Rebecca: This is our fourth Iraq roundtable and we're doing this in the lead up to the sixth anniversary of the start of the illegal war. Participating tonight are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ava, me, 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 Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Trina of Trina's Kitchen, Wally of The Daily Jot, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ and Ruth of Ruth's Report. Betty and Cedric join us by phone. The rest of us are at Trina's. Okay, we're going to start with a video noted in today's snapshot. C.I. provides a transcript of it and you can watch it at Adam Kokesh's website. In it, a foul mouthed member of the US military curses and screams vulgarities at Iraqi police officers. Let's start with Cedric.
Cedric: Can you believe it? The way he talks to them. The transcript, reading it is bad enough, but to hear the scorn and abuse he's screaming at them with? These aren't soldiers under his command, these are supposed to be the Iraqi police. If you need any more reason why the US needs to leave now, just watch that video and see the contempt, scorn and anger that the US military is treating Iraqi police officers with. If that's the 'respect' the police get, can you imagine how they talk to the average Iraqi?
Wally: Absolutely. His little tantrum did nothing but make people mad. Those police officers may not have grasped -- even with the translator -- everything that was being said but they could grasp the tone. They could tell they were being talked to like they were a pack of wild dogs. And don't forget the high ranking ones. He spoke to their leaders like that. You see some foreigner insult your police commander, how much respect do you have for him? None at all.
Marcia: And let's not forget what he's saying beyond cursing them, beyond barking out insults and threats, he's also talking to them about their 'duties,' about what they need to do. Go bust up this and beat up that. Does that damn idiot know the first thing about the police? Can you imagine with this kind of 'training' what it's going to be like for Iraqis living under such a 'police' force. That is why you do not let a military train a civilian police. This is disgusting. There is no non-combat role for the US military in Iraq. Barack can lie all he wants but he has seen this damn video?
Ruth: I was thinking the same thing as Marcia. The US service member has no idea what he is talking about. That may be due to people higher than him in the command but he is not telling them to do police work, he is telling them to do military work. They are civilian police officers and it is frightening to think of what could happen on down the line because of their 'training.'
Elaine: And while these are all important points, I want to bring up the criticique C.I. offered because I firmly believe in that. The 'barker' is telling the Iraqis that they are "women" and refering to them with slang for a vagina. Talk about reinforcing negative images about women -- and in a region where women are already struggling for basic rights and dignities.
Ava: Agreed. Last week, Amnesty International's released [PDF format warning] "Trapped By Violence: Women In Iraq." This week, Oxfam International released "In Her Own Words: Iraqi women talka bout their greatest concerns and challenges." And here's the thing, while the reports are appreciated and much work went into producing them, you didn't need reports to know things were bad for Iraqi women. How dare that prick use sexist language in a society where misogyny is the norm? That is disgusting and that is not, that is not what people believe the US is doing in Iraq.
Kat: Did he know he was being taped? The US military man? Did he know? I don't see how he couldn't have known and yet he felt no need to curb his sexism or to consider that a police force does not have the same duties as the military.
Trina: These are all good points and they all go to the damage the US does by remaining in Iraq which was the point Cedric made at the start. The US needs to leave Iraq. Not a year from now or two years or seven years but right now. And the idea that this is what is being done over there, the idea that we're turning a police force into a military with no respect for the law, that we're encouraging Iraqi men to further despise Iraqi women, all of this just means the US needs to withdraw now. Right now.
Rebecca: Let me do the PSA here. The sixth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War is coming up. Groups such as The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War -- are taking part in an action this month. Iraq Veterans Against the War explains:IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st As an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.) To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately. For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: www.pentagonmarch.org or www.answercoalition.org.
Rebecca (Con't): So that's coming up and Stan didn't speak in the previous discussion so I'm going to start with him. Muntadhar al-Zeidi was another topic. He is the Iraqi journalist who threw two shoes at Bully Boy Bush December 14th. Thursday, he was sentenced to three years in prison. His attorneys state they will appeal. Stan, your thoughts?
Stan: This was the easy story. This was the story that allowed all the jerks online to pretend like they give a damn about the Iraq War. The losers at Corrente and all the rest. They'd post the video. They'd make their not funny at all jokes and then they'd go back to boring us all with their half-baked posts about topics like Barbie, women's upper arms, etc. Think about these websites with multiple-posts each day and how Iraq is never a topic. But they see video of Muntadhar tossing a shoe and they'll pretend like they give a damn.
Marcia: I would agree with that. Danny Schechter ignores Iraq every day and wastes everyone's time with nut jobs like Sam Smith. And he quotes the nut job, for example, Thursday, staing that the press was in the tank for Bill Clinton. That alone is revealing of what a fraud and an idiot Sam Smith is. But what does it say about Danny Schechter who quotes him and quotes him at the same time he's quoting Robert Parry saying just the opposite. It's like Schechter doesn't even read his own garbage. Not that I'd blame him for that. But he ignored Iraq all week and then showed up Friday with a few lines on Muntadhar. My cousin, Stan, he's exactly right. This is the do-nothing topic that allows all the do-nothings to gas bag. There were two major reports released in the last 14 days, Ava noted them earlier, but the likes of Danny Schechter can't write about those things. Two studies, from organizations recognized around the world. But that gets a pass. Still there's always time for easy topics.
Betty: I would agree with that and Stan and Marcia have each named one site but we could name many, many more. I am so sick of the apathy online. I'm so sick of the people like Danny Schechter who want to act like the world is over. I'll be kind and not name another person but another site had time to talk about Tibet this week. Free Tibet. Free Tibet? You're in the United States and you can't type a damn word about the Iraq War but you want to tell us Free Tibet? Tell you what, sport, I'll buy you a gun, I'll even buy you bullets, and you take your little candy ass on over to China and you make it happen. Go free Tibet. Can anyone think of a less important issue? That's a Richard Gere issue. That's an issue for a man who takes out an ad to say he's not gay, he's happily married and then divorce the woman a few weeks later. It's such celebrity issue. How about you grow up and you start using your space at least once a week to call for your own country to end an illegal war that it started. Or are you just so chicken that you prefer to call out China because it's scary to call out your own country?
Wally: I think part of it is that it requires some work. More work than a lot of people want to put in. They can't dabble with Iraq without looking like an idiot -- as so many dabblers demonstrate. It's just too much work for them. They'd rather jaw bone about an economy they do not understand and they embarrass themselves so much.
C.I.: Wally's an economics major.
Wally: Yeah, so when they start their gas baggery and quickly reveal that they don't know what they're talking about, I just laugh at them. You've got people who've done the real work like Trina and then you've got these people who think if they throw enough unconnected terms and enough words out there, someone's going to be convinced they know what they're talking about. And, let's face it, there are no leaders in Panhandle Media. Big Media's talking about the economy, oh, they better talk about it too! They can't lead. If they could lead, the pullout of Iraq by Western media wouldn't be so frightening. But Panhandle Media is incapable of leading.
Mike: Agreed. And they've never cared about Iraq. Amy Goodman and the rest, they wanted to grandstand on the topic, they just didn't want to do any work on it. And when it gets attention from big media, they'll rush back to the topic and act like they've been covering it all the time. We've seen this little act for years now and it's so old.
Kat: And we hit the six year mark next week. Six years and not one show on Pacifica was ever created to cover the Iraq War. That tells how damn little it matters. We have had two Pacifica shows in 2004 on elections and at least three shows started in 2008 to cover the elections. But we can't get a show for the Iraq War. And as Mike said, their little pretend to care about Iraq act has gotten old.
Rebecca: Okay, a new topic. C.I. slid this over to me. Stars and Stripes notes there are reports emerging that the US shot down an Iranian drone flying over Iraq in February. Any thoughts?
Ruth: This is the first I'm hearing of it and, if it is true, my first question would be why that is? Seems to me the public should have known about this last month if it was true. The Iraq War is not supposed to be hidden from the public. A drone shot down would be news that the public should have. What is the purpose in hiding that? The fact that it was hidden makes me think that it is a false story.
Betty: I would agree with Ruth on that. How many times have we heard, "Iran's causing trouble! Iran's training fighters! Iran's supplying weapons!" Over and over. And now we're supposed to believe that the US has information and has sat on it for a month? I don't buy it. I'm with Ruth. And, excuse me, C.I. didn't they brag about their drone capabilities last month? The military.
C.I.: The US military did brag about a drone. A US drone was used as an assault weapon on February 23rd, the US military announced it March 2nd, it was in the March 3rd snapshot. It was an "unmanned drone" and it shot off a missile. It killed some people and the US military was thrilled and issued their announcement. That was seven days later.
Elaine: So seven days to announce 'good news.' Certainly, as Betty pointed out, past remarks by the US military would indicate they would see an Iranian drone as "good news." If seven days is the standard to announce good news, we should have heard of an Iranian drone no later than March 7th, right?
Kat: Right. If not sooner. Because they could argue that in the first case, "National security! We must not let the 'enemies' know about our capabilities right away!'" I'm with Ruth, Betty and Elaine on this, I don't buy it. Even if the US government comes out and confirms the reports, I'm not sure that I will buy it.
Rebecca: Okay, another topic. Nouri al-Maliki, the puppet of the occupation, took his act on the road. He visited Australia this week. So let's talk about that. While in Australia, he attempted to increase ties with Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Australia's ABC reports that he asked for more Australian investment in his country and they note, "Speaking through a translator, he said Australia had been generous in opening its doors to Iraqi refugees and called on it to help the country again."
Mike: Well, first off, the press release from Rudd, C.I. noted it, what is this, he visited their cemetary for their fallen. I don't remember Nouri visiting Arlington Cementary when he came to the US. And, no offense, but his kind words about sacrifice on the part of the Australian troops, we're talking three deaths. I'm not remembering kind words for the Americans, whose death toll stands at 4257. But maybe he made those but not at Arlington Cemetary so it flew over my head.
Wally: I did find it interesting that Australia also has a tomb of an unknown soldier, but I agree with Mike, that was kind of offensive. All the more so when you consider that last month he was insulting the vice president of the United States. And, since so many do not follow the news, let me point out that John Howard, whom Kevin Rudd replaced, was runner up to Tony Blair for Bush lapdog. Australia was all over the lies for illegal war, spreading them, pimping them. It's not like Australia is some innocent compared to the government in the US. C.I.?C.I.: I have no idea what Nouri's said in the US. My guess would be Mike's correct. He didn't make any statements like that at Arlington Cementary. I know Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, hasn't made any statements like that at the cemetary; however, he comes to the US for health care. So he's got other things on his mind. But I want to take issue with that claim that Australia's done something amazing with refugees. They haven't. They are as bad as the US. As Mike was pointing out earlier, the leaders on the illegal war were the US, the UK and Australia. Near the end of 2007, they'd almost gotten up to admitting 6,000 refugees from Iraq to Australia. That is not a huge number. Sweden remains the western country that is carrying the weight for all the other western countries -- including for the US. And, of course, Jordan and Syria -- as well as Lebanon and Egypt -- have huge numbers of Iraqi refugees. I find it very interesting that Nouri went to Australia to ask for things and yet asking for more refugees to be admitted wasn't on his list. His list was, "Give me money, invest in my country, blah, blah, blah." But the largest humanitarian crisis right now and he can't even make a request -- and apparently wants to pretend that Australia's done something amazing.
Marcia: On the issue of refugees, I wanted to weigh in on an aspect. C.I. critiqued some revelations in an article by Tina Susman this week and I agree with that. To back it up, the article was about the Los Angeles Times' Iraqi employees who were applying for visas to come to the US as refugees. And they were getting fast tracked because they were media workers but they get waived through and suddenly they don't want it. I agree with C.I., you have just abused the system and you should now be kicked out. If you decide you want to leave again, not to the US. There are too many people, too many under attack, for Iraqis who aren't sure what they want to do to waste everyone's time. Every family that decides, "I'll stay here in Iraq!" is one family willing to leave that got bumped as the media workers were fast tracked through.
Ava: Does anyone else even question that system being in place?Trina: I do. For anyone who doesn't know, if you've helped a US media outlet, if you've been a translator or collaborated with the US military or US diplomatic staff, you can be fast tracked through the refugee application process. You may not get waived out of the country but you will jump ahead of everyone else in the process pile. One would assume that "refugee status" would be based on need and solely on need.
Betty: I would agree with you, Trina. And I would note that, for example, the US military lied to Iraqis all the time at the start of the illegal war, telling them they would get to come to the US and that wasn't reality, they didn't even have the fast-track policy in place back then. In fact, in May 2006, Ava and C.I. wrote "TV: The Urine Stains of David Mamet" about this while tackling The Unit, "The kid will ask for only one thing (the kid's under twelve, with a dead mother and no family around) -- that if he helps them, they will take him to America. Jonas doesn't bat an eye as he promises they will. The kid asks him to swear it. Jonas will swear it. Of course the kid's not taken to America. Jonas lied to him. ('Twists and turns!' screams the playwright who never learned about characterization.) The kid's left in the town where he's not only an orphan struggling to feed himself but, probably, a marked 'man' since it's going to be obvious who ratted out the location of the helicopter that the boys shot down. But that's our amoral world of Mamet. Machismo means never having to work up a tear for an orphaned child. Jonas Blane probably watches Jerry Lewis telethons to laugh at the children." I asked Ty about that, for help finding it, because I figured refugees would be a topic tonight and he asked me to note that when Ava and C.I. wrote that, there were angry drive-bys of 'how dare you!' and 'David Mamet is a liberal!' He asked me to note that Mamet went public last year about being a conservative and that Ava and C.I. caught just what a conservative he'd become in 2006 just, quoting Ty, "by paying attention to what his writing said."
Trina: Good point on Ty's part and, in the case of this review, the 12-year-old boy, that would be, in the real world, someone who would qualify. He'd qualify because he was now an orphan. He'd qualify because he was in danger if he remained. That makes him a refugee.
Stan: And to the issue of what doesn't, I agree with everything being said here. Media workers, for example, can certainly apply. But they shouldn't be fast tracked over genuine refugees. And that is what happens now. Collaborate with the US military or work for one of their media companies and get fast tracked. That's wrong. And I think it's even more wrong to make it through the process, get told you can go to the United States and then say you don't want to go. Because the agencies have been working on your family's application and that's time they could have been working on another family's application. Someone's been waiting so you get an offer you're going to turn down.
Ava: Right and in Susman's article, she talks about one man who is in the middle of the process right now and, he says, he's not sure he's going to the US if he gets told he can. So why aren't you communicating that and telling them to withdraw your application right now? Why are you wasting everyone's time? There is a refugee crisis and it is internal and external. Iraqis who are genuine refugees do not need an already slow system being clogged up further by people who don't want to go to the US but would like to know if they qualified. Just for kicks, you understand, just for kicks.
Cedric: If we can stay on refugees for just a minute more, I would like to point out a group that made it into two snapshots this week, Collateral Repair Project. Even if you don't have money to give to the project, you should visit that website and see the photos and read the stories. The posts I read were on Iraqi refugees in Jordan.
Betty: The stories upset me but the one that upset me the most was the Iraqi woman with three children, all born in Iraq, whose husband had lived in Iraq for 25 years but was Egyptian. The United Nations would only give the wife financial aid as a refugee. They insisted her three kids didn't qualify because they were "Egyptian." That is stupid and I can't believe the United Nations would be so inept and so callous -- and, honestly, so ignorant. But as Cedric says, read those stories. They will break your heart. The little girl who draws a razor because older school bullies threatened to cut her face with a razor and the parents of Iraqi children can't complain about threats because they might be further penalized for being refugees.
Cedric: I'd actually forgotten that story and it's a really sad one. But there are so many important stories at Collateral Repair Project and it's so very easy to forget one or two because the one that tends to register the most is the last one you read.
Rebecca: Good points all and we're going to need to start winding down. I've got three more topics but I'll go with one. E-mails have been released by the government in the United Kingdom and they explain how Tony Blair's government rigged the 'findings' in the lead-up to the start of the Iraq War. C.I.'s covered for the last two days. In addition to today's snapshot, I would encourage you to see yesterday's as well. This is from Ian Bell's Saturday column for The Herald:
It wears thin. They hold down one thing, up pops another. Straw overturns his own freedom of information legislation to suppress the minutes of cabinet discussions prior to the Iraq war. Instantly another piece of truth, an adjunct, springs out like a loose floorboard thanks to that same law, despite the government that made the law.
Documents, e-mail records, that were not released to the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly in 2003 are yielded up by the Cabinet Office after four years of persistent and wilful - on whose orders? - stalling.
They demonstrate that the intelligence services, paid to know, were less than convinced that Saddam Hussein possessed a fearsome, ready and working, arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. There was doubt, a lot of it.
Rebecca (Con't): So that was Ian Bell. Ava. C.I. and Mike can't comment because Polly's making this the topic for her roundtable for Polly's Brew and Ava, C.I. and Mike are participating in that tomorrow night. But anyone else who wants to grab it can.
Stan: I'm glad you found a column that's new because the most troubling thing for me has been the silence. As you pointed out, C.I.'s hit hard on it yesterday and today but it's hard to tell how much it's registering. And that might just be my frustration and feeling of, "I've watched this movie over and over. I know how it ends."
Marcia: Right because no one gets punished and there's no inquiry. That has been the pattern.
Ruth: What I wish is that Americans would all pay attention to this in terms of where it goes. My guess is New Labour will again refuse an inquiry. New Labour is the equivalent of the Democrats and I think it will be very illuminating to grasp how much politicians work to bury the truth.
Trina: I'll agree with Ruth on that. We have nothing going on in this country in terms of Congress doing anything on Iraq. They're not trying to end it, they're not trying to investigate it. And the Democratic Party wants us to give them even more seats in the mid-term? At this rate, if they do get more seats, they'll show up in 2012 whining that they 'only' have 400 seats in the House and 89 in the Senate and can't do anything until they have 100% in both houses.
Cedric: I would agree with that. I would agree that the Democrats little game has gotten as old as beggar media. I'm tired of it. I'll be voting third party November 2010 unless the Congress starts demanding a real and quick withdrawal from Iraq. In other words, I'll be voting third party in November 2010. Because Congress isn't going to do a damn thing.
Rebecca: Well said. Thank you to everyone for participating. We're going to wind down. Ava and C.I. took notes. They'll type this up. This is a rush transcript. We're debating whether or not to do another one next Friday. Debating because we didn't realize there was another Friday before the Saturday activism -- not tomorrow, next Saturday. So there's a good chance you'll see another roundtable next Friday. We're trying to keep the focus on Iraq and that's been the point of these roundtables as well as the ones at Third. And let me throw a link to Third -- actually two. First, there roundtable last Sunday was "Talking Iraq" which you should make a point to read. Second, Jim played Thomas E. Ricks for an exchange on Iraq -- C.I. was the voice for "leave Iraq now" entitled "The Thomas E. Ricks Dialogue." Lastly, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, participated this week and was noted in my intro at the start. She also participated last week and I forgot to note her in the intro. Apologies to Lainie.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:
Friday, March 13, 2009. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, actions gear up in the US, Amnesty International calls for a moratorium on executions in Iraq, Republican US senators want a new nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq, and more.
Starting with action. IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal author Anthony Arnove (Socialist Worker) notes that MoveOn (aka WalkOn.org) has moved on from the illegal war:
The message being sent to the antiwar movement is: It's over. We can "move on." Leave it to the generals to wind it down. But if we do that, we will find ourselves without the forces we need to challenge Obama and Congress.
The year 2011 is already too late to end the occupation of Iraq, which should never have started in the first place. And shifting troops from Iraq to Afghanistan is not ending the war. Without an antiwar movement that is loud, active, in the streets and raising its own independent demands beyond the limits set by the Democratic Party, U.S. troops will not be coming home.
The empire has not folded up its tent, and neither should we.
Which is why action is needed and people can take action all next week. In various cities there will be actions. On Thursday, for example, many cities will be marking the 6th anniversary of the start of the illegal war. World Can't Wait has posted an audio message about an action in Berkeley next Thursday:
Hey, listen up. March 19th is the 6th anniversary of this unjust, illegal, immoral war on Iraq. Over one million Iraqis have been killed and four million turned into refugees. There are still almost 150,000 troops in Iraq and another 17,000 are being sent to Afghanistan. All in the name of the so-called war on terror. Iraq and Afghanistan are now Obama's wars. The question is: What are you going to do about it?
Where are you going to be on March 19th? Are you going to be in the streets of Berkeley with The World Can't Wait saying stop US occuaptions and torture for empire, "US Out of Iraq and Afghanistan," "No Wars on Iran, Pakistan and Gaza"? Or are you at peace with being at war? Are these wars any less bad just because we have a new commander-in-chief?
Look, if you thought Barack Obama was going to end the war, think again. Listen to what he's actually said he's going to do. He's said he's going to leave 80,000 troops in Iraq. He said he's going to send 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan. He said he wants to increase the size of the US military by 92,000 more troops -- sending more of our young people to kill and die.
But you don't have to go along. It's immoral to wait and see, hoping maybe someday Obama will withdraw some of the troops. Do not be accepting and supporting the very crimes you hated so much under the Bush regime. If you care about humanity and don't want the war to continue even one more day than get in the streets this Thursday, March 19th, in Berkeley on the sixth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Join us for a rally at three o'clock at Martin Luther King Park, next to Berkeley High. At four p.m., we're going to march. To get involved, call us now at (415) 864-5153 or e-mail us at email@example.com.
Berkeley will not be the only city across the country engaging in protests next Thursday. World Can't Wait offers a list of other cities holding demonstrations. Next weekend, those wanting to call out the illegal war can join with groups such as The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War -- all are taking part in a real action. Iraq Veterans Against the War explains:IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st As an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.) To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately. For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: www.pentagonmarch.org or www.answercoalition.org.
Need some motivation to get active next week? If you're in Indiana, you're got someone who can explain why it is so important to stand up. Camilo Mejia is the author of Road from Ar Ramadi. He is an Iraq War veteran. He is a conscientious objector. He stood up to the full power of the US military and he survived and then some. He is the chair of Iraq Veterans Against the war. All of that, before you even get into the adventures of his father and mother, is more than worth hearing about and those makes him someone worth hearing. Those in South Bend and Goshen Indiana have the opportunity to hear him next week. Monday, he will be speaking at 7:00 pm on the Indiana University South Bend's campus and Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. he will be speaking in Goshen at Iglesia Menonita Del Buen Pastor. Both events are free and open to the public and more information can be found here. Mejia is among the early resisters and his actions are noted by Michael J. Mooney (Broward Palm Beach) who explains the struggle war resister Aslan Lamarche is currently undergoing. He joined the military at the age of 18, he then self-checked out and went to Canada. His attempt to be granted refugee status in Canada was denied. His parents (from Trinidad and Cuba) remain in Flordia and Aslan states, "It's sad. My parents came to the U.S. for a better way of life. And now, their oldest son had to leave that same country for the same reason." He is taking classes in Toronto and hoping for some good news. He says, "It's hard to be 20 years old and be hated by two governments. And Canada is a very strange country in a lot of ways. They just have this blind trust that their government will do the right thing. The majority of Canadians want us to stay. They say, 'Don't worry. Everything will be fine.' But at the end of the day, none of them are willing to fight for us."
Meanwhile Megan Feldman (Dallas Observer) writes not only the lengthiest article on US war resisters in Canada in some time, it may be the lengthiest yet. Kimberly Rivera is Feldman's entry point. The Iraq War veteran, who became the first female US war resister to go public in Canada this decade, hails from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Community members in that area note that the bulk of the copies of this week's Observer are gone. (The Dallas Observer is a weekly freebie which publishes each Wednesday.) Feldman's article opens:
Just 5 feet tall, with a baby strapped to her chest and a soft, faltering voice, Kim Rivera is anything but soldierly. Yet two years ago she was a Texas private in the War on Terror, guarding a gate with an M4 rifle and frisking Iraqi civilians at a base in eastern Baghdad.
Now, on a Wednesday evening in January, the 26-year-old mother of three stands in a room in frigid, snow-covered Toronto. Her fair-skinned face and round blue eyes are framed by auburn hair pulled back in a low ponytail, and she places a hand on her bundled baby as she faces some 100 people seated in folding chairs in the middle-class apartment building's community room.
Rivera clears her throat and unfolds a sheet of paper.
"I was fighting your kind for killing my kind," she begins, reading a poem she wrote last summer and dedicated to the people of Iraq. "I was fighting for your liberty; I was fighting for peace." She pauses and takes a deep breath. "But in reality, I was fighting to destroy everything you know and love."
The audience listens in silence. Some nod. A few wipe tears from their eyes. They are peace activists and professors, fellow American Iraq War deserters in their 20s and American hippies in their 60s, Vietnam draft-dodgers and Canadian mothers.
During Vietnam, the Canadian government welcomed both "draft dodgers" and "deserters." This go round, no US service member resisting the Iraq War has been granted official status by making a refugee claim. Despite a motion passed in the House of Commons last year, war resisters have still not been welcomed by the government. (The motion was non-bidning.) Approximately 400 war resisters have gone to Canada -- the bulk of which do not attempt to be granted refugee status but instead try to fly under the radar. (That's me, not Feldman on the last sentence.) Feldman notes that, during the Iraq War, the "desertion rates have nearly doubled, rising from 2,610 in 2003 to 4,698 in 2007, and military records show a crackdown on deserters since the war in Iraq began. In both 2001 and 2007, for instance, roughly 4,500 soldiers deserted each year. But while in 2001 only 29 deserters were prosecuted, in 2007 that figure was 108." Ryan Johnson is among the war resisters noted in Feldman's article and she also goes into Joshua Key's case in depth (we'll note that section next week).Kimberly Rivera, Ryan Johnson, Joshua Key, Phil Hart and others resist the illegal war. In Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki appears ready to resist the Iraqis from his US installed post as prime minister. Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) notes al-Maliki's advisor Sadiq al-Rikabi declaring in DC (last week): "I think that, considering the American's president's speech about the U.S. commitment for reponsible withdrawal, we do not feel a referendum is necessary. The decision will need to be taken in parliament, as the referendum is currently enshrined in law, and so if it is to be cancelled, we need a new law to say so. But even if the referendum is held on its assigned date, I'm not worried at all about the approval of the SOFA." Lynch notes that the vote is supposed to be mere months away but there appears to be no preparation for it and wonders if it will be cancelled:
It wouldn't surprise me at all if the U.S. and Maliki would both like to see the referendum quietly dropped. Neither really wanted it to begin with. For the U.S., it complicates strategic planning, while it was forced on Maliki by the Iraqi Parliament as the price of ratification. It isn't currently a major issue in the press or for leading political forces, and preparation for a referendum which is supposedly only four months away (but lacks rules or even a set question) doesn't seem to have begun.
We've noted before (most recently in the March 4th snapshot) that if that vote's taking place, it's past time for steps to be taken. Iraq's not really had a full-on election. The most recent 'big' election was 14 out of 18 provinces and approximately 40% of the eligible population did not participate (some were not allowed to participate, some chose not to).Monday Thomas E. Ricks author of The Gamble and NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro appeared on Talk of the Nation. One of the callers was a US service member home on a pass who would be returning to Iraq shortly. He explained he was stationed in Baghdad and that when they (US soldiers) attempt to train Iraqi police, they don't show up, or only a few do. Lourdes Garacia-Navarro explained various reasons that could be the case including tensions and hostilities that result from an occupation. (Garcia-Navarro heads NPR's Baghdad division.) An example of that can be found online. At his site Adam Kokesh - Revolutionary Patriot, Adam Kokesh has posted a video of US forces 'training' Iraqi police officers and Adam notes this is Barack Oabama's "residual force of 'non-combat troops' in Iraq. This is the US military's Tony Robbins he mentions three areas that we're calling A and B and C (I have no idea what he's taling about):
We're going to talk a little about how you are conducting yourselves as Iraqi police. Raise your hand if you're in the Mahdi militia. Let's see it. Who's in the militia? Who has militia ties? Which one of you are more loyal to the militia than to your own country? None of you? Bulls**t. Some of you in this formation are f**king lie right now. You know why I'm pissed off? I've come down here with my soldiers to try and train you and you're trying to f**king kill Americans, you're trying to kill your fellow f**king Iraqis cause you got no f**king backbone. You want everything from me. You want weapons and ammunition. You want fuel, you want trucks. But you're too f**king p**sy to go three kilometers down the road and go get the people that are tearing this f**king town apart. That's pure f**king cowardice. I'll take three g**damn trucks down the road any f**king day.
[To an Iraqi, thumping him on the chest] You think this is f**king funny? You want to call me out? You think it's f**king funny? Why don't I take your ass out back and kick your little f**king ass? You better shut the f**k up. F**king pay attention.
[To all] I have no problems beating anyone of your asses, not one. Because I don't give a f**k. Because you're acting like a bunch of f**king women.
[To one Iraqi] Shut up when I'm talking. Shut your f**king mouth.
[To all] I'm not going to come down here and waste my f**king time or my soldiers' lives because you don't want to do s**t. You guys better figure out where your loyalties lie. Are you loyal to Iraq, Shia, Sunni, what is it? You want to fight for your country or are you better off having me die for your country because you're too much of a f**king woman to do it yourself? You love seeing Americans die for your f**king country, you won't die for it yourself. I don't see your ass in my hometown.
[Turning around] And you f**king leadership [ought to?] get off your ass too. Lead from the f**king front. When's the last time you went on patrol? Probably never. When's the last time you went these guys down to A, when did you take them to A and lead 'em on a f**king patrol? You never did, did you? Because you're too chicken s**t.
[Facing front] Figure out what the f**k you want from us or I'm going to stop coming down here. And when the Sunnis from A come down here and cut your f**king heads off, I'm not going to do a g**damn thing about it. I'm going to let them bomb your f**king ass into oblivion with their mortars because you will not do s**t about it. I will not help people that will not help themselves. Get your heads out of this f**king bulls**t Mahdi militia and start fighting for Iraq. What do you want? Questions? . . . . [Question asked, then translated.] You wanna erase that image, you want to fix your image.
This group right here, f**k your stupid checkpoints, they're worthless. Get together, get all your weapons and start marching south towards the river. I guarantee you'll get into a gunfight and I guarantee you'll f**k some people up. Get down there and kick some ass. What? You don't need trucks. Take some water, take some food. [shouting over him] Hey, quit making excuses. Don't f**king talk about US patrols. I never saw your ass down in ledge, where the f**k were you? I never saw you in B, C, so shut the f**k up. When I tell you to man up, you shut the f**k up. You guys want to be men, go down there and start beating some f**king asses. You're supposed to be Iraqi police. Why don't you try acting like it? You sit her with your thumb up your ass because you're too f**king scared to do your jobs.
That video is appalling on so many levels. First off, we do need to note that Iraqi women are under attack. We need to point out that they have lost rights since the start of the illegal war. We need to point out that the thug goverment the US chose to install practices rank sexism. So for any US service member, diplomat, you name it in Iraq to contribute to sexism is spitting on Iraqi women. SPITTING on Iraqi women. There is no excuse for it. There is no "Oh, he's telling it like it is." He's being a foul mouthed prick and he can be that and we won't raise an eyebrow. But he cannot degrade women and get away with it. He is pushing the notion that being a woman is something wrong. And that he thought that was appropriate goes to a HUGE problem in the US military. That he didn't realize how offensive, wrong and harmful those statements were, goes to a HUGE problem. The US has done enough damage to Iraq. It has no right to inflict further damage on Iraqi women. And, for the record, Iraqi women are police officers. They had to fight for the right to carry guns. That wasn't a problem before the US invasion. Back then, they could be police officers, they could be armed police officrs. Today they have to fight to regain their rights. And when the US military shows up for a 'training' and disrespects women and spits on them with their words and tells Iraqis that there's nothing worse in the world to be than a woman, they make life harder for Iraqi women. There is no excuse for that. There is never any excuse for it. And the US military needs to get to the bottom of this. They need to figure out where the breakdown is. They need to figure out how a US military composed of men and women continues to allow these sexist and harmful statements to be made? That question needs to be answered and until it is, expect more command rapes, expect more harassment and more assaults. Until the culture is confronted in the military, nothing's going to change. And to be very clear, the words were harmful to US women in the military as well as to Iraqi women. How seriously do you think any of those Iraqi police officers at the 'training' are going to take a female US service member? There was no excuse for it, there was never any excuse for it, it needs to stop.Other things need to stop as well. Today Amnesty International has called for a moratorium on executions in Iraq:
Iraq's Justice Minister has been urged to stop the execution of 128 prisoners on death row, amid reports that the authorities plan to start executing them in batches of 20 next week.The use of the death penalty has been increasing at an alarming rate in Iraq since the government reintroduced it in August 2004. This followed a suspension of more than one year by the Coalition Provisional Authority.Last year at least 285 people were sentenced to death, and at least 34 executed. In 2007 at least 199 people were sentenced to death and 33 were executed, while in 2006 at least 65 people were put to death. The actual figures could be much higher as there are no official statistics for the number of prisoners facing execution."The Iraqi government said in 2004 that reinstating capital punishment would curb widespread violence in the country. The reality, however, is that violence has continued at extremely high levels and the death penalty has yet again been shown to be no deterrent," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme. "In fact, many attacks are perpetrated by suicide bombers who, clearly, are unlikely to be deterred by the threat of execution."The Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council informed Amnesty International on 9 March that Iraq's Presidential Council (comprising the President and the two Vice-Presidents) had ratified the death sentences of 128 people whose sentences had already been confirmed by the Cassation Court.The Iraqi authorities have not disclosed the identities of those facing imminent execution, stoking fears that many of them may have been sentenced to death after trials that failed to satisfy international standards for fair trial.Most are likely to have been sentenced to death by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI), whose proceedings consistently fall short of international standards for fair trial. Some are likely to have been convicted of crimes such as murder and kidnapping on the basis of confessions they allege were extracted under torture during their pre-trial detention by Iraqi security forces. Allegations of torture are not being investigated adequately or at all by the CCCI. Torture of detainees held by Iraqi security forces remains rife."Iraq's creaking judicial system is simply unable to guarantee fair trials in ordinary criminal cases, and even less so in capital cases, with the result, we fear, that numerous people have gone to their death after unfair trials," said Malcolm Smart."Iraq continues to be plagued by high levels of political violence but the death penalty is no answer and, due to its brutalizing effect, may be making the situation worse. The Iraqi government should order an immediate halt to these executions and establish a moratorium on all further executions in Iraq." Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi authorities to make public all information pertaining to the 128 people, including their full names, details of the charges against them, the dates of their arrest, trial and appeal and their current places of detention.
While Amnesty International calls for a halt to executions, two Republican senators in the US call for a new nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq. Xinhua reports John McCain and Lindsey Graham state Christopher Hill lacks MidEast experience and doesn't have a background in counterterrorism or counterinsurgency. The senators apparently do not realize what an ambassador actually does. Equally true, they both expected the nominee to be retired Gen Anthony Zinni. At the White House today, spokesmodel Robert Gibbs was asked about the Republican resistance in the Senate -- Hill is nominated, he has not been confirmed -- and whether the White House would continue to back Christopher Hill even if it appeared getting sixty votes to confirm might mean hard work? Gibbs responded, "Well, let's talk a little bit about Chris Hill. Obviously, he is a very seasoned, accomplished -- seasoned and accomplished -- diplomat. Somebody who has dealt with extraordinary challenges, and is uniquely qualified in a very tough political environment that remains in Iraq, to seek an end to some of the political disputes that are vexing to the Shia, the Sunni, and the Kurds. The President has extraordinary respect for his ability. I think he's proven his ability to understand very complex political situations, to resolve those political situations. Obviously, Iraq is a very unique situation, and the President believes that Chris Hill is uniquely qualified to meet those challenges. And I think that that will be true going forward, and the President is fully confident." That does not respond to the issue of 60 votes. Gibbs was then asked about Hill's lack of MidEast background and he 'answered' by ignoring the question. He once again yammered on about "skills" in what was a worthless response that not only did not answer the question, it also didn't stress Hill's strengths. When the White House spokesperson doesn't know how to defend a nominee, that's a problem. When the nominee is Christopher Hill, someone who is actually qualified for the post and the White House is unable to defend the nominee, that's a huge problem. At the US State Dept, spokesperson Gordon Duguid was also asked about the objection by McCain and Graham. Duguid responded that Christopher "Hill looks forward to confirmation hearings in which he can address the Senators' concerns and go into more details about his record. He is ready for those hearings. And I do believe, and I know that the President and the Secretary also believe, that Ambassaodr Hill is qualified. I won't go down the huge list of achievements he's had throughout his career, but simply point on his negotiating experience both in the Six-Party Talks and in the Dayton Accords as being particularly high points. But again, Ambassador Hill is ready to meet with senators and discuss their concerns, and looks forward to his hearings." And that, Robert Gibbs, is how you handle the question. Asked if the Administration is standing behind the nomination of Hill, Gordon Duguid responded, "That is correct. Yes, that is correct." Again, Robert Gibbs, that is how you handle the question.
In Iraq, Ivan Watson (CNN) notes speculation that Turkey may be considering cross-border raids into Iraq due to the declaration that Turkey is planning to set up border check-points. This would be part of their continued assault on northern Iraq as they attempt to bomb the PKK -- an organization of rebels labeled "terrorists" by the UK, the US, the European Union, Turkey and Nouri al-Maliki -- the latter in public statements.
In other reported violence today . . . Bombings?
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 woman and left one man wounded, another which wounded two people, a third which left four police officers wounded, a Baquba bombing that destroyed a building and, dropping back to Thursday night a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed the life of1 police officer and a Basra rocket attack.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 school guard shot dead in Baquba, 1 bus driver shot dead in Baquba and 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul.In England, the released e-mails showing the fraud involved in the pre-war 'evidence' offered by Tony Blair's government continues to result in attention if, as yet, no inquiry. Rose Prince (Telegraph of London) notes, "The emails circulated between senior figures in Tony Blair's government were released under the Freedom of Information Act after a ruling by Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner. They show that unnamed officials also protested that the dossier suggested that Saddam's biological warfare programme was far more advanced than they knew to be the case. In one email, a civil servant warned about 'iffy drafting' and compared hyperbolic claims about Iraq's nuclear capacity to 'Frankenstein' science." Journalist Chris Ames (Free Speech Blog) weighs in: "I first asked for these papers in June 2005, nearly four years ago. The Cabinet Office delayed for as long as it could before turning down the request, at which point I appealed to the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas. Last September, nearly three years on, Thomas ordered that the papers should be released, hinting along the way that they would provide 'evidence that the dossier was deliberately manipulated in order to present an exaggerated case for military action'." Where's the opposition and outcry? Bob Roberts (The Mirror) explains, "The Lib Dems said: 'This confirms officials and advisers close to Tony Blair were deliberately tweaking the presentation of the intelligence to bolster the case for war on Iraq'." The Daily Mail also notes growing outcries over the deception, "Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said: 'These minutes shed interesting light on the process by which the caveats in the Joint Intelligence Committee's original assessment of Iraq's WMD programmes were stripped out of the dossier that was presented to Parliament and the British people.' Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said: 'This confirms the widely held suspicions that leading officials and political advisers close to Tony Blair were deliberately tweaking the presentation of the intelligence to bolster the case for war on Iraq'." The Metro reminds, "The dossier was made public in September 2002 by the then prime minister Tony Blair. Critics believe the move was designed to gain public support for invading Iraq the following year." The dossier is revealed to be rigged and filled with intentional distortions. England was lied into the illegal war and proof emerges constantly and publicly. So where is the inquiry? These revelations have become very common in England and they do get press coverage (unlike in the US), so where's the inquiry? Michael Settle (Scotland's The Herald) quotes SNP's Angus Robertson stating, "The case for war in Iraq is now totally exposed as a lie. Gordon Brown, who supported the war, must immediately announce the starting date of an independent inquiry." A real inquiry. Along with those who have died serving in Iraq, England has seen other deaths as a result of this illegal war. BBC reminds:The dossier became the cause of a huge row between the BBC and Tony Blair's government following the invasion of Iraq and the failure to find WMD.The Today programme's Andrew Gilligan reported that an unnamed senior official involved in drawing it up had told him parts of it - specifically a claim that Saddam could launch WMD at 45 minutes' notice - had been inserted against the wishes of the intelligence services even though the government "probably knew" the claim was wrong.This led on to the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly, the WMD specialist who killed himself just over a week after being named by the Ministry of Defence as the source for the BBC's report.
Last month, Rose Gentle (Military Families Against the War) noted of the continued stonewallying, "All we want to know is why our troops where sent in to Iraq - this country has the right to know what is in those minutes. I have the right to know why my son was sent there to die. We all know it definitely wasn't for WMD - lets hope one day their kids or grand kids don't go to a war looking for WMD." Rose Gentle's son Gordon was killed January 28, 2004 while serving in Iraq. In the US, labor journalist David Bacon offers "WHY LABOR LAW DOESN'T WORK FOR WORKERS" (New American Media):After months of a media war supporting and condemning it, the Employee Free Choice Act was finally introduced into Congress again this week. The bill has been debated before, but with a larger Democratic majority, its chances of passage are much greater today, and President Obama has said he'll sign it. Employers, therefore, are fighting it as never before.Behind the verbal fireworks, workers on the ground say that current labor law has no teeth, and must be changed. In Lancaster, California, one of the country's hardest-fought organizing drives highlights the obstacles they face. A year ago, employees at Rite Aid's huge drug warehouse there voted to join a union. On March 21, 2008, the National Labor Relations Board certified that union, giving it the right to negotiate a first union contract. But Rite Aid, workers say, has just been waiting for the year to expire. Once it does, the company can stop the pretense of negotiating. But an even more serious problem lies beyond. When the year is up, a group of pro-company workers will likely petition for a new election, where the company can try to undo last year's pro-union vote.These are just the latest maneuvers in Rite Aid's war against the union. For the last three years its employees have overcome one obstacle after another in their effort to join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Each obstacle has been placed in their path by this country's weak labor laws, a problem the Employee Free Choice Act was written to correct. That's why Rite Aid and other large employers are fighting the bill in Congress. EFCA would go a long way toward solving the problems workers have at three crucial stages in union organizing efforts - anti-union firings at the beginning, getting their union recognized, and negotiating that first agreement. Says Angel Warner, one of Rite Aid's most vocal pro-union employees, "if we'd had EFCA, we'd have had our union and contract a long time ago."David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). Public broadcasting notes. NOW on PBS explores the economy in their latest broadcast which begins airing tonight on most PBS stations (check your local listings):The world's economic superpowers are preparing to meet--will they devise a fix for the financial mess? Next time on NOW.On March 13, financial ministers and central bankers of the world's economic superpowers will meet in London to lay the groundwork for next month's crucial meeting of their country's leaders, known as the G20. Will their work revolutionize the global economy and lift us out of this economic hole, or will politics get in the way?David Brancaccio interviews Kenneth Rogoff, Harvard economics professor and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, about how high we should raise our hopes and what's at stake for America and the world.Washington Week also begins airing tonight on most PBS stations (check local listings) and it's just Gwen and the fellas: Time's Michael Duffy, Slate's John Dickerson and NBC's Michael Viqueira. Good thing it's not Women's History Month, right? Oh, wait, it is. Well that's PBS counter-programming, you understand, because there are so many women dominating Friday night programming! There's . . . Jennifer Love Hewitt! And . . . There's Jennifer Love Hewitt! Hey, look, I love Love, she's one of the sweetest people in the industry, but I had no idea she was so powerful, that she required such extensive counter-programming. We salute you, Jennifer Love Hewitt, you make the PBS programmers tremble. Jennifer Love Hewitt's network home is CBS (The Ghost Whisperer, Friday nights, first hour of prime time) and Sunday, on CBS' 60 Minutes:The ChairmanIn a rare interview with a sitting Federal Reserve chairman – the first in 20 years – Ben Bernanke tells Scott Pelley what went wrong with America's financial system, how it caused the current economic crisis, what the Fed's doing to help fix it and when he expects the crippling recession to end. (This is a double-length segment.)
Alice WatersShe has been cooking and preaching the virtues of fresh food grown in an environmentally friendly way for decades. A world-class restaurant and eight cookbooks to her credit, she's become famous for her "slow food" approach – an antidote to fast food. Lesley Stahl reports. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, March 15, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
60 Minutes Update:
Madoff's Guilty PleaBernard Madoff has pleaded guilty to 11 felony charges for defrauding investors of more than $60 billion in a giant Ponzi scheme. Financial analyst and fraud investigator Harry Markopolos told Steve Kroft that the Securities and Exchange Commission ignored his repeated warnings about the Madoff fund for over five years. Watch Video
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