Thursday! One day until the weekend! :D
So, as Wally's "THIS JUST IN! NEGROPONTE GOES BAILING! BULLY BOY GOES SNOOPING!" and Cedric's "Naughty Negroponte, Nosy Bully Boy" note, Bully Boy now claims he has the right to open anyone's mail without a search warrant. I missed that part of the Constitution. Anyone else remember that? Get the feeling Bully Boy has never read (or had read to him) the Constitution?
What rights are we supposedly giving Iraqis because, looking around, doesn't seem like we got too many left laying around. Seems like Bully Boy's spent six years trying to strip Americans of every right we have.
He's "The Destroyer."
So let's move over to something I saw today and Elaine usually highlights Monica and/or Kevin Benderman but she's got the group she does on Thursdays so I'll grab it. Kevin Benderman is a war resister the military railroaded in a sham of a trial that they called "justice." It wasn't justice. Kevin's been out for a while now. This is from Monica Benderman's "Let There Be Peace:"
Three thousand soldiers have died in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands have died in the two hundred years of this country's heritage. Every soldier served believing in the stand they freely chose to take. Every soldier died believing their action would make a difference. Every soldier served expecting our country to support their stand with a commitment to life as strong as the commitment they have given to defend life and the laws that govern it.
How many soldiers have become conscientious objectors in the same time that hundreds of thousands have died? Why is there not a number for them? Why is it that conscientious objectors are criticized, ridiculed and expected to hide? Why is it that a discussion of conscientious objection is forced on the back pages away from public view?
When I visit a bookstore and ask for the location of books addressing conscientious objection, the staff doesn't even know what the phrase means. Why?
When I visit the offices of members of Congress and present my husband's position and ask for their assistance, they haven't the first clue how to respond. Why not?
When I talk to citizens about my husband's case, and explain his reasons and mine for supporting him, they respond with a lack of understanding, disbelief that conscientious objection is even possible in a volunteer military.
Have we lost sight of our conscience?
Could this be why we continue to struggle to achieve peace?
In September in our nation's capital, my husband and I walked past the war memorials and the monuments to leaders from the past two hundred years of this country's history, reading the tributes engraved in marble. The pervading theme was Peace, not war. Every quote read told of a vision - that this great country would one day stand on conscience and live for life, giving others the opportunity to live in peace.
The pain of war is a heartache that will not go away until war is no more. As painful as the year of my husband's imprisonment seemed at times to be, there was always the knowledge that no matter what the Army commanders tried, together Kevin and I were taking steps to live in peace.
Where is your conscience, America?
Why do your people continue to divide for vengeance rather than unite in hope?
When will we let there be Peace?
I don't know Monica Benderman so I can't give the answers she would but I'll offer mine. Where is America's conscience? A lot of people who know do care but how many people know? I'll get back to that. Why do your people continue to divide for vengeance rather than unite in hope? I think Bully Boy set that tone most recently with all his "with us or against us" talk.
I think her questions are important ones. But I guess what I'd keep coming back to, if I was talking to her face to face, would be: Monica, who had you on as a guest after Kevin was sent to military prison? I can't think of anyone. I'd ask her, Monica, who published or posted your writing? I can only think of CounterPunch.
My point here is that people can't know about what no one tells them and Kevin Benderman either got a tiny bit of attention from independent media or none at all. I think people do care . . . when they know but I don't think most of the time they ever know. I don't think war resisters get the attention they deserve. Iraq doesn't get the attention it deserves. Look at this week when The Nation ignored the 3,000 mark and then, days later, finally "noted" it by including it in one sentence. Iraq doesn't "come home" for some people because it's not "brought home" by the media.
I think Sir! No Sir! was the best movie of 2006 and yet I don't ever get to watch it because it's always loaned out. I'm always being surprised when a friend or a friend's friend hasn't seen it and I'll say, "You've got to see it!" Then I'll loan it out.
I'm glad to loan it out but I'm amazed at how many people don't know about it. And I'm talking about people who are following Iraq and stuff. But that's how bad the media is today -- especially independent media -- that a movie about war resisters during Vietnam, a great movie, most people still don't know about it. If you haven't seen Sir! No Sir! you need to.
Now let me talk a bit about a book. This is Jane Fonda's Words of Politics and Passion. Eve Ensler does the foreword and Mary Hershberger is the editor. It's put ou by The New Press. (Which C.I. says will be putting out Matthew Rothschild's book shortly as well as Camilo Mejia telling his own story in his own words -- so that's two books to look forward to shortly.) So I really enjoyed this book. I wasn't planning on reading today but I picked it up just to browse and ended up reading the whole thing. A lot of it from Vietnam really can be applied today. I should probably put in here that this is speeches and interviews. I'm putting in this that starts on page 126 and carries on over to page 127 and she's talking about when was visiting Vietnam for the first time:
One day I had been taken several hours south of Hanoi to visit what had been the textile capital of North Vietnam that was razed to the ground and we were in the car and suddenly the driver and my interpreter said, "Quick, get out!" All along the road there are these manholes that hold one person and you jump in them and you pull kind of a straw lid over to protect you from the shrapnel if there's a raid. I was running down the street to get into one of these holes and suddenly I was grabbed from behind by a young girl. She was clearly a schoolgirl because she had a bunch of books tied with a rubber belt hanging over her shoulder and she grabbed me by the hand and ran with me in front of this peasant hut. And she pulled the straw thatch off the top of the hole and jumped in and pulled me in afterward. These are small holes. These are meant for one small Vietnamese person. She and I got in the hole and she pulled the lid over and the bombs started dropping and causing the ground to shake and I'm thinking, "This is not happening. I'm going to wake up. I'm not in a bomb hole with a Vietnamese girl whom I don't know." I could feel her breath on my cheek. I could feel her eyelash on my cheek. It was so small that we were crammed together.
Pretty soon the bombing stopped. It turned out it was not that close. She crawled out and I got out and I started to cry and I just said to her, "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." And she started to talk to me in Vietnamese. And the translator came over.
She must have been fourteen or fifteen. And she looked me straight in the eye and she said, "Don't be sorry for us. We know why we're fighting. It's you who don't know . . ."
Iraqis probably know what they're fighting for too -- their country, getting foreign troops out. What's the US fighting for? WMD? Nope. None, never were any. "Freedom"? Ha! Things are worse for Iraqis today than when Saddam Hussein was in power. So what lie is left? 9-11? That lie was false from the start and only the most uninformed or stupid still buy that.
What's a "win" in Iraq? There is no win and there is no plan. There's nothing but people dying. It's time to bring the troops home. Congress better find the guts to do it because Bully Boy won't. The only way Congress will do anything is if we demand it. So we need to start demanding.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, Januray 4, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, US war resister Ehren Watada's pretrial hearing begins, hide it behind 'surge' or 'bump' but it's still an escalation, and activists in DC interrupt a standard issue press conference to press for answers on Iraq,
Starting with Ehren Watada. In June, Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. In August, the US military held an Article 32 hearing. Now the court-martial is set for February 5th and the pre-trial hearing began today at Fort Lewis is Washington. The pre-trial hearing will determine the framework in which arguments can be made. As noted yesterday, Eric Seitz, Watada's attorney, has stated that the military is attempting to prevent Watada from making his case for why he refused to deploy.
During the Article 32 hearing, Watada's defense called three witnesses, Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois' College of Law, Champagne; Denis Halliday, the former Assistant Secretary General of the UN; and retired Colonel Ann Wright. These three witnesses addressed the issue of the war, it's legality, and the responsibilities of a service member to disobey any order that they believed was unlawful. The testimony was necessary because Watada's refusing to participate in the illegal war due to the fact that he feels it is (a) illegal and (b) immoral.
What the military would like to do in today's pre-trial hearing is reduce everything to whether or not Watada deployed with his unit? The answer, of course, is that he did not. The military does not want the issue of the legality of the war addressed. By closing off this discussion, they not only would destroy Watada's right to defend himself, they would be able, as the Bully Boy long has been able to, set the terms of the discussion and control what is and is not discussed.
Robbing Watada of his ability to present a full defense is a very serious issue and much more serious than fretting over whether a journalist might have to decide "Do I testify or not?" (No journalists will be testifying at the pre-trial.) But the most serious issue today is whether or not Watada will be allowed to present the best defense or if he will only be allowed to say "yes" and "no" in answer to the prosecution's questions or if, as Aileen Alfandary noted on KPFA. this morning ( The Morning Show), he will be able to argue that
the war is illegal? This stance, putting the war on trial, is one that worries the US military.
On the December 9th RadioNation with Laura Flanders, Carolyn Ho (Ehren Watada's mother) noted that her son felt the decision was "the best thing he could do for his men .. . remain behind and speak truth" and that he feels his duty is to the Constitution which is the supreme law of the land in the United States.
Mark Tran (Guardian of London) reports: "Peace activists, international law experts and war resisters past and present are girding themselves for events designed to drum up support for Lt Watada, recently described by Rolling Stone as 'one of this year's greatest mavericks'. Mike Barber (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reports that both sides "are expected to file several motions in preparation for his court-martial. Depending upon the motions, the judge could rule immediately or take several days to decide". Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) observes that this "opening round . . . could be key to defense hopes of putting the Iraq war on trial". As Sir! No Sir! noted in an e-mailing yesterday (click here), "The military's intention IS to SILENCE VOICES OF RESISTANCE and make an example out of Lt. Watada."
While much has been made of the press being asked to testify, Jeff Paterson, reporting for Courage to Resist, notes that activists have also received military subpoenas including Phan Nguyen (Olympian Movement for Justice and Peace) and Gerri Haynes (Veterans for Peace). If found guilty of all charges, Watada could be sentenced to six years.
A Citizens' Hearings is being convened January 20-22 at Evergreen State College will take place in Tacoma, Washington later this month.
Ehren Watada is part of a growing resistance within the military that includes Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Appeal for Redress is collecting signatures of active duty service members calling on Congress to bring the troops home -- the petition will be delivered to Congress this month.
Yesterday, in Washington, DC, House Rep. Yawn Emanuel (Democrat, Illionis) was among those Democrats attempting to stage a blah press conference when approximately sixty peace activists began chanting. Leigh Ann Caldwell reported on The KPFA Evening News yesterday that Cindy Sheehan stated there were no 'free passes' and featured the activists chanting "De-escalate, investigate, troops out now!"
As David Swason noted today on KPFA's The Morning Show, the Democrats should be saying thank you because it gave the press conference meat that it wouldn't otherwise have in today's press (Iraq was added as a topic in today's reports), he also noted that Yawn "scurried off and left" allowing Cindy Sheehan to take over the press conference and she "did a better press conference, for about 45 minutes, than the Democrats could" have.
[Swanson writes about how poorly the press conference had been going and offers video links here.]
On Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the House in Congress (and the first woman to hold that post), Swanson stated that she was ignoring "what put her into power" which "was public opposition to this war and to the criminal nature of this administration."
Swanson feels that "people seem to understand we have to do a lot more than hope and cross our fingers" and that it's a "very different situation from when Clinton took office  and everyone went home and assumed it would go well".
Though activists grasp the importance of ending the war, it's not that clear that elected officials do. One exception is US Rep. Lynn Woolsey who told Leigh Ann Caldwell, "If the Democrats don't end this war by 2008, we'll have lost our standing with the American public"
(yesterday's The KPFA Evening News). Another is US Rep. John Murtha who writes at The Huffington Post that he "will be recommending to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense that we begin extensive hearings starting on January 17, 2007 that will address accountability, military readiness, intelligence oversight and the activities of private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan." A third is US Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick who states, "We won in November because the people said bring the troops home" (KPFA's The Morning Show today).
Meanwhile, in DC, White House anonymice try to sell escalation as a "bump" and not a "surge" since the escalation numbers are expected to be lower than originally hinted at. CBS and AP report that "military commanders" have told the Bully Boy's they can handle an escalation of "about 9,000 soldiers and Marines into Iraq with another 11,000 on alert outside the country". Early reports have noted that the Bully Boy would prefer to send 20,000 to 30,000 to Iraq. 20,000 isn't 'splitting the difference' or a 'bump.' It is an escalation. As Molly Ivins (Truthdig) observes: "This war is being prosecuted in our names, with our money, with our blood, against our will. Polls consistently show that less than 30 percent of the people want to maintain current troop levels. It is obscene and wrong for the president to go against the people in this fashion. And it's doubly wrong for him to send 20,000 more soldiers into this hellhole, as he reportedly will announce next week. . . . We need to cut through all the smoke and mirrors and come up with an exit strategy, forthwith."
And in Iraq today?
Steven R. Hurst (AP) reports two car bombs in Baghdad took 13 lives and left 25 wounded, resulted in "six smoldering cars," set a fuel station ablaze, and that "[a] woman in a black Muslim veil sat weeping on a curb outside Yarmouk hospital". The Latin American News Agency notes that the "two car bombs exploded at the same time" as "hundreds of people were in line at" the fuel station. Al Jazeera notes that Iraq's Interior Ministry states it was two car bombs but reports the first was a roadside bomb and the second was a car bomb. Reuters notes that a roadside bombing in Iskandariya killed one Iraq soldier and left four more wounded.
Reuters notes that a "police colonel" was shot dead in Mosul while, in Kerbala, city council member Akrem al-Zubaidi and three of his body guards were shot dead. DPA notes that the murders took place at a fake checkpoint and that "Al-Zobaydi was a close follower of the Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Muhammad al-Sistani."
AFP notes that five corpses were found in Baghdad ("two of them headless"). Reuters notes that four corpses were discovered in Hilla.
Meanwhile, as the show execution has led to a feeding frenzy in all media, big and small, besides giving little attention to the tragic fact that the 3,000 mark for number of US troops who have died in Iraq was passed on Sunday, it's also allowed the Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, Willie Caldwell, to make laughable statements (which the press has run with) that things have gotten peaceful in Iraq. Peace doesn't include the murders that took place when the US military attacked the Iraqi National Dialogue Front (see Tuesday's snapshot).
Tom Hayden (Huffington Post) noted the attack and that Saleh al-Mutlaq, head of the NDF, advocates that all foreign troops (including US troops) leave Iraq. Today, Raed Jarrar (CounterPunch) notes that the "attack against the National Dialogue Front (NDF) led by Al-Mutlaq does not seem to be accidental. The Bush administration's attempts to create a pro-occupation coalition in the Iraqi government failed last week after Al-Sistani, the grand Shia Ayatollah, refused to support the U.S. plan. The bush administration's plan seems to have changed from simply excluding anti-occupation political parties (like Sadrists, Al-Fadila party, NDF, and others) from the Iraqi government to actively bombing them. The attack on NDF's headquarters in Baghdad is nothing more than the first step in the administration's plan B. The Al-Sadr movement and its militia, Al-Mahdi Army, seem to be next, and others will follow."
The feeding frenzy on the show execution silences many stories such as Watada, war resisters, the slaughter at NDF headquarters, the daily violence and chaos. The "silences" aren't that dissimilar from the ones that Tillie Olsen wrote about in her groundbreaking book Silences. Olsen passed away Monday. Today, Dahr Jamail will be addressing Iraq tonight on KPFA's Flashpoints.
Finally, as Sandra Lupien noted on yesterday's The KPFA Evening News, Suzanne Swift left the military brig yesterday after serving 30 days for going AWOL. Swift will now complete the five years remaining on her Army contract.
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