Sunday, September 10, 2006

Editorial: Troops Home Now

Troops Home Now. From where? We'd forgive if you asked that because Iraq fell off the radar this summer and there's been little attempts to pick it up since. As the nation turned against the war in even larger numbers, this summer should have been the time to gain traction. Certainly organizations tried. They even succeeded via word of mouth. Think how that could have been amplified if there had been coverage of the actions?

But there wasn't. Summer 2005, the independent media did appear to care about the war. Cindy Sheehan brought new life into the movement. This summer, she went to Jordan to meet with Iraqis, she fasted for 37 days, she was at the peace confrence in Seattle where war resister Ricky Clousing announced he would be turning himself into the military he'd self-checked out on, she opened up Camp Casey III, she spoke in various towns and cities, she was there when Mark Wilkerson, like Ricky Clousing earlier, announced that he would be turning himself into the military. During all of that, she was in the hospital at least three times. Cindy Sheehan worked her butt off. She's now recovering from surgery and we wish her a speedy recovery and we thank her for all the work she did.

We think it did matter. Even without independent media coverage, it mattered. Imagine how much more could have been accomplished if independent media had shown the slightest bit of interest in any of the above actions. (A few did and they've been noted here and at other community sites.)

Iraq's not an "Issue of the Month."* Independent media would do well to stop treating it as such and stop chasing down whatever issue of the month they were sent. Now we realize they only have four-to-six weeks to decide whether they'll keep that month's issue or return it, but we'd argue if you can't follow more than one story, you need to go off the road/promotion tour and start doing your job.

July's "Issue of the Month" was supposed to be the elections in Mexico and we heard so much about how unfair the elections were from . . . non-Mexicans. Considering how cheap long distance is today, compared to years ago, the failure to bring on actual voters, actual citizens who might have real concerns about the election was frightening. Isn't that what independent media is supposed to do? Provide a voice to the voiceless.

That was how it was going to be. Mexico for the month. Then the Israeli government went into wacko-mode and decided that they could do whatever the hell they wanted (with a wink and nudge from the Bully Boy) and that "Issue of the Month" became the wall-to-wall.

Right now the Sammy Powers movement is trying to make their issue the issue of the month that will crowd out everything else. (And, once again, they're competing with anti-war actions.) Our modern day Carrie Nations are concerned, they swear, with what they've termed 'genocide' but most refer to as "the crisis in Darfur." A self-made expert provides numbers that he 'extrapolates' and everyone runs with them. What is the 'extrapolated' number today? Is it still around 250,000? Or has it reached a million yet? (Give him time, give him time.)

By the United Nations' estimate over 3,000 Iraqis die each day. Want to extrapolate that? That is a crisis. And it's a United States made crisis. We understand the Carrie Nations of today bleed, they bleed for this crisis in Darfur. They don't have the time to spend on ending the war in Iraq (again, a US made crisis) except to carry laughable signs that say, "Bring the Troops Home and Send Them to Darfur."

Here's a thought for the Sammy Powers: The United States has its own crisis right now so take the actions actions to the UN and work on it there. Stop your pleading to the Bully Boy. It makes you look like simps and idiots. He didn't "save" Iraq, he didn't "save Afghanistan," but, as the Doobie Brothers once sang, "What A Fool Believes . . ."

As much as the Sammy Powers and Little Nicky have whined for over three years, surely some other nation can step in. The United States has its own problems. Not just economic or the usual problems that we've grown to expect in this age of lowered expectations, but real problems like an illegal war.

It's a little hard for the Sammy Powers to accept the fact that, all over the world, people are dying. They want to save the world. Well, they want to call for the world to be saved. None of them have gone over to the Sudan to do what they're screaming the Marines should. They want the United States to play "Cops of the World" (with a nod to Phil Ochs) while they play town crier.

They'll probably continue to get a helping hand from the useless ones of independent media. Why? Because they are always eager to latch onto any new 'issue' that they can run into the ground the same way cable news does.

All politics are local. That translates as you expect your streets to be safe, your services to be provided. Then it goes to the state level, then it goes to the national level. When you have a breakdown on the national level, you don't start screaming for the US military to be sent to yet another location. The Sammy Powers have all the zeal of the Cuban-Americans who scream for Fidel Castro's head on a platter. Cuban-Americans. American citizens still trying to even a score with another country. If you're a citizen of the United States and your country's in an illegal war, that should be your first national and international concern.

At a time when the military is so over-extended that tours of duty don't end -- but get extended, that recruiters resort to any trick (legal or non according to recent coverage) to sign up anyone (qualified or not -- the screening process let Steven D. Green in), and families suffer from government imposed single-families as a result of the long deployments, we think they're insane to call for the US military (or a US-led NATO mission) to go into Darfur.

If the Sammy Powers care so damn much about Darfur, they need to get over there. If they're willing to send the exhausted and extended US military on yet another mission, they need to get over there right now on their own or they need to sign up for the military. (We're sure the Bully Boy can use each and everyone since he has Iran in his sights.)

The notion that Bully Boy could or would "Save Darfur" is laughable. But maybe the idea popped into the Sammy Powers' heads when they had their pre-rally meeting with the Bully Boy in March? Clergy opposed to the war in Iraq couldn't even meet with the Bully Boy. The Sammy Powers must be pretty tight with the Bully Boy to get face time.

There's a crisis in the Congo, there's a crisis in Nepal. There's a crisis in East Timor, there's a crisis in Zambia, there's a crisis in Zimbabwe . . . Or, to put it in music terms, "There's a jouster and a jester and a man who owns a store. There's a drummer and a dreamer and you know there may be more" (Joni Mitchell's Cactus Tree, off Song to a Seagull).

There is more than one crisis in America. There's an illegal war. There's an Oval Office occupant who doesn't believe in the Constitution (the same occupant the Sammy Powers met with). That's just two, there are many more. Instead of ignoring the very serious troubles of your own country (and who they're caused by), one might try focusing on them. Probably also a good idea to try to stop oversimplifying history and reducing people to cartoon versions of Arabs v. Black and Muslims v. Christians (though we're aware that oversimplification plays well to the Jerry Fawell crowd).

Those calling for military action should damn well be signed up since they're willing to put the lives of others on the line. "Not On Our Watch" scream the modern day Carrie Nations. What watch? Exactly what are they are doing besides screaming that others go fight their battles? Along with being the Carrie Nations of this century, they're also the Barney Fife's of the military-industrial complex. Darfur's crisis goes to Darfur, goes to the Sudan, goes to Africa and goes to the United Nations, that's the hierarchy. Attempts to bypass that and inject US troops into the region either is evidence of the-ends-justify-the-means thinking or gross stupidty.

We thought it was stupid when Nouri al-Maliki promised Lebanon 35 million dollars. If you're asking the United States for monies to prop up your puppet government, at a time when malnutrition is on the rise in your country, you don't turn around and say, "Hey, here's 35 million dollars. Sure it could be spent on Iraqis, the way the US tax payers understood it would be, but hey, I'm a big spender because I have a strong need to impress." By the same token, you don't use the American military as your sanitation workers sent out to clean the world.

American troops have suffered enough and will suffer for years to come (without any adequate health care). The Sammy Powers want to play war? They need to haul their butts over there.
They want to fix the world. You start by fixing your city, fixing your state and fixing your nation. Want a cause? The victims of the tsunami at the end of 2004 are still suffering. That might not have the built-in-drama of Darfur but they've oversimplified that conflict so we're sure they could divide the still suffering victims of the tsunami into mythical categories.

We got a lot of positive feedback when we touched on this issue last week (including e-mails from those working on the issue who support divestment and other means that don't involve deploying the US marines for a US action -- thirty of them suggested that the September rally should include policing of signs so that "Bring the troops Home and Send them to Darfur" type signs were displayed -- as one woman wrote, "I see that, go numb & wonder if I should even continue working on this issue."). We also got one whiner who suggested that, since we've proposed no solution, we had blood on our hands and would regret it for the rest of our lives. We did propose a solution. (And comprehension seems to be a problem for the Sammy Powers since we noted that solution and linked to it in last week's feature.) We proposed it back in April, when Israel was refusing to take in refugees. If people are suffering, all nations need to open their borders to them. It may not be as chest pounding as a Jerry Bruckheimer action flick, but it's a solution. "Bring the troops home and send them to Darfur" is not a solution. This isn't Gladiator and we're not going to cry, "Unleash the hounds of hell!" (meaning the Bully Boy).
A solution. The Sammy Powers are encouraged to think of their own (if 'extrapolating' doesn't take up all their time).

They're not encouraged to hijack peace rallies with their looney "Send the troops to Darfur" signs. Only a person with serious issues could, at this late date, believe that the Bully Boy could execute anything other than a prolonged occupation. Only a person with serious issues could look at the already over burdened military and think the answer is to deploy them elsewhere.
For the younger crowd of Sammy Powers, maybe they don't grasp that when someone signs up for the National Guard, they don't expect to be deployed overseas. Maybe they don't grasp that another war is just what the Bully Boy's itching for since his poll numbers always rise when he starts one and that fact seems to make post-war planning slip right out of the mind.

People are dying all over the world. Many from starvation which doesn't seem to rate a similar "Not On Our Watch!" cry. The younger Sammy Powers may have begun their adult lives knowing only war and the use of the military as the only means of addressing an issue. The older ones should know better. They remind us of the 'vangical speaking in Joni Mitchell's "Dog Eat Dog": "I think we should turn the United States Marines loose on that little island south of Florida and stop that problem. I am preachin' love, I am!"

The United Nations has many faults but it was created to address issues like the crisis in Darfur. Civilian control of the military is what this country was built upon and done so to avoid a military junta. By the same token, civilains shouldn't utilize the US military as santitation workers. The relationship goes both ways.

In terms of the media, we're sure the Sammy Powers will succeed. They've already managed to shut down the discussion in independent media with very few exceptions (exceptions include Bonnie Faulkner, CounterPunch, etc.). The Sammy Powers pen articles or appear on programs and do shout outs to one another without ever noting their connections. It's such a carefully manufactured 'spontaneous resistance' (one that, again, gets face time with the Bully Boy). They footnote one another -- their own little echo chamber. And since the same independent media that decries The New York Times, for so many things, accepts as gospel
their reporting on this, the fact that the paper of no record has assigned a fabulist to tag-team with columnist Little Nicky (who never met an evangical aim he couldn't get behind and oversimply), we're sure they'll get even more media traction.

But, the thing is, they've had media traction for over three years now. They've had cover stories and gut wrenching op-eds. Bully Boy's already on their side but the American people don't appear to be. You can pin that on an isolationist streak, if you like, but it's also an internationalist streak that realizes US force doesn't cut it. (Doesn't cut it for a number of reasons.) Some realize that, post-Kosovo, NATO's not the answer. So for all teary, Sally Struthers like heart tugging, the issue's gone nowhere.

Bully Boy's aims are the same as the Sammy Powers when it comes to the Sudan. He may very well act alone. But the American people grasp that US troops have suffered enough. They're not about to end Bully Boy's "long war" just to turn around and redeploy the troops.

Troops Home Now. Not troops home for a 72-hour-layover and then off to Darfur.

[Credit for "Issue of the Month" to Common Ills community member Folding Star. Folding Star used to do the blog A Winding Road -- you can find highlights of that site and an interview with Folding Star via the archives.]
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