Friday, February 09, 2007

Life -- or what passes for it -- with the Friedmans

Sometimes, I curse myself. Mostly, I just try to accept it and tell myself that allowing Thomas Friedman to move back in, if only in a closet, was what I had to do to get through college and to find out who I was before I was kidnapped?

I wonder sometimes if it was just the drugs (he called them "vitamins" -- still does) that destroyed my memories or if it was something more? But I'm really trying to focus on finishing college as soon as possible so I can get Thomas Friedman out of my hair for good. I met with my adviser on Thursday to figure out what I could double up on and how I could get through as quick as possible. One way is doing some online classes, so I'll be signed up for a few those this summer in addition to the classes I will be taking in the more traditional manner.

But while I was waiting for the meeting, I was sitting and just letting my mind wander to something, anything, other than my own life. My mind ended up landing on a Pearl Jam song, "Crazy Mary." It was written by Victoria Williams. The key line, for me, is "That what you fear the most, can take you half the way."

Reading "Not Their Parents’ Russia" on Thursday, before Thomas Friedman submitted his column to the paper, I really thought "That what you fear the most, can take you half the way." That's about all he ever goes, half the way.

Now maybe that's because he's so half-assed himself. (In his actions! White boy got a booty on him that's bigger than Beyonce, Chaka and Aretha's combined. Don't ask him to "Back that thing up" because he could probably knock over a small building with it.)

He'd set up his column ahead of time and when he realized he had three points he wanted to make, he didn't toss out his "on the one hand . . . on the other" frame, he just created "And on the third hand". He was quite pleased with that. He said it demonstrated that he didn't just need to resort to tired cliches.

I asked, "What is a Thomas Friedman column without tired cliches?"

He pretended to ignore me.

Which was sort of fitting considering his column that pretty much ignored anything that didn't fit his cracked brain theory that oil brings democracy and liberation. Apparently, he's forgotten he claims to have visited Saudi Arabia.

He told me my criticism wasn't helpful and that "People read a Thomas Friedman column for the experience, the joy ride, the roller coaster, the --"

"Feeding of the lions?" I interrupted.

He pretended not to hear me and continued, "whole point is that they read me for me. They're willing to suspend certain laws and conventions because they enjoy me so much."

Who were these people?

I wondered that silently because he was going on about how I wasn't his "only fan" -- I wasn't aware I was a fan, only or not. But that's how it goes in the wack job world of Thomas Friedman, if you can breathe, you must be a fan. If big business has again demonstrated that it's one of the biggest threats to democracy around the world, you ignore that. If you live in a closet with a bunch of wig heads and large dresses, you pretend you're in Moscow.

Moscow? After his incident with the Russian embassy, I would've thought he'd act as though the country never existed? Maybe keeping it in the closet has emboldened him?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills)
Friday, February 9, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq,
Ehren Watada's mistrial continues to be debated, "Who cooked the intel?" becomes a popular question, a leader of one group of resistance fighters in Iraq is quite clear in what is needed to end the war, and "Woops! We thought they were 'insurgents' or al-Qaeda!"

Starting with
Ehren Watada who, in June of last year, became the first commissioned officer in the US to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq because the war was illegal and immoral. On Monday, the court-martial of Ehren Watada began with jury selection for the military panel (seven officers were selected) who would, as Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) pointed out, "determine whether Watada spends up to four years in prison in one of the most high-profile cases to be tried at Fort Lewis." Watada was facing up to four years in prison and Lt. Col. John Head (aka Judge Toilet) refused to allow him to argue the reasons why he refused to deploy. This is why Norman Solomon (CounterPunch) called the proceedings "a kangaroo court-martial." . On Tuesday, the prosectution presented their case. Aaron Glantz discussed the day's events with Sandra Lupien on The KPFA Evening News noting: "The prosecution had 3 witnesses. It did not go as well as the prosecution would have liked. Lt. Col Bruce Antonia, who was the prosecution's star witness, as Lt. Watada's commander, said that nothing tangibly bad happened from Lt. Watada's refusal to go to" Iraq and
"[a]nother thing that did not go well for the prosecution today was that their own witnesses clearly showed that Lt. Watada tried other methods of expressing . . . [his opposition] to the Iraq war, internally within the military, before coming forward to speak to the public." Also noting the prosecution's poor performance on Tuesday (when they rested their case), was civil rights attorney
Bill Simpich who told Geoffrey Millard (Truthout): "The prosecution asked too many questions. By the time it was over, the prosecution witness had become a defense witness because the field was open. The defense was able to ask nuanced questions, it told the story clearly to the jury." On Wednesday, Judge Toilet began talking mistrial and, due to the lousy performance by the prosecution, it was seen as an attempt at a "do over" even before he called the mistrial.

Yesterday, on
KPFA's Flashpoints, Nora Barrows-Friedman spoke with Marjorie Cohn (president of the National Lawyers Guild) about the mistrial. Cohn's belief (based on expertise) is that the government's case is over -- that, military or civilian, courts must respect the laws of the land and that includes avoiding double-jeopardy (trying a person for the same alleged crimes twice). As Rebecca notes, Cohn explained that the stipulation Judge Toilet made much ado over was a stipulation (agreement between the prosecution and the defense) that both sides had agreed to, that the jury was made aware of, that Judge Toilet had looked over and, up until it was time for the defense to present their case, Judge Toilet never voiced any concerns over the stipulation, More importantly, Cohen pointed out, "When a mistrial is declared, the defense has to agree to it. The only thing that will defeat a finding of double-jeopardy . . . is if there was manifest necessity to declare the mistrial" which, in Cohn's opinion, there wasn't. At Counterpunch, Cohen also made the case "that under the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution, the government cannot retry Lt. Watada on the same charges of missing movement and conduct unbecoming an officers." Leila Fujimori (The Honolulu Star-Bulletin) spoke with Earle Partington ("local attorney with decades in military justice") who also stated that "military judge Lt. Col. John Head lacked authority to set a new date, March 19, for the trial after declaring a mistrial Wednesday". Marjorie Cohn had explained to Nora Barrows-Friedman that Judge Toilet floated the idea of a mistrial and when the prosecution (taking the hint) asked for one, the defense did not consent to a mistrial. Also making this point is Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian attorney. Bob Egelko (San Francisco Chronicle) reports: "The lawyer for an officer whose court-martial for refusing deployment to Iraq was abruptly halted this week says the Army's planned retrial of his client would violate the constitutional ban on double jeopardy. Because 1st Lt. Ehren Watada neither caused nor consented to the mistrial that an Army judge declared Wednesday, the charges against him must be dismissed, attorney Eric Seitz said. Those charges were punishable by up to four years in prison. 'I don't think the judge understands, and I don't think the Army realizes that this case cannot be retried,'' Seitz said in an interview after the trial at Fort Lewis, Wash., was halted."

Yesterday, reporting for
Free Speech Radio News, Aaron Glantz noted Carolyn Ho's reaction to the mistrial ("tears started streaming down her cheek"). Carolyn Ho, mother of Ehren Watada: "He was quite prepared to vacate his apartment. It's been all packed up and, you know, and we were arranging to have his furniture moved on Monday. The expectation was that he would be sentenced and, um, that there would be incarceration." Reporting for IPS (text), Glantz noted Eric Seitz's contention: "Every time the government has tried to prevent political speech, which they are attempting to punish, from infusing the trial proceedings it has created a major mess and many of those cases result in mistrials."

Watada is a part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as
Agustin Aguayo (whose court-martial is currently set to begin on March 6th), Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ivan Brobeck, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Mark Wilkerson, Joshua Key, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

War resister Joshua Key self-checked out of the US army after serving in Iraq. He, Brandi Key (his wife) and their children moved to Canada. Key has written a book on his experience in Iraq and after entitled
The Deserter's Tale. Brian Lynch (The Georgia Straight) notes: "And when Key arrived in the bomb-cratered streets of Iraq, his commanding officers issued constant reports that heavily armed terrorist cells or mobs of Saddam Hussein's sympathizers were poised to attack. None of these threats materialized, he says. And as he recalls in his book, he began to sense that 'the repeated warnings of danger were meant to keep us off guard, and to keep us frightened enough to do exactly what we were told.'
This, he believes, is a tactic that the highest political and military leaders in his native country have used on the public itself. Field commanders, he says on the phone, 'try to keep you scared, keep you motivated. And that's exactly what's happened to the [American] people as well. Everybody is so afraid of terrorism... And of course, from my actions in Iraq, I think the terrorism hasn't begun yet--terrorism from all the little Iraqi children that I terrorized myself. There's going to be a flip side to that. There will be consequences'."

Cause and effect.

On today's Democracy Now!,
Amy Goodman noted: "In Iraq, the US military is facing allegations of killing forty-five Iraqi civililans in an airstrike near Amiriyah. Police and hospital officials say the bombings flattened four homes in the village of Zaidan, just south Abu Ghraib, killing women, childre, and the elderly. A photograph released by the Associated Press shows the body of a boy in the back of a pickup truck taken to the nearby Falluja hospital. Several other children were reportedly admitted with injuries. The US military denies the account and says thirteen insurgents were killed."

That incident was explored in yesterday's snapshot (and you can tie it with the Najaf incident which
Tom Hayden recently wrote about). Today, Al Jazeera reports: "The US military had said in a statement that US forces killed five armed men in the city of Mosul early on Friday during a raid targeting an al-Qaeda cell." Had? Before we get there, please note that in Najaf, in the strike near Amiriyah, in countless 'battles,' the motive is always said to be 'suspected' this or that. And when innocents die in the attacks, it doesn't change the fact that intended targets (present or not) are still only 'suspected'. So who were US forces ordered to kill in Mosul? The BBC says: "Eight Iraqi soldiers have been killed and six wounded in a US helicopter strike". Lauren Frayer (AP) reports that "U.S. helicopters on Friday mistakenly killed at least five Kurdish troops, a group that Washington hopes to enlist as a partner to help secure Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi officials said."

Now a few things to note. 1) When you have some level of power, you can have the record corrected. That's what happened here. The US military had already issued their press release claiming suspected al Qaeda had been killed. 2) Calling it a "mistake" doesn't mitigate the effects on the families and friends of the eight dead. 3) Even when 'apologizing' the flacks for the US military still want to quibble on how many were killed (
8 is the Kurdish figure and the media's figure, the US military has tried to stick 5). This is why 'suspected' or potential 'suspected' really should raise eyebrows. As evidenced by yesterday's denial, which has only continued, the US military refuses to acknowledge that children were killed in the attack. Instead the military spokespeople want to crow about how they got 'insurgents' or al-Qaeda -- 'suspected.'

Robert Fisk (Independent of London) reports on Abu Salih Al-Jeelani ("one of the military leaders of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Resistance Movement") and his group ("20th Revolution Brigades") which has issued a statement on what it will take for there to be a ceasefire:

* The release of 5,000 detainees held in Iraqi prisons as "proof of goodwill"

* Recognition "of the legitimacy of the resistance and the legitimacy of its role in representing the will of the Iraqi people".

* An internationally guaranteed timetable for all agreements.

* The negotiations to take place in public.

* The resistance "must be represented by a committee comprising the representatives of all the jihadist brigades".

* The US to be represented by its ambassador in Iraq and the most senior commander.

All starred items are direct quotes from
Fisk's article. The leader says they also want the constitution of Iraq and the deals arranged (especially with regards to the oil) cancelled -- to be replaced by things deriving from the Iraqi people and not foreign occupiers.

In the United States, one of the big stories is the cooking of intel.
Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) notes that "the Pentagon's inspector general examined the activities of Douglas J. Feith, an influential undersecretary to former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. . . . Its findings lend credence to charges by White House critics that Feith, who has since left the department, was out of line when he sought to discredit analyses by CIA intelligence officials that discounted alleged ties between Al Qaeda and then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein." Walter Pincus and R. Jeffrey Smith (Washington Post) report US Senator Carl Levin stated, "The bottom line is that intelligence relating to the Iraq-al-Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense to support the administration's decision to invade Iraq. . . . The inspector general's report is a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities in the DOD policy office that helped take this nation to war" and the reporters note: "The summary document confirmed a range of accusations that Levin had leveled against Feith's office, alleging inaccurate work."

In some reports, Feith is noted as saying he was not wrong. Of course he wasn't wrong. He cooked the intel exactly as he wanted. Was it burned? Of course, that's how he wanted it, that's how he served it.

And on clever propaganda,
CBS and AP report that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has declared that there is "pretty good" evidence of Iran's involvement in Iraq. Pretty good? Gates' word is supposed to be all anyone needs. Gates paints a story of 'weapons' found that are from Iran. What is he suggesting? That the Iranian government gave the Iraqi resistance the weapons? No, he means markings show that they were made in Iran. (That's his word -- take it for what it's not worth.) How shocking! People could get weapons from a country that borders their own! Oh my!

It proves nothing -- and the US firearms are all over the Iraqi black market -- but it's the new talking point. Expect to see a lot more of it.

Addressing the issue of Iran,
Juan Cole told Steve Rendell (on this week's CounterSpin): "Of coures the entire discourse of Washington has been, for many years, to get Iran and all Iranian attempts to reach out to the United States, some of which have been quite serious and wide ranging have been rebuffed. Iran has been kept as an enemy because Washington wants it as an enemy." Probably won't catch that in the mainstream.


Reuters notes 17 dead in Mosul from a roadside bomb while 2 were killed (eight wounded) in Hilla from a roadside bomb.

Reuters reports that three people were shot dead (and 10 wounded) in Baghdad today.Corpses?

AFP reports that eleven corpses were discovered today in Mahawil -- "floating in the Al-Malih river" -- after they and two others were kidnapped on Thursday (the other were released and are alive*) and, in Amara, Mohammed Qasim Kerkuki 's corpse was discovered ("riddled with bullets"). (*AFP reports that, other agencies don't address the two. Al Jazeera notes that the kidnappers were wearing "Iraqi army uniforms and drove military vehicles".)

Yesterday's snapshot didn't note corpses. My apologies.
Reuters reported 16 corpses were discovered in Mosul and 20 in Baghdad on Thursday. Please note, it's Friday. The majority of the violence (that gets reported) will emerge slowly throughout the rest of Friday.

the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence announced: "It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of a British soldier in Iraq today, Friday 9 February 2007. MOD Announcement We can confirm that there was a roadside bomb attack on a Multi-National Forces patrol south east of Basra City that resulted in the death of the British soldier. Three other soldiers have also been injured, one of whom is described as critical." That brought the count for UK troops who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 132.

Also today the
US military announced: "Three Soldiers assigned to Multi-National Force-West were killed Thursday from wounds sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." AP's count for the total number of US troops who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war 3,117.

Finally, seven days ago, the Democratica National Committee held the Winter Meeting in DC and the mainstream's coverage was -- "Who didn't stick to the time limit! Nobody said anything!" Dennis Kucinich, US House Rep and
2008 candidate for president did speak and addressed a number of issues. Our focus is Iraq so we'll focus on the Iraq section. Kucinich: "Fellow Democrats, I can win because of all the candidates for President, I not only voted against the authorization but I have consistently voted against funding the war and I have a 12-point plan devised with the help of international peacekeepers, to bring our troops home and to end the war. Fellow Democrats, of all decisions a President must make, the one most far reaching is whether to commit the lives of our young men and women to combat. I believe that I have demonstrated the clarity and foresight people have a right to expect of a President. This war would have never occured in the first place if I had been President. We do not have to wait for 2009 and my Inauguration as President to end it because, fellow Democrats, right now the Democratic Congress has the ability and the power to end the war and bring our troops home. This past November, Democrats received a mandate from the American people to end the war. Democrats have an obligation to reclaim Congress' constitutional power to end the war. If we support the troops, if we truly support the troops, we should bring them home. Money is there now to bring our troops safely home. Supporting my 12 point plan, Congress can require the Administration to end the occupation, close the bases, bring the troops home and stabilize Iraq. Fellow Democrats, I want to stress, the Democratic Congress must deny the President the money he wants to keep the war going through the end of his term, money which he can also use to attack Iran. If we give the President the money to continue the war the Democratic Party will have bought the war."