Monday, April 07, 2008

Crazy Ruth Conniff

Starting with war resistance.  "I guess the hardest thing for people to understand is the reason you join the military is not the reason you leave it," writes war resister Kimberly Rivera (Rivera Family).  Rivera is a US war resister in Canada.  Like war resisters Josh Randall and Brandon Hughey, Rivera is from Texas. February 18, 2007, she, her husband Mario Rivera entered Canada. Rivera is the first known female US war resister to apply for refugee status in Canada.  (Skylar James arrived after Rivera.)  Rivera writes:
Your basic role as a soldier being invalidated, finding out your job has no meaning.  No reason.  Higher command just let bad people past you demanding they do not get the same treatment as others who come in the base every day.  This Is the same as jeopardizing every men and women on the front line.  That was the most angering moment for me.  From this point on I had no pride in my work, No reason for being in Iraq.  It was obvious to me that security was not the top priority for the troops and as one person not allowed to do my job efficiently and to the highest ability was the final straw.  Finding that out is the hardest.  It was my last reason for staying.  For giving my life.  You believe you are doing the right thing. 
At the end of last year, Courage to Resist spoke with Rivera about her deployment to Iraq:
While in Iraq losing soldiers and civilians was part of daily life.  I was a gate guard.  This was looked down on by infantry soldiers who go out in the streets, but gate guards are the highest security of the Foward Operation Base.  We searched vehicles, civilian personnel, and military convoys that left and came back every hour.  I had a huge awakening seeing the war as it truly is: people losing their lives for greed of a nation and the effects on the soldiers who come back with new problems such as nightmares, anxieties, depression, anger alcohol abuse, missing limbs and scars from burns.  Some don't come back at all.  On December 21, 2006 I was going to my room and something in my heart told me to go call my husband.  And when I did 24 rounds of mortars hit the FOB in a matter of minutes after I got on the phone . . . the mortars were 10-15 feet from where I was.  I found a hole from the shrapnel in my room in the plywood window.  That night I found the shrapnel on my bed in the same place where my head would have been if I hadn't changed my plans and gone to the phone.
War resisters in Canada are attempting to be granted safe harbor.  The Canadian Parliament will debate a measure this month on that issue.  You can make your voice heard. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty 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 [(877) 447-4487], 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 addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).  
In January 2007, President Bush announced the surge of an additional 30,000 American forces into Iraq. Next week, the President is expected to tell the American people what comes next. It's an important moment for America's future.   
"The purpose of the surge was to bring violence in Iraq down so that its leaders could come together politically. Violence has come down, but the Iraqis have not come together. The country remains terribly divided among Sunni, Shi'a and Kurds. There is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon.      
"Our military has done a heroic job in bringing violence down since last summer. But even these gains are relative. Violence is just getting back to levels we saw in 2005 -- when 846 Americans lost their lives and 5,945 were wounded. Iraq is still an incredibly dangerous place -- and very far from normal.       
"Despite this reality, the President is expected to announce that when the surge ends, we will not be in a position of drawing down American forces. There could be no clearer acknowledgment from the President himself that the surge has not succeeded in achieving its stated purpose--namely, moving Iraq toward the day it can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself in peace.           
"So, where are we after the surge? Back to where we were before it started. With 140,000 troops in Iraq -- and no end in sight. The best that can be said is we've gone from drowning in Iraq to treading water. That's better, but we can't keep doing it without exhausting ourselves.         
"Every extra day we stay in Iraq with 140,000 troops, that's exactly what we're doing. And the price we're paying keeps getting steeper:         
The continued loss of the lives and limbs of our soldiers -- every day;        
The emotional and economic strain on our military families due to repeated, extended tours -- lasting up to 15 months;         
The drain on our Treasury -- $12 billion every month that we could be spending on housing, education or healthcare here at home;         
The impact on the readiness of our armed forces -- tying down so many troops that we don't have any leftover to deal with a new emergency;         
The inability to send enough troops to the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan -- the real central front in the war on terror;           
And finally: the damage done to America's standing in the world;"I believe the President has no strategy for success in Iraq. His plan is to muddle through -- and hand the problem off to his successor. Our troops and their families deserve better than that. We owe them a strategy worthy of their sacrifice.              
"We Democrats understand that this war must end so that America can regain the credibility to lead around the world and the flexibility to meet our challenges here at home. That's what the American people want -- and it's what America's security needs. Thank you for listening."          
Biden's radio address continued the Congressional plan to set out criteria ahead  of the Congressional testimonies of US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen David Petraeus (they begin testifying Tuesday).  Wednesday and Thursday, Congress utilized the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings and a press conference to lay down.  On Wednesday, Biden noted (at the opening of the afternoon hearings), "We are told that we must continue to support a strong central government, when that government does not enjoy the trust of many Iraqis, and has little capacity to deliver security and services."  Last fall, Congress was basically unprepared (or unwilling) for the wave of Operation Happy Talk the White House launched.  As Biden noted Wednesday morning, the escalation ('surge') was announced by the White House at the start of 2007, "The following September, when Ambassaodr Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus testified before Congress, they told us that the surge would start to wind down this spring, at which point they would give the President and Congress their recommendations for what should come next.  That's the context for the two weeks of hearings we start today in the Foreign Relations -- and for the basic questions we'll be asking: One, has the surge accomplished its stated goals?  We're interested not just in tactical military progress, but also the strategic objective of buying time for political reconciliation.  And two, where do we go from here, both in terms of U.S. force levels and U.S. policy for succeeding in Iraq?"
"General David Petraeus, our top man in Iraq, returns to Washington this week to talk about where we go from here," was how Bob Schieffer (CBS' Face The Nation, link has text and video) introduced the topic on yesterday's broadcast.  CBS News' Lara Logan appeared to give an overview of recent events and McClatchy Newspapers' Nancy A. Youssef and the Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran were the panelists for the discussion after Logan finished her report. 
Bob Schieffer: Is Iraq any better?  Have things calmed down at all over this last year because suddenly many Americans were surprised over the last couple of weeks when you had this new round of violence.  What -- what's the situation there now? 
Lara Logan: Well the last few weeks have really been brutal for General Petraeus because he really was looking at a year where he managed to be quite successful in reducing violence particularly in Baghdad and some of the surrounding areas.  One of the main reasons for that is the agreement with the Sunni tribes and also with some Shi'ite tribes -- the militias that they were forming and working with the Americans but those gains have almost disappeared in the face of the recent violence which spread so quickly from Basra in the south of Iraq.  And what that fight -- it's really about two things.  It's a fight amongst the Shi'ites for power in Iraq -- what the future of this country is going to look like, how the Shi'ites will divide Iraq among themselves -- but perhaps even more importantly it's a fight between the US, who backs the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces, and Iran, who backs those militias. And this is really the proxy war that everybody talks about behind closed doors but nobody wants to admit to in public, Bob.  
Logan did something very helpful.  It wasn't journalism and shouldn't be mistaken for it.  There's very little reality in anything she declared.  But she has stuck to the talking points that Petraeus and Crocker will.  (A) Violence was reduced.  (B) That's wonderful! (C) The "Awakening" Councils are a plus.  (C) It's all Iran's fault.  (D) Let's go to war with Iran.  As a journalism, Logan's 'report' fails on every level.  As a sneak peak to the arguments Petreaus and Crocker will try to make, it's illuminating.  Taking the four points one by one.  (A) Reduced violence all these years later is a rather pathetic 'goal.'  January 10, 2007 Bully Boy announced the surge. One day after his announcement, the US death toll stood at 3018.  The current total is 4023.  1005 US service members have died since then.  Bully Boy's laughable speech (containing one kernal of truth: "Where mistakes have been, the responsibility rests with me.") promised to "put down sectarian violence" (didn't happen) "and bring security to the people of Baghdad" (ditto). He stressed that the escalation went "beyond military operations" and that "America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced" (actually pushed by the White House).  No benchmarks were reached since September.  A de-de-Baathification law kind of got passed, it hasn't been implemented, it's largely inoperable even if the puppet government attempts to implement it.  There has been no political progress.  (B) Wonderful?  That's embarrassing.  (C) Actually, the assault on Basra by the puppet government (at the request of the White House) caused large scale violence and would still be ongoing were it not for Iraqi Parliamentarians and Iran working towards a cease-fire.  (D) Bully Boy already has ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the military stretched to the limits so unless he's enlisting the Bush family into a brigade, war with Iran is impossible.  (Bully Boy's a big believer in trying the impossible when it risks harming America.)
[. . .]
Turning to US presidential race news.  Cynthia McKinney is running for the Green Party nomination and, on Saturday, Rhode Island Greens "picked a slate of delegates that favors" her.  Mark Reynolds (The Providence Journal) reports McKinney was appointed six delegates to the Green Party's July national convention (in Chicago) and Jesse Johnson was appointed two. As various candidates run for their parties' nomination, one ticket is already know: Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez.  The Nader-Gonzalez website continues their media critique -- one all third party and independent candidates should be taking part in as they are not just shut out of the MSM coverage but scorned by so-called 'independent' media.  Last week, The Progressive's Matthew Rothschild was rightly critiqued (click here for Third's piece on that) and today Team Nader wonders about "prominent American liberals" (Rothschild, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Medea Benjami, John Nichols, etc.)  who "continue to support the corrupt Democratic Party" despite agreeing with the Nader-Gonzalez ticket on issues such as "single-payer, Canadian-style, private delivery, public health insurance system," "cutting the bloated, wasteful military budget, cutting off the corporate welfare kings," "cracking down on corporate crime," "reversing U.S. policy in the Middle East and ending the military and corporate occupation in Iraq." Team Nader announces that last week more than enough signatures have been collected for the Nader-Gonzalez ticket to be on the New Mexico ballot and more than enough to be on Hawaii's ballot while the current focus is on Arizona and Kansas is the next planned state to target.
Turning to the Democratic Party where Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama remain in a dead heat for their party's presidential nomination.  Christopher Willis (AP) explains that Barack spent the weekend repeating over and over how he loves the United States which is necessary, as Willis outlines, as a result of an impression left unanswered: no flag lapel pin, not placing his hand over his heart during the "Star Spangeled Banner," Michelle Obama declaration earlier this year that she was "proud of America for the first time" and his pastor of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright, standing in front of the congregation and calling on God to damn the United States.  That issue is not going away and it's amazing that some really think these warning signals can be ignored.  Barack's given his big speech that was supposed to silence any questions about Wright but he continues to spend time trying to address the problem.  Repeating, it is not going away.  Meanwhile, Helen Thomas (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) explores the two campaigns and observes, "Obama stresses he was against the invasion of Iraq, but he doesn't say he was not in the Senate when it was initiated.  Since becoming a senator, he has twice voted to fund the war.  I am still trying to find the key that has made Obama a prime candidate for the presidency, and to understand what he has done for the country beyond his middle-of-the-road political moves to make his name known and to steer clear of hot-button issues." On the issue of the dead-heat the two candidates are in, Sean Wilentz (Salon) notes, "Crucially, Team Obama doesn't want to count the votes of Michigan and Florida. (And let's note that in a winner-take-all system, Clinton would still be leading in delegates, 1,430 to 1,257, even without Michigan and Florida.) Under the existing system, Obama's current lead in the popular vote would nearly vanish if the results from Michigan and Florida were included in the total, and his lead in pledged delegates would melt almost to nothing. The difference in the popular vote would fall to 94,005 out of nearly 27 million cast thus far -- a difference of a mere four-tenths of 1 percentage point -- and the difference in delegates would plummet to about 30, out of the 2,024 needed to win. Add those states' votes to the totals, and take a sober look at Clinton's popular-vote victories in virtually all other large states, and the electoral dynamic changes. She begins to look like the almost certain nominee."  Meanwhile Hillary Clinton continues demonstrating leadership.   On Friday she proposed a cabinet level position to address and end poverty.  Today, she appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show.  Ellen and Hillary bowled and, on charges that Hillary should drop out of the race, Ellen explained, "Just keep going and I think the people should decide.  It's wrong for anyone to tell somebody -- whoever you're for, everyone has a right to vote for whoever they want  --  but to tell someone to get out  -- It's our vote.  It's we the people that should choose."  On the program, Hillary announced that, as president, there would be a "$300 million a year in increased funding for breast cancer research at the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institure and the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program."  Clinton explained, "I know your mom is a survivor, and we've lost my incredible mother-in-law to breast cancer during Bill's first term and first year in office, and I've just been really committed.  I've had so many friends, and we all know people who survived and people who haven't.  And I just think we should set a goal of curing breast cancer within the next decade."  Marcia will cover more of the Ellen appearance this evening.

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