Friday, February 02, 2007

Amy Goodman, Russ Feingold

Friday at last! :D We're back with Rebecca and had an easy evening so far. They usually are but we were waiting to blog due to the snapshot going up late. Ava, Jess and C.I. had travel problems and then some today. And they also ended up doing an unplanned speaking thing. C.I. just wanted to get home and said, "Give me 20 people who are prepared to do something, write their Congress members, write their local papers, whatever, about Ehren Watada and I'll do one more." Ava said they ended up with 67 students showing up and her first thought was, "Oh, this is going to last awhile." :D

As soon as they landed, a little over an hour ago, Ava phoned me to fill me and say C.I. said, "Post if you haven't, you don't have to wait for me." I said of course I will. Ava goes, "C.I. figured you'd say that. It'll be at least thirty minutes. We're in the bar at the airport and C.I.'s working the phones and trying to piece together a snapshot right now." She called back forty minutes later to say, "Five more minutes, computer problems!" I told her I wasn't in a rush and just holler when it was up.

I was reading it and, damn. 40 to 45 minutes? Geez, I spend two hours some nights and end up with a few paragraphs of my words and two excerpts. You got to read it all and I think the Amy Goodman suggestion at the end is a good one. So do Elaine, Rebecca and Flyboy. I called Ava back (they still weren't home) and asked about the conclusion. She said it almost went up without one and C.I. was going, "I can't end with a corpse count!" And one of C.I.'s cell rang and it was about CounterSpin so that came just in the nick of the time.

C.I.'s suggestion? Molly Ivins passed away and now the space she has in newspapers around the country is up for grabs. John Nichols said that people needed to contact their local papers and say "I want a progressive voice" or something. C.I. points out that's not good enough. (It's not. I don't know if most newspapers know what a progressive voice is -- look at how many run Michael Kinsley!) C.I. also points out that Molly Ivins was the highest circulated female columnist and makes the argument (I agree) that it should go to a woman, Molly's space. She did a weekly column. Amy Goodman's now doing a weekly column and C.I.'s point is that when you suggest to your local paper, you should suggest Amy Goodman. That way you're arguing for someone who is going to address things that matter and you're also arguing that the space remain a space for a female columnist.

So if Molly ran in your paper, let me echo C.I. and say, "Tell 'em to run Amy Goodman!"

Now let's go to Big Russ! No, not Timmy Russert's daddy, Russ Feingold. This is from "How To End The War:"

Last week Vice President Cheney was asked whether the non-binding resolution passed by the Foreign Relations Committee that will soon be considered by the full Senate would deter the president from escalating the war. He replied: "It's not going to stop us."
In the United States of America, the people are sovereign, not the president. It is Congress' responsibility to challenge an administration that persists in a war that is misguided and that the nation opposes. We cannot simply wring our hands and complain about the administration's policy. We cannot just pass resolutions saying "your policy is mistaken." And we can't stand idly by and tell ourselves that it's the president's job to fix the mess he made. It's our job to fix the mess, too, and if we don't do so we are abdicating our responsibilities.
Yesterday, I introduced legislation that will prohibit the use of funds to continue the deployment of U.S. forces in Iraq six months after enactment. By prohibiting funds after a specific deadline, Congress can force the president to bring our forces out of Iraq and out of harm’s way.
This legislation will allow the president adequate time to redeploy our troops safely from Iraq, and it will make specific exceptions for a limited number of U.S. troops who must remain in Iraq to conduct targeted counter-terrorism and training missions and protect U.S. personnel. It will not hurt our troops in any way--they will continue receiving their equipment, training, salaries, etc. It will simply prevent the president from continuing to deploy them to Iraq. By passing this bill, we can finally focus on repairing our military and countering the full range of threats that we face around the world.
As the hearing I chaired in the Senate Judiciary Committee made clear, this legislation is fully consistent with the Constitution of the United States. Since the president is adamant about pursuing his failed policies in Iraq, Congress has the duty to stand up and use its constitutional power to stop him. If Congress doesn't stop this war, it's not because it doesn't have the power. It’s because it doesn’t have the will.

Did anyone else grow up with old Speed Racer cartoons in the VCR? If so, you know the theme song. I sing "Run Russ Feingold! Run Russ Feingold! Run!" to "Go Speed Racer! Go Speed Racer! Go!" :D I really do wish he'd run for president.

Be sure to check out Like Maria Said Paz for Elaine's thoughts tonight. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, February 2, 2007. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, a US helicopter is shot down in Iraq, Ehren Watada's court-martial is scheduled to take place in three days, 'civil war' to describe Iraq becomes a less loaded term and the myth of Najaf continues to be dispelled.

Starting with
Ehren Watada who became the first comissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq in June and now faces a court-martial in Fort Lewis, Washington on Monday.
Daisuke Wakabayashi (Reuters) says the case "could determine the limits of free-speech rights for officers." Dean Paton (Christian Science Monitor) takes a look at the life that led up to the brave stand: "When it came time for Watada to enlist, he was diagnosed with asthma and declared physically unfit. He paid $800 to have an outside test done and was accepted into the Army's college-option program. He completed basic training in June 2003, and went to Officer Candidate School in South Carolina. He emerged 14 weeks later as a 2nd lieutenant." Ben Hamamoto (The Nichi Bei Times) reports on some of the activities Carolyn Ho has been taking part in to raise awareness of her son including suggesting people write letters to Congress, sign petitions (one is at Ehren Watada's site) and "post signs demanding that the military drop the charges and allow Watada to resign" because, Ho stated, "The way this resolves itself will speak to the soldiers and tell them whether or not they are being supported and it will speak to the politicians as to how we feel about the war (and soldiers' rights)."

Diane Kay (The Maine Campus) traces his life from college to speaking out: "Watada was a finance major, and graduated magna cum laude. The war in Iraq had just begun, and Watada, like many Americans, believed that Iraq posed a real threat to the United States, had WMDs and was connected to Sept. 11. He entered the U.S. Army officer candidate program following graduation to pursue a career in the military. Watada served in Korea in 2003 and 2004, earned the rank of lieutenant, and received excellent reviews of his work by his superior officers. In 2005, Lt. Watada and his unit returned to the United States, and were stationed in Ft. Lewis, Wash. Lt. Watada knew that his unit would eventually be deployed to Iraq, and he began to study as much as he could to prepare himself and his unit for deployment." This is where Ehren Watada starts to learn about the Bully Boy's lies of war. He had been assigned to Iraq. It was his duty (and superiors encouraged him in it) to study up so that he would be more effective and also able to answer questions from those serving under him (big one: "Why are we even here?"). It took the American people (many, not all) time to wake up to the lies of war and that didn't happen overnight. (Nor did it happen via the media as Liza Featherstone laughably suggests in The Nation. But then how would she know about the Downing Street Memos -- which The New York Review of Books, not The Nation, published. Jessica Lee, of the Indypendent, covers what Featherstone can't or won't -- click here.) What happened in the United States was activists and some journalists and publications pursued the topic (again, really not The Nation -- they had food issues and environmental issues and so much more to cover -- which is why they've never once written of the gang rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer). People carved out a space for it and certainly Cindy Sheehan took it up a notch.

All that was needed for the lies to be exposed and the public to turn against the war.
Ehren Watada was not in the United States. He was stationed in Korea. And it's really important to remember that. Many who've served in Iraq have seen the lies fall away before their eyes (which reality will do) but in terms of how the war was sold, don't think that troops serving overseas are getting the same media that those in the United States do. In the lead up to his announcing his decision to his mother on January 1, 2006, he was cramming in three-plus years worth of information, reporting, critiques, etc. Which is why Hatsue Katsura of El Cerrito notes to The Contra Costa Times: "It was a gradual awareness and realization of facts about the war that were publicly disclosed over time. It became obvious our administration lacked reliable intelligence and was lying to justify an illegal and immoral war.I respect and support Watada for his decision. By refusing to obey orders, he knew he'd probably face a jail sentence. But he responded to a higher calling to serve his fellow man as an American and a world citizen."

Or, as
Ehren Watada asked Daisuke Wakabayashi, "When you have leaders that are unaccountable, who have already deceived people over something as serious as war and are willing to do it again, you have to ask yourself, 'where do you stand?'" Or, as he explained to Judith Scherr (Berkeley Daily Planet), "I'm willing to go to prison for what I believe in. . . .
I've taken an oath to defend the constitution, I must be willing to sacrifice."

That sacrifice shouldn't involve sacrificing the truth of his story so possibly some might need to correct
Tom Zeller Jr. (New York Times) who writes: "But Lieutenant Watada is no ordinary deserter, and he did not claim to be a conscientious objector." Ehren Watada is "no oridinary deserter" -- in fact, he's no deserter of any kind. Not since Zeller Jr. dismissed concerns over the Ohio vote immediately after the 2004 election has he seemed so out of touch with what he is supposed to be covering. Watada isn't a deserter. He refused to deploy. That is not desertion. He is not charged with desertion. Since he refused deployment, he has reported to the base for work every day. Zeller's fact-free approach to reporting made him a laughing stock in 2004 (all the more so with the recent Ohio convictions on voter fraud in the 2004 election) and he's obviously more concerned with maintaining that status. So let's speak slowly for Zeller Jr.: Desertion follows AWOL. AWOL is what most are charged with if they are gone for less than thirty days. Watada is not charged with desertion because he never went AWOL. He has been at Fort Lewis for every scheduled hour since he went public. He is not a deserter and the fact-free approach of Zeller's is not reporting. If the Junior Zeller is still confused, someone can refer him to the reporting of Andrew Buncombe (Independent of London): "When Lt Watada refused to go to Iraq last summer the army charged him with missing movement -- for failing to deploy -- as well as several counts of conduct unbecoming an officer."

Amnesty International has issued a press release entitled "
USA: War objector's freedom of conscience must be respected" which notes: "'If found guilty, Amnesty International would consider Ehren Watada to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release', said Susan Lee, Amnesty International's Americas Programme Director. 28-year-old Army Lieutenant Ehren Watada faces a possible four year prison sentence on charges of 'missing movement' -- due to his refusal to deploy to Iraq in June 2006 -- and of 'conduct unbecoming an officer' --- because of his public comments regarding his objections to the war in Iraq. Ehren Watada has stated that his refusal is based on his belief that the Iraq war is illegal and immoral. In a pre-court martial hearing held on 16 January, a military judge ruled that he could not base his defence on the legality of the war in Iraq." As Amnesty International steps up to the plate and The Nation plays useless, is it any wonder that so many are starting to believe organizations are more worthy of their dollars than those in independent media who make themselves useless?

As noted, Watada will not be allowed to present a defense. Lt. Col. 'Judge" Head will preside. A military jury will render the verdict on the charges. The hearing itself is expected to go rather quickly since the 'judge' has disallowed Watada's right to present a defense. (The August Article 32 hearing went quickly, since witnesses like Ann Wright, Denis Halliday and Frances Boyle will not be allowed to testify for Watada this time, it's expected to be over in a couple of hours.)

Suzanne Goldenberg (Guardian of London) interviewed Watada who told her, "It was so shocking to me. I guess I had heard about WMD and that we made a terrible, terrible mistake. Mistakes can happen but to think that it was deliberate and that a careful deception was done on the American people -- you just had to question who you are as a serviceman, as an American."

Ehren Watada will be speaking:

Your last opportunity to hear from Lt. Watada in person prior to his military court martial!! Saturday, February 3, 7 PM University Temple United Methodist Church 1415 NE 43rd Street, Seattle WA(next to the University Bookstore). $10 suggested donation for the event. No one will be turned away.

In addition, his mother, Carolyn Ho, will be speaking Saturday in Little Tokyo (in Los Angeles) at an event Saturday organized by the Asian Emrican Veterans Organization (event starts with a meet up march at the intersection of San Pedro and Second at 4:00 pm)..
More information on all events can be found by
clicking here.

Watada is a part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as
Agustin Aguayo (whose court-martial is currently set to begin on March 6th), Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ivan Brobeck, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Mark Wilkerson, Joshua Key, 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, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell 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.

Again, the court-martial beings Monday.
Courage to Resist lists actions taking place at Fort Lewis and elsewhere. They note that the court-martial is open to the public (you need to get a visitors pass), will be held (at Fort Lewis base) in Building 2027 and that the proceedings are scheduled to begin at 9:00 am.

Iraq Veterans Against the War are staging actions throughout the weekend:

Friday, February 2nd through Monday, February 5th, the day of Lt. Ehren Watada's court-martial, IVAW's Olympia Chapter and
IVAW Deployed will be holding a series of events/fundraisers in order to raise awareness on the importance and details of Ehren's action, and subsequently, his court-martial.
We will show up on the day of Ehren'' trial with a presence and message that cannot be ignored nor denied. Our message is simple: George W. Bush and those who choose to partake in war crimes are the people that should be on trial. Lt. Ehren Watada's argument is legitimate and should be adopted by all who might be given unlawful orders.

Yesterday on
KFPA's Flashpoints, co-host Nora Barrows Friedman interviewed Dahr Jamail about the Najaf massacre. "What we do know for sure according to Iraqi doctors," Darh explained, that "253 killed and another 210 wounded." Jamail described the people in the region as wanting to self-govern and that "members of the tribes were starting to stand up because they want to be self-governing". The violence started with a tribal leader and his wife being gunned down which is a far cry from "the bogus story about a Shia messianic cult" plotting and conspiring to kill clerics.

Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily have covered many details of the Najaf story (see "
Official Lies Over Najaf Battle Exposed") and Stan Goff (Huffington Post) notes their work and compares the lies of Najaf (from the US government and from the mainstream media) to the 'glory' days of Centcom past: "They were dead at the hands of the US and its sketchy Iraqi armed forces 'allies,' and one of the perennial CENTCOM lies of the day is that every Iraqi who dies during any US operation is an 'insurgent' or a 'gunman.' In fact, most of them were religious pilgrims who were gunned down without any provocation . . . more then 200 of them. This was no 'battle.' It was a massacre. The dead were religious pilgrims, not a 'cult.' All of us should figure it out, especially news people, that urban guerillas do not concentrate in groups of 200-plus, and that any time we learn that more than 200 people have been killed, it is a pretty good bet that they were mostly civilians.

Dahr also spoke of what happened in Baquba which had been a "very mixed town" for Shias and Sunnis prior to the illegal war but "just weeks after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003" the US military "brought together all of the religous leaders into a tent" in Baquba and had Shia and Sunnis go to opposite sides which is the sort of division that the US created and cemented and which some politicians (such as US Senator Joe Biden) favor: splitting Iraq into three regions (Kurds, Sunnis and Shi'ites). What Dahr spoke of echoes what MADRE's Yanar Mohammed witnessed and discussed with Laura Flanders on the December 9th broadcast of RadioNation with Laura Flanders -- after the invasion, all Iraqis faced one question when dealing with the occupation government (Americans): "Are you Shia or Sunni?"

That helped solidify divisions and conflicts. Today,
Karen deYoung and Walter Pincuse (Washington Post) broke the news of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq which found the biggest obstacle in Iraq today to be the sectarian conflict. David Morgan (Reuters) reports: "Escalating violence between Iraqi Sunnis and Shi'ites met the definition for a civil war, but the politically charged term did not describe all the chaos in Iraq, the report said. . . . An unclassified version of the NIE's key judgments said the term civil war 'accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence and population displacements'."

In Iraq today,
CNN reports: "A U.S. Apache helicopter went down Friday in Iraq, killing two American soldiers, the military said. It was the fourth helicopter to crash in two weeks.
The U.S. military recovered the soldiers' remains and secured the site northwest of Baghdad near Taji. The number of U.S. military fatalities in the Iraq war stands at 3,090, including seven civilian contractors of the Defense Department." For those who've forgotten, New Year's Eve brought the news that the count of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war had reached 3,000. For those who've missed it, helicopters have been coming down in Iraq for some time. "Crash landings" and "emergency landings" and no press follow up to determine what happened. In January, that finally began to change. The helicopter that went down today was shot down. This morning,
Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported, "An American helicopter crashed north of Baghdad Friday morning, and an Iraqi police spokesman said it had been downed by a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile." AP confirms it was shot down: "A U.S. Army helicopter crashed Friday in a hail of gunfire north of Baghdad, police and witnesses said -- the fourth lost in Iraq in the last two weeks. The U.S. command said two crew members were killed, and the top U.S. general conceded that insurgent ground fire has become more effective." Note that it was brought down with gunfire. As has happened before but the flacks for the military have dismissed crashes resulting from gunfire and have maintained that the 'hardware' needed to down helicopters just wasn't to be found in Iraq. Such claims fly in the face of reality, of memories of Vietnam and of your average action adventure film that features helicopters. It's taken some time for the mainstream press to address the realities that, yes, helicopters can be shot down with gunfire.


Sahar Al Shawi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two bombings in Baghdad that left three people wounded, three people wounded in Kadhimiya "as a result of a Katiosha missile aimed at the area today", and three people wounded in Khalis from a mortar attack.

Kim Gamel (AP) notes a roadside bombing in Mosul that killed one police officer.

Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports that the death toll for the two bombings in Hilla yesterday has now reached "at least 73 killed and 152 injured".


Sahar Al Shawi (McClatchy Newspapers) notes that yesterday's shooting of the Dean of the College of Physical Education (Walhan Hameed Al-Timimi) and his son was carried out "in full view of the teachers on campus" at Dyala University and that some are pointing the "finger at the President of the univeristy, Dr. Alla' Al-Atbi, saying that he is involved with armed groups and facilitates their tasks by setting up targets and doing nothing in way of calling for assistance if any attacks took place".

Kim Gamel (AP) reports that "Sunni chairman of the Fallujah City Council, Abbas Ali Hussein" was shot dead.


CNN reports that 32 corpses were discovered in Baghdad today.

Lastly, on
CounterSpin today, John Nichols discussed Molly Ivins passing and worried that Ivins, whose columns were the most heavily circulated progressive ones in newspapers around the world, death would mean the space would go blank (of course, it could also go to a right-winger or centrist) so he suggested that if your local paper carried Ivins' columns, you contact them and ask that they continue to carry a progressive column. To go one further, Molly Ivins was one of the few women to make the top twenty most widely circulated columnists. So if you want to continue to see columns that address reality and you'd like to see a woman continue to be represented on the op-ed pages, you can ask your local paper to carry Amy Goodman (of Democracy Now!). Goodman's doing a weekly column now. I personally doubt that top 10 lists make for worthy or even "good" reading. Molly Ivins stood for something in each column (and humor was a part of it though Nichols wanted to downgrade it -- don't stand by him at a party). It's not just that any progressive voice is needed (or liberal voice), it's one that will use the space well. Goodman's demonstrated that she intends to tackle real topics. Goodman's columns can be found many places and Common Dreams is one. That said, if you're recommending that it be picked up to a newspaper, you need to note a paper that provides the column. "Resistance to war cannot be jailed" is Goodman's most recent column and the link takes you to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. If you're pitching Goodman to your local paper, you should also note that she wrote (with her brother David) two bestselling hardcover books (Exception to the Rulers and Static) (say "New York Times bestsellers") and that she is an award winning journalist (George Polk Award, Aflred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting and is the 2006 RECIPIENT OF THE PUFFIN/NATION PRIZE FOR CREATIVE CITIZENSHIP). You should also note that she hosts (with Juan Gonzalez) Democracy Now! which is broadcast on over 500 radio stations around the world as well as online and as a podcast. Also stress that Ivins wrote a weekly column and Goodman does as well. (Important because, from time to time, a columnist may choose to do a series of columns -- think Bob Herbert -- and newspapers with a weekly slot now open aren't going to want to fill it with a twice weekly column when they only have one day open each week.)

Amy Goodman is my personal choice. Members may have their own choice. If your choice is someone else, e-mail and we'll figure out the best way to present to present your choice to your local paper. But it is not enough to say, as John Nichols did, demand a progressive voice. (He may have been trying to leave it up to listeners or may not have wanted to pick one person over another.) You need to provide a concrete example otherwise you may find that the same editorial boards that boast Thomas Friedman is a liberal (I'm referring to his column in syndication -- the Times is stuck with him) have a very different idea than you do of what "progressive" or "liberal" is. This isn't something you wait on. The op-eds are 'valuable real estate' and they have a fast turn over. Once a spot is occupied, it is very difficult to get a paper to drop a columnist. (Complaints are sometimes seen as 'proof' of how many people read the columnist.) (Sometimes it is proof -- sometimes it's just a sign of how bored and tired readers are with the same-old, same-old.)

amy goodmandemocracy now