Saturday, July 03, 2010

Facebook rivalries








Meanwhile Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) interviews the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno. Odierno's talking points have all been heard before. They're also incredibly facile and show a total lack of understanding with regards to terrorism. You kill one terrorist, you make many more. You don't combat terrorism with violence. You may be able to use violence as a stalling tactic, but in a longterm picture, violence and only violence just fuels further terrorism.

Which is why Odierno's pronouncements and the similar ones that Petraeus made before him ever year, never turn out to be true.

Odierno wants the world to know that al Qaeda in Mesopotamia faces financing hardships -- apparently, they'll be holding a telethon shortly? No, they don't face anything. You kill off one backer or arrest another, more sprout in their place. The reasons for terrorism are not addressed via violence. The reasons terrorism breeds are not addressed in violence.

Whether Odierno grasps that or not, I have no idea. But his statements are not encouraging to anyone thinking the US government might know how to 'combat' terrorism. Nor does this DoD press release.
Turning to Rolling Stone. How much of a dumb ass is Amy Goodman? Dumb ass or tool, let's face it, the little whore's not going to take on Harvard. She doesn't have any real guts as she repeatedly demonstrated when publicly lapping up CounterTerrorism guru Samantha Power and then raving and panting -- as though she was masturbating on air -- after the interview during a never ending fundraiser for WBAI about how Power would be and should be the next Secretary of State. As Goody found out, jerk-off fantasies make bring jollies but they rarely pan out in the real world. Yesterday she had Michael Hastings on her increasinly pathetic program that soaks up way too much Pacifica money for what is a cheaply made show. (Most of the money hits Goody's bank account.) We're not linking to the trash. You can Google Democracy Now! and find Thursdays show. The little whore Goody isn't going to take on anything that matters. This is the whore who trashed NPR for refusing to carry the commentaries of a death row prisoner and then . . . stopped carrying the commentaries because she was going to be pulled from NPR stations.
So the little whore offered a gossip session: 'Mikey, what do you really think of Lara Logan? You know she's pretty and I'm ugly so I hate her.' Barack dumped Stanley McCrystal (then top US commander in Afghanistan) as a result of Michael Hastings' article. There are two ways you can go with that. Barack -- as he did with Jeremiah Wright -- dumped McCrystal because he will accept nothing less than unquestioning devotion. An argument can be made for that. It may be why McCrystal was fired. But it's also true the big story of the article included something else:
From the start, McChrystal was determined to place his personal stamp on Afghanistan, to use it as a laboratory for a controversial military strategy known as counterinsurgency. COIN, as the theory is known, is the new gospel of the Pentagon brass, a doctrine that attempts to square the military's preference for high-tech violence with the demands of fighting protracted wars in failed states. COIN calls for sending huge number of ground troops to not only destroy the enemy, but to live among the civilian population and slowly rebuild, or build from scratch, another nation's government -- a process that even its staunchest advocates admit requires years, if not decades, to achieve. The theory essentially rebrands the military, expanding its authority (and its funding) to encompass the diplomatic and political sides of warfare: Think the Green Berets as an armed Peace Corps. In 2006, after Gen. David Petraeus beta-tested the theory [C.I. note, Hastrings is wrong,it's a "hypothesis" -- when you don't get science right you aid in the creationinst battle, I didn't enlist to fight against science, Petraeus had a hypothesis, he did not have a theory. Evolution is a theory, it's is not a hypothesis. It has been repeatedly tested. People need to learn the difference between theory and hypothesis and chose the words carefully] during his "surge" in Iraq, it quickly gained a hardcover following of think-tankers, journalists, military officers and civilian officials. Nicknamed "COINdinists" for their cultish zeal, this influential cadre believed the doctrine would be the perfect solution for Afghanistan. All they needed was a general with enough charisma and political savy to implement it.
Enter Petraeus. Now the above excerpt is not buried in the long article, nor is that the only mention of counter-insurgency. It's been spelled "counter-insurgency" for a long, long time. Check the history books. The latest Nazi War Criminals promoting it thought they'd make it one word without the hyphen. It was used to attack the Vietnamese, it was used to attack the Native Americans in what is now the US. In Avatar, James Cameron exposed the hypocrisy and foolishness of the destructive strategy.
He exposed it and that's why Thomas E. Ricks pissed his panties in public and then stuffed down his own mouth. Thomas E. Ricks couldn't take the reality of what his whoring (he's no longer a journalist) and the whoring of others is doing. As they whore and promote counter-insurgency, they promote death and destruction. It's always been that way and it's why each generation has condemned counter-insurgency in the US. However, it's been able to get by with very little criticism for the last years. Partly because whores like Amy Goodman won't question it. The Iraq War passed the seven year mark in March and Whore Amy Goodman has never, EVER, done a report on counter-insurgency.
You think that's an accident. Hell no. The whore won't take on Harvard. Harvard -- specifically the Carr Center -- is where the destruction comes from. It's where Samantha Power and Sarah Sewall and all the other little whores of counter-insurgency tend to spring from. To those who embrace counter-insurgency and those who look the other way, I have no pity for you, I have no sympathy for you. I know that your actions are making the personal hell that you will be confined to and I am very happy about that because, throughout the ages, counter-insurgency has always been found to be unethical. You can pretty it up, you can tart it up, it's still a crime against a people and it always will be.
Goody likes to cover her Guantanamo psychologists, doesn't she? But whore won't go after COIN. In the case, of the Guantanamo doctors, there's no question that crimes took place; however, what really matters is that Goody knows she doesn't have to go up against any powerful institution. Harvard, however, scares Amy Goodman. So the whores who plot the murders and deaths of civilians and cultures get away without their crimes without any tut-tuting from Amy Goodman. The little whore spent twenty minutes -- TWENTY MINUTES -- with Michael Hastings and never asked about counter-insurgency. She did have time to ask about Lara Logan. What a whore. Last week, Timothy Hsia's "Rolling Stone Article's True Focus: Counterinsurgency" was up at the New York Times website:
The Rolling Stone profile on Gen. Stanley A. McChyrstal has made civil-military relations a national debate. But an equally important question raised by the article is the limitations of counterinsurgency, or COIN. The article by Michael Hastings article should not be read simply as a profile of a general but also as an indictment on counterinsurgency and the growing dissatisfaction inside the military with COIN theory and its practice in war (though General McChrystal's replacement on Wednesday, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the leading proponent of counterinsurgency, seemed to indicate there would be no immediate shift away from the strategy).
Those in favor of continued resolve in Afghanistan argue that counterinsurgency is a manpower intensive strategy which requires broadened time horizons, and that it is the approach that will finally correct previous missteps made in Afghanistan. Hastings writes, "COIN … is the new gospel of the Pentagon brass, a doctrine that attempts to square the military's preference for high-tech violence with the demands of fighting protracted wars in failed states."
And Revolution magazine (via World Can't Wait) tackled the real issues in "The Firing of a War Criminal.... And the Criminal War in Afghanistan :"

COIN is meant to address these problems. This strategy, modeled on the genocidal U.S. war in Vietnam, relies more on massive ground troops, in conjunction with air strikes. It involves taking and occupying large swaths of territory, killing insurgents, and then trying to form alliances with reactionary local forces in order to establish pro-U.S. governance. It aims to "win the hearts and minds" of civilians -- hoping they will not aid, abet and join the forces fighting the United States. It is billed as a "kinder, gentler" occupation, but in reality it is no less brutal and murderous -- and NOT in the interests of the people.
COIN is supposed to minimize civilian casualties. But in reality this has hardly been the case. In fact, in 2009, civilian casualties in Afghanistan climbed to their highest number since the start of the war. (UN Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009)
A basic contradiction here is that the U.S. military is an occupying army -- its mission by definition is brutal and murderous and the more it bombs, murders, tortures, etc., the more it alienates the people. A central goal of the U.S. war in Afghanistan is subduing -- by any means necessary -- a population in which most don't want to be under foreign domination. Thousands of people in Afghanistan have experienced the brutality and murder of the U.S. troops and they distrust if not hate the American occupiers and the Afghani flunkies the U.S. put in the government. Night raids, special operations, covert assassinations, extrajudicial killings, drone strikes, the use of military contractors, massive detentions and torture, and all-around terror are embedded in the nature of this imperialist occupation. And every U.S. bombing of a wedding, every massacre of civilians, only fuels anti-U.S. sentiment -- no matter how hard the U.S. tries to "win hearts and minds" by building a few schools.
Last Friday, brought the good news of the possible replacement for US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill. Laura Rozen (Politico) reports today that Hill will be going to Denver and be the Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at Denver University. It's the perfect post for Hill, he's a mere figurehead and it allows him to continue the tradition Mad Maddie Albright's father started of infecting everyone with Blood Lust. It's a lust, it must be noted, that has taken over the US Congress. In the 2006 campaigning, they said, "Give us one house of Congress, we'll stop the Iraq War." They got both houses, control of both houses and the wars continue to drag on. Andrew Aylward (San Francsico Chronicle) reports the US House of Representatives just voted on YET ANOTHER SUPPLEMENTAL, this one pouring $33 billion more into the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. War Hawk and War Whore David Obey spread for $16.7 billion in domestic spending -- that's what his vote cost. Though we all know David Sirota we'll thump his sunken chest in defense of his mentor and whatever else they were to one another. Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan is no War Hawk and she's gearing up for more peace action:
Last week, when I was preparing to go to New Orleans for the Emergency Meeting for the disaster in the Gulf, my youngest daughter, and mother of my two precious grandbabies, said:
"Mom, why do you all keep doing this stuff when it doesn't work?"
All I had to do was look at my innocent and darling grandbabies -- as darling as this little Afghan baby -- to know why I keep "doing this stuff."
Life is so precious and tenuous and it seems like US foreign policy is becoming more demented as the Gulf of Mexico is being destroyed by greed, incompetence and criminal negligence. And, like the president said at a recent press conference in Toronto, Canada–I am "obsessed" with ending the wars, and I might even add that I have a compulsion to do everything I can to make that happen.
Now, I am getting ready to head back across the country for 16 days of protest in the capital of the Empire.
JUST ADDED: July 3th (Saturday): END THE FED! DC Federal Reserve Building


No more wars for oil and natural resources! No more polluting our sea, air and landfills! BOYCOTT BP!!!
July 4th (Sunday):
– meet in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 1pm
– group to flyer, bullhorn in Lafayette Park and in front of the White House until dark
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet


For this week, Peace of the Action will primarily be targeting the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle display (educating the public about the horrific toll UAVs take) and drone manufacturers and lobbyists. (The Free Gaza/Free Palestine action has been inserted into this week because of the recent announcement of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the White House.)
July 5th (Monday):
– meet in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 9am
– group to protest at White House against coming pre-emptive American/Israeli attack on Iran
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet
July 6th (Tuesday):
– meet in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 9am
– group to move together to (TBA) location for FREE PALESTINE! protest until 3pm
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet
July 7th (Wednesday):
– meet in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 9am
– group to move together to Congress and protest until 3pm
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet
July 8th (Thursday):
– meet in Lafayette Park (North Side of White House) at 9am
– group to move together to General Atomics and protest until 3pm
– evening to post protest pics, videos and articles to Internet
Actually, we have room to squeeze in one more thing, Joan Wile is the founder of Grandmothers Against the War and has written the book Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace. She and others will be taking part in a peace celebration Sunday:

Public Reading of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights,
the Declaration of Independence, and Yoko Ono Statement

by Joan Wile, author, "Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace" (Citadel Press '08)

There will always be Independence Day parades, picnics, and fireworks, but there is only one Reading of the Constitution, to be held in Strawberry Fields, Central Park, this coming July 4, starting at noon. For the fourth year in a row, famed civil liberties attorney, Norman Siegel, and his friends will read portions of the U.S. Constitution aloud, interspersed with comments from Siegel and other constitutional authorities on the status of certain amendments today. THE PUBLIC IS INVITED TO ATTEND!!

"The 4th of July is a special day for all Americans and New Yorkers. We look forward to reading out loud and discussing our Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence to demonstrate that these unique principles and values should be remembered at this time," said Siegel.

Americans have seen many of our Constitutional rights trampled upon in recent years, and it is Siegel's hope that a review and analysis of the Bill of Rights and some of the important Constitution amendments will encourage people to fight to protect those rights guaranteed in the document which is the basis of our democracy.

Mr. Siegel will be accompanied, as in the three previous years of the Reading, by the granny contingent -- Grandmothers Against the War, the Raging Grannies, and the Granny Peace Brigade, which he defended in 2005 when they were on trial for attempting to enlist in the military at the Times Square recruiting center. It is no surprise that after a six-day trial in criminal court, they were all acquitted, helped by the expert defense of Mr. Siegel and his co-attorney, Earl Ward.

This unique commemoration began 42 years ago when Mr. Siegel started, alone, to read the Constitution to himself every July 4 wherever he was. In 2007, the grannies promoted the idea to him of making it an annual public event in the beautiful and tranquil oasis, Strawberry Fields, donated to New York City by Yoko Ono in memory of her husband, John Lennon.

Many people turned out for the event all three years, and thus began a beautiful and inspiring tradition, which, it is hoped, will continue on indefinitely as a regular Only in New York feature. It is thought that it may be not only a one-of-a-kind July 4 celebration in New York, but perhaps in the entire United States.

Yoko Ono has always been enthusiastic about the Reading and wrote a statement and poem to be read aloud each year in honor of the occasion. It will be read again this year.

DATE: July 4, 2010
TIME: 12 o'clock noon
PLACE: Strawberry Fields, Central Park -- enter park at W. 72nd St.., follow the sign down
a short path

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Mr. Vain






"I'm angry. Period," declared US House Rep Ike Skelton yesterday. "Anger is usually not a useful emotion -- particularly here on Capitol Hill; however, in light of the recent revelations about the management of Arlington National Cemetery, I am just downright angry. Arlington Cemetery is our nation's most hallowed ground. It is reserved as the final resting place of our heroic warriors. Management ineptitude and neglect have resulted in a web of errors. How in the world could this tragedy be allowed to happen?"
Skelton was bringing to order the US House Armed Services Committee, which he chairs, for a full hearing into the problems at Arlington. What problems? We'll drop back to the June 11th snapshot:
In the United States, the Arlington National Cemetery scandal continues to garner (deserved) attention. Richard Sisk (New York Daily News) sums it up very well in two sentences, "They didn't arrive at Arlington National Cemetery as unknown soldiers. The Army just treated them that way." Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) offers this overview, "The inspector general, Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, found one case involving personnel killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. In that instance, two grave markers had been switched. Other cases involved areas of the cemetery used to inter personnel from earlier conflicts. [. . .] The extent of the problems at one of the nation's most venerated memorials was not entirely clear. In some cases, grave markers had been knocked over and not properly replaced, the report said. Other reported cases involved poor record-keeping. Whitcomb said there was no indication of mistakes at the point of burial." Michael E. Ruane (Washington Post) adds, "The investigators found that these and other blunders were the result of a 'dysfunctional' and chaotic management system at the cemetery, which was poisoned by bitterness among top supervisors and hobbled by antiquated record-keeping." Those looking for a strong audio report on the story should refer to The Takeaway where Salon's Mark Benjamin is one of the guests and Dorothy Nolte (her sister is buried into Arlington Cemetery).
That's the most recent problem. And apparently we're supposed to pretend this is the first problem of that kind in recent times. It's not. Dropping back to the September 24, 2009 snapshot for that day's US House Veterans Committee's Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs hearing chaired by US House Rep John Hall. That hearing, US House Rep Steve Buyer provided a visual display of various national cemeteries and noted the good and the very, very bad such as dingy, dirty headestones of which he commented, "This should not matter that this is the marker of someone who died in the Civil War. It shouldn't matter. It shouldn't matter if it was someone who died in the Revolution or someone who died that's interned in Mexico City." The weeds, the lack of appropriate care to the grounds, the appalling conditions were all in the visuals projected for all to see by Buyer in that hearing. This is from his exchanged with the Dept of Interior's Katherine Stevenson.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Let me ask you something, Ms. Stevenson, tell the committee here, what are your needs? What do you believe your needs are to raise the standard within the Dept of Interior?
Katherine Stevenson: The report that I just mentioned [in opening statement] will have some recommendations for funding and it will have recommendations for increased treatment of, uh, cleaning and so on.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: What are your goals?
Katherine Stevenson: Our goals are the same as the goals set by the National Cemetery Administration. We have the same three standards, height and alignment, clean stones and level grave sides as they do.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: How many cemeteries did you go to in the review?
Katherine Stevenson: Four.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: How many do you have in your system?
Katherine Stevenson: Fourteen.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Why wouldn't you go to all fourteen cemeteries?
Katherine Stevenson: We wanted to do it as quickly as we could and get some sense of uh what was going on -- in the ones that you mentioned, for example, Andersonville was one of them. So we took ones that were fairly close to Andersonville.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Did you go to -- what are the four that you went to?
Katherine Stevenson: Andersonville, Andrew Johnson, Fort Donaldson and Stones River.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Andrew Johnson? Is that the -- that's the one in Tennessee? That's the one in Tennessee? [Stevenson nods.] Have you sent inquiries out to the other ten?
Katherine Stevenson: No, sir. No more than usual. I mean, we-we talk to them a fair amount.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Alright. You've got fourteen. Alright, there's a disconnect here. I'm not going -- I'm not in a fight with you here, okay? I want us to raise the standards, so when this review -- this report -- comes out, I'm going through it.
Katherine Stevenson: Good.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: The light's on you, okay? So what I -- what I -- My immediate sense here is is when I think the Secretary tells me he's going to do a review, that it's going to be of all 14 cemeteries. I don't want something done quick and easy. Alright? I want this to be done correctly. And if your sense is and your counsel to us is that four is going to be sufficient well [shrugs] that's fine but is what you're asking me is, "Steve, just pause here. When you get the report, you're going to be satisfied?"
Katherine Stevenson: [speaking very slowly] You know, you can choose a photograph in any of these cemeteries and [picking up speed] any, I bet, of the veteran cemeteries that are managed by other people and we will have some scenes that are perfect and some scenes that are not. And I know that that's true in the cemeteries that we manage. We are trying to do our very best for the veterans and for their burial places.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Alright. Well your standard of very best doesn't meet the standards established by others. So we're going to take your standard of very best and we're going to raise it. We're going to raise your very best even higher. Okay? And, uh, I didn't go out and selectively choose to find what I think would be the worst photograph. It's easy to go out there and take that photo. And I was extremely upset the day I saw a veteran being buried in a cemetery like I saw. It's one thing -- it's one thing, you know, we've all been to cemeteries and we've seen the conditions of some of them but to think that this was an active cemetery under the stewardship of the federal government was extremely disheartening. I-I-I'm going to pause here, Mr. Chairman, give it back to you under the time.
That the committee yesterday was angry was not doubtful. But the Committee was never going to go to rough. Secretary of the Army John McHugh was the main witness. McHugh is not only a former member of Congress, he's only been on the job since September. So less than a year later he's appearing before the Congress that knows where he was before he was the Secretary and that he stepped forward with the information on the problem very early on and did not attempt to bury it. This exchange was fairly typical in terms of the cordial relations between the Committee and the witness but it did also bring up some larger issues.
US House Rep Solomon Ortiz: Secretary McHugh, so good to see you again and I want to welcome you to your old committee. And with you at the helm there, I know that things are going to work out. [Lt] General [Steven] Whitcomb, it's always a pleasure to have you back here. And thank you for your honest and frank dialogue. You know with a significant number of mismarked and unmarked graves, what is the Army doing to reach out to the families of these deceased warriors, service members? And what is the Army doing to properly account for this unmarked or mismarked graves to accurately mark the sites? And the report only focuses on portions of the Arlington National Cemetery. Do you think that this problem exists in other areas of the cemetery? And, you know, I know we focus on Arlington. But you know we have cemeteries many places: Moroco, Africa, Belgium and I'm just wondering. I hope this is not a widespread problem that we have but, if it does, I know that you're going to look at it and take care of it. So maybe you can respond to my question. Thank you, thank you so much.
Sec of the Army John McHugh: Thank you, Congressman. As I -- As I tried to lay out beforehand, I appreciate the chance to expand upon it a bit. Our first objective is the 211 graves that are identified with map discrepancies. And we are currently working through those, as I believe I mentioned earlier, we have resolved 27 of those. Those will continue and they have to this point of errors and mismarking on the so-called "master map." We will each and every day match records through parent record system -- the map, the burial cards that record the funeral and the soldier, sailor, marine, coast guard or family member involved against headstones where they exist. And where, for example, the map shows a grave and yet there's no record or headstone. What we have done is actually unearthed, through a set procedure and determined in each one of those thus far that indeed the map was in error, that there were no remains in those graves and those graves will be reclaimed and used for appropriate purposes and a fallen hero sometime in the future. After that, we intend to proceed in all likelihood chronologically most recent [to] back. I think those who have lost loved ones in recent years are more concerned and aware of this. But at the end of the day, I should tell you, that it is our intent upon implementation of a truly viable computer and IT system to run matches on all 330,000 of those graves, and where we find similar discrepancies, begin the process of validating or finding out what the issues are with each-each one of those discrepancies. As to reaching out to the loved ones, on the first day we established -- first day of the announcement, when I released the Inspector General's report, we established a call center, we announced the number for that call center and, as of the last count I had available, we've had 867 calls into that center -- of those we have resolved 169 of those cases. And as we go forward, we are contacting each and every one of those -- of those persons who called and expressed concern to update them. And we'll continue to do that until we can work through the entire -- the entire list. We are not at this time calling people who have not expressed concern to revalidate that, indeed, they don't have an issue. For the vast majority of family members, they feel -- our conjecture is -- that they feel confident. But where we do have expressions of concern, we work with those people directly and we will continue to do that until we've answered every concerned loved one's question.
US House Rep Solomon Ortizi: My time is up now, but my other question was going to be: As soon as you finish with this, you don't think that the other cemeteries that we have in other foreign countries have any such problems like we encountered here at Arlington?
Secretary of the Army John McHugh: Well I can't possibly know that. I can tell you this, they'd be -- those graves and cemeteries are operated by and large by the Veterans Administration's National Battle Monuments Commission. I can guarantee you they will take lessons learned from our experiences and also apply them. The Chairman of the Battle Monuments Commission Max Cleland has agreed to support us -- as I mentioned in my opening statement -- in creating an advisory and oversight committee. So he will be actually part of our procees. Being the great leader that he is I know that he will take our experiences and utilize them to whatever end is necessary within their purview.
US House Rep Mac Thornberry asked a question that's popped up in several e-mails to this site since the scandal broke. Thornberry wanted to know about an unearthing. How did you identify the remains? McHugh testified that the outside of the coffins are marked with the names of the fallen. And, in addition, this can be tested with DNA. "We have not ruled out the possibilty of opening caskets."
Stying with the topic of the US Congress, US House Rep Biill Delahunt's office released the following Tuesday:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt announced today that he would oppose further funding for military operations in Afghanistan.
Delahunt, who serves as the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, said the following:
I believe that the time has come for a new approach in Afghanistan. Rather than the massive military and nation-building endeavor currently underway -- that continues to produce dubious results, according to the latest report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction -- the United States and its allies should focus our energy on combating al Qaeda and its ideology. Most importantly, emphasis should be placed on refuting al Qaeda's twisted perversion of Islam through public diplomacy, development, and other changes in policy that encourage ordinary Muslims to reject the fanatics who are trying to hijack their religion.
Until there is such a shift in strategy, I cannot support any further funding for the war in Afghanistan.
I have not come to this decision easily. For years, I supported the effort in Afghanistan. It was one of my reasons for opposing the Iraq war. That conflict undeniably distracted from Afghanistan, as I predicted at the time. The previous Administration took its eye off the ball, prioritizing its obsession with Saddam Hussein over the pursuit of al Qaeda. The invasion of Iraq actually strengthened al Qaeda by convincing many in the Muslim world that the U.S. is – as Osama bin Laden falsely claims – at war with Islam. That further undermined our efforts to defend America and bring to justice those who actually attacked us on 9/11.
Furthermore, there is the painful reality that our economy is still in serious trouble, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq come at an enormous cost to the American taxpayer – close to $1 trillion, according to some estimates. And of course, we have already lost over 1,000 Americans in the war in Afghanistan. Thousands more have been injured, many so badly that they will require care for the rest of their lives. There will never be an appropriate price tag for the suffering they and their families have had to go through. But if we are to be serious about fiscal discipline, we must reconsider the costs of this war and whether this is the best way to use our military in the defense of our nation.
I want to be clear: I am not proposing that the United States abandon the Afghan people. We have a moral obligation to help them. I am particularly concerned about the fate of women in Afghanistan, and believe that we cannot allow them to suffer as they did underneath the Taliban. But the fact of the matter is that our current policy is not succeeding in bettering their lives.
Likewise, I am not na├»ve about the dire threat to the United States posed by al Qaeda. Unlike Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda really are out to kill us, and simply withdrawing from Afghanistan will not appease their hatred. Osama bin Laden and his cohorts must be brought to justice – or destroyed. But we have to be smarter in how we combat them. Our highest priority must be convincing the Muslim world that al Qaeda is a cancer that Muslims themselves need to eradicate. We should redouble our efforts to that end.
As I said, I have not come to this decision lightly. I continue to support President Obama's overall foreign policy approach, because I am convinced that he is succeeding in changing global perceptions of America in ways that will ultimately make our country safer and more prosperous. But I no longer believe that his current strategy in Afghanistan will be successful. President Obama must use the opportunity presented by the change of commanders in Afghanistan – a move that I support wholeheartedly – to adjust course. Until that happens, I will oppose further funding for the war in Afghanistan.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Distraction as strategy







Chair Harry Mitchell: You mentioned at the very beginning, all the great satisfaction reports you've received from your clients. Who are your clients? They're not veterans are they?
Will Gunn: Sir, we do not directly serve veterans, you're correct.
Chair Harry Mitchell: Who are your clients?
Will Gunn: Ultimately my client is the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. And so as the department's top lawyer, my job is to make sure that the Secretary is well armed.
How every nice for Gunn. Chair Mitchell had to provide that walk through for clarity and it may have been necessary (my opinion is that it was necessary) because Gunn's opening remarks appeared to portray his work as "service" and "continued service" to veterans when, no, that is not who he serves. Along with confusing that aspect -- apparently deliberately -- Gunn wanted to declare that their "customers" had rated them 4.75 on a scale (with 5.0) being the highest in customer feedback. But those customers, as Chair Mitchell established, were not veterans.
Chair Mitchell was holding a Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing to provide some sort of evaluation of the Office of General Counsel -- of which Gunn is a part. The hearing was made up of two panels. On the first panel was attorney Matthew B. Tully (Tully Rinckey PPLC) who painted a disturbing picture. Disturbing but at least two Subcommittee members (not the Chair) grabbed onto the safety line of a 'few bad apples.'
Tully allowed that the problems did appear to be from a few bad apples but cautioned that these apples have been in the OGC for some time. Tully outlined how the law was broken (that's my judgment, not his, he was very cautious and calibrated in his testimony). For example, altering the date on an official government document. That is breaking the law -- altering an official government document is breaking the law and that's before you get into the intent which was to 'protect' the VA. Ranking Member David Roe pointed out that in a court case, altering a medical document would automatically get the case kicked out.Tully agreed and pointed out that there was no ethics check, that there was no place within the OGC for people to report problems. He painted a portrait of a legal arm with no oversight and no accountability.
From Tully's opening remarks:
For example, a fellow attorney had witnesses privately badgered by a VA lawyer prior to a hearing. A VA lawyer threatened disciplinary action against VA employee witnesses if their testimony did not conform to the agency's desires. In my firm's dealing with the VA's Office of General Counsel, VA lawyers had utilized numerous litigation tactics that would have been -- or would have made the lawyers for BP, AIG or Enron proud. In one case earlier this year, our client was demoted based on charges of misconduct and our firm appealed to the -- appealed the VA decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board The VA lawyer in this case failed to respond to our discovery request and even our motion to compel discovery. This unprofessional conduct translated into greater financial cost for our client due to the VA's tactics.
Gunn was wrong about who his client was. As Tully would explain on the first panel (possibly Gunn was snoozing or texting?), the OGC serves the tax payers, its responsibility is to fairness and to the tax payers. It's refusal to grasp that is why it gets into so much trouble (this is me not Tully) by taking sides in battles they shouldn't take sides in and changing official records which just cannot do.
Matthew Tully: The VA attorneys have an obligation not to the manager that is involved in the employment dispute but to the tax payers and to the government as a whole. I am a legal mercenary. I go to the highest bidder and I do my best to protect the people that retain me. The VA attorneys do very similar things but that's not their job. Their job is to protect the tax payers. Their job is to make sure justice is done. And routinely in these EEOC cases, in particular, they spend a great deal of time trying to protect the manager that allegedly -- and has often been proven -- to have engaged in unlawful conduct versus doing what was right for the person who was subjected to injustice.
Mitchell asked about financial penalities for this behavior and Tully explained that there was none but if this were a federal court manner -- not an OGC -- he could face fines and disbarment.
Tully was panel one. Panel two was the OGC's General Counsel Will Gunn. If the above didn't disturb you, this might. The discussions? Completely knew to Gunn who told Mitchell he found out about these problems just an hour before the hearing. Apparently, the OGC told him he'd be testifying but forgot to tell him what about? Is that the story he's gong for? If so it makes him look even more out of touch of an out of control agency. For someone who only learned of the problems an hour before the hearing, he must have spent at least 40 minutes writing that opening statement. Or, are we to believe, he just has 'customer feedback scores' and other data memorized? (Why did he need to look at the paper in front of him repeatedly if that is the case?) More importantly, you're not allowed to make an opening statement if you haven't submitted it ahead of time. You can't show up day of the hearing and say, "Here's my prepared remarks.'' You have to submit them to the committee or subcomittee ahead of time. Is no one supposed to notice that either?
We'll note this exchange.
Chair Harry Mitchell: You know there have been times in the past where the VA frequently declines to produce a witness either requested to testify at hearings or brief Subcommittees. And the OGC's guidance often gets cited as the reason for not producing witnesses at either hearings or briefings. Two questions. What role does OGC play in the VA deciding who either testifies or briefs the Subcommittee and does the OGC provide an opinion when the VA refuses to produce certain information as requested by Congress or through the public?
Will Gunn: Sir, with respect to the first issue in terms of, uh, whether or not OGC plays a role in who will testify, I will say "no." We do not see ourselves as having a role with respect to that. In terms of the second issue, we do play a role in terms of providing to requests for documents and our advice is focused on two things. What can we, uh, provide, what is permissable? And secondly, what are we required to provide?
So he opens as the big veteran and big veteran defender, citing military code and how he has to be his best and he's going to make those civilians under him be their best and blah blah blah but it really all comes down to "what are we required to provide?" Not the bluster he was shining on in his opening remarks.
The Republican side of the House Veterans Affairs Committee issued the following this month (it was e-mailed today to the public account, we would have noted it June 15th if we'd had it then):
For more information, contact: Brian Lawrence (202) 2225-3527

Washington, D.C. -- In recognition of his longstanding dedication and commitment to serving veterans, the Blinded American Veterans Foundation (BAVF) today presented its prestigious George 'Buck' Gillispie Congressional Award to Congressman Steve Buyer.

The Gillispie is awarded to Senators and Representatives who, in the opinion of the BAVF, have made significant contributions toward furthering the foundation's efforts on behalf of sensory disabled American veterans. Buyer, who serves as Ranking Member on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, received BAVF's award during the foundation's annual Flag Week celebration.

"I am deeply honored and humbled to receive recognition from this esteemed group of veterans who have sacrificed so much in the name of liberty," Buyer said. "It has been my privilege to serve the men and women who have defended our nation and freedom we cherish. For me, there is no higher calling."

In 2006, when he served as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Buyer secured support to direct funds to conduct a series of tests and evaluations on combat helmets to improve protections against blasts from improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) associated with IEDs are among the leading cause of impaired vision due to damage to the occipital area of the brain. More than half of all TBI patients treated at Walter Reed Army Hospital and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Palo Alto, California have vision dysfunction.

Buyer, himself a veteran, is a 1980 distinguished military graduate of The Citadel and a career Army Reserve officer who continues to serve with the Judge Advocate General Corps as a colonel. He has received numerous military honors, including the Bronze Star.

Buyer also worked with Congressman John Boozman in the 110th Congress to help pass the Blinded Veterans Paired Organ Act and to authorize $5 million to create military vision centers of excellence.

For more news from House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Republicans, please go to:

Closing with independent journalist David Bacon whose latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST). "Dying for an iPad?" (Political Affairs) is a photo essay:
Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans in San Francisco protest the long hours and bad conditions at the Foxconn factory in southern China, where the Apple iPad is manufactured. They lined up in front of Apple's flagship store in San Francisco, holding signs with the names of workers at the factory who have committed suicide because of the conditions.
Those conditions include 80 hours of overtime a month, according to the Chinese media. Chinese law limits overtime to 36 hours per month. No one is allowed to talk on the production line, and workers complain of constant high line speed and speedup. Most workers live in huge dormitories, where often 12 people share a room.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Spunky Brewsters






In London today, the Iraq Inquiry resumed public hearings. Or as Alice Tarleton (Channel 4) put it, "And they're back. The Iraq inquiry resumed public hearings today for the first time since the general election." The Inquiry is headed by John Chilcot. Ruth Barnett (Sky News) notes today, "Sir John opened the latest round of hearings by inviting international lawyers to give evidence of the legality of the war." Sam Marsden (PA) adds, "Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and ex-MI5 director general Baroness Manningham-Buller are among the witnesses who will appear before the inquiry over the next month." Iraq Inquiry Digest's Chris Ames shares his thoughts of today's hearing at the Guardian, including, "Watching the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war is like watching a car crash in slow motion. Very, very slow motion." Today they heard from the British Ambassador to France (2001 to 2007) John Holmes and the Chief Police Avister to the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad (2003 to 2004) Douglas Brand (link goes to video and transcript options -- as with previous coverage of the Chilcot Inquiry, I'm working from the transcripts and friends in England -- reporters and attorneys -- following the Inquiry).

Under questioning from Committee Member Lawrence Freedman, Holmes stated French popular opinion turned on the US government when Bush gave his Axis of Evil speech, "Certainly after the Axis of Evil speech, there began to be a real French concern expressed in different ways by different people and reflected in the way that the French press were writing about it, that the Americans had decided that another response to 9/11 was to attack Iraq and was to produce regime change by attacking Iraq."

In terms of where the difference was between the French government and the UK government, Holmes declared that ". . . I think the major difference between us was always whether they thought that what the Iraqis had, whatever it might have been -- and, of course, that was the subject of debate -- was either sufficient or sufficiently alarming or sufficiently of an immediate threat to mean that you needed to go to war to stop it. That's where the differences started to arrive rather than exactly what the intelligence assessment [on WMD] was." Chair Chilcot summarized Holmes' response, "In other words, the threat assessment might have differed from the assessment of the stocks and programmes, intention rather than possession." And Holmes agreed with that summary. He further added that France, in 2002, had a different "policy conclusion" than the UK (or the US), "They wanted to do it through the inspectors, rather than through the invasion." Jaques Chirac was president of France when Holmes became Ambassador (Chirac was president from May 1995 through May 2007) and Holmes stated, "He essentially set policy. He saw foreign policy as his pre-eminent domain [. . .] he regarded himself as the elder statesman if you like, of the international community" and Holmes quickly returned to Bush's Axis of Evil speech.

Ambassador John Holmes: I think he [Chirac] was also very much influenced in all this, particularly, again, after the Axis of Evil speech, by the belief that the kind of foreign policy which was being represented and articulated by President Buh was a unilateralist vision of the world which he could not share, though was dangerous and based on a lack of knowledge of the world and that he [Chirac] was therefore returning to counter by setting out an alternative, multipolar vision of the world, which was very much the French vision at the time.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert asked him out UN Security Resolution 1441 which the UN adopted November 8, 2002 by a unanimous vote of the UN's Security Council. Although 15 nations make up the Security Council only five are permanent members and have the right of veto. Those five are the UK, France, China, Russia and the United States.

Ambassador John Holmes: I think the French objectives were, all throughout this, to get the inspectors back in, to make sure that there was going to be no automaticity -- that was the great catchphrase, "no automaticiy" -- from 1441 or, indeed any subsequen resolution, which had to be a subsequent decision by the Security Council, and there should be no hidden triggers in 1441, which would allow the Americans and the British to claim that somehow they had legitimised military action when they hadn't. So that was -- I think those are the essential points they were trying to defend in 1441, and that's why there was such a very long and complicated and tortuous negotiation about exactly what the language was.

With that background, we'll now jump ahead to Committee Member Roderic Lyne's questioning.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Now, in order to try to work out precisely what 1441 meant, the Attorney General, when he was in the process of finalising his advice to the Prime Minister, talked to Sir Jeremy Greenstock about the negotiating history, as he told us in his evidence, and then went to America and talked to lawyers and others in Washington, and in these conversations was exploring what the French, as the main negotiating counterparties on 1441, had really intended, what they had accepted, what they had signed up to in 1441. We asked him whether, apart from relying on the reporting of the United Kingdom and the American representatives at the UN on the French position, it might have been logical for him to go to Paris and ask the French directly what they had meant by it and he said: "You couldn't have had the British Attorney General being seen to go to France to ask them 'What do you think?'" Couldn't he have gone to Paris to actually talk to the French about this?

Ambassador John Holmes: I don't see why he couldn't have done or at least had somebody else ask the question on his behalf. But I think what is true is that the French were, again, very wary about ever saying what their own legal position was. They took a very strong legal position about no automaticity -- I was just describing the need for UN legitimisation of any action -- but they were very careful -- I don't remember them ever actually saying what their own legal position was. I don't remember whether we ever went and talk to the Quai legal advisers. It may be that Chirac took it seriously for a while at least or thought there was something to be gained from that, but it never really developed fully as time went on.

[. . . moving to March 2003 for the following questions]

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: The Foreign Secretary of the time, Jack Straw, told us in evidence that he couldn't for the life of him understand why the French and the Germans were not agreeing to a second resolution, because this was the way to resolve this peacefully. Was that interpretation of the second resolution, that it was still a possible way of getting a peaceful outcome, not one that President Chirac would have shared at this point at all?

Ambassador John Holmes: No, I think, as he was suggesting, the draft in the form it was at that stage, with the kind of timelines and tests which the French thought was impossible to pass, and deliberately impossible to pass for Saddam Hussein, was not a way of actually avoiding a war but was simply a way of legitimising it. That's really why they were so strongly opposed to it. Now the discussion about what the resolution could contain went on even after that statement by President Chirac, with the French continuing to suggest longer timelines, but by that stage, we were so much up against the military deadline, that it became increasingly desperate and irrelevant.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: If the second resolution had contained a longer deadline for Iraqi compliance, do you think that France would have considered supporting it?

Ambassador John Holmes: I think it is possible because that's what essentially they were suggesting. They were suggesting -- they didn't like the six tests or whatever they were called, but they said "If you give -- if you put in a period" -- I think 120 days was the period they wanted -- "for the inspectors to operate, so they can do their job properly without being put against impossible deadlines, then that's something we could contemplate", but of course, they were still wanting to say that-that a second resolution of that kind would also not have any automatic trigger in it. You would still need to come back at the end of that, the Security Council would need to come back at the end of that, and take a view on what the inspectors were saying to them. So you know, at that stage, you were into third resolution territory. So that is a reason why we weren't particularly attracted, perhaps, to that route, but in any case in those timescales it was simply not available.

To recap the main points in the testimony highlighted above, Jeremy Greenstock went to the US to talk about a second resolution, the French's attitude towards it and related topics but Greenstock told the Inquiry that he couldn't ask the French government whether they would get behind a second resolution or not and Jack Straw claimed to the Inquiry that the French position was puzzling. The British Ambassador to France told the Inquiry today that the French position was consistent and not surprising and that he was surprised by the attitude that the French government could not be asked by the British government whether they would veto a second resolution if offered.

Greenstock previously testified to the Inquiry on November 27th and December 15th of last year. Straw testified January 21st and February 8th of this year. Holmes rejected their claims that (a) the French position was puzzling and (b) that no one could have asked the French government their position on a second resolution. Those are the big items coming out of the hearing today. Related, on January 27th, the Inquiry heard from Peter Goldsmith who'd served as the UK Attorney General.

Peter Goldsmith: The United States, as everyone has said -- Sir Michael said it, I have said throughout, it is apparent on 7 March -- didn't believe they needed an United Nations Resolution at all. They believed they were able themselves to make the determination that Iraq was in material breach, and, therefore, they didn't need -- they didn't need 1441. Mr. Blair had -- and I said, I think to his credit -- had got President Bush to the UN table.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: I think, with respect, that's a separate point. We have gone past that point already.

Peter Goldsmith: With respect, may I make the point? Because it is important, and it is one of the things that came across very clearly in the meetings I had in February with the UN. Because the United States didn't need 1441 -- we did because we took the view that there had to be a determination of material breach. The United States didn't need it. They could have walked away from 1441 and said, "Well, we have been to the United Nations, they haven't given us the resolution we want, we can now take force." The only red line I was told by the State Department, legal adviser, the only red line that the negotiators had was that they must not concede a further decision of the Security Council because they took the view they could move in any event.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Yes.

Peter Goldsmith: Therefore, if they had agreed to a decision which said the Security Council must decide, they would have then lost that freedom.

Self-quoting from January 28th, "Popular narrative: US didn't want a second resolution, wasn't going to fight for one. But what Goldsmith said takes it in another direction. The popular narrative allows the British government to do as they indicated they were doing: Pursue a second resolution. But Goldsmith testified Wednesday that it wasn't just that the US didn't want it. The US government based their legal approach (set aside whether it was legal or not) on the 'legal' opinion that UN Resolution 1441 (granting the power for inspectors to go back into Iraq) was all that was necessary for the start of war on Iraq. In addition, Goldsmith testified that the US didn't want a second resolution, couldn't accept one, because of their legal opinion. Going back to the UN for a second resolution risked hemming in the US legal opinion. If they went and got a resolution with conditions, that could hem the US in. If they went and were shot down (as most believed they would be), then the US government's assertion that a second resolution wasn't needed to start a war would have been exposed as the lie it was. The US didn't just not want a second resolution, they couldn't afford one. If there was one -- one passed or one rejected -- it revealed the legal opinion wasn't sound and opened up a whole set of issues that the Bush administration didn't want to deal with."

Today's testimony by Holmes backed up Goldsmith on that aspect. Holmes on what the French government ssaw, "I think their assumption was that -- and increasingly so as the autumn went on and so on -- and this is the view they had come to -- that the Americans were going to mount a military operation virtually come what may and, therefore, there could be a second mabye, but that could not be something which was going to actually stand in the way of that action." A second resolution could have tied the US government's hands. That's how the French saw it, it's how Goldsmith said the Americans saw it. Did Bush lie when claiming the US would seek resolutions? According to witnesses at the Inquiry, Bush mispoke due to a teleprompter malfunction.

Jeremy Greenstock: There are two different sorts of second resolution and this my explain why President Bush used the plural when he was ad libbing, when his teleprompter gave him the penultimate American text and not the text he had agreed to, by a mistake of his staff. He ad libbed the words, "And we shall come to the UN for the necessary resolutions" from his memory. It wasn't that the telepromprter broke down, he saw that it was the wrong text on the teleprompter, as I understood the story. There was, as part of the lead-up to the negotiation of 1441, the idea that there should be a pair of resolutions, not a single one in 1441 that should have the inspectors' conditions in one part and in the second resolution the consequences for Iraq on what would happen if they didn't comply with the the first one. There was the possibility of passing those resolutions either together and simultaneously or sequentially in time. As it happened, in 1441 we built those two elements into a single text and it was successfully negotiated and passed unanimously on 8 November as a single text.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Patti LaBama






'And that's why we don't trust the political closet cases.' Josh Healey is not a "progressive." Josh Healey is open about what he is in the Bay Area but on the national stage, he hides in a political closet. Closets are for wardrobes, not political secrets. Those choosing to hide in closets do so because they want to trick you, they want to lie to you. For some stupid reason, The Progressive elected to feature Josh's paen to fellow closet cases. [Apparently The Daily Worker no longer being in print means The Progressive has to hire Healey as "spoken word editor." Spoken word? Honey, it's another White boy who thinks he can rap -- and we all know The Progressive has a s**t poor record on hiring African-Americans so if they're hiring a rapper it would have to be a White boy.] And Josh is there to lie as any closet case must. "Later, I attended an anti-war workshop," Josh pants, "featuring voices from Iraq and Afghanistan, which we rarely hear in the U.S. The Iraqi activist said the U.S. agreement to fully withdraw from Iraq by July 2011 is actually a good one --w e just need to make sure the Obama dminsitration lives up to it. The brother from Afghanistan . . ." I really hate liars.
Let's start with the "brother from Afghanistan" (he tosses around "brother" and "comrade" frequently -- again if The Daily Worker were still in print, he'd be writing for it). The "brother from Afghanistan" is Dr. Zaher Wahab, of Lewis and Clark College. The "Iraqi activist"? Big time liar Raed Jarrar who moved to this country how many years ago? Raed the Jar-Jar Blinks of the faux peace movement. I am so damn sick of this. And I'm so damn sick of the lack of standards. The closet cases need to just sit their asses down and think about what they've done. That includes Democratic Party apologist David Sirota.
'And file it under how you know Alex Pareene (Salon) is full of s**t.' Sirota's bad column fro Creators ("After 41 Years, A Belated Victory for Butter") is already popping up in papers. When I saw it in one newspaper, I called the publisher to ask why it was printed? He read the column and called me back (we've known each for over thirty years). It was, he thought, a little too frothy over US House Rep David Obey but he didn't see a real problem with the column. Really? I read this section of David Siorta writing from a few years back to him: "Dave Obey represents a pretty conservative district that is not exactly easy for a Democrat to represent (this is why the NRSC can't wait for him to retire). He originally voted against the war, he has been one of the most outspoken critics of the war, and he has repeatedly used his position as Appropriations Chairman to try to get the situation in Iraq under control. These are the facts, and I witnessed it first hand, having worked for him a few years ago." The loud reply came back, "He worked for Obey?" Yeah and there's a thing called disclosure. If Sirota wants to waste everyone's time jacking off in public to his crush David Obey, he can do so, that's freedom of expression. But when Creators is shopping your love-fest for David Obey around to various newspapers? You need to have disclosed your relationship with David Obey. Again, it's called disclosure. I grasp that Sirota stumbles into hack journalism via Congress. If he wants to be a columnist, he needs to play by the rules.
Playing by the rules don't allow the likes of Josh Healey and David Sirota the opportunity to trick you. Playing by the rules don't allow them to operate under cover and play you for a fool. They're like the 'activist' (Tubby, we've named him before) who wants to whine in e-mails that Barack belongs in prison but then rushes off to Daily Kos (he's not Marcos, for those late to the party) where he types how great and groovy Barack is. The reason the left can't get it together is because too many liars think they need to put one over on the public. And that's why the public doesn't trust a lot of the left. They don't like being played. (Being played is at the root of the distrust of all things Beltway for many Americans.) Reality, most Americans don't have a problem with Communism and, in fact, if they knew some actual Communists, the ranks would grow. The same with Socialists. Reality, most Americans are not upset that someone worked for a Congress member. So if David Sirota (a Democrat -- so there's no confusion) were up front that he worked for Obey, the column wouldn't seem like trickery. And reality for Tubby and the others, most Americans do not believe in the Cult of St. Barack. That was stage-managed by elites and the break away of a few elites in recent times has not led to public stonings because, again, the Cult of St. Barack was a media creation stage-managed by elites. As a rule of thumb, the public's on the side of anyone who calls out the powerful. But, and this is the key point, those who resort to trickery? They're displaying contempt for the people and, guess what, the people generally catch on to that rather quickly.
US House Rep Alan Grayson writes at The Huffington Post today, "A recent poll showed that almost twice as many Americans think that we are losing the war in Afghanistan as think that we are winning it. (Whatever 'losing' and 'winning' mean, in this context.) But another recent poll reports that only eight percent of all Americans say that the war will be 'most important to [their] vote for Congress.' Which means that for 92%, it's not so important. The war is like a dead skunk in the crawlspace. If it's there long enough, you just ignore it. But it's still there." And that's why Grayson's national image is so small -- bordering on tiny. The people are not the problem, Grayson, and, point of fact, a politician who thinks the people are the problem doesn't stand a good chance of being re-elected.
The problem is -- we'll focus on Iraq -- the withdrawal. Due to the withdrawal taking place, the public can easily see the Iraq War as over. When January 2009 rolled around, the bulk had withdrawn and they've not gone back. Oh, no, I'm not speaking of US service members, I'm speaking of the press. ABC News farms their 'coverage' out to BBC News. CBS doesn't really have anyone to report full time -- but they send people in with US officials! NBC generally does a sit down on breaking news with Richard Engel and though he and Brian Williams are knowledgable, let's be clear that neither is in Iraq. Where are the American people supposed to be following the Iraq War, Grayson? Certainly not on their TVs. And, as a member of Congress, you can make it very clear to PBS that you are appalled by their lack of Iraq coverage and that could result in them actually stationing someone there. NPR has people stationed in Iraq. PBS hasn't in years. Public broadcasting, Grayson, is something you can influence and it would probably be more productive than bemoaning an allegedly apathetic public.
'If you forget women -- straight and gay -- and gay men and people of color and immigrants, he was a great senator!' Let's stay in the US a bit more. US Senator Robert Byrd has died and, no doubt, the KKK is holding a rememberance for their one-time member. Greg Sargent? Everyone's favorite hack at the Post needs to know two things. First, soak two tea bags in ice water overnight in the fridge, put them over your eyes in the morning for ten minutes, then go running or workout and it will minimize those unsightly bags under your eyes. Second, Byrd did not show courage on Iraq. He voted against the Iraq War. And? Did he stop it? No. He could have. He could have filibustered anytime funding came up. But he refused to do that, didn't he? Mike Gravel showed courage during Vietnam with his filibusters in an attempt to end the draft. When did Byrd do anything similar? Gravel read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional record. When did Byrd do anything similar? Sargent has no strong education or knowledge base -- as is evident by a professional photo sporting bags under the eyes and lacking a close shave. But the word "bravery" need not to be tossed around in such careless manner. For the word to mean anything, it needs to be reserved for real moments of bravery, not media created ones. Byrd didn't believe in the war, he didn't vote for it. I don't believe that's called bravery. I believe that's doing what's required of for someone holding the office. The bare minimum is what Byrd did. That's not bravery. On the Iraq War vote, Byrd did his job. That's about all you can honestly say. And it's a damn shame when our daily newspapers confuse themselves with the hype mill of People magazine, et al and work overtime to inflate reality. Celebrity culture at its worst. And this need to inflate politicians who just do their jobs goes a long, long way to explaining why we're so bad on the left when it comes to holding politicians' feet to the fire and applying pressure. We're so damn grateful that they took a breath of air, so busy applauding that, that we never have time to demand that they do more than the bare minimum their role as public servant requires.
To really feel ill, go to The Nation and read the latest crap from John Nichols -- who hasn't been worth five cents since he LIED on Democracy Now! in 2008 and claimed that it was Hillary, not Barack, having talks with the Canadian government about NAFTA and he had the proof and he was in Canada and he would be reporting on this and . . . Not a damn thing ever happened. John Nichols is certifiably insane and that was obvious in December 2003 when he and Amy Goodman launched into a 101 conspiracy theories -- which they presented as fact -- including that Hillary would show up at the 2004 DNC convention and steal the nomination. Complete loons. And complete LIARS. What did 'big lefty Byrd' do on abortion, John Nichols? Oh, that's right, you were too busy drooling to tell your readers about that. He has a mediocre rating from NARAL (over his abortion rights voting record). He declared same-sex relations to be a "sin." There's a reason he needs to be called out. (I did this morning.) He was against same-sex marriage. Check 2004 and 1996. For all of Johnny Nichols ravings, the ACLU, HRC and NAACP gave him mixed ratings on civil rights, gay rights and affirmtative-action. He was anti-immigrant. He was very weak on abortion rights. The nonsense being pushed is a bunch of crap. Click here to explore Robert Byrd "On the issues" and then ask yourself why little whores keep pimping him as some sort of 'big lefty.' Byron Dorgan leaving the Senate is a huge, monumental loss. (Dorgan's alive, he's just decided not to run for re-election.) Byrd is no big loss. If I had to guess, it will be the segment that fights against unjust sentences for drug offenses who will push back the hardest on the lie that Byrd is some 'big lefty.' Everyone else will probably continue to pretend FDR himself just died. If it's not them, it will be activists calling for the end of the embargo on Cuba that will be most vocal about what a non-lefty Byrd actually was. But someone explain how John Nichols and The Nation can WHORE themselves at this late date on Robert Byrd who voted in June of 2007 to make English the official language of the US and who repeatedly was anti-immigratn in his votes, repeatedly. John Nichols is a whore and always will be one but as bad as The Nation is, I expect little more from it.
In the real world, the people dying in Iraq -- Iraqis and US service members -- will never get tone poems composed for them and passed off as 'reporting' and 'journalism.' In the real world, the Iraq War continues. In the real world, Alissa Skelton (Lincoln Journal Star) reports on the Sunday send-off for the Nebraska National Guard's 67th Battelfield Surveillance Brigade which deploys 400 to Iraq this ummer and another 300 to Afghanistan this fall making it, in the words of Col Philip Stemple, "the largest single mobilation of a Nebraska unit since the global war on terror started." So you want to tell me that a 2002 vote counts as something really special in 2010? And what did Byrd do in the 8 years since to end the illegal war he spoke out against? Did he filibuster? No. Did he do a damn thing? No. You want me to pretend that Robert Byrd was an amazing member of Congress? There are a few amazing members, Byrd will never make that list. Bare minimum, that was Robert Byrd.
Iraq Veterans Against the War's James Circello always does more than the bare minimum (though I doubt Greg Sargent will ever make the time to groove on James). Brian Becker interviewed James for Face to Face (Press TV -- here for first video, here for some excerpts in transcript form):
Press TV: You formed an organization called March Forward with other veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Are you in contact with people who are still in Iraq or Afghanistan? What's the mood of soldiers right now?

James Circello: We are very enthusiastic because we feet like a new resistance is taking shape from US soldiers. We are in contact with some individuals that want to go AWOL and some that have. Tens of thousands of soldiers have gone AWOL so far. That is what helped me justify myself when I left. At the time military was trying to track them down but still I don't believe they have the forces to track them down. So the soldiers aren't really seeing jail time. These individuals are questioning why they are fighting. They are not helping the people, these individuals say. One of them told me that he is not there to help the people; he is just there to make some people rich.

Press TV: Meaning which people?

James Circello: US corporations that have contracts with Afghanistan.

Press TV: A lot of people thought, when the invasion of Afghanistan happened and subsequently the invasion of Iraq, that this is part of a big strategy by the Bush administration to take over or reconfigure the Middle East, the strategic oil region in central Asia. Afghanistan war now is longer than the Vietnam War. It's the longest war in US history. The United States says it is leaving Iraq; they are going to pull combat troops out of there in a certain date, August of the next year. But at the same time they are building a big embassy in downtown Baghdad which won't seem to be very vulnerable. Do you thing US troops are going to stay in Iraq or do you think they will leave?

James Circello: They are going to stay in Iraq. I think it's just a play with words. It is taking advantage of the fact that most people in the United States don't really know what a combat troop is versus a non-combat troop. The fact is the military definition of a combat troop is someone in the military infantry... so I was a combat troop... or someone in the artillery or someone who drives tanks. But women aren't considered combat troop, at the same time they carry rifles, they fire the rifles, they get shot at, but they are not classified as combat troops. All that this administration plans to do is just to not call them combat troops.

Press TV: So do you expect a large number of troops to stay for a long time in Iraq?

James Circello: That is this administration's plan to save as many as 50,000 people in Iraq indefinitely.

Press TV: what about the private contractors?

James Circello: There is no sign if they are ever leaving. They are just constantly expanding. You said about the embassy in Baghdad, it's the largest embassy in the world. So it's going to need a huge force to guard that embassy in Baghdad.
And that's called reality. Reality is that another person who is heroic and gives more than anyone could ever ask is Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan who looks around and wonders "Where Have all the Peaceniks Gone? by Cindy Sheehan" (Cindy Sheehan's Soap Box):
To some of us, the problem is not so much that Obama has proven to be a dismal failure --because we know that he has been a huge success to the ruling class and corporations -- but that partisan politics always overshadows common sense and true peace. We lost a lot of time giving Obama a "chance," and thousands have lost their lives and their ways of life.
I was outraged when, after three days in office, Obama authorized a drone strike into Northern Pakistan that killed dozens of civilians, but I was excoriated for being outraged. I was devastated when he announced an increase in troops (3 times so far) to Afghanistan, and attacked for not caring about Afghan women (the ones our Empire are "protecting" by killing them and their children). I was laughed out of town when I was infuriated that Obama had declared himself "Judge, jury and executioner" of American citizens. People who formerly supported me told me to "shut up and go away, you have had your 15 minutes of fame."
I was deeply hurt and lonely when everyone from celebrities to my friends in the peace-trenches abandoned me for someone who did not even have a principled campaign platform. However, I could not abandon my principles to support someone who did not conform to them.
Cindy Sheehan and Peace Action are gearing up for "Sizzlin Summer: Independence from oil, Free Palestine, Anti-drone & Counter Recruitment Protests, July 4th through July 17th" in DC. For a breakdown of the activities, click here.

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