Saturday, November 17, 2007

Invasion of the fools

Cathy Pollit was back at my door -- about as welcome as "The New York Times."

But unlike the useless paper which just lays there (honestly, I can leave it out there all day and my neighbors won't attempt to swipe it), she was bang-banging, knock-knocking, ring-ringing and chew-chewing. Perhaps not so surprisingly, it was her open mouthed chewing that I heard loudest through the closed door.

Opening, I found her mid-way through a bag of pork rinds that she was dipping into french vanilla ice cream explaining it was the "latest rage." Where? She had no specifics.

Only after she entered did I notice The Peace Resister Katrina vanden Heuvel.

Both of them? At the same time? It was like a Biblical plague.

They marched into my living room and parked themselves. I wondered about the durability of the sofa Cathy had planeted herself on but resigned myself to my fate and the fate of my sofa.

"Betinna," Katrina purred, "we've been dying to talk to you."


I must have stared too long.

"Betinna," Katrina said using my name in that overly familiar way that makes you want to run for cover, "could you have your girl bring us some tea?"

"My girl?"

"Your maid."


"Now don't get upset," Cathy huffed searched the bag of pork rinds for some stray crumbs, "she didn't mention the race. You could have a White maid."

"I don't have a maid."


Long pause.

Katrina shifted nervously.

"Well, I mean . . . You are married to Thomas Friedman."

Which is why I was lucky to even have clothes on my back. I didn't say that, but I was thinking about it and thinking back to those days when he used to drug me -- after he and Nicky K kdinapped me -- and convince me, in my drugged state, that I was from a third-world village and believed in wearing bed sheets for clothing.

"Betinna, I was reading your husband Thomas Friedman's latest column in the paper and just loved it, just loved it. 'Coulda' Woulda' Shoulda' -- isn't it the cat's pajamas?"

More like it's litter box but vanden Heuvel wasn't known as perceptive or even "all there."

"Where does he get it, Betinna? Where does he get his mastery of the English language?"

It's a good think fall temperatures are cooling us all down because, judging by her remarks, I'd say vanden Heuvel's brain was cooked some time ago.

"You were going to ask her about writing something," Cathy said looking around the living room for a snack.

"Yes, that is true. Betinna, we'd like you to write something for the magazine. We think you're a wonderful writer."

"Based on?"

Katrina flashed a big smile, "Why who you married of course."

I might have popped off but I was too busy watching Cathy Pollitt, who hadn't found anything edible, nibble on a leg of the coffee table.

So instead I thought about how useless these type of people are. Based on who I married, I'm a wonderful writer? I just knew she wasn't hinting that I could produce this year's "Bell Jar." She meant I was 'her kind' -- in a very non-Anne Sexton manner. That's how it worked in this tiny club, you were who you married. And you married what you were. It was all so very Thomas Friedman-esque that it made sense he and his jumbled lingo usage striving for bad Harold Robbins meets Tony Robbins could be adopted by this crowd as if it "The World Is Flat" was "The Custom of the Country" for the new century. From Wharton to Friedman, what a long, strange descent.

I could have gone on exploring that forever -- anything to avoid vanden Heuvel's 'insights' softly, fakely purred -- but suddenly Cathy stopped nibbling the coffee table leg and stared up in shock. Thomas Friedman had returned.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, November 16, 2007. Chaos and violence contine, the war resistance movement continues, Congress accomplishes nothing (but does get a vacation), Brian De Palma's film Redacted opens in select cities, and more.

Starting with war resistance. Canada's
War Resisters Support Campaign. staged rallies across Canada yesterday in support of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey whose appeal the Supreme Court refused to hear. Tracy Huffman and Debra Black (Toronto Star) report that Hinzman was at a rally in Toronto but not making public statements, instead letting Jeffry House (Hinzman, Hughey and many other war resisters in Canada's attorney) speak, "He's disappointed. He's tired of talking." John Ward (Canadian Press via London Free Press) dexplains that the focus will now be on the country's federal government and quotes House stating "the focus now turns to a political solution" and Canadian Friends Service Committee's Jane Orion Smith stating the legislature can "create a provision for them to stay." Kari Huus (MSNBC) cites Lee Zaslofsky of the War Resisters Support Campaign explaining, "What we need is for the (Liberal) party as a whole to take a stance on this. Together (the three parties) have a majority, and if they act together they can put something through the House of Commons." The Liberal Party currently has 96 seats in the House of Commons, the New Democratic Party has 30 seats. Those two bring the total to 126 which is the number of seats the Conservative Party holds. Bloc Quebecois holds 49 seats and 3 seats are held by the Independents (four seats are vacant). CKNW (AM 980) quotes Vancouver organizer Bog Ages explaining that the Bloc Quebecois and New Democratic Party members are on board and "we have a number of Liberal MP's who said they would support us. So, all we have to do, we'd like the Liberal Party as a whole to take a stand. But even if they're split, enough of them, that combined with the other parties, they have a majority, potentially, in Parliament, to change the law." The New Democratic Party cites the poll where 64.4 percent of Ontarians believe the war resisters should be allowed to remain in Canada, notes that NDP Citizenship and Immigration Critic Olivia Chow is introducing a motion to call for hearings on the issue and quotes her declaring, "To deport courageous war resisters who oppose the illegal invasion of Iraq is saying Yes to George W. Bush's war and No to supporting and protecting people seeking peace."

In the US,
Tom Hayden declared, "I hope that the Canadian people stop the Bush Administration from using the Harper government to hound a handful of war resisters and erase Canada's proud heritage as a haven for resisters and refugees." Rebecca (Sex and Politics and Attitude and Screed) also lamented the events in Canada (and compared Prime Minister Stephen Harper to adult acne): "if i was even slightly right about what canada once was, i know the people can still stand up and force their government to stand with them. but they better do so quick. if they want to see how it looks when they don't, just take a gander southward. we're becoming the text book example of a failed state."

In July of 2004, Democracy Now! spoke with Jeremy Hinzman:AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Can you talk about how you made your decision?
JEREMY HINZMAN: Pretty much what it came down to was-- I mean, I won't go into the false pretences and everything that we know about, but being in an illegal war, it would be being complicit and a criminal enterprise, and you may say that, oh, well, you're not a policymaker or a general or whatever, that the Nuremberg principles wouldn't apply to you. But in light of what's happened since Abu Ghraib, when they scapegoated like the lower enlisted soldiers for simply carrying out what the policy was from the upper echelons, I think it's pretty fair to say that we made the right decision. Because I was in the infantry and there is a good chance that I would have-- I would have been pretty active in a negative way. And so I'm-- that's why we came here pretty much is that I wasn't-- I don't want to shoot people. I would have been happy to go to Iraq as a port-a-potty janitor or operation human shield. I just don't want to shoot people.

Goodman spoke with Hinzman again on October 15, 2004 and also participating in the interview were Jeffry House and Brandon Hughey:
AMY GOODMAN: Brandon Hughey, why did you go into the military?
BRANDON HUGHEY: My story basically starts off almost the same way. I enlisted when I was 17 years old with basically the promise of a way to better my life financially. Again, it is a way to get a college education without amassing thousands of dollars of debt.
AMY GOODMAN: Where did you grow up?
BRANDON HUGHEY: I grew up in San Angelo, Texas. So, also when I signed the contract, I wasn't naive to the fact that I could be deployed to fight in a war, but I did have this image growing up that I would be sort of -- a good guy, if you will, and fighting for just causes and fighting to defend my country, and after I got out of basic training, and when I realized that basically the U.S. had attacked a country that was no threat to them, in an act of aggression, it shattered that myth, I guess you could say.
AMY GOODMAN: How old were you when you signed up?

At the rallies for Hinzman and Hughey, among those attending were war resisters from the Vietnam era and war resisters from today's illegal war.
Huffman and Black note Kimberly Rivera -- Iraq veteran, mother of two -- spoke at one rally: "I strongly believe we are doing the wrong thing in Iraq." Rivera went on to explain that, while serving in Iraq, when she looked "at the shaken crying Iraqi children" she was reminded "of her own daughter in Texas.": John Ward notes war resister Tim Richard attending one rally and wondering, "Why is it legal for me (to stay), because my father was born in New Brunswick, and not legal for somebody else who did the exact same thing?"

Meanwhile war resister Rodney Watson has gone public.
Suzanne Fournier (The Province) notes the 29-year-old, African-American, Iraq veteran self-checked out a year ago and now lives in Canada and quotes him stating, "I I realized the war had nothing to do with 9/11 or helping Iraqis or stopping terrorists. It's all about guarding oil for the U.S. , , , I'd rather do my time in jail than be a party to the racism I saw in Iraq. As an African-American, I grew up with racism. But in Iraq, I saw the same kind of abuse and mistreatment, only this was U.S. enlisted soldiers and American contractors, like security forces, abusing Iraqis."

Tom Regan (NPR News Blog) points out the difference between this week's court action (or inaction) and last week's. While Hugey and Hinzman were not allowed to seek out a legal remendy by the Canadian Supreme Court, last week US District Judge Benjmain Settle ruled in Ehren Watada's favor, "The judge says the military court is ignoring Watada's constitutional right not to face double jeopardy after his first court-martial ended in a mistrial.
The injunction means Watada has a better chance of winning his case, but it also means he might not get a chance to test his central argument -- that the Iraq war is illegal -- in court."
Noting the Watada ruling yesterday,
NPR's Martin Kaste (All Things Considered) covered the story and Kenneth Kagan, Watada's civilian attorney along with James Lobsenz, explained the double-jeopardy issue (the February court-martial ended in a mistrial over defense objection) was something many courts grasp: "Civilians courts understand that, state courts understand that but for some reason military courts weren't acknowledging that reality."

Another reality that some (the press) has a hard time acknowledging is the number of service members electing to check out of the military on their own.
AP reports that this year the desertion rate has jumped to "the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80 percent increase" since the start of the illegal war. AP continues to deny reality by offering the claim that the US military does little to track down those who go AWOL or desert -- despite the mountain of public evidence to the contrary.
As to the figure cited, September 21st,
Nick Watt (ABC's Nighline) examined war resisters and noted the number of people being processed for desertion at Fort Knox "jumped 60% last year" (to 1,414 for Fort Knox -- US military figures) while concluding his report with, "If the total for the first six months of 2007 doubles by year end, it will become the highest annual total in twenty-six years." At 80% the total has more than doubled and not only is there another full month left in the year, it's also true that you have to be gone at least 30 days to be declared a deserter (unless you're Agustin Aguayo and the military wants to screw you over) and, in addition, the military figures have been 'lower' than they should be before (NPR caught that earlier this year) and the rolls aren't up to date for AWOL let alone desertion.

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.

The voice of war resister Camilo Mejia is featured in Rebel Voices -- playing now through December 16th at
Culture Project 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. Zinn will take part in the November 18th presentation (the official opening night -- but performances are already taking place) and 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 appeared on Democracy Now! Friday 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 $21 for previews and $41 for regular performances (beginning with the Nov. 18th opening night). 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

Starting next week, IVAW's announcement above will be summarized in each snapshot until the March testimony begins. Winter Soldier is the documentary that was made of the 1971 investigation and it is
available via Vietnam Veterans Against the War for $28.95 (four dollars of that is for shipping). Staying with films for a minute more, Brian De Palma's Redacted opens today in select cities and, although fiction, is inspired by real life events -- specifically the gang-rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza and the murder of her five-year-old sister and both parents.Opening Today:
11/16/2007 Berkeley, CA: Shattuck Cinemas Los Angeles, CA: The Landmark Palo Alto, CA: Aquarius 2 Pasadena, CA: Laemmle's One Colorado Cinemas San Francisco, CA: Embarcadero Center Cinema Santa Ana, CA: South Coast Village 3 West Hollywood, CA: Sunset 5 Washington, DC: E Street Cinema Chicago, IL: Landmark's Century Centre Cinema Cambridge, MA: Kendall Square Cinema New York, NY: Sunshine Cinema New York, NY: Lincoln Plaza Philadelphia, PA: Ritz at the Bourse

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing claimed 1 life and left four more wounded, a Baquba mortar attack left six people wounded, while 2 Baquba bombings left three civilians and four police officers wounded.

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that an Iraqi 1st Lieuntenant and his brother were shot dead in Misan while en route to their home today and yesterday "5 civilians were injured in a random fire by the Iraqi army in Al Siniyah town north west of Tikrit city."


Reuters reports Muntazer al-Zaidi, a 26-year-old journalist for Iraqi television, was kidnapped in Baghdad today.

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.

As the violence continues the US State Department has had a public relations nightmare with diplomats not filling posts and threats from the chain of command that they would be ordered to Baghdad. This morning
Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported that an announcement would be coming today "that volunteers have filled all 48 open jobs at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad for next year and that it will not order any foreign service officers to work there against their will, officials said yesterday." NPR's Morning Edition reported earlier today that the positions had been filled; however, Reuters -- citing a State Department flack -- reports that it may -- may -- be unnecessay to order some diplomats to Baghdad and quotes Sean McCormack insisting, "It appears that we are getting very nearly to the point where we will have volunteers for all of the open, identified jobs."

As Reuters notes, some objecting to be assigned to Baghdad have compared it to a death sentence. This as
DPA reports that the Turkish military has been moving tanks to the northern border of Iraq. Gareth Jones (Reuters) reports that some members of Turkey's ruling political party have stated Turkish troops will not enter Iraq if the PKK disarmed. Since they really aren't able to make that promise and since the PKK would be highly unlikely to disarm under such a vague offer, the tensions continue between northern Iraq and Turkey.

Turning to the US Congress, the Democratic shell-game (Let's tell the voters this is a withdrawal!) passed in the House but didn't come to a vote today in the Senate.
Noam M. Levey (Los Angeles Times) reports the measure garnered only 53 votes of support and that Congress is now expected to leave DC for their two-week Thanksgiving vacation. For those attempting to keep track, Congress just took a 30-day vacation in September but apparently carving a turkey takes several days when you're in the US Congress. Possibly the lack of spines makes the standing difficult? Pelosi pushed through the measure in the House and many in the Out of Iraq caucus held their news and voted to support it -- even though it did not mean withdrawal and even though it would have given Bully Boy $50 billion more dollars for the illegal war. Earlier this week, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold went on record opposing the measure because it continued funding the Iraq War and was toothless and non-binding. Toothless and non-binding? In "Don't Ask Her to Play Hostess" news Corporate Crime Reporter's Russell Mokhiber (via CounterPunch) shares the latest social tidbit from US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, "I'm not happy when people come to my house." Oh. So that's why she entertained the Dalai Lama at the MCI Center in 2005. And those of us in her district just assumed the location was another reward to her corporate donors. Actually, it's Fancy Nancy having another public fit over the fact that CODEPINK potests. She loved CODEPINK . . . when they called out the powerful . . . back when Republicans controlled everything. Now that Democrats control both houses in the US Congress and CODEPINK stays true to their purpose of calling out the powerful, Fancy Nancy has a snit fit. Repeatedly. Fancy Nancy declares of CODEPINK, "And if they think the longer they stay there the better the chances they will have a meeting with me -- I think I've disabused them of that notion." No, all she's done is demonstrate that from Richard Nixon through PW Botha on up to the Bully Boy and a hop and skip over to Fancy Nancy the bunker mentality thrives. CODEPINK is nation wide with chapters all over but many in the Bay Area see it as the "home team" so, when you're already tanking in the polls, with your highest negatives and your lowest approval ratings ever, it's probably not a good idea to go after them or present yourself an advocate against free speech. Fancy Nancy's a Maryland transplant (that never really took) so possibly she's unaware where the Free Speech Movement began? The eighth district's own Joe Lieberman appears eager to continue digging her own grave.

Finally, Robert Parry was a guest on
CounterSpin today where he explained his article "Why We Write" (Consortium News) and spoke of the immediate positive effects during and following Watergate that quickly fell away and how the US press became what it is today. He and his sons Nat and Sam will be speaking at Busboys and Poets in Arlingtion, Virginia Saturday Nov. 17th from four p.m. to six p.m. discussing their new book Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. Sam and Nat Parry have established their own journalist skills at Consortium News and they and Robert Parry can discuss any of the topics pertaining to the current administration but remember that Robert Parry has been doing investigative journalism for years -- long enough to have had neocon Daniel Pipes insult his reporting long, long before the Iraq War -- a sure sign his investigations cause discomfort.

jeremy hinzmanbrandon hugheydemocracy nowamy goodman

karen deyoung