Sunday, August 20, 2006

Truest statement of the week

Today, the Article 32 hearing began and Melanthia Mitchell (AP) reports that the military is showing video from last weekend's Veterans for Peace conference as part of their 'evidence.' AP also reports that "The prosecution played a total of three video clips with comments Watada made over the weekend as well as on June 7, when he publicly announced his decision to refuse deployment." The speech Watada gave is here at CounterPunch and here at Truthout which also includes the video option (QuickTime and Windows Media). In addition KPFA's Flashpoints played one part of the speech yesterday night and, presumably, will air the second part today or later this week (Flashpoints airs at 5:00 pm PST, 7:00 pm Central and 8:00 pm EST -- can be heard archived at the show's website, archived at KPFA or live while the show broadcasts).
What did Watada actually say as opposed to what did the military argue? If your indymedia choices have been following this, you know this already. If they've not made time or space for Watada this week, that may say something about the quality of your go-to indynews outlet.

-- C.I. on last week's "coverage" of Ehren Watada

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
Sunday. And the edition's winding down. This week, we again focus on Iraq. Made necessary by the fact that all media big and small continues to take a pass.


We've got 'em:

Walking Through Watada (Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing)
Blog Spotlight: Mike boils the week down to one word
Blog Spotlight: Elaine on what Ehren Watada's stand means
Humor Spotlight: Hide the underoos, Bully Boy's got a new spy plan
Humor Spotlight: Betinna tells us Thomas Friedman is all gobble, no action
Blog Spotlight: Elaine, Betty and Kat dream up a program focusing on Iraq
Blog Spotlight: Rebecca doesn't grade on a curve
Humor Post: Wally & Cedric capture Bully Boy's tips for Ehren Watada
Blog Spotlight: Cedric says "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go."
Blog Spotlight: Kat on Living With War
Kitchen Spotlight: Trina's Easy Fudge

New content? We got it and the following worked on it:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and, me, Jim;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ils);
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally of The Daily Jot
and Ruth of Ruth's Report

Dallas hunted down links and also acted as a sound board for which we thank him.

"three times as many people were probably killed in Iraq in the same period" -- sets up the premise behind this edition. The dying in Iraq continued. As did the dying media coverage which seemed to (especially with regards to independent media) run from Iraq as opposed to addressing it.

Recommended Read: Greg Palast's Armed Madhouse -- we've wanted to note Palast's latest for some time and had hoped to pair it up with another new book (when it came out). That pairing didn't work because we hated the other book. So we've tried to find something else to pair it up with and do a discussion. Ty noted that a number of readers had warned of mutiny if there was no attempt to note a book in some form this week so we dropped the discussion and offered an overview of Palast's latest.

Challenged? We respond -- last week we did a heads up to four recent songs which led to Martin challenging us to find ten songs from the 60s and 70s that addressed Vietnam. He asked for ten, he got ten.

8 Films Taking an Indepth Look At Life Today -- this is an Ava and C.I. piece with only one exception. "Fart" is courtesy of the comic geniuses Mike & Wally who want it noted that they can offer much more than dick jokes. Ava and C.I. really didn't feel they had a TV review in them this week. They went off to write the review and did everything but. At one point, flipping through the ads in the movie section of a newspaper, they came up with this. When they rejoined us, they'd written everything but, as Wally and Mike pointed out, "There's no fart joke!" Working quickly, a sentence was grafted on.

Cindy Sheehan (again) Ups the Ante -- news you may or may not hear of. AP continues to provide more coverage of Sheehan than any other outlet. (At least The Lone Star Iconoclast can offer that it's only a weekly.)

Recuriters struggle to meet lowered targets but gays and lesbians are still 'unfit' -- Perry Watkins. It's a name you should know. C.I. alluded to Watkins two weeks ago and e-mails came in asking, "What are you talking about? No openly gay person has served in the military." C.I. offered that as a topic for last week's edition and we didn't have time for it. Three e-mails this week made sure this topic was on the must-do list (and, in fact, it's the first thing we wrote for this edition). Despite the fact that recruiters can't meet quotas, despite the fact that tours of duty are being extended, the military still wants to run off qualified persons who want to serve if those persons happen to be gay or lesbian. When the military's witch hunting during war time, it's an issue that needs to be addressed.

Iraq, the war independent media forgot -- Well they lowered the Israel coverage (those that don't make that their beat) and seemed a little despondent. What crisis could they 'cover' next?
While they were figuring that out, most took a pass on Iraq (again), took a pass on Ehren Watada (again), took a pass on a lot of things. In fact, the topics covered last week pretty much played out like a bad attempt to play catch up on everything they let fall through the cracks during the five or so weeks they focused on nothing but Israel's actions. Strangely, Iraq didn't make their must-cover list.

Whack-a-mole (Recipe for Disaster) -- this was thought up by C.I., Kat and Jess and written by all. It's a recipe for disaster and no one cooks it better than the Bully Boy.

TV: Kyle XY -- SEE! -- Ava and C.I.'s commentary. We almost didn't get it. We'd told them not to worry about fitting into the Iraq theme. Last week, we begged them to and they ended up tossing aside the commentary they'd already completed on Twins while they tried to find (quickly) something to review. (The Twins commentary ran in the print edition last Sunday as well as in Friday's gina & krista round-robin.) It was a long week, a long edition. They really didn't feel they had a TV commentary in them. As the deadline approached, it was Tracey & Jayson who said, "You really don't have anything?" They had something in long hand. They didn't think it was worth going up here. Jayson and Tracey (Ruth's grandchildren) read over it and then convinced them that it was worth typing up. (Thank Tracey and Jayson. The rest of us weren't going to push the issue.) We think you'll enjoy it and see it as proof that Ava and C.I. remain their own harshest critics.

Iraq: This is what failure looks like -- remember we said long week? C.I. passed out Friday afternoon. Coming to, C.I. was muttering Gloria Steinem's famous reply about what forty looks like and demanding a piece of paper (settling on a bank deposit receipt) during which the basic points of this editorial were sketched out. Doubting the merit of an idea that came to (being) while coming to, C.I. was doubtful but showed it to Jim and Kat who both agreed this needed to be fleshed out and both also thought this was the editorial. When others saw the notes (Saturday), they agreed as well. For all of those still pining for that turned corner that they just know is a'coming, face reality, this is what failure looks like.

Truest statement of the week -- Mike called it the truest statement of the week on Thursday and we all agreed. Read it and you'll see why.

Next week? We hadn't planned on focusing solely on Iraq for the second week in a row, so who knows? Generally Iraq is one feature and we cover other items as well. There are other items that are news worthy. But with the silence that's surrounded Iraq, we've felt we could complain about it and do the usual mix or we could complain and do our part to highlight Iraq.

So who knows what's coming up in the next edition but we'll see you next week

--Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Iraq: This is what failure looks like

Iraq today. Three years after the illegal war began with the March 2003 invasion, this is what "success" looks like?

To zoom in on Baghdad, the capital's 'crackdown' means walled off sections, curfews and traffic bans. Only in the World of Bully Boy could it be hailed as a "success."

"I don't believe you can win it," Bully infamously once said of his so-called war on terror and he constantly pushes Iraq as one of the main fronts of that so-called war. I don't belive you can win it? Never is that more clear than in Baghdad.

It was a week that saw General Peter Pace quote a soldier who asked him, "Is the war coming to an end?" [Click here for excerpt when that story disappears from Yahoo -- AP tends to vanish after a few weeks.] Is the war coming to an end?

"Twenty-one former generals and high ranking national security officials" must have their doubts since, as Free Speech Radio News reported, they held a press conference Thursday urging Bully Boy "to reverse course" and embrace diplomacy with Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

Is the war coming to an end?

Last Sunday, James Glanz (New York Times) examined the local problems in some areas of Iraq. While it's true that local issues matter, it's equally true that Baghdad matters since that's where the national policy is supposed to be coming from. The nation's capital is under a vehicle ban until Monday morning. Baghdad is under yet another curfew. Snipers are on rooftops (US and Iraqi military snipers). Prime minister and puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki has made noises of heads-will-row and there is talk of new ministers being appointed (have their name plates for the desks of the 'old' ones even arrived yet), the largest Sunni group in the parliament is supposedly consider ditching their highest ranking member (Mahmoud al-Mashhadani). Iraq, an oil rich nation, can't meet the needs of their people and is importing oil products. Water 'conservation' efforts go on in northern Iraq with little media attention. The infrastructure has never been fixed (but al-Maliki can announce he's sending $35 million in aid to another nation).

What has happened is that in Baghdad, in the fortified Green Zone, officials (and reporters) have lived behind Bremer walls, heavy security and assured the world all was peachy-keen for years now. Electricity? We have it! (In the Green Zone.) Peace? We have it! (In the Green Zone.) It was an out of touch reality that had to come to an end at some point and did when a Friday in June saw an attack on the Green Zone (almost breaching it though it's largely forgotten and press reports now tend to overlook it) woke everyone up. Last Sunday, rockets were fired at the Green Zone and one landed in it.

This is during the so-called crackdown. The crackdown that's accomplished nothing under any version since it was established on June 14, 2006. US troops were pulled from all over Iraq (and, as a result, Alaska's 172nd Stryker Brigade had their return home orders cancelled as the year-long tour was extended by at least four months) to beef up the capital as crackdown moved into version 2.0. The violence didn't stop.

Currently, we must be on version 6.0. And even with a vehicle ban, a curfew, body searches at checkpoints, US and Iraqi military snipers on rooftops, and every preventative measure you can imagine, at least sixteen people were shot dead in Baghdad this morning and at least 230 were injured. This month 3,500 (or 7,500 if you go by John McCain's figures) American troops were added to the already heavily patroled capital. That didn't stop the violence.

All the 'beefed' up measures added Friday didn't stop the violence. This is the capital. Over three years later and this is life in the capital.

This is "success"?

This is what failure looks like. We've been lying to ourselves for so long, who would know?

[Nod to Gloria Steinem on the last sentence which utilizes her famous reply to the statement of, "You don't look like you're forty." Response: "This is what forty looks like. We've been lying for so long, who would know?"]

TV: Kyle XY -- SEE!

Somedays we wake up and see the news from Iraq and can't remember how we got there? We could swear someone said "mushroom cloud" and someone said "WMD" and someone said "liberation" but it's all so hazy now.

We feel like, if we could just reclaim those memories, we'd know the goverment did us wrong.

Seems like everytime we get close to the truth, some snarky man pops up and tells us that, for the good of everyone, we need to stop searching for answers and just focus on the present. If the snarky man wasn't named Thomas Friedman but instead had the monicker Thomas Foss, our lives might be a lot like Kyle XY.

Kyle XY showed up out of nowhere -- both onscreen and off. Off, it showed up in a package dropped off by a friend (package contained episodes and scripts) with a note that we could go to town on it if we wanted. Kyle XY? Oh the review could write itself! ABC provides Kyle XY, you provide the Zs.

But the reality is the show's far better than much of what's on the air -- unlike Supernatural, for instance, it actually has suspense. A goo covered Kyle (played by Matt Dallas) arrives from nowhere. He brings with him neither memories nor belly button but is taken in by a foster family, the Tragers. Who is he and why can't he remember? More importantly, who is the creepy Thomas Foss (played by X-Files Nicholas Lea) who always seems on the verge of losing it in a violent fit (and possibly screaming "The World Is Flat!").

Foss is the local security for the Tragers' neighborhood or was, until he creeped out mother and doctor Nicole (played by Marguerite MacIntyre). Now he's officially out of their lives but that doesn't stop him from showing up at their door step, following Kyle around or watching what goes on in the Trager house via hidden cameras. (Ken Starr wishes he were Foss!)

We didn't expect much from this show which airs on ABC Family but is also currently airing on ABC proper (broadcast TV) each Friday (for at least two more episodes) so we were surprised by the look of the show which is closer to film than TV (the look is very Halloween H20). We knew, this being ABC Family, the violence would be more implied than overt (like your basic Thomas Friedman column) but we weren't counting on the suspense factor being so high. This Friday's episode, specifically the carnival, will set up the season finale and many shows, as they move to their season enders, tend to pick up elements they let lag all season long, but Kyle XY hasn't lagged. (It is true that it's first season will be only ten episodes long.)

In terms of estrangement, it actually reminds us of the British (classic) series The Prisoner. Possibly that has to do with the camera shots which don't overdue the close ups and instead make strong strides to establish the locale as a character via wide shots.

Here's where the show is thus far, Kyle's found out this much. He looks exactly like a young man who disappeared in the eighties which, Kyle being a teenager, poses several questions. Kyle visited the place the man was thought to disappear in, a woodsy area that also had a fenced in compound. When Kyle attempted to climb the fence, Thomas Voss showed up first to fight him and then to warn him that he didn't want to know, that it was better (safer) for his foster family and everyone if Kyle just let it go.

What else do we know? Kyle can calculate like a computer. He has extreme intelligence skills.
Which leads to questions of whether he's the man who disappeared (and somehow the aging stopped), an alien (a popular conclusion of the youngest Trager, Josh played by Jean-Luc Bilodeau), a clone, or one of the experiments of the now dead Professor William Kern (played by Bill Dow)?

The show is suspenseful and it manages that feat without cheesy sound effects. The performances are all strong and Chris Olivero deserves to be singled out due to the fact that, even stuck with the generic sub-plot of I-love-her-but-she-doesn't know (his Declan is in love with Trager daughter Lori, played by April Matson), he's made a very strong impression.

For ten episodes, the show has stayed suspenseful and involving, whether that level of suspense will hold up for the second season (only 13 episodes have been ordered), we don't know. But here's what we do know, ABC (broadcast) had one of the worst lineups all last year. This despite having several shows that were huge in the ratings. To cite only one example, it never managed to find the show that would build on (or even stop the bleeding) from Lost. This year, it breaks up the ratings hit of Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives as it attempts to increase its nightly ratings by building Thursdays around the medical drama (comedy/romantic comedy/ melodrama/soap opera). So it's more than a little shocking that one of their stronger efforts (stronger than most of the new shows they paraded in the fall and spring) is shunted off to ABC Family.

This isn't the X-Files and we're not trying to imply that it is . . . yet. But it's already more involving and suspenseful than a season of Supernatural (or, for that matter, any season of Roswell). Possibly because it's on ABC Family (which limits the amount of flesh, violence and other things that can be displayed), they've had to work harder at the actual story line? The attention to detail shows. And at a time when polls consistently find that Americans are against the war (the war the administration, aided by a compliant media, lied the nation into), that the trust level post-Hurricane Katrina is low, and that even on their trademark fear card of 'terror' doubts about the administration have risen, a show about a young person figuring out the world around him and who he can and cannot trust could score well with viewers.

A number of e-mails (Ty says thirty-one) arrived from readers saying they did check out Psyche last Monday and enjoyed it. So here's this week's tip, Friday night, ABC (broadcast), check out Kyle XY. See if it isn't one of the better shows you're not already watching. (And you've got one more episode on 'free TV' the following Friday.) In a year that saw the Water Cooler Critics embrace, fondle and mount this decade's one-camera, no-laugh-track, Courtship of Eddie's Father while swearing it was "funny" (flashback, Water Cooler Critics back in the day praised the mild proceedings on Eddie and other so-called sitcoms as "funny") and that worked so hard to steer you to the thankfully cancelled Don Johnson vehicle, they've, according to your e-mails, repeatedly let you down. We know you're looking for something beyond Water Cooler cred and we'd argue Kyle XY offers you that and plenty more.

Whack-a-mole (Recipe for Disaster)

Senator John McCain: So, General Abizaid, we're moving 7,500 troops into Baghdad, is that correct?

General John Abizaid: The number is closer to 3,500.
[. . .]

McCain: And where are these troops coming from?

Abizaid: Uh, the troops, the Styker Brigade, is coming down from Mosul.

McCain: From Mosul? Is the situation under control in Ramadi?

Abizaid: Uh, the situation in Ramadi, is better than it was two months ago.

McCain: Is the situation under control in Ramadi?

Abizaid: I think the situation in Ramadi is workable.

McCain: And the troops from Ramadi came from Falluja, isn't that correct?

Abizaid: I can't say senator, I know that --

McCain: Well that's my information. What I worry about is we're playing a game of
whack-a-mole here. We move troops from -- It flares up, we move troops there. Everybody knows we've got big problems in Ramadi and I said, "Where you gonna get the troops?" 'Well we're going to have to move them from Falluja.' Now we're going to have to move troops into Baghdad from someplace else. It's very disturbing.

Whack-a-mole Recipe:

Lots of Lies (ripe)
Compliant Media
Aggrieved Population
False Optimism

Mash the Compliant Meida with ripe Lies about how things are looking up as you move Troops from one area with an Aggrieved Population to another. Let set and fester. Layer with Lies until they out number the TROOPS body count. Sprinkle False Optimism on top to taste. Serve with chips and a smile.

Iraq, the war independent media forgot

A candle's burning in my window
And it's burning just for you
I had some big plans for tomorrow
But you had something else to do
-- "I Can't Stop Thinking About You" written by Carole King and Paul Hipp, off King's City Streets

Iraq, the forgotten war? It certainly seems that way to those of us who utilize independent media. With few exceptions, most have taken repeated passes on Iraq. (Though gas bagging on Ned Lamont's campaign remains a popular topic, it's not really addressing Iraq). Rebecca gave independent media a failing grade last week and we have to agree with that. If last week were finals, most of indymedia would be placed on academic probation if not kicked off campus.

C.I. asked back in June, "What if they gave a war and only the cheerleaders showed up?" What if you gave a resistance and only mainstream media showed up? That's a question worth asking considering independent media's silence on Iraq last week. Specifically, with regards to Ehren Watada, the silence was shocking.

For any who missed it (and many may have due to the lack of coverage), Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing took place Thursday. Some may be familiar with Watada if not the hearing. That's due to the fact that independent media thought Watada was a story when he first went public. Watada is the first known commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. He believes the war is an illegal one.

Testifying Thursday, retired Army Col. Ann Wright stated, "I personally believe that the decision of the Bush administration to invade and occupy Iraq without getting the authority of the UN Security Council ... falls into the category of a war of aggression, which is by international law a war crime. So by a person saying 'Yes, I’m going to Iraq,' one could argue that just by doing that, that is participating in a war crime."

Watada went public in June and it was news. It was a story with 'traction.' The interest and support built so much that on July 23rd, The New York Times would offer John Kifner and Timothy Egan's "Officer Faces Court-Martial for Refusing to Deply to Iraq" -- the paper's first mention of him. You might think Watada's hearing, putting the war on trial, would be a story independent media would leap on. You would be wrong.

Though Mike Barber (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) had the scoop two Fridays ago of Ricky Clousing, AWOL for a year, going public, several hours after Barber's report was available, Amy Goodman interviewed him (Clousing) for Democracy Now! and one might have seen that as a prelude to coverage of Watada's hearing the following week. There was no coverage of Watada. There was no coverage of the Wednesday actions to demonstrate support for Watada before the hearing commenced. There was no coverage of the hearing. There was no coverage at all. Watada wasn't even mentioned in headlines.

Iraq wasn't deemed (matter of emphasis?) important enough for a segment. In terms of headlines, the forgotten war didn't fair any better.

Monday offered 23 headlines of which two were about Iraq. Tuesday offered twenty headlines of which three were about Iraq and a fourth was tied to Iraq by the tail end of a sentence preceeding a clip of a Bully Boy remark (he didn't mention Iraq) and the tail end of a sentence following the clip. Wednesday found twenty headlines and three were devoted to Iraq. Thursday also found twenty headlines and three devoted to Iraq. Friday dropped to fourteen headlines and only one was about Iraq. In all, 97 headlines were offered last week and only twelve were directly related to Iraq (13, if you feel generous to the wrap around).

Friday would have been the time to note the hearing, if not in a segment then certainly in a headline. But it didn't happen. In fact that coverage (lack of) is so appalling that it led to many people musing about Sir! No Sir! and whether the future maker of today's film would note how independent media completely abandoned the topic of Iraq? We agreed with everyone who raised that issue: It should be noted.

If you wanted information on Ehren Watada, you had to turn to the mainstream media with few exceptions. You could go to the Hawaiian mainstream media (even, the week before the hearing, one of their business journals), you could go to Washington's media (the state, the hearing took place there) and you could go to the Associated Press. If you were counting on hearing about it from independent media, you were out of luck.

Watada now awaits the decision of whether or not he will face a court-martial and, a tip for independent media, when the word comes down, if you manage to cover it, don't you dare say, "And now on a story we've been covering . . ." because you haven't been covering it. Your performance has been disgraceful with few exceptions.

We thought maybe FAIR would note the disappearance of Iraq from the mainstream media on their program CounterSpin but then we realized that disappearance applied to independent media as well as to the program itself. So even the watchdogs sidestep the issue. This the week following Molly Ivins' observation: "The more surprising development is how completely one story drives out another. At other times, the collapse of Iraq would have been news."

The most laughable articles in recent weeks have been the ones that read like they were dusting off 2003 work and inserting "Lebanon" for "Iraq." (We're referring to the media criticism, or what passed for it, of the mainstream coverage of the Israeli government's insanse and illegal actions.) When they dusted off that 'two wars' commentary, do you think any of them gave a thought to Iraq?

The prosecution's case against Watada rested on two presentations: a witness affirming that Watada did not deploy with his unit and snippets of speeches Watada gave including one at the recent Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle. [To read that speech, click here (CounterPunch) and here (Truthout) -- the latter link also provides video if you'd prefer to watch the speech.]

Mainstream media, if they quoted the speech last week, went with a snippet played in the hearing (usually they summarized the snippet). What did Watada have to say in that speech?
The military obviously felt it was worth noting, they felt it was their strongest argument for a court-martial of Watada. So possibly independent media should have been interested in the speech?

Among the three people testifying for Watada was former UN sectretary Denis Halliday. What did he say? As C.I. noted, "Halliday's testimony was apparently delivered via mime which would explain why there's nothing from his testimony in any of the reports." Ann Wright's testimony was covered as was Francis Boyle's (Boyle is a professor at the University of Illionis and a scholar in international law). When two reporters (mainstream) who covered the trial were asked about the Halliday blackout (and it was a blackout) the excuse offered was that Boyle and Wright were deemed more worthy because Wright was former military and Boyle was an expert. Going to where the silences are would include independent media covering what the mainstream blacked out (Halliday's testimony).

As the silence (from independent media) on Abeer revelead the week prior, Iraq isn't an interest of independent media. (Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi would have turned 15 yesterday had she not been murdered, allegedly by US troops.) Considering how many in independent media hopped on their soapboxes about the mainstream coverage of Iraq, it's amazing that a war the US started and one that is still ongoing can't get the coverage that it should.

Was the whole point of that coverage to 'take out' Judith Miller? If so, did we miss the Mission Accomplished speech because we, wrongly, thought Iraq actually mattered to independent media? As we've seen this month with what passed for coverage of Camp Casey III (as with Watada and Abeer, you had more luck coming across a mainstream story than you did an independent one) and, at the start of the month, with lack of interest in American peace activists meeting with Iraqis in Jordan, Iraq hasn't been on the independent media radar.

Gas bags are geared up and ready with their tales of how Lebanon (and London!) might be pushed out of the news cycle as a result of the Jon-Benet 'story.' Well the news cycle's been shit poor for some time and that's obvious when the Iraq war falls off the radar despite the fact Iraq is falling apart, people are dying and few want to make a point to discuss that.

With "In Case We All Forgot, Americans Are Still Dying in Iraq," Jimmy Breslin took the mainstream media to account for dropping Iraq but we'd argue Iraq was dropped even more so by the independent media. To use The New York Times as an example, though reporters were shipped out of Iraq to cover Israel's armed aggression, some remained in Iraq. Good or bad, you could usually count on a report from Damien Cave, Paul von Zielbauer and Edward Wong most days. Fluff or reality, there was coverage.

Call us silly but we think when the US officially wages a war, it's news. We think it merits coverage. We think when people resist the war and speak out against it, it's news. Reading, listening or watching independent media for the last few weeks, we're wondering how others evaluate news?

But then, silly us, we thought after the much hyped "We don't do body counts" turned out to be false (the US has been keeping a body count of Iraqi civilians for over a year now) was news and only three reporters we're aware of share that judgement: Nancy A. Youssef with"U.S.: Civilian deaths feeding insurgency," Aaron Glantz with "Pentagon: Tell Us How Many Civilians You've Killed" and Juliana Lara Resende with "50,000 Dead, But Who's Counting?".

Wednesday of last week, a number of us spoke to a large group of college students who do try to stay informed on Iraq. We were hitting predominately on the issue of Ehren Watada. So much so that when it came time for Elaine to speak, she wasn't sure she could add anything to that topic so, instead, she noted the Iraqi body count. There were "What?"s shouted out. Elaine knew the story and was able to back up and go over it from the start but she'd assumed, wrongly, that because she was speaking to a group of people who try to stay abreast of the news on Iraq, this story that broke at the end of June would already be well known by most people.

It wasn't. And that's another example of how independent media has ignored Iraq for weeks now.

Independent media has avoided the Jon-Benet story (except to criticize the mainstream media for their coverage of it) but they've had their own 'newsie' topics in recent weeks. Tale end of last week, Iraq got in there just a tiny bit as Mahmoud al-Mashhadani's political fate (The Times reported on it Tuesday) became a mini-gas-bag moment. Gas bag? What else do you call it when days later, people are weighing in on how he may be out (because the mainstream said so) and blah, blah, blah but they aren't able to tell you that the man supposedly out the door the second Iraq's parliament reconvenes (al-Mashhadnia is the Speaker of the House) was in Jordan attempting to negotiate a trade deal? Is he on his way out? He may be. He may not be. The American government doesn't care for him. The US media has pushed the story that he's on his way out. But that's the same mainstream media that noted al-Mashhadani did not return their calls on Tuesday -- without noting that he was in Jordan. If you're going to speculate on his fate, you probably need to know what he's doing which isn't, as the mainstream media portrayed it, using his 'downtime' while parliament is out of session to nurse his wounds at his home. At least those two tried.

We find it laughable that a columnist who dismissed the war in Iraq as unimportant to Americans as the start of this summer chooses to end the summer with a 'wowie' column on what Ned Lamont's primary win (against Joe Lieberman) in Conn. means. Nowhere does the columnist note, "By the way, when I stated that the war didn't have impact, I must have been wrong because now I'm offering you a whole column about how it does." Also absent from the column is anything other than the conventional wisdom of the mainstream media. Apparently the really deep thinking can't be done in the dog days of summer.

Lamont is the Jon-Benet for the left. It's a story that's not dependent upon reality (Ralph Nader's been one of the few to bother to inject reality into the story). You don't need to know anything about who voted or didn't vote, you don't need to know anything about when some voters began growing disenchanted with Lieberman, you just need to decide whether you're in favor of or opposed to 'netroots' and the column writes itself. (And reads like it wrote itself.)

We're opposed to the war. We're not voting for anyone who supports it. (John Edwards recent remarks in the last few weeks put him back on our potential list of candidates.) We'd be thrilled if the reality backed up the non-stop claims that Iraq decided the Conn. primary. The reality is it was one factor. (Community members read Brady's report in the gina & krista round-robin before the primary where he polled six blocks of voters and found only one person who would be voting for Lieberman in the heavily Democratic area. They're aware of why the others were either sitting it out, in favor of the Republican candidate or supporting Lamont. Congratulations to Brady and the round-robin for serious reporting. We'll also note that Fly Boy -- who, like Brady, actually voted in that primary -- offered his thoughts on why Lieberman lost in Polly's Brew.)

Does summer mean not just a vacation for the body but one for the mind as well? And do all the ones incessantly hopping onto the "Let me share my thoughts about the Lamont victory" bandwagon honestly think that they're addressing Iraq?

Next month, demonstrations against the war will take place. We're not too worried about the turn out because they've increased each time in spite of a lack of coverage. But seeing Cindy Sheehan rendered invisible by independent media makes us wonder exactly who in independent media cares about Iraq anymore?

What was it? Did it grow too much? Did it seem the 'same story'? Or maybe pet peeves against the Israeli government needed to be settled (day after day, hour after hour)? It's funny because we thought it was news that the US started an illegal war and is still engaged in that war. We think it was news when Captain Alex Pickands summed up the (military) prosecution's case in Baghdad, against Paul Cortez, James Barker, Jesse Spielman and Bryan Howard: "Murder, not war. Rape, not war. That's what we're here talking about today. Not all that business about cold food, checkpoints, personnel assignments. Cold food didn't kill that family. Personnel assignments didn't rape and murder that 14-year-old little girl." We thought it was news that peace activists went to Jordan, that Camp Casey reopened, that Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing took place, that the US government is keeping a body count, that the so-called 'crackdown' in Baghdad has not resulted in less violence, that 73 died from last Sunday's attack in Baghdad, that . . .

Well, you get the idea. It's too bad independent media doesn't.

Why did you show me all your colors
When you knew that I was blind
Still I keep on looking for reasons
That'll see me through
I can't stop think about you

Recuriters struggle to meet lowered targets but gays and lesbians are still 'unfit'

On paper, Haven Herrin seems to be an ideal candidate for military recruiters.
She can easily run five miles and was valedictorian of her college class. "Frankly, I'm exactly the kind of person the military says it wants," she said.
But when Herrin tried recently to sign up for the Minnesota National Guard, she was turned down because she told the recruiter she is a lesbian - a revelation that tripped the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning openly gay service members.
Her admission was the opening round of a nationwide campaign against the 13-year-old policy by a group of young activists. In the next few months, gay men and women in their late teens and early 20s will attempt to enlist at recruiting offices in 30 cities. They will also disclose their sexual orientation.

The above is from Patrick Condon's "Gays to focus attention on 'don't ask, don't tell'" (Associated Press via LA Daily) and it comes at a time when military recruiters can't make quotas (so quotas are lowered and then spun as a 'succes'), at a time when troops scheduled to return home from Iraq get their tours extended (and in one instance, approximately 300 make it home only to be told they're going back). Haven Harrin is one story and here's another from last month "Army Dismisses Gay Arabic Linguist" (Truthdig):

A decorated sergeant and Arabic language specialist was discharged after an investigation determined that he was gay. He alleges his commanding officer blatantly violated the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and that investigators asked him if he had close friends who were gay, and if he was involved in community theater.

We're against the war in/on Iraq and aren't weeping tears over the lackluster numbers military recruiters are posting these days (nor are we surprised by the report aired on last Monday's The KPFA Evening News about the actions some recruiters are currently engaged in). We're also opposed to discriminating against someone because of their sexuality. At a time when questions are rightly being raised over some of the admissions to the US military, it's amazing that the ban on openly gay men and women is still in place.

But it is. 726 men and women were discharged in 2005 for being gay under the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. Bill Clinton campaigned on a pledge to end discrimination in the military. [Page 64 of Bill Clinton and Al Gore's Putting People First: How We Can All Change America, Times Books, 1992: "Prohibit discrimination in federal employment, federal contracts, and government services; issue executive orders to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians from military or foreign service."] That pledge ran smack into the Joints of Chiefs of Staff who, in the face of an end to discrimination, pushed for a policy similar to the eventual Don't Ask Don't Tell which bars questions of same-sex experiences from being asked and bars the disclosure of same-sex experiences. The policy is hideous and the sort of "compromise" that demonstrates, yet again, of how much is lost when we grab what we think we can "live with."

The message the policy sent from the beginning was that gays and lesbians were worthy of service provided they remained closeted, provided they played the 'pronoun game' when ever discussing their own personal lives ("the person," etc.) or just didn't offer up any details of their own lives while heterosexuals freely offered and freely displayed details and photos of their own personal lives. As early as 1996, the reality of the policy was noted: "Despite its 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, the military still probes troops' sexual orientation, sometimes launching an all-out questioning of relatives, friends and therapists, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
Pentagon documents even suggest that the Clinton administration policy, adopted two years ago, has led to wide-ranging and formal investigations in cases that might otherwise have been handled quietly and without punishment, the Times said."

[When discussing the policy with Jann Wenner for a Rolling Stone Interview in 2000, Bill Clinton noted Congressional opposition. While Bob Dole and others did use the issue to deny the newly sworn in president a 'honeymoon,' the discussion didn't really address the pledge made. As we've seen under the Bully Boy, Congress was doesn't have a damn thing to do with executive orders -- and executive orders was the promise so all the talk of how people don't understand how opposed Congress is an easy way out on the part of Clinton and not an attempt at seriously addressing the pledge broken.]

What's lost when we don't know history (besides allowing for revisions that excuse broken pledges)? Quite a lot.

Would the military fall apart if openly gay men and women served? There's nothing to back up that belief. There is a history of service that's largely unknown including those who served with no complaints of the performance until it was learned that they were gay.

History includes Perry Watkins -- a name not widely known considering all the time spent debating the merits of allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military for over twenty years now. (Sam Nonsense Nunn started attacking the rights of gays and lesbians to serve in the 1980s.)

So who was Perry Watkins (Watkins died in 1996)? There's a 1994 documentary of his life that none of us have seen but, if the IMDB plot summary is correct, the documentary gets a point wrong. (The film is entitled Sis: The Perry Watkins Story):

Perry J. Watkins was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968 and served 15 years reaching the rank of sergeant. He was also openly gay, even to the point of doing drag shows on base. He was discharged in 1982 but fought for reinstatement and the United States Supreme Court ruled in his favor. This is his story.

The Supreme Court didn't technically rule. They denied cert to Kenneth Starr (don't the ugly always pop up in tales of bigotry?) 1990 appeal to Ninth Circuit ruling. By denying cert (November 5, 1990 -- refusing to hear the case), the Court allowed the (10-1) decision of the lower court to stand.

So what were the issues in Watkin's case? He was gay. He would become a drag queen (under the name of Simone, even receiving a write up in Stars & Stripes). This was while serving. This wasn't unknown. The fact that his sexuality was known was why the Ninth Circuit sided with Watkins when the military attempted to get rid of him four years before he'd reach retirement (1984).

During Vietnam, Watkins was drafted in the military and noted in his paperwork that he was gay which led to an evaluation with an Army psychiatrist in which Watkins discussed engaging in anal and oral sex. Watkins was inducted despite the paperwork and the admission.

Later, Watkins would ask to be discharged because he'd learned a White man had been kicked out for being gay. (Watkins was African-American.) The request would be refused.
After two years in the Army, Watkins completed his service and left only to sign back up. The Army took him. His sexuality was known. After that, at the end of each enlistment, the Army let him sign another contract. During his service, the issue of security clearances repeatedly made his sexuality an issue as superiors would have to testify to his competance and abilities. 1972, 1974, 1977, the military openly discussed Watkins sexuality. In 1980, he would be stripped of his clearance and the Army would work to get him out of the service finally succeeding (they thought) in May of 1984 by dishonorably discharging him. The courts thought otherwise.

Judge Barbara Rothstein ruled that a person couldn't be tried twice for the same 'crime' and yet the military had repeatedly tried Watkins and found him fit to serve. After Kenneth Starr's 1990 appeal was denied by the Supreme Court, "Watkins was reinstated, and then retired from the Army with the rank of sergeant first class, and received retroactive pay and full retirement benefits, and an honorable discharge."

"It's blantant racism" was how Watkins characterized the refusal to allow him to testify to Congress during the Don't Ask Don't Tell debates of 1993. And the story of Perry Watkins is a part of history many people are unaware of.

Considering the report on gays fleeing Iraq due to persecution, Iraq's not a land of tolerance. Neither was the military (in 1968, five soldiers attempted to rape Watkins). Perry Watkins served, served while being openly gay. The military didn't fall apart. No known benefits have been paid out due to supposed trauma from sharing a barricks shower with an openly gay man.

At a time when gays and lesbians are still victims of a homophobic policy pushed as an 'advancement,' the reality of Perry Watkins stands as a testament to the cowardice of many. Think about Watkins as the military is resorting to recalling troops who left the service but still have months left on their service contracts. Read Rebeccca Santana's "Troops long out-of-uniform sent to Iraq" (Associated Press) and think about that:

Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Arlington, Va.-based Lexington Institute, said part of the reason that the military has called up so many people who were on reserve status is that certain skill sets such as military police or civil affairs were concentrated in the reserves after the Cold War ended.
But he said the sheer numbers of IRR soldiers being mobilized also are a sign that the military doesn't have enough people to fight this war, now in its fourth year.

Cindy Sheehan (again) Ups the Ante

Chanting "Try Rove for treason," Cindy Sheehan and more than 50 other war protesters disrupted a reception before President Bush's top adviser Karl Rove spoke at a fundraiser Saturday.
One woman was arrested during a scuffle with police after Sheehan and the anti-war demonstrators rushed toward the closed doors and kept chanting loudly after the guests went into the dinner.

[. . .]
Earlier Saturday, the group of more than 70 gathered at the hotel entrance, carrying a large banner that read, "Rove: Guilty of crimes against humanity." Ann Wright, a former U.S. diplomat who resigned in 2003 in protest over the war, yelled through a bullhorn, "Karl Rove, you are a criminal!"

-- from Angela K. Brown's "Sheehan, others protest at Rove event" (Associated Press via LA Daily).

With or without the support of the independent media, the peace movement goes on and demonstrations continue. This is the sort of upped ante Ann Wright was saying we needed to see. All the desk jockeys, whose 'knowledge' of activism against the war consists of what they see on CNN and read in The New York Times, will probably respond to the above with "Wh-what!" but for anyone paying attention or engaged, the news isn't shocking. It's the natural progression. A people ignored don't shrug their shoulders and say, "Okay, I give up." They persist.

Desk jockeys of the Nervous Nell set rushed in (again) last week to assure you that this wasn't like during Vietnam. Apparently they're waiting for Eartha Kitt to go to the White House and tell off Laura Bush. The opposition to the war continues to grow. CNN's most recent poll demonstrated yet another increase two weeks ago.

When the people are ignored and ignored the ante gets upped. Since Bully Boy has no intention of withdrawing the troops from Iraq look for the ante to continue to rise. In a poker game against the people, the Oval Office can't win.

8 Films Taking an Indepth Look At Life Today

Movie goers looking for something beyond the usual summer escapist fare, rejoice! At movie theaters around, near or a few hours from you, eight films currently vie for your attention as they try to seriously address the issues of today.

The Illusionist. Neil Burger's film travels back to late nineties and pulls back the curtain to show how magicians Karl Rove and Karen Hughes made 'toy soldier' Bully Boy look like a living boy. The weakest aspect of the film is the supposed romantic chemistry between Rove and Hughes. As William F. Buckley Jnr. remarked at the premiere, "When Karl looked at Hughes, I felt nothing. But when he eyed a greasy hamburger, I just knew he f**king wanted to f**k the hell out of that f**king piece of meat."

Descent. This horror film from Lions Gate charts one day in hell, 24 hours in Baghdad outside the Green Zone.

Beerfest. "Prepare for the Ultimate Chug of War" screams the posters about this inside look at what really goes on at Camp David with our semi-dry drunk misleader full of ennui and booze as he attempts to cope with the cakewalk that burned America. Don't miss the climatic moments when a drunken Cheney grabs a rifle and announces "I'b uh thoughing humphing. I mean humphing. I mean -- F**k, I'm thoughing shooting."

The Night Listener. Alberto Gonzales' lonely nights listening in on every call Americans make gets spicey, in this art-house film, when John Aschroft shows up in Nazi/S&M drag. Rumor has it that Kenneth Starr passed out in the middle of the first showing and, as a result, had to come back the next three nights to see what he'd missed.

Little Miss Sunshine. Michael Arnot's semi-fictional script follows a Secretary of State as she beams and presents mock concern over Israel's armed aggression towards Lebanon. SoS breaks out into song at key moments throughout -- hell's version of Julie Andrews.

Monster House. "THE BIGGEST SURPRISE OF THE SUMMER!" scream the ads and you'll find yourself agreeing as you see George and Barbara Bush enjoy their retirement via violent fights over who farted (at one point, Big Babs breaks down in tears bemoaning the death of Millie because, while Millie was alive, Big Babs could always blame the flatulence on the dog), which bratty grandchild took only one sip of canned soda and then left the wasted drink out on the counter, what really happened on the houseboat in the eighties and nineties, and how many Americans have to die in Iraq before they agree that their son has shamed a nation.

Material Girls. Teen-queen wanna-bes a few years too late, First Twins Jenna & Barbara star in this comedic vehicle about pampered young women given easy breaks. Taste making trend setter Jonah Goldberg reportedly gushed, "It's the most charming debut since Clyde the orangutan did Every Which Way But Loose."

How To Eat Fried Worms. In this semi-fictitious tale, Laura Bush explains how, as a young woman, she killed a man and offers up some of her home cooking finest such as the dish the film takes it title from.

Challenged? We respond

Last week, we noted four recent songs addressing the war. We were challenged to come up with ten songs from the sixties and seventies that addressed Vietnam "if you think you can." Ten? We could come up with a hundred. But we'll stick with ten.

1) Phil Ochs' "I Ain't Marching Anymore." Addressing all the American wars and responding, in each chorus, that he wasn't marching anymore. We think Tennesse Guerilla Women said it best this month, "It's a damn pity, but his lyrics are as relevant as ever."

2) Joan Baze' "Where Are You Now My Son?" Recorded in a studio and "on location" in Vietnam. In Christmas of '72, Baez went to Vietnam and took a portable recorder with her to make a record of her trip. Upon her return, she took pieces of that and mixed with a studio recording of one of her own compositions. Haunting for the studio performance as much as for the recordings of the bombs falling, the sirens and much more. "They say that the war is done, but where are you now my son?"

3) "Universal Soldier" written by Buffy Sainte-Marie and performed by her and many others. It's the sort of song that made the higher-ups nervous. One listen and you'll understand why.

4) Donovan was among the artists who covered "Universal Soldier" and he also covered "The War Drags On" (which community members who've never even heard the song can quote from as a result of it appearing every Sunday and Thursday night at The Common Ills). As the war in Iraq drags on, this earlier tale of Vietnam has new meaning. (Check out for the "for the last twenty years" line.)

5) John Lennon's "Imagine." As the war raged, Lennon shared his dream of what might be if "all the people" were "living for today." Naturally, when Bully Boy's corporate booster looked at 9-11 one of the first things they (Clear Channel) saw was the need to ban this song of peace.

6) Laura Nyro's "Save The Country." A hit for the Fifth Dimension. We prefer Nyro's more free-form version. "I got fury in my soul . . ." We hear you.

7) The Doors' "Unknown Soldier." It's all over, as Jim Morrison sings in haunting (and spooky as hell) vocal, for the unknown soldier.

8) Edwinn Starr's "War." Asked the question "What is it good for?" and answered "Absolutely nothing, say it again." Say it again? We'd be happy if some of the musicians today could even say it once.

9) "Give Peace A Chance." John and Yoko make a statement against the war and the press comes running. Not to report, but to laugh and mock the bed-in. Joke was on the press, John and Yoko knew they were getting the message out. This was recorded as the bed-in drew to a close.

10) "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." John makes the list three times, Yoko twice. Both were committed to peace throughout the partnership (and Ono has continued to strongly advocate for peace in the years since Lennon was assassinated). "And so this is Christmas, and what have you done" opens the song and hooks you right away. Covered by many, including Carly Simon on her 2002 and 2003 Christmas Is Almost Here (2003 contains additional tracks) -- before the illegal invasion started and after the war was underweigh. Though Simon saw the importance of the song, others either didn't or were too scared to offer the refrain "War is over if you want it."
Or maybe they just didn't want it?

Recommended Read: Greg Palast's Armed Madhouse

Greg Palast's latest book (follow up the perennial bestseller The Best Democracy Money Can Buy) is Armed Madhouse: Who's Afriad of Osam Wolf?, China Floats, Bush Sinks, The Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left, and Other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War. If the cover artwork doesn't grab your eye (we think it will), check out the inlays at the front and back of the book which remind us of pages from a child's encyclopedia set (not a complaint, it's a nice visual provided) as you're walked through the basics on "A Secret History Of The War Over Oil In Iraq."

Palast is an investigative journalist and if that's news to you and you're about to tune out, hold on a minute, he makes jokes that the US Patriot Act outlaws investigative journalism so he has to do his for the BBC. If you're familiar with his work, you know that even the serious topics rarely result in a loss of humor. As the title indicates, he's covering a lot of ground in this book which retails for $25.95 and provides 341 pages of text.

Palast opens with a comical doomsday look at a future where Jeb Bush is president and Health Insurance Riots break out. Chapter two addresses Iraq specifically (pp. 50 through 135). In it you'll learn of the February 2001 gathering in California where the replacement of Saddam Hussein was discussed and, from there, learn a multitude of details rarely, if ever, covered that would leave your head spinning were it not for the fact that Palast can and does keep you laughing.

Working from interviews with insiders (named) and government documents, Palast provides an in depth look at the inner workings of The Gang Who Couldn't Cakewalk. You'll learn why an oil rich nation must be kept in poverty and how that's been the plan since . . . the creation of Iraq basically. You'll learn that the Council on Foreign Relations called Saddam a "swinger" (and you'll learn why). He'll offer his argument of why Peak Oil is an intentionally faulty hypothesis (and how it is used to manipulate oil prices). He'll fill in you in on the "Chicago Boys" and how they impacted the illegal war. You'll find out who some of the 'winners' were and who some of the 'losers' were. You'll grasp why he quotes Henry Kissinger's comment on Salvador Allende's election in Chile all those years ago: "The issues are too important to be left for the voters."

Although the quote appears in the chapter focused on Iraq, it figures into the rest of the book as Palast responds (in examination of issues if not in actual words): "The voters are too important to be left out of the issues."

The last six years have zipped by and no matter how closely you've paid attention, we'll bet that even the most zealous will find every third page to reveal a detail or aspect that they're hearing of for the first time.

("We'll bet"? The winner gets to give a foot massage to Barbra Bush -- Big Babs, the elder. What? No one wants to take us up on our bet? Okay then.)

That's every third page of the book, not just every third page of chapter two. If you're someone who's paid close attention, you may find more. And if you've spent the decade thus far in a beer soaked haze, turn the pages quietly but don't blame us when your own laughter reminds you of the hangover.

It's a book you'll want to read once for the details (at least once) and new evidence Palast has unearthed and then want to read repeatedly so you can enjoy the humor and his writing style.

Highly recommended at any time of the year but especially when Iraq has fallen off the media radar.

"three times as many people were probably killed in Iraq in the same period"

While our eyes have been fixed on Lebanon, the situation in Iraq has been deteriorating. The death toll in Lebanon and Israel during the recent fighting was appalling, but three times as many people were probably killed in Iraq in the same period, UN figures suggest. There are often 70 or more fresh bodies in Baghdad's morgues each morning. Far from being reduced by the efforts of the Americans, the British and the Iraqi security forces, the figures for civilian deaths, now mainly communal killings, were the highest for many months in June, and are believed to be still rising.

The above is from The Guardian of London's "The Options Narrow" and something to keep in mind for this week's edition as well as for the rest of the week. Will Iraq lose out on coverage? (Again.) Will people kid themselves that by 'weighing in' on Ned Lamont's victory they're actually addressing Iraq? (Again.) Will the stories that actually matter about Iraq go uncovered? (Again.)

Walking Through Watada (Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing)

We don't usually do intros to C.I.'s pieces (we're told not to -- no compliments allowed) but we were present for this entry and we can give some background. It almost didn't get written. Watada was noted daily and repeatedly at TCI all week and the assumption was that with the hearing starting and ending Thursday, most outlets would be covering it on Friday. The section on The New York Times near the end of the entry was the actual beginning and the plan was to do a few sentences on Watada. [In the entry that posted right before this one the plan was noted this way: "Ehren Watada? As we noted last night (and will go over in the snapshot today), Watada's Article 32 hearing began testimony and arguments yesterday and ended as well. (We'll also try to touch on Watada in the next entry.)"] What changed the 'touch on' plan? Non-stop ringing phone with calls of "I did try" and "Can you believe we didn't cover it?" Thursday nights are always long ones because the "And the war drags on" entries are done then and they require going through all the e-mails to pick out highlights members have e-mailed to note. That Thursday was especially rough because the public account set a new one day record for e-mails. After "And the war drags on" went up, C.I. spent "some time" reading through some of the e-mails (Martha, Shirley, Ava and Jess worked the e-mail accounts to try to address the vast number of e-mails.) C.I. went to sleep at -- never. C.I. stayed up and finally saw the time, started doing the first entry, planned a "link fest" for the second and figured two hours of sleep could be grabbed before the day had to be started. Then the calls came in and the reality sunk in that even with the hearing concluded, many would still take a pass on Watada. So C.I. worked the phones, worked the computer and read everything possible (including countless versions of the same AP report which Ava says often varied greatly on what each site included from the AP article and what they didn't). The two hours of sleep never came that day. But, in one place, you did get a serious overview of what happened in the hearing.

Walking Through Watada (Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing)

Thursday the Army launched its campaign against the soldier in his Article 32 hearing. That will decide whether Watada will face court martial. The Army called a single witness, Captain J.C. Kaplan. He testified that Watada missed his June 22nd deployment to Kuwait City on purpose. The prosecution furthered it's argument by showing video clips of Watada condemning the war in Iraq.
Watada's legal team called three expert witnesses to the stand. All challenged the war in Iraq and Watada's lawyer, Eric Seitz, argued that if it's illegal, soldiers have the right to refuse to serve in it.
"I hope that we demonstrated that we have the capability of mounting a very significant defense here and that this is not going to be a simple process," Seitz told KGMB9 by phone from Washington. "And from the Army's standpoint, they should think very clearly on whether this is something that they want to embark upon."
The Honolulu-born soldier says his decision to leave his fellow soldiers was difficult but clear.
"I felt it was necessary. It was something that I had to do according to my oath to protect this country, to protect this country and to protect those soldiers under my charge," said Watada.
The officer at Thursday's hearing will review the evidence and should issue a report by next week. The commander of the base will evaluate it and recommend whether or not Watada faces court martial.

The above is from Jeff Booth's "Both Sides Fire in Watada Hearing" (KGMB9). We'll stay on this topic for a few more excerpts as we walk through the case via excerpts. We'll start with the prosecution (and note it briefly, we're all aware of it in this community -- read KeShawn's rebuttal to it in this morning's round-robin). They offered one witness giving testimony (Captain J.C. Kaplan) and he spoke of how Ehren Watada did not deploy with his brigade to Iraq. After that the prosecution played MTV offering three video clips of the speech Watada gave to last weekend's Veterans for Peace conference (click here at CounterPunch and here at Truthout and the latter offers video clips of the speech). Picking up with the military's Top 3 Video Countdown, via Mike Barber's "Hearing for soldier who won't serve in Iraq puts war on trial" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) :

One video Kuecker showed came from Watada's appearance only last Saturday at the Veterans for Peace national convention in Seattle.
There, Watada voiced what he called "a radical idea. It is one born from the very concept of the American soldier. It became instrumental in ending the Vietnam War -- but it has been long since forgotten. The idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it."
Watada spoke of the "wholesale slaughter" of Iraqis and said he did not want to be a party to war crimes by serving there.
Over objections by Kuecker, Keith allowed Seitz and Capt. Mark Kim, Watada's military lawyer, to call three expert witnesses to testify about the war's illegality as justification for Watada's actions:

University of Illinois law professor Francis Boyle, an international law expert; former United Nations Undersecretary-General Denis Halliday; and retired Army Col. Ann Wright. All three said the war is illegal.

Those were the three witnesses called by Watada's attornies (Eric Seitz and Army Captain Mark Kim). Now noting the defense witnesses. From The Honolulu Advertister's "Army lays case with Watada's own words:"

The first witness for the defense was University of Illinois professor Francis Boyle, an international law expert.
The war in Iraq, Boyle said, is a war against peace because it was not authorized by the United Nations Security Council. Secondly, he said, Congress approved going to war only after being lied to by the Bush administration about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein having ties to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"This constitutes ... a conspiracy to defraud the United States government," he said.
Also testifying were Denis Halliday, the former under-secretary of the United Nations, who also served over a number of programs dealing with Iraq, and Ann Wright of Honolulu, a retired colonel who resigned from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2003 over the Iraq war.

Halliday's testimony was apparently delivered via mime which would explain why there's nothing from his testimony in any of the reports. For the third witness, we'll go to
Michael Gilbert's "Witnesses say Watada would have committed war crime by deploying to Iraq" (The News Tribune):

Defense witnesses Thursday said Lt. Ehren Watada had no choice but to refuse orders to go to Iraq if he wanted to avoid complicity in what they called war crimes.
"I personally believe that the decision of the Bush administration to invade and occupy Iraq without getting the authority of the UN Security Council ... falls into the category of a war of aggression, which is by international law a war crime," said Ann Wright, a retired Army colonel and U.S. diplomat who resigned in protest of the war in 2003.
"So by a person saying 'Yes, I’m going to Iraq,' one could argue that just by doing that, that is participating in a war crime."
On that basis, Watada's lawyers argued Thursday he was justified in refusing to board a jet June 22 and join his fellow Fort Lewis soldiers for a year-long deployment in Iraq.

The Article 32 hearing began and ended yesterday. Where does it stand now? From
Hal Bernton's "Iraq war bashed at hearing for soldier who wouldn't go" (Seattle Times):

Lt. Col. Mark Keith, the investigating officer who presided over Thursday's Article 32 hearing, will make a recommendation about whether to proceed with a court-martial.
In response to defense questions, Keith affirmed he was open to considering arguments about the war's legality and allowed Boyle, former United Nations Undersecretary Denis Halliday and retired Col. Ann Wright to speak about the legality and conduct of the war.

Eric Seitz has publicly stated he expects that the decision will be to proceed with a court martial. What that would mean (and Watada's thoughts) are in the next excerpt,
Gregg K. Kakesako's "Watada expresses no regrets as hearing begins" (Honolulu Star-Bulletin):

If convicted, Watada could face more than seven years in prison and a dishonorable discharge. The 1996 Kalani High School graduate faces charges of missing a movement. He also is charged with contempt toward officials and conduct unbecoming an officer.
In a phone interview after the hearing, Watada continued to assert that the war in Iraq is both illegal and immoral.
"I would not have done it differently," the 28-year-old artillery soldier said about his decision not to go to Iraq. "I am at peace with my decision."

Now turning to the illegal war itself, in this morning's New York Times, Damien Cave's "7 Killed as Full-Scale Sectarian Fighting Rages in Baghdad" offers a rundown of some of the reported events

South of Baghdad, an American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol, the United States military said in a statement.
West of Baghdad, in an area rife with Sunni Arab insurgents, the police said a man had been killed and two of his sons wounded when gunmen fired at him as he waited in line at a gas station. In a similar incident, gunmen killed one man and wounded two others near a gas station in Yarmuk.
A suicide bomber in the upscale Baghdad neighborhood of Mansur blew up his vehicle as a police patrol passed, wounding five people, including three policemen, an Interior Ministry official said. At a supermarket nearby, an unidentified body was found handcuffed and showing signs of torture.
[. . .]
The United States military announced that a soldier had died from "enemy action" on Wednesday in Anbar Province, where American troops regularly fight fierce battles with Sunni insurgents.
In a rural area of Babil Province, south of Baghdad, Iraqi Army soldiers discovered three kidnapped police officers in the trunk of a car after clashing with gunmen at a checkpoint, according to an American military statement. The freed officers said two other officers had been abducted and taken away in vehicles.
Even as the violence continued, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, speaking at a news conference with the visiting prime minister of Slovakia just a few hours after the Sadr City bombing, insisted that Iraqi forces were ready to take over security for most of the country.

There is more in the report worth noting but I've tried to note the events he's covering that we didn't catch in the snapshot yesterday. And al-Maliki was included for transition to Martha's highlight, Amit R. Paley's "Premier Calls Iraqi Forces Ready to Extend Control" (Washington Post):

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Thursday that Iraqi forces were prepared to take over security in most provinces if the U.S. military withdraws, as at least 23 Iraqis and an American soldier were killed in violence across the country.
The bloodshed, which included a car bomb in Baghdad that killed at least eight people, came as U.S. and Iraqi forces attempt to thwart the growing sectarian violence engulfing the country.
The U.S.-led military coalition has set no timetable for removing troops from Iraq, but Maliki said in a statement that Iraqis "have become capable of taking over security tasks in the majority of the provinces and that they will be able to fill the vacuum in case the Multi-National Forces withdraw."
Iraqi forces have taken full military control of only one province so far -- Muthanna, in a relatively calm area of southern Iraq -- but Maliki said they would soon take security responsibility of the area around Diwaniyah, in Qadisiyah province.

And, as British community members noted yesterday morning, the sunny view given of how capable the Iraqi troops are is at odds with reality. At odds with reality? Yes, quickly, the Bully Boy. West notes Matthew Rothschild's "Bush Contemplates Rebirth of Dictatorship for Iraq" (This Just In, The Progressive):

There was a big clue planted at the bottom of the very long lead article in The New York Times of August 17.
That story noted the alarming rise in insurgent attacks against American and Iraqi forces.
The number of IEDs in July was 2,625, just about twice what it was back in January, when Zarqawi was still prowling around.
Clearly, his death did nothing to slow the pace down or snuff out the insurgency.
The shelf life of Bush propaganda is only about one week these days.
But back to the clue.
The last three paragraphs of this story revealed that "senior administration officials . . . are considering alternatives other than democracy," according to a military expert who was just briefed at the White House.
Hmmm, "alternatives other than democracy."
My, what can those be?
Monarchy? Dictatorship?

The illegal, warrantless spying by the Bully Boy was slapped down yesterday. Oliver says skip the press reports and go to Wally and Cedric's joint entry. Also Betty's "A lady never gobbles? Thomas Friedman does" went up Wednesday and is one of the many things needing noting (thanks to Doug and Susan who both e-mailed this morning to remind me).

Blog Spotlight: Mike boils the week down to one word

Mike's favorite word of the week was "shit."  He uses it liberally in this post and it may be the only term to convey the outrage at the silence over Ehren Watada's hearing.  Whether it is or not, we enjoyed his anger.  (C.I. adds shit is a word that should be used much more often and that "judging by e-mails" complaining to TCI, it's a very popular word with professional journalists..)

Who stepped up to the plate for Ehren Watada and who took a dive?

Thursday, a busy week but a fun one that's passed much too quickly. I think C.I. has something in the snapshot that needs to be pulled to note upfront:

What did Watada actually say as opposed to what did the military argue? If your indymedia choices have been following this, you know this already. If they've not made time or space for Watada this week, that may say something about the quality of your go-to indynews outlet.

In fact, I already told Jim and Dona that it's my pick for truest statement of the week for Sunday's edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review. For instance, "Lotta Links." Just looked through it's 100 plus links and guess what? If you went there for news, you wouldn't even know that Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing was today. There's not a damn thing. Now they don't do much writing, just links. And they can't spare one of their hundred-plus links to note Ehren Watada. They are a failure. As they beg for more money. They are a failure.

I think everyone should remember who did what and when people ask for money (this community doesn't ask for money), you should remember that when it was time to step up for Ehren Watada they had other things to do. So when they ask for money, you should find other things to do. Even if means you treat yourself to something. Maybe you've already given to things that spoke to you and you have a little extra -- don't give it to them. They didn't support Watada, they don't support you. The message was sent, you shouldn't ignore it.

I know Rebecca will have quite a bit more to say so check her out. (You know she'll have a lot to say too! :D) In fact, it's hard for me to write tonight because I know what she's planning to say and it's right on the money. I don't want to step on her points. But I will say that independent media has made a joke of itself in the last few weeks with very few exceptions.

Wally and Cedric cover the fact that the NSA, illegal, warrantless spying by the Bully Boy was overruled by a federal judge today so check that out. It's also a good time to re-read C.I.'s
"On the Dangers of an Unchecked Bully Boy."

It's amazing when you think about what all has happened since the Bully Boy grabbed the oval office and what's more amazing is to get out from your usual place and talk to other people and realize how much outrage there is in the country. Rebecca had a good thing on the desk jockeys who keep telling you what the 'mood' of the country is. They don't know shit. They don't get out there and talk to people. They don't know shit. They watch TV and read some things and then start getting all pompous about what's going on but they don't know what's going on because they're locked away from reality. People are outraged and if they'd leave the safety of their desks, they'd know that. Instead they're stupid and useless.

Take the group Tony and me started back home. We didn't think we'd have more than a few people showing up to discuss Iraq. That group is huge and became huge quickly. Because people do care about the war. Not the idiots who go on a radio show (like the idiot who went on Kris Welch's show) and say stuff about how most people aren't thinking about the war. Now the same idiot wants to tell you about Ned Lamont and how that means a shift and if you're smart you're thinking, "Wait, she said, about two months ago, that the war wasn't an issue." She's an idiot. She doesn't talk to people, she doesn't know what matters to them. She couldn't last ten minutes in one of the Friday meetings of my group because people would tear her apart for being so stupid and such a suck up to the Dems in the Senate.

She's useless. You need to start your own group and you can see how stupid people like that are. Or get on the road and do some traveling and you'll see how stupid she is.

They're all useless and disconnected from reality. Only question is are they disconnected by choice?

Last summer, around this time, C.I. talked about it and talked about what was happening. And even among those of us who do sites in the community, we thought, "Well is that really what's going on?" (I didn't. I'd seen it in my high school and then in college.) C.I. knew what was going on because of traveling all over the country and talking to this group and that group. C.I.'s still doing that all the time and you have to wonder why stupid desk jockeys and Soccer Mommas (to use a friend of C.I.'s nickname for one idiot) can't do that? They're too busy leafing through their New York Times and thinking that's reality. Sucking up to the Times because they want so desparately to fit in that they're willing to be wrong about what is happening around the country.

Last summer really did start the change and it goes on even without the support of our supposedly brave indymedia that can't even cover Iraq anymore. They're useless and they're lost. Don't let them lead because you'll end up lost too.

It's amazing to see who stepped up and who didn't. But you know what, a lot of them were the same ones who ignored Nancy A. Youssef's "U.S.: Civilian deaths feeding insurgency" which revealed that the US did keep a body count on Iraqi civilians. They were useless then as they tried real hard to ignore that story (even when people brought it to their attention) and they're just as useless now. Know them and know they failed you. They'll never cop to that because they're too busy bragging on themselves.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today and it tells you what others can't or won't:

Thursday, August 17, 2006 -- the first day of Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing which will determine whether or not to start a court martial inquiry over his refusal to deploy to Iraq and fight in an illegal war, chaos and violence continue in Iraq with the seat of the 'crackdown' being rocked with bombs, in Australia, the Jake Kovco inquiry follows up yesterday's hypnosis shocker by grabbing an unscheduled day off, a new studay finds that Iraqis opinions of Americans have dropped further as the war has dragged on, and the political 'death' of Mahmoud al-Mashhadani still seems premature.
Today, the Article 32 hearing began and
Melanthia Mitchell (AP) reports that the military is showing video from last weekend's Veterans for Peace conference as part of their 'evidence.' AP also reports that "The prosecution played a total of three video clips with comments Watada made over the weekend as well as on June 7, when he publicly announced his decision to refuse deployment." The speech Watada gave is here at CounterPunch and here at Truthout which also includes the video option (QuickTime and Windows Media). In addition KPFA's Flashpoints played one part of the speech yesterday night and, presumably, will air the second part today or later this week (Flashpoints airs at 5:00 pm PST, 7:00 pm Central and 8:00 pm EST -- can be heard archived at the show's website, archived at KPFA or live while the show broadcasts).
What did Watada actually say as opposed to what did the military argue? If your indymedia choices have been following this, you know this already. If they've not made time or space for Watada this week, that may say something about the quality of your go-to indynews outlet.
Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling to leave a message for Donald Rumsfeld (703-545-6700) or mailing him (1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000) to say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go." Billie advises that you can use to e-mail the Pentagon. She suggests "Re: Ehren Watad" or "ATTN: DONALD RUMSFELD." You can also check Courage to Resist and for the latest developments.
On his decision to say "no" to the illegal war,
Watada told Melanthia Mitchell (AP): "You don't join the military just to blindly follow whatever orders you're given. An order to go to an unlawful and immoral war based on false pretenses is no different than to kill innocent civilians." Writing at The Huffington Post, Peter Laufer notes the stands of Watada, Ricky Clousing and others. Peter Laufer observers: "With polls showing an increasing majority of Americans now opposed to the war, the question hangs in the air: When will our society honor and appreciate those soldiers who refuse to follow orders to fight in Iraq?"
Moving to an item a friend's wanted noted for the last two days: Where is Mahmoud al-Mashhadani? On Tuesday, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was
'the' news in many Iraq reports. Was he on his way out? One report noted that al-Mashhadani didn't return a phone call -- why was that? Marie Cocco (Truthdig) offers today that he's "openly toying with relinquishing his post". From where? From where is he openly toying with the idea? Juan Cole (Salon) offers that "when the Iraqi parliament reconvenes next month, the first item on the agenda will be firing Mashhadani." Cole feels that al-Mashhadani "has put his foot in his mouth too many times." al-Masshadani may very well be on the way out next month but right now he is in Jordan working on a trade agreement. It's an interesting part of the story left out of the mainstream media's he's-so-out-of-here narrative. Whether or not he remains speaker after the parliament reconvenes may be influenced by what's going on in Jordan.
While that may (or may not) influence how he is seen upon return, other observations were noted today.
The World Values Surveys ("collaborative project between the Univeristy of Michigan Institute for Social Research and Eastern Michigan University) has relased their survey results which found (a) from 2004 to 2006, the percentage of Iraqis (surveyed) stating they did not want Americans as neighbors went from 87% to 90%; (b) 76% surveyed feel the US invaded "to control Iraqi oil"; (c) while 27% of respondents in 2004 felt that religion and politics should be separate, that figure is up to 41% for 2006; and (d) in 2004, 46% of Iraqis surveyed agreed that "In Iraq these days life is unpredictable and dangerous" -- the 2006 figures finds the percentage in agreement has climbed to 59%.
And on the ground in Iraq today? The usual drill.
Michael R. Gordon, Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker (New York Times) reported that 1,666 bombs exploded in Iraq during the month of July (presumably this only covers bombings not called in by US forces). Bombings have continued in August. The BBC reports that a car bomb in Baghdad ("Sadr City district") took the lives of at least seven people and wounded an additional 25. The two month old 'crackdown' has not had any noticeable impact on safety in the region. AFP reports on two car bombs ("went off in rapid succession"), also in Baghdad, that left at least 65 wounded and at least 14 dead. Alister Bull (Scotsman) observes that the violence in the capital underscores "the precarious security situation as US and Iraqi forces try to stem sectarian violence." Reuters notes that a car bomb wounded three police officers in "west-central Baghdad". AFP characterizes it as "a sucide bomber" and notes that two civilians were also injured.
Outside of Baghdad,
Reuters notes a roadside bomb in Daquq leaving two dead and a third wounded; mortar rounds wounded 21 in Muqdadiya in Sinjar, nine were wounded by "a suicide car bomber". Al Jazeera notes that the mortar attack in Muqdadiya took place in a market and that three police officers were among the wounded.
Reuters notes that a police officer (Lieutenant Colonel Abdul-llah Abdul-Kareem) was shot dead in Mosul while an unidentified police officer was shot in Falluja. AFP reports that "[a]nother six people were killed in a string of shootings in and around Baquba" and notes three brothers who owned a store together, "a salesman," a man whose car was stolen by assailants who then killed him, and a "civilian . . . shot dead in a coffee shop."
BBC reports that five corpses were discovered "near . . . Suwayra". Al Jazeera reports it was six and notes they were "mutilated." Reuters goes with six and notes that
the corpses were discovered "blindfolded . . . hands bound . . . multiple gunshot wounds" while the
AFP notes five being discovered and adds that two more corpses were discovered "near Muqdadiyah". Reuters also notes that an Iraqi soldier was discovered shot to death (thirteen shots to the head) in Balad "a day after he was kidnapped."
In peace news,
Matthew D. LaPlante and Rebecca Walsh (Salt Lake Tribune) report that Cindy Sheehan will visit Salt Lake City to protest Bully Boy who will be speaking to the American Legion August 31st. Kelly Patterson of Brigham Young University states that the protest may be larger than when Bully Boy spoke in Salt Lake City the year prior: "What's changed over the last year is public opinion about the war itself. Those kinds of shifts provide energy to people who feel very strongly about the war and its conduct. That makes this a more divisive environment -- even in Utah." KSL radio reports that "Sheehan indicated that Mayor [Rocky] Anderson had extended an invitation for her [to] come to Salt Lake and participate in the planned protest. Sheehan will give a speech during the protest at the city-county building downtown".
Camp Casey III continues through September 2nd and Camp DC opens September 5th and runs through the 21st to coincide with a week's worth of events lasting from September 21st to September 28th.
Writing on Sheehan's hospitalization last week,
Missy Comley Beattie (CounterPunch) notes that a transfusion of five-pints of blood were required and compares that need to needs within this country. Comley Beattie concludes: "We are bleeding as a result of the president's insatiable lust for power." Noting Sheehan's return to Camp Casey III this summer, Cynthia Hall Clements ( observers: "The question should not be why Sheehan is the lone voice in the wilderness protesting for peace. The question should be why more of us aren't doing the same."
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of soldier Jake Kovco in Baghdad took an unscheduled day off.
AAP reports that DNA tests were to be covered and whether or not "they had identified the source of DNA on the gun that killed Pte Kovco in his Iraq barracks." The inquiry is expected to resume on Friday.

Now get your butts over to Like Maria Said Paz for Elaine's thoughts.

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