Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Jim Lafferty, Law and Disorder, peace movement

Tuesday! :D Hope you heard at least some of the coverage of the Gates hearing today. I caught the second half, when, according to Larry Bensky and Aaron Glantz' commentary, all the life had left them.

Does it matter? Yeah, it does. It matters because of the position we're talking about and it matters because we got to hear what the 'empowered' Democrats were going to do. And the answer? Not a damn thing.

The illustration is from The Third Estate Sunday Review's "The One About The Nation" and Elaine and me both wanted to highlight the art. I love the words we all wrote but I think the painting the gan did was pretty special.

Now don't forget to check out Like Maria Said Paz for Elaine's thoughts.

Jim Lafferty was the guest for the third segment of WBAI's Law and Disorder Monday. He's with the National Lawyers Guild, he's also an activist and he does a show for KPFK and, according to C.I., about a hundred million other things on any given day!

He had a really good discussion with the hosts (Michael Ratner, Dalia Hashad, Michael Smith and Heidi Boghosian are the hosts of the show). In his area, Los Angelese, there's been a lot of activism and that was one of the topics. This built on the interview with Marjorie Cohn, about how you couldn't just wait around for elected officials to decide to "give" because they won't. You have to pressure them and make them act.

So Jim Lafferty has been on the front lines and one of the issues was about how the movement is growing and how it was so huge before the illegal war started. So what's going on? Is it active and if not how come it's not. I believe Lafferty made the point about how much further the peace movement was then during Vietnam. And then the issue of the draft came up.

Lafferty and Michael Ratner felt that without a draft it was easier for some people to ignore the war. And this was the point I wanted to get from C.I., the thing Jim was all, "Why didn't you bring that up while we were writing!"

C.I. understands Lafferty's point and agrees with it but thinks there's another aspect to it ("and Lafferty probably would as well") which is the draft itself wouldn't change much at this point.

"Wait, wait," you scream, "Charlie Rangel thinks it's the answer!"

C.I.'s point is based on "modeled behavior."

C.I.: What Lafferty has done so well is motivate and model. Others are doing that as well, Leslie Cagan with United for Peace & Justice, Medea Benjamin and Jodi Evans with CODEPINK, and many other people and many other organizations. But what the draft point overlooks is that during Vietnam you had attention. A concert, by Joan Baez, didn't just happen with draft cards being turned in. It started slowly. People were lost, the way some are today, and it started with one person deciding to turn in or burn their card and then there was a road for others to follow. The word got out, the word spread. There was now an organized way for people to resist, young males in this case. And Joan did the poster "Girls Say Yes to Boys Who Say No" with her sisters Pauline and Mimi. Lafferty's point is valid but a draft, which he's not advocating for, wouldn't mean the movement was further along today. It means that people would be opposed to the war but I think, my opinion, the polling demonstrates that they already are, much sooner than during Vietnam. The draft, during Vietnam, did have an impact. But what I'm seeing and have seen is that there's little behavior to model. When someone like Lafferty makes an impact, and he's made a huge impact, they're doing it without the attention it deserves and, more importantly, needs. All across the country, there are groups that go to the local offices of their senators and representatives. Let's just use that as an example. It gets very little coverage, very little publicity. It is a way, not 'the' way, a way, to register your protest. But that behavior, like Lafferty's work, depends on word of mouth because there's very little media coverage of it. A draft in 2002 and 2003, even 2004, might have helped the illegal war become unpopular sooner but today it is unpopular. What's needed are examples. They are out there. They're just not covered. I think the spark Cindy Sheehan provided is missed. She put a face on it. But the face she put on it was a face for the cost of the illegal war and a face for protest. If she'd just stayed home, people would have been sympathetic. But she went down to Crawford, she camped out at Bully Boy's ranch. What was the effect? It wasn't just people saying, "I support her." It was people coming from all over the country to take part in that protest. She was, and is, both a face for the war and a face for protest. What I've experienced speaking to students is people wanting ideas, wanting examples. Cindy Sheehan provided one. Has provided others as well. The protests to end the war on Vietnam didn't happen in isolation. Activism with the civil rights movement and the students movement preceeded it and activism in the women's movement, the gay rights movement, Black Power, the Native American movement, the Chicano movement, the labor movement, etc. were going on. The point is, there was a base to build from. There was behavior to model. The anti-globilization movement and rallies in support of reproductive rights are pretty much all that many are aware of today and 9-11 was used as a club to batter the anti-globilization movement. What message does the reproductive rights movement send? I support that movement, I march in rallies. I'm not attacking it. But the movement, in terms of activism, often is a big rally in DC. That's the example some students cite when they're asked about activism. I'm not putting those rallies down. I think they're important. But with Iraq, you're needing more than a once a year rally. One of the things I'm usually asked is what are students doing in other areas? Everyone's looking for idea, looking for models. In Los Angeles, Jim Lafferty's done a wonderful job providing that. He and others with A.N.S.W.E.R. have created a strong environment of modeling behaviors and getting out there and being active. They deserve credit for that and everyone organizing against the war does as well. But across the country, there are groups with similar aims that aren't even aware of one another. Media coverage would change that but media coverage isn't something to count on. The movement, across the nation, still grows largely due to peer-to-peer word. What I hear repeatedly on campuses is that they weren't given a heads up to an action. An event will take place in their area and they'll hear about it afterwards. Media coverage, which it deserves, would change that. But it's not going to happen. Groups need to stop thinking, I have one in mind, that their protest against the war will only turn out themselves and whatever friends they can activate through word of mouth, they need to be working the colleges. You're dealing with students who very often are not from the area. They go off to college. They're not aware of all that's going on in the communities they're living in to go to college. I have a friend with an organization in the Mid-West and she had been very disappointed in the turnout at events. When I was speaking to colleges in that area, they weren't even aware of the group. Everyone's in isolation to a degree, if you're not in an area with a strong organization that's well established, and unaware of who else is addressing the war, trying to end it. When the movement to end the war was building in the sixties, it didn't happen overnight and the country certainly hadn't turned against that war as quickly as the country's turned against this one. When it started to turn, you had an excitement and, with that, an awareness of what was around you. The complaints about the media coverage existed then as well but, by comparison, there was nothing to complain about. Today, the alt weeklies are all lifestyle papers with few exceptions. The desire is there, what's not is the connection and the examples. That's the hurdle the movement is going to have to leap next, and they will, but the movement is growing. The draft alone, during Vietnam, did help people, males, feel a sense of urgency, and possibly their girlfriends and wives, that isn't present today. But we're already seeing a much larger portion of people who are opposed to the war, in polling. So I don't think the draft by itself is the issue at this point. I think it comes down to the issue that activism isn't a pattern with all these various strands when you compare it to the sixties.

So that was C.I.'s opinion and I got that last night. Today, we did a Q&A follow up. I'm in italics.

So students are lost?

C.I.: Not in terms of their feelings on the war. And it needs to be noted that since Vietnam there have been many movements. But in terms of anything like the civil rights movement or, for students, the student movement of the sixties, no, there aren't a wealth of examples they're being presented with by the media. The most common type of comment I continue to hear is, "I want to do something but I'm not sure what?" Even with that, students are being active. But in terms of the movement itself, which continues to grow, there seems to be questions as to what you do besides rally in DC? And there will be a march and rally in DC on January 27th so let's note that. That does matter and you know that because when you've returned from those everyone's peppered you with questions.

Right, they want to see photos and hear all about it. And then they want to go. I've got people asking about the January march that surprise me because I wouldn't have guessed that they were interested in participating.

C.I.: And the decision was made for the 2005 spring rallies to focus on communities which was a smart move, underscoring that you don't just take your protest to DC. I want to be repeat, the peace movement has done a wonderful job. But it has done that by peer-to-peer, word of mouth. It hasn't had the kind of media it deserves. And there are a lot of people doing a lot of work but feeling that they're the only ones in the areas. Media attention could change that but you know my opinion on how that's not going to happen.

So we're stuck with the movement getting the word out on itself?

C.I.: Pretty much, do you see any change? Do you see anyone covering Abeer? Covering Mark Wilkerson, Kyle Snyder, Agustin Aguayo, or any of the war resisters? How much attention did Troops Home Fast get from independent media? People like Medea Benjamin, Jodi Evans, Jim Lafferty, Jeff Paterson, Leslie Cagan, go down the list, they are getting the word out, they are being inventive and creative and that's what's kept the movement growing and what's allowed the country to turn against the war. We need to remember that Vietnam didn't have a 9-11 in front of it. Vietnam didn't have "you're either with us or you're against it" wall to wall. It's been very difficult and that the movement's overcome all of that is a testament to the hardwork of everyone, organizers and participants. The movement carved out the space for the mainstream media, which canonized Bully Boy, to actually criticize him, still not the way they should, but far greater than you could see in 2002 or 2003. It also benefits from what Maria long ago noticed in her own classrooms, as her students were learning about the history of the United States and what it's supposed to stand for, they were confronted with the reality of what it stands for under the Bully Boy. That is a strong bloc of people and they are out there. The issue now is overcoming the barriers that are keeping various pockets from being aware of one another, both nationally and locally.

Putting you on the spot because I know your private answer but you may not want to offer it here. We have various left magazines, I won't name them, and who writes about the peace movement?

C.I.: No one. You know that. If someone's reading, for instance, The Nation, chances are they are against the war. Chances are that they would both like to know and benefit from knowing stories of protest and resistance. They're not getting that in the print magazine. You can't blame the peace movement for that. And people who want to whine from their desks about what they think is going on would be wise to leave their offices and get into the real world.

You don't think anyone's going to suddenly provide a column that covers the peace movement?

C.I.: We hit the four year mark in March. The war didn't just start. Do you see a column covering the peace movement? You can see column after column covering DC and elected officials and let's not kid that such coverage, with nothing else offered, doesn't send a message, intended or not, that you pin your hopes and dreams on elected officials and root for them from the sidelines. It reduces activism to nothing but the voting booth.

What's the effect of the elections last month?

C.I.: Anger. Anger when people grasp that they were hyped to believe an election changed anything. In the end, that'll just fuel the peace movement as well. But, think back because you were in high school on 9-11, the fear to speak out, the fear to question the press-annointed god that Bully Boy was. And a lot of people you're age and slightly younger are looking for ways to protest. Many of them already are protesting. But they need examples. Some wonderful ones have been provided but they have to rely on word of mouth because there's no coverage.

Anything else you want to add?

C.I.: Just that I'm not criticizing the peace movement. It's overcome one barrier after another and continues to grow. It's impacted the nation and the opinions on the illegal war. With Camp Casey, you saw the same excitement and interest, resulting from coverage that made people aware, as marches and protests during the civil rights era. Cindy Sheehan gave a face to the cost and moved people but she also gave them a way to protest. That's why, from across the country, people traveled to Camp Casey. Organizers are providing examples and, with media attention, the peace movement would be all that some, who scorn it, want it to be. But the realities of the 60s were that there were solid examples of activism that people grew up around and behaviors they could model. There are other issues as well, including the current press system, demographics and much more. But modeling behaviors and information continue to be the problems I hear cited the most. And let me repeat one more time, because students have gotten a very bad rap, students are active all over the nation, they are interested in ending the war.


I'll add that Jim Lafferty was a great guest and I hope they have him back on. That was a great discussion and you can hear it at WBAI or Law and Disorder. I'll either write about the first segment either tomorrow or Thursday.

So that's it for me tonight. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" and I wish I could have gone to DC with Wally and C.I. but I'm glad they went and hope they're having fun tonight.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the Senate Armed Service Committee stages a new comedy, and the 2900-dead mark has been passed, who's noting it?

Starting with the American troop fatality count.
On Sunday, ICCC made the call that 2900 US troops had died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. Yesterday, Sandra Lupien noted the 2900 mark on The KPFA Evening News. Today, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes: "The US death toll in the war has topped 2900." CNN's counts 2,901 while also reporting 2899. The latter figure is what the Defense Department goes with as well, 2899. ICCC reports the number is 2906 (which is what we'll go with).

Does the number matter? It should. It should matter especially if you're appearing before Congress.
Robert Gates, who would like to replace Donald the Rumsfled as Secretary of Defense, cited another number: 2892. Testifying today, he goes with 2892? If this is Gates "on the ball," let's all worry.

KPFA's Larry Bensky and Aaron Glantz are anchoring the gavel-to-gavel coverage of Gates' confirmation hearing and it's being carried live on KPFA, WBAI, KPFT, KPFK, KCFC and at
at the
Pacifica website. Those not in broadcast range can listen online at any of the links provided in the previous sentence. (And if you missed the live coverage, you can use the links for an archived broadcast.) While Pacifica Radio covers the hearings live NPR decided to 'hit hard' by covering the celebrity auction of Dick Clark.

So along with grasping that Gates doesn't care enough about the job to use any accepted figure for the US military's fatality toll, what else have we learned? Bob Dole did standup early on. The former US senator was one of two walking Gates down the aisle. Who gives Gates away? Dole and Doren. Dole told a joke about how the phone rang asking that "Senator Dole" introduce Gates and, too late, Bob Dole realized they meant Elizabeth Dole (his wife who is currently a US senator). Having wowed 'em like he hasn't since he schilled for Pepsi with Britney Spears, Dole stepped aside for the Senate's own Norma Desmond: David L. Boren.

Boren was supposed to be introducing Gates but instead seemed lost in the past, a murky one, that needed to be reclaimed unless we were are prepared to "ultimately destroy the fabric" of the country. Boren couldn't shut up about the past including "15 years ago." So let's take a look at the Senate when Boren still served on it.

Boren did sometimes work with people on the other side of the aisles: Democrats. Though supposedly a Democrat, he was usually to be found triangulating with Republicans. Boren's 'bipartisanship' resulted in many things, a greatest hits reel can't be provided here. But two highlights. Boren voted to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. The country still suffers as a result. Boren was among those who put "civility" above the truth regarding Iran-Contra and, it can be argued since many of the same players repeat today, that doing so implicates him in today's illegal war.

Possibly, he shouldn't grab that white Bible with his bloodied hands? White Bible? Oh, the one he used to publicly swear that he wasn't gay back when those rumors floated. Today's heart-felt intro recalled a great deal of the drama of that 1979 moment.

Robert Gates told Senator John Warner that he felt the Bully Boy wanted him "to take a fresh look and all options are on the table" regarding Iraq. But some things do not require a "fresh look," apparently. On the issue of remaining in Iraq, Gates stated that it seemed to him that the US would "have to have some presence in Iraq for a long time." He then offered the WRONG number and mentioned a woman who approached him to declare, "I have two sons in Iraq. For God's sake, bring them home safe."

After that, it all got even zanier as there appeared to be a contest among Republicans to see who could look the most insane as they attempted to scare Americans and spin the illegal war.

Honorable mentions go to the following:

Jeff Sessions who declared both the need to "reach out and grasp each other's hands" (stay of the cloakroom) went even touchier-and-feelier, soaring into clouds that the laughable Peggy Noons (Noonan) couldn't even approach as he spoke of US troops who had died in Iraq: "I talked to their families. I talked to those who lost their lives."

No word as to whether "those who lost their lives" talked back to Jeff Sessions.

Pat Roberts wants the troops home but frets over how it could be done "the wrong way." See, pulling them out too soon, bringing them home, could cause problems. Such as? Roberts didn't know. He was suddenly discussing "sleeper cells in this country" and terrorists of a second generation. If he truly believes there are "sleeper cells" in the United States, one would assume that the troops might be needed in the US. But Roberts was busy trying to frighten America and that appeared to be the Republican game plan.

Joe Lieberman (officially billed these days as "Independent") attempted to work through his own issues, publicly, in front of the committee. He warned of what could happen "if we end up leaving Iraq in chaos" because, apparently Joe Lieberman has missed the fact that Iraq is in chaos and has been. "Bipartisanship" was a buzz word for NoMentum as well and he wanted the entire nation to band together to go after all the enemies he sees elsewhere in the world ("everybody around the world who wishes us evil") which demonstrated that Lieberman hasn't lost his sense of persecution.

But the winner? James Inhofe in the first round. Inhofe's never met a fact he can't fudge or mangle. His statements were concerned with pushing the illegal war except when he went into alarmist mode of Chinese computer hackers and raged that others (on the Senate? in the United States?) "don't seem to read these, they don't seem concerned about this!" What Inhofe was concerned primarily with was noting that "the mass graves [in Iraq], that's not taking place anymore."

Oh Inhofe, apparently you're not reading what you need to read.
November 30, 2006, the US military announced the discovery of a "mass grave" with 28 bodies in it. And, no, it's not from the era of Saddam Hussein.

The Democrats? Evan Blah showed what a suck up he could be, Carl Levin probed and Hillary Clinton appeared to be setting up for the next round of questioning. (The hearings are on a lunch break. During that Pacifica will be offering analysis.)

The big news is supposed to be that
Gates noted (the obvious fact) that the US isn't "winning." (Nor can it, unsaid by Gates.) What should be noted is how often he couldn't remark, he didn't know enough, his "view is too uninformed," "I'm not well enough informed at this point to make a decision" blah, blah, blah. This is the man who was sitting on the James Baker Circle Jerk, right? He was tasked with recommendations the US should take re: Iraq, right?

And in Iraq?


AFP reports an attack on bus in Baghdad that began with a car bomb and was followed with gunfire resulting in at least 15 dead and 9 wounded, while an attack on a police academy in Baghdad with a car bomb followed by gunfire resulted in 7 people killed and 12 wounded, a roadside bomb in Baghdad resulted in 2 Iraqi soldiers being killed, a car bomb in Baghdad claimed three lives, and a mortar attack in Baghdad left 2 children dead. Reuters notes three car bombs in Baghdad ("near a fuel station) that resulted in 16 deaths and at least 25 injured. The BBC reports that "[m]ost of the victims were people queuing for petrol."


See above combined attacks.


Reuters reports the corpse of a police officer was found in Kirkuk.

Today, the
US military announced: "Insurgents attacked a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol Dec. 4, killing one Soldier and wounding five others. The patrol was conducting operations to deny enemy movements and enforce curfew restrictions in a northeastern neighborhood of the city when it was attacked"; and "A 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldier was killed in an accident when his M-1117 Armored Security Vehicle rolled over North of Logistics Support Area Adder Dec. 4."

In news of sick mind games (played to cover their own ass?, played to keep the news coverage more 'upbeat'?), on Monday
the Department of Defenense announced: "Spc. Dustin M. Adkins, 22, of Finger, Tenn, has been unaccounted for since Dec. 3 in Haditha, Iraq, when the Chinook helicopter he was in made an emergency landing. He is assigned to the Group Support Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Campbell, Ky." But AP reports that "relatives of 22 year old Dustin Adkins of Finger told The Jackson Sun newspaper Monday night that his body has been recovered after the soldier was listed as missing." Note the key word "after." Ned B. Hunter (AP) reports that "Mayrine Adkins, the soldier's grandmother, said the family was notified about 3 p.m. Monday that his body had been found. Mayrine Adkins said her grandson was one of two Army soldiers on the helicopter along with several Marines."

This is the Sunday helicopter crash ('crash landing,' if you prefer, but it's a crash) that
claimed the lives of four Marines. Kirk Semple (New York Times) reports that there were 16 people on board and that the lake it crashed onto was Lake Qadisiya. Though the military claims it was 'mechanical' issues that brought about the crash, Nancy Trejos (Washington Post) reports two sources who state differently: "The mayor of Haditha, Ibraheem al-Bayati, and Iraqi army Lt. Hussein Muslih said the helicopter had been shot down by insurgents with machine guns as it was taking off from the town" and Trejos notes: "the Islamic State of Iraq posted a sign on a nearby mosque in Haditha announcing that the helicopter had 30 passengers on board and had been downed".

Turning to Australia, the military inquiry into the April 21st Baghdad death of Jake Kovco
released their report December 1st. Dan Box (The Australian) reports that Judy Kovco (Jake's mother) and Shelley Kovco (Jake's wife) have "received legal advice" and will "demand an independent review of the military's finding that the young paratrooper was skylarking with his pistol when he was fatally shot." Ian McPhedran (Herald-Sun) feels that the inquiry has demonstrated "why a civilian should run such investigations" and McPhedran provides strong examples including "ruling out suicide even before its hearings had concluded"; refusal to apportion blame for the failure to preserve evidence in terms of Kovco's room, et al; and a failure to seriously explore the mix up of Jake Kovco's body with the body of Juso Sinanovic.

MCPhedran notes: "Jake Kovco's mother, Judy, has labelled the excercise a cover-up and she is absolutely correct." Last weekend, Judy Kovco spoke out about some of the problems with the inquiry and its findings noting that she had "sat through three months of listening to all of this" and that no explanations have been provided including why there was "more DNA on that gun that Jacob's own DNA inside and out and their excuse for that DNA being on the gun and the cartridge is just laughable."

Judy Kovco is specifically referring to Steven Carr, identified during the inquiry as "Soldier 14," whose DNA was found on Jake Kovco's gun. Carr maintained that he never touched Jake Kovco's weapon and offered laughable excuses such as maybe he touched a radio and then Jake touched a radio and then Jake touched his gun and that's how his (Carr's) DNA got on Jake's gun. It was laughable but it got picked up and run with as though it was even possible. Forensice expert
Michelle Franco rejected that laughable claim to the inquiry and noted that were that transfer nonsense true that within a half-hour, Carr's DNA would have been all but gone from the gun. Instead, it was found on the gun's slide in significant amounts (it was also found elsewhere) that were consistent with Carr having handled the gun.

The inquiry's findings sidestepped and ignored the government's witness and avoided this issue which is only example of how they failed to address the death of Jake Kovco.

Yesterday, in the US, Bully Boy met with Shi'ite Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim and appeared to offer a 'strategy' that Robert Knight (
KPFA's Flashpoints) called addressing death squads with . . . death squads. Dilip Hiro (Guardian of London) sees the meet up with the Bully Boy as an attempt to divide Shias (and neutralize Sadr). On The KPFA Evening News yesterday, Sandra Lupien noted that "al-Hakim said the only way to stave off civil war in Iraq is for US forces to strike harder against Sunni-led resistance fighters" and that his organization fought on the side of Iran in the 80s Iraq-Iran war. Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) reports that al-Hakim "remarked last week that if Iraq deteriorated into civil war, Sunni Arabs would be the 'biggest losers' -- a comment that was widely interpreted as a veiled threat to Sunnis." Divide and conquer has worked so well for the US administration -- oops!, it hasn't. It's resulted in a civil war in Iraq.