Sunday, March 08, 2009

Talking Iraq

Jim: Okay, we're starting with take two of the roundtable. We'd begun with what we've pulled for its own article. We're starting over. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim, 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 Ills), Wally of The Daily Jot, and Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz. Other than Elaine, all participating are here in C.I.'s living room. Elaine's participating by phone. I'm going to toss to Ava who wants to offer an apology right away.

Ava: Friday a roundtable took place that was posted at all sites. C.I. and I transcribed it and we didn't catch that something was left out. Rebecca didn't catch that she left it either. The three of us say we are very sorry because Elaine, who did participate and is quoted in that roundtable, is not mentioned in the introduction or elsewhere. Our apologies to Elaine.

Elaine: Who, for the record, could care less. Don't worry. If I'd been paying attention, I might have joked, "Uh, Rebeeca, I'm here too." I didn't. We were tired and rushing to do the roundtable quickly and then to post it. I had no idea until C.I. called me Saturday afternoon and apologized. It's not a big deal, it's not any deal at all. But Rebecca, Ava and C.I. made it clear they'd feel better if I participated in this roundtable so I am for that reason.

Jim: That roundtable went up Friday and the links are "The Roundtable in the Kitchen," "Roundtable on Iraq ," "roundtable on iraq," "Putting Iraq back on the table," "Roundtable," "Roundtabling Iraq," "Iraq roundtable," "Iraq roundtable," "Iraq" and "Iraq roundtable" -- we'll also be reposting it here since our own Ava and C.I. took part in it. As with that roundtable, this one will be on Iraq. How come? Because Iraq's getting so little attention. Because the sixth anniversary of the illegal war is coming up and because there are actions coming up. Ty?

Ty: There are many actions this anniversary and we encourage to participate in as many as you can. The one we're promoting is the one whose sponsors include The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War. This is a March 21st march on the Pentagon in DC as well as actions in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Orlando. For more information, you can see any of the previous links. There are actions taking place on the 19th and we support those actions as well and many of us will be participating in those locally -- that would be San Francisco, for us, but local actions will take place across the country. However, we are getting the word out on the 21st. Not because it is the most important but because that's the action we first learned of and the one we have been promoting since at least January.

Dona: So we'll stay on message.

Ty: Correct and also because we haven't talked at all about the 19th until now. I'm comfortable noting that their local actions taking place. But I have no problem stating, "You need to take part in actions on the 21st." No one, none of our regular readers, can shoot back, "Well this is the first I'm hearing of it and I have to plan and . . ." We've been noting it. We expect you to take part in it because we expect you to stand up to the illegal war.

Jim: Worst case scenario: 100 or so people -- or even less -- show up for the march on the Pentagon. What does that say?

Betty: It says the peace movement is dead. It doesn't just say that some leaders -- faux leaders like Leslie Cagan, Tom Hayden, etc. -- are useless, it says the peace movement is. If that's the message those who care about ending the illegal war want to send, then we should all stay home. I'm sure we can find some interesting cooking shows to watch on PBS and, no doubt, the current administration will be thrilled to know that they have the go-ahead from the American people to continue the illegal war as long as they want.

Jess: Betty's being bitingly sarcastic but also very true. It will say that there's no real point in a peace movement if we can't even stage a march on the Pentagon. That's not a popular position to stake out -- within the peace movement -- because we don't know what the turnout will be and it may be very low. But we're not about trying to be popular or suck up.

Ty: We're about keeping it real and reality is that if there's not a sizeable level of participation, it will be a very devastating report card.

Jess: So if you're on the fence about participating, you need to ask yourself if you're okay with sending that message.

Ava: And not just sending that message within the US but around the globe.

Jim: I do feel excitement about this action. I mean I feel excitement from others about that. Am I the only one picking up that signal? Anyone else?

Wally: There is huge interest and Kat and I were talking about this a little in Friday's roundtable and we talked about it a little on the plane ride back yesterday. But, believe it or not, we think United For Peace and Justice's craven behavior has actually been liberating for young people. Kat?

Kat: Right. Wally's talking about high schoolers and college students and we see a relief with regards to UPFJ. Where does it fit in the scheme of things? It doesn't. And the fact that it doesn't is being absorbed by students across the country. And it's actually very liberating.

Wally: I was telling Kat, it's like a guy pursued a woman and pursued her and finally found out she's not at all interested. If I was the guy, I'd be hurt and upset but I'd also know I didn't need to waste anymore energy on her and that would be liberating. So I compare it to that.

Elaine: It's always better to know. Not to drop back to Goldie Hawn's great speech in Shampoo where she asks Warren Beatty about his cheating on her, but it's always better to know. It's liberating and it's powerful. I'm curious what Jim's sensing and also when Kat and Wally think this started or if they can pinpoint it to a start?

Jim: Wally and Kat are pointing to me. Dona and I are in grad school and I'm basing my statements on what I'm seeing on campus, what I'm hearing.

Kat: And, Wally disagree if you do, I would say the last three weeks is when we've seen what we're seeing. Would you agree with that?

Wally: Yeah.

Elaine: Dona, you're on the same campus as Jim, do you agree with his call?

Dona: Jim's far more social. Grad school is a club to Jim, so he'd know far better than I do. I do sense it somewhat but not to the degree that Jim does. But, repeating, it's more of a club for Jim. I have to study and study.

Jim: Well, she doubts herself so she overstudies. But it should be noted that Wally and Kat are basing their opinions on more than one campus.

Kat: Right. Monday through Friday, we're on the road with Ava and C.I. We're on multiple campuses. Just to stick with the young people. So it's a sense that's not bound to one state or one region. What Wally and I are sensing. Elaine, other than Mike, who you are involved with, your input on this would come from veterans whom you treat so I'm assuming you can't comment on anything you sense.

Elaine: Correct. I'm not comfortable commenting.

Jim: Okay. One topic not covered in Friday's roundtable was war resistance -- with the exception of Matthis Chiroux. Is there any update on Kristoffer Walker?

Ava: I'm grabbing that. He is the 28-year-old Iraq War veteran who came home to Wisconsin on a pass and has stated publicly he will not be returning to Iraq. He's not been in the news of late. Around February 26th was the last time anything was filed on him. At that point, he was stating he was searching for an attorney to take his case.

C.I.: We don't like to speak after one another, Ava and I, because we're the ones taking notes. But as Ava said, there's been no news for days. However, this morning's Green Bay Press Gazette does include a letter of support for Kristoffer Walker. The letter, written by Briana Nestler, calls out the very bad editorial the paper offered noting: "First, moral reasons and political reasons aren't mutually exclusive. Objections to apartheid were moral and political. Second, the editorial does not reference a single statement Walker made to demonstrate a political motive and, seeing none myself in the original article, that claim was particularly unconvincing. The editorial further chastises Spc. Kristoffer Walker, saying: 'Refusing to report is not going to resolve the situation.' Neither would reporting -- obviously. The situation is that Walker now recognizes the Iraq war as immoral -- not to mention illegal and unconstitutional -- and he has too much integrity to tolerate being a party to it any longer." The press may be ignoring him but the people have not forgotten the stand he's taken or the courage required to make that stand.

Jim: Okay, now Matthis Chiroux. C.I., could you repeat your summary from Friday's roundtable?

C.I.: "Matthis Chiroux, first off, has a hearing March 12th in St. Louis, Missouri, regarding his decision to stick with his discharge, thank you very much, and refuse to ship off to Iraq when the military tried to pull him back into the service. " Is that what you wanted?

Jim: Yeah. Jess, explain the situation Matthis is in.

Jess: Matthis was discharged back in 2007. He'd completed his five-year service contract. Then all the sudden, and remember that he's been discharged, February 2008 rolls around and he's being told that he has to deploy to Iraq. June 15, 2008 was the day he was supposed to report. He refused to do so.

Elaine: And he was in CD prior to June 15th attempting to round up Congressional support. He and another IVAW member.

C.I.: Kris Goldsmith.

Elaine: Yes, thank you.

Jim: Okay, he's discharged in 2007. February 2008, he's told he's going to Iraq and that he needs to report on June 15th. Any other dates we need to note here?

C.I.: May 15th was when he announced he would not be deploying, when he announced it publicly. June 15th, gave a speech explaining why he had reached that decision.

Betty: I'll jump in because I pulled up the speech with the snapshot in it and printed it up to bring into this roundtable. This is the section of his speech that I found most memorable: "Today I stand in resistance to the occupation of Iraq because I believe in our nation, its military and her people. I resist because I swore an oath to this nation that I would not allow it to fall into decay when I may be serving on the side of right. And my country is in decay and in these times of crisis Thomas Paine once said, 'The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will flee from service to our country.' I stand here today as a Winter Soldier. To serve our nation, its military and its people in this dark time of confusion and corruption. I stand here to make it known that my duty as a soldier is first to the higher ideals and guiding principles of this country which our leaders have failed to uphold.I stand here today in defense of the US Constitution which has known no greater enemy, foreign or domestic, than those highest in this land who are sworn to be governed by its word. I stand here today in defense of those who have been stripped of their voices in this occupation for the warriors of this nation have been silenced to the people who need to start listening." I really applaud the entire speech; however, that is my favorite section.

Jim: And that was delivered June 15th and March 12th,

Dona: Which is this Thursday.

Jim: March 12th, which is this Thursday he is in St. Louis. What did he say, this was in Friday's snapshot, what did he say about the charges?

Ava: In a conversation with Debra Sweet and Elaine Browder, which you can stream by clicking here, he declared, "I, right now, have a hearing with the military where I'm going to have to defend my decision not to report to duty last summer to deploy to Iraq The army's decision [applause], I say that because the army's decision to prosecute me, to set a date and show up, didn't come until after Obama took office. If we could expect serious change that would have stopped. But it's not."

Dona: Which is an important point and one that a number of people and sites have attempted to make. We've certainly made it here, we're not seeing a change.

Jim: So if we --

Elaine: Jim, if I can cut you off for a second. There's actually something I was asked to note by a group of veterans.

Jim: Go for it. Gladly yielding to you.

Elaine: I'd said I'd note it in Friday's roundtable if I remembered and I forgot. That's why it's no great problem that Rebecca accidentally didn't list me. I forgot things on my own. If you're actively resisting, and Matthis Chiroux is, you really need your own website. Matthis has his own. But earlier we were talking about Kristoffer Walker and that's an example that's been brought up all last week. After a session, or even during one, Walker's come up in terms of do I know anything new? And it came up again in group on Thursday so I said I'd try to carry it into the roundtable Friday -- which I forgot to do -- that in terms of following what's going on with you and in terms of contacting you with support, veterans really would appreciate if those who were actively resisting had websites. They love C.I.'s snapshots and devour them for any information on that but there's sometimes no information and that can be because nothing's happening. Kristoffer is of especial interest because there is curiosity as to whether he will stick with his decision or change his mind. That's the sort of thing that would be updated at his own website presumably. So there is a desire for people to have individual websites.

Dona: I'm not disagreeing, I support that 100%, but I'm adding that if they are members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, generally there is information at the IVAW website. And others.

Elaine: IVAW would be true, hopefully, of Matthis. Hopefully, because a Friday afternoon session had someone asking about Matthis and complaining that there was nothing noting his March 12th hearing on the main IVAW page. But "others"? Domestic "others"? There's a domestic site that has lost all support -- another point I was supposed to make -- because an 'appeal' confused resistance with support for Barack Obama.

Jess: I know which group you mean. They were ripped apart by those students for peace at my law school. (laughing) The law school I attend. Not "my"! But, yeah, they note Barack but can't call him out. Call him out or be the next United For Peace and Justice. And I don't just mean worthless, I mean shamed.

Jim: Rebecca passed on a question for me to ask C.I. about Friday's snapshot that she didn't get around today. In that snapshot, C.I. not only calls out Judith LeBlanc of UPFJ, C.I. also does a blind item --

Kat: And we all know who it was.

Jim: And we all know who it was, a blind item on a member of Congress who advances a lie for public sympathy and knows it is a lie. Rebecca, who knows C.I. very, very well and has for years, argues that each got included to draw more attention to the March actions. Correct?

C.I.: Probably so. And to send a message that I'm not in the mood. You've had how many years to do something and you've done nothing? Not in the mood. My attitude is, too damn bad. Seriously. I liken it to when magazines had to remain in circulation. The peace movement needs to go on.

Jim: What time period are you talking about?

C.I.: Good point. I'm talking about the mid fifites to the late fifties. The press had a huge change and not just magazines. Newspapers as well. And, it's famously said, that the first to be burned was St. Joan of the Fan Mags. Meaning Joan Crawford. The Los Angeles Mirror, fighting for readers, did a multi-part series on Crawford, ripping her apart, with various people -- including Marilyn Monroe -- weighing in for the article which was also syndicated. The peace movement needs to continue. If Judith's going to whore it for Barack, I have no problem burning St. Judith of the Cult of Barack.

Ty: There was actually a question about that snapshot that I wanted to cover. In it, you talk about how Judith LeBlanc calling Barack "Black" is spitting on her own heritage. I believe I know why that is, but an e-mail came in asking.

C.I.: Judith LeBlanc has long self-billed as bi-racial. That's her identity, that's her family's identity. It's only a surprise that she'd sell out the peace movement for Barack if you're not aware she's also selling out her own family for the Myth of Barack.

Jim: Alright. In the dialogue, I grabbed some issues and C.I., arguing various points, brought in multiple Iraq issues. There are many Iraq stories that the press either ignores outright or doesn't give enough attention to. Of last week's, the one I would pick -- of all the things not discussed here or in the dialogue -- would be War Crimes. Dona, how about doing a set up?

Dona: People can refer to C.I.'s Thursday snapshot. UN General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto issued a call for an investigation into the ongoing crimes in Iraq while speaking in Geneva before the UN Human Rights Council. I believe the money quote is, "The illegality of the use of force against Iraq cannot be doubted as it runs contrary to the prohibition of the use of force in . . . the United Nations Charter. All pretended justifications not withstanding, the aggressions against Iraq and Afghanistan and their occupations, constitute atrocities that must be condemned and repudiated by all who believe in the rule of law in international relations."

Jim: Thoughts? Comments?

Jess: I would love to see something happen but I don't expect it to.

Wally: I'd agree. Both due to the fact that the US government doesn't want it to and because the press reaction was so underwhelmingly. Are you going to go out on a limb if you don't feel there's even press interest? Forget support from the press, there's not even interest.

Elaine: I agree. I wish I didn't. But maybe we'll see some bravery from the General Assembly which the US does not control. I'm sure Susan Rice will do everything possible to derail any efforts at action but it is true that this isn't the Security Council. The US doesn't have a veto vote on this.

Betty: I'm with Elaine. I hope something will happen, I'd be thrilled; however, I'm not going to expect anything to happen. But if it did, it would go a long way towards restoring the reputation of the United Nations.

Jim: Okay, this has been a rush transcript. Rebecca will moderate an Iraq roundtable next Friday that will appear at various group sites and we'll do another one here next Sunday. In the lead up to the Iraq anniversary actions, we are trying to do our part to cover the issues the media has little interest in. Illustration by Betty's oldest son.
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