Wendesday. I think everybody knows that Elaine and I are a couple. :D I was on the phone with her tonight (like most nights) and she is so pissed. Some man decided that he knows more about everything than two 'little women' like Ava and C.I. "Ike Turner (Ava and C.I. feature)" has offended him because Ike is his pin-up and who cares if Ike beat Tina Turner over and over, who cares if he sent her to the emergency room and made things so bad that she tried to kill herself, he loves Ike!
Elaine is furious. Jim called her to tell her about an e-mail and she intends to unload tonight, so check out her site because I have a feeling this will be one of the strongest things she's written all year.
When she started filling in for Rebecca in the summer of 2005, I was dating Nina and didn't even know Elaine. Rebecca asked us all to call and check in to see if she need help learning Blogger/Blogspot or anything at all. I had only started my site a little before that so I was just glad not to be the newbie. :D
But we got to know each other and I begged and begged her to start her own site when Rebecca got back from vacation. Which she did. And we were the blog twins before we were a couple. Nina and I broke up (this is written with Nina's permission, I called her and told her what was going on and she said write whatever I want and to tell Elaine, "Rip that asshole to shreads!" meaning the guy who wants to excuse Ike Turner). Nina thought I was interested in Elaine and I got that from others. Elaine got that on her end too. But we weren't in a relationship or thinking about one or planning one. We were just friends.
When I told her about Nina and I breaking up, we didn't jump into a relationship. We honestly thought everyone was insane because we were just friends. Then, at the start of the summer of 2006 (or around there) we began to date and became a couple.
Wally knew because he had come up from Florida to spend a few weeks with me. But even Tony didn't know. Tony's my best friend. He lives on my street. Our dads were best friends growing up. (Tony's dad's my boss at work.) Our parents do stuff together all the time. And I didn't tell Tony. I wouldn't have told Wally but (a) I needed to tell someone and (b) since Wally was around the whole time he was going to catch on.
A little while after, we all went out to California and spent two weeks at C.I.'s. Wally ran interference for us and no one knew we were a couple. (Or we thought that. C.I. knew.) As it went on, I was dying to tell everybody and we were keeping it quiet. Rebecca called a roundtable for her site (that we all reposted at our sites) and in it, I almost announced we were a couple. I was just kind of hinting. But C.I. jumped in and said, "Don't." C.I. also said (and that's in the roundtable if someone wants to look it up) that stuff around that was being pulled. Everyone in the roundtable was wondering what was going on?
So that's when I figured out that C.I. knew. Or maybe just suspected. So Elaine and I came out as a couple in a roundtable and we were beating around the bush and finally C.I. just goes something like, "They're a couple okay!"
We don't talk about the details because Elaine's really private and that's cool.
But my point in all that is I've known her for how long now? We've been a couple for how long now? And I've never heard her so angry. So be sure to check out Like Maria Said Paz. And, to be clear, whatever she writes, I support 100%. And I'm offended just hearing of that stupid e-mail.
On the plus, there are ALL these e-mails coming in from women. I was talking to Dona on the phone yesterday and she said it wipes her out to read them because these women are writing in and saying "thank you" for the piece and explaining why it means so much to them, because they were beaten by a husband or a boyfriend.
I don't know if Jim's even going to bother to reply. I called him twice today and he didn't call back. I found out why from Elaine. He was working on a reply to that guy. Jim takes it very seriously. Ava and C.I. are that site's calling card. And if some big name wants to write and try to rip them apart, he's picked the wrong person to write to. Jim's not going to stand for that. He will tell you himself, Ava and C.I.'s writing made that sight. What they do now is a direct reflection of Ava and C.I.'s work.
When it started, The Third Estate Sunday Review was supposed to be a site for college stuff. They were going to do these reports on what it was like to be a student today and all. They did do that. They did some great reports on that early on.
But they did this amazing report on a woman in their class and why she had an abortion and why she didn't support parental consent laws. And that story was just ignored. In the early days, Jim was always thinking of links and stuff like that. And this was a hard hitting report and an amazing story. So Jim thought it would get some attention. When it didn't, he felt awful because the woman had really put herself through a lot of crap to tell her story to them. (She was raped by her father or step-father, I haven't read the story in a long time.) When it didn't get attention, Jim was pretty ticked off because that woman had really torn herself apart to share that story.
But when they did that first edition, Jim goes, "We have to do TV! Everyone on campus, even if they say they don't, watches TV." Ava and C.I. didn't want to. They hated the idea. But they all worked on the TV piece. And that became the thing people noticed!
And Jim was noticing that all the stuff that was getting attention in the reviews were what Ava and C.I. were writing. That's when Jim said, "These need to be Ava and C.I. only." So Ava and C.I. got stuck writing about a topic they didn't even want included! :D
But that is what gets the most attention to this day. And Jim has long said that's the site's calling card.
The man who wrote seemed to be on a huffy bike about feminism, by the way. That's pretty sad.
But Jim will tell you that when it was a group process, he would dismiss Ava and C.I.'s stuff and they would have to fight to get it in. And even after it became just their feature, he'll tell you he still didn't get what they were doing. It wasn't just the jokes that people were responding to, it was the whole point of reference. Even before he got what they were doing, he appreciated it. Then he got it and he really appreciated it.
But they wouldn't have had credit were it not for the fact that Jim, Dona, Jess and Ty got sick of reading e-mails, hearing from friends and families, "Your thing on ___ [TV show] was great! I loved that!" They were happy to say, "It was great and Ava and C.I. are amazing." But they didn't want to take credit for things they weren't doing so they ended up crediting Ava and C.I. (over their objections). And the minute that happened, the minute it was known that it was just two women writing it, suddenly these nasty and violent e-mails came in.
Which shows you how things work in the world, right?
"Feminism" was never a dirty word to me. Ma's a feminist. I grew up with a lot of socialists in my family and they didn't 'scare' me so you know feminism wasn't going to. At it's most basic, it just means we all are equal and that's not controversial, or shouldn't be. We should all have equal rights. But Ava and C.I. offered a weekly feminist take on TV. And they did so, read Susan Faludi's book, at a time when women were under assault.
That spoke to a lot of people. Feminists and non-feminists. The humor would draw you in and you could (or I could) read it and laugh and then a couple of days later really get what they were saying. At a time when women's voices were being pushed off the landscape, Ava and C.I. offered a weekly TV commentary that refused to play "worship the man!"
They've done some amazing writing. And they've got a huge following. And Jim's going to take it very personally if some name writes in and writes some lies about Ava and C.I. We all are but I'm trying not to get angry.
There have been six to write in about the article that didn't say "I loved it." One of them exchanged e-mails with Ty and he's cool with what they wrote. The other five men are dip ****s. And I should point out that everyone of the five (even the sixth) are names you see online all the time, people who write for a living. That may be the most depressing thing about it. (Although the sixth guy was cool after they exchanged e-mails.)
Did you read "Abeer" this morning? C.I. wrote an amazing essay.
And think about that, think about how AP says it was the worst war crime of the war -- it was the worst that we know of -- and then ask where was the coverage of it?
AP doesn't have to be embarrassed. They covered it. They reported on it regularly. The Washington Post did some good stuff too. But the New York Times didn't. They offered excuses and they refused to print Abeer's name. Even during the Article 32 hearing, they wouldn't print her name. And small media, except for Off Our Backs and Robin Morgan, ran from the story. We didn't get reports on it, we didn't get discussions or roundtables. That is so disgusting. And Rebecca, Elaine and C.I. were calling it out at their sites in real time, noting the silences and how disgusting it was. (And we all called it out in pieces at The Third Estate Sunday Review.)
Ike lovers should stop e-mailing Third and start asking them what they ever wrote about Abeer (nothing). Then they should ask themselves what they've written about Tracy Barker or Jamie Leigh Jones. If you don't know about the two women, you should read "TV: ABC's Cesspool" -- Ava and C.I.'s TV commentary this week. Both women, from the US, went to Iraq to work and they were both sexually assaulted. Jamie Leigh Jones was drugged and gang-raped. Tracy Barker was sexually harassed repeatedly and then a member of the State Department sexually assaulted her. There have been no consequences for any of the men involved.
But why should there be in a world where left men can e-mail Third this week to whine that Ike Turner was a good man?
I mean, it goes hand in hand. They won't call out Ike, they will lie about Ike Turner. And then they don't write about Abeer or Jamie Leigh Jones or Tracy Barker. Why would they when they defend a man who beat women? Doesn't that about tell you all you need to know?
Barker and Jones were sexually assaulted by Americans being paid by our taxes. That should offend you right there. The fact that the men never got punished should outrage you even more.
I'm just a college student, but, hey, I know enough not to assault a woman. I know that's wrong, I know it's not 'fun' for a woman. I know if she says 'no' she's not really wanting me to push her. But I have to wonder about the five men who seem to think Ike Turner deserves our forgiveness. He's a rotten person. The world's better off because he's dead.
And think about Tina Turner. She's alive and probably seeing all these valentines being written about the man who tortured her.
I mean, as far as I'm concerned, anyone who wants to write about torture better be against it. If I saw one of those five men writing about torture, I'd immediately think, "Unless it's a woman, right? Then it's okay." Because that is what they say. Ike Turner tortured Tina. He made her life a living hell. But when Ike does it, it's okay? That's kind of like how it's not supposed to be a crime if the White House approves it, right?
If you don't get yet how sick and screwed up Iraq is (because of the US), grasp that American males thought they could go to Iraq and drug a woman to force themselves onto her. Or that a man who works for the State Department, still works for, can assault a woman.
These are things that you get fired in the real world. Not in Iraq. And we're paying for it. We're paying for this crap. That's disgusting.
Dave Lindorff isn't disgusting. :D He's a great writer. And he's got a piece entitled "When Impeachment is Out of Print:"
Over this weekend and by noon today, 82,000 Americans signed a petition sponsored by Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) and two other members of the House Judiciary Committee, Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), calling on that committee and its chairman, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) to begin immediate hearings on Rep. Dennis Kucinich's bill to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney.
There was no report in the nation's corporate media on the three Judiciary Committee members' call (they are three senior members of the House Democratic Party), and no report on the remarkable public response to their petition.
As always when the story involves impeachable crimes by the Bush administration, the corporate media has been silent, devoting its news minutes and its column inches to meaningless stories about the twin horseraces for the presidential nomination, which themselves have blacked out any word of the main crowd-pleasers in those campaigns, Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Kucinich.
Impeachment is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows that this country is being run by a criminal syndicate that has rigged elections, hidden its knowledge of the 9-11 attacks, lied the country into war, plotted to out an important CIA undercover operative and then obstruct a criminal investigation into that act, subverted most of the articles of the bill of rights, emasculated the Congress and the Courts (which it has also shamelessly packed with shameless hacks), betrayed veterans, surrendered a major American metropolis to the devastation of a hurricane, plotted to enable the declaring or martial law, tortured and kidnapped people in violation of international law and obstructed efforts to deal with the unprecedented crisis of global warming for an unconscionable seven years.
But the media won't allow any talk of holding this administration to account. It's not just that we are being told that the only power and duty we as citizens have is to vote once every two or four years (after which we are supposed to shut up and consume), but that we are not to be told about, or to talk about these larger crimes that are occurring, and worsening, day by day.
It's past time to impeach. I don't think it's too late. I don't think it's too late next month or the month after. I do think it's required and that if we don't impeach Bully Boy we are sending a bad message historically that will forever say we agreed with it, we tolerated it and we accepted it. I didn't. If you didn't, call your reps. Don't write 'em, call 'em. And tell whoever answers the phone you want to see impeachment and that your Congress member needs to do the right thing and follow the Constitution they took an oath to uphold.
I just called Tony because we were talking about a column today and I was going to highlight it. It was Dave Zirin writing about the Barry Bonds and major league baseball story. And I can't find it. I asked Tony where we saw that and he said CounterPunch but I'm not seeing it. If Tony hadn't seen it too, I'd think I dreamed it. There it is. I was scrolling down the left of the CounterPunch page and trying to find it and couldn't. Because I wasn't on the home page, I'd already gone to Zirin's article (which means it's not listed on the links to the left when you're on it). This is from his "George Mitchell's Drugs of Choice:"
The Mitchell Report on steroids is shaking the baseball world from cap to cleats. It names 86 players, and calls for a vast reformation of what is being called "the steroid era" in Major League Baseball. The 20-month, $20 million investigation has been accepted as gospel by the hoi polloi. Yet having slogged through the 400-page dirge, it's difficult to not agree with ESPN's Jayson Stark that the report contains "way too many instances of name- dropping ... with a blank check here or an address-book listing there, but no true corroboration anywhere." And yet this hearsay is being accepted as fact because of the reputation of the man behind the report: former Sen. George Mitchell.
As a fawning press corps mentions at every turn, this is an individual beyond reproach: the former Senate majority leader, former federal judge and "the man who brokered the Northern Ireland peace deal." Mitchell played to the hilt the role of "wise man" upon announcing his findings last Thursday, speaking with the gravity of an Anglican minister.
But before we collectively sanctify his findings as holy writ, perhaps we should also consider the man behind it. When not "saving baseball," Mitchell works as a D.C. lobbyist carrying water for Big Tobacco and other corporations that traffic in human misery. By shedding even a modest light on the company he keeps, a serious shadow is cast on not merely the messenger but the deeply flawed message.
Mitchell's sins are as lengthy as they are hidden. First, there is the senator's drug of choice: tobacco, a substance that has tagged more toes than any steroid. In 1997, Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times that his law firm Verner, Lipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand "earned more than $10 million in fees in 1997 from the five largest tobacco companies." The work has continued, with big tobacco paying top dollar to make sure they can survive the class-action lawsuit settlements that threaten to bankrupt their industry.
It's a really strong column and he's also pointing out who got called out and who got a pass. So check it out. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Wednesday, December 19, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, sexual assault victims of American contractors tell their story, Steven D. Green finally gets a court date, Operation Happy Talk's effects are noticed and more.
Starting with war resistance. We're noting s3nn5 video online, whic is one of the PSAs in support of war resisters in Canada, entitled "Let them stay: US war resisters in Canada (2 of 3)" and we're focused on Ryan Johnson, Jeremy Hinzman and Clifford Cornell.
Ryan Johnson: The contract, when you go to sign your contract, it's about 30 pages long. And you go, 'Okay, I want to flip through this real quick.' And the sergeant that's helping you with your contract and stuff, they say, 'No, you don't have time to read it. I'll just tell you what each page basically says that you're -- or what the contract basically says. And he just goes, 'Well the contract basically says that you're going to be signed up for four years and after that, you have four years of call-back basically -- if there's a military action we can call you back. At the end of the contract, it says that everything in this contract that we have promised, as in the army, 'can be changed at any time without your notice. And, uh, it also states in there that everything I promised is non-negoitable so I have to serve my four years no matter what.
Jeremy Hinzman: I did break a contract. I signed up for four years, I didn't stay for four years. But a contract is two ways. It's two people agreeing to certain terms and conditions and the army didn't live up to it's to its terms and conditions. It-it's not defending the Constitution of the United States . . .
Ryan Johnson: Most units, just like mine, are saying they aren't going to accept any Conscientious Objector claims. You can apply but you won't be granted.
Clifford Cornell: My first sergeant who's my higher supervisor, he got up in front of a formation and basically told us there was like two guys who applied for [CO] status. He got up there and told us those two guys who applied for it and that he didn't want anyone else to apply for it because we was going to Iraq whether we liked it or not.
Ryan Johnson: There is I think when I left there was 15 other people that went AWOL from my unit alone So I mean if you look at how many units are deploying in any given time, if there's five or fifteen or twenty from that unit that go AWOL, that's a lot of people going AWOL. Being AWOL in the States, it's impossible to do and actually like have a real life. I mean you have a choice to going back to jail or living underground for the rest of your life. That's what choices you have unless you go to Canada. That's the only other options that I know of.
The Canadian Parliament has the power to let war resisters stay in Canada. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper (firstname.lastname@example.org -- that's pm at gc.ca) who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion (Dion.S@parl.gc.ca -- that's Dion.S at parl.gc.ca) who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua (Bevilacqua.M@parl.gc.ca -- that's Bevilacqua.M at parl.gc.ca) who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use. Both War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist are calling for actions from January 24-26.
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).
Meanwhile 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 15th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.
Turning to the US Senate. Yesterday, Senator Russ Feingold declared, "The issue I heard most about this year as I traveled around the state was anger over the President' war in Iraq and Congress' inability to end it. If those of us in Congree who want to end this war don't take every opportunity to push back against this administration, we will be just as responsible for keeping our troops in Iraq." The statement came on the day the issue of funding the illegal war rose again, "just days after the Senate authorized another $189 billion dollars in war funding," as Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted. Feingold proposed an amendment to the bill on funding (link has text and audio):
The amendment is one I have offered before and I will not hesitate, if I must, to offer again and again and again. I'd add the 17 cosponsors is the greatest number we've ever had for this amendment. It requires the President to begin safely redeploying U.S. troops from Iraq within 90 days of enactment, and requires redeployment to be completed within 9 months. At that point, with the bulk of our troops safely out of Iraq, funding for the war would be ended, with four narrow exceptions: providing security for U.S. government personnel and infrastructure; training the Iraqi Security Forces; providing training and equipment to U.S. servicemen and women to ensure their safety and security and conducting targeted operations, limited in duration and scope, against members of al Qaeda and other affiliated international terrorist organizations.
Some of my colleagues complain that we have spent too much time debating Iraq this year. They'd rather be talking about issues. Well, we have a lot of important priorities here, but nothing is more important to me or my constituents than ending this disastrous war. As I do every year, I held a townhall meeting in every county in Wisoncsin this year. That's 72 meetings, for those of you who aren't from the Badger state. I heard a lot from my constituents at these meetings about health care and education. But the number one issue I heard about was foreign affairs, particularly the war in Iraq. Let me tell you, they weren't asking why Congress is spending so much time on this issue. They weren't asking us to give the President more time for his so-called surge. Like Americans all across the country, they want an end to this war and they want to know what's stopping us.
The Senate needs to address the concerns and demands of our constitutents, who more than a year ago voted for a change in congressional leadership in large measure because of the debacle in Iraq. But we have yet to follow through and end this misguided war, before more Americans are injured and killed. And we are about to adjourn for the year and let the war drag on even longer.
As Goodman noted, none of the senators who are campaigning for the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential nomination were present for the vote. (Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd and Barack Obama.) The vote was 24 in favor and 71 opposed with no Republican crossing over to vote in favor. Independent Bernie Sanders voted in favor of the Feingold amendment. Carl Levin, a Democrat, did not. Along with the four Democrats on the campaign trail who didn't vote, Dianne Feinstein also didn't vote. Levin proposed a toothless timetable (non-binding) which would not-demand or require troops out of Iraq in a year. CNN reports that 50 voted in favor and 45 against. Here's how the 'purpose' of the Levin amendment was worded: "To express the sense of Congress on the transition of the missions of United States Forces in Iraq to a more limited set of missions as specified by the President on September 13, 2007." Yes, it really was that weak. With both amendments stripped from the bill, the bill passed. "A critical victory," was how Manu Raju (The Hill) described it, for the White House when the vote was 70 in favor of funding and 25 against leading Raju to observes, "Ultimately, Democratic leaders declined to levy pressure on their caucus to block the latest round of unfettered Iraq money." Goodman noted it is "a $555 billion omnibus spending bill that includes another $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
What Feingold proposed was not "TROOPS HOME NOW!" and, in fact, isn't significantly different from much of what Clinton, Obama and John Edwards (not a senator anymore, he didn't miss the vote) have pushed at various times (especially Obama and Clinton). Levin's was just a joke. He explained to the Senate that "our amendment expresses the sense of the Congress that we should have a goal for the removal of most of our forces in a reasonable time mainly as a way of telling the Iraqi leaders they must accept responsibility for their own future. Our amendment expresses the sense of the Congress. It is not legally binding, but it puts us on record, and it sends a message. It says it is the sense of" blah, blah, blah, nonsense. It didn't pass. It wouldn't have done a damn thing if it had. He wasted everyone's time with something that didn't take a stand (the amendment itself did not take a stand, I'm not referring to the vote) and something that, in his own words, was "not legally binding" because he wanted to be "on record". He's on record now. As someone who did not vote for Feingold's amendment (which would not have ended the illegal war) and as someone who is so foolish that he grandstands in the Senate with a non-proposal.
Moving over to the US House of Representatives. Today the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security held a hearing on the sexual assaults of Jamie Lee Jones and Tracy Barker while working in Iraq. Barker [PDF format warning] submitted a statement to the committee where she noted that "under the direct supervision of Crystal Daniels and Byron Marcee, I was exposed to physical threats, verabl abuse, and sexually explicit conversations on a daily basis" and "[n]othing was done to resolve the sexually hostile work environment or investigate the complaints" but "[d]espite the promise of confidentiality under the HDRP" ", Kara Hall, a human resources supervisor received several of my complaints and forwarded them to Marcee and Daniels. As a result, Daniels and Marcee retaliated against me by escalating the abusive behavior and screaming at me for filing the formal complaints with human resources. After filing yet another complaint, Wesley Lane, a human resources supervisor, called me in to her office and informed that Daniels and Marcee had filed a report complaining of my job performance. While in Hall's office, I was not permitted to leave or call anyone. Lane followed me into the bathroom and watched me as I urinated. When I asked her why she was doing this she said it was to keep me from calling Houston again, or anyone else, to report the abuse. Hall then instructed me to return to my living container and remain there for three days, I was not permitted to speak with anyone, and if I was seen outside, I would be fired." Iraq or not, US corporations operate under US laws. And what Barker's describing are serious violations. She was moved to the Basra compound where "I was assigned to a shared office space with Sherman Richardson. Richardson had hung pictures of prostitutes and animals having sex with one other on his office walls and he often talked about how he took his Rest and Relaxtion time in Thailand where he would hire prostitutes. Other male employees would visit Richardson in the office to seek information on how to obtain a prostitute while on R&R." Let's be clear that this is paid for with US tax dollars. The work environment that wouldn't be allowed in the US (and shouldn't have been allowed in Iraq) was paid for with US tax dollars. Basra Camp contained no HR personnel and she took her complaints to the camp manager Craig Grabien who 'dealt' with them apparently by sexually harassing Barker "on a daily basis by insisting that I sleep with him because he was camp manager and he could provide benefits in exchange for sexual favors." Complaining to the hotline did not good and, in fact, only caused Grabien to increase his sexual harassment. Barker explains the physical assualt by an employee (still an employee) of the US State Department: "On June 23, 2005, I accompanied U.S. Department of State employee, Ali Mokhtare, to his living quarters to complete a work order for an alleged faulty air conditioner and to discuss employment opportunities within the U.S. State Dept. Once we arrived, Mokhtare said the air conditioner was working fine. I immediately felt uncomfortable expressed that I was going to leave. Mokhtare said he wanted to explain the war to me and a story about a 'Filipino woman.' As Mokhtare began to talk about the war, he poured two drinks of Jack Daniels and Coke and offered me one. I declined but eventually took the drink in my hand anyway. Mokhtare then began to talk about a Filipino woman in Saudi Arabia who was repeatedly raped by a prince, and although she reported it to the police, no one believed her and the prince continued to rape her. Finally, the woman became so distraught she committed suicide by jumping out of a window. In the midst of telling this story, Mokhtare grabbed my breasts and tried to kiss me on the mouth. I screamed 'No!' and escaped Mokhtare's hold and began to run toward the door. Mokhtare grabbed hold of me again, put his hands around my throat and tried to force his lips on my mouth and against the back of my hand; I pushed him away, escaped his hold, and ran from the living quarters. Mokhtare followed after me screaming in Arabic as I ran in the direction of my living quaters." Barker immediately reported the assualt and was told, by Grabien, that the State Dept's Diplomatic Security would investigate. Barker turned over a statement to them and asked for protection but was told by Grabien and the State Dept's Brian Hathaway "to just avoid Mokhtara." Barker explains that when Mokhtare was interviewed, he initally refused to talk but opened up in a second interview with the State Dept's Diplomatic Security: "During the interview, Mokhtare admitted to the agents he inappropriately grabbed my breast and attempted to kiss me. He also admitted to telling me the story of a Filipino woman who was raped by a prince in Saudi Arabia. Mokhtare's story was exactly as I had explaiend to agent Hathaway, he even goes so far as to admit his actions were 'inappropriate' and he 'made a mistake'." He committed assault and he damn well knew better. Barker continues: "According to the agents notes, when they confronted him about an inconsistent statement he made regarding his alcohol consumption he became agitated and angry." Now pay attention because as bad as it all is it just continues. As you pay attention remember that woman, Condi Rice, heads the State Dept. Barker explains that she brought her clothes, as ordered, worn the night of the attack (slacks, a shirt and a vest) so that Hathaway could photograph them and then Grabien stated she had to wear the outfit "the following day . . . so that Hathaway could determine whether it was sexually provocative to men." What the hell kind of a department is Condi Rice mis-running? That's Tracy Barker. Videos of the hearing are here.
Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by employees of Halliburton/KRB and then held in a container to keep her from talking. "I went to support Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq on July 25, 2005. Upon arrival at Camp Hope, I was assigned to an all male barrack." Though she complained, nothing was done, she was verbally harassed. On her fourth day, she was offered, by fellow employees, drinks and one told her not to worry "I saved all my Ruffies for Dubai." Jones, "I thought he was joking and felt safe with my co-workers." She was drugged, she was gang-raped. She complained to KBR and a rape kit was taken. The doctor "confirmed that I had been penetrated both vaginally and anally and that I was, quote: 'quite torn up down there'. She indicated that based upon the damages to my genitalia, it was apparent that I had been raped." Jones had to pause there before continuing, "The KBR security then took me to a trailer and locked me in a room with two armed guards outside my door. I was imprisoned in the trailer for approximately a day. One of the guards finally had mercy and let me use a phone. I called my dad who contacted Congressman Ted Poe who took actions to get me out of the country. I believe he saved my life. I was later interviewed by Halliburton-KBR supervisors and it was made clear to me that I had essentially two choices: '(1) Stay and get over it or (2) Stay with no guarantee of a job in Iraq or Houston.' Because of the severity of my injuries, I elected to go home despite the obvious threat of being fired." In the US, Jones sought treatment, physical and mental, and Halliburton required her to see a doctor whose first question was: "Are you going to sue Halliburton?" Jones explains that when asked that question, she and her mother walked out of the office. In May 2007, the State Department phones to say that there was no rape kit or photographs. When Jones insisted the kit and photos existed, a few things turned up with most of it missing. Jones explains, "I have had reconstructive surgery on my breasts and pectoral muscles due to disfigurement caused by the brutal attack. I am still waiting for a follow up surgery because I am still not back to normal." Jones noted that "there has been no prosecution after two and a half years." Nor did the State Department employee who assaulted Barker get fired. The question goes to Condi Rice who appears either totally ignorant of what's going on in her department or just doesn't care. The Justice Department's response? While the State Dept apparently gives away money with no supervious and isn't concerned about incidents that they are aware of, the Justice Dept is supposed to prosecute assaults. What do they say? They refused to attend the hearings. We're neither quoting from or linking to the nonsense that Brian A. Benczkowski (Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General) sent (via letter) to the committee. Rep John Conyers is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. He asked, "Does anyone in this room feel it is acceptable for an American citizen like Ms. Jones to be drugged, raped and falsely imprisoned? Does anyone think it is appropriate that almost 2 1/2 years after the incident, there has not been a single prosecution in the case? Does anybody believe it is appropriate that the DOJ victims' rights ombudsman summarily rejected Ms. Jones complaint 6 months ago, and she was not even seen by a federal prosecutor until October? This is no small matter given that there are some 180,00 civilian contractor employees in Iraq, including more than 21,000 Americans, plus additional security contractor employees. And there are other troubling reports of similar sexual assaults against contractor employees." DoJ is clearly not doing their job but, repeating, Rice's department was over the contractors and it's time Rice faced some serious questions about exactly what she sees as women's 'role' in the combat zone because by doing nothing (the two incidents took place on her watch, no doubt many took place on Colin Powell's as well) she sends a message that these assaults are tolerated.
Anna Driver (Reuters) notes Rep Ted Poe stated that, "The individuals who assaulted Jamie must be rounded up and tried. Nonfeasance by civilian contracting companies cannot be tolerated." Driver also notes that Conyers and Hillary Clinton "have called for action".
Staying with sexual violence. March 12, 2006, US soldiers carried out a criminal conspiracy to gang-rape and murder Abeer Qassim Hamza and to murder her parents, Qassim Hamza Raheem and Fakhriya Taha Muhsasen, and her five-year-old sister Hadeel Qassim Hamza. The conspiracy included blaming the War Crimes on 'insurgent.' Jane Fonda has noted (here for video, here for text):
Abeer was a 14-old-girl, living with her family about 50 miles south of Baghdad, trying to grow up as best she could in a country ravaged by violence and war.Until March 12, 2006, when her life was cruelly cut short. On that night, five American soldiers, dressed all in black, allegedly burst into the home where Abeer lived with her family.After spending the evening drinking whiskey mixed with energy drinks and playing cards, the soldiers must have decided to execute the crime they allegedly had been planning for weeks. According to the charges, the men took turns raping 14-year-old Abeer before shooting her. In the next room, her mother, her father, and her five-year-old sister were executed. When the men were done, they drenched the bodies in kerosene and set them on fire.Then, the prosecutors say, they went back to base and grilled up some chicken wings for dinner. It was months before this crime came to light.
Robin Morgan has noted, "Abeer means 'fragance of flowers.' She was 14 years old. According to a statement by one of the accused, the soldiers first noticed her at a checkpoint. On March 12, after playing cards while slugging whisky, they canged into civvies and burst into Abeer's home. They killed her mother, father and five-year-old sister and 'took turns' raping Abeer. Finally, according to the statement, they murdered her, drenched the bodies with kerosene, and set them on fire. Then the GIs grilled chicken wings." In the Article 32 hearing in August 2006, Captain Alex Pickands noted of the War Crimes of those then still serving in the military, whose defense tried to say life is hard in Iraq and boring and golly gee, gotta blow off some steam,: "Murder, not war. Rape, not war. That's what we're here talking about today. Not all that business about cold food, checkpoints, personnel assignments. Cold food didn't kill that family. Personnel assignments didn't rape and murder that 14-year-old little girl." Ryan Lenz (AP) notes that four soldiers have been convicted "in one of the war's worst atrocities" and that Steven D. Green, who was not part of the US military when the crimes became known having already discharged out, is now scheduled to be tried on "April 13, 2009, in Paducah, Ky." Lenz notes how long this has dragged on and it has. The US government issued their press release on the arrest of Green July 3, 2006. (Lenz report is also here.)
In some of today's reported violence . . . Well, only one organization really worked on that today. Want to guess which one?
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more wounded.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a gun battle that left three people not engaged in the battle injured.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the Center for Constitutional Rights is representing over 250 Iraqi "torture victims". Attorney Susan Burke explained to Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) today:
Well, this is actually a continuation of a lawsuit that we previously filed back in June of 2004. We had brought it as a class action after the leaking of the Taguba Report and after we had been approached by some of the victims of the Abu Ghraib torture.
And one thing I would point out is that this--CACI's conduct in this instance--CACI employees were directly involved in torturing prisoners. This is information that's known. It's information that is known to the Department of Justice. Yet, there have not been any criminal prosecutions. So when you think about the passage of time here, you have to ask: why have there been no criminal prosecutions? It's very troubling, and it's very concerning that our civil action is the only current mechanism for accountability for the private participation in the Abu Ghraib scandal. The other comment I would make is that there's a perception that it was just the Abu Ghraib scandal and that that's the only place where the torture occurred. You know, sadly, that's just not true. The same type of conduct was happening elsewhere. People were being mistreated in other facilities. And again, CACI was not in all of the facilities, but they were in a substantial number, and their employees participated.
Burke was also on to discuss with Goodman the lawsuit against the mercenary company Blackwater:
AMY GOODMAN: Explain this latest suit.
SUSAN BURKE: This is a lawsuit on behalf of the family of Ali Abbas [phon.]. This gentleman was a rug merchant, and he was gunned down for absolutely no reason, leaving behind a twenty-day-old baby daughter and family. It is again another instance in which Blackwater shooters, you know, shot first, asked questions later.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain exactly what you understand transpired on September 9.
SUSAN BURKE: What happened is that Blackwater was driving through an area and began to engage in fire. This particular gentleman was inside his rug store. He had just put his fifteen-year-old younger brother in the cab to go home. Hearing the shooting outside, he walked outside, concerned about his younger brother, because he heard the shots. So he walks out of the rug store and gets shot and killed.
AMY GOODMAN: And how did you learn about this?
SUSAN BURKE: We learned about this from the family members. What happened is, as you know, we have--we represent a fair number of Iraqis in a separate suit, so we do have offices over in Baghdad. We were approached by the family of this victim to try to bring some form of accountability to Blackwater.
On the September 16th slaughter, Democracy Now!, in a broadcast exclusive, also broadcast of footage of one witness being interviewed:
ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] OK, he said: They stopped in a semicircle.
SUSAN BURKE: They
ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] The cars. One was right here, and one here, one here, one here, in a semicircle.
SUSAN BURKE: So all four were in the actual round part of the square?
ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] Yes, yes. OK, he said: The man in the third car started firing his gun towards this direction, the Yarmouk direction, and he fired three to four shots randomly.
SUSAN BURKE: What did that man look like?
ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] He was big, big mustache.
SUSAN BURKE: Mustache. Strong.
ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] He was white. He said: Actually, he was facing the convoy. When he started shooting, I turned my back to see if there are anybody moved from the traffic towards the--he was trying to make sure that nobody was moving, actually.
SUSAN BURKE: So he turned to see if a movement had provoked the shooting?
ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] Yes, exactly.
SUSAN BURKE: OK.
ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] As you just said, he thought that he was shooting above the car level, but when he turned his face towards traffic, he heard this woman crying, "My son! My son!" And then he ran into that direction, and he saw her son, who was a medical student. He was all covered in blood. He said he went--when he heard the woman crying, he went towards that direction, and he tried to help the medical student who was covered in blood, help him out of the car. But the mother inside was holding tight to her son. And he raised his hand to stop--
SUSAN BURKE: Stop the shooting.
ALI KHALAF SALMAN: [translated] Stop the shooting. He was telling them, "Don't shoot, please." He said, while he raised his hand and asking them not to shoot, this time the man in the fourth car shot the mother dead. A machine gun. He said, the car was number four in line. And then, when the person in car number four, a security man, started shooting, he shot the mother dead. And the cars in front of this car, the civilian cars, actually, they spread around to the sides. I think they were scared.
And he said the doctor's car was an automatic car. Because he died behind the wheel, the car started moving by itself, because it was an automatic car, towards the square. And at this moment, they started shooting the car with big machine guns, and the car exploded.
Finally, Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism notes the effects of Operation Happy Talk. As Iraq has fallen off the radar, surprise, surprise, more people think the illegal war is going well. PEW's summary of the findings:For years, public views of the war in Iraq were increasingly negative and seemingly unlikely to change direction. But as the troop surge resulted in lower levels of violence in Iraq, public perceptions of the war improved markedly. In November, 48% of Americans said things were going very or fairly well in Iraq, up 18 points from February. However, improved public impressions of the Iraq did nothing to lift war support: 54% favored bringing the troops home as soon as possible, a proportion largely unchanged from earlier in the year.
The November 28th "Iraq snapshot" addressed the Project for Excellence in Journalism's [PDF format warning] "Journalists in Iraq: A survey of reporters on the front lines" and noted:In other findings, 62 percent say that their "editors back home" have lost interest in reports of day-to-day violence (no kidding) and the only significant increases have been in reports on contractors (79%) and "U.S. military strategy" (67%). The respondents rated the "Impact on Iraqi civilians" as the most under reported (40%) while the respondents rated "U.S. Military strategy" as the most over reported (29%).When the press loses interest (and when reporters internatlize the tastes of their bosses), reality doesn't stand much of a chance. While the violence didn't disappear, while things are not 'better' and even the myth of the Great Return has fallen apart, how are most Americans supposed to know that when the bulk of All Things Media Big and Small won't cover Iraq?
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