Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Full Brobeck

Ehren Watada should have been in the news last week but largely was ignored. We don't mean by the mainstream media, we're talking independent media. We've got a feature on Watada this edition but C.I. dubbed the silence on Watada "the full Brobeck."

What's the full Brobeck?

Let's start with Ivan Brobeck, US war resister, 20-year-old son of Arlington, Virginia. Brobeck was deployed to Iraq. He spoke of his experiences with The Pacific News Service:

I was in the Marines. I joined in June 2003, and after boot camp in March of 2004 I was sent directly to Iraq. This wasn't at all unsettling to me. You see, I went into the Army because I wanted to fight the bad guys. In school during history classes I learned that the Army and Marines had done all these wonderful things, and it all sounded so patriotic and I wanted to do the same. I wanted to fight for freedom.I didn't care, and I still don't care, if I died fighting for a good and noble cause which is what I wanted to do.
In Iraq, I found myself being the problem instead of the solution. A problem in a normal town, in the life of normal people, like the people here in Toronto, trying to go about their life and risking getting shot at by me. Innocent people getting killed for misunderstandings, and for even more trivial things. I found myself in situations with my partners where we had to shoot at speeding cars, at people that probably were just trying to get out of our way.
All these insurgents, as they call them, they're not. They're people who have nothing left. There was this guy who was mad at us because we had killed his family. Wife, children, everybody but him had been killed. He was seeking some kind of retribution. That is not an insurgent, that's a desperate man.

After serving seven months in Iraq, Brobeck returned to the United States and decided to self-check out. In April of 2005, Ivan Brobeck moved to Canada. From an e-mail alert sent out by Courage to Resist:

Since I was not willing to return to Iraq, the only option I saw was to go to Canada. I have spent nearly two years there living, working, and married to my wife (who is six months pregnant).
Now I feel that I am ready to return to the US and face the consequences of refusing to participate in a war that I do not believe is right.

War Resisters Support Campaign (a Canadian organization that assists war resisters) notes this statement from Brobeck, "Going AWOL is always a hard decision because it means leaving everything and everyone you know. But having an option means that I can get on with planning what I want to do with my life without worrying about life and death."

As difficult as the decision to self-check out was, Brobeck made another difficult decision. In the wake of Darrell Anderson and Kyle Snyder (two war resisters who returned from Canada -- to very different results), Brobeck made the decision to return as well. The first Friday of November, Jim Fennerty was on Democracy Now! with his client Kyle Snyder. Fennerty also represented Anderson and was able to speak with the military and iron out an agreement that both sides agreed to and that was followed. With Snyder, something quite different happened. We've heard conflicting stories as to why it unfolded the way it did. One person pins the blame on a "gung-ho screwball who wanted to mess with Snyder" and another says that it was always understood the agreement wouldn't be followed (by the military). The fact that two persons serving at Fort Knox, who should be "in the know," have two different stories of how it went down means that it will probably be some time before the truth is known and only puts any future agreement into question.

What is known, as Synder explained on Democracy Now!, is that he turned himself in, was asked not to make any statements during the process and was then supposed to begin a process similar to Anderson's (dishonorable discharge); however, Snyder was then informed the process was off and he was being returned to his unit. Screwed again by the US military, Snyder decided to self-check out again. He is now underground and his attorney is attempting to figure out what, if anything, can be done.

Fennerty mentioned another client to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Brobeck. Brobeck was planning to return but the details of his agreement would be different because the Marines handled things differently and Fennerty thought it very likely that Brobeck would face a court-martial and time behind bars.

Monday of last week (Nov. 6th), Brobeck was interviewed by Nora Barrows Friedman on KPFA's Flashpoints who asked him about what he hoped his decision to turn himself in would say to his soon-to-be born child as well as to other men and women serving in the military? Brobeck responded, "I'm sort of trying to teach them to open their eyes. It's easy to forget basic stuff in Iraq."

Courage to Resist issued a press release Tuesday November 8th to note Brobeck would be turning himself that day, election day. Election day?

Yeah, independent media can't stop jaw boning about Iraq -- or at least mentioning it right now. Iraq and the elections go together they tell you, over and over. (The polling data -- both before the election and exit polling afterwards -- backs that conclusion up.) But somehow in the jaw boning, they can't mention Ivan Brobeck, or that he turned himself in at Quantico Marine Base in Quantico, VA on election day, or that before he did he released an open letter to the Bully Boy and Congress:

I came back from Iraq in October of 2004. I was willing to stay in the military and put the events that happened in Iraq behind me, but when I heard rumors of us returning to Iraq the stress and anxiety of what happened there started coming back to me. I was not willing to go back and fight a war that I did not believe was right, and I didn't want to put myself in a situation were I would possibly kill an innocent civilian. So, I went AWOL and hid out at a friend's house until I figured out what to do. While I was AWOL my mom took me to a therapist who diagnosed me with PTSD.
Since I was not willing to return to Iraq, the only option I saw was to go to Canada. I have spent nearly two years there living, working, and married to my wife (who is six months pregnant).
Now I feel that I am ready to return to the US and face the consequences of refusing to participate in a war that I do not believe is right. When I return on Election Day, I face a court martial and a charge of Missing Movement with punishment of up to one year in jail.
Please, President Bush: do what is right. And do everything you can to bring our troops home from Iraq.

You didn't see a story at any of the link-fests (Common Dreams was the only one to carry the press release), you didn't hear about it on Democracy Now!, you didn't read it at The Nation's website or The Progressive's. You didn't hear about it on KPFA's The Morning Show which you'd think would be more than willing to promote that one of their own programs (Flashpoints) had an exclusive interview with him.

The Full Brobeck? That's what it is when independent media elects to black out a story. We're not saying they censored out of malice or a desire to surpress Brobeck's story. We are saying they just don't give a damn.

And if that seems harsh, forgive us but we're feeling a bit like Sally Hyde in Coming Home. The scene where Jane Fonda's character is attempting to get coverage of the disable veterans and is told they're not interested in covering it:

Ass: I don't think that that's our function, Sally, I think that we're more a base gossip sheet. You know, fun and games for the fellas?

Sally: I-I just, I want to say that I'm really shocked, I'm just shocked that you'd rather write about a goddamn baseball homerun then what's going on in this hospital. I mean you wouldn't feel that way if they were your husbands.

We noted that exchange in the editorial that recived more positive feedback (more feedback period) than any editorial we've ever done, "War Got Your Tongue?"* That was December of 2005. Have you seen any increase in coverage on Iraq or related issues in independent media?
Don't kid yourself that jaw-boning last week with a shout-out to Iraq counted as coverage. It was just an excuse for people who'd rather write and talk about anything except Iraq to gas bag one more time and make it 'fresh' by tossing out "Iraq" in the midst of their usual commentary.

Last Sunday, we added a "breaking" feature to note that US war resister Joshua Key's application for refugee status in Canada was turned down. We thought we'd read and hear more about it. We were wrong. In fact, the only independent media we're aware of that took the time to note Key was Raw Story. We saw silence on Ivan Brobeck and continue to get silence, even as the jaw boners rush from show to show, churn out online copy at magazine websites, chattering away about "Iraq" and "election" but never able to note, "Hey, a US war resister turned himself on election day while calling on the Bully Boy and Congress to end the war."

What happened at the end of the week (if silence can be termed a "happening") is even more disgusting. The Full Brobeck is the term for when a story that independent media should be covering is ignored completely. Doesn't even qualify for what Rebecca's termed the baby-cried-the-day-the-circus-came-to-town, one-day coverage.

Maybe you know about that kind of coverage. Maybe you heard voices in independent media pat themselves on the back and criticize big media during Katrina? Talk about how they weren't going to drop the story, how that's what independent media could do?

Could do. Should do. But, as Diana Ross sang in an early seventies hit, "I'm still waiting." Know the song? It's written by Deke Richards and it first appeared on the album Everything Is Everything. Here's the chorus:

And I'm still waiting
I'm waiting
Still waiting
Ooh, still waiting
(I'm just a fool)
Ooh, I'm a fool
(I'm just a fool to keep waiting)
To keep waiting
(I'm just a fool)
for you.
(I'm just a fool)
Ooh I'm waiting
(I'm just a fool)
I'm still waiting
. . .

Like Ross sings in the song, we're still waiting. We're waiting for the coverage to improve but it's not happening. Not only is it not happening, it's getting worse. Ivan Brobeck, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada -- what did you hear about them last week?

Chances are, not a damn thing.

Trina had an e-mail this week from the family of a war resister. They have family, they have friends. They aren't invisible -- not to the people who know them and often not to big media (big media covered Watada last week). But when it comes to independent media, war resisters are the Invisible Man. Not the H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison's Invisble Man. Unlike Welles' character who is expermenting on how to be unseen by the naked eye, Ellison's character is visible, he's just ignored and overlooked by society.

From the last page of Ellison's novel:

Being invisble and without substance, a disembodied voice, as it were, what else could I do? What else but try to tell you what was really happening when your eyes were looking through? And it is this which frightens me:
Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?

We think war resisters do speak for many. We think they deserve to be heard and that their stories need to be told. We don't think the coverage is up to it. How bad is the coverage?

I am posting on this board because I am not quite sure how to get ahold of you. I am the wife of Darrell Anderson, an Iraq war veteran who chose to go AWOL rather than do another tour who recently turned himself into Fort Knox to face his punishment, but was given a very lenient sentence. Darrell has received extensive international coverage for almost two years now, and is a dynamic speaker with a moving view point on America's situation in Iraq. I invite you to explore the possibility of having Darrell on your show, as I think he is more than a match for Mr. Colbert, and would make an interesting guest.I also invite you to view part of the speech Darrell made at the press confernce held shortly before turning himself in several weeks ago, available through this link:

Also, feel free to enter Darrell's name in any search engine for further back-story. I guarantee you will be intrigued. Darrell was recently interviewed by Amy Goodman, who appeared on your show not too long ago. If you are interested in pursuing an interview, please feel free to contact me at *********
Thank you for your consideration!

Gail Greer, Darrell Anderson's wife, posted that at Comedy Central at the end of last month. (For the record, Anderson has yet to appear on The Colbert Report.) That's what it comes down to, so little interest on the part of the media in telling their stories that family members have to pitch them. It's a good thing Greer is willing to do so. Maybe it will get some attention to the issue. But how sad that it's come to that.

We've deleted Greer's e-mail because we have no interest in her receiving hate mail. Jess and Martha, working the public account for The Common Ills last week, kept track of the hate mail coming into C.I. for keeping war resisters in the coverage. They counted 1023 e-mails. Now note, Ava, Shirley and Eli didn't keep track of the ones they read, nor did C.I.

Jess and Martha each had one they wanted us to print. C.I. agreed to one going up here. (While noting that it's hardly original but typical.)

How can that f**king coward sleep at night, or worse yet, live with himself?
Tell me how you sleep at night or live with yourself?
You're a stupid bitch. Live in fear, c**t, I'm coming for you. I will slice you open so you can feel some of the pain that this cowards ex-brothers are feeling in the nearest military hospital.
You're going to receive special treatment. I'll cut out your tongue so I don't have to listen to you scream while I f**k you up the ass. Then I'll jam a broken beer bottle up your c**t. That's just how it's going to start bitch. I'll be looking you in the eye the whole time, enjoying your pain. You will die slowly.

Maybe that's it? You get a little hate mail from a nut-job and start thinking, "Well, I can't cover this. Some stranger might write nasty, threatening things to me!"

We wish that were the case. Cowards? We can laugh at them. People wanting applause for their 'bravery,' but running scared are a comic delight. You can even feel sorry for them between chuckles -- if you're so inclined. But we don't think that's it.

More and more, we suspect it's that they just don't give a damn. It's really easy to say "We're against the war" and run an editorial about who should be voted for in an election. It's a bit harder to put yourself out there in any sort of meaningful way that matters. Easier to slam a peace rally you did nothing to promote than to actually cover the peace movement.

In Fire This Time, Alison Bodine notes Ivan Brobeck stating, "In Iraq, I found myself being the problem instead of the solution." It takes a lot more courage to take a stand than to cover it. That's why we don't think The Full Brobeck results from someone being scared, we think they just don't care. We'd love to be proved wrong on that, but "War Got Your Tongue?" ran December 9, 2005 and what's really changed in all that time?

[*For the lazy who have e-mailed non-stop asking which editorial Ava and C.I. were referring to in "About the TV reviews" -- "War Got Your Tongue?" is the editorial. Regular readers knew right away which editorial they were speaking of and had long ago rightly identified the show mentioned in the editorial as ER. Also note C.I. insisted this entry be work-safe for community members and though "bitch" passes the test for most, "c--t" doesn't so we've edited the fan mail noted above.]
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