Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tariq Ali, Marjorie Cohn

Thursday. One more day until the weekend.

The big news today is 3900 US service members killed in the illegal war. Unless you have no common sense. In which case you're on the bandwagon. Ruth's called it 'Saint' Benezar. Kat's called it the Cult of Bhutto. A tool of US imperialism who returned to Pakistan with a big flourish. This is from Tariq Ali's "Bhutto's Bloody Return" back in October:

More trouble lies ahead. Benazir may be the preferred politician of Washington and the EU, but the Supreme Court is considering five separate petitions to reject the Ordnance that pardons corrupt politicians. Were the court to accept these petitions, Ms Bhutto would have to serve time in prison. This would not displease the government. They would pretend to bow before the dictates of justice.
The tragedy of Pakistan is that the People's Party of Bhutto and its rivals offer no real alternatives to the policies currently being pursued. The State Department notion of Bhutto perched on Musharraf's shoulder parrotting pro-Washington homilies was always ridiculous. Now there are doubts as to whether she will even reach the General's shoulder.

So another former ruler who was just in it for themselves (and the US ruling elite) wanted to get back into power for herself (and the US ruling elite) and would have done nothing to help anyone except the US that wanted to install her got killed today. And somehow the death of one crook outweighs the fact that 3900 US service members died?

Here's what I noticed today, the same people who ignore Iraq via a million excuses could go live to Pakistan via phone calls, could arrange roundtables and discussions via phone calls, could do a hell of a lot more than they've done on Iraq in a year . . . to cover the death of a crook.

But they didn't call her a crook. They didn't offer any reality. Independent broadcast media today was about as 'independent' as Voice of America. Here's some more Tariq Ali from his "Sinking together?:"

For a politician whose sycophantic colleagues boast that she is closer to the pulse of the people than any of her rivals, Benazir Bhutto's decision to do a deal with Pakistan's uniformed president indicates the exact opposite. She is sadly out of touch. General Musharraf is now deeply unpopular here. It is not often that one can actually observe power draining away from a political leader. And the lifeline being thrown to him in the shape of an over-blown Benazir might sink together with him.
An indication that she was not completely unaware of this came a few days ago when she declared that her decision was "approved" by the "international community" always a code-word for Washington) and the Pakistan army (well, yes). In short, Pakistani public opinion was irrelevant.
The mood among sections of the street - I am currently in Lahore - is summed up in a cruel taunt: "People's Party de ballay, ballay / ade kanjar, ade dallay" (Marvel at the People Party / half-whore and half-pimp). This is slightly unfair and could apply to all the Muslim Leagues as well. The fact is that people are disgusted with politics and see politicians as crooks out to make money and feed the greed of the networks they patronise and which double up as useful vote banks.
But it should be acknowledged that Benazir Bhutto's approach is not the result of a sudden illumination. There is a twisted continuity here. When the general seized power in 1999 and toppled the Sharif brothers (then Benazir's detested rivals), she welcomed the coup and nurtured hopes of a ministerial post. When no invitations were forthcoming, she would turn up at the desk of a junior in the South Asian section of the State Department, pleading for a job. Instead the military charged her and her husband with graft and corruption. The evidence was overwhelming. She decided to stay in exile.

And here's Tariq Ali on Democracy Now! in October:

AMY GOODMAN: And how did Benazir Bhutto, his daughter, rise to power?
TARIQ ALI: Benazir Bhutto was, in those days, not very political, but her father's martyrdom, so to speak, brought her into politics. I remember talking to her when her father was prime minister of Pakistan, and she would say to me, "Oh, you know, he's putting me under pressure to come into politics. I don't want to be a politician. I want to be a diplomat. I want to be in the foreign office." But once her father was killed by the army, she and her mother were very courageous. They took the military on. They were locked up. They were in and out of prison. So her role at that time was very honorable.
The big problems began when she--after General Zia was blown up in a plane with the US ambassador, there were elections again, and Benazir won. But she was unable to do anything the first time. And the second time she came to power, her government was incredibly corrupt, and the military then, when Musharraf came to power, charged her with corruption. The evidence is there; it's irrefutable. And as part of the deal now, this corruption is being ignored, which is making people incredibly cynical.
AMY GOODMAN: Tariq Ali, I wanted to play a clip of the Democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Barack Obama, saying two months ago that he would attack areas in Pakistan with or without approval of the Pakistani government.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges, but let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets, and President Musharraf will not act, we will.
AMY GOODMAN: That's Barack Obama. Tariq Ali?
TARIQ ALI: Well, I mean, what is quite staggering is that Barack Obama, whose ignorance on world politics is well known, using this issue in Pakistan to try and strike a military pose, I mean, it's utterly grotesque and pathetic. Were the United States to start bombing raids inside Pakistan, there would be a massive increase of support for the jihadi fundamentalist groups in that country, and it would weaken not just secular political groups, it would weaken even the moderate religious parties who are not associated with that. So this sort of rhetoric coming from Obama is incredibly provocative.
I remember once when I was in the United States just before Bush got reelected and watching—I was in Illinois watching Barack Obama say on television that were Bush to decide to take out the Iranian nuclear reactor, he would be in total support of it. So if this is what Democratic candidates are talking like, Amy, it is quite a depressing situation.
AMY GOODMAN: Right now, the situation in Pakistan, where does Bush's allegiance lie, and what could you see happening?
TARIQ ALI: Well, I think Bush's allegiance lies to the military ruler of Pakistan. They've made that very clear. They've given him $10 billion. Every time the Pakistani military goes in and carries out actions on the Afghan border, they send an invoice directly to Centcom in Florida, which pays them directly. So all these actions are being paid for by the United States, which is well known in Pakistan and is well known here, as well. So the United States is totally tied into the military leader. And the cosmetic changes they're proposing by this arranged marriage, a marriage arranged by the State Department between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, a political marriage, I don't think is going to work. It is creating mayhem within her own party. And there’s nothing she can do, because she’s quite a discredited politician.
AMY GOODMAN: In what way?
TARIQ ALI: In the way that she's--everyone knows that she and her husband went in power incredibly corrupt. The evidence is there. And in a country where the ordinary people are already alienated from the political process, to inflict this on them isn’t going to improve matters.

If you're wondering why I'm going with Tariq Ali so much, it's because he's one of Elaine's favorites. Howard Zinn is her all time favorite. After him there are probably ten others and Tariq Ali is one of them.

Here's Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

And the tragic circumstances of Benazir Bhutto's death should not detract from the fact that she had made her peace with imperialism and was a loud supporter of Bush's murderous "war on terror".
Her radical days were long behind her and many ordinary people in Pakistan rightly saw her as corrupt and reliant on the support of Western powers.

If you've been enraptured by all the b.s. coverage in American media -- big media and small media -- and are mourning for a thug named Bhutto, give it a rest and take a moment to mourn the 3900 mark for US troops killed in Iraq. Take another moment and mourn the over a million Iraqis killed. But don't mourn for the rulers like Bhutto who send people to their deaths.
This is from Marjorie Cohn's "The Torture Tape Cover-Up:"

When the hideous photographs of torture and abuse emerged from Abu Ghraib in the fall of 2004, they created a public relations disaster for the Bush administration. The White House had painstakingly worked to capitalize on the 9/11 attacks by creating a "war on terror." Never mind the absurdity of declaring war on a tactic. Central to Bush's new "war" was the portrayal of us as the good guys and al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein as the bad guys.
But the Abu Ghraib photos of naked Iraqis piled on top of one another, forced to masturbate, led around on leashes like dogs shined the light on U.S. hypocrisy.
After the Abu Ghraib revelations, the Bush administration could not tolerate more bad publicity. So in 2005, the CIA destroyed several hundred hours of videotapes depicting torturous interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, probably including water boarding. The former U.S. official involved in discussions about the tapes reported widespread concern that "something as explosive as this would probably get out," according to the Los Angeles Times. This destruction of evidence may violate several laws. And it remains to be seen how high up the chain of command the criminality goes.
Now that the videotape scandal has come to light, Bush and his men are back in damage control mode. CIA Director Michael Hayden minimized the significance of the destruction, claiming the tapes were destroyed "only after it was determined they were no longer of intelligence value and not relevant to any internal, legislative or judicial inquiries." These claims are disingenuous.
The tapes likely portray U.S. officials engaged in torture, which violates three U.S.-ratified treaties as well as the U.S. Torture Statute and the War Crimes Act.

Cohn is the president of the National Lawyers Guild. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, December 27, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the 3900 mark is reached and the bulk of All Things Media Big and Small drops the ball, and more.

Starting with war resisters.
Brett Clarkson (Ottawa Sun) notes that the "growing community of Iraq war resisters who've fled to Canada from their native U.S. are hinging their hopes on a motion to be introduced in Parliament in February by NDP MP Olivia Chow. Chow, who fiercely opposes the Iraq war, is the last hope for the 50 or so deserters, who face deportation after the Supreme Court refused to hear a final bid by former U.S. soldiers Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey to be given refugee status in Canada. With all their legal avenues exhausted, the deserters are hoping enough politicians in Ottawa will vote in favour of Chow's motion to allow them to be granted refugee status in Canada." Among the war resisters in Canada is Brad McCall. Anthony Lane (Colorado Springs Independent) explains the basics of McCall's story, "lured into the Army by a recruiter's slick pitch and the promise of a $20,000 signing bonus. After joining, though, his bonus only came to half that amount, he says, and he soon realized he could not support the Army's mission in Iraq, nor could he stomach the thought of having to kill a person. With his inquiries to get out of the Army as a conscientious objector seemingly facing long odds, McCall made plans to hit the road instead, speaking nonchalantly with the Indy about his travel plans the night he left."

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:
In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

March 13th through 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.

First up, who sent the message today that Iraq is not important?

A great many. Here's reality for Media bound and determined to make themselves useless on the topic of Iraq: 3900.

That's the number ICCC reported this morning before anyone started broadcasting, before anyone started scribbling. It's the number of US service members killed in the illegal war since it started. (It leaves out those who died from injuries -- physical, mental and emotional -- after returning to the US from Iraq. As well as those who kill themselves on R&R in the MidEast -- but we're not supposed to note that detail either.) ICCC is the Defense Department's count of 3898 plus the two (see yesterday's snapshot) deaths that Multi-National Forces announced on Wednesday. Which, once the families of the two are notified, will bring DoD's count to 3900.

Somehow that's not news to many in media. It's shameful. But pimping a US backed leader's death is apparently more important than noting the non-leaders sent into an illegal war by the White House to die. Well, we always care about the famous -- or at least All Things Media Big and Small does.

The 3000 mark was reached December 31, 2006. And, in one year's time, a thousand more have died. The 2007/110th Congress held their first session on January 4, 2007. At that point the number dead was 3006. There was a huge shake-up in the Congress, for any who've forgotten. Democrats promised a lot with regards to Iraq and they delivered nothing. In the November 2006 elections, they had a sweep. They had hoped to win control of one house. They won control of both houses of Congress. Since their first session, 894 US service members have been announced dead in Iraq. Since the Democrats were handed control, Byron W. Fouty and Alex R. Jimenez went missing. They were part of a group that was slaughtered. (By Iraqis waived through checkpoints, for those who've forgotten.) Hopefully, they are still alive. But they went missing May 12th. (They are two of four missing since the start of the illegal war. Keith M. Maupin went missing April 16, 2004 and Ahmeda Qusai al-Taei went missing right before the November elections, October 23, 2006. Ahmeda Qusai al-Taei is the US soldier who married an Iraqi and was captured while visiting her in Baghdad, outside the Green Zone.) The count doesn't include the deaths from physical wounds following the departure from Iraq. Five service members are known to have died after returning to the US, died from the physical injuries they received in Iraq. The number is probably higher. This year three died, from physical wounds received in Iraq, after leaving Iraq: Jack D. Richards (July 29, 2007), Gerald J. Cassidy (September 25, 2007) and Anthony Raymond Wasielewsk (October 8, 2007). In addition there are the many who have come back with mental traumas and have taken their own lives. They aren't included in the count either.

3900 is the number. And anyone thinking of themselves as being a journalist damn well should have noted it today. A century from The Progressive can put it on a calender for one of their Hidden History of the United States: "December 27, 2007, the 3900 mark was reached for the official number of US service members killed in the Iraq War. A year prior, when the 3,000 mark was hit on New Year's Eve, consumers of so-called independent media wondered whether it was the holiday or the lack of giving a damn about the illegal war. Fate decided to clarify for them in 2007 by allowing the mark to be reached on a non-holiday." For those wondering, Associated Press is covering it. The Seattle Times has attached it to a Washington Post report as a sidebar: "The U.S. military said two soldiers were killed in fighting Wednesday in Ninevah province in the north. As of Wednesday, at least 3,900 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war." There are other examples. Where's Little Media?

3900 thrice betrayed. Betrayed by the executive branch of the federal government that sent them to die in vain in an illegal war based on lies. Betrayed by the Democratic leadership in Congress who took over control of both houses in January 2007 but did nothing to end the illegal war. Betrayed by so much of Little Media which just doesn't give a damn and, besides, they've got an election to 'win' for Barack Obama.
Michael Schwartz (US Socialist Worker) observed this month of the illegal war, "So the U.S. is trying to coerce the Middle East into pumping the oil far more quickly than it would do if left alone. That coercive process isn't going to end with a war in Iraq. They're going to have to coerce Iran, they're going to have to coerce Kuwait, they're going to have to coerce Saudia Arabia. The Democrats and Republicans have signed on for a long-term project of international bullying by the United States, which will involve small and large wars, gutting our economy in order to maintain the huge military presence, and then all the consequences of global warming. This is the numb of the disaster -- the real consequences of the American presence in the Middle East. Fortunately, the people of Iraq are doing a fairly good job of resisting right now, but the people of the United States have to force a change in American foreign policy at its very base."

Noting the Baquba bombing yesterday,
Damien Cave (New York Times) notes the death toll increased to four dead (three was the number in the snapshot yesterday) and that the collaborators' deaths follow "Tuesday, [when] several members of an Awakening group were killed by a suicide truck bomber near a checkpoint outside the Baiji oil refinery, in nothern Iraq." On the Tuesday car bombing, Anne Penketh (Independent of London) also notes that the Sunnis collaborating with the US were targets and observes, "Although the US has trumpeted its success in Anbar province and Baghdad, where al-Qa'ida has been marginalised by the US military 'surge' and local tribal chiefs turning on the insurgents, US officials say the network is regrouping in the north."

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Baghdad roadside bombings that claimed 1 life and left eleven wounded and five Diyala Province roadside bombings -- "a health care center, market area, the mayor's office . . . a house in town" and "a police vehicle".


US military announces 11 people were killed in Al Kut and states they were "terrorists" which required "fire, and . . . supporting aircraft". The US military also announces 12 'kills' from December 22 to 25th in Diyala Province and, again, tosses around the term 'terrorists'. AFP notes, "Iraq officials said the dead included two civilians." Some of the dead are thought to be conected to the Mahdi Army (but estranged from Muqtada al-Sadr in various reports -- and we used "thought to be," nothing is known). CBS and AP ponder the effects the deaths could have on the "six-month freeze on activities that the Mahdi Army leader -- radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr -- called in August and has signaled in the past week he might extend."


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack on two min-buses that led to "22 passengers" being kidnapped.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 4 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

Naomi Klein will be on PBS' The Charlie Rose Show. Klein's new book is The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism. Also Friday on PBS, NOW with David Brancaccio, the program "investigates the partnership of a Republican congressman and the Idaho Conservation League to protect a vast swath of the state's natural environment. Does their compromise legislation come at too high a price? The legislation, the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA), transfers some public land -- land Americans across the country pay for -- to private local ownership in exchange for protection of nearby wilderness. It also leaves land bordering the wilderness open to further recreational use, especially involving off-road vehicles." Among those speaking out on the program against the sell-out of public lands is Carole King -- King of Goffin & King in the 60s (chronological sixties), writing the music to more charting hits than may be humanly possible, easing into a group at the tail end of that decade (The City), going solo in the seventies, releasing the landmark album Tapestry, etc., still writing, still performing and working on the issue of the ecology for many, many years.

In reality based humor,
The Christmas Coup Comedy Players (CCCP)'s latest broadcast aired on WBAI yesterday featured CCNN (Christmas Chaos Nostradamus Network) predicting ten events that will happen in 2008 which included, at number four, "President Bush will announce every day next year that we are winning in Iraq and that we need more troops in Iraq to keep winning." The program is archived at WBAI and featured Janet Coleman, David Dozer, John McDonagh, Marc Kehoe, Scooter, Moogy Klingman and (Wally's favorite) Will Durst.

Turning to the topic of getting rich off the war, on this week's
Law and Disorder (which airs first at 10:00 a.m. EST on WBAI Mondays), Prison Legal News' Paul Wright, co-author Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass incarceration spoke with hosts Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith (Dalia Hashad and Michael Ratner are also co-hosts of the program)

Heidi Boghosian: There's a chapter on how prison labor supports the military. Can you briefly explain that?

Paul Wright: Yes, UNICOR is the trade name of Federal Prison Industries and Federal Prison Industries was originally set up during the 1930s as a job-training program for federal prisoners -- also to give government agencies items at a lower cost than they'd otherwise get. It was supposed to be a win-win benefit: prisoners got job training earn a little bit of money -- and when I say a little bit we're talking fourteen-cents to I think their salary maxes out at a dollar, a dollar and five cents an hour, so "little" is the operative word. Government agencies are able to buy products at below market costs. As things have evolved, it turns out the Department of Defense is one of the biggest buyers of UNICOR made products and federal prisoners make everything for the military from uniforms to helmets, to retro-fitting Humvee jeeps with blast armor, to the cables for . . . missile launchers, to cluster bomb casings and a whole bunch of other stuff. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have kind of ramped up sales from UNICOR to the Department of Defense have increasingly gone up and we're talking 700, 800 million dollars a year in sales of items made by federal prisoners to the Department of Defense.

Michael Smith: Paul, that's really extraordinary, what you've described: So they're exploiting prison labor at home to make arms for soldiers to exploit colonial people abroad at the same time they're cutting back on education so they can use money to build the prisons where they exploit the labor. So what you have really is a system that you could only call a decadent system. And it reminds me, really of --

Paul Wright: (laughing) You're being too generous!

Michael Smith: (laughing) If you've got a better word, I'd like to hear it. We interviewed Marnia Lazreg who wrote a book called Torture and the Twilight of Empire in the light of I think what you've been telling us about the whole prison industrial complex and who profits from it is just another chapter in the decline of empire.

As Boghosian and Wright noted, Prison Profiteers is on sale now at
Prison Legal News and will be available starting next month at bookstores and online at book dealers. The book is published by The New Press and Wright co-wrote it with Tara Herivel. Lazreg was a guest on the program that began airing December 17th (Law and Disorder airs throughout the week on many stations and you can see the website if you're interested in getting the one-hour, weekly program on the air in your area) and was noted in the December 17th snapshot.

Also featured on this week's broadcast is co-host Michael Smith's speech at the
Brecht Forum on the police state. Not noted on the broadcast but of interest in terms of Iraq is 1992's Notebook of a Sixties Lawyer: An Unrepentant Memoir and Selected Writings by Smith -- Michael Steven Smith -- which has significant portions on the GI Rights Movement during Vietnam that can be applied to today.

Charlie Rose Show