Saturday, December 08, 2007

Katrina's quests

Thomas Friedman was gone again.

He was in, he was out.

Basically, he was confused.

Was the war being won or lost?

It was an illegal war but my husband the War Hawk couldn't face up to that because he couldn't cop to his own culpability.

The various waves of Operation Happy Talk were tossing him against the rocks as he tried to figure out which pose to strike.

He was whining about that in the brief time he was back, whining over the phone.

Then he was gone and I honestly wondered why -- other than to amke my life a living hell -- he'd even briefly returned.

The Peace Resister Katrina vanden Heuvel was "bummed." She really wanted to work with Thomas Friedman, she said.

I reminded her that she was editor & publisher of what was though by some to be anti-war weekly opinion journal.

She brushed that point aside.

She said she'd always admired Thomas Friedman.

I stared at her blankly wondering when she'd be leaving. She took it as my requesting her to continue.

Apparently what she admired about Thomas Friedman were his invitations.

She spoke at length about his TV appearences and apparently her begging and pleading to be on ABC's "This Week" still isn't doing it for her.

"Betinna," she asked leaning in too close, "tell me, does he have to phone them?"

I told her no and what passed for emotion briefly flashed across her face.

She went into a long rant about how she had repeatedly offered to watch Kelly Rippa's children for "just the teeniest moment with her and Regis!" and how she would still be attempting to phone Dave Letterman each night if he hadn't threatened her with a restraining order.

Having refused to donate to the pet cause that brought her to my door, Whites For Half-White Barack Obama, I felt I had to throw her some bone if only to send her on her way.

I explained to her that being known as against the illegal war might hurt her booking chances.

"I know that!" she exclaimed. "You think I don't know that? I know that! Why do you think I have spent so much time focusing on the magazine on everything but the illegal war! But does anyone appreciate that? Does anyone give me credit for that? NO! I have pointedly refused to cover war resisters, I won't even use the term! I have refused to call out politicians who won't end the war but I get nothing! Nothing! It's like it's second grade all over again and I'm sitting at my desk hoping no one smells the urine and that it dries before lunch so no one will know I have pissed myself! But everyone knows! Everyone smells it! And everyond's laughing!"

A long uncomfortable silence followed as I stood there stunned and Katrina tried to avoid looking at me.

It was broken only by the arrival of Cathy Pollitt carrying a container of chicken wings and a bundt cake.

"Betinna," Cathy said pushing past me, "my cable's out and 'Sex in the City' is about to come on. I am Carrie Bradshaw!"

Katrina used the opportunity to slink away. Wanting to get a dig in, I reminded her of something her multiple appearances have always proven, "There's always Fox 'News'!"

She glared but continued down the hall leaving me to wonder if there was much difference between the 'stars' of the left and the 'stars' of the right or center?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, December 7, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the Canadian parlaiment's December 11th hearings on war resisters approach, IVAW's Justin Cliburn speaks in Dallas Sunday, Buzzy and Cookie remain brothers but one is now unemployed (don't cry, Blackwater will probably officially hire him now), bombings in Iraq get some media attention and more.

Staring with war resistance. November 15th, Iraq War resisters
Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey learned that the nation's Supreme Court would not hear their appeals. As a result, the focus is now on getting the Canadian Parliament to address the situation. On December 11th, the parliament will hear testimony from war resisters. Dustin Langley (Workers World) notes Hinzman's statements on the illegal war, "They said there were weapons of mass destruction. They haven't found any. They said Iraq was linked to international terrorist organizations. There haven't been any links. This was a criminal war. Any act of violence in an unjustified conflict is an atrocity." Cindy Sheehan (OpEdNews) urges people to utilize Courage to Resist's easy to mail or e-mail resources to allow the Canadian government to know you are watching and to support organizations supporting war resisters as well as supporting war resisters:

Support actual war resisters in Canada by sending them expense money. From my friend Ryan (I gave him and his wife money to get to Canada over two years ago):

In light of the recent Supreme Court denial in Canada, I (Ryan Johnson), My wife (Jen Johnson) and Brandon Hughey need help raising funds to travel to Ottawa to attend hearings before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, where War Resisters will be giving Testimony to the committee. At these hearings the committee will be deciding on whether or not to make a provision to allow war resisters to stay in Canada. This is one of our last chances to be able to continue living in Canada. We will be leaving December 7th because the hearings are December 11th, 2007 so we need to act fast. They may try to send guys back soon and we need to have a strong War Resister Presence. We appreciate all of the support and Want to thank all of you who can help.

Checks/money orders can be sent for Ryan, Jen and Brandon to:312 Tower Rd Nelson, BC V1L3K6

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

The voice of war resister Camilo Mejia is featured in Rebel Voices -- playing now through December 16th at
Culture Project -- that's ten more days -- and based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States. It features dramatic readings of historical voices such as war resister Mejia, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Malcom X and others will be featured. Musician Allison Mooerer will head the permanent cast while those confirmed to be performing on selected nights are Ally Sheedy (actress and poet, best known for films such as High Art, The Breakfast Club, Maid to Order, the two Short Circuit films, St. Elmo's Fire, War Games, and, along with Nicky Katt, has good buzz on the forthcoming Harold), Eve Ensler who wrote the theater classic The Vagina Monologues (no, it's not too soon to call that a classic), actor David Strathaim (L.A. Confidential, The Firm, Bob Roberts, Dolores Claiborne and The Bourne Ultimatum), actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless -- film and TV series, Gregory and Chicken Little), actress Lili Taylor (Dogfight, Shortcuts, Say Anything, Household Saints, I Shot Andy Warhol, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, State of Mind) and actor, director and activist Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Beloved, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rainmaker, Places In The Heart, Dreamgirls, Shooter and who recently appeared on Democracy Now! addressing the US militarization of Africa) The directors are Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati with Urbinati collaborating with Zinn and Arnove on the play. Tickets are $41.. The theater is located at 55 Mercer Street and tickets can be purchased there, over the phone (212-352-3101) or online here and here. More information can be found at Culture Project.

IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

March 13th through 15th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.

IVAW's South Central Region Coordinator
Justin Cliburn will be speaking this Sunday in Dallas, Texas at the First Unitarian Church of Dallas, Raible Chapel (4015 Normandy Avenue, Dallas, TX 75205) at 10:30 am. Cliburn served in Iraq (2005-2006) and this event is free and open to the public.

In yet another sign of the failures of the puppet government,
Eric Westervelt (NPR's Morning Edition) reports that the health ministry does not have a program to care for the wounded civilians or even to track how many there are. The illegal war hits the five-year mark in March. Puppet of the occupation Nouri-al Maliki and his initial cabinet were all in place by May of 2006. And there is no system in place to track the wounded let alone to treat them. Westervelt tells of 36-year-old, father of five Majid Hameed -- a victim of a bombing targeting his work place in March 2004 that left him burned and then, lack of treatment, left him with gangrene in both hands which spread and his arms were amputated to "just above the elbow" who must now attempt to provide for his family by hawking "trinkets" on the streets of Baghdad. He had been a blacksmith and a security guard prior to the bombing. The failed system really depends on international aid. Westervelt doesn't make that point but that is what's going on. Just as, in the US, Wal-Mart doesn't provide for their employees and expects government services to subsidize them, the Iraqi government leaves it to the NGOs to 'handle' the situation. Hammed got the run around at the various government ministries, a private organization told him they would need both medical and police reports to treat him and the police station refused to assist him with those forms while the local council "laughed at me saying, 'We don't give letters to disabled people confirming they were hit by a car bomb. We know nothing about it. This is not our business'." It's no one's business because the failed puppet government of Nouri al-Maliki is not one that serves Iraqis. Why should the puppets show interest in the Iraqi people when the US government never has?

Big Oil's enable Iraq Development Program is announcing "positive signs" in Iraq's economy and sourcing it to Bayan Jubur al-Zubaydi (Iraq's Minister of Finance). It's silly nonsense from a silly 'organization' that quotes the minister stating "the new budget allocated $10 billion dollars to subsidise ration card items and the salaries of government employees and pensioners." Yes, we are back to the subsidies. Note the amount. How much of that alleged ten billion goes to saleries? It's worth pondering because Reuters reports Abdul Falah al-Sudany (Iraq's Trade Minister) asserts that the massive reduction in subsidies that will kick in next month stem from a request for "$7 billion in next year's budget to distribute 10 basic items but received only $3 billion." If both officials are telling the truth that would mean seven billion dollars was required to pay the puppet government. That's a big payroll (especially when government workers make so little that IDP is trumpeting the fact that they've been granted income tax waivers) especially when you consider that "more than 60 percent of Iraq's population rely on the rations." Actually, that's the candied number, United Nation's agencies were estimating it was 80 percent and that was before the vast refugee (internal and external) began. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) explains, "The system under which all Iraqis are issued ration cards allowing them to buy 10 items -- sugar, flour, rice, powdered milk, cooking oil, tea, beans, baby milk, soap and detergent -- for a nominal fee". The issue isn't money, the issue is the White House's lust for privatization that led to a tag sale in Iraq. It's nothing but the (PDF format warning) same crap the US has been pushing for some time in the name of "economic rehabilitation and reform for Iraq." This despite the fact that Steven Mann, Paul Bremer's boy, was more interested (November, 2003) in "Building the market structure that promotes private business." In September 2003, the United Nations' World Food Programme was sounding alarms over the crisis in Iraq and noting, "Any significant disruption of the public distribution system would have a severe negative impact on food access." That was 2003. Things have not gotten better and anyone who has trouble grasping that can just focus on the numbers then for external refugees (100,000) and internal ones (200,000). Both categories are now in the millions (and combined account for over 4 million people). The food program is not 'less needed' today, it's more needed.

But the tag sale on Iraq is more important to the puppet government which works for the US government which -- apparently -- works for big business. Hence,
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes today, "UPI is reporting Iraq's Oil Ministry is preparing to sign deals for the country's largest oil fields even though the Iraqi government has failed to pass an Iraq oil law. BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Conoco Phillips and other oil companies are all attempting to win contracts in Iraq. Executives from BP and Shell are expected to be meeting soon with Iraq's Oil Minister. Under Iraqi law, the Oil Ministry can sign service contract deals on its own. But any production-sharing contracts would need parliamentary approval." This follows Selina Williams reporting (for MarketWatch) earlier this week that BP PLC and Royal Duth Shell PLC were to meet Wednesday with Hussein al-Shahristanti (Iraqi oil minister) for oil discussions. UPI's Ben Landon offers "Big Oil's big dreams are close to coming true as Iraq's Oil Ministry prepares deals for the country's largest oil fields with terms that aren't necessarily what companies were hoping for but considered a foot in the door of the world's most promising oil sector." Now who could have added additional strong-arming on that? Has any US official recently visited Iraq?

Robert Gates holds the title of US Secretary of Defense. Spinning the illegal war apparently comes under his job description (and comes naturally but who other than
Robert Parry stepped up to call the nomination out when it mattered?). Gates has left Iraq after his photo-op. Thom Shanker (New York Times) quotes Gates declaring he was "encouraged" and that he was "feeling very good abou tthe direction of things in the security arena". Gates was greeted with bombings and bombings continued through his brief stay. Of course, bombings followed his exit. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "A suicide woman wearing an explosive belt detonated herself among the civilians near the center of the local committees in Al Mu'alimeen nieghborhood in Muqdadiyah town east of Baquba city around 9,30 am. 16 civilians were killed in the explosion (8 men, 5 women and 3 children) and 27 others were wounded (19 men, 4 children, 2 Sahwa members and 2 women)." CNN, citing the police, identifies the bomber as Suhaila Ali and notes the bombing "took place outside a building that hosts meetings for local members of a so-called awakening council, whose members are opposed to al Qaeda and have formed an alliance with U.S. and Iraqi forces. . . . More than half of the dead and wounded in Friday's bombing were members of the awakening council, the Interior Ministry said." CBS and AP note that two of Suhaila Ali's sons "were killed by Iraqi security forces" and quotes Ibrahim Bajalan ("head of Diyala provincial council") stating, "She wanted to avenge the killing of her two sons." Alaa Shahine (Reuters) pieces together the immediate lead up to the bombing, "Witnesses said a woman walked up to the building, in a street full of shops, and began asking questions. She detonated the vest she was wearing when people out shopping before Friday prayers began gathering around her." UK's In The News notes, "In April the town was hit by another female suicide bomber who killed over 12 people at a police recruitment centre." The Belfast Telegraph observes it was "the second [attack] in the space of 10 days carried out by female suicide bombers." That refers to a November attack summarized then by M-NF as: "A female suicide bomber detonated an explosive laden suicide-vest, wounding seven U.S. soldiers and five Iraqi citizens in Baqubah, Nov. 27." That was only one of the bombings in the Diyala Province. AFP informs, "Hours later, a suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into an army checkpoint at the nearby town of Al-Mansuriyah, killing 10 people and wounding eight, among them soldiers and members of another Awakening group, security officials said." Alaa Shahine (Reuters) places the death toll at 10 ("seven Iraqi troops and three members of a local neighbourhood patrol") and eight injured. New York Times' Cara Buckley (at the company's International Herald Tribune) notes that the "three volunteers . . . had been working with the U.S. forces." CBS and AP note that two bombings were "about 10 miles apart". Cami McCormick (CBS News) interviews the newly returned to Fort Hood Army 3rd Brigade Combat Team who had been stationed in Diyala for fifteen months.

McCormick: Many say they were stunned by how dangerous their deployment became.

Spc. Cory Barton: I'd always heard from the guys that had been previous deployed and, you know, family members and friends that had been deployed before, they'd always tell me about the major hot spots -- like Falluja, Najaf, Baghdad, Mosul and places like that -- I've never heard anything about Baquba and then when we touched down, we touched ground in there and it was like an epiphany.

McCormick: It was scary?

Barton: Oh, it was a bad dream.

It's not 'safer' in Iraq. In other violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that today two police officers wounded in a Baghdad gun battle and Jabbar Khalaf ("chief of Rabi'aa police station") was shot dead in Mosul along with 4 other police officers and that yesterday a farmer was shot dead outside Kirkuk, 1 Beshmarga Kurdish force intel officer was wounded (by "a pistol with a silencer) while 1 person was shot dead in Kirkuk and another wounded.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

If you missed it, it was time for the laughable Nation magazine to do another editorial on the illegal war. Why they bothered is anyone's guess. They accepted (without question) the bulk of the spin regarding the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk. By contrast, the US
Socialist Worker demonstrates needed common sense in their "Editorial: 'Mission Accomplished' again?" noting: "A new U.S. war lie -- concocted by the Bush administration, endorsed by the Democrats, embraced by the mainstream media -- has been deployed to justify continuing the occupation in Iraq. The claim is that the Bush 'surge' of 30,000 U.S. troops to Iraq worked -- and is, at long last, bringing 'peace' and 'stability.' . . . . But lurking behind the hype is a different reality -- one that reporters working in Iraq readily admit. A Pew Research Center poll of U.S. reporters working in Iraq found that '[n]early 90 percent of U.S. journalists in Iraq say much of Baghdad is still too dangerous to visit' -- and that many believe U.S. media 'coverage has painted too rosy a picture of the conflict'." As the editorial notes, imperialism is a bi-partisan goal with Republicans and Democrats embracing one another from across the aisle. Which is why CBS and AP's bulletin should come as no surprise: "Democrats controlling Congress sent the most explicit signals yet on Thursday that they are resigned to providing additional funding for the war in Iraq before Congress adjourns for the year." They're preparing to cave again. And as CBS reports that $1 billion in equipment is missing in Iraq. There for-show stunt that found US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claiming they woulnd't budge has collapsed. As the Socialist Worker concludes, "The bipartisan Washington establishment is rallying around the consensus that the surge worked because it provides the excuses for continued occupation. Opponents of the war need to expose this new war lie -- and insist that life in Iraq will only really improve when the U.S. gets out."

And those enlisting to assist don't just include The Nation but also NPR. As
Ruth noted yesterday, the public radio network "did 'investigative journalism' . . . They discovered that the American people have lost interest in ending the illegal war. How did they unearth this questionable claim? They spoke to Congressional staffers. They spoke to staffers of Congress members, the same Congress that has refused to end the illegal war. It is truly a shock, at least to NPR, that said staffers might lie to take the heat off the people who sign their pay checks." NPR's Day to Day wants you to believe that "Iraq has become less of an issue in the presidential campaign." They need you to believe it having offered a two-hour Democratic presidential hopefuls 'debate' this week where, despite the US being engaged in a war, the 'moderators' never asked about the Iraq War. As noted in Wednesday's snapshot, that 'reality' is far from reality: "In fact the latest poll found it the issue most noted by respondents -- you could take the second and third most cited issues (economy and healthcare), add them together and Iraq would still outrank them. But the media has lost interest. Add another poll to the mix. Faye Fiore (Los Angeles Times) reports on the Los Angeles Times - Bloomberg News poll which found, "Nearly six of every 10 military families disapprove of Bush's job performance and the way he has run the war, rating him only slightly better than the general population does." Was the illegal war "worth it"? All poll respondents state no by 60%, respondents from homes "with active military/vets" said no by 57% and homes "with military in Iraq/vets" said no by 60%. Translation: America says the illegal war was not worth it. To anser the Clash's musical question -- "Should I Stay or Should I Go" -- 23% polled said bring them home "right away" (21% for homes with active military/vets and 27% for homes with military in Iraq/vets) while 41% say bring them home "within next year" (37% and 42% in the previous breakdown). Bring the troops home? 64% say YES! It's only in the lame media that wants to pretend the issue is no longer an issue. And of course the media includes some on the 'left' because you can't pimp the war supporter Barack Obama so hard and still call for an end to the illegal war. (LAT piece is also at Common Dreams.)

Turning from the mercenaries in Congress to the mercenaries of Blackwater. When last we checked in on Buzzy and Cookie (
November 19th snapshot), Howard Cookie Krongard was remaining the US State Dept's inspector general but stated he was going to remove himself from pretending to provide oversight of Blackwater due to the fact that his brother A. B. Buzzy Krongard serves on the advisory board of Blackwater. Previously, Cookie had tried to deny that Buzzy was working with Blackwater, deny in a Congressional hearing, but admitted it was true after requesting a break. Despite Cookie's claims, Buzzy told Scott Shane (New York Times) that he had told his brother he was on the advisory board "a few weeks ago." In an update, Reuters reports today that Cookie has announced he will resign from the State Department. Jeremy Scahill (Common Dreams) provides an update on the latest to do with Blackwater and he will be back on Democracy Now! next week to discuss the latest regarding the mercenaries (I believe Monday). Scahill concludes in his latest piece: "In short, Blackwater is moving ahead at full steam. Individual scandals clearly aren't enough to slow it down. The company's critics in the Democratic-controlled Congress must confront the root of the problem: the government is in the midst of its most radical privatization in history, and companies like Blackwater are becoming ever more deeply embedded in the war apparatus. Until this system is brought down, the world's the limit for Blackwater Worldwide--and as its rebranding campaign shows, Blackwater knows it."

jeremy hinzmanbrandon hughey

democracy nowamy goodman
blackwater usa