"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills)
Chaos and violence continue.
And yes, it's "continue "even if a mass kidnapping of 17 yesterday didn't make it into the New York Times this morning.
Al Jazeera notes "a car bombing and mortar attack" in Baghdad today that's left "[a]t least 101 people" wounded. That's wounded. The death toll has climbed repeatedly and the AP now reports it at least "31" and raises the wounded to "153." How many bombs? AFP notes that "some witnesses spoke of more" than one car bomb. Of the area in Baghdad where the attacks took place, the BBC notes their correspondent Jane Peel's description of the area as "well protected with a heavy presence of Iraqi troops and several checkpoints". Of course, the entire city of Baghdad is under the supposed 'security crackdown' and has been for over six weeks. The AFP describes the area as one where the "bustling shops still attract customers from both the city's rival religious groups" and they also note a witness who feels there was "more than one car bomb." Jenny Booth "and agencies" (Times of London) state the area is "religiously mixed neighborhood which is home to several leading politicians from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country's biggest Shia party."
On the issue of witnesses feeling they heard more than one bomb, Borzou Daraghi (Los Angeles Times) notes: "Police said four of the five blasts were caused by rockets or mortars. But officials have often attributed such explosions to indirect fire, hoping to stave off blame for allowing drivers to maneuver explosives-packed vehicles past checkpoints that dot the city." (The fatality toll is raised to "at least 32" beginning with Daraghi's report.)
Michael Georgy (Reuters) reports one man who died, Hassan Kufi, "was hours away from getting married on Thursday. There were no festivities, just his funerals." He also notes "[a] boy of about 10 with a bloodied head" laying "on the floor." Borzou Daragahi (Los Angels Times) notes hardware store owner Zuhair Ali Hussein Zaidi, "who left his shop to investigate one blast only to return and find his shop was completely destroyed" saying: "I saw children completely burnt and many injured. People were evacuating the dead and injured by carrying them out." Daragahi reports that many people are still missing ("including one 11-year-old girl on a shopping errand") and that the dead are still be found in the rubble and debris.
Might Iraq grab some serious press attention? Don't count on it. In other bombings, Reuters reports two police officers are dead and two more wounded "near Tikrit" from a roadside bomb while one person died and four were wounded in Ishaqee from a roadside bomb. AFP notes a bomb in Baquba which killed "at least five people." That bombing (guessing from the fatality toll) is described by Reuters as one that exploded near "an ambulance headed to Baquba hospital, killing five" and wounding four; in addition, Reuters notes a car bomb (also in Baquba) that left three wounded.
Reuters reports that in Baghdad, an armed clash led to six Georgian troops being wounded (the US military claims five but six is the figure "the office of the Georgian president" is using); in Kirkuk a police patrol and an Iraqi military patrol exchanged gun fire resulting in the death of one soldier and one police officer.
Also in Baghdad, AFP reports that "three people were shot dead by unidentified gunmen" and Al Jazeera notes that "four security guards outside a Sunni mosque" were killed "in a drive-by shooting."
Micheal Georgy (Reuters) reports that, in Baghdad today, nineteen corpses were discovered ("bullet holes . . . signs of torture").
In England, William Patey ("outgoing British ambassador in Iraq") spoke on the BBC Radio program Today and shared this impression: "There is some evidence that some members of the police are actively engaged with death squads and with militias, and taking orders. And clearly they need to be identified, weeded out, prosecuted. Undoubtedly, the Iraqi people have lost confidence in the police." Quite a bit different than the sort of thing Michael Gordon churns out at the New York Times. Also in the reality news department, Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) reports: "Many of the reconstruction projects that were built in the first years of the Iraq war failed to make a difference in regular Iraqis' lives. Much of the building has focused on large waterpurification plants, sewage-treatment plants or electrical generators. But the U.S. has failed to do enough to make sure its reconstruction projects provided jobs for unskilled Iraqis, and the lack of a steady supply of electricity three years after the U.S.-led invasion rankles here." Kate Zernike should take notes.
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco continues. Ben Doherty (The Age) reports that Professor Philip Mitchell has testified to the inquiry with a similar opinion as that expressed by Professor Alexander McFarlane: it is "highly unlikely Private Kovco would have deliberately shot himself while his room-mates were present, especially as he knew they were about to leave." However, Mitchell also offered the opinion that Jake Kovco might have been attempting to "re-enact" a nightmare of death he'd had a month prior. The continued assumption in the inquiry appears to be that Jake Kovco fired the gun. In April, Judy Kovco (Jake Kovco's mother) stated to Jane Holroyd (The Age): ""He didn't shoot himself. The gun went off. It was near him. It was nearby. (So) what did Jake do? Put his head down near the table so it could shoot him in the head, did he?"
Belinda Tasker (Townsville Bulletin) notes that Mitchell dubbed his theory "highly speculative."
In peace news, Bill Metcalfe (The Tyee) reports on the recent Our Way Home Reunion in Canada which brought together war resisters from Vietnam and today and featured a showing of David Zeiger's documentary Sir, No Sir, which chronicles G.I. resistance during the Vietnam era. As noted yesterday, CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin took truth to Congress. Refusing to stay silent in the face of one lie after another as occupation puppet Nouri al-Maliki talked the war talk, Benjamin protested, chanting, "Bring them home now!" On yesterday's The KPFA Evening News, Darby Hicky reported on this and more can be found at CODEPINK. Jonathan Weisman (Washington Post) reported: "Veteran San Francisco activist Medea Benjamin, wearing a 'Troops Home Now' T-shirt, chimed in, standing in the House gallery to interrupt Maliki's address with repeated shouts of: 'Iraqis want the troops to leave. Bring them home now.' She was promptly removed and arrested."
It is day 24 of the Troops Home Fast and over 4,350 people are participating around the world. Along with Medea Benjamin, Diane Wilson, Cindy Sheehan and Ann Wright, Mike De Souza (CanWest News Service) reports that: "Libby Davies, the NDP House leader and MP for Vancouver East, made the trip to Washington D.C." to show her support. De Souza quotes Medea Benjamin stating, of those participating in the fast, "We're in an emergency crisis, and they're putting their bodies on the line."
The fast is ongoing. Those wanting to participate, for one day or more than one day, can join the fast at any point. It began on July 4th and some have fasted every day. Others have fasted one day and some have chosen one day to fast each week. More information can be found at Troops Home Fast. The fast will continue in August as Cindy Sheehan and others return to Crawford, TX -- home of last year's Camp Casey demonstrations. Though there has been concern of where the camp would be set up, Jack Douglas Jr. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) reports that land has been purchased by Cindy Sheehan to put an end to the issue and quotes Sheehan stating, "I can't think of a better way to use Casey's insurance money than for peace, and I am sure that Casey approves." Douglas reports the gatherings in Crawford will take place from August 16th to September 2nd.
How about Medea Benjamin? She just doesn't stop. She's got so much strength and maybe you're like me? You read that and you just think, "I could never do that." But the second thing you need to think is, "Well, what can I do?"
I'm reading a book from C.I.'s latest book drop. I picked this one first because I knew of Gloria Steinem but I really don't know her books. This one is called Outrageous Acts & Everyday Rebellion. This is really a great book. If you need more than my word to pick it up, on the back of the book, it's got Jane Fonda, Walter Cronkite, Coretta Scott King, Bill Moyers, Judy Collins and Alan Alda singing the book's praises.
There's a lot in there and C.I. made a list of which ones I could read by jumping around. Sometimes I'm not in the mood to go A-B-C-D . . . Chapter 1-2-3-4 . . . And I saw the book, it may have been on top, and thought, "I'm reading this one first." Then I found the note as I was digging around the box and was glad to see it was one I could hop around. It's a series of essays with an overall theme but you can start where ever you wants. The first thing I read was the essay on Alice Walker (which I really enjoyed). But I've enjoyed all of it so far. And one point Steinem makes in words and that is implied throughout (I think anyway) is that you see someone doing something and you ask what can you do?
So when you see Medea Benjamin do something amazing and think how incredible and strong she is, don't end it with, "I could never do that." Ask yourself, "Well what can I do?"
We can't all be Medea Benjamin anymore than we can all be MLK or Frederick Douglass or Harry Belafonte or Ida B. Wells-Barnett or Rosa Parks or . . . Put your own heroes on the list. (And make a place for Cindy Sheehan.) But we can take a stand. Our stand may be smaller but that's how we start.
The community knows my story but maybe there's something in here that will help someone if I repeat it. Like a lot of African-Americans, I was burned out by the White web that thought it was inclusive and thought it wanted you around until you had an opinion or didn't want to play House Negro. Some on the left are just as bad about wanting that as the right is. They want you to agree with them and trash Cynthia McKinney or something like that. (I like Cynthia McKinney. And that was a big breaking point in 2002 for some websites.)
So I gave up on that and I just focused on my church and my own life. Then came the war and I tried some more sites and felt like there was time for every issue and every topic in the world until it got around to race. So I was kind of surprised when my cousin started saying, "Have you read The Common Ills?" She is one of the original community members and she's the reason I checked it out. But I was nervous about highlights. (I should note here that C.I.'s focus for the site is now Iraq. That's at the community's request. If other people were doing their job, C.I. would be covering other things. There are other issues. But you've got so many blowing off their responsibilities online and in the press, that the community vote was for C.I. to just focus on Iraq.) I'd see something and think about doing an e-mail but thought, "Well, if it doesn't get highlighted that'll mean it's like every other site." That didn't happen, but it was a big step for me.
Then I wrote something for the year-end thing in 2004. Then I started getting more active. It was only online, but each time let me see I could do more. Then I went to my first protest/rally in March of 2005. That was a big deal for me. Now? I've got a site and I'm not afraid to speak out at work, at home and surely not at church where we are all against the war. I go to rallies and a lot more. Back in 2004, when I did that first e-mailed highlight to C.I., I thought about not sending it. Each time you take a step, it's that much easier to take the next one.
So when you see something "outrageous act" or "everyday rebellion," don't just think, "They are so strong." Ask yourself what you can do? You probably aren't to a place yet where you can do what Medea Benjamin does (I'm certainly not) but you can do something and, once you do that one thing, it will be a lot easier to do the next thing.
You can find out more about this by reading Steinem's book. You may be where I was in 2004, you may be where I am now or you may be far ahead of me -- but I think you'll enjoy the book.
Now, C.I. passed something on to me. Tomorrow (Friday) on KPFA:
Michael Parenti Special
Friday, July 28th, 1:00p.m.
A speech by Michael Parenti, author of "The Culture Struggle."
That's Pacific time. I just finished a book by Parenti and am looking forward to more. But I didn't even know of him (I did know his son's writing, Christian Parenti) until KPFA played a speech by him in May. This may be the same speech or it may be a different one. But if you've never heard him (or if you want to hear him again), make a point to listen. If you can't catch it live, go to the station after and you can hear it in the archives. (I don't know how long they keep the archives up but it's at least two weeks, I think.) I was really excited when I heard him last time, the way you get when you discover something new that you didn't know was out there.
Congratulations to Rebecca & Flyboy! If you wonder why, check out Betty's "Travel and other talk" and let me add that Betty is very pretty. I think she was feeling tired when we were in Mexico and I can understand that, she's got three kids. But she's pretty and either down playing her looks or else in need of a compliment (an overdue compliment).