Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Office Visit

The hope of pancakes got Cathy Pollitt out of my apartment. The lie that The Peace Resister Katrina vanden Heuvel had been hoarding snowballs and ding dongs in her desk got Cathy marching off into a huff down to the office. The place appeared deserted and we made our way quickly to Katrina's office.

Opening the door, Cathy and I gasped. Well, I gasped. The walk had left Cathy winded so she'd been panting for pretty much the last half-hour.

But there was John Nichols, stripped to his pantyhose, paper clips dangling from his nipples, as he repeatedly kissed a wall poster of Barack Obama's head.

"You make me feel so feminine," John Nichols was saying to the poster. "What's that? Does the carpet match the drapes? I can show you!"

"Don't . . . you . . . dare!" Cathy managed to slowly get out causing John Nichols to swirl around in surprise.

"What -- You -- I -- What!"

With that John was running past us causing me to note that Joe Namath once wore pantyhose with so much more grace.

"You don't think he's running to get Katrina?" I asked.

Cathy was already digging through the desk, "Katrina come in on a Saturday? Don't make me laugh. Now where's the little princess keep the snacks?"

While Cathy rummaged through Katrina's desk, I looked around the office, focusing on a book case.

There it was, a leather bound volumne entitled "How We Take Over." The spine gave the authors as "Katrina vanden Heuvel and some man."

I snuck a look at Cathy but she was busy foaming at the mouth to notice me. She was getting antsy as she dug through the desk and found nothing. I slipped the book into my purse and then walked over to the desk.

"Not finding any? Well, she must have eaten them all yesterday."

"Little Princess doesn't eat," Cathy informed, "she nibbles."

How fitting for a dabbler, I thought.

"Do you think John is going to rat us out?"

"What?" Cathy looke d furious as she reached inside the last unchecked drawer. "No way. You think that nut case wants us talking about him using paper clips for nipple rings? I don't think so. He can't rat us out without exposing himself."

Cathy slammed the drawer.

"Skinny witch!" she spat as she moved away from the desk.

She was pacing now. It started out slowly and might not actually be noticeable to most. But as she continued moving, she built up steam and I feared she might walk into a wall at any moment and knock if over with her girth.

"Pancakes, Cathy, remember we're getting pancakes!"

That seemed to catch her attention. She even smiled as she rubbed her obscene belly.

"Let's jelly roll!" she cried.

We headed down the hall, turned and were only few yards from the front door when Cathy tripped and went hurtling into a wall, breaking it down.

As she picked herself up, she dusted off toy soldiers stuck to her body.

"They're William Greider's. He's not as peaceful as you might think," she explained as she looked around to see what she'd tripped over.

It was a whimpering John Nichols.

Smiling weakly and chattering extremely, he explained he'd try to bolt from the building only to trip and fall causing the paper clip through his nipple to snag on the rug.

"I'm stuck," he said weekly with a smile that only brought out the yokel chin.

Cathy found that hilarious and began tossing back her head in laughter. The sound was deafening and I began to fear we'd be found out.


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, February 22, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Turkey has invaded northern Iraq, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Courage to Resist interviews 24-year-old marine reservist Matt Mishler who has applied for CO (conscientious objector) status. Mishler had a religious awakening and is against wars now. He cites the Sermon on the Mount in explaining how he realized he was a CO: "I don't see serving my God --as doing God's word -- as . . . picking up a rifle and slinging it over my shoulder and walking through Iraq or Afghanistan and shooting other people with rifles and guns that are there." He explains that his beliefs mean he will go to jail before he will deploy. "If they tell me I'm not a conscientious objector it does not make me not a conscientious objector in my mind because that's a decision you make deep down inside yourself. It's not a decision that's up to someone else outside of you. It is a decision that you have to make and believe for yourself. And if you believe in it strong enough and if that is truly your beliefs than just by someone telling you that you're not a conscientious objector does not make you a conscientious objector."

Also
interviewed is war resister Robin Long who went to Canada to seek aslyum. "I have no second thoughts at all. This is totally better than having to go to that war torn country and participate in the indiscriminate killing of the Arab people. It saddens me how so many people have been snowballed by it. They just . . . They don't, they don't realize that these people have brothers, they have sisters, they have kids, they have mothers and fathers just like us. And . . . I wouldn't have it any other way. This is -- I made the best decision, I know that. And regardless of what hardships I go through I could have easily put a family or someone else in that country through way more hardships. So I have no regrets." We'll note more from the interview next week but Long, like the other war resisters in Canada, was dealt a set-back when the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. Today, Canada's Parliament remaining the best hope for safe harbor war resisters have, you can make your voice heard by the Canadian parliament which has the ability to pass legislation to grant war resisters the right to remain in Canada. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (pm@pm.gc.ca -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, 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).

Meanwhile
IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC action:
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 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.
Dee Knight (Workers World) notes, "IVAW wants as many people as possible to attend the event. It is planning to provide live broadcasting of the sessions for those who cannot hear the testimony firsthand. 'We have been inspired by the tremendous support the movement has shown us,' IVAW says. 'We believe the success of Winter Soldier will ultimately depend on the support of our allies and the hard work of our members'." As part of their fundraising efforts for the event, they are holding houseparties and a recent one in Boston featured both IVAW's Liam Madden and the incomprable Howard Zinn as speakers. IVAW's co-chair Adam Kokesh will, of course, be participating and he explains why at his site, "But out of a strong sense of duty, some of us are trying to put our experiences to use for a good cause. Some of us couldn't live with ourselves if weren't doing everything we could to bring our brothers and sisters home as soon as possible. The environment may be unking, but that is why I will be testifying to shooting at civilians as a result of changing Rules of Engagement, abuse of detainees, and desecration of Iraqi bodies. It won't be easy but it must be done. Some of the stories are things that are difficult to admit that I was a part of, but if one more veteran realizes that they are not alone because of my testimony it will be worth it."

Son of gun. Cue the double pianos from Carly Simon's "You're So Vain." "Awakening" Councils are no more. The official US term now is "Sons Of Iraq." That was made clear in Col. Tom James' press briefing (via videolink) today at the Pentagon where he repeatedly used the terms "Sons Of Iraq" and "SOIs" repatedly. As to the "DOIs" -- or "Daughters Of Iraq" -- like every other Iraqi woman, they are ignored by the US. When asked about the continued reluctance of the central, puppet government in Baghdad to deal with the "Sons Of Iraq," James explaing the he is "dealing with the SOI program. We have just under 8,000" and he refers ("screened") them to "the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces . . . for potential employment". So, in other words, the puppet government doesn't want them but the US is adament about forcing them to take them. James claims 'progress' and "positive momentum" on that front. Whether or not the Iraqi government would at some point pay the SOIs is side-stepped by James who only acknowled "that we have paid" their salaries why swearing that that the US would soon "transition them to government institutions".

Meanwhile,
Camilla Hall (Bloomberg News) reports Moqtada al-Sadr has extended the truce/cease-fire for another six months today (taking it through August 15th). At his briefing today, James was very 'up' on this news, stating it was "very positive to the security situation. . . this is a very positive situation because al-Sadr understands that a peace and establishing peace in the future is the way to success in Iraq, not violence. And with the senior position that he holds, that will influence an enormous amount of the Shi'a population in AO Vanguard, and we see that as a being a very positive step in securing the security situation that we have now so that we can continue to exploit other things." "Exploit" may be the key word there from the US military's view. But there's also reality. Alexandra Zavis and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) note, "But in recent days, Sadr's followers, including loyalists in the national Parliament, have complained that their foes have used the cease-fire to try to crush his movement politically and militarily. Until the last minute, they had held out the possibility that Sadr might order his militia back into action." So the real issue isn't al-Sadr now. Having agreed to an extension, he is now out of the picture. He is also out of Baghdad and whether or not the Mahdi Army will continue to listen to him from out of town, while he labors away as a hotel clerk and busies himself with studies, is the real issue at this point. The anger and resentment that has been breeding in the Sadr City section of Baghdad has been doing so without al-Sadr's oversight. How much pull he will have, how much control, is in doubt. Residents of Sadr City have complained of mistreatment and abuses (including raids) throughout the truce/cease-fire and many noises were made by "aides" and "loyalists" throughout (made publicly to the press) that there was no way al-Sadr would renew the truce/cease-fire. He has now done that and how much weight he will have now as someone not living in Sadr City is up in the air. Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports that his supporters are in the "thousands" and can al-Sadr control "thousands" via communiques he has delivered to mosques? Is he the remote-control leader? Haynes quotes Abu Zahra'a al-Saadi complaining of the cease-fire, "We decided on peace and they decided to put us in jail." "They" refers to "US and Iraqi forces". Despite the reports of al-Sadr being in Najaf (and working a hotel there), AFP notes, "Sadr did not appear publicly at Friday prayers" in Sadr City "and it is not clear where he is now based. Some reports have suggested that he has crossed the border into Iraq's neighbour Iran, but his group would not confirm this." AFP further notes that his announcement "was not universally welcomed by Sadr's supporters" and that goes to the issue that they're living in Sadr City and he isn't. Is he really going to be able to control the area from outside of it? Will a new leader emerge? Will it faction off instead with some following his latest decree and others ignoring it? Those are valid options under any study of resistance or rebellion. Mark Kukis (Time magazine) offers another, "Sadr could just as easily be simply biding his time until surge troops leave in July." At the White House today, flack Scott Stanzel held a press gaggle and declared of the cease-fire/truce, "We welcome any move that forswears violence and encourages peaceful participation. To the extent the announcement today serves to further isolate the groups that are engaging in violence, and to the extent that it helps enhance our intelligence to root out those groups, it's a positive development."

Of greater interest from that press gaggle may be Stanzel's announcement that the US was in 'the loop' of the Turkish military's latest bombings and attacks on the northern region of Iraq. Stanzeld explained, with little prompting other than being asked for his "reaction" to Turkish forces on the ground in Iraq, "Well, as you know, there's an ongoing dialogue between Iraqis and leaders in Turkey about how to best confront the threat of the PKK. We've worked cooperatively with both of our allies on these issues, and worked to make sure that there's regular coordination about how to best confront this threat. So this is something that we were aware of in advance. And as you know, the US agrees with Tukrey that the PKK is a terrorist organization and it is an enemy of Turkey, Iraq, and the United States. And we have demanded that the PKK end their attacks on Turkish soldiers and civilians." Stanzel noted that Turkey was "a NATO ally" which means "we have a longstanding intelligence sharing relationship with Turkey. That was intensified with respect to the PKK as indicated during the meetings between Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip]Erdogan and President Bush." Stanzel further stated that the US government had "urged" that the scope of the invasion be "limit[ed] to precise targetinf ot he PKK" and that the central government in Baghdad was in the loop on the upcoming attack as well.

The invasion and/or attack is
described by Leila Fadel and Yassen Taha (McClatchy Newspapers): "Iraqi Kurdish troops on Thursday encircled Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq and threatened to open fire in the most serious standoff between the two nation's forces since Turkey threatened late last year to go after guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers Party sheltering in Iraq. The standoff began when Turkish troops in tanks and armored vehicles left one of five bases they've had in Iraq since 1997 and moved to control two main roads in Dohuk province, Iraqi officials said. Kurdish soldiers from the peshmerga militia, which is loyal to the Kurdish Regional Government, moved to stop them. For an hour and a half, the two sides faced off before the Turkish soldiers retreated to their base, which is about 27 miles northeast of the city of Dohuk." Apparently the White House forgot to inform the puppet government in Baghdad that the cover story was "We were all told this was coming" because AFP has puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki phoning "Erdogan after the latest incursion was launched to urge him of 'the need to respect Iraq soveriegn authority." Steve Negus and Daniel Dombey (Financial Times of London) observe, "An incursion across the border by Turkish troops has long been in the offing, although it was not immediately clear how big the operation was or how long it would last" and they call it "a blow to the US, which last year made a series of efforts to persuade Turkey not to carry out a large-scale ground incursion." Tim Butcher (Telegraph of London) proclaims it Turkey's "biggest military incursion into the Kurdish north of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein" while Mark Bentley (Bloomberg News) states it's Turkey's "first major incursion" into in Iraq "in 11 years." China's Xinhua quotes Erdogan declaring, "The TSK will rapidly return to Turkey as soon as it reaches its aims". CBS and AP inform, "U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about the escalation. He said he recognized Turkey's need for security, but appealed to Turkey and Iraq to work together to promote peace." Bentley also notes, "Crude oil futures rose as much as 1.2 percent in London because of concern the conflict may disrupt Iraqi oil production. Crude gained as much as $1.14 to $99.37 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange." India's Economic Times also notes the spike in the price of oil and notes it's "related to an incursion into Iraq by Turkish troops." Brian Baskin (Wall St. Journal) opens with, "Crude-oil futures setttled higher Friday, as tensions between Turkey and Iraq and cold weather in the U.S. Northeast snapped oil out of a one-day slump." Despite the long standing tensions and claims by the regional government in northern Iraq (KRG) that they've addressed the issue, Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) explained, "In the snowcapped Qandeel Mountains of northern Iraq, it's hard to see that the Kurdistan Workers Party -- the PKK, as it's known by its Kurdish initials -- has been on the U.S. terrorist list since 2002. Or that President Bush and the U.S.-backed Iraqi government promised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that they'd crack down on the group, which has killed hundreds of Turks in its battle for an independent Kurdish homeland. No Iraqi troops patrol here. PKK men in uniform check the IDs of those who seek to visit. The image of the PKK's leader is emblazoned on a mountain slope, and a sign openly proclaims PKK headquarters. The peshmerga troops of the Kurdistan Regional Government, which officially rules northern Iraq, make no effort to enter. Indeed, there's little evidence in this tiny village inside what the PKK calls the Medya Defense Area that the Kurdish Regional Government has made any effort to cut off the group's supply lines. The regional government paves the roads and buses in teachers from nearby towns. Residents openly watch PKK television, with the sound up loud."

Fadel was noted in
yesterday's snapshot for her article on the extra rules being placed on Iraqi Arabas in the northern region of Iraq. One battle in the region is over who will have Kirkuk -- the central government out of Baghdad or northern Iraq. A referendum has long been postponed though the vote will allegedly take place at some point in 2008 (in the meantime, the Kurdish region has been forcing Kurds into Kirkuk in anticipation of the vote -- in anticipation of weighting the vote in their favor -- see Stephen Farrell's December 9, 2007 report for the New York Times). Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) reports, "Iraq's Kurds are moving towards taking control of the vital oil city of Kirkuk as one of the most explosive disputes bequeathed by Saddam Hussein nears a resolution. The rigs and pipelines around Kirkuk account for about one third of Iraq's oil output, now running at 2.4 million barrels per day" and that's behind the cancellation of Arabs' ration cards in an attempt to force them out of Kirkuk and to settle more Kurds into the area. It won't be deemed violence for decades and even terms like 'resettling' won't be utilized.

In what's recognized as violence taking place today . . .

Bombings?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad donkey and cart bombing that claimed 1 life and left four wounded, a Baquba mortar attack that killed 1 six-year-old boy ("4 women and 4 children" wounded) and an Anbar Province bombing attacking "the motorcade of Ameriyah Chief of Police, Major Saadoun Subhi" who was injured in the attack. Reuters notes a bomber blew up near a mosque outside Falluja resulting in the deaths of 6 police officers with nine more injured (the bomber is 1 more death), a Garma bombing that claimed the lives of 2 civilians (and of the bomber), a Tikrit car bombing claimed the lives of 3 police officers (eight more wounded) and also the life of the bomber

Shootings?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports unknown assailants shot dead 12-year-old Omar Mohammed, "his two sisters Budur and Seleema, 17 and 20 years old" in Diyala Province.

Corpses?

Reuters notes 2 corpses discovered in Iskandariya.

Today the
US military announced: "A Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldier died as the result of a non-combat related illness Feb. 21." The 4,000 mark is now 30 away with the ICCC total standing at 3970 since the start of the illegal war. 26 is the number for the month thus far.


On PBS tonight (in most markets) on
Bill Moyers Journal: finds Moyers and company working with PBS' Expose for "a hard and fresh look at how earmarks really work. The broadcast profiles Seattle Times reporters on the trail of how members of Congress have awarded federal dollars for questionable purposes to companies in local Congressional districts -- often to companies whose executives, employees or PACs have made campaign contributions to the legislators. The segment also focuses on how earmarks for some products were added to the defense appropriations bill even in cases in which the military didn't want them in the first place. Example: a $4.56 million patrol boat the Coast Guard hadn't even asked for and decided it couldn't use was eventually given away by the Coast Guard to a California Sherrif's office. David Heath of The Seattle Times says: 'They're selling a product to the military that they're not even using.' The segment will available for viewing before the broadcast at [Expose] and airs on Bill Moyers Journal Friday, February 22. Viewers can post questions for Seattle Times reporters after the broadcast at The Moyers Blog at [Bill Moyers Journal]. Expose will premiere a new episode one Friday per month as part of Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)." Important for community members : As noted repeatedly (for instance here) The Nation decided the best way to kick off 2007 was with a book review by a Pig who wanted to talk about visiting bordellos in Afghanistan while also slamming Sarah Chayes and Ann Jones -- 'emotional' and 'conspiracy' blah blah blah. That nonsense offended many. Tonight (in most markets), you can watch Moyers interview Chayes about Afghanistan. So in addition to the segment already noted, you'll be able to enjoy that. Mentioning Chayes allows me to squeeze in that Ann Jones' latest article, "The War Against Women," is up at Mother Jones.
Independent journalist and artist
David Bacon covers the the workers of Pacific Steel picketing outside a Berkeley City Council against a measure that might lead to Pacific Steel's closure. In addition, his photo exhibit has one more day at Galeria de la Raza (2857 24th St, San Francisco 94110). That's "Living under the trees" "Viviendo bajo los arboles." and February 23rd is supposed to be the last day at that gallery.

In a correction to
yesterday's snapshot, the KPFA special was not live of the debate. My apologies. The special itself (the not-so-special -- except in a very bad way) was noted here at length including the booking of only pro-Obama guests while KPFA pretended that they were having an open discussion about a debate with two candidates. It was a joke. It was an embarassment and Larry Bensky couldn't even shut up long enough to take the calls that were promised to make up the broadcast's final hours. Instead, listeners were shut out. Along with the glee Laura Flanders took in distorting Hillary Clinton (she's a funny sort of feminist, that Laura Flanders, but she's a funny sort of out lesbian as well), there was Tom Hayden betting his future on two lines by Bambi. Most telling was the KPFA blog that they they created for the live broadcast. They appear to think it's gone and vanished but it's not. You know where to go to Sunday to see it.