Friday, April 20, 2007

You just never know

When I first heard of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision this week banning D&E late term abortion without exception to the woman's health, it literally took my breath away. The sweeping indictment against women from this Supreme Court decision suddenly enveloped me. In one tragic stroke of the pen by these male justices - in one court decision - on this day - our lives as women were diminished. And what does this mean for the protection of Roe V Wade and the safety of women's right to choose an abortion without the interference of the state? It doesn't look good. Is this a slippery slope for more outright repression of us all? The U.S. Supreme Court, obviously informed by the religious right, is looking like the Taliban.
I harkened back to Monty Python's film the Meaning of Life where, in jest, "every sperm is sacred" was touted. Indeed, these justices obviously view women as but vessels for sperm and lacking an independent spirit. Our very lives are inconsequential to them as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg so eloquently and firmly expresses in her dissent.
I harkened back to the days of pre-abortion rights and of women dying of botched abortions in the back allies of America; of women seeking some place in the world ­ another state, another country ­ to have a safe abortion; of the discussions we all held of planning and organizing airplanes filled with women to be transported out of America for good health care and safe abortions; of integrating expansive sex education in schools and teaching young girls about every conceivable bit of safe sex information (condoms, the pill, whatever) to prevent them from incurring an unwanted pregnancy.

-- Heather Gray, "The Supreme Court Looks a Lot Like the Taliban," CounterPunch

Thank you, Heather Gray. One of the best written pieces yet on the topic of when the Court declared war on American women. I wanted to open with that and had about four other things I was planning to write about.

I'll note that if I was on the East Coast tonight, I'd be at Trina's because tonight's Rebecca's surprise baby shower. They're doing a shorter version (one hour) of the Iraq study group that Mike, Tony and Nina started up. Then, Rebecca's going to be surprised with a shower. A number of people in the study group were asking about a shower and everyone had held off during the critical months of the pregnancy early on. But she's passed through that period and she's feeling more active so Elaine thought it was time for a shower. Some of Rebecca's family will be there (and some friends, including her friend T) and some of Flyboy's will as well. Rebecca has no clue. I should say "had" because it should have already started, due to the time difference.

Was it this time last year that Rebecca miscarried? I may be off a few months (earlier or later). She had a long history of miscarriages. (She's also had one abortion as she's noted at her site.) She was used to it. She was sad but she was used to it. She came out here and stayed for a few weeks. Then she and Flyboy left on their vacation. They decided to get remarried on their vacation and made plans to adopt. No one, including Rebecca, expected her to get pregnant again, let alone to have the first pregnancy that she could carry to term. So this is a big deal.

And I think about that a lot because it just goes to show, you just don't know. Sometimes you just don't know and it turns out great like with her pregnancy. Sometimes you just don't know and it turns out miserable such as the Court's decision that women, their reproductive rights and their health do not matter.

You just never know. Like Thursday. I tagged along with C.I. for the speaking thing that C.I.'s written about in "And the war drags on . . ." We were doing a thing after (to high schoolers) and I figured it would be fun (and hopefully give me some ideas when I had to speak to high schoolers). C.I. said it probably wouldn't be "fun" but I was welcome to go with. So we went and I couldn't believe the woman who spoke before C.I. Forget drinking the Kool Aid, that woman snorted it in powder form. She went on and on with all these platitudes about the war that had nothing to do with the realities of Iraq. I sat in the back so I could only see the faces of women on my row. They looked bored. The women seated at tables in front of me seemed to be checking their watches a great deal more than usual. When the woman finished, and she gave this perky, little speech about Iraq with a smile plastered on her face, like Petulia Clark advocating war, the woman asked if there were questions or comments and there was only silence.

I couldn't figure the women out. They were professional types. And very nice to me before and after. They weren't cold. But I just really didn't feel a connection. I was also far from charitable in my private thoughts which were along the lines of, "Is anybody home in there?"

The silence just lingered as Ms. Perky looked around the room over and over for a hand darting up that never did. So then C.I. got introduced and began speaking and I know C.I. is a great speaker (one I steal tricks from all the time) but I thought, "Lost cause."

Ms. Perky had spent a good portion of her speech on "duty" and slamming war resisters -- in non-specific terms, just little platitudes about "What would that have meant for Valley Forge?" and other bits of nonses -- so I figured C.I. would address war resisters early on and was only surprised by the way C.I. chose to do it.

After Ms. Perky, I assumed C.I. would sail through (quick and leave -- that's what I would have done because the room seemed unreachable). Instead C.I. starts ticking off names very quickly and says that those are the names of war resisters today and each one has a story, each one has friends and family. C.I. spoke of the difficulties one family had last Christmas, the steps they had to take to meet up together. I think the technique there was to present very quickly the names and then to slow it down so that stories really registered. I may not be explaining that very well. C.I. spoke of the departure to Canada a war resister had just made and the goodbyes that were exchanged between family members. From where I was sitting, I could see the spines straighten and the crowd wake up. I wasn't sure at that point if that was a good thing because who knew whether that was because they were identifying or because they were offended?

C.I. was finishing up with the third or fourth war resister when a woman stood up. C.I. was encouraging to her but, honestly, I thought, "This woman is going to rip C.I. apart." She wanted to speak but it took her a bit to do so and C.I. left the podium and went to stand beside her, to show support and indicate that she should take the time needed to compose herself. When that woman finally spoke, it all just came tumbling out. Her ex-husband had been a war resister in Vietnam who self-checked out and she talked about how the country had changed and she'd seen it change. Her comments were amazing. I was stunned, I think all of us listening were. And when she finished there was silence which, honestly, again had me wondering about these women.

But C.I. kept the conversation going and then other women did start joining in. Some would stand when they spoke. Some would stay seated. But this group that I dismissed as apathetic was anything but.

Laura Flanders wrote something awhile back asking where are the women being presented on TV to discuss Iraq? I'm sure she knew what she was addressing wasn't only that women weren't being invited to the discussions but that this was sending a message. It sent one to these women. They spoke of the revisionism that had gone on in this country post-Vietnam about Vietnam, about war in general, there disgust with it and the fact that they felt they were the only ones who felt that way. They talked about how limited the discussions were. (Issues of war itself not being addressed, for instance.) But they repeatedly stressed how a conversation was going on and they didn't feel welcomed into it. So Laura's points probably included women like these women, the impact that was being created by not presenting women on this topic.

They knew Cindy Sheehan and had a lot of admiration for her. But Sheehan, who is a very powerful voice, speaks as a mother who has lost. It's a powerful and amazing voice. But these women (who were far too wealthy to have children who would have to sign up to get college tuition) could respect Cindy's work but didn't feel that their own voices could offer much to the dialogue. They were wrong and quickly saw that. It was this amazing conversation and I wish I'd taken notes, especially on C.I.'s closing comments about how Sheehan wasn't given a platform, she made one and everyone in the room could do that in some fashion in their own lives.

You better believe those women will. The woman who organized the event was shocked. She really didn't know where the group stood on Iraq. But the topic had been avoided and avoided in monthly luncheon after monthly luncheon and she had recently been elected and felt the subject needed to be addressed. If anyone was more shocked than that woman or me it would have to be Ms. Perky who could have caught flies and tennis balls in her wide open mouth as one woman after another wanted her turn to speak out against the war.

Three of the women specifically mentioned The Nation (which is why C.I. addressed it last night). They read the magazine (I don't know if they bought or subscribed, they used "read") and they felt the magazine had done nothing to encourage women to speak out. One knew Katrina vanden Heuvel's name and the other two, and many other women, were shocked to learn a woman was editor and publisher of the magazine and had so little (I'd say "nothing" which is the same term one of the three women used) to say about the war. They knew the names of Katha Pollitt and Patrica Williams. One of the women brought up "the rape of the young girl" and C.I. provided the background on Abeer, and said she was still offended that Abeer hadn't been covered. Which led to a long discussion of how coverage might be different if women were in charge. (That's when one of the women brought up the fact that a woman was editor and publisher of The Nation and "it hasn't changed a single thing".)

It was just a really amazing thing to watch. All these women (whom I'd written off as apathetic about the world around them) speaking and able to identify all these ways that women are discouraged from speaking on this topic, all these ways that discussions have been limited and constrained and how that came into being with "each layer of rewriting" Vietnam. One woman (and I applauded her loudly when she was done) compared the revisionism on war to the same sort of silences imposed by the McCarthy hearings.

As anyone who drops by here knows, I'm not afraid to share my thoughts and I guess I sometimes forget just how much of a loud mouth I am and how that's not true for every woman.
I was making that point to C.I. after as we were headed to the high school and C.I. said, "Which, if you think about it, is why GreenStone Media was created -- for women who are not being invited into the conversation." I thought that was a really good point.

There's been a lot of slamming of GreenStone Media including by some feminists who you think would know better. It's easy to dismiss this group as well off but I think the fact that they were well off says a great deal. If women who see themselves as in charge of their lives and have advantadges that many women never will have can feel and follow the silences being imposed, imagine how much worse it can be for women whose financial situations aren't as strong?

I got what they were attempting but I really got it after seeing the transformation in those women. And it reminded me of how my reaction to ever-returning backlash is to get louder. That comes from growing up in a large family, a working class family, and coming of age when feminism was flourishing. But my whole life is what I want. I've been self-employed for most of my life. I haven't had to cater to a boss. Someone pisses me off on a photography assignment? Screw you, I don't need this job. So I have been fortunate in that.

What if I had a nine to five job, or had a nine to five job and gave it up to focus on child rearing, during the backlashes? Please don't think I've ever believed an independent woman was valued by this society. But I could see that and say, "Screw it." Imagine if you weren't in that position and you were served up society's message over and over?

It really is important for women to use their voices. And that's something we can all do in our own lives, in our own circles. If you're not a loudmouth like me, you might think, "Oh, I'm not going to speak up." You might let something pass. Don't. Carve out a space for you because, by doing that, you're carving out a space for another woman as well.

I think both genders are prone to burn out but I think with most women having more on their plate, their burn out is more severe. I also think (these are my opinions only) that a lot of us tend to put the burnout on hold (the way we do with so much of our needs) so when it does arrive, it's much more pronounced than it might be for men. I'm not talking about mid-life crisis, I'm talking about burn out.

So this weekend, if you do nothing else, carve out a space. If you're reading this and you're a man, you may be thinking, "Oh, that doesn't apply to me." Yes, it does. You can ask a woman her opinion. And, if you're a woman, don't wait to be asked.

Wrapping up, Betty's "Friedman takes a trip" went up tonight. Read it. Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, April 20, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces the death of another service member, "development" passes for an answer in Baghdad ("Time-shares" is next), Helga Aguayo explains the status of her husband (war resister Agustin Aguayo), and Bobby Gates finally gets to act out his long held dream to be Marisa Tomei.

"The investigating officer said that it was in the best interest of the military to discharge him and that he believed that Agustin was sincere. However, higher ups in the chain of command -- that never met with my husband -- decided that he wasn't sincere and just didn't really give a reason, just said that he didn't qualify as a conscienious objector,"
Helga Aguayo speaking to Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) today. Helga Aguayo sketched out
how her husband came to see the illegal war as immoral while serving in Iraq, how he attempted to receive CO status, the obstacles there and a great deal more including the the convictions of missing movement and desertion. On the latter, she noted that it "is unheard of for people that are gone less than thirty days -- soldiers that are gone less than thirty days." Aguayo was gone from
September 2nd through September 26th. The rule of thumb is that if you are gone less than 30 days, desertion isn't even a possible charge. Not only was Aguayo gone less than 30, he turned himself in. Helga Aguayo explained how the two felony convictions mean trigger an automatic appeal:

Helga Aguayo: And the other thing is that Agustin will not be discharged. I'm getting congratulations -- 'Oh, congratulations, he's coming home' -- we don't know when he's coming home, one. And, two, he actually will not be discharged from the military for twelve to twenty-four months from now, because he got a bad-conduct discharge and it's such a serious offense. He has two felonies. It goes onto an automatic appeal, and because of that, he will remain active-duty, which means he has to abide by the standards that is required of every soldier. He could potentially be charged with anything else during the time that he's on voluntary or involuntary leave or administrative leave. They'll give him of the three, if it's approved. And we won't know if it's approved.

Amy Goodman: Could he sent back to Iraq?

Helga Aguayo: I hope not. I don't think so. I think it would be -- I mean, Agustin's gotten a lot of support. And I, you know, would definitely just go to the press and go to the people. I don't think it would be in their best interest to do that.

Agustin Aguayo's repeated attempts to receive CO status demonstrate the need for the system to be fixed. As does the case of Robert Zabala who had to take the issue to the civilian courts to be awarded his status. The two, and many others, illustrate the problems with and arbitrary nature of the way the US military chooses to recognize (or not) CO status.
This is why the
Center on Conscience & War has declared May 14th the day to lobby Congress to pass a law that would "protect the rights of conscientious objectors".

Aguayo is part of a movement of war resistance within the military that also includes
Ehren Watada, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

Turning to news in Iraq, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates landed in Baghdad Thursday to provide war weary Iraqis and US service members with a bus and truck show of My Cousin Vinnie.
David S. Cloud, Alissa J. Rubin and Edward Wong (New York Times) report that he visited "to press Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq to move faster on Sunni-Shiite reconciliation at a momment when Mr. Maliki's ability to deliver appears limited, at best." This allowed Bobby Gates to attack the part of Lisa with vigor as he stomped his feet in the safety of the Green Zone.

Bobby Gates: Well I hate to bring it up because I know you've got enough pressure on you already. But, we agreed to get an oil law passed as soon as we installed you. Meanwhile, ELEVEN MONTHS LATER, no oil law, Iran is making us nervous and our bully clock is TICKING and the way this war is going, I ain't never going to see the theft of Iraqi oil.

While Gates was telling/ordering al-Maliki to step it up,
Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reported that it really doesn't make a great deal of difference: "Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces. Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iraq policy since 2005, had dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said."

As most play mum on that revelation,
Mark Tran (Guardian of London) notes, "Washington today said it would take political reconciliation in Iraq into account when it decides this summer whether to reduce troop numbers." Translation? There will be no real reduction unless the people insist upon it. Just more stalling tactics on the part of the US installed puppet and more bluster from the bullies of the US administration. Meanwhile, the government of Turkey has set a deadline. KUNA reports that Turkey now has: "a 'specific timetable' for trans-borders operations including intrusions into northern Iraqi, Turkish NTV news website reported Friday. . . . The plan, envising the intrusion of thousands of Turkish troops into northern Iraqi areas to hunt rebel Kurds, is about to be a reality, according to the report."

Meanwhile in "New Listings" news, need a getaway? How about some place just east of a river, a gated community with rustic charm?
CBS and AP report that gated communities are coming to Baghdad in the form of "a three mile wall": "When the wall is finished, the minority Sunni community or Azamiyah, on the eastern side of the Tigris River, will be gated, and traffic control points manned by Iraqi soldiers will be the only entries, the military said."

Gated communities? And people think the US administration has no ideas in the tank.
While the US administration continues their attempts at stand up,
Tom Clifford (CounterPunch) notes the very real increase in Iraqi deaths including that last month was the deadliest in the last 12 months and that the escalation has claimed at least 7,400 reported deaths. And in some of the reported violence today in Iraq . . .


AFP reports a Nasiriyah bombing that killed 4 "including an 11-year-old girl". Reuters reports an eastern Baghdad mortar attack the killed 1 person and left 4 injured as well as a truck bombing in Falluja that killed 2 people and left 37 wounded. Lebanon's Daily Star reports that gunfire and helicopter fire were used around a mosque as US forces attacked what they hope are 'guilty' people since they killed four -- however, they originally denied the deaths and the attack only to correct that later on..


Reuters notes two police officers shot dead in Baquba and eight wounded, 1 person was shot dead in Falluja (2 more injured), and 1 person shot dead in Kufa. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports: "Employees working for the North Oil Company were targeted in Kirkuk by gunmen yesterday evening. The gunmen attacked the employees' while they were coming to Baghdad, the incident took place on Karkuk-Baghdad motorway when the insurgents opened fire injuring 4 employees."


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 19 corpses discovered in Baghdad on Friday.

In addition, the
US military announced today: "A Task Force Marne Soldier was killed and two were wounded when a rocket struck Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah Thursday night."

And in news of activism,
Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report) notes the national Make Hip Hop, Not War tour which attempts to welcome important segments that have otherwise been overlooked. Ford writes: "The 'Make Hip Hop, Not War' movement finds only lip-service support from the white-dominated anti-war 'movement,' which finds itself unable to include the most anti-war segment of the American public: Black people. Rosa Clemente, of Pacifica's New York radio station WBAI and a founded of the National Hip Hop Political Convention, says, 'This is why the anti-war movement is not working. How are you going to have an anti-war movement that marginalizes Black people?'"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The hideous Supreme Court

BREAKING NEWS: Supreme Court Upholds Federal Abortion Procedure Ban Without Health Exception
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to uphold the federal Partial Birth Abortion Act, a ban on an abortion procedure that the Republican controlled Congress passed in 2003. This ban has no exception for the health of a pregnant woman.Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal issued
a statement this morning, saying, "This ruling shows the true colors of the current Bush-stacked majority of the Supreme Court: it does not care about the health, well-being, and safety of American women. This must serve as a wake-up call to women: we are losing our fundamental rights as Bush continues to stack the courts. Elections matter: this is the consequence of a Republican, ideologically driven president and Congress."While Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority decision on behalf of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissenting opinion, calling today's decision "alarming."LEARN MORE Read the Supreme Court's decision, issued this morning (PDF)

That's from Feminist Wire Daily. I'm still pissed off about this decision. Do most people realize that women in Portugal are only now getting reproductive rights at a time when women in the United States are being stripped of their reproductive rights. Do you get the rage?

If you're having conversations about the Court decision, you probably do. But are you seeing anything online that really grasps the rage? I've found very few things. I checked at The Progressive and, as the page loaded, realized that was a mistake because Ruth Conniff already disgraced herself with parental notification. But I was surprised to find Matthew Rothschild's "Neanderthal Supreme Court Decision on Abortion" (The Progressive):

The religious right got its reward on April 26, when the Supreme Court banned an abortion procedure.
And the reasoning of the Bush Court was Neanderthal.
The decision will jeopardize the health of some women, and it will criminalize the practice of some doctors who perform abortions. But it will not reduce abortions.
Under Roe v. Wade, a woman's health is supposed to be protected.
But this decision blithely ignored that key precedent by claiming, contrary to the conclusion of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, that there was no health concern present in the banning of the intact dilation and evacuation procedure.

I was surprised, happily, because they did have something up. Good for Matt Rothschild. So thrilled, I thought that maybe peace resister Katrina vanden Heuvel would remember that she's a woman and write about it. Wrong. Apparently she's only interested when Russian women have abortions. Isn't it great to have a woman in charge at The Nation? Women get 1 byline for every 4 men and she can't even weigh in on abortion even though, years ago, she was happy to grab an award for doing just that from Planned Parenthood. See, some women aren't worth supporting and Katrina vanden Heuvel who can't address women in any way other than "Mommy" isn't worth supporting. Ellen Goodman has never felt the need to hide a part of who she is in her columns nor can I picture her saying, "Yipee! I'm in charge of a magazine! My first order of business, to reduce women's presence in the magazine so I can be the girl all the fellows look at!" This is from Goodman's "Governing the Womb" (Common Dreams via Truthdig):

Let me remind you of something else. When Samuel Alito was a Justice wannabe to replace O'Connor, he reassured lawmakers he'd respect precedent on abortion. When John Roberts talked about his reverence for both precedence and the court, he said he got a "lump in my throat whenever I walked up those marble steps." That lump in his throat is now a chill up my spine.
As Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights said, "It took just a year for this new court to overturn three decades of established law."
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did more than hint at the loss of O'Connor in her blistering opinion for the now-minority. The court, she noted, is "differently composed" now.
The court's opinion "tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists," Ginsburg wrote. "The court's defense of it (the ban) cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this court."

Roberts would respect precedent on abortion? Well, he's a liar and we all know it. Most of us suspected it in real time as we watched Dems sell us out in that confirmation hearing and in Alito's.

Is anyone pointing out the very real fact that MEN made a decision on women's lives? Ginsburg is the only woman. Now two women on the Court wasn't breakthrough at this late date. But now we've dropped down to one. Will the Roberts Court next be issuing burkas?

Let's be clear that some women aren't going to help us. Look at Katrina vanden Heuvel. Harriet Miers wouldn't have helped us. She was very anti-abortion. Community wide, we screamed and howled over that nomination and some 'women's groups' were defending her. Well maybe they don't know anyone in Dallas? This community has a ton of members in that area and we knew exactly how Miers felt about abortion. She also wasn't qualified. But we knew her semi-publicly expressed attitudes on abortion. So it's not just that we got a man instead of a woman. But when a man's married to a woman who's anti-reproductive rights, chances are, he is too. But Dems sold us out and wouldn't filibuster him. Remember, he was nominated to fill Sandra Day O'Connor's seat. She didn't die and she noted she would continue serving until there was a replacement. But the Dems rushed to confirm him. Because they think they can sell abortion, abortion rights, reproductive rights and women.

The review? With taxes and the Court decision, I haven't had time to think about it. I'm also sick to my stomach over the verdict. My stomach hurts, my knees hurt, I have a headache and even my eyes hurt.

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

Thursday, April 19, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq may have even more oil than originally thought, just in time more pressure to privatize Iraq's oil, Ricky Clousing reflects on war resistance, Ms. magazine addresses the realities for Iraqi women, Norman Solomon calls out media coverage, and the war resistance movement adds another name.

Yesterday in Iraq,
AP notes, "233 people killed or found dead across Iraq. At least 183 of those are killed when four large bombs explode in mainly Shiite locations of Baghdad." Kirk Semple (New York Times) bills it as "the deadliest day in the capital since the American-led security plan for the city took effect two months ago." It is also the deadliest day in the capital or Iraq this year. AFP observes that the violence "raised questions about the US-backed security plan for the capital." Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London via CounterPunch) opens with, "Yesterday will go down as a day of infamy for Iraqis who are repeatedly told by the US that their security is improving." CNN reports: "It was the worst bombing in the Iraqi capital since the 4-year-old war began, topping the February toll of 130 dead in a bombing in the same marketplace."

Salam Faraj (AFP) reports that today: "Devastated Iraqis hunted for dead relatives in the city mortuaries on Thursday" and quotes one man sobbing, "Oh God, why all that!" as he stared at "frozen corpses stacked up in the giant morgue at the Imam Ali hospital in Sadr City after a night-time curfew was lifted and daybreak made it safe enough to leave home." Kirk Semple notes Salar Karmal Zari who had been visiting the capital, declaring, "The blast threw me to the ground and shattered a window over my body. . . . I saw a human head in front of the store and many cars burning and smoke everywhere. . . . I will never stay in Baghdad anymore."

Roger Hardy (BBC News) notes of yesterday, "This was supposed to be a day when the Iraqi government could show it was making tangible progress towards the eventual withdrawal of foreign forces." Hardy's referring to the handoff of the Maysan province to Iraqi control. As noted yesterday, the transfer was supposed to be a brilliant photo-op, puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki had a speech all prepared but ended up being a no-show when the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk splashed and crashed against reality. Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, Iraq's National Security Adviser, ended up reading al-Maliki's speech. The empty words are all the more empty because, quoting Patrick Cockburn, "the transfer of political or security control by the US and Britain to Iraqi authorities has always been deceptive. Iraqis believe, with some reason, that real control remains in the hands of the occuyping forces. Earlier in the year, British forces blew up a police headquarters in Basra and US helicopter-borne troops tried to kidnap two senior Iranian officials visiting Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president."

If you use the links or read any of the coverage, you may note something missing -- what tends to always go missing: Iraqi women's voices. Though many reports mention that women (and children) were among the victims, Iraqi women's voices are abesent from the reporting. Did you know that on one day in November, a Baghdad morgue housed 150 female corpses? (They had gathered over a ten day period with no one claiming them.) Ms. readers will know that. In
the spring 2007 issue of Ms. (in stores on April 24th), Bay Fang contributes "The Talibanization of Iraq" (pages 46 through 51) which takes a look at women's lives in Iraq since the start of the illegal war, noting the destruction of basic rights and much more. Yanar Mohammed (Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq) tells Fang of being able to "meet with groups of 200 or 300 women at factories or the railway station" in the early years of the illegal war; "But this year is completely different. A woman can't even walk two to three blocks safely, much less [come to] a meeting." Bay Fang addresses the MADRE report (which may make Ms. one of the first national periodicals to do so -- on MADRE's report click here to read in full in PDF format or in HTML), addresses the issue of "OH THERE ARE WOMEN IN THE PARLIAMENT!" by noting "During the January 2005 elections for the National Assembly, political parties were required to field electoral slates on which every third candidate was a woman, and as a result women captured 31 percent of the seats. But nearly half of the elected women parliamentarians ran on the list of the Shiite alliance, and they have had to toe the conservative line of their party. Some of the women parliamentarians could be forces for moderation and progress -- such as Mayson al-Damluji, a former undersecretary of culture who has urged the prime minister to honor his pledge to improve women's rights -- but the dangerous political environment of targeted assassinations has prevented them from being very outspoken." Again, the latest issue of Ms. magazine (Spring 2007) goes on sale April 24th. And though Fang's article isn't available currently online, Martha Mendoza's "Between a Woman and her Doctor" went up yesterday.

Now if the news above is news to you, that's because the media (big and small) have been in a feeding frenzy over twin (dueling?) soap operas and reality has fallen even more out of favor. Addressing this with a hard hitting column,
Norman Solomon (CounterPunch) observes: "Several days after the mass killings at Virginia Tech, grisly stories about the tragedy still dominate front pages and cable television. News of carnage on a vastly larger scale -- the war in Iraq -- ebbs and flows. The overall coverage of lethal violence, at home and far away, reflects the chronic evasions of the American media establishments." Solomon goes on to explore the reasons for the different approaches in coverage.

Turning to the issue of war resisters, yesterday in Germany Agustin Aguayo was released.from the military prison he was sent to after his March court-martial.
David Rising (AP) notes that Aguayo, credited for the time he was held following his turning himself in September, served "less than six weeks behind bars" on an eight month sentence. Mark St. Clair (Stars and Stripes) reports that Aguayo received "a bad conduct discharge, which he has since appealed" and that the appeal means, according to Lt. Col. Elizabeth Hibner, that he is "on active-duty status, with the same standards as all the other soldiers in the unit." Aguayo attempted (repeatedly) to receive CO status and the Center on Conscience & War has declared May 14th the day to lobby Congress to pass a law that would "protect the rights of conscientious objectors".

Sarah Olson (Truthout) reports on Marc Train who self-checked out the US Army last month, following the March 16th DC demonstration. Olson reports that Train signed up "under the delayed-entry program". That's a nice little trick that the US military likes to play whereby someone under the age of consent when it comes to signing a legal contract is allowed to do so. (Note: If you sign up under the delayed-entry program, you can say "NO." You do not have to go in. There are a number of legal reasons for that including contract law. But anyone who has signed up to enter after high school graduation or after they turn 18 is not required to follow through. Don't go to a base, don't go down to speak to anyone. You can send a letter saying that you have changed your mind.) Garrett Reppenhagen (Iraq Veterans Against the War) tells Olson, "Everyone's situation is different, and you have to weigh your obligations to your country and your oath against your moral compass and your higher conscience. There is never a right or wrong answer when matching such powerful forces."

Yesterday on
Flashpoints, Olson interviewed US war resister Ricky Clousing who spoke of how learning of Camilo Mejia and Kevin Benderman "and others" were examples. Clousing self-checked out and, after turning himself in, was court-martialed October 12th and served three months.

Ricky Clousing: I definitely don't regret my decision, I really feel like I responded the way that I needed to. You know, there's this quote that says, you know, if you bow to the universe the universe bows back.

Sarah Olson: So today, though, war is increasingly unpopular, more American soldiers are denouncing it, the Iraqi resistance is growing, people on both sides continue to die. Where do you, from your pespective as someone who's served in Iraq, where do you believe we need to be headed?

Ricky Clousing: A lot of people want to ask me, a lot of people want to know, 'Well who should we vote for,' you know, or 'What do you think's going to happen in the next election' and this, and this, and this. And I think people are, they're living in a fantasy land if they think that by electing a Democrat in 2008 is going to fix all our problems, you know. And like, "Oh there's this amazing spokesperson, they're speaking out against the war." Sure, it's great that it's becoming more popular and more mainstream that people are questioning stuff but this is a radical movement. It doesn't stop with the Iraq war, at that, you know. It's much larger and demanding that our government not only be accountable but provide the type of government that we're supposed to be living in which isn't happening, you know? I mean, we're not, we're not a people, the government is not by the people and for the people cause the people have a completely different priority list and a completely different agenda than the people that are in power and are benefitting you know from corporate America that's tied into war and conflict and so many other aspects of society that are getting neglected because of it. I mean the war machine in general is not just just about Iraq, it's not just about Afghanistan, you know, all the weapons that are being made and sent across the world and the role that we play economically across the world. There are so many huge issues, you know. So I think that it's so big and I don't mean to sound like a downer about stuff, I'm just saying I think that . . . I don't know the answer to like where things should be I just know that change doesn't happen without awareness, you know. To start there, all of us need to be becoming more self informed and also spreading that awareness in whatever avenue we have.

Train, Clousing and Aguayo are part of a movement of war resistance within the military that also includes
Ehren Watada, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Justin Colby, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

Information on oil?
Ed Crooks (Financial Times of London) reported yesterday that a new "comprehensive independent study" of Iraq's oil resrouces has determined that "Iraq could hold almost twice as much oil in its reserves as had been thought" which "would raise Iraqi from the world's third largest source of oil reserves with 116bn barrels to second place, behind Saudi Arabia and overtaking Iran." How lucky (for corporations) that the steal-Iraqi-bill continues to be pressed. CBS and AP report that the law, approved by al-Maliki's cabinet, is headed "to parliament next week" and note: "Passage of the law, thought to have been written with heavy U.S. involvement, is one of four benchmarks the Bush administration has set for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's struggling government."

Since Iraq has so much oil, possibly US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates can pump some, refine it and then use that to save the US tax payers the expense of his little stop in Baghdad today?
CBS and AP report that he arrived there today "to tell Iraqi leaders that the U.S. commitment for a military buildup in the country is not open-ended." Believe that message (laughable though it is) has been made repeatedly already.

Government? Remember Clousing's remarks to Olson? In the US, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other members of Congress went to the White House yesterday to meet with the Bully Boy.
Noam N. Levey (Los Angeles Times) reports that the result was no "progress toward ending an impasse over an emergency spending bill." Peter Baker and Jonathan Weisman (Washington Post) report that "Congressional Democratic leaders are moving to make their proposed timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq 'advisory' as they seek to reconcile two versions of war spending legislation into a single bill that they plan to pass next week, according to several House members." So the toothless, non-binding measures that would have never brought all the troops home (despite the hype) are now targeted for removal? As Kevin Zeese (Democracy Rising) points out: "The supplemental passed by both Houses had been opposed by the vast majority of peace groups, now it looks like the supplemental developed by the conference committee will become even weaker. Whether this weakening will be enough to avoid a veto remains to be seen. But it sounds like the Democrats are making the already unacceptable more unacceptable to Americans who believe it is time to end the war. And this rapid compromise before a veto is not a good sign for how much the Democrats will bend to the president if he follows through on his threat to veto the bill."


AFP reports: "A suicide car bomber killed 12 people in Baghdad on Thursday . . . in the central Jadriyah district -- a majority Shiite inhabited area . . . wounding 28 and also setting ablaze a nearby truck loaded with gas cylinders, a security official said." Reuters reports a Diwaniya mortar attack that left three people wounded, a Baghdad mortar attack that killed 1 and left three wounded,


CBS and AP report a woman and a police officer were gunned down in Baquba (five additional police officers were injured) while seven people were injured in a Kirkuk drive-by. Reuters reports a woman was shot by a sniper in Baghdad.


Reuters reports 4 burned corpses discovered in Shirqat.

Today, the
US military announced: "A Task Force Marne Soldier died in Baghdad Tuesday of non-battle injuries." And they announced: "Two MND-B Soldiers died and one other was wounded when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device north of Baghdad April 18. The unit was returning from a combat patrol in the area when the attack occurred."
they announced: "An MND-B Soldier died when a combat security patrol was attacked with small armss fire in southwestern section of Baghdad April 18."

Meanwhile, the
UK Ministry of Defence announced: "It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the deaths of two soldiers from the Queen's Royal Lancers in south-east Iraq at approximately 1120 hours local time on Thursday 19 April 2007. Both were killed by an improvised explosive device in Maysaan Province." That, for those dozing, would be the Maysan Province -- yesterday's photo-op turn over because things were so much calmer there.

Reuters reports 144 is the total number of British soldiers killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war and 144 is also ICCC's count. 3315 US service members have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war by ICCC's count and 3315 by Reuters.

Finally, in news of activism,
Erica Pelzek (The Daily Cardinal) reports on a student protest: "Afer walking out of their classes at 1 p.m. Wendesday in protest of the war in iraq and rallying students down State Street, more than 40 members of US-Madisons's Campus Anti-War Network staged an all-night sit-in at U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl's, D-Wis., Madison office. The protesters insisted the senator return to Wisconsin to meet with the group and hear its demands regarding the war in Iraq." Offering support to the students via phone were Howard Zinn and Dave Zirin.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sandra Lupein, know your facts

C.I. has corrected me, the Bath School Massacre used explosives. Continue with post, my bad.

And who the hell is the guy Darwin who got to speak on The KPFA Evening News tonight putting forward that the Democratic measures are "tying the president's hands"? That's bullshit. Those toothless measures don't tie anyone's hands and the mere notiong that Bully Boy makes decisions on the war is nonsense. He commands the military, he does not command the Congress. The Congress, especially the House, is supposed to be the people's voice. The people say no to the illegal war and providing dumb asses the opportunity to lie and not correcting the lie isn't why I support KPFA.

And it was bullshit when Lupien intro-ed the report claiming withdrawal deadlines. Apparently she missed Matthew Rothschild this morning on KPFA when someone finally got to be on KPFA and tell the truth about those toothless bills.

I like Sandra Lupein, I'm not in the mood for crap today. Not on the day when we just saw reproductive rights take body blow. I'm not in the mood to talk or play nice today. And I'm not in the mood for KPFA's screw ups. If you're in the news department and you're presenting something as fact, it needs to be fact.

Any other day and I might just roll my eyes but I am pissed at the Supreme Court and I'm not in the mood for people who are respected news people not getting their facts right.

Lupien needs to get it together. I like her and if I'm raging at her, I'll rage at any and everyone so let me stop here. I'm in no mood to post. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, April 18, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, a war resister is due to be released, former US president Bill Clinton talks Iraq, The Progressive's Matthew Rothschild and Andrea Lewis discuss Iraq, the two day United Nations conference on Iraq draws to a close and the US military announces another death.

Starting with what CNN Headlines News brushed off, in all their "newsie-ness," as the "goings on" in Iraq (30 seconds sandwiched between Monday's shootings and the soap opera of a murder trial), bombs have rocked Baghdad (and possibly if they had an 'expert' to talk to Headline News might give a damn?). Today, caught off guard, the Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone had already tossed off the daily soundbyte before realizing what was happening in the capital.
Al Jazeera quotes Willie Caldwell stating: "We've seen both inspiring progress and too much evidence that we still face many grave challenges." Little Willie wasn't the only one caught with his pants down today, Der Spiegel notes that, earlier in the day, puppet of the illegal occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, had been bragging things were just swell and that the security of Iraq would be turned over to Iraq "by the end of the year" due to these highly effective (non)strategies. And Tom Vanden Brook (USA Today) reports on the master of double-speak (with a minor in understatement), US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who, in Cairo: "A political solution could come quickly, Gates said, pointing out that there are not 'thousands in the street' in Iraq trying to kill each other. The violence is mostly confined to death squads, al-Qaeda terrorists and former members of Iraq's ruling class, the Baath party."

AFP reports: "A fire incinerated human flesh, cars and vehicles after a deafening blast that sent a dense cloud of putrid black smoke spewing in the afternoon sky as rescue workers screeched through the streets to scenes of horror. Fire engines doused nearby cars and buses as dozens of ambulances and pick-up trucks ferried the wounded to hospital and civilian volunteers wrapped charred bodies in carpets for transport to the city's overflowing morgues." Dean Yates and Paul Tait (Reuters) quote eye witness Ahmed Hameed who declares, "The street was transformed into a swimming pool of blood." So bad were the bombings that, AP notes, Secertary of Defense Gates called them "horrifying" (before quickly trying to make political hay by screaming, "It's al Qaeda! It's al Qaeda! I just know it is!"). Robin Stringer (Bloomberg News) noted that of the various bombs that had gone off today in Baghdad, it was the "car bomb at a market in the mainly Shiite Muslim deistrict of al-Sadriyah killed at least 127 people and wounded more than 100 others".

On February 3, 2007, a truck bombing in a market in central Baghdad market resulted in mass fatalities. In that bombing, BBC reported the fatalities at 130 ("At least 130 people"). That bombing took place in the same district (Sadriya) as today's worst bombing. Before that, in September of 2005, a bombing in Baghdad killed 114 on a day when the total fatalities from violence in Baghdad was 152. Dean Yates and Paul Tait (Reuters) list the fatalities for today at 170 people, note that 122 is the number of fatalities from the Sadriya district bombing and put the total number of bombings in Baghdad today at four. The death toll may climb (as it has done all the morning) as some wounded do not make it and some corpses are discovered. Edmund Sanders (Los Angeles Times) reports that there were five bombs and writes: "Victims of today's late afternoon attack included construction workers repairing damage from last month's bombing, and rush-hour commuters at a bus depot, waiting for rides home." The Australian reports that it was six bombs and notes: "The market is situated on a side-street lined with shops and vendors selling produce, meat and other staples. It is about 500m from a Sunni shrine, while the area also has a large number of Kurdish resisdents."

Yates and Tait (Reuters) note that people in Baghdad are blaming the puppet for the latest violence, that children were victims of the market attack and note one man in the street yelling, "Where's Maliki? Let him come and see what is happening here." It was supposed to an easy day for the puppet who had, early in the day, declared that Iraqis would be in control of all their country by years end as part of his part in a photo op later in the day. The US military had issued their statement (credited to General Petraeus, Ambassador Crocker and Ambassador Asquith) early in the morning, self-stroking over the fact that the Maysan Province was being turned over to Iraqi control. As the Associated Press notes, the puppet was a no show at the photo op ceremony despite having been an announced guest. As US Senator Crazy, John McCain, could have told the puppet, "Watch out for When Photo-Ops Go Bad!" Still, as Yates and Tait report, al-Maliki's prepared speech was read, even though he himself was unable to travel the 200 miltes from Baghdad to Maysan.

The count as this completed is 170 dead in Baghdad from car bombs (Reuters) with "more than 200 wounded".

CBS and AP note another of the Baghdad bombings, where a car containing a bomb was "crashed into an Iraqi police checkpoint at an entrance to Sadr City, the capital's biggest Shiite Muslime neighborhood and a stronghold for the militia led by radical anti-U.S. cleric Muqtade al-Sadr. The explosion killed at least 30 people, including five Iraqi security officers, and wounded 45". CNN notes two other Baghdad bombings -- in the Karrada district where 11 died from a car bombing and a roadside bombing that killed 2 people. BBC updates the attack on the checkpoint to 35 dead and notes the observation of their correspondent Jim Muir: "The bombers are proving that they can slip through thte tightened security net and defy the clapdown".

Other bombings?

Reuters notes a Mosul car bombing that killed two people. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports: "2 farmers from Al Bo Asi Al Abagiyah village died today after [being] injured in American strike [a] few days ago."


Al Jazeera reports "two brothers were killed and a policeman was hurt in a gun battle in Baquba. The dead were believed to be civilians caught in the crossfire". AP reports four police officers were shot dead in a Baghdad attack that also left six civilians dead. Reuters reports that a police officer and Iraqi soldier were wounded in Tal Afar, a father, mother and child were wounded in Kirkuk (father is an unidentified judge) and three people ("son of Iraq's deputy interior minister and his two bodyguards") were killed in Baiji.


Reuters reports that 25 corpses were discovered in Ramadi (and that 17 were found in Ramadi yesterday) and 8 in Mosul. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) notes 15 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

Today, the
US military announced: "A Task Force Marne Soldier died in Baghdad Tuesday of non-battle injuries."

Along with the photo op of the turnover, other plans also went up in flames as chaos and violence reigned in the capitol. Lebananon's
The Daily Star reports that the puppet had talks with "some insurgent groups," that al-Maliki confirmed that on Tuesday, and stated, "We are having meetings with groups that are not part of the political process . . . They asked us not to reveal their name. The talks are still going and they are part of the national reconciliations."

In news of another talk,
Daphne Barak (Asharq Alawsat) interviewed former president Bill Clinton and, in the discussion on Iraq, Clinton responded, "I don't have an answer for it . . . . There will always be consequences to whatever decision we take. There is no guarantee. . . . I don't know any paniless altermatives. . . If we stay in Iraq - there are bad consequences, if we leave in a hurry there are consequences too! Really there are no good alternatives. . . . I think Hillary has it right that we have to make " Barak later asks, "Back to Iraq, are there any other dangers which we are not aware of?" Clinton responds, "We have to reposition some troops in Kurdistan or outside nearby. We have to protect the Kurds, and prevent Turkey to go into Kurdistan. That's the biggest danger in the area right now. We have to watch out if Sunni Iraqis will become a beachhead. Although Turkey is our long time ally -- and Turkey and Israel have a good relationship -- we can't allow Turkey to enter Iraq! What Hillary is fighting for is, that no one should go into a preemptive war again."

Also noting Iraq is US House Representative and 2008 presidential contender
Dennis Kucinich who writes, "Remember four years ago, the Administration told the American people, 'We have no choice but to attack Iraq, because they had weapons of mass destruction.' Well, they didn't have weapons of mass destruction. But what they did have is $6 trillion worth of oil. And so now we're being told that we absolutely have to get ready to go to war against Iran; and, in fact, the Administration is preparing for such a war. We're being told they have the capacity to strike at American or other nations with nuclear weapons some day. Uh . . . well, not really. But they do have have $6 trillion worth of oil. It's really time that we ended this corrupt politics that we have in this country, where all these politicians are saying, 'All options are on the table with respect to Iran,' meaning even a nuclear attack. And yet, apparently, diplomacy is not one of those options that's on the table. Why is it that Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, Senator Edwards would all mimic the same speech that President Bush and Vice President Cheney have given: 'All options are on the table with respect to Iran'."?

Addressing Iraq and Congress today was
Matthew Rothschild who spoke with Andrea Lewis on KPFA's The Morning Show today.

Andrea Lewis: Certainly the Democrats have made a lot of gestures and talk about getting the troops out sooner and cutting off the funding. It seems to me to be kind of stalled -- the whole plan. What do you think about what's going on on that front?

Matthew Rothschild: Well, first of all, news today in Iraq, terrible day, in Baghdad, 127 people killed in a series of blasts in Baghdad so this idea that Baghdad is becoming a nice, safe, quiet place to visit according to John McCain, clearly not the case. I do think that the Democrats are not doing enough to demand withdrawal within 6 months or, max, a year and not having loopholes where even if that thing passed and even if Bush were to sign it, Bush would still be able to stay in Iraq for years and years because even the Democrats' legislation allows the president to keep training Iraqi security, keep going after al Qaeda and, you know, helping out patrolling Iraq in defense of US personnel which could be Haliburton. It could be US contractors over there. So with those loopholes even in the best of bills this war could go on under Bush -- or under Bush's sucessor if it be Hillary Clinton, John Edwards or Barack Obama. None of the Democrats are demanding withdrawal without conditions and that's what's going to have to happen at some point because otherwise, you know Bush is going to keep this going and I think the Democrats are going to capitulate. I think Harry Reid, not only has he capitulated on gun control, but he's going to capitulate on this, he's going to take even the kind of fake deadline the Democrats have in that legislation and he's going to take those away. And so Bush will get his funding and this war will go on and it's going to go on until the 11th hour on January 20, 2009 when Bush leaves office and then the Democratic president, if it be a Democratic president, or the Republican successor is going to continue to wage that war unless we really raise the stakes that people of this county, not just Democrats, but the people across party lines are way ahead of the politicians on this. They want the troops to come out within a year. And, at some point, we've got to raise our voices a little bit louder.

[Note -- I've smoothed over Rothschild's response by removing "uh" and "you know"s. I have no problem with them and think it's better to include to reflect speaking styles; however, I was in the middle of something else and had to lose the flavor to keep the context.]

In war resistance news,
Agustín Aguayo was to be released today from the brig in Germany he had been sentenced to since his March 6th court-martial for refusing to deploy to an illegal war. AP reports that he was released: "With credit for time already served, he spent less than six weeks behind bars before being released, said US European Command spokeswoman Lt. Col. Elizabeth Hibner." Aguayo was repeatedly denied Conscientious Objector status. First by the military and then by the civilian court system (he will be appealing). The Center on Conscience & War has declared May 14th the day to lobby Congress for COs: "Our voices together are magnified when we gather and organize to lobby congress for the sake of rights for the conscientious objector. It is important to support servicements who become conscientious objectors, to lobby for a place for conscience in an inherently violent organization suffering from a dire lack of it. A law to protect the rights of conscientious objectors (CO) in the military is needed. With no end in sight to the brutal wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places around the globe, the number of COs in the military is increasing. The GI Rights Hotline has experienced a sharp increase in the number of calls from those seeking a CO discharge. The current military policy for COs is not working: they face harassment, they are forced to violate their beliefs and they are denied CO status for arbitrary reasons. A law passed by Congress is needed to fix the broken system and to put specific procedures in place for the CO discharge process. May 16th will be a day for voters to make their voices heard for the proposed bill, the Military CO Act." Links:

Come and lobby in Washington, DC or lobby your member of Congress at their local office near your home.
Click here to sign up for lobby day.
Click here for information on the Military CO Act
Information on subway access, directions and parking.
Map of the Area Driving Directions Metro Access Parking -->

On May 15th, International CO Day, CCW is participating in 2 events:
Congressional Briefing: 9:00 am - 12:00 pmAn Aspect of Religious Freedom: Conscience in the Military,sponsored by FCNL, Peace Tax Fund, and John Lewis
Advisory Council, 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm @ Church of the Brethren (tentatively)
Church of the Brethren337 North Carolina Ave. SE Washington, DC 20003

Today, in Geneva, the two day, United Nations organized, "International Conference on Addressing the Humanitarian Needs of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons inside Iraq and in Neighbouring Countries" concluded. The
UN notes that 60 nations participated in the conference on "the nearly 4 million Iraqis who have fled their homes" and that UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, hopes that Iraqis will return to Iraq and that he "voiced hope that international gratitude for the burden assumed by receiving countries -- with Syria hosting 1.2 million Iraqis and Jordan another 750,000 -- would soon translate into financial support. He also sought an increased amount of resettlement to third countries, considered necessary for the most vulnerable refugees." BBC reports that the puppet government of Iraq is willing to give $25 million to Syria and Jordan for housing some of the displaced. By contrast, the US offered $18 million. If you don't grasp the difference, Iraq is a client state of the US at present, a client state that still guarantee basic services (let alone security) to Iraqis. But it has promised $25 million while no-big-spender Bully Boy has okayed $18 million -- to pay for the crisis he created. Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has declared that:

1) The Iraqi Government, in [consultation] with the countries hosting large numbers of displaced Iraqis, will establish offices to address the issue. These offices will work closely with the host countries, the UNHCR and non-governmental organisations.

2) The Iraqi Government has allocated 25 million US dollars to fund the work of these offices.

3) The large numbers of displaced Iraqi people are straining the infrastructures of hosting countries. The Iraqi Government will extend financial assistance to host governments, and its relevant ministries, to support their infrastructure.

Dahr Jamail (IPS) reports that Baquba's displaced who have sought refuge in Damascus refer to Baquba with the term "dead city" and notes that "armed men roam the streets and al-Qaeda reigns" and quotes Aziz Abudlla (who was a professor in Baquba) stating, "I think well over half of our city has left, and those who remain never leave their homes. Those who are left sit in their homes and wait for their death. They may take their fate from a terrorist entering their house, or a car bomb, or a shooting."

Kevin Zeese (Democracy Rising) interviews Caitlin Esworthy (Port Militarization Resistance of Olympia) about actions to end the illegal war and the attacks peaceful activists suffered from the Tacoma police. Zeese asks about the "police reaction" and Esworthy responds: "In sum: force, intimidation and erasure of numerous constitutionally protected rights. Over the course of the two weeks (from March 2nd to the 17th) the police chose to daily escalate their tactics in response to the large groups of people voicing their opposition to the occupation of Iraq and in favor of keeping the 4th Brigade home. There were pedestrians and drivers that resulted in disorientation and intimidation, use of "less-than-lethal" (read: sometimes lethal) weapons on non-violent protestors, RAMPANT violation of citizens' right to not be videotaped by public officials without probable cause, officers refusing to identify themselves, restriction of the right to wear backpacks on a public street and the repeated restriction of citizens' rights to assemble within reasonable proximity to that which they are protesting so that the nature of their protest is not fundamentally altered (both of which are supported by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decisions), vehicles being searched without cause or warrant, the list goes on." A video clips are provided.

iraqagustin aguayo

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Where is the Iraqi refugee crisis?

I had an e-mail asking what I thought of today's KPFA special? I thought it was crap. I'm a fan of Larry Benksy's. I don't think he did a bad job. I think some of the callers made solid comments.

Why did I hate it? "Educational moments" and "teachable moments" and "this is why Pacifica was created" (the last is a paraphrase). If it meant anything other than providing us the same topic that was already eating up cable time, if KPFA really stands for any of the things listed, then they would have done a special when the 3,000 mark was passed (New Year's Eve). They would have done a special when The Lancet Study was released. Teachable moments?

I don't think they're needed from KPFA on a topic that has cable and the networks hand wringing and gabbing. I think those moments need to be used to address the topics that won't be addressed elsewhere. I honestly felt I got two hours of Oprah.

How about doing something on Iraq? Why don't we have "teachable" moments on Iraq from KPFA? Moments that result in two hours of live programming?

I'll give Sandra Lupien credit for "some levels of troop withdrawal" in the Pelosi and Senate measure right now. Had that not happened, I'd be attacking their early story which was a nice little bit of fiction. That may be harsh but it is so interesting what gets accepted and what's not questioned? I'm not talking about the shooting. God knows we got our time wasted with that crap. I'm talking about the Sudan.

But I'll table that and instead note something -- we don't need bullshit on KPFA. If Kris Welch wants to summarize (on the Saturday Talkies) the mainstream press, fine. But a news program shouldn't and shouldn't when you're dealing with whispers and claims that can be verified. If you have solid information about the shooter, present it. I don't need to know what anonymous sources told The Chicago Tribune or anyone else. In fact, I think in this case, the last thing needed is a feeding frenzy on the coverage of others.

I meant to e-mail Mary today and find out if that was the community's Mary who e-mailed -- God, more on Sudan on The KPFA Evening News. That was the lead story. But we're back on this crap. So, anyway, a Mary, maybe our Mary, e-mailed to complain that Larry Bensky was relying too heavily on the New York Times coverage for his information about the shooting. Bensky denied that and I will agree that he reads many, many news reports. You can't have listened to him over the years and not know that. But KPFA, as a whole, treats the New York Times as this amazing source. I'll never forget one who relies heavily on the New York Times, way too heavily, speaking with Dahr Jamail about Falluja and you could hear the shock in Dahr's voice when he replied because the speaker thought Falluja was a US rah-rah victory. Where would the speaker get that wrong idea? From Dexter Filkins who lied his way into an award with his whitewash of Falluja.

So KPFA relies far too heavily on the New York Times, no question. But I think with Bensky, it was a false call. If that was our Mary, e-mail me and tell me what you heard because I may have missed something. I really wasn't thrilled with the special airing to begin with. Again, Iraq doesn't get to interrupt the schedule with a live discussion. So I may have missed something.

I also had several e-mails asking if the taxes were completed? Yes, and thank C.I. for that. I was so stressed out (as I'm sure anyone reading yesterday's post could tell). I let C.I. in. C.I. took one look at me, walked over to my stereo and put some music on. We then sat down on the floor with everything (my reciepts) spread all over and went through them. It probably took three hours just to get that into piles of what could count, what couldn't and what might. After that it was probably another two hours of working on the taxes. (With C.I. asking, "Do you want to go with that maybe?" I played it conservative -- a first -- and went with caution. I really do not want an audit.) So we finished and C.I. took it and mailed it "In case you sleep in tomorrow."

The radio by the bed, the alarm clock, went off and I rolled over. Then I put a pillow over my head. Then the Bensky special started and I groaned through about half of that before getting up, taking a shower, brushing my teeth, et al. After that was done, I ate breakfast while listening in the kitchen (to the special) and pretty much stayed planted in there until at least noon. I was wiped out.

I'm sure C.I. was far more wiped out than I was. (For instance, juding by the time on the morning posts, C.I. got up around the same time as usual.) I'm over here now and C.I. has a ton of energy but I feel like falling over.

So that's my day. And if that was our Mary, please e-mail me. I was half-awake and also doing my morning clean up routine in the bathroom so I may have missed it but, from what I heard, I didn't hear an over-reliance on the New York Times.

One more KPFA note. Democracy Now! came on after the special. Amy Goodman noted that the identity of the killer wasn't known. That was true when she did the show. But it brought home why KPFA does not need to clear time in the evening to reair Democracy Now! They air it in the morning. Do we really need to review what had taken place by that morning at night? The identity of the killer is known now. But if it aired at night in place of another program, KPFA listeners might feel otherwise. It's a morning show, it works well where it is. Also, please read
"Ruth's Report" because it's Ruth and she's addressing KPFA. In addition, if you missed Nora Barrows-Friedman's reporting today, listen to Flashpoints archive because you know you're not going to hear about it on the KPFA newsbreaks and, it doesn't appear, on the evening news either.

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraqi refugee crisis receives some attention in Geneva, claims are bandied all around regarding events of violence in Iraq, Robert Gates got a goody bag and wants to share and Americans not only think the illegal war was not worth it, the also think it is "lost."

Starting with war resister news,
Ehren Watada's father, Bob Watada, shared Saturday of how his son's struggle has inspired him. Ehren Watada, in June 2006, became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. In February 2006, his court-martial ended a mistrial and his next court-martial is scheduled for July 16th. Brian Charlton (AP) reports that Bob Watada spoke Saturday at a Honolulu meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists where he explained, "It was because of him that I've gone out and educated myself." Charlton notes the stroke Rosa Sakanishi (Ehren's step-mother) suffered. That was in January at the rally in DC, shortly after Bob Watada spoke. Ann Wright managed to catch Sakanishi as she was falling.There are many lessons to be learned from Watada and other war resisters. Ehren Watada is part of a movement of war resistance within the military that also includes Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Justin Colby, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

Al Jazeera reports on Abu Fares who left Iraq with his family but returned after the start of the illegal war in 2003 which he felt was cause for hope and return (the disposing of Saddam Hussein) only to discover that "Everything was chaos. We spent days with no water or electricity. I had to write my will every time I wanted to leave the house." The family has now returned to Iran with no plans to return to Iraq. The issue of refugees is one that Dahr Jamail and Ali al Fadhilly have reported on at length for IPS and Dahr has also reported on it frequently for Flashpoints. Last Tuesday, on Flashpoints, Dahr spoke with Emily Howard about the refugee problem and the refusal to address it by it the US. He noted that those fortunate enough to afford to leave (buying their way out of arrests frequently) become internal refugees (wandering or living in refugee tents) or else the become external refugees who leave the country. Friday on KPFA's The Morning Show, Dahr spoke with Andrea Lewis and Aaron Glantz about the Iraqi refugees who had gone to Syria and noted, "I have updated numbers from meeting with Sybella Wilkes yesterday who is the UNHCR regional public information officer. And according to UNHCR, there are, there's 1.2 million is the minimum estimate they have in Syria alone. The governement of Syria, who UNHCR admitted probably has more accurate figures than they do, estimates there's between 1.4 and 1.5 million Iraqi refugees here, hundreds of thousands of those are Shia as well. I think people in the US are led to believe that it's only the Sunni population that's leaving and, while they are the majority, it's important to note that there's a giant number and growing number of Shia up here in Syria as well. But really the situation is really -- even just those numbers, as if they're not staggering enough by themselves -- the situation here is UNHCR has only actually registered approximately 70,000 of these people. So that means these are only the 70,000 that literally have so little of anything that they have to literally go there for food and in some way to find some housing. So the crisis is certainly going to grow exponentially as these other Iraqis here, and I have met with many of them, are living on their savings right now. What are they going to do when their savings run out? Syria right now has approximately a 20 to 25% unemployment rate. Add in another between 1.2 to 1.5 million Iraqis, so already that figure is too low. And as time persists, of course, the situation will worsen. And we have between 30 and 50,000 more Iraqis coming into Syria alone every single month." [Those unable to listen to the broadcast can click here for that and other remarks by Dahr.]

Today the United Nations held a conference in Geneva on the subject of the refugee crisis.
BBC reports that Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, "urged Iraq's neighbours not to close their borders to refugees, and states further afield to do more to help tackle the humanitarian crisis." Sephanie Nebehay (Reuters) reports that the appeal includes a request "for international aid for nearly 4 million Iraqis". The United Nations states: "Hundres of concerned participants from governments, aid organization and United Nations bodies gathered in Geneva today" and quotes UNHCR head Antonio Guterres citing a "moral imperative" which requires the actions of "[a]ll of us -- representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society". Meanwhile Nicholas Keung (Toronto Star) reports: "The UN has raised only half of its $60 million goal for 2007, a figure that includes $2.5 million pledged by Canada." Deutsche Welle notes, "Germany's Department of Foreign Affairs had announced on Monday that it would make 2.2 million euros in aid available to Iraqi refugees and displaced persons." IRIN notes that the conference continues tomorrow

From refugees to the puppet government that created (or assisted the US government in creating) the problem. On the heels of Moqtada al-Sadr's block exiting their six minister position in the coalition Nouri al-Maliki cobbled together and filled well after the Consitutionally mandated deadline, the US government launches a global push to shore up support for their puppet.
Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reports that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will be "using potential U.S. arms sales and other military assistance" to shore up support in the Middle East for al-Maliki. David S. Cloud (New York Times) notes that Gates' trip will include encouraging "leaders to back Iraq's government and to put aside their doubts about Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's ability to curtail sectarian violence". Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) informs that "Defense Department officials acknowledge that the support for Maliki in Sunni-dominated nations is not as firm as they would like." Or at all. Fatih Abdulsalam (Azzaman via WatchingAmerica) predicts that, when the US does withdraw from Iraq, "the current government -- if it still exists at the time, God forbid -- it would certain encounter its political death, both nationally and internationally, especially if it's notion of using extreme repression to further the national reconciliation process remains unchanged. The problem is not in any of these options, but al-Maliki himself and his delusional promises of building a military force capable of action as an alternative to the Americans, without purging the existing force of sectarian elements."

The attempts to shore up support for the puppet government outside the US comes as
Gary Langer (ABC News) reports on the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll which finds: "A bare majority of the Americans for the first time believe the United States will lose the war in Iraq, and a new high -- two-thirds -- say the war was not worth fighting." Possibly Robert Gates will next take his goody bag house to house throughout the US?

Turning to US Congressional news . . . Cloy Richards served in Iraq and suffers from PTSD. His mother is Tina Richards.
Eric Leaver (Foreign Policy in Focus) sums up the event that introduced many people to Tina Richards: "Instead, the biggest brawl the public saw was between House Appropriations committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) and the mother of a Marine and an anti-war activist, Tina Richards. Responding from Richard's plea to stop the war Obey screamed, "We don't have the votes." But it was never clear that Obey and others were in fact seeking the votes to end the war. Instead they were seeking the votes for what ended up being in a weak compromise." As noted by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!), "Tina Richards was arrested on Monday outside the office of Nancy Pelosi while calling on the House Speaker to stop funding the war." After the press attention following Obey's public meltdown, Nancy Pelosi stated she wanted to meet with Tina Richards but has yet to make time for such a meeting. Stacy Bannerman (Military Families Speak Out) notes that Congress owns the war having gone with "stay the course" and notes what it look liked up close to see even those Congress members opposed to the war cave: "When members were 'released' to vote for the supplemental funding bill, the 'Out of Iraq' Caucus became the 'Stay in Iraq' caucus. New branding materials are in the works. When the people that got elected on a strong anti-war platform voted to continue the war, they broke a sacred trust with their constituents. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Jim McGovern (D-MA) et. al, clean out your desks and return the keys to your office. Immediately. When Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), a long-time, outspoken opponent of the war, cannot look me in the face as he passes by on his way to vote, I know that he knows that what he's doing is wrong. The rationalizations for continuing to fund the war under the patently false guise of 'supporting the troops' are just a different page from the same book that was used to build the case for war."

In claims news today, a Sunday raid in Baghdad's al-Amil neighborhood conducted by US forces is straying from the approved US military narrative.
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) reports today that eye witnesses say that the US military randomly opened fire, killining indiscriminately and quoted one Iraqi stating: "People were sleeping when the U.S. forces raided the area. Shooting started and people came out to see what happened. Two were killed in the shooting. A mother and her son came out to see what happened and they were also killed during the shooting. So we have four killed and two others wounded." At some point the US military may launch an investigation into the event. Like the investigations into the helicopter crashes, they will, no doubt, drag on and on. However, remember this is the claims department section, the US military has completed an investigation in less than 24 hours and, they announce, they have cleared themselves as they maintain that those killed in Ramadi yesterday "were not Iraqi policemen as originally reported." In other claims, CNN reports a group has posted online the assertion that they killed 20 Iraqi security forces they kidnapped on Saturday in Baghdad. And, finally, AP reports that a group thought to be (or claimed to be) linked to al Qaeda has "claimed in audiotape posted on the Internet Tuesday that the group had begun manufacturing its own rockets."

Turning to actual reported events in Iraq today . . .


Reuters reports a car bombing in Hawija that left 3 dead and 4 wounded, a Kirkuk roadside bombing that wounded 3, and a truck bombing -- near Mosul -- which killed 1 person and left 4 Iraqi soldiers wounded.


CNN reports a professor, on his way to work at Baghdad University, was shot dead.


Reuters reports 9 corpses discovered in Mosul, 11 in Baghdad, and 4 in Diwaniya.

Today, the
US military announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West died April 16 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." Sunday, the total number of US service members killed in Iraq during the illegal war which began March 2003 passed the 3,300 mark. Noting that maker being passed today, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) observed: "The conflict is becoming increasingly dangerous for U.S. troops. More soldiers have died since October than in any other six-month period of the war."

In Italy, a murder trial began today and . . . kind of ended. While escorting the just released journalist Giulian Sgrena to Baghdad International (March 4, 2005) the car carrying Sgrena and Italian intelligence came under fire from US troops. As
Tracy Wilkinson (Los Angeles Times) notes that US service member Mario Lonzano was being tried in absentia in Rome today. Germany's Der Spiegel sums it up this way: "While everyone agrees that Mario Lozano, an American soldier, fired the fatal shots that killed Italian agent Nicola Calipari in Iraq to years ago, that is where the agreement ends. For the United States government, the case is closed but Rome sees things somewhat differently. Italy is putting Lozano on trial for murder even though he is refusing to attend." BBC reports this statement by the attorney, Fraco Coppi, for Caliparia's widow, on Lonzano not being present, "His absence is his own choice. It does not represent an obstacle to ascertaining the truth. We are absolutely serene. The evidence gathered is indisputable." Democracy Now! quotes Giuliana Sgrena on the trial itself: "It is a mixture of anguish and of hope. Of course, as I wanted this trial, I am very happy that now it will start. But of course, for me it means to go back to two years ago and what happened two years ago. And so it is very painful for me to think of these things and the details, because at the trial we need to go into details, so it is very painful for me. But we have to face the trial because it is a very important step." A step taken but not completed. CBS News' Sabina Castelfranco reports that the trial "has been postponed until May 14th". Alessandra Rizzo (AP) notes an immediate adjournment by the judge "for technical reasons."

In other legal news,
Marty Graham (Reuters) reports that US service member Sanick Dela Cruz is no longer charged in the November 19, 2005 massacre/slaughter in Iraq and quotes the statement issued by the US Marine Corps: "Charges agains him were dismissed on April 2 after the government balanced his low level of culpability in the alleged crime against the potential value of his testimony."