Thursday, August 02, 2007

Remember, after recess comes nap time








Starting with the talking point that imploded. By making July about the slow trickle in announcements, the US military repeatedly misled on the number of US service members dying. The press didn't want to call it out. They'd pretend multiple deaths on a Sunday being announced on a Thursday was perfectly normal (and in their print editions this morning, include a late announcement but refer to it as taking place "Tuesday" and not in "July" which is the height of dishonesty having all run with the "July" "count" the day prior). A week ago, what was already noticeable was underscored when Lt. Gen Raymond T. Odierno was selling to the press that after April, May and June all saw US troop fatalities climb past 100 each month, the figures were down for July (he ignored the reality that the air war had been beefed up -- a time tested manner for the US to reduce deaths somewhat) and even though the slow trickle of announcements was known, everyone played dumb in their reports and ran with the talking point despite the fact that hours after Odierno's Thursday spin the US military would announce 7 more deaths with none of them taking place that day -- all "backlogged" and on the slow trickle. The US miiltary was back to the old tricks used in 2003 and 2004 and for much of 2005: hold off on death announcements in light of the first day of the month when outlets would run with their "looking back on the month" pieces. They dropped that stunt in 2005 in part because they were caught doing it once too often but also because many outlets were already bored with the illegal war and no longer interested in filing the obligatory monthly piece. Odierno puts the US military's official stamp on the talking point and suddenly all the outlets are back to doing monthly pieces and all are stressing on August 1st that July deaths were down, that July deaths were the lowest of the year. Some went with 72, some went with 74. The count was incomplete (as would be demonstrated throughout that day) but qualifiers were in short supply. The lowest number of deaths for 2007! was the talking point and all ran with it. July 2007 was also the deadliest July of the illegal war for US service members (and for Iraqis the death rate tripled) but it was sell-sell-sell that this was some 'good news'. One of the few exceptions was Stephen Farrell (New York Times) who did note a qualifier in a piece that ran on the morning of August 1st: "Estimates of the death toll varied, but Iraq Coalition Casualty Count put the July total so far at 74, down from 101 in June and the lowest number since November 2006. Some casualties in late July may be reported after the beginning of August, so the count is not yet definitive for the month." But even Farrell forgot to consider past Julys when touting the 'progress' that wasn't really there. Today, ICCC reports that the number for US service members' announced deaths in July has risen to 81.Those who are confused can check out ICCC's period details but, remember, you were supposed to be confused. That was the point of the slow trickle of announcements. (In the period details, you can also note that all but four announced deaths -- there may be more coming -- for July have already had their names announced by the Defense Department.) 81, for those who've forgotten or never paid attention, is the number of announced deaths in February and March. July, despite the burst of press enthusiasm and stupidty, was not the lowest of the month of the year for US fatalities nor was it the lowest since 2006 (November of 2006 saw 70 deaths announced). Who will run the corrections? Reporters aren't responsible for writing headlines; however, the headlines have all been seen by readers yesterday proclaiming that July was 'good news' or, as the New York Times worded it, "U.S. Death Toll In Iraq in July Expected to Be Lowest in '07." By whom was never said but only a fool "expected" that to happen and only the fools are attempting to cover themselves now in embarrassment because JULY IS NOT THE LOWEST IN '07.

The talking point has imploded but we'll all supposed to pretend otherwise.It was nothing but another wave of Operation Happy Talk in the same way that a nothing soccer match was repeatedly treated as some sort of sign of 'progress' in an illegal war with many alleged reporters writing allegedly of Iraqi response but focusing only on the men (who ripped their shirts off, fired their guns in the air and generally must have given the boys in the press a heady dose of homo-eroticism to sniff). A better indicator was Oxfam's "Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq," released this week, but it addressed reality and didn't jibe with the latest waves of Operation Happy Talk so it was largely ignored.

While the boys of the press beat themselves excitedly in frenzy over some Iraqi males shirtless, Oxfam provided less of a sexual high as they noted, "Forty-three per cent of Iraqis suffer from 'absolute poverty'. According to some estimates, over half the population are now without work. Children are hit the hardest by the decline in living standards. Child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 per cent before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 per cent now." Hard to get your jollies on that so the press elected to under report or ignore the realities of what the illegal war had really brought.

Throught the reporters of Jock Boy High's jock boy high, bombs were exploding and mass fatalities were taking place, but that fact was more or less ignored in the push for: "It's soccer!" Today CBS and AP note that "at least" 142 Iraqis died yesterday but look through this morning's paper to find that headline. You won't because when it's time to sell-sell-sell the illegal war again, realities have to drop out of the picture. In this case, 142 Iraqis dying is judged unimportant. For the New York Times, the big news, the front page piece, is Mark Mazzetti pondering fantasy at length in the latest push to sell the illegal war. Elisabeth Bumiller's "White House Letters" had nothing on Mazzetti (and her "letters" didn't run on the front page). Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) points out the ugly reality: "The death toll from the car bombings was the highest for Baghdad since February, when the United States began increasing the number of troops in the capital in an effort to cut violence." No change in US military deaths, no change in Iraqi deaths. The realities of the Bully Boy's escalation which he initiated over the strong objections of the US public and over the 'symbolic' rejection of the Democratically controlled US Congress. Despite these realities, CBS and AP report that the administration is claiming "security is improving".

Repeating, the announced deaths for July thus far have now reached 81 making it not the lowest of the year nor the lowest since 2006. Do not expect to see any outlets run corrections to their earlier (false) coverage. As Aimee Allison and David Solnit point out in their book Army Of None, "Corporate media's steady stream of lies, distortions, and repetition of the United States government 'war on terror' rhetoric was essential in propagating the pretense for the invasion of Iraq and is key to maintaining some level of public support for the war and occupation" (p. 155).

Turning to war resistance, David Zieger (director of the amazing Sir! No Sir!) observes of an earlier illegal war, "Like the Vietnam War itself, the GI Antiwar Movement started small and within a few years had exploded into a force that altered history. And like the times from which it grew, the movement involved organized actions and spontaneous resistance, political groups and cultural upheaval. Between 1966 and 1975, groups of soldiers -- some small and some numbering in the thousands -- emerged to challenge the war and racism in the military. Group action and individual defiance, from the 500,000 GIs who deserted over the course of the war to the untold numbers who wore peace signes, defied military discipline and avoided combat, created a 'F**k the Army" counter culture that threatened the entire military culture of the time and changed the course of the war." That also can be found in Allison and Solnit's Army Of None (p. 146), the new book published by Seven Stories Press and available for purchase ($14.95) at Courage to Resist. Though little attention has been given to the matter, Eli Israel recently became the first service member to publicly refuse to serve in the illegal war while stationed in Iraq. Little attention has also been given to the military's investigative team that locates self-checkouts (or tries) and then tips off the police after their hours of surfing the net and, in one instance, crawling through MySpace pages. Despite the fact that the US military crossed the Canadian border and posed as Canadian police while attempting to shake down Canadian citizen Winnie Ng at her home in their attempts to locate war resister Joshua Key, little attention has been given to that either or the US military ordering the arrest of Kyle Snyder, by Canadian police, on his wedding day. It was a way to screw with Snyder (charges had to be dropped and Snyder released because it's not a crime in Canada to resist the US military) and a way to postpone the wedding, even for a few days, because Snyder would be marrying a Canadian citizen (and he did) putting him out of the reach of any efforts to deport him or refuse him citizenship in Canada.

In a really bad but overly praised recent article in The Nation, the magazine continued their long standing practice of ignoring war resisters (and added censorship to their list of tools by annoucing, in the article, that the magazine was in possession of "dozens" of photos of abuses but the magazine refused to print any). They could speak to members of a centrist organization, they could speak to members of a White House front committee and readers were supposed to be thrilled that at least a few members of Iraq Veterans Against the War got included. Or that Camilo Mejia was included. The term "war resister" wasn't applied to Mejia, despite the fact that he freely uses it; however, the magazine could label him a deserter. Someone save us from the faux left and those who fancy themselves 'celebrities' as opposed to journalistic editors and publishers. As Mejia himself explained on WBAI's Law and Disorder this week, "Let me start by saying that when I allegedly went AWOL, I didn't really go AWOL because when we received orders to go to Iraq I had pretty much come to the end of my eight year service. So what happened was that I was extended from the year 2003 to the year 2031 by this thing that they called 'stop loss'." It's an important point -- and was to US Senator Bill Nelson when Mejia was in Iraq and his contract was ending -- but one lost on The Nation.

Also lost to The Nation was the War Resisters Support Campaign which the magazine's overly praised article pointedly ignored. The War Resisters Support Campaign is a Canadian organization helping and raising awareness of war resisters who go to Canada. Meet Christian Kjar (who was wrongly billed as "Christian Care" by many -- including myself, my apologies). War Resisters Support Campaign informs, "Christian Kjar, 21, is originally from California. Christian joined the US Marine Corps in 2004. It was not long before he found that, despite the motto of 'Honour, courage, commitment' posted on the recruiting office wall 'this was not the place to go if you value human dignity.' While posted in North Carolina Christian decided he could not participate in the Iraq war. He arrived in Canada in October 2005, and currently lives in Toronto." Canadian Mennonite reported that the Santa Barbara raised Kjar
began questioning his decision to enlist in boot camp quoting Kjar stating, "I knew it was stupid and foolish and wrong. This was not the place to go if you value human dignity. Instead, it was an extremely violent atmosphere where they train you to change a human being into an object by using phrases like 'communist bastards' and singing about stamping on Iraqi children. It's very difficult to go against the grain in that setting because it's a group thing. So I kept trying to reassure myself that I could be a warrior. But I couldn't let go of the fact that the intent was taking the life of a living breathing human being. When I was posted to Cherry Point [a Marine Corps base in North Carolina, in preparation for deployment to Iraq], it was eating me inside that I couldn't express how I felt to others. Prayer and meditation were very important to me at that time. During a four-day grace period [before deployment], I had time to really reflect and come to grips with what my conscience was telling me. One day I opened the Bible at Deuteronomy 5 and read, 'Thou shalt not kill.'
'After that I was honest with myself. I now knew what I didn't want to be. Also, the just war thing didn't work for me…. I knew there is no justice to be complicit in the suffering of people of differing faiths and origins, and was convinced that the U.S. government has failed utterly and miserably in preserving the dignity of human life in Iraq, where thousands of people have died." Irene Kuan (The Eyeopener) reported that after learning of the War Resisters Support Campaign and speaking with attorney Jeffrey House, Kjar began the trip to Canada via Buffalo after saying goodbye to his girlfriend who remained in the military. Audio and video of Kjar speaking can be found here.

War resister Agustin Aguayo, like Mejia and many others, attempted to get CO status but was repeatedly (and wrongly) denied (even in civilian courts) and he's now speaking out about his experiences in Iraq, his court-martial and more. Joan Trossman Bien (Ventura County Reporter) covers a speaking engagement from last week where Aguayo discussed his introduction to military life in Iraq via a speech delivered upon arrival, "They said to us, if you guys think as medics that you have to follow the Geneva Conventions, you're very wrong, This is Iraq. This is the real thing." And people wonder how Abu Ghraib or the gang-rape and muder of Abeer happens? Aguayo reflected, "It was so sad. We would harass civilians for no reason, cursing at teenagers for no reason, taking stuff from Iraqi homes for no reason. We have found the most immoral thing that could possibly be done to these people who have done nothing to us. So the message then is, these people are not like us. It's OK to hurt them."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

In Iraq, the US installed puppet government is falling apart. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates tries to go philosophical and spread the blame beyond the US by declaring, as AP reported, "In some ways we probably all underestimated the depth of the mistrust and how difficult it would be for these guys to come together on legislation. The kinds of legislation they're talking about will establish the framework of Iraq for the future so it's almost like our constitutional convention ... And the difficulty in coming to grips with those, we may all have underestimated six or eight months ago." As for the puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, Stephen Farrell (New York Times) notes he has "reacted cautiously to the Sunni walkout". The walkout, noted yesterday, refers to the Sunni Accordance Front's decision to leave the posts of Deputy Prime Minister and the heads of five ministry. Megan Greenwell (Washington Post) observed it was "the latest indication of growing Sunni frustration with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported, on the withdrawal,"The pullout reduces Iraq's Shiite-dominated government to little more than caretaker status. Barring a major political realignment, it also makes it less likely that Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's regime will be able to reach significant compromises on legislative benchmarks sought by the Bush administration to help quell sectarian strife. Tawafiq member Tariq Hashimi retains his post as one of Iraq's vice presidents.The bloc's pullout cast the gravest challenge yet to Maliki's tenure as prime minister. His government has been burdened for months by talk of conspiracies, most prominently featuring former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi." Some of the conspiracy talk has come repeatedly from al-Maliki who, while under siege by his puppet masters, probably shouldn't have regularly held press conferences where he declared every plot (real and imagined) he has detected to oust him. Parker notes that along with former CIA asset Allawi, Ibrahim Jafari and Adel Abdul Mehdi are also being mentioned as potential replacements (both are Shi'ite) and that "At least one plan for an alternative government to Maliki's has been submitted to the U.S. Embassy by Iraqi political leaders." Nancy A. Youssef (McClathy Newspapers) reports six may be about to become seven as Tariq al Hashemi, Iraq's Sunni vice president, has informed "he also is on the verge of resigning" and that he's already informed Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Iraq, of that possibility. Speaking of a possible resignation, al Hashemi explained, "We need these major political moves to tell everybody that what is happening is in no way tolerable. Nobody on earth or in Iraq is happy with the performance of the government." Nor is it in any way a legitimate government. CBS and AP do a head count and not that "only two Sunnis in the 40-member Cabinet" are left.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
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"This and That"
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