had advised everyone in the area to do so. "Then they started shooting... I saw that I was wounded in one of my arms, my wife in one of her feet and my two young girls were bathed in their own blood."
He said it was MINUSTAH bullets that had sprayed across his home killing his daughters. IPS viewed the corpses of Stephanie, 7, and Alexandra Lubin, 4. A top MINUSTAH military commander acknowledges the U.N. fired shots that day. Residents also state that U.N. vehicles fired heavily down the road which the Lubin home sits along.
Officials of MINUSTAH, whose military contingent is headed by Brazil, have admitted to "collateral damage" but say they are there to fight gangsters at the request of the René Préval government.
Speaking at a press conference at U.N. headquarters Wednesday, Joel Boutroue, deputy special representative of the secretary-general for Haiti, referred to the allegation that MINUSTAH soldiers had shot "two little girls", but said that gang members were responsible for the killings.
"[The U.N. soldiers] are taking extra care in minimising the number of civilian casualties," he said. "The rules of engagement are very clear -- they only shoot when shot at...The number of casualties has been very limited."
However, Boutroue acknowledged that while the U.N. does investigate some specific cases and attempts to tally casualties in local clinics after large operations, they do not determine whether people have been hit by MINUSTAH or other weapons. "That's impossible to know," he said.
U.N. and government officials have pointed to one gang leader in particular named Evans. In recent weeks they have arrested a number of men from his group.
But many residents and local human rights activists say that scores of people who have no involvement with gangs have been killed, wounded and arrested in the raids and fighting. A climate of fear persists in much of Cite Soleil.
IPS observed that buildings throughout Cité Soleil were pockmarked by bullets; many showing huge holes made by heavy calibre U.N. weapons, as residents attest. Often pipes that brought in water to the slum community now lay shattered.
A recently declassified document from the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince revealed that during an operation carried out in July 2005, MINUSTAH expended 22,000 bullets over several hours. In the report, an official from MINUSTAH acknowledged that "given the flimsy construction of homes in Cité Soleil and the large quantity of ammunition expended, it is likely that rounds penetrated many buildings, striking unintended targets".

That's an important topic and it's not getting a great deal of attention. Is it because the UN's put in bad light? Who knows? On the second topic . . . Julia forwarded me the e-mail (which did say the piece could be reposted elsewhere). So thank you, Julia. It's always interesting to review a CD and see who reponsds to it. It's like going through your friend's CD collections. Mike loves my review of David Rovics' last CD and we're both going to note something by David Rovics entitled "500-Year Siege:"

I was in San Francisco, California a couple months ago, and I saw Klee Benally there. It had been a long time since I’d seen him. I tend to go where the gigs take me, which often means going in and out of certain orbits in unpredictable ways. There at the American Indian Center of San Francisco, Klee was the master of ceremonies for an event that was attended by 200 or so people, mostly indigenous.
The event was one of many of it's kind to draw attention to plans by the Arizona Snowbowl Corporation to build a 14-mile pipeline from the city of Flagstaff to the nearby San Francisco Peaks. They want to expand a ski resort there, and make snow out of the wastewater.
These mountains are sacred to 13 different local tribes, but as usual, this is not a problem for the corporation. The message here is not lost on anyone. Once again, it is a case of the USA saying to Native America: we shit on you. Your land, your religion, your people. The 500-year siege continues.
Klee is a member of a 3-piece band called Blackfire, along with his sister and his brother. Their music is hard, dark, loud, punk-metal kind of stuff, with lots of growling and power chords. Together with their father, a Navajo medicine man named Jones, the four of them also perform traditional song, dance and drumming together. Sometimes the Benally Family opens for Blackfire, which is always a fascinating exercise in contrasts. But usually Jones is in Flagstaff, employed as a medicine man at a local hospital.
I was on one of Blackfire's European tours, opening for them at a bunch of shows in Germany and Prague. We were a day late getting into Prague. We were traveling in an old but functional VW van. We had a gig in a squat in Prague during the week of the World Bank/IMF meetings there.
The Czech border police didn't know what to make of us. They were on the lookout for black-clad anarchist youth from Spain and Italy. We definitely didn't fit that description, but they knew there was something about us. I’m sure they had never seen a Navajo family before, and they must have realized that Jones was far too old to be throwing rocks at anybody.
After a while they decided we had to stay in Germany because there was a small but fairly jagged dent near the back of the van. The said they thought this could be dangerous, someone could cut themselves on it. We spent the night at a friend’s place in Nuremberg and succeeded in getting into Prague the next day by train.
Around that time, in 1999-2000 and thereabouts, I was spending a lot of time in Germany, in a relationship with a woman from Hamburg, hanging out with the radical farmers in the Wendlandt region, singing at anti-nuclear protests and such.
Germany has a very active leftwing, especially when it comes to US imperialism and nuclear power. For many German leftists, though, as with their counterparts in the rest of Europe and the US, Native America is a non-issue. When approached about getting involved with Native struggles for self-determination in the US, some will tell you that the issue is "esoteric." In other words, basically, Native Americans are a thing of history, irrelevant except for certain hippies who like to make sweat lodges, live in tipis, and imagine what it might have been like way back when.
Others in Germany know better, and there are probably more functional groups working in solidarity with indigenous struggles there than anywhere else in the industrialized world. They know that Native America exists and it is under a constant state of siege. And they know that resistance is widespread, and needs to be supported.
I spent Y2K in a trailer on a farm in the Wendlandt, figuring it might be good to be near a source of food for when industrial society collapsed. After the world failed to end I went back to Hamburg, and along with a dozen other people from around Germany, I made my way to Arizona. February 1st, 2000, was to be an important marker in the struggle for Big Mountain, and this date would see the largest number of outsiders coming to show solidarity with the people there for quite some years.
Since long before Europeans began their savage conquest of the Americas, Navajo and Hopi people have lived side by side in what we now call the Southwest. Traditionally, Hopis are farmers and Navajos herders, so there have at times been tensions between the two peoples, as is the case anywhere in the world where these two ways of living intersect. By most accounts, though, the Navajo-Hopi "land dispute" is basically a creation of the US government, the state of Arizona, and Peabody Western, a giant multinational energy corporation.
The Navajo and Hopi people, like most indigenous peoples in North America, suffer from the very same affliction that keeps most people in countries like Nigeria or Angola in grinding poverty -- that is, great wealth, in the form of tremendous deposits of coal and uranium.
There was a brief "renaissance" for many indigenous peoples in the west. This was in the early part of the twentieth century -- in the brief span of time in between. In between the time when native people were slaughtered en masse, forced onto reservations, and starved, and the time when coal, uranium and oil were discovered on their lands. Since then, things have continued to go from bad to worse.
Those of us coming from Germany to Arizona to support the struggle on Big Mountain arrived by mid-January. Driving onto the Navajo reservation, it became quickly apparent why some rental car companies in the Southwest make you sign a contract saying you will not take their cars to Mexico or to any Indian reservations. The area of Black Mesa/Big Mountain is just the sort of place Hertz is afraid of.
The roads, if such a term can be used to describe what we were driving on, were beyond anything I'd seen anywhere in the world. It was beyond the general neglect of the federal government and the corrupt tribal councils.
The area around Black Mesa was subject to a US government-imposed freeze on all construction, including road maintenance, which had been going on for several decades. The roads, such as they were, consisted of two humps, like little mountain ridges, with valleys in between them that were often several feet deep. If you fell off the humps at the wrong spot, whether you were in a pickup truck or an SUV, you could seriously damage your vehicle. We managed to stay on the humps in my old pickup truck.
We had long since passed the nearest town. After many more miles of driving down a dirt road that had been maintained, we passed a little school and a water tower. Soon after that, the road turned to humps and we drove many more miles, slowly, constantly vigilant to avoid falling into the ditches on either side of us.
We passed many ancient driveways that led to hogans that were no longer there. Finally, we came upon one of the very few driveways left that led to a hogan that was inhabited, by Louise Benally and her family.
We had brought a couple of big Army tents with us that we bought in Flagstaff, and there on Louise's land we set them up. Her homestead there would come to be known as Camp Anna Mae, named after Anna Mae Aquash, the Micmac woman who came from Canada to Pine Ridge, South Dakota to support the struggle of the Lakota people there against the mining of uranium on their land. Her death was one of several dozen unsolved murders in South Dakota in the mid-70's. The FBI is widely suspected.
I quickly realized one of the many things that made Louise Benally special. Along with the tenacity of her spirit, her willingness to stay on the land so long after the vast majority had been driven off, was something else -- she spoke English. There we were, sitting around a fire outside Louise’s hogan, with several elderly women in colorful skirts, slowly cooking a hunk of a lamb they had recently slaughtered, which was wrapped in foil and lay beneath hot coals. Louise was several decades younger than the rest of the women, and the only one who spoke a language in addition to Navajo.
These elderly women were the backbone of the struggle. Collectively they were known by all as the grandmothers. Their bravery, their dark, weathered faces, their short stature and their colorful skirts all reminded me of the Mothers of the Disappeared I had seen standing between us and the riot police in Buenos Aires. But they were several thousand miles north of those Madres, and speaking Navajo instead of Spanish.
At it's peak, during a pipe ceremony on February 1st, there were 250 people who had come from outside to show their support. There were people from all over Indian Country, including from as far away as the Dakotas. There were the Germans. There was a French chef. There was a sizeable delegation Japanese, many of them Buddhist monks. And most of the rest were young white people from across the US and Canada.
But for some while before and after that date, at any given time there were several dozen people, mostly young people from across the US, living with the grandmothers, working with them, herding their sheep, cutting firewood, and otherwise just being a presence, organized then as now with the name Black Mesa Indigenous Support.
In contrast to the clean, colorful elders they were living with, these youth were often dressed in anarchist chic -- dirty rags they had gotten from dumpsters and stitched together themselves, covered in patches, facial piercings, and dreadlocks. The grandmothers called them "goat heads" because of their dreads.
Peabody Western runs North America’s biggest coal mine there in Navajo country. For decades they had been using millions of gallons of water from the aquifer below to slurry their coal 270 miles from there to Las Vegas, where Las Vegas and other cities got most of their power. The Mohave Generating Station is temporarily shut down and the coal slurry is not running. Water is returning to the once-empty wells, and some of the streams are slowly coming back to life.
But poke around briefly on the web and you can see that this is a very temporary situation. Other energy corporations are making plans to open new mines and new power plants, tacitly promising to maintain a local cancer rate that is many times the national average.
In fact, as I write this, Alice Gilmore and a number of other elderly Navajo women are blockading a road near their homes on the New Mexico side of the reservation, where the Desert Rock Energy Company is attempting to expand their mining operations.
Peabody has also been trying for decades to expand their massive mine. The problem is, there are people living on top of the coal, and they refuse to leave.
The government is just barely too tactful to forcibly remove thousands of Indians from their land in the modern era, so they have employed various other methods. Very much along the lines of the sanctions imposed on Iraq during the 1990's. Starve them into submission. Make their lives unliveable. Take away their water. Make sure they have to drive dozens of miles down unmaintained roads in order to get water for their sheep. Impound their sheep and make them pay to get them back. Fine them for making repairs on the roofs of their hogans. Fine them for collecting firewood.
Until 1974, the Black Mesa area was the home of one of the last remaining intact communities of 20,000 or so people living traditionally, speaking mainly Navajo, living as sheep herders, in community, as they had for centuries. But then Peabody decided they wanted to expand their mine and people like Senator John McCain wanted to do their best to make sure this could happen. This meant moving 20,000 people off their land, some at a time, by making their lives impossible if they tried to stay.
Most ultimately moved. Many were sent to live on land that was made radioactive by the Church Rock uranium spill. Their sheep died from drinking the water, and many of the people died soon thereafter.
After losing their community, living increasingly isolated lives made miserable by constant harassment by the authorities, some 17 families still refuse to leave their dusty land.
Rena Babbit Lane is one of them. Last month her supporter left the land, and then the Hopi Rangers, working for those who seek to expand coal mining operations, took the occasion to visit Rena, who is approximately 80 years old, and push her around, yell at her, threaten her, and cause her to have a heart attack. And now she's back from the hospital, back in her hogan, once again refusing to leave the land.
As in Palestine or Colombia, the mostly white supporters are able to be useful largely just because they're white. The corrupt tribal authorities know who butters their bread, just as Israel or the government of Colombia do.
Just being there and being white doesn’t stop the general trends, but it can effectively prevent the authorities from harassing the grandmothers for another day. Also, the fundamental racism of the reservation system is such that the tribal authorities are not allowed to arrest non-native people -- the most they can do is escort them off of the reservation.
When I first got to Black Mesa I didn’t know if I'd know anybody who was there. That was a silly thought. I remember when I was a young man living in Berkeley I kept running into people I knew at various leftwing events. I said to my friend David Said, "it's a small world." "No," he said to me, chuckling haplessly, "it's a small left."
Sure enough, there were all my friends from the IMF/World Bank protests. There were folks from the struggles to save the old-growth forests on the west coast. Julia Butterfly was one of them, visiting Big Mountain scant weeks after she came down from the old redwood she had been living in for two years.
My friend Wes from Philadelphia was telling me how illuminating it was for the grandmothers when the Seattle WTO protests happened. The grandmothers had noticed that there was a week or two when most of their supporters had left the reservation.
Only 18% of the Navajo reservation has electricity, and virtually no one in the Black Mesa area have it. But those who had televisions quickly spread the word – young people with dreadlocks looking suspiciously like our supporters had shut down the city of Seattle. The protests were over, then the supporters returned.
Many of the supporters had come from Minnesota, I think about thirty of them at the high point. They were veterans of a struggle there known as the Minnehaha Free State.
In Minnesota a lot of place names begin with "minne" because that means "water" in the Mendota language. "Haha" means, you guessed it, "laughing." Minnehaha park was nearby part of the Free State’s encampment, and also part of it. By the end, all of the Free State would be in the park.
One of the things that always disturbed me about the heroic struggle of the people of Big Mountain was how ignored it was by most of the non-Native community in the region, including most of the activist community.
The sinister brilliance of the reservation system is how the people are out of sight and out of mind to other people in the region. There were and are people doing important work trying to raise awareness of and struggle for all kinds of good things in places like Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tucson and Prescott. But for most people there, the Navajo reservation is about as nearby as Iraq, and Iraq is much more in the news. This was not the case with Minnehaha, which was right there in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
I first read about the Minnehaha Free State in the Earth First! Journal, and visited it many times during the course of it’s tumultuous 16 months in the late 90's. It was a case of mutual interests coming together in often beautiful ways.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation had plans to build a highway through a residential neighborhood in Minneapolis and through the park next to the Mississippi River, in order to better facilitate a speedy drive from downtown Minneapolis to the massive Mall of America outside of town. The completing of the highway would shave a good three minutes off of the trip.
Local residents wanted to keep their neighborhood intact. Local environmentalists wanted to prevent the building of yet another highway. The Mendota people wanted to save land that was sacred to them. Residents of the neighborhood and environmental activists all lived together in the Twin Cities, as did many Mendota people, who had never been given a reservation by the federal government.
It was a powerful collaboration that captured the imagination of many people in the region and beyond. Though the encampment was ultimately destroyed by MDOT and other government agencies, it spawned a new generation of activists, friends, community. In the beginning, the Free Staters were occupying several houses that were slated for demolition, with the blessings of the former residents forced out by the state of Minnesota.
When 800 police were sent to evict everybody and burn down the houses, the Free State moved downhill, into what was then still part of the park. Someone made a brilliant, conical-shaped structure that could sleep 18, in cubby holes on two floors made of pallettes and other found materials, with a firepit in the middle, to keep everybody warm through the long, cold Minnesota winter.
I used to tour mostly by van. Once or twice a year I'd make a big loop around the US, dipping into Canada here and there if they let me across the border. Either before or after visiting Minnesota, I'd pass through one of the Dakotas.
Several years ago I was driving from Missoula, in western Montana, to Rapid City, South Dakota. I had left myself two days to do the drive, preferring to amble along at a more leisurely pace when possible. I was making better time than I thought, though, and was coming into Rapid City the night before my gig there.
Charles Ray was organizing my show there. He's a local activist and punk rock musician, files stories for both Free Speech Radio News and South Dakota Public Radio. I called him to ask if I could stay at his place an extra night, and he said great, glad you'll be here, you can come in the morning with me to Pine Ridge for a church-burning. Like in Mississippi...? No, an entirely different king of thing. A healing ceremony.
Fifty miles from Rapid City is the Pine Ridge reservation, where there are intensely beautiful, huge, colorful, crumbling rock formations, and lots of uranium mines and Lakota people. There's only one FM radio station that comes in around there, and much of the time it's in the Lakota language. It was here that Anna Mae Aquash and so many others were killed by the FBI's death squads in the 1970's.
We pulled in to a tiny little town just outside of Pine Ridge. It had 17 residents, nine white and eight Lakota. A few decades earlier, though, it had been somewhat bigger, a white town with a racist history. The bar was covered in buffalo skulls and had a big sign that said "no Indians allowed." The "no" had been crossed out, so now the sign read ominously, "Indians allowed." One might draw the conclusion from this sight that they were not necessarily welcome, but were at least allowed.
A hundred feet from the bar stood a dilapidated Catholic church that was no longer used, but had once been the center of the white community there, along with the bar. It was also a place with connections to the boarding schools where the white settlers, their churches and their government, tried to "Christianize" the natives with the sorts of barbaric practices typical of European civilization.
I remember a couple different folks talking about their experiences with these brutal schools. Of the school Jones Benally was forcibly sent to when he was already in his twenties, many years ago, he would only say, “I learned to say ‘yes’ and 'no.'"
My friend Chris Interpreter talked to me a bit more about the Baptist school he was sent to. Chris got his last name because his grandfather's grandfather was interned in the starvation camp that the Army drove the Navajos to, and he was one of the few who was able to speak English, and so was used as an interpreter between his people and the occupying army.
When Chris was a young teenager on the Navajo reservation in the 1980's, a Baptist revival came through and set up camp. His grandmother was a woman who actively practiced her traditional religion and lived with her sheep on what was left of her land with what was left of her people. Perhaps feeling that the old ways weren’t working out and she should try something new, she converted to Christianity. When given the opportunity, she and Chris’s parents sent him to a school for Indians that the Baptists ran. The government-run Indian boarding schools had finally been stopped a decade earlier, but there were still private ones.
Chris didn't want to go. Though he felt betrayed when she converted to Christianity, Chris loved his grandmother and wanted to stay. At the school he was beaten and humiliated for doing the daily rituals his grandmother had taught him, and for the crime of speaking his language.
After a few months he ran away from the school, and made his way a hundred miles or so back to his grandmother's hogan. When she and his parents heard about how he had been treated they told him he didn’t have to go back. When the representatives of the school came to bring him back, his mother told them to go away.
It's impossible to over-emphasize the destructive impact these schools had on communities, and on the minds and spirits of the people sent to them. I remember once being in a little Hopi town nearby Black Mesa. There was one general store in the town. An elderly Navajo man was looking at the shelf full of aspirin, cough syrup and such.
He was elegantly dressed in classic Western garb, like he had just gotten off his horse. He spoke no English, but wanted to know from me, the only white person in the store, what pills he could take that would help is ailing heart. I don't know much about pharmaceutical drugs, and also had no idea whether he was suffering from heartburn, irregular heartbeats or something else, so I apologized and said I didn’t know.
Anyway, there by Pine Ridge, South Dakota in front of the old church stood Big Jim. An aptly-named, tall, buff Lakota man in his 30’s or 40’s, Big Jim had bought the property the church was on and planned to build something new there. He had decided that rather than bulldozing the old building, he would publically, ritually burn it in a healing ceremony, for all his people, all the commuities ruined by the Christian invaders with their murderous armies, and their armies of miners, thieves, schools and churches.
A small group of Lakota men and women had gathered for the occasion. The event had been announced on public radio in Rapid City, thanks to Charles, and also gathered was one elderly white Catholic couple who had been married in the church.
One local, older white man in a pickup truck pulled up momentarily and said, good-naturedly, "the Indians are burning the church down!" Big Jim smiled.
For the old Catholic couple it was a solemn occasion. For the Lakotas present it was a bit of a celebration, and out of respect for the elderly couple, they quietly walked around the corner of the church, to watch from a different vantage point and give the old couple some space. When the fire was lit the dry old wood caught quickly, and soon it was a massive conflagration.
After interviewing Big Jim about the occasion, Charles had set up a video camera fifty feet from the church. That was the closest I could stand to be, the fire was so hot, the hottest fire I had ever experienced.
Around the corner from the old Catholic couple, Lakota men could be heard uttering phrases such as, "man, that altar's really cooking!"
The cross on top stayed standing long after most of the walls surrounding it had collapsed. Eventually, though, the flames that had engulfed it brought it crashing to the ground, too, and all that was left was a smouldering pile of rubble. It was a brief moment of hope in the midst of the death and destruction that characterizes the ongoing conquest of Native America. A brief respite in the 500-year siege.

So that's worth reading and I hope you'll check out David Rovics' music if you haven't already. He's got a lot of talent. Mike was kind enough to answer my question about what people his age, who were too young or not born yet when Dan Rather took over the CBS Evening News, know about Walter Cronkite. I'm surprised they even know his name -- it's been so long ago.

Okay, I'm getting some air, I'm pretty tired and it's only just six pm as I type this. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

March 1, 2007. Chaos and violence continues in Iraq, Sara Rich continues fighting for her daughter, the US military is obsessed with Kyle Snyder, and Walter Reed Medical Center was such a disaster that Joyce Rumsfeld was raising flags (wife of Donald Rumsfeld).

On NPR's Morning Edition today, it was noted that month of February started as ended -- with bombings of Iraqi markets. AFP notes the (undercount) by the Iraqi ministries of February deaths -- 1,646 -- and notes that the hard-sell is "down eight percent" from January but the reality is "[t]he figure is still vastly higher, however, than the 548 people killed in February 2006". The month was also marked by rapes. Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) examine the reaction (or Nouri al-Maliki's non-reaction) to the gang rape of Sabrine al-Janabi, the 20 year-old woman who came forward last week, as well as the 50-year-old woman that followed her -- both women were gang-raped by Iraqi security forces and Ahmed Mukhtar tells IPS, "The Iraqi police are following the examples of those who trained them. American soldiers did it more than a thousand times and got away with it. They sentenced that soldier who killed Abeer after rpaing her with a hundred years imprisonment, but we Iraqis are not fools, and we know he will be on parole sooner than he hopes." Dahr spoke with Nora Barrows-Friedman about this topic on KPFA's Flashpoints Tuesday and noted that the rapes are receiving more media attention in the Arab world than in the US media. If the goal is to uninform the American public, corporate media take your bow.

Turning to the topic of war resisters, Jessica Hegdahl (UCD Advocate) references MLK ("War is a poor chisel for carving out a peaceful future.") and sees the continuation of peace in Ehren Watada: "There's a radical solution to the problem of Iraq. It lies in the simple observation that 'to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.' These words were spoken by Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to resist deployment to Iraq, facing up to four years in jail. Every soldier, commissioned or enlisted, who opposes the war in Iraq must eventually decide between his conscience and his orders. When your country is ordering you to complete an illegal and immoral act, are you not obliged to refuse? It would be far better for the members of our military to refuse to deploy, face imprisonment or other punishment, than to obey their contracts with the United States military, which allow for the killing of innocent Iraqis."

Ehren Watada, in June of last year, became the first officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq. A three-day court-martial took place at the start of this month but Judge Toilet called a mistrial over the objections of the defense and, last Friday, the military refiled charges against him. Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that the pretrial motions are currently set for May 20th with the court-martial scheduled "for July 16-20." Justin Ward (Austin Chronicle) weighs in on war resister Mark Wilkerson who was court-martialed and sentenced last Thursday (to seven months in prison) and notes that Ann Wright ("a former Army colonel and State Department official who resigned in protest of the Iraq war") spoke to a gathering of Wilkerson supporters the Wednesday before his court-martial: "They are the ones that are willing to put their bodies on the line -- not on the line for murdering or criminal activity but on the line for conscience and morality and to hold accountable an administration that is putting our nation at risk."

Watada and Wilkerson are part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Kyle Snyder, Agustin Aguayo (who will be court-martialed in Germany, Tuesday, March 6th), Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Joshua Key, 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, 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, reports that "U.S. war resister Kyle Snyder was arrested in British Columbia for unspecified immigration violations. Police in Nelson, BC barged into Snyder's home, handcuffed him, and hauled him off to jail. The police had no warrant. Snyder, who was wearing only a robe and boxer shorts at the time, was not allowed to put on clothes or shoes. He was not read his rights or allowed to call his lawyer. Nelson police told him he would be deported to the U.S., where he is wanted for unahtorized absence from the U.S. Army." Snyder is sharing a house with US war resister Ryan Johnson and his wife Jenna who immediately began making calls. The article notes: "Joci Peri, an Immigration official in Vancouver, later told Snyder he had been arrested at the request of the U.S. Army. Being AWOL from another country's military is not an extraditable offense in Canada, nor does it have any bearing on immigration to Canada, according to Vancouver lawyer Daniel McLeod, who is representing Snyder. 'And the U.S. Army is not the boss of the Canadian police,' says Gerry Condon of Project Safe Haven."

Now let's be really clear, the US military has thought from day one they could screw with Snyder. They thought that when returned to the US in October of last year and turned himself in only to find the military throw out the agreement the second his previous lawyer left the base. When Snyder was still in the US and traveling around speaking out against the war, the military began alerting the police to his appearances in the hopes that they would arrest him. (Which really isn't the way it works in the US. When a service member self-checks out, he or she is more likely to be arrested while being stopped on a traffic violation than via some 'manhunt.') Kyle finished his speaking tour and he returned to Candada. Now the US military is targeting him still. As shameful as it is that the police of British Columbia were willing to break the law and follow orders from another nation's military, it's just as shameful that the US military appeared to think they could illegally extract someone from a country.

Turning to activism in the US, today Kris Welch, on KPFA's Living Room, noted the Democrats inaction on the illegal war still and asked, "You are the bloody party in power now, what are you going to do?" Welch's guests included Robin Schirmer of CODEPINK's Chicago branch and they discussed US Senator Dick Durbin's way of avoiding constituents
who are against the war -- he's set up a new policy where you can only visit his offices if you have an appointment and, snarkier yet, the office then severely limits the number of appointments each day. Durbin is among the Senators with the "honor" of being able to brag that his offices have arrested constituents this month -- Senators Barack Obama and John McCain can also grab "bragging rights" to that.

Kathy Kelly also spoke with Welch about the Occupation Project which was launched on February 5th to get elected members of Congress to pledge not to vote for futher funding for the illegal war. Kelly noted that there was no need for an ammendment to the supplemental Bully Boy wants, just don't vote for the supplemental. She also suggested people begin asking their Congress members, "How many constituents are calling you asking you to prolong the war?" Exactly. And it comes as CBS and AP report: "Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives are developing an anti-war proposal that would not cut off money for U.S. troops in Iraq but would require President George Bush to acknowledge problems with an overburdened military. The plan could draw bipartisan support but is expected to be a tough sell to members who say they do not think it goes far enough to assuage voters angered by the four-year conflict." Or, for that matter, do a damn thing.

In Iraq today.

Alexandra Zavis (Los Angels Times) reports on the helicopter crash (following the military's lead, everyone's calling it a "hard landing") and notes: "At least eight other helicopters have crashed or been forced down by ground fire this year, raising concern that insurgents are targeting U.S. aircraft in a new front to undermine stepped-up security efforts. The U.S. military has increasingly relied on helicopters to ferry troops and supplies to avoid the deadly roadside bombs that have been the major killer of its troops."


Dalia Hassan (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a bomb in Baghdad injured two police officers, another bomb in Baghdad killed "[o]ne employee of Baghdad's provincial council was killed and 4 others were injured," while, in Diyala, a child was injured in a mortar attack.
Reuters reports a car bombing in Falljua that killed five people (en route to a wedding) and left 10 more wounded, a roadside bomb in Mahaweel that wounded 9 people and killed 1 person, a roadside bomb in Mosul killed a security guard. AFP notes a bombing "in a cemetery in Iskandariyah" that killed three people.


Dalia Hassan (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 15 corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes, for yesterday, that 10 corpses were found in Baghdad and 6 in Mosul.

Today, the US military announces: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West was killedFeb. 28 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." Aaron Glantz noted on KPFA's The Morning Show today that this brought the AP count to 79 US service members killed while serving in Iraq in the month of February and 3,163 US service members killed while serving in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. BuzzFlash recently noted the death toll on US service members include women as well as people older than usually pictured when thinking of a "soldier," parents who leave behind children: "Such figures are not officially tracked, but we were able to identify that nearly 900 children had lost a parent in Iraq by December 2004 and 1,508 by March 2005. Extrapolated to the current casualty total, the figure today is probably somewhere around 2,200 children. That's already more than a tenth of the 20,000 who lost their fathers in Vietnam, and the number of children left behind per death is more than twice as high."

As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today, "the Washington Post reports today top officials at Walter Reed have heard patient complaints about poor treatment for more than three years. The officials include Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, the former head of Walter Reed and the current army surgeon general. The Senate Armed Services Committee is set to hold hearings on the conditions at Walter Reed next week." Dana Priest and Anne Hull (Washington Post) note Steve Robinson ("director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America) who reveals that he complained to Kiley that only were patients not getting treatment, in some case, "the hospital didn't even know they were there" in the hospital. The reporters also note that Kiley, who has maintained shock and surprise at the revelations about Building 18, "lives across the street from Building 18." The reporters also reveal that a friend brought Joyce Rumsfeld to Walter Reed last fall and her response was to wonder if her husband, Donald Rumsfeld, was being matched with soldiers who wer "handpicked to paint a rosy picture of their time there" and Walter Reed's response to Joyce Rumsfeld's visit was to ban the friend -- a long term volunteer at Walter Reed -- from the hospital.

Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:

As noted by Aaron Glants today on KPFA's The Morning Show, Kelly Kennedy (Army Times) is reporting that Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Medical Hold Unit patients are being "told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media" in what is widely seen as a punishment for the recent Washington Post expose on the deplorable conditions at what is supposed to be the United States top facility for military medical care.

There are three things listed by Kennedy above. "Not speak to the media" is one aspect of the retaliation but will outlets address the fact that wounded service members are being made to report for daily inspections? As Elaine pointed out, the big story isn't the media -- the story is that wounded service members, hospitalized to receive care, are having to report for daily inspection -- sometimes the media gets so obsessed with their own role and responsibilities that they lose sight of other factors and, to be clear, the daily inspections are effecting wounded service members right now. (Priest and Hull note it this way: "This week, in a move that some soldiers viewed as reprisal for speaking to the media, the wounded troops were told that early-morning room inspections would be held and that further contact with reporters is prohibited." Most are completely ignoring the inspections aspects and focusing only on the press ban.) Reuters notes that Major General George Weightman ("head of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center") has been "removed from his post" as of today.

Military Families Speak Out's Stacy Bannerman writes (at The Progressive) about her husband's return from Iraq: "Finally, the phone rang with the news that my husband was coming home, after nearly a year in Iraq. They didn't tell me he'd bring the war with him. He'd been back for almost two months, but he was still checking to see where his weapon was every time he got in a vehicle. He drove aggressively, talked aggressively, and sometimes I could swear that he was breathing aggressively. This was not the man I married, this hard-eyed, hyper-vigilant stranger who spent nights watching the dozens of DVDs that he got from soldiers he served with in Iraq. He couldn't sleep, and missed the adrenaline surge of constant, imminent danger. The amateur videos of combat eased the ache of withdrawal from war, but did nothing to heal my soldier's heart. At a conference on post-deployment care and services for soldiers and their families, a Marine Corps chaplain asked, 'How do you know if you're an SOB? Your wife will tell you!' Har-de-har-har-har. The remark got the predictable round of applause from the capacity crowd, which, with one exception, wasn't living with anyone who had recently returned from Iraq. I was that exception, and it infuriated me that this was a joke. The Pentagon's solution for the constant stress endured by those of us who felt bewildered and betrayed was: 'Learn how to laugh.' With help from the Pentagon's chief laugh instructor, families of National Guard members were learning to walk like a penguin, laugh like a lion, and blurt 'ha, ha, hee, hee, and ho, ho'." And eight months after his return from Iraq, her husband is told he has PTSD based on . . . a medical exam from eight months prior (when he returned to the US) and that the military's medical arm did nothing to follow up on or provide medical care for.

Staying on the topic of PTSD, on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday, Emily Howard asked Sara Rich about her daughter Suzanne Swift's PTSD. Rich: "Well she isn't recovery and she won't be in recovery until she's free from the military because they're the ones that allowed this abuse to happen her. Suzanne has post-traumatic stress in many different ways and areas of her life and it's very different in the way it manifests in every individual that I know has PTSD. The mood swings, high, low, screaming at cars one minute and laughing hysterically the next. Lots of different things are different in Suzanne from when she went to Iraq. . . . I know she is not going to be able to relax and heal any of this until she is out of the military."

Suzanne Swift. was sexually assaulted while serving in Iraq. She attempted to go through channels, she attempted to handle it the way the military wants things handled. This didn't stop it, this didn't end it. So, like any sane person who's being assaulted, she got the hell out of that situation by self-checking out in January 2006. When the military arrested her last year, there were big (empty) promises about a full investigation which was a whopping two days of investigating. They did have time to court-martial her, send her to prison for 30 days and refuse to discharge her (just as they refused to conduct a real investigation).

Howard: What is it like for her to be on a military base, away from her family. and having to deal with this?

Rich: Oh, it's horrible. It's horrible. I know that taking her away from her whole support system has been, has been just horrible for us and horrible for her. She's cried a couple of times when she's come home. We, of course, miss her terribly. And so . . I always, you know what I always say? 'Thank God she's not back in Iraq.' You know we've handled Iraq, we've handled prison, we can handle this.

Rich, Ann Wright and Iraq Veterans Against the War are calling for Congressional hearings on military sexual violence. Rich: "The sad thing is Suzanne is a very strong person and I really thought these guys were going to take care of her and I thought she'd be okay and able to fend off this stuff when I heard these statistics. You know 5 out of 6 women in the military are sexually harassed or abused and I thought, 'No, my kid'll be okay.' " [Rebecca addressed Howard's interview with Rich here and click here for the day prior when I noted Rebecca had covered Darh's report but failed to include the link.]

kris welchliving room

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Steven F. Freeman, Guns & Butter, work

I was taking portraits this morning and sometimes I hate my job. In this instance, I had a woman who got on my last nerve. She wanted this, she wanted that. She wanted to look this way and that way. It's a camera, not a magic mirror. At one point, she was bored complaining so she asked what I liked to do. I said "Follow the news."

Huge mistake. She got really excited (which at least allowed for some useable pictures) as she explained that she did too! She is obsessed (her word) with Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears. Have I been following that news?

I explained to her that I really didn't consider that news that effected or impacted my life. Sailed right over her head. But she explained she didn't just watch "news" on TV (Extra is her favorite "news" program), she also read magazines to keep up with "current events." She read The Star and Us magazine. Sometimes she read People too but she really didn't care for their photos. Too many black & white ones, she explained.

Now if this woman was in her mid-twenties or younger, I might cut her some slack. I might assume she's a victim of the news media that's so distorted what news actually is, that she's not able to tell it when she sees it. But she was well over thirty. She was also well off. Thanks to her marriage. (She proudly referred to herself as "a trophy wife.")

I just kept thinking, "How sad is this? A grown woman who should be educated running off at the mouth about Britney shaving her head or was Anna Nicole doing drugs when she died?" Then I thought of something sadder, that I had to listen to that nonsense while taking her picture. I told her she'd have to stop talking because her lips would be a blur in the photos otherwise. (A lie, but she believed it.)

Sumner told me I really needed to urge people to read "Talking artistic representation with The Common Ills' Isaiah" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) because "it's a lot deeper than it seems." He's read it three times now. I agree and Isaiah's pretty on the ball. (I doubt he's ever even mentioned the words "Anna Nicole Smith.")

Back to the woman, she thought I was strange. (And I may be.) So in fairness, I'll share that she was shocked that I rarely watch TV. I have a little one in the kitchen and I have big one in the living room. I don't usually turn them on. If I'm sick, I will turn them on. I'll camp out on the couch and watch the big TV or take the little one into the bedroom.

I have no idea why. I think it's just the comfort of knowing when I wake up, it'll be on. Like no matter how sick I am, if the TV's on, everything's going to be fine. Leaving it on, means I live. I don't even have to have the sound on (and often don't), just that flickering screeen.

So I got home just in time to catch Guns and Butter on KPFA. This week's show revolved around Dr. Steven F. Freeman's speech. He's with the University of Pennsylvania. He was bothered by the 'flip' in the votes compared to the exit polls when he woke up the day after the 2004 election. He wrote a paper which wasn't supposed to be circulated but was, over all. He's revised it and he was speaking about what he discovered regarding the stolen election of 2004. He noted that Republicans play to win and Democrats tend to play to advance. (Offering that Al Gore's 'defender' during the 2000 recounts ended up being nominated for boards by James Baker.) It was a very interesting speech, with many citations, but not so heavy that you couldn't follow it if you weren't heavy into statistics. (I'm not.) If you missed the program and go to Guns and Butter or KPFA's archives to hear it, there was something at the start of the program, music, that made me think Bonnie was being pre-empted. So give it a few seconds and don't think you're hearing the wrong thing.

That's going to be it for me. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, February 28, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; wounded US service members get targeted by the US administartion; Dems in Congress play "hot potato" with the war (and don't seem to grasp that they'll end up holding it); and US war resister Joshua Key declares, "Iraq is a country and it's going to have to make its own path in history and its own way in life. No other country can do that and you definitely can't do that by means of a gun or a tank. But they have to make their own course and do whatever's necessary for themselves. I think that no outsiders are going to help it or solve the problem."

Starting with news of petty retaliation which, after all, is the Bully Boy's M.O. as demonstrated for the last seven years (if not sooner.) As noted by Aaron Glants today on
KPFA's The Morning Show, Kelly Kennedy (Army Times) is reporting that Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Medical Hold Unit patients are being "told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media" in what is widely seen as a punishment for the recent Washington Post expose on the deplorable conditions at what is supposed to be the United States top facility for military medical care. In addition, Kennedy reports, the soldiers receiving medical care were informed that will move from Building 18 into Building 14 and, just happenstance -- surely, unlike Building 18, Building 14 requires that "reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel."

In a
series of articles that concluded last week, Dana Priest and Anne Hull (Washington Post) examined the realities behind the image of the 'premier medical center' -- focusing largely on Building 18, and revealed problems such as cockroach infestation, lack of heat, lack of water, mice and black mold, clerks that were overworked or didn't care. The answer for the US administration when confronted with reality is apparently the same answer they always reach for "DESTROY." Joe Wilson goes public about Niger, out Valerie Plame (his deep cover CIA wife). Soldiers talk to the press about the deplorable conditions that the administration is fine with them living in? Punish the soldiers.

The Bully Boy who loves strut around in uniforms (with or without codpieces) is far less willing to do anything to actually help the soldiers wounded in his illegal war and the administration's answer to the Walter Reed scandal is to punish the troops with daily inspections and other idiotic chores WHILE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE RECEIVING MEDICAL CARE FOR THEIR WOUNDS.

Turning to news of war resisters,
Tina Chau (Hawaii's KMGB9) reports that Ehren Watada's court-martil has been set for July 16-20 and that the "pre-trial motions are to be heard on May 20 and 21." In June, Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. In August of last year, the military held an Article 32 hearing at Fort Lewis to determine whether or not to go forward with a court-martial. At the start of this month, the court-martial of Watada began and ran for three days -- on the third day, Judge Toilet (aka John Head) ruled a mistrial over the objections of the defense (and initially without even the prosecution in support of a mistrial). Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney, has maintained that the double-jeopardy clause of the Constitution now applies and that he will appeal any attempts to court-martial on that basis.

Lehia Apana (The Maui News) reports that Ehren Watada's father Bob and his step-mother Rosa Sakanishi were at the Maui Community College Library on Monday where Bob spoke to "an energetic crowd" of at least 75 people about his son and how "he believes the judge realized his son had a chance of being acquitted of the charges and therefore forced the prosecution to request a mistrial."

Last Friday the military re-filed charges against Watada, the day prior, as
Conor Reed and Steve Leigh (Socialist Worker) observe was Mark Wilkerson's court-martial and that he issued a statement, "My Conscience is Clear," at his website:

I am now a twenty three year old man. When I made the decision to join the Army, I was a boy. When I made the decision to go AWOL I was still in many ways a boy.I realize in retrospect that going AWOL may not have been the right decision for me to make, but given the circumstances I found myself in at that time, I felt it was the only logical decision for me. I felt as though I wasn't being taken seriously by my chain-of-command. I was crushed when my conscientious objector application was denied. I had failed somehow in conveying in words just what I felt in my head and heart, and that was that I could not, in good conscience, serve as a soldier in the United States Army. I could not deploy to a foreign land with a weapon in my hand, representing my government. I am not willing to kill, or be killed for my government. When I enlisted in the Army, I thought I would be able to, but after Iraq, my beliefs became such that I could no longer participate.This was what I told my chain-of-command. I felt they didn't care what I said or believed. So I fled. I quit my job. No other occupation in the United States punishes you as badly as what the military does for quitting your job. But that's ok. I'm willing to face whatever punishment the government deems appropriate.In my Battalion's Retention Office, there is a quote by Retired Army General Bernard Rogers, and it states "This is a volunteer force. Soldiers volunteer to meet our standards. If they don't meet them, we should thank them for trying and send them home." Well, I enlisted into the Army with the best intentions. I had other options. But I wanted to serve my country. And when I felt my country was doing the very thing we pretend to condone, I took a stand. And to me that is the core of democracy. If the Army feels as though I didn't meet the standards, they should thank me for trying and send me home. There's no lesson prison can teach me. Prison is established for criminals who committed crimes that the majority of our society can say in morally wrong. And with this crime, I don't know if that can be said. Even though I committed a crime, I'm no criminal. And even if I do go to prison, I'm no longer a prisoner. My conscience is clear. I'm no menace to society. I have stayed true to myself and my moral code throughout my life, and that will never change. Just let me live my life, and I know I will live it well.

Susan Van Haitsma (CounterPunch) shares some of her encounters with Wilkerson and observations before concluding: "Mark wanted to help his country, but his country betrayed him. His country capitalized on his honorable intentions, gave him false promises, fed him misinformation, used him to carry out inhumane missions, caused him psychological injury and then punished him by making him an object lesson for his fellow GI's. In fact, Mark is an example of the best kind, for all of us. In the same courtroom where soldiers were sentenced for harming Abu Ghraib prisoners, Mark was sentenced for refusing to harm."

Wilkerson is scheduled to be released in September; however, the judge could release him earlier. Going before a judge Tuesday, March 6th in Germany is war resister
Agustin Aguayo. Workers World notes that he is "charged with desertion and missing movement because of his refusal to go to Iraq." Though not etched in stone, the military has generally attempted to use desertion charges for those who were absent without leave for a month or more. In Aguayo's case, they've elected to toss that (Aguayo was gone from September 2nd through September 26th). Gillian Russom (Socialist Worker) spoke with Helga Aguayo, Agustin's wife, about his case, his feelings about the war, her own and much more. Agustin was a medica and he joined the military to support his family and to help people (he and his wife have two young daughters). Helga explained to Russom that, for her, it was seeing the experiences of military families that made her start questioning the war -- the creation of "geographical single mothers" -- and that for her husband, a book on Iraq's history took him from conscientious objector to the belief "that the war in Iraq has essentially been created of the personal gain of a few people." Helga also notes that her husband saw Sir! No Sir! and "it just revved him up for what he knew he might have to face." He's facing? Agustin Aguayo could be sentenced to as many as seven years in prison if convicted during his court-martial because the military is going for desertion. Why go for desertion?

Aguayo and
Kyle Snyder both were screwed over by the military in different ways and they were among the last ones going public. (Snyder is back in Canada.) Tossing aside the rule of thumb re: desertion to charge Aguayo with that is considered as part of an effort by the military to clamp down on the growing movement.

Aguayo, Watada, Wilkerson and Snyder are part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Joshua Key, 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 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.

Joshua Key, war resister and author of the new book
The Deserter's Tale, speaks with Christina Leadlay (Canada's Embassy Book Review) and notes that the passport requirement for travel back and forth between the US and Canada "would deter a lot of people [who] don't have passports, and if you're on the run and a deserter from the military, you're not going to be able to gain that passport." Joshua, his wife Brandi and their children went to Canada after Key returned from Iraq. There, he has sought refugee status and is currently appealing the denial of asylum. Key describes his decision to join the military as part of "the military's poverty draft" telling Leadlay: "You're stuck. You have no money. There is no other choice. If you want health care, if you want steady pay, and if you're even considering going to college, the [military] billboards pretty well offer it to you. When I joined there was not a wealthy person in the entire operation. I'd never seen a rich person in the military. I'd never seen a politican's son; I'd never seen anybody with any stature. We were all the same . . . coming from places that most people wouldn't even hear of, small towns, farms boys, and you're just looking for a way out."

Key's statements jibe with the study
Kimberly Hefling (AP) reported on last week -- the communities in America that are most directly effected by the US military death toll in Iraq -- almost half of the dead are "from towns . . . where fewer than 25,000 people live" and that "nearly three quarters of those killed in Iraq came from towns where the per capita income was below the national average. More than half came from towns where the percentage of people living in poverty topped the national average."

Sir! No Sir!, noted above, is a study of resistance within the military during the Vietnam era. The amazing documentary, directed by David Zeiger, was recently re-released in a special director's cut version with additional bonus features. In addition, (audio link) DJ Dave Rabbitt interviews Jane Fonda here. DJ Dave Rabbitt, along with Pete Sadler and Nguyen, operated an underground radio station (Radio First Termer) while serving in Vietnam. (He also acts as the dee jay for the soundtrack to Sir! No Sir!)

Returning to Minority Rights Group International
(PDF format) report Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003," we'll note that it examines the abuses minorities in Iraq are suffering. Yesterday, we focused on women. Today, we'll note that the religious and ethnic minoirites (who "make up about 10 percent of the Iraqi population") include Armenians, Baha'is, Chald-Assyrians, Fali Kurds, Jews, Mandaens, Palestinians, Shabaks, Turkomans and Yazidis.

A table on page 12 of the report charts the diminishing Mandaean population in Iraq by looking at the figures for April 2003 and the figures for April 2006. In 2003, 1600 families lived in Baghdad and three years later the figure had dropped to 150. Though that was the largest drop, the Mandaen population diminished in all areas -- Baquba (from 200 families to 40), Diwaniya (from 400 to 62), Kirkuk (from 250 to 75), Kut (from 400 to 65), Missan (from 900 to 300), Nasriya (from 950 to 320) and Ramadi (from 275 to 75). The report notes that "Mandaen or Sabian religion is one of the oldest surviving Gnostic religions in the world and dates back to the Mesopotamian civilisation. John the Baptist is its central prophet and water and access to naturally flowing water remain essential for the practice of the faith. Scholars believes the religion pre-dates the time of John the Baptist, however, and is has a similar creation myth to the Judeao-Christian Adam and Eve story." The report also notes that the Mandaen language has been "listed in the 2006 UNESCO Atlast of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing" and that their faith does not allow them to carry weapons and "forbids the use of violence". The report traces a similar disappearance of Jewish people noting that in 2003 there were "a few hundred" Jews in Baghdad, by 2005, the number had dropped to only 20 and that by 2006 there were only 15 Jews living in Baghdad (most assumed to be "older than 70" years-old).

And in Iraq today . . .


Reuters notes a mortar attack in southwestern Baghdad that left nine wounded, a car bobm in southern Baghdad ("near a vegetable market") that killed 10 people and left 21 wounded, a bomb attack on a Baghdad police station that killed 2 police officers and left two more wounded, a roadside bombing in Riyadh that wounded four Iraqi troops, a mortar attack in Iskandariya that killed a woman and a man, and a mortar attack in Mahmudiya that killed one person and left four members "from the same family" wounded.


CNN reports: "Two brothers of a prominent Sunni politician were shot and killed Wednesday, the Iraqi Islamic Party said in a statement. Salim al-Joubori's brothers were killed in Muqdadiya, north of Baghdad. Al-Joubori is a member of parliament and spokesman for the Iraqi Accord Front, Iraq's biggest Sunni Arab political bloc." Reuters notes a man shot dead ("inside his car") in Tikrit, and the shooting death of Abdul-Haid Mahmoud in Mosul. CBS and AP report that, in Taji, "Eight people died when American helicopters and fighter planes fired on a palm grove".


Reuters notes a corpse discovered in Himreen, and the corpse "of a police colonel who had been kidnapped two months ago" discovered in Baghdad.

Today, the
British Ministry of Defence announced "the death of a British soldiers in Iraq as a result of an incindent on the morning of 27 February 2007."

Dahr Jamail spoke with Nora Barrows-Friedman on KPFA's Flashpoints on a number of topics (click here for Rebecca's summary) and on the violence and the oil law, he stated, "I absolutely find no evidence on the ground to support that statement that this oil law is going to unite Iraq or anything like that. I think it's just blatant propaganda that would go along with the signing of this legislation that is really, the approval of the draff of the oil law essentially which has basically paved the way for western oil companies to finally get their hands on Iraq's oil which is what this has been about or one of the primary reasons the invasion was launched to begin with and so the corporate media, outlets like National Public Radio -- you know the joke on the ground with me and many of my colleagues from the United States who were operating in Baghdad was we would call it 'National Petroleum Radio' or 'National Pentagon Radio' because their reporters always love to embed I saw them ebedded in places like Falluja or in Baghdad, on more than one occassion -- and so that they're now issuing this propaganda that I'm sure would make the Pentagon very happy and of course the US State Department and the Bush administration and the corporations that support them saying that this is a very good thing, a positive thing. It's another way to put a spin on the occupation just like the transfer of soveriegnty on June 28, 2004 was a 'positive' thing, just like the Jan. 30, 2005 'elections' were a positive thing. And we all know, those of us with pulses, where those events have taken us today."

As all the above goes down,
Anne Flaherty (AP) reports that, in the US House of Representatives, "Democratic leaders are developing an anti-war proposal that wouldn't cut off money for U.S. troops in Iraq but would require President Bush to acknowledge problems with an overburdended military. The plan could draw bipartisan support but is expected to be a tough sell to members who say they don't think it goes far enough to assuage voters angered by the four-year conflict." Dana Bash (CNN) reports that efforts continue "to bridge differences within the [Democratic] party after backwing away from legislation that would set condictions on war funding." That would be US House Rep John Murtha's proposal. Bash quotes Yawn Emmanuel making his usual self-serving statements and notes that the Senate's 'bravely' (my mock, not Bash's) decided to postpone debating anything "for at least two weeks." (Insert joke about Bully Boy being "The Decider" here.) Yesterday, US Senator Russ Feingold issued the following statement:

I am working to fix the new proposal drafted by several Senate Democrats, which at this point basically reads like a new authorization. I will not vote for anything that the President could read as an authorization for continuing with a large military campaign in Iraq. Deauthorizing the President's failed Iraq policy may be an appropriate next step if done right, but the ultimate goal needs to be using our Constitutionally-granted power of the purse to bring this catastrophe to an end.

With few exceptions, including Feingold, the Democrats holding Congressional office appear more than willing to take Bully Boy's war and make it their own which is what they do as they rush to grab cover and refuse to call out an illegal war. Meanwhile,
Larry Kaplow (Cox News Service) reports that a "public affairs guidance" note was "sent to units in Iraq from the Baghdad command" which includes generic talking points created by the Pentagon which may also be controlling the Democratic Party judging by their own generic talking points. Meanwhile Edward Epstein (San Francisco Chronicle) reports that there is no backing away from the Murtha plan but don't pin your hopes on it, Yawn Emanuel shows up to offer more talking points. Jill Zuckman and Aamer Madhani (Chicago Tribune) may call it best: "Democrats in the House and Senate are struggling to find the best way to express congressional disapproval of the war and President Bush's troop buildup. They are wary both of going too far and not going far enough" -- "wary being the key word.

Finally, in policy news,
Jake Tapper (ABC News) reports that when US House Rep Marty Meehan "introduces legislation to overturn the ban on openly gay and lesbian troops serving in the military," he will be joined by Eric Alva (a Staff Sgt. "first U.S. Marine seriously wounded in Iraq" -- March 21, 2003) who is now openly gay.

Alva tells Jose Antonio Vargas (Washington Post): "The truth is, something's wrong with this ban. I have to say something. I mean you're asking men and women to lie about their orientation, to keep their personal lives private [. . .] That's one fact. The other factor is, we're losing probably thousands of men and women that are skilled at certain types of jobs, from air traffic controllers to linguists, because of this broken policy."

agustin aguayo