Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Note to Our Readers

Hey --
Doing this on Monday but dating it on Sunday so it archives with the rest.

We had three hours of trying to post but not being able to Sunday morning. Everything was written. We were tired and ready to go to sleep. But couldn't. We had three hours of nothing going up and then an hour to get the stuff up once we could post. Dona, C.I., Ava and Jess had already said, "We aren't doing a note after this, we're going to sleep."

So we're doing the note today.

Highlights? We got 'em:

Ruth's Report
NYT critique via The Common Ills
Humor Spotlight: Wally and Cedric on Practical Jokester Dick Cheney
Humor Spotlight: Betinna tells all about the return to NYC with Thomas Friedman
Blog Spotlight: Rebecca puts Bully Boy on the couch
Blog Spotlight: Mike examines the focus
Blog Spotlight: Kat addresses the potential end of an era
Blog Spotlight: Cedric on Bob Herbert & Juan Williams' blame game
Blog Spotlight: Elaine on the hit squad that tried to silence truth tellers
Kitchen Spotlight: Mixed Greens with Honey and Oranges in the Kitchen

Thank you to everyone for their permission to repost. And thank you to Dallas for his help in hunting down links and adding input.

New content? 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;
and Wally of The Daily Jot

This edition, we again focused on Iraq. It wasn't as easy as the previous two because a number of people were exhausted. (Saturday was a busy day.) At one point, C.I. pointed out that we only had 1/2 an edition planned. Dona pointed out that we needed to put our thinking caps on because earlier in the week we had plenty of ideas, what were they?

We were also probably letting it slide because we knew there would be three features that would be very easy for 4 of the 6 of us.

Here's the new content:

In war and pain, 13 albums -- playlist, like CounterPunch does. This is what we listened to while we were working on the edition. And it was "pain" on this end. All listed above get credit for this (we all chose what to listen to during the writing).

How do you say, "We're abandoning the base in 24 hours"? -- The British abandoned a base in Iraq. It was quickly looted. The British military spokesperson tried to paint the abandoning in a flattering light. This is our feature on the sort of note that could have gone out announcing to the Iraqis it was being turned over. All above worked on this except Ava and C.I.

Books: Sadly from Paul Bremer, Every Picture Tells A Story -- This was done just by Kat, Ava, C.I., Dona, Jess, Ty, and me (Jim). C.I. had used the book early Saturday morning for an entry at The Common Ills. Ty was flipping through it, scanning some pages and then came to the photo section. Ty had the idea for this. Kat came up with the idea of opening with Rod Stewart.
All seven listed worked on this.

Courage to Resist's latest alert on Ehren Watada -- Courage to Resist worked on this. It's their's and we posted it as a PSA. Get the word out on Ehren Watada.

A public relations coup gone awry? -- All listed above worked on this. It was a tough one, believe it or not. Everyone was tired. After this one, we excused everyone not a part of the core six (Jess, Ty, Dona, Ava, C.I. and me, Jim) plus Kat (because she was physically present with us and not just on the phone) so that people could get some sleep.

How to be a print pundit -- We all worked on this one. This went through multiple revisions and if Dona hadn't screamed, "It's done" (literally, she screamed that), we'd still be working on it.
The tipping point was last summer. We noted it then. Only now can your pundits tell you that maybe the popular opinion has swung. Yeah, it did. Last summer. Get out from behind your desks and walk around in the real world.

It's not just Camilo Mejia, or Brandon Hughey, or Jeremy Hinzman, or Pablo Paredes, or . . . -- we like Carl Webb. We think he's shown real bravery repeatedly. Know his story, know his name, get the word out.

Denis Halliday said what? -- Couldn't get the word out on what Denis Halliday said because no press outlet covering the trial in real time bothered to note what he said. Read this and you'll have a good idea why he was rendered silent.

Editorial: If what Watada's standing up for matters, treat it like it matters -- Ehren Watada does matter, so you need to treat his stand like it matters. That doesn't mean you mention it once a month. Talk about it with every friend, every family member you have. Talk about it with strangers. Get the word out.

And? That's it. Actually it's not. And we wished we'd had this up when Belinda read. (Ty e-mailed her back.) She was really happy that Ava and C.I. did two TV commentaries this edition. Actually, they did three. The third doesn't show up on the main page. If we'd had our note up, Belinda would have known that.

TV: Vanishing -- I, Jim, asked them for this. Not for Vanished, but for a show that was on that would please their audience (the review, not the show). Why? I was really thinking we might be pushing it with three weeks in a row of Iraq and wanted to be sure that the "calling card" pleased the readers if nothing else did. (Ty says the response was positive to a third week of Iraq focusing.) They ended up tying it into Iraq, which they didn't have to. On our special editions, it may not always be possible for them to tie things into a theme we have for the rest of the edition. The hope was that if anyone thought, "Iraq again, for the whole edition?" -- they'd read this and think, "Well that was worth it."

TV: Make Room For Bully peters out -- Ava and C.I. greeted the request with, "We'll do Vanished." Then on Monday, Bully Boy held a press conference. I, Jim, said, "I know I just asked you for a feature but could we make it two?" They groaned. They were tired. And it was just Monday. They agreed they'd "try." "Try, no promises." We think this turned out very well. (We is not Ava and C.I. who are both griping, right now, about everything they wrote.)

TV: Washington Weak -- Blame this on Rebecca's husband Fly Boy. He called them to alert them to this show. They ended up watching with over the phone. Ava and C.I. provided a running commentary that had him laughing. Kat walked past them and started laughing. Slowly we all came in to check out what had Kat in hysterics and we were laughing as well. Come on, said Jim, you can probably do three? Saturday evening we started the edition. They were tired. They were sleepy. They couldn't do one. "You'll be lucky if you get one." "Stop bugging us or we're bailing." "If you ask us one more damn time, Jim, we are going to . . ." It was a long night. They were tired before a word was written. We were going to be happy with anything. We weren't expecting much because they kept yawning and saying they were tired. They surprised us with each one. Vanished had us laughing. Bully Boy had us laughing. Then came this one (with a threat of bodily harm if they're ever asked to do more than one again) and we think this is actually the funniest one of all. ("Great," says C.I. "Now we're in competition with ourselves and one came in first and one came in last, with one in the middle, the low-middle I'm sure." No, they're all wonderful. But this is our favorite.) The show's Washington Week and the review is hilarious. We probably wasted 20 minutes we should have been working talking about this after we read it.

And? That's it. We'll see you next weekend.

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

Editorial: If what Watada's standing up for matters, treat it like it matters

Ehren Watada, the story independent media bungled. For instance, right now, online, you can find a link to a San Francisco Chronicle article. The link reads: "War refuser Bob Watada faces seven years in prison -- and his dad couldn't be prouder 8/27."

You catch the problem, right? Bob Watada isn't facing up to seven years in prison. We're not aware that Bob Watada's father is even alive (though he may be). Bob Watada is the father of Ehren Watada and it's a sign of how bad the coverage of Ehren Watada has been that a biggie of a site could offer a headline about "War refuser Bob Watada".

Ehren Watada is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. He announced that decision at the start of June. Because he was an officer, because he was saying the war was illegal and because independent media either still cared about the Iraq war then or still felt the need to pretend to care, Ehren Watada got coverage.

And then?

When he needed it most, he dropped from the radar. An Article 32 hearing was scheduled for August 17th and that was known well ahead of time. The weekend before the hearing, he was in Seattle, at the Veterans for Peace conference, and he gave a speech. It was a pretty important speech, so important that the prosecution would use snippets from it to make a case against him.
So you might assume that independent media would be all over the story, broadcasting the speech, dissecting the speech, discussing the speech. You would be wrong.

There was no time for it. There was no time to heads up the August 16th demonstrations in support of Watada around the country. And the day after, August 17th, when his court martial started, there was no time then to note the turnout at the demonstrations. No time for the August 17th hearing (it started hearing testimony that day and it concluded hearing testimony that day). No time to cover the testimony of the witnesses Watada's attorneys called (Francis Boyle, international law expert; Denis Halliday, former UN Undersecretary-General; and Ann Wright, retired Army Col.). Friday, August 18th, there still wasn't time.

On Tuesday, August 22nd, a program finally wanted to 'weigh in' on Watada. In three sentences that gave you the impression that they were reporting on something that just happened. Three charges? Oh my gosh. If Watada has three charges against him and you're informing us Tuesday, that must mean that a finding has been reached in the Article 32 hearing!

Nope. Just someone trying to do damage control after ignoring Watada for weeks -- and insisting upon reporting charges from July as though they were 'breaking.'

Thursday night of last week, a military flack announced that the finding/recommendation would be released the following day but that Watada was being passed up the chain of command with the recommendation that a court-martial take place.

On Friday, the report was released and the response from independent media was underwhelming.

Some independent journalists have made an effort. Among the few: Jeff Paterson, Sarah Olson, Philip Maldari, Dennis Bernstein, Judith Scheer. On KPFA's The Morning Show Wednesday, Maldari actually interviewed Bob Watada. Bob Watada was on a speaking tour that began August 17th, speaking out for his son, trying to raise awareness.

In a summer that saw Cindy Sheehan largely ignored by independent media, it may not be a surprise that Ehren Watada would suffer the same fate. There's a lot of lip service given to the notion that soldiers should refuse to serve in an illegal war. Lip service is all it is to judge by the lack of coverage.

Watada refused to serve. He stated his reasons quite well. His father and his mother (Carolyn Ho) have put themselves out there to the public. They're supporting their sons decision, they're speaking out. Imagine how powerful that message could be . . . if it got out there.

Today, Bob Watada will be speaking, from four to six pm PST, at the AFSC building on 65-Ninth Street in San Francisco.

From Charles Burress' "BAY AREA War refuser's dad explains son's reasons" (San Francisco Chronicle):

Bob Watada is proud of his newly famous, and infamous, son. And he's making 26 public appearances this week to tell Bay Area audiences why.
The son is said to be the Army's first commissioned officer to refuse to go to Iraq, on the grounds that he's bound to disobey orders to fight in an illegal war.

[. . .]
Watada's father, who retired in December as executive director of Hawaii's election-spending watchdog agency, the Campaign Spending Commission, said his son heeded Bush's call to join the war on terrorism and entered the military in March 2003, the same month the United States invaded Iraq. He began active duty in June that year, after graduating from Hawaii Pacific University.
The son discovered only later that Saddam Hussein's alleged ties to Al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction were myths, the father said.

Another piece of coverage from the mainstream media which has been the only media to consistently cover Watada over the last three weeks.

If what Watada's standing up for matters, then it needs to be treated like it matters.

Where will our brave indepedent media being rush off to this week? For most, it appears (and has for almost two, or in some cases, three months now) that Iraq just can't hold their interest.
The forces wanting bloodshed in Darfur are back at play and, goodness, didn't the 'brave' voices line up to give that play. We don't have to offer an alternative on non-military ways to address Darfur -- that's because we addressed it months ago. But (military) boots on the ground are obviously more important than anything else -- otherwise some of the many outlets condemning Israel for, five, six, seven weeks, would find time to note that Israel has been refusing refugees from Darfur.

As independent media rushes to hop on the Save Darfur bandwagon (to prove how much they can bleed or just to work off some war lust that they've had to push down deep while covering the illegal war on Iraq?), we've noticed who gets invited to the table on the supposed discussions that independent media allows. We've also noticed who doesn't get invited to the table. For instance Joshua Frank. From his conclusion to "Save Darfur?" (CounterPunch):

There are other reasons we ought not act on all of our humanitarian impulses, however well intentioned they may seem. Unlike Darfur, we've got wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan that actually involve us. In fact, we are responsible for them. Want to help bring peace to the Middle East? Why not pressure the U.S. government to halt all funding to Israel? That'd be a heck of a start.
There are atrocities for which the U.S. government is culpable, but Darfur isn't one of them. So don't jump on the Save Darfur bandwagon ­ it may only lead to more devastation.

While some rush to prove how the depth of their humanitarian impulses, their humanity, and just how much they can bleed (by advocating boots on the ground) in Darfur, a lot in independent media ignore Iraq. In fact, it's apparently going to be fashionable among some to brag about how little they care. As Ava and C.I. point out this edition, Andrea Grimes brags of how she's shed more tears of the fictional 'romance' of two characters on Grey's Anatomy than she has over "the thousands" who've died "overseas," "in the Middle East." What a prize she must be. We can't call her heartless because she obviously cares . . . about fictional charaters on a crappy show. Grimey's got her priorities.

What are your priorities?

If Ehren Watada matters to you, if the war in Iraq matters you, then you need to be getting the word out on Ehren Watada. As Mike has noted, the majority of independent media have demonstrated in the last few weeks that we can't count on them to do it.

For more on Ehren Watada, you can check out Courage to Resist and

For historical context, you can check out David Ziegler's Sir! No Sir! (we reviewed it here in "DVD Must See: Sir! No! Sir!").

TV: Washington Weak

Once a week, PBS airs Washington Week aka Washington Weak. (Air date and time varies from market to market). The show stars Gwen Ifell who suffers from many things including a surname that sounds like a follow up hit for A Flock of Seagulls. As a result, we tried not to hold it against her that she's such an obvious aficionado of the TV series Family Affair that her chosen hairstyle is a clear homage to Mrs. Beasley.

Ifell is famous for many things including once remarking that the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame by people in the administration was "only a summer scandal." Fortunately for Ifell, accuracy isn't a big thing in the gas bag biz so she remains not only still employed but also still the star/host of the show. We wouldn't call her a "moderator" and we'll get to the why of that in a bit.

Let's instead turn to some real news: Nancy Walker Lives!

And she's apparently raided Rhoda Morgenstern's jewelry box!

How else do you explain Bloomberg's Janine Zacharia who favors the right side of her mouth when speaking and apparently mistook herself for a Christmas tree and jewelry for ornaments? While some might see the ear rings alone as 'over done,' Janine demonstrates that "tacky" is a foreign concept and piles on an equally ridiculous necklace (with ten 'charms' on the chain). We kept expecting her to turn to the camera and explain that, for just $19.95, the costume jewelry could be delivered to your home in four-to-six weeks.

Wearing a 'funky' Rhoda-like sweater, Janine got a healthy chunk of air time and, in fact, the first segment was more or less a free-association monologue for her as she rambled on about Hizbollah and Lebanon. Fortunately for her, all the mavins accepted the premise that Israel's motives were pure and just and filled, as Joni Mitchell once put it, "with fantasy and fairies, rainbows and butterscotch."

That's because even conventional wisdom is a reach for Washington Weak. Instead, the guests follow the host's lead and kibitz for a half-hour. Anything more than simple patter leaves Gwen feeling and looking all fartootsteh -- like the time, a few years back, when she infamously attempted to weigh in, on air, about the First Amendment and got it so wrong that a guest dared to correct her leading to (and remember this airs on PBS) her laughable reply of "Well, whatever it says . . ."

Last week's show (or today/night's depending upon when it airs in your market) found Gwen surrounded by the types she likes: folks eager to editorialize and opine. The much maligned (oft deservedly so) Elisabeth Bumiller earned herself a scowl and exile from Gwen when she refused to offer speculation while discussing the Bully Boy's alleged National Guard service. The hint seems to have taken and all panelists now eagerly race to prove that they can offer so much more than just facts.

The big stars this week were Gwen (of course Gwen, it's always Gwen!), Janine and the Bobble Head Pundit -- from The New York Times, Helene Cooper. Did she think she was on Springer and attempting to stay loose for the head roll? Who knows? And who knows what Helene said most of the time? Watching her head dip and bob, weave and thrust on every word, we were mesmerized by the swaying earrings she appeared to have borrowed from Polly Holiday back when Holiday played Flo. There were three tiers to those earrings. Exactly who costumed Helene? And if this passes for professional dress at The Times these days, color us shocked.

Not to be outdone, Gwen Ifell went for matching slivers on her ears and around her neck. The choice must have been very taxing for Gwen -- which would explain her confusion when she attempted to note Bully Boy's comment from last Monday about the effects of the Iraq war on the country: "These are challenging times, and they're difficult times, and they're straining the psyche of our country. I understand that." Gwen phrased it thusly: "He said . . . he understands that the nation's psyche is kind of bruised -- it's not the word he used, but kind of". Kind of always passes for 'good enough' on Washington Weak.

While most might assume that a host should be prepared with the quotes she plans to note, Gwen settles for "kind of". (There is a word that follows 'kind of' and repeated attempts to decipher the word she squeals -- her voice rises and rises -- were unsuccessful. Lots of luck to the transcriptionist who posts at the show's website on Monday.)

The Iraq discussion was as trivial as everything else on the show (and we hope our review has treated the program with all the seriousness it treated the issues). A clip was shown of the Bully Boy stating "We're not leaving so long as I'm president" which led to Gwen questioning Janine about "what did the president's response tell us about what the president was really thinking?"

Damn determined to haul The Nancy Walker Show out of mothballs, Janine opened with, "He's really thinking that we're going to be there for a long time!" as she seemed to look around in anticpation of a drum roll or canned laughter. (Neither were provided.)

Gwen then turned to Helene who was so busy head bobbing and gesticulating that she must have lost her already loose grip on common sense. That would explain Helene's declaration that "so many American are getting tired of seeing these soldiers coming home dead." Seeing them where, Helene? Seeing them where?

There's a ban at Dover, so exactly where are most Americans "seeing these soldiers coming home dead"? Shortly after that, Helene almost inadvertantly struck Janine (who did flinch) while she was gesturing.

There were four guests and let's note the other two. Paul Singer (National Journal) and David Wessel (Wall St. Journal).

David, please, buy a suit that fits. He looked as though he'd borrowed David Byrne's suit from Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense tour. And let's point out the obvious, that beard doesn't convey maturity; instead it makes him look as though he's starring in Teen Wolf . . . Blitzer.

Paul would do well to learn that his body language must accompany his words. Not only did he demonstrate a lack of rhythm when he clapped his hands but he also illustrated some cognitive challenge when the phrase he was using was "snap the fingers." You do that with a finger and thumb, Paul, not by clapping together two hands.

Paul also suffered from an askew tie that looked like a clip-on and from a tendency to hold his breath whenever anyone asked him a question. (Considering how wordy they can all be, we feared Paul might pass out.) We'd also suggest that, although shaving isn't the requirement for Paul that it is for some males, he'd still be better off shaving before going on television.

If it seems like the guys aren't getting much focus, they aren't. And that's largely due to the fact that the segments they monologued in (each guest got one segment to monologue in) were the two shortest (together they didn't even add up to ten minutes). One of the segments was on the housing market and Helene felt the need to inquire: "So David, at the risk of sounding like I only care about what is happening in my neighborhood, is this localized or is it national?"

After David answers (the south's the only region that's doing well), Gwen can't resist the urge to prove that she's the Orson Bean of the newsy set by interjecting, "For the record, Helene really does only care about what happens in her neighborhood." It's those sorts of little bits that lead us to refrain from calling her a "moderator."

We're supposed to laugh, we're supposed to chuckle. But the biggest laugh was yet to come because David dared to ask, "And you?" To which Gwen replied, full of sarcasm, "No, I care about everyone."

Oh the zingers. Oh the wit. Oh the 'observations' which couldn't even pass for superficial.

The newsy show ended on a note that struck us as even more real than Gwen's laughable, facetious claim to "care about everyone." It ended with Gwen grabbing her glass as the guests grabbed their's. Gwen clinked glasses with Paul and soon everyone was clinking glasses. But, silly Gwen, no one took a sip because no toast had been delivered.

As the voice over plugs were going on, we could see Gwen giving a toast and, finally, they all took a sip. Seems as though everything got plugged except the most obvious one: "Jewelry provided by the Joan Rivers Collection." We fear she also scripted some of the zingers.

All in all, it was a very weak week.

Denis Halliday said what?

In the coverage of the August 17th Article 32 hearing on Ehren Watada's refusal to depoly to Iraq, one thing was consistently missing: What did former UN Assistant Secretary General UN Denis Halliday say in his testimony?

His name was frequently mentioned in the press coverage along with former Army Col. Ann Wright and law progessor and international law expert Francis A. Boyle. While a pull quote from the latter two frequently made it into the coverage, Halliday was never quoted.

As C.I. noted in "Walking Through Watada (Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing)": "Halliday's testimony was apparently delivered via mime which would explain why there's nothing from his testimony in any of the reports."

Exactly one week later (this past Friday, August 25th), Halliday would finally be pull quoted, by Sarah Olson, as follows:

Denis Halliday is the former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations. During Lieutenant Watada's Article 32 hearing, Halliday was called to testify regarding the impact of war on the Iraqi people. "The people of Iraq had become used to living under very difficult conditions after the destruction in the name of the United Nations by the United States of the civilian infrastructure, water supplies, sewer systems, electric power, use of depleted uranium and cluster bombs."
Halliday was prevented from providing complete testimony when the investigating officer presiding over the Article 32 hearing ruled that the "consequences of the war or the situation on the ground" were irrelevant to Lieutenant Watada's argument that the war was illegal and that he had an obligation to refuse to fight it.

You read that correctly, "Halliday was prevented from providing complete testimony". And the media wasn't interested because most weren't aware.

Last Sunday, in "Iraq, the war independent media forgot," we wrote:

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).

Olson becomes the first (and only thus far) reporter to note that Halliday's testimony "was prevented." Apparently sharing the sentiments of puppet of the occupation (Nouri al-Maliki) who recently decreed that the Iraqi media must, simply must, stop showing the reality of the violence on TV screens, Lt. Col. Mark Keith (presiding over the Article 32 hearing) agreed with the prosecution ("Trial counsel") that Halliday's focus on life on the ground in Iraq wasn't worthy of noting. Later last week, the United States media, the few that had covered Iraq in the last six to seven weeks, appeared to agree with al-Maliki that, if we all just looked the other way, the chaos and violence on the ground wouldn't exist.

Does it matter what happens on the ground? We'd argue it does. We'd argue it did from the start but only more so, when the WMD lies weren't working, as the administration began offering that the invasion was done to 'liberate' Iraqis and spread 'democracy' (from the end of a gun barrel). But the "Trial Counsel objected to the line of questioning" and Keith "ruled that the consequences of the war or the situation on the ground did not have any bearing". How does the reality on the ground (the reality that the illegal invasion has only bred chaos and violence throughout its three years) have no bearing on an officer's refusal to take part in the ongoing, illegal war?

In Ruth's Report, Ruth addressed Ann Wright's testimony and we urge to read that. But we also urge to read what Denis Halliday testified to. From the official report (with typos -- we mean their typos but we're sure we've added our own), here is what the media ignored in real time.

After leaving college in 1962 I was a British volunteer in East Africa. I joined the UN in 1964, worked in Iran, Southeast Asia, New York and ended my career back in New York in 1998.
I worked for the United Nation's Development program for most of my career. That is an aid program. After that I became a member of the UN Secretariat. The Secretary General appointed me as Assistant Secretary General for human resources. I held that job in NY and then went to Iraq. In Iraq, I was the Chief of the Humanitarian Program in Iraq. After leaving the UN, the first thing I did was a Congressional Briefing in Washington.

My initial experience in Iraq was in 1997. I went there in the end of August to take up the post of Humanitarian Chief and I stayed there until October 1998. I have also been back to Iraq five or six times since than. The last time was in Feburary 2003, right before the invasion .
I was asked to go there by The Institute for Public Accuracy. They sponsored my trip to talk to government people about changing policy to adjust there behavior to make it hopeful that the invasion wouldn't take place.

I was nominated along with Kathy Kelly an American who heads Voices in the Wilderness for the Nobel Peace Prize. I also received an honorary degree from Swathmore University for the work that I had done for the UN and the International Gandy Peace Prize.

The UN peace charter is a very specific document. Article 2 very definitely rules out any use of aggression of force and military action against soverign states. Chapter 7, articles 39, 40, 41 and 42 it rules out any sort of military action without the approval of the Security Council.

All of these parts relate to the invasion, pre-emptive strike if you wish against Iraq. No, the United States did not comply with its obligation under the UN Charter when it invaded Iraq. It never obtained a suitable resolution under Article 42 of Chapter 7.

To my knowledge there was not a rationale for defense but that would have been covered by Article 51.

No, it was not permissible for the United States to engage in military action against Iraq under the UN Charter.

No, that fact has not changed in the last 3 years, continuing an act of aggression which is a violation of international law does not get any better over time.

There is no effective provision that the UN Security Council can take when faced with one of the five permanent members who stands in violation of international law under the charter. This is a failure of the charter which goes back to its very origins.

This failure allows the United Nations to be controlled and dominated by the five permanent members of the Security Council.

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, in early 2003 that was anticipation that the attack would take place. They knew about the US Military's preparations with their air craft carriers in the Gulf. They knew about the failed attempts to put together a coalition as the first President Bush had done. My interest there was to go and talk with some of the ministers and see if they could make some adjustments that would make it more difficult for Mr. Bush to justify the invasion.

The people of Iraq had become used to living under very difficult conditions after the destruction in the name of the United Nations by the United States of the civilian infrastructure, water supplies, sewer systems, electric power, use of deplete uranium and cluster bombs. All of this was very much in the minds of Iraqi people. Because of this they were extremely concerned about the health and survival of their families.

I spoke with the Minister of Health and asked him what he was doing about the water supplies in anticipation of another attack on the civilian infrastructure. In response he said he has authorize people to drill wells in their gardens. When I asked him what he was doing about the use of depleted uranium he replied that there was nothing he could do.

Trial Counsel objected to the line of questioning based on relevancy of questions and how they relate to 1LT Watada's deployment.

The Defense Counsel stated that earlier they spoke about the commission of war crimes during the course of the war. [Note: During Francis Boyle's testimony.] Now we are talking about the devastating effects that the war has had on the population.

The Investigating Officer [Lt. Col. Mark Keith] ruled that the consequences of the war or the situation on the ground did not have any bearing on the facts or the problem of what 1LT Watada's decision was.


[Responses to] Questions by Trial Counsel:

To my knowledge there are not any actions or resolutions pending right now that would stop the current conflict.

I would question the statement that right now Iraq is a soverign country. The UN does recognize Iraq right now as a sovereign country.

The government of Iraq today was assembled under occupation which raises a large question for many within the United Nations. The fact that the government has invited the United States to assist in Iraq is the status quo.

It's not just Camilo Mejia, or Brandon Hughey, or Jeremy Hinzman, or Pablo Paredes, or . . .

Wednesday on KPFA's Flashpoints, Dennis Bernstein interviewed war resister Carl Webb and the California Socialist Party candidate for the US Senate Jeff Mackler. Carl Webb is a war resister that we've noted here before. Recently, in "Editorial: Forgetting Iraq when it can't afford to be forgotten," we noted:

War reister Carl Webb attended the same Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle last week that Cousing did. Webb appears to have gotten some good news -- the military, according to a recent letter, is going to release him from the service. Webb credits the publicity from magazines, programs and other indymedia for keeping his case alive and nudging the military towards the decision they reached. We'd agree with that 100%.

Webb was released from the Texas National Guard. A second letter advised that he could be pulled into another unit. As he and Mackler pointed out, he may not be out yet, not with the news that those who have left the military but still have days of service on their contracts are being called up for deployment in Iraq.

Carl Webb is not going to Iraq. He's made that clear from the early days of this war when he was among the first to stand up and say no.

Speaking with Bernstein, he argued that those in the service need to resist by every means possible. He explained how and why he ended up enlisted as well as why he continues to refuse to serve in illegal war with imperialistic aims.

As always, Webb stressed the importance of getting the word out about "how much GI resistance there is in the military because that's why I'm here, to tell my fellow soldiers that they don't have to obey orders, that they have to refuse by any means necessary."

Webb checked himself out of the illegal war. And he stated he had "no regrets at all" about that decision.

An early and continuing resister to Bully Boy's war of choice, Webb is someone you should know about, someone you should get the word out on. At the top of his website, he explains himself quite clearly:

My name is Carl Webb and I'm a soldier that has refused to obey orders to serve in Iraq or any place at all. I refused to report for training with the Texas National Guard at Fort Hood and left Austin, Texas back in August 2004. Right now I'm creating a website at where people can find more information. is my email. Click on the link to the press release below.
Press Release: soldier opposes unofficial draft policy.

The Wednesday interview Dennis Bernstein conducted is available to listen to (for free) in the archives at KPFA and Flashpoints. It's not just Camilo Mejia, or Brandon Hughey, or Jeremy Hinzman, or Pablo Paredes, or Aidan Delgado, or Patrick Hart, or Ricky Clousing or Ehren Watada, or Kevin Benderman, or . . .

When you start to realize how many have publicly made a case for refusing to take part in the illegal war, you realize how strong this movement is. (And it includes those who refuse to participate but do not go public.) Find a name you don't know, or don't know as well, and make a point to read up on them. Then share that knowledge.

As Naomi Klein noted in May 2004:

Minor mutinous signs are emerging even within the ranks of the US military: Privates Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey have applied for refugee status in Canada as conscientious objectors and Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia is facing court martial after he refused to return to Iraq on the grounds that he no longer knew what the war was about [see Christian Parenti, "A Deserter Speaks," at].
Rebelling against the US authority in Iraq is not treachery, nor is it giving "false comfort to terrorists," as George W. Bush recently cautioned Spain's new prime minister. It is an entirely rational and principled response to policies that have put everyone living and working under US command in grave and unacceptable danger. This is a view shared by fifty-two former British diplomats, who recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair stating that although they endorsed his attempts to influence US Middle East policy, "there is no case for supporting policies which are doomed to failure."

Courage to Resist's latest alert on Ehren Watada

For e-mail alerts on Ehren Watada, the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq, you can sign up at Courage to Resist. Below is their latest and we've got two pieces this edition on Watada:

Watada hearing succeeds in placing war on trial
During the August 17 Article 32 pre-trial hearing at Fort Lewis, the defense for Lt. Watada has succeeded in placing the war in Iraq on trial setting the stage for the court martial later this fall.
"We appreciated the opportunity to lay the groundwork to prove that the war in Iraq is illegal and that Lt. Watada, coming to this conclusion after much research, was duty bound to refuse to participate," Eric Seitz, civilian counsel for Lt. Watada said. "This case is really about the duty of individual soldiers to look at the facts and fulfill their obligation to national and international law," he said.

Investigator recommends court martial on all charges
In a report released by the military on August 24, Investigating Officer Lieutenant Colonel Mark Keith found that the army has reasonable grounds to pursue its case against First Lieutenant Ehren Watada on all pending charges of missing movement, contempt toward officials and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. Complete Article 32 report with hearing transcript (PDF).
Friends and Family of Lt. Watada is moving forward with plans for a regional mobilization near Ft. Lewis in support of bringing the troops home, a "people's hearing" on the legality of the Iraq War, and many other events "to help Lt. Watada put the war on trial” leading up to an expected court martial in the fall.

Lt. Watada addresses national veterans convention
With over 50 members of
Iraq Veterans Against the War standing behind him, Lt. Watada offered the following to the Veterans for Peace national convention recently held in Seattle:
"Today, I speak with you about a radical idea. It is one born from the very concept of the American soldier (or service member). 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."
A few days later,
the video of this statement was presented into evidence against Lt. Watada at his pre-trial hearing.

Other news
Iraq combat vets explain support for Lt. Watada Sarah Olson, Aug. 16, 2006
Hundreds rally at Ft. Lewis for illegal war refuser Part of Aug. 16 "National Day of Education and Action" to question war legality
ACLU defends free speech rights of Lt. Watada "Soldiers should not be court-martialed for explaining their views..." says ACLU in brief to military court.
Father Bob Watada finishing 20-stop Bay Area tour "I'm very proud of my son." Momo Chang, Inside Bay Area. Aug. 24, 2006

Help Lt. Ehren Watada put the war on trial!
Your donation toward Lt. Watada's defense is urgently needed.
Order Thank You Lt. Watada stuff: t-shirts, buttons, posters, stickers, postcards and more.
Friends and Family of Lt. Watada

A public relations coup gone awry?

April 21, 2006, Jake Kovco became the first Australian soldier to die on the ground in Iraq. Kovco died from a gun wound, his gun is thought to be the weapon, and it happened in his room (that he shared with two roommates) in the barricks of the Australian embassy. The rest is unclear and a military inquiry is currently ongoing to determine what happened and how. That much is known.

Why are things so unclear? Well, his two roommates, who were present at the time of the shooting, both assert that they didn't see the shooting. Jake Kovco leaves many behind including two children, his wife Shelley Kovco, and his parents Martin and Judy Kovco. Their loss and the loss of other family members as well as friends has resulted not just in the natural grief but also in frustration over the fact that so much is unknown.

Early on, a very obvious bungle (to put it mildly) took place when Jake Kovco's body was supposed to arrive in Australia but instead a the body of Bosnian carpenter Juso Sinanovic. How did that mix up happen?

Could the reason also be the reason that there was no effort to preserve forensic evidence? Jake Kovco's hands were not bagged to preserve traces of gun residue that would indicate whether or not he fired the gun. The room was cleaned, his clothes were discarded. People were allowed to remove items from the room. All of this despite orders and standard procedures.

As C.I. noted Friday:

Last Friday, a DNA witness, Michelle Franco, identified some of the DNA on Jake Kovco's gun as belonging to Soldier 14. [Again from last Friday: The Herald-Sun reports that only the DNA "on the pistol's slide" were ruled by expert Franco to be a direct match (DNA on the "trigger, hand grip and magazine" are believed, by Franco, to be Soldier 14's but are "not direct matches."] Soldier 14 has maintained that he did not touch Jake Kovco's pistol (and he's refused to be questioned by the NSW).
[. . .]

Stephanie Hales' testimony is characterized by the AAP as asserting that residue tests can not determine "whether Private Jake Kovco shot himself in Iraq or if someone else pulled the trigger" for a variety of reasons including the fact that Jake Kovco's "clothes . . . were destroyed," "the barracks room where PTE Kovco was shot was cleaned before NSW Police arrived in Baghdad to carry out their forensic tests," Jake Kovco's body was washed in a Kuwait morgue, Jake Kovco's hands were not wrapped "in paper bags" and the two roommates were allowed to shower and wash their clothing with no forensic tests being performed.

The military inquiry has seen contradictory testimony and efforts by some witnesses to point the finger. On Thursday, supposedly Brigadier Paul Symon was taking 'responsibilty.' It was a funny kind of responsibility, but then it was a funny kind of testimony.

Symon, who'd been the commander of the Australian forces in Iraq (and was still the commander when Jake Kovco died), took the stand to offer . . . well . . . tears.

It's not often that you hear of someone in charge of an entire military operation breaking down in public. And it might have been expected if he was crying for Kovco (he wasn't) or if he was crying about the horrors he'd seen (he wasn't). What made no sense was that an adult was crying in public because he had to read to the inquiry his "I screwed up" statement.

That's all the tears were about. Later, he would get a deserved tongue lashing from Judy Kovco when he referred to her son as "a piece of cargo." The tears weren't about Kovco, nor was he speaking of Kovco.

From his April 27th "I screwed up (maybe)" that brought him to tears while he was reciting it to the inquiry:

"If mistakes are found to be made . . . I accept responsibility for those mistakes. If mistakes have been made outside . . . I would expect their senior management to accept responsiblity in exactly the same manner. After all, someone has to take responsiblity for this dreadful mistake."

Someone should have to take responsibility. Symon didn't last Thursday when he instead cited "human emotions" and procedures as the cause. As the commanding officer, his refusal to own the blame that is his is shocking.

How did so many errors happen? From the destruction of evidence, to the use of private contractors to handle Jake Kovco's body (soldiers testified to the inquiry that they felt the mix up wouldn't have happened had the military not wanted to do things on the 'cheap' and removed Kovco from a US military facility), from the sending of another body to Australia in the place of Kovco and quite a bit more, it's clear that something was going on other than attempting to learn the truth or attempting to honor Jake Kovco.

While testifying, Tracy Ong reported, Symon was asked about the hurry in getting Jake Kovco home and Symon's response of, "I could see a certain poignancy in a good soldier being returned to the nation on Anzac Day."

Anzac Day is April 25th, it's a national holiday where Australians honor the fallen. The body they thought was Kovco arrived in Australia on April 26th. Had the investigators not attempted to do a thorough job (despite the lack of evidence thanks to a clean up), Kovco (or Juso Sinanovic) might have arrived back in Australia on April 25th.

What a public relations coups that would have been. As a nation prepared for Anzac Day, there could have been updates of "Jake Kovco's body is expected to arrive . . ." and "Kovoc, the first Australian soldier to die in Iraq will be arriving . . ." and "Jake Kovco has returned home today, Anzac Day, which seems somehow fitting . . ."

Wonderful p.r. Symon could have had it. And Symon loved his p.r. Only a month prior to Kovco's death, Symon played blindly optimistic when he swore to the press that a corner had been turned in Iraq and things were and would be improving.

Would such a man also use the death of Jake Kovco to score points with constituents? Symon admits that Anzac Day was on his mind, that it would "poignancy".

It appears the most honesty in Symon's testimony came when he referred to Jake Kovco as "a piece of cargo." It appears that's all Kovco was to Symon, cargo he needed to get shipped out in time to meet a deadline that would ensure favorable coverage in the press.

It's just a hypothesis and it could be wrong. However, by admitting to the "poignancy" factor, due to the fact that Symon's only tears were over himself and not Kovco, and by his noncompassionate reference to Jake Kovco as "a piece of cargo," indicators seem to suggest that far from being touched by the death of Jake Kovco, Symon was more interested in scoring some "poignant" press.

If the hypothesis is correct, that means that all the stress, all the questions, all the issues that have plagued the friends and family of Jake Kovco in addition to their grief, could have probably been avoided. That would mean that, were it not for a rush to get Kovco's body home for Anzac Day, the room he died in could have been preserved, others things could have been preserved as well, and proper tests could be done that would provide the inquiry with concrete answers.

Let's hope we're wrong because if the hypothesis is correct, Symon has added to and increased the stress and turmoil for the family and friends of Jake Kovco.

How to be a print pundit

In the August 21, 2006 issue of The New Yorker, on pages 21 and 22, Hendrik Hertzberg shows you how to be a print pundit in "Snake Eyes." By following his walk-through, you too can find out what the world thinks simply by reading a daily or two and noting what they're saying the country feels and thinks.

Step one: Title your piece the most tired phrase you can think of.

Step two: Open with a Vietnam story. Since other gas bags have long insisted the Iraq is not anything like Vietnam, don't say that they are. Just open with a Vietnam story. (Because they could be long. Not all that long ago, the gas bags were saying it was wrong to call Iraq a "quagmire.") To prove your cred, be sure to take a swipe or two at "hippies" and other "fringe" elements. Remember that what passes for "radical" among the pundit set is marrying someone from 'across the partisan aisle.'

Step three: Lament the death of the good old days.

Step four: Notice a shift that happened a year prior but has only been written about in the last few months so act like it just happened.

Step five: Sucky-sucky up to a bigger named pundit (in this case Thomas Friedman).

Step six: Name check some reporters that have recently published books.

Step seven: Briefly note some events happening in the country you're speaking of.

Step eight: Offer history-lite.

Step nine: Watch Guys & Dolls over and over. A lot. You'll need it.

Step ten: Having absorbed the splendors of Nathan Detroit, write about crap games even though they aren't the most popular form of gambling.

Step eleven: Note a current domestic event to prove how well rounded you are.

Step twelve: Do not include two current events or else you'll end up rushing and, like Hertzberger, you'll end up with far too few details and find yourself putting your faith into the belief that the early reports were correct because reporters are hard working people, hard workers much more so than you are.

Step thirteen: When you make mistakes don't fret them. No one will remember your writing, least of all you -- which is why, when you're promoting a collection of your scribbles and a radio show host (say, Janeane Garofalo) makes the silly mistake of assuming she can engage you about a point you made during the 1992 conventions, you won't be playing dense, you truly will be dense. 1992? You can't remember what you wrote last month. Nor should you. More than thinking on your feet, punditry really requires that you be "in the moment."

Finally, never trust your own eyes and ears. For instance, Hertzberger writes about a shift in the mood of the country regarding the war. Now if Hertzberger had trusted his own eyes and ears and got out from behind his desk, he might have, as we did, made that call last summer.

Which is when the shift occurred.

The shift was also reflected in some polling as well.

But unless and until the mainstream media giants noted it, it wasn't happening.

That really is key to being a print pundit: Never get too far ahead of the conventional wisdom curve. "Fashionable late" translates as reporting reality approximately twelve months after it happens.

TV: Make Room For Bully peters out

Some shows outlive their purpose, some never live up to their potential. On July 3 of last year, we (Ava and C.I.) reviewed the sitcom Make Room For Bully. Though it was a laugh getter, we did have concerns about where it was headed.

Somehow we screwed up our Tivo last week. We thought we'd programmed for MyTV's upcoming Fashion House but somehow ended up with Monday's episode of Make Room For Bully. Once again, we missed the opening credits.

The good news, Timothy Bottoms is still hysterical in the title role. At one point, as the Bully Boy, he delivered the following lines as a commentary on the continued chaos and violence in Iraq:

Frustrated? Sometimes I'm frustrated. Rarely suprised. Sometimes, I'm happy, you know. But war is not a time of joy. These's aren't joyous times.

Bottoms conveys the Bully Boy's total cluelessness. "Sometimes, I'm happy, you know." You expected him to break out an impression of Butthead and cry out, "Fire! Fire! Heh-heh."

At moments like those, the nightmare sitcom demonstrates it still has a few laughs in it. Such as when he stumbles and fumbles in this line: "We have a plan to help them -- them, the Iraqis".

But sometimes, the laughs just aren't there -- such as with these lines on Iraq:

We're not leaving so long as I'm the president. That would be a huge mistake.

You hear those lines, and Bottoms delivers them brilliantly with buffoon dripping from every syllable, and you realize, it's just not so funny anymore.

A large reason for that is that a cliffhanger has still not been developed for the show. Last year, we suggested an impeachment angle. The writers have yet to pick up on that storyline and they've also failed to provide Bottoms with a supporting cast to play off of. Make Room For Bully still presents static shots of the Bully Boy addressing a crowd or the press (Monday's episode revolved around a press conference) and, honestly, it's not very interesting.

The writers don't go for bravery. The most recent episode contained some of the worst sucking up of all time. We imagine real reporters were offended by the portrayals and are probably contemplating staging a protest over the way they were depicted: Free The DC Press Corps! They'd have every right to protest because the characters were, largely, stooges.

"It's the summertime East Texas county commissioner look," offered one 'wit' in a jovial mood that didn't seem to match the seriousness of the setting. Others shot back "As soon as you tell us!" which really does seem to capture the suck-ups of the DC press corps. But considering all the "thank you"s and flattery, wouldn't really brave writers stop having questions begin with "Mr. President, my question is . . ." and instead use "Your Christ, my question is . . ."?

Yes, the worship is implied but when the day players are so obviously panting and salivating, you really need to create a line for them that brings the house down. We think calling the Bully Boy "Your Christ" delivers that laugh and underscores the sycophantic nature.

But the show remains too static. Even with Bottoms jabbing the air like crazy, as though the Bully Boy were on a manic high or, possibly, drunk, the show lacked visual excitement.

And not only is there no supporting cast, there's still no one to root for onscreen. Bottoms deserves the Emmy and his shut-out surprised us when we scanned the lists of this year's nominees. When Kevin James can be nominated but Timothy Bottoms can't, where is the justice in this world? We don't think the shut-out was intended as a critique of the strong work the actor has done, but an indication of the general industry feeling that the show's tired and never lived up to the potential it seemed to offer.

We share that feeling and are hoping for a quick cancellation to this series. Like Joey, it's hung on far too long.

In Monday's episode Bully Boy was blathering on about Iraq and how "The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East. They were -- " Which led to a day player interrupting.

Day Player: What did Iraq have to do with that?

Bully Boy: What did Iraq have to do with that?

Day Player: The attacks upon the World Trade Center.

Bully Boy: Nothing.

It was a promising moment and the exchange appeared to be going somewhere. But then the writers had Bully Boy states: "Nobody's ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq."

We waited for the Day Player, or any of them, to challenge that assertion because, certainly, real reporters would, right?

We can remember two reporters challenging this link in September of 2003, Dana Priest and Glenn Kessler in The Washington Post:

In making the case for war against Iraq, Vice President Cheney has continued to suggest that an Iraqi intelligence agent met with a Sept. 11, 2001, hijacker five months before the attacks, even as the story was falling apart under scrutiny by the FBI, CIA and the foreign government that first made the allegation.
The alleged meeting in Prague between hijacker Mohamed Atta and Iraqi Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani was the single thread the administration has pointed to that might tie Iraq to the attacks. But as the Czech government distanced itself from its initial assertion and American investigators determined Atta was probably in the United States at the time of the meeting, other administration officials dropped the incident from their public statements about Iraq.
Not Cheney, who was the administration's most vociferous advocate for going to war with Iraq. He brought up the connection between Atta and al-Ani again two weeks ago in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" in which he also suggested links between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks.
Cheney described Iraq as "the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11." Neither the CIA nor the congressional joint inquiry that investigated the assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon found any evidence linking Iraq to the hijackers or the attacks. President Bush corrected Cheney's statement several days later.

So certainly one of the day players should have challenged it. But they didn't. Which is why Make Room For Bully is so disappointing. It's easy laughs and no conflict. It's a half-hour entrance by Squiggy & Lenny (occupying one body) and it never goes anywhere.

A character as comically stupid as the Bully Boy is a rare thing, the writers have done little to provide anything to shape the laughs. He's left to offer his howlers to a brick wall.
While we eagerly look forward to the next role that Timothy Bottoms will tackle, we firmly belive that it's past time this show was cancelled.

For those who missed the broadcast, it (like so many other programs today) is available online. Normally, we wouldn't suggest you watch anything on a screen smaller than forty inches; however, the look of this show and the camera work are so cheap, we really don't think you'll be missing any details. One of the biggest surprises this week was how many shared our feelings on the need to cancel this show. It's not just the Emmys snubbing Bottoms, Progressive Democrats of America and After Downing Street are encouraging rallies on September 1st to call an end to this show. We didn't even know David Swanson was that into television, but he's created an entire web page devoted to cancelling this show.

When a sitcom has so many advocating for its cancellation, and has yet to offer a same-sex kiss or some other so-called controversial plot, we think that's a strong indication of how many have just grown tired of it.

How do you say, "We're abandoning the base in 24 hours"?

A note dropped off on August 23rd?

Dear Iraqi Armed Forces,

This letter is to inform you that we will be departing from our base in Amara, effective in 24 hours. We had issues with the non-stop noise as well as over the location itself which was not, as advertised, "centrally located near beautiful downtown Amara."

Nor did we find the neighbors or neighborhood "pleasant" as was also advertised.

Upon moving in, we had discussed at length the need for new carpet and painting. Those needs were never addressed.

Therefore, we find you in breach of the agreement we entered into and feel that nullifies any penalties that might normally be imposed due to the fact that we are not giving thirty-days notice.

We will drop off all keys at the front office tomorrow on our way out.

If you know what's good for you, we would advise you to not make an issue out of this. We would further advise that when speaking of our departure, you use that word and not "scaredy cats" or "weasels" or "abandoners" or even "lease breakers." Failure to comply with the previous statement will result in dire consequences.

Later, dude, we're outta' here,

Charlie Burbridge, flack for British forces

P.S. The Benny Hill mural on the wall? Not painted by us. We have no idea how it got there and must assume it was there before we moved we in. We expect our security deposit to be returned in full.

Books: Sadly from Paul Bremer, Every Picture Tells A Story

And if they had the words I could tell to you to help you on your way down the road
I couldn't quote you no Dickens, Shelley or Keats, 'cause it's all been said before.
Make the best out of the bad, just laugh it off.
You didn't have to come here anyway.
So remember
Ev'ry picture tells a story don't it?
Ev'ry picture tells a story don't it?
Ev'ry picture tells a story don't it?
-- "Every Picture Tells A Story" written by Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, title track on the album Every Picture Tells A Story

Saturday morning, C.I. pulled from L. Paul Bremer III's My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope (the struggle by Iraqis and how Bremer snuffs out the hope). Bremer has a collaborator (not surprising) named Malcom McConnel. The self-congratulating, self-delusional book opens with the statement: "Baghdad was burning." It (finally) ends on page 396 with: "'I'm safe and free,' I said. 'And I'm coming home.'" Unfortunately, most Iraqis couldn't make the same claim but, then, it's all about the Bremer.

That point is best brought home with the sixteen pages of photos. Forty-two photos in all, thirty featuring Bremer. Look, there's Bremer on the phone, in the snow, in Kurdistan. Look there's Bremer on the phone in a field in Balad. In the Oval Office with Bully Boy and Rumsfeld, in the Oval Office with Bully Boy, Condi Rice, Andrew Card and Dick Cheney (Cheney's left unnamed in the caption -- MEOW). Seated in front of food at the Women's Center in Baghdad, seated near food with Paul Wolfwitz and John Abizaid, in front of food with Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr, Mowaffak al-Rubaie and Dan Senor. Four photos with helicopters, getting off, greeting those (Americans and Tony Blair) arriving on them, seated in them.

Just not a lot of photos with Iraqis -- twenty-two in all (two of which are photos of Saddam Hussein). Twenty-two out of our forty-two photos. Bremer has all the crooks, Saddam, Ayad Allawi, Ahmad Chalabi . . . Bully Boy, Cheney, Rumsfeld . . . What country was Bremer supposed to be in again?

In photo after photo, Bremer appears brilliantly coiffed. So well coiffed, you may wonder if the hair salon in the Green Zone is next to the Chinese restaurant or the gym?

In a war torn country, Bremer presents photo ops with Iraqi soccer players and

Surrounding the photo section are a bunch of silly words. Such as when Bremer invents an "Abdullah the paperboy" to make jokes about -- his own version of shucking and jiving. What may stand out the most is that he never mentions Dexy Filkins. Is that what got Dexy's dander up enough to pen a scalding review of Bremer's book? The fact that The New York Times' David E. Sanger, Eric Schmitt and Michael Gordon (the latter is depicted as an easy swallower of Douglas Feith's latest impossible narrative -- a point on which we're in agreement with Bremer) get noted by name in the book but the ultimate embed is left unnamed? Press critic Bremer is especially bothered by a story written by Patrick E. Tyler (click here for the story via Common Dreams).

My Year In Iraq is a shallow piece of puffery that's as concerned with Iraqis as Bremer was when he was in Iraq -- which is to say, not at all. You can trudge through every word of the text or you flip through the photos because, truly, "Every Picture Tells A Story." We think photo 42 says it all: A sheepish Bremer "waving farewell" as he boards a helicopter. Some may look at the photo and be reminded of Tricky Dick Nixon's get-away from the White House, others may see similiraties between it and photos of the fall of Saigon. No one should see it as a portrait of success.

TV: Vanishing

Missing all the high camp that Prison Break regularly provides, Vainshed largely just sort of lays there, untouched, like the fourth dish of green bean casserole brought to a Thanksgiving dinner -- the one with the contents of a can of mushroom soup looking gelled and as though they've just been dumped on top.

Vanished currently follows Prison Break on Fox Mondays and we think it's one of the better titled shows of the fall lineup. Many more episodes like the series debut and Fox can write the audience for this hybrid off as "Vanished" as well.

Here's the plot, Sara Collins (played by Joanne Kelly) is married to US Senator Jeffrey Collins (played by John Allen Nelson) and right away you've got the first problem. The Senate has "Jim"s (Jeffords, DeMint, Bunning, Talent), "Joe"s (Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman), and "Jeff"s (Jeff Sessions and Jeff Bingham) but "Jeffrey"? Isn't it all a little too high hat?

Sara and Jeffrey have a young child. And?

That's really it. Sara's gone so fast, "vanished," and the audience is supposed to care. Joanne Kelly is no Gene Tierney and Vanished is no Laura. So don't expect to hear Judy Garland on the soundtrack singing "After You've Gone."

Instead, expect a show that will offer pieces of the puzzle bit by bit -- such as the second half of the premiere when we learn that Sara "vanished" once before, years ago. Expect to see characters pop up that you know litte about and care for even less.

Fresh off Queer As Folk, Gale Harold plays FBI agent Graham Kelton who's supposed to be 'haunted' in the way Clint Eastwood was during In The Line Of Fire but comes off more like the bumbler Kevin Costner played in The Bodyguard. In a flashback, that has nothing to do with Sara Collins, Graham remembers a kidnapping 'rescue' that went poorly. How poorly? The victim died and, quite honestly, the fact that no one considered what might happen to a child wired with explosives after you shot the man (kidnapper) whose grip on a device was preventing the bombs from exploding demonstrates extreme incompetence.

Graham has a right be haunted -- although nothing Harold conveys onscreen leaves us with the impression his character is. He never manages to locate the character which may make him perfect for a show set in Atlanta despite the fact that none of the characters have southern accents. Translation, it has as much business being set in Atlanta as Mork & Mindy had in being set in Boulder.

Equally hard to locate was Ming Na who plays FBI agent Lin Mei . . . when she was onscreen. Na demonstrated on ER that she had more to offer than a pretty face so it's surprising how little she was utilized in the pilot (she was a glorified extra). If there was quality acting from the rest of the cast, Na's absence might have been less noticeable but, as one boring never-was after another proved why they never became a household name, you couldn't help but notice that Na was sidelined.

The only one who held your attention was Rebecca Gayheart. She's playing reporter Judy Nash and, like a Nash skateboard, she zips along. She's a whirlwind. Whether showing more nude breast than network TV usually tries to get away with or simply filling the screen with her face, she holds your attention. The role, as written, is a bargain basement version of Faye Dunaway's Diana from Network. There's even a rip-off of Diana's infamous sex scene (though we're told it was intended as a 'homage') which, on Vanished, includes Gayheart stopping the sex play to grab the remote when the news comes out that Sara Collins has vanished.

Gayheart's on the phone screaming that it's her story and, in those brief moments, you remember that someone was actually kidnapped. Gayheart's performance (in a poorly written role) actually wakes you up and leaves you with the impression that the show has finally found its footing but those hopes are dashed quickly as the focus returns to the mope squad.

Has a sorrier collection of actors ever filled out an hour show? We're having trouble recalling one. In future episodes, there is talk of some sparks between Gayheart's Judy and Harold's Graham. If that happens, or if they can remember that Ming Na is actually a genuine actress, there might be some hope for the show.

As it stands now, you've got a show about a kidnapped victim you don't care about, her husband
you don't care about, an FBI agent you don't care about (Graham) and one you hardly see (Lin Mei), a lot of walk-on roles which appear to be cast solely on whether or not they could blend into the scenery (in that they succeed) and not much more.

Graham's personal drama (think the flashback) makes his motive all about rescuing Sara Collins. Judy Nash is the only one who seems aware that a crime has taken place. She's like America, waking up to the fact that they were lied into an illegal war and wanting to know how and who.
The fact that she plays a reporter indicates to you that it's TV since, in real life, reporters are more prone to whine than investigate.

Take M.J. Andersen who penned "The media are ruining this country!" (The Providence Journal) about being pestered with media criticism after revealing her profession. From Anderson's laughable column:

And yet journalists, The Talk holds, have failed.
"Where's the outrage?" That's where The Talk usually ends.
Anyone who gives you The Talk is usually well-meaning, and genuinely disturbed about where the country is headed.
And it is true that the media are sometimes irresponsible -- even appallingly so. But not all news organizations deserve an equal helping of criticism.

[. . .]
Reporters generally are horrified. Like terriers, they are happiest when digging. But digging takes time -- and bodies. You cannot throw three people at 30 issues and hope to find out much.
For these kinds of developments, the media have much to answer for.
As for the rest, though, I fear others are on the hook. Aside from Cindy Sheehan and her ilk, Americans have been notably passive through the Bush years. And they have not always made the best effort to keep themselves informed.
Meanwhile, the Democrats have proved an ineffective opposition party, offering little more than token resistance to the Bush juggernaut. Timid, outnumbered, and wary of looking unpatriotic, they only occasionally do outrage.

[. . .]
The true source of all the frustration is not really the media. It is the Bush administration itself.
Nothing embarrasses these people. Not even the most damaging revelation -- or the most adverse court ruling -- will get them to change course. This White House trundles self-righteously along, declaring every disaster an accomplishment.

No, Anderson, a true source of the frustration is the cowed media. Hiding behind what the Democrats did or did not do is a weak excuse since, unlike Democratic Congress members, reporters are not required to be the opposition, merely to report the truth. Michael Kinsely made a fool of himself for refusing to cover the Downing Street Memos and then offering up an attack piece (on readers who wanted it covered) wherein he opined that there was nothing new in the memos because everyone already knew the lies of war.

Did Anderson write of the Downing Street Memos? Did she write of John Conyers Jr.'s actions to call for accountability? From the editorial board, did she advocate that others pursue it? Anderson's perched atop her high horse and, the truth is, it's a Shetland pony. Even so, Anderson didn't pen the most thought-free piece last week. That 'honor' goes to another 'journalist': Andrea Grimes who informed readers of New Times media's The Dallas Observer:

Most of us also don't spend a lot of time really thinking about what's going on in the Middle East. Who's got time to worry about civilian casualties when Grey's Anatomy is on? I've shed more tears over Meredith Grey's relationship with Dr. McDreamy than I have over the fact that thousands have died overseas. Does that make me a bad person?

To answer her question, it certainly makes her a bad journalist -- one who is disconnected from the world around her. Fortunately, at New Times (yes, we know it changed it's name, it's still the same crappy syndicate) bad journalism flourishes and 'reporters' are rewarded for slam-jobs on Cindy Sheehan as well as for 'confessions' that are so embarrassing they really should take place only in a tribunal of penance where a priest can quickly advise that an Act of Contrition be recited.

But that's the reality of today's journalism. However trashy, the character of Judy Nash reaches far higher than many in the actual working press do today.

Which left us wondering if really bad TV is the only place left to push the idea of a reporter really tearing into a story, working to get a scoop? If so, that says a great deal about the state of reporting today (and probably far more than a dopey column by Prairie Gal Anderson). On Vanished, we start with people aware that something has happened and a reporter is quickly on the trail, determined to unearth all the details. With today's reporters far more interested in dissecting military strategy than exposing the lies that led to war, the ideal of journalism (as opposed to today's reality) may exist only on bad TV.

Vanished? Viewers may not be polite as family and friends gathered at Thanksgiving who assure that the unappetizing green bean casserole looks 'tasty' but they've already filled up on other items. Instead, they may just vanish without bothering to toss off a false compliment on their way out.

In war and pain, 13 albums

Music listened to while working on this edition (at the request of Susan, Markus and Jayson).

Carole King's A Natural Woman: The Ode Collection 1968-1976

Michael Franti & Spearhead's Yell Fire

The REM Collection Disc 2 Michael Stipe Presents . . . (via UNCUT Masters)

Laura Nyro's Christmas and the Beads of Sweat

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' Pack Up The Plantation Live!

John & York/Plastic Ono Band With Elephant's Memory's Some Time in New York City

Ani DiFranco's Reprieve

Ben Harper's Both Sides of the Gun

Jefferson Airplane's Crown of Creation

Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach's Painted From Memory

Carly Simon's Have You Seen Me Lately?

Otis Redding's Otis Blue

The Mamas & The Papas' The Papas & The Mamas

Key lyric, from Laura Nyro's "Christmas in my soul:"

I love my country
as it dies
in war and pain
before my eyes
I walk the streets
where disrespect has been
The sins of politics
the politics of sin
the heartlessness that darkens my soul on Christmas

Ruth's Report

Ruth's Report

Ruth: First, let me thank the members, and two visitors, who e-mailed to say they'd missed the report the last two weekends. Thank you. I did enjoy working with The Third Estate Sunday Review the last two weekends. As anyone who saw my granddaughter's photos in the gina & krista round-robin should be able to surmise, the nine days in California with everyone were also a great deal of fun.

What wasn't fun was learning of the recommendation Lieutenant Colonel Mark Keith made regarding the Article 32 hearing of Lieutenant Ehren Watada. Tracey came over with Elijah a little after six a.m. Friday and was talking about it. I did not check my e-mail that morning and usually do not until I have had my first cup of coffee so I had missed the heads up e-mail from C.I. and the gina & krista round-robin. Later, when C.I. faxed me the report, I read it, while Elijah was napping and several things stood out.

The Third Estate Sunday Review will be spotlighting at least one thing and, luckily, the thing that stood out to me the most was the testimony of retired Army Colonel Ann Wright.

In today's Seattle Times, Mr. Hal Bernton writes: "Keith concluded that it would be "very difficult for Army officers to determine the legality of combat operations (nor should they attempt to do so)." That was a frightening conclusion for me. "Nor should they attempt to do so" had me recalling the horrors that emerged during the Nuremberg Trials. Perhaps, as a Jewish woman, my natural response is to go to that when I read that officers have no obligation to determine the legality of the actions they will be taking part in?

But the "I was only following orders" 'defense' is not a defense that was accepted at Nuremberg. Nor was it accepted during Vietnam when Lieutenant William Calley was court-martialed for his actions and the actions of those serving under him during the March 16, 1968 My Lai Massacre. The military court refused to recognize that 'defense' as a valid one. Lieutenant Calley was told, by the military justice system, that it was his responsibility to only follow legal orders. In the case of Lieutenant Watada, Lieutenant Colonel Keith decided that determining the legality of the orders was not permissable. In one instance, you have Lieutenant Calley held accountable for failure to use his judgement and, in the current instance, you have Lieutenant Watada held accountable for using his judgement.

Which is it?

The fact of the matter is that the military trains recruits to only follow lawful orders. This was the point retired Colonel Ann Wright stressed in her testimony at Lieutenant Watada's Article 32 hearing on August 17th:

During my military service I have instructed military personnel in connection with their duties under FM 27-10. I did this as an instructor at the JFK Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg. I taught about the Law of Land Warfare for approximately one year. During that time period I was able to explain to soldiers what the obligations and responsibilities of soldiers in an occupation scenario are.
As a part of our overall military training there is a history of service personnel being told that you do not have to follow an illegal order. It comes from the commissions that we take that we are to uphold the lawful orders of our superiors. Implicit in that is that if there is an illegal order you are under no obligation to follow it.
It is not to[o] often that a soldier will say; "I won't follow out that order, it was illegal." But it is part of our tradition that we call upon people in the military to use their brains to distinguish situations.
You don't want personnel who will carry out illegal orders and say that they were told to do it. You want military personnel who will think about what they are doing.
Yes, active duty personnel can be prosecuted for war crimes that they either commit or direct. There are two levels for that prosecution. The first are based on international laws against war crimes and the second is that the United States has codified the international laws on war crimes. This was done in 1996. This law says that you can be prosecuted for committing war crimes.
Right now there is a discussion going on within the Bush administration asking for modification to the domestic law. Because it appears that based on some of the actions in the administration may now fall under violations of that domestic law.
The obligation of someone such as the accused [Lieutenant Watada] who by participating in the current conflict in Iraq would be participating in war crimes would be to stand up and say that he cannot participate in it and that it would be an illegal order.
Under the Nuremberg Principles, both Germans and Japanese were executed for committing war crimes. The initiation of wars of agression is the supreme crime under the Nuremberg Principles. They are codified in other international bodies of law such as the Geneva Convention.

FM 27-10 and the Law of Land Warfare are the same code or law. Professor Nile Stanton of the University of Maryland University College has kindly posted the code online. The section that I was searching out was the following:

509. Defense of Superior Orders
a. The fact that the law of war has been violated pursuant to an order of a superior authority, whether military or civil, does not deprive the act in question of its character of a war crime, nor does it constitute a defense in the trial of an accused individual, unless he did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know that the act ordered was unlawful. In all cases where the order is held not to constitute a defense to an allegation of war crime, the fact that the individual was acting pursuant to orders may be considered in mitigation of punishment.
b. In considering the question whether a superior order constitutes a valid defense, the court shall take into consideration the fact that obedience to lawful military orders is the duty of every member of the armed forces; that the latter cannot be expected, in conditions of war discipline, to weigh scrupulously the legal merits of the orders received; that certain rules of warfare may be controversial; or that an act otherwise amounting to a war crime may be done in obedience to orders conceived as a measure of reprisal. At the same time it must be borne in mind that members of the armed forces are bound to obey only lawful orders (e. g., UCMJ, Art. 92).
510. Government Officials
The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a war crime acted as the head of a State or as a responsible government official does not relieve him from responsibility for his act.
511. Acts Not Punished in Domestic Law
The fact that domestic law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law.

Leaving aside issues of Nazi actions during WWII which some might label "explosive," but I would argue are all too quickly forgotten, we are left with retired Colonel Ann Wright's testimony that it is the soldier's obligation to follow only lawful orders (which would require a deterimination on the part of the individual), the law she was teaching which backs her up, and the case of Lieutenant Calley who was court-martialed for his actions and informed that he had failed to refuse unlawful orders.

Are you confused? The military legal system appears to be. The message that Lieutenant Colonel Mark Keith appears to be endorsing is follow all orders but, if it later turns out that they were illegal, you are on your own and will take full responsibility. At best, like with Lieutenant Calley, the War Monger in the oval office may pardon you after you are convicted.

What is the message? Why teach the obligation to follow only legal orders, why refute "I was only following orders" as a defense and then punish Lieutenant Ehren Watada for doing just that while advising him that it is not his place to make such a determination when, in fact, the invididual who obeys the unlawful order is the one who will be held responsible by the military justice system?

While we try to sort that out, Lieutenant Watada's father, Bob Watada, is speaking out for his son. Today and tomorrow, you can attend the following in the San Francisco Bay Area:

Sat. 8/26
Educational & Cultural Event

Berkeley Friends Church;
1600 Sacramento St., Berkeley
Contact: Betty Kano 510-684-0239

Sun. 8/27
Speaking Event
AFSC building,
65-Ninth St., SF
Contact: Martha Hubert 415-647-1119

For those unable to attend, Wednesday, on KPFA's The Morning Show, Philip Maldari interviewed Bob Watada and you can listen to archived broadcast online, free of charge. Those unable to listen online, due to physical issues, stream issues or speaker issues, can also read Wednesday's snapshot which offers an overview of the discussion.

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