Friday, August 19, 2005
Nationwide Vigils Call for End of Iraq War
By ANGELA K. BROWN, Associated Press Writer
Thu Aug 18,11:58 AM ET
Hundreds of candlelight vigils calling for an end to the war in Iraq lit up the night Wednesday, part of a national effort spurred by one mother's anti-war demonstration near President Bush's ranch.
The vigils were urged by Cindy Sheehan, who has become the icon of the anti-war movement since she started a protest Aug. 6 in memory of her son Casey, who died in Iraq last year.
Sheehan says she will remain outside the president's ranch until he meets with her and other grieving families, or until his monthlong vacation there ends.
Bush has said he sympathizes with Sheehan but has made no indication he will meet with her. Two top Bush administration officials talked to Sheehan the day she started her camp, and she and other families had met with Bush shortly after her son's death.
More than 1,600 vigils were planned Wednesday from coast to coast by liberal advocacy groups MoveOn.org Political Action, TrueMajority and Democracy for America. A large vigil was also planned in Paris.
As the sun set in Crawford, about 200 protesters lit candles and gathered around a wooden, flag-draped coffin at Sheehan's growing camp, about a mile from the Bush ranch.
"For the more than 1,800 who have come home this way in flag-draped coffins, each one ... was a son or a daughter, not cannon fodder to be used so recklessly," Sheehan told the crowd, which then sang "Amazing Grace."
Before the vigil, Gary Qualls, of Temple drove to Sheehan's camp site and removed a wooden cross bearing his son's name. He said he supports the war and disagrees with Sheehan.
"I don't believe in some of the things happening here," Qualls said. "I find it disrespectful."
Near Philadelphia's Independence Hall, a few hundred people strained to hear the parent of another soldier killed in Iraq. "This war must stop," said Al Zappala, 65, whose 30-year-old son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, died in an explosion in Baghdad in April 2004.
Karen Braz, 50, held a pink votive cup and a sign reading "Moms for Peace" as she stood shoulder-to-shoulder with about 150 other people outside the New Hampshire statehouse in Concord.
"My son is 26. It could've been him," she said
Some critics say Sheehan is exploiting her son's death to promote a left-wing agenda supported by her and groups with which she associates.
Before the Crawford vigil began, Gary Qualls, of Temple, walked to the protesters' memorial to fallen U.S. soldiers and removed a wooden cross bearing his son's name. Qualls said he supports the war effort even though his 20-year-old son Louis was killed in Fallujah last fall serving with the Marine Reserves.
"I don't believe in some of the things happening here," he said. "I find it disrespectful."
Those backing Sheehan, though, voiced their support across the country.
In Minnesota, about 1,000 war protesters stood on a bridge linking Minneapolis and St. Paul. "This war has been disgraceful, with trumped-up reasons," Sue Ann Martinson said. "There were no weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqis didn't have anything to do with 9-11."
Nearly 200 people gathered on the courthouse steps in Hackensack, N.J., with many saying they were angry about the war but were supporting U.S. troops.
"I'm a 46-year-old woman who, in my lifetime, has never seen the country so split," said Lil Corcoran. "My heart is broken."
In Charleston, W.Va., a banner bearing the name, age, rank, hometown and date of death of all Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan was unrolled — stretching the length of a city block.
Kenny Jones brought his 6-year-old daughter, Scouten, to a vigil in Portland, Ore.
"I was raised to believe that war is no solution," Jones said. "Her mother and I are raising her that way, too. This war is illogical."
Meanwhile, a group called FreeRepublic.com held a pro-Bush rally in the same Washington, D.C., park where 300 people had gathered for a candlelight vigil. At one point, members of the two sides had a heated exchange over who was more patriotic.
"If they don't want to support it, they don't have to support it," said Iraq war veteran Kevin Pannell, who had both legs amputated after a grenade attack last year in Baghdad. "That's the reason I lost my legs."
On the Net:
In U.S. Heartland, Anxiety over Iraq, Oil
By Alan Elsner
Thu Aug 18,11:16 AM ET
In the solidly Republican state of Nebraska, voters are expressing deep anxiety about rising gasoline prices and the war in Iraq, a possible early warning sign for President George W. Bush in one of his most reliable strongholds.
When Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record) traveled around his home state this week, citizens at every stop brought up Iraq policy and the inexorable rise in fuel prices.
"Is there anything the United States can do to get some stability in crude oil prices in the world, because it affects everything we do?" Larry Ahlers, a manager at medical device manufacturer Becton and Dickinson in Broken Bow, asked Hagel in one of dozens of such encounters.
Hagel, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2008, responded that gasoline prices were likely to stay high for the foreseeable future because of rising world demand and the U.S. failure to develop new energy sources and conserve.
Earlier the same day in Lincoln, an elderly woman asked about Iraq. "Why are we there in the first place?" she asked.
On Tuesday in the central Nebraska town of Lexington, after a meeting with law enforcement officials on drug problems, three sheriffs expressed serious doubts about what the United States was doing in Iraq and whether it could succeed.
Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, acknowledged the U.S. military presence was becoming harder and harder to justify. He believes Iraq faces a serious danger of civil war that would threaten Middle East stability, and said there is little Washington can do to avert this.
"We are seen as occupiers, we are targets. We have got to get out. I don't think we can sustain our current policy, nor do I think we should," he said at one stop.
UNCERTAINTY, NOT PANIC
In an interview, Hagel said uncertainties over Iraq and oil prices fed off and reinforced each other.
"The mood is one of a certain sense of unsteadiness," he said. "I have sensed that since September 11, 2001. Our people have still not found an equilibrium and when you get these shocks, like gasoline at $2.50 a gallon and projecting natural gas costs doubling and tripling from what they paid last year, that further shakes them."
"I don't think there's panic, I don't think there's cynicism. I think there's this steady unsure sense about where is this all leading -- the constant daily reports on Iraq, our people being killed there, the money being spent there," he added.
Nebraska has been a solid Republican state in presidential elections for decades. Republicans dominate state politics and hold most elective offices.
But Hagel said even some who had previously backed Bush strongly on Iraq now felt deep unease.
"The feeling that I get back here, looking in the eyes of real people, where I knew where they were two years ago or a year ago -- they've changed," he said. "These aren't people who ebb and flow on issues. These are rock solid, conservative Republicans who love their country, support the troops and support the president."
Hagel said Bush faced a growing credibility gap. "The expectations that the president and his administration presented to the American people 2 1/2 years ago is not what the reality is today. That's presented the biggest credibility gap problem he's got," he said.
"I hope he has some sense that something's going on out in the country, that there's a lack of confidence that has developed in our position."
US to send 700 extra troops to Iraq to reinforce prisons, Thu Aug 18,10:43 AM ET
The United States is to send an extra 700 troops to Iraq to strengthen its forces guarding US-run prisons, a Defence Department spokesman said.
The extra troops will come from the 82nd Airborne Division.
"The battalion is being deployed to Iraq. They are going to assist in detention operations," said the spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable.
The Washington Post said the number of prisoners in US-run detention centres in Iraq has doubled in the past 11 months from 5,400 to 10,800.
Venable said the deployment was not linked to "any force level adjustment associated with the elections period" in Iraq. A referendum is scheduled to be held in October on a new constitution and if it is passed a national election would be held in December.
With an insurgency claiming a mounting toll, the United States plans to increase its troop levels in Iraq for the votes. There are currently about 138,000 US troops in Iraq.
Norman Solomon: Blaming the Antiwar Messengers
Author: Norman Solomon
Published on August 17, 2005, 07:20
The surge of antiwar voices in U.S. media this month has coincided with new lows in public approval for what pollsters call President Bush's "handling" of the Iraq war. After more than two years of a military occupation that was supposed to be a breeze after a cakewalk into Baghdad, the war has become a clear PR loser. But an unpopular war can continue for a long time -- and one big reason is that the military-industrial-media complex often finds ways to blunt the effectiveness of its most prominent opponents.
Right now, the pro-war propaganda arsenal of the world's only superpower is drawing a bead on Cindy Sheehan, who now symbolizes the USA's antiwar grief. She is a moving target, very difficult to hit. But right-wing media sharpshooters are sure to keep trying.
The Bush administration's top officials must be counting the days until the end of the presidential vacation brings to a close the Crawford standoff between Camp Casey and Camp Carnage. But media assaults on Cindy Sheehan are just in early stages.
While the president mouths respectful platitudes about the grieving mother, his henchmen are sharpening their media knives and starting to slash. Pro-Bush media hit squads are busily spreading the notions that Sheehan is a dupe of radicals, naive and/or nutty. But the most promising avenue of attack is likely to be the one sketched out by Fox News Channel eminence Bill O'Reilly on Aug. 9, when he declared that Cindy Sheehan bears some responsibility for "other American families who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq who feel that this kind of behavior borders on treasonous."
That sort of demagoguery is on tap for the duration of the war. Military families will be recruited for media appearances to dispute the patriotism of antiwar activists -- especially those who speak as relatives of American soldiers and shatter media stereotypes by publicly urging withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
So far, during this war, President Bush is leaving the defamation chores to his surrogate media fighters. But loud noises coming from the right wing today are echoes of key themes that other presidents eagerly voiced.
During the mid-1960s, as President Lyndon Johnson escalated the Vietnam War, he grew accustomed to trashing Americans who expressed opposition. They were prone to be shaky and irresolute, he explained -- and might even betray the nation's servicemen. "There will be some Nervous Nellies," he predicted on May 17, 1966, "and some who will become frustrated and bothered and break ranks under the strain. And some will turn on their leaders and on their country and on our fighting men."
Delivering a speech in mid-March 1968, President Johnson contended that as long as the foe in Vietnam "feels that he can win something by propaganda in the country -- that he can undermine the leadership -- that he can bring down the government -- that he can get something in the Capital that he can't get from our men out there -- he is going to keep on trying."
LBJ's successor Richard Nixon was quick to brandish similar innuendos. "Let us be united for peace," Nixon said early in his presidency. "Let us be united against defeat. Because let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that."
Martin Luther King Jr. found that former allies could become incensed when he went out of his way to challenge the war. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, he said, the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution." King asked why the U.S. was suppressing revolutions "of the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World, instead of supporting them.
That kind of talk drew barbs and denunciations from media quarters that had applauded his efforts to end racial segregation. Time magazine called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post warned that "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."
When the Gulf War began, snappy phrases like "blame America first" were a popular way to vilify dissenters. "What we cannot be proud of, Mr. Speaker, is the unshaven, shaggy-haired, drug culture, poor excuses for Americans, wearing their tiny, round wire-rim glasses, a protester's symbol of the blame-America-first crowd, out in front of the White House burning the American flag," Representative Gerald B. H. Solomon said on Jan. 17, 1991.
During a typical outburst in early 2003 before the Iraq invasion, Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience: "I want to say something about these antiwar demonstrators. No, let's not mince words, let's call them what they are -- anti-American demonstrators." Weeks later, former Congressman Joe Scarborough, a Republican rising through the ranks of national TV hosts, said on MSNBC: "These leftist stooges for anti-American causes are always given a free pass. Isn't it time to make them stand up and be counted for their views, which could hurt American troop morale?"
Such poisonous sludge is now pouring out of some mass media -- and we should expect plenty more in response to a growing antiwar movement.
This article is adapted from Norman Solomon's new book "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." For information, go to: www.WarMadeEasy.com.
© Copyright 2005 by YubaNet.com
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Thursday, August 18, 2005
Tomgram: David Morse on Darfur as a Resource War
The pieces are all there. No one reading the business pages of the papers these last weeks could ignore oil prices that briefly surged to a once-inconceivable $67 dollars a barrel of crude before falling back; no one driving a car on any highway could possibly avoid pump prices that, for unleaded regular, are now hovering around $2.50 a gallon (making inflation jump and consumer confidence drop); those with sharp eyes might have noticed less than a week ago that Lee R. Raymond, the chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corporation for the last 12 years (whose total compensation for 2004 was a modest $38.1 million but could have been a billion dollars without his company taking much of a hit) is reportedly planning to step down soon. As the head of possibly the most successful and "efficient" corporation on the face of our planet, he primed the Exxon Mobil pump to the tune of $25.3 billion dollars in profits in 2004, and upped that in the first half of 2005 by socking in another $15 billion (give or take the odd million); oh yes, and does anybody not know that somewhere in a place called Darfur in Sudan a genocide is underway?
But the connections between surging oil price levels, pump prices, oil company mega-profits, and mass murder in distant Africa are something you're far less likely to read about in your local paper; and yet, under the pressure of growing global energy demand and peak-oil fears, oil companies from many nations are now scouring the Earth, buying governments, tribal leaders, warlords, and anyone else who might lead them to any untapped new reserves of black gold. As the Washington Post said politely in its article on Raymond, Exxon Mobil "operates in more than 200 countries or territories -- as diverse as Equatorial Guinea, Venezuela and the Russian Far East." Diverse indeed. Sudan is "diverse" too and it has been swept up in the global oil sweepstakes with horrific consequences as journalist David Morse makes vividly clear below. Tom
War of the Future
Oil Drives the Genocide in Darfur
By David Morse
A war of the future is being waged right now in the sprawling desert region of northeastern Africa known as Sudan. The weapons themselves are not futuristic. None of the ray-guns, force-fields, or robotic storm troopers that are the stuff of science fiction; nor, for that matter, the satellite-guided Predator drones or other high-tech weapon systems at the cutting edge of today's arsenal.
No, this war is being fought with Kalashnikovs, clubs and knives. In the western region of Sudan known as Darfur, the preferred tactics are burning and pillaging, castration and rape -- carried out by Arab militias riding on camels and horses. The most sophisticated technologies deployed are, on the one hand, the helicopters used by the Sudanese government to support the militias when they attack black African villages, and on the other hand, quite a different weapon: the seismographs used by foreign oil companies to map oil deposits hundreds of feet below the surface.
This is what makes it a war of the future: not the slick PowerPoint presentations you can imagine in boardrooms in Dallas and Beijing showing proven reserves in one color, estimated reserves in another, vast subterranean puddles that stretch west into Chad, and south to Nigeria and Uganda; not the technology; just the simple fact of the oil.
This is a resource war, fought by surrogates, involving great powers whose economies are predicated on growth, contending for a finite pool of resources. It is a war straight out of the pages of Michael Klare's book, Blood and Oil; and it would be a glaring example of the consequences of our addiction to oil, if it were not also an invisible war.
Click here to read more of this dispatch.
By Angela K. Brown
The Associated Press
Thursday 18 August 2005
The grieving woman who started an anti-war demonstration near President Bush's ranch nearly two weeks ago said Thursday she was leaving because her mother had a stroke.
Cindy Sheehan told reporters she had just received the phone call and was leaving immediately to be with her 74-year-old mother at a Los Angeles hospital.
"I'll be back as soon as possible if it's possible," she said. After hugging some of her supporters, Sheehan and her sister, Deedee Miller, got in a van and left for the Waco airport about 20 miles away.
Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son Casey died in Iraq, said the makeshift campsite off the road leading to Bush's ranch would continue. The camp has grown to more than 100 people, including many relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq.
Sheehan had vowed to remain there until Bush met with her or until his month-long vacation ended. Her protest inspired candlelight vigils across the country Wednesday night.
Bush has said he sympathizes with Sheehan. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said earlier Thursday that the president said Sheehan had a right to protest but that he did not plan to change his schedule and meet with her.
Two top Bush administration officials talked to Sheehan the day she started her camp, and she and other families met with Bush shortly after her son's death and before she became a vocal opponent of the war.
Michelle Mulkey, a spokewoman for Sheehan, who lives in Vacaville, Calif., said Sheehan hoped to be back in Texas within 24 to 48 hours. Mulkey said Sheehan's mother, Shirley Miller, was in a hospital emergency room and Sheehan didn't yet know how serious her condition was.
The Associated Press
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August 17, 2005
Biking Toward Nowhere
By MAUREEN DOWD
How could President Bush be cavorting around on a long vacation with American troops struggling with a spiraling crisis in Iraq?
Wasn't he worried that his vacation activities might send a frivolous signal at a time when he had put so many young Americans in harm's way?
"I'm determined that life goes on," Mr. Bush said stubbornly.
That wasn't the son, believe it or not. It was the father - 15 years ago. I was in Kennebunkport then to cover the first President Bush's frenetic attempts to relax while reporters were pressing him about how he could be taking a month to play around when he had started sending American troops to the Persian Gulf only three days before.
On Saturday, the current President Bush was pressed about how he could be taking five weeks to ride bikes and nap and fish and clear brush even though his occupation of Iraq had become a fiasco. "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life," W. said, "to keep a balanced life."
Pressed about how he could ride his bike while refusing to see a grieving mom of a dead soldier who's camped outside his ranch, he added: "So I'm mindful of what goes on around me. On the other hand, I'm also mindful that I've got a life to live and will do so."
Ah, the insensitivity of reporters who ask the President Bushes how they can expect to deal with Middle East fighting while they're off fishing.
The first President Bush told us that he kept a telephone in his golf cart and his cigarette boat so he could easily stay on top of Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. But at least he seemed worried that he was sending the wrong signal, as his boating and golfing was juxtaposed on the news with footage of the frightened families of troops leaving for the Middle East.
"I just don't like taking questions on serious matters on my vacation," the usually good-natured Bush senior barked at reporters on the golf course. "So I hope you'll understand if I, when I'm recreating, will recreate." His hot-tempered oldest son, who was golfing with his father that day, was even more irritated. "Hey! Hey!" W. snapped at reporters asking questions on the first tee. "Can't you wait until we finish hitting, at least?"
Junior always had his priorities straight.
As W.'s neighbors get in scraps with the antiwar forces coalescing around the ranch; as the Pentagon tries to rustle up updated armor for our soldiers, who are still sitting ducks in the third year of the war; as the Iraqi police we train keep getting blown up by terrorists, who come right back every time U.S. troops beat them up; as Shiites working on the Iraqi constitution conspire with Iran about turning Iraq into an Islamic state that represses women; and as Iraq hurtles toward a possible civil war, W. seems far more oblivious than his father was with his Persian Gulf crisis.
This president is in a truly scary place in Iraq. Americans can't get out, or they risk turning the country into a terrorist haven that will make the old Afghanistan look like Cipriani's. Yet his war, which has not accomplished any of its purposes, swallows ever more American lives and inflames ever more Muslim hearts as W. reads a book about the history of salt and looks forward to his biking date with Lance Armstrong on Saturday.
The son wanted to go into Iraq to best his daddy in the history books, by finishing what Bush senior started. He swept aside the warnings of Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell and didn't bother to ask his father's advice. Now he is caught in the very trap his father said he feared: that America would get bogged down as "an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land," facing a possibly "barren" outcome.
It turns out that the people of Iraq have ethnic and religious identities, not a national identity. Shiites and Kurds want to suppress the Sunnis who once repressed them and break off into their own states, smashing the Bush model kitchen of democracy.
At long last, a senior Bush official admits that administration officials can no longer cling to their own version of reality. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning," the official told The Washington Post.
They had better start absorbing and shedding a lot faster, before many more American kids die to create a pawn of Iran. And they had better tell the Boy in the Bubble, who continues to dwell in delusion, hailing the fights and delays on the Iraqi constitution as "a tribute to democracy."
The president's pedaling as fast as he can, but he's going nowhere.
Thomas L. Friedman is on vacation.
August 18, 2005
Blood Runs Red, Not Blue
By BOB HERBERT
You have to wonder whether reality ever comes knocking on George W. Bush's door. If it did, would the president with the unsettling demeanor of a boy king even bother to answer? Mr. Bush is the commander in chief who launched a savage war in Iraq and now spends his days happily riding his bicycle in Texas.
This is eerie. Scary. Surreal.
The war is going badly and lives have been lost by the thousands, but there is no real sense, either at the highest levels of government or in the nation at large, that anything momentous is at stake. The announcement on Sunday that five more American soldiers had been blown to eternity by roadside bombs was treated by the press as a yawner. It got very little attention.
You can turn on the television any evening and tune in to the bizarre extended coverage of the search for Natalee Holloway, the Alabama teenager who disappeared in Aruba in May. But we hear very little about the men and women who have given up their lives in Iraq, or are living with horrific injuries suffered in that conflict.
If only the war were more entertaining. Less of a downer. Perhaps then we could meet the people who are suffering and dying in it.
For all the talk of supporting the troops, they are a low priority for most Americans. If the nation really cared, the president would not be frolicking at his ranch for the entire month of August. He'd be back in Washington burning the midnight oil, trying to figure out how to get the troops out of the terrible fix he put them in.
Instead, Mr. Bush is bicycling as soldiers and marines are dying. Dozens have been killed since he went off on his vacation.
As for the rest of the nation, it's not doing much for the troops, either. There was a time, long ago, when war required sacrifices that were shared by most of the population. That's over.
I was in Jacksonville, Fla., a few days ago and watched in amusement as a young woman emerged from a restaurant into 95-degree heat and gleefully exclaimed, "All right, let's go shopping!" The war was the furthest thing from her mind.
For the most part, the only people sacrificing for this war are the troops and their families, and very few of them are coming from the privileged economic classes. That's why it's so easy to keep the troops out of sight and out of mind. And it's why, in the third year of a war started by the richest nation on earth, we still get stories like the one in Sunday's Times that began:
"For the second time since the Iraq war began, the Pentagon is struggling to replace body armor that is failing to protect American troops from the most lethal attacks by insurgents."
Scandalous incompetence? Appalling indifference? Try both. Who cares? This is a war fought mostly by other people's children. The loudest of the hawks are the least likely to send their sons or daughters off to Iraq.
The president has never been clear about why we're in Iraq. There's no plan, no strategy. In one of the many tragic echoes of Vietnam, U.S. troops have been fighting hellacious battles to seize areas controlled by insurgents, only to retreat and allow the insurgents to return.
If Mr. Bush were willing to do something he has refused to do so far - speak plainly and honestly to the American people about this war - he might be able to explain why U.S. troops should continue with an effort that is, in large part at least, benefiting Iraqi factions that are murderous, corrupt and terminally hostile to women. If by some chance he could make that case, the next appropriate step would be to ask all Americans to do their part for the war effort.
College kids in the U.S. are playing video games and looking forward to frat parties while their less fortunate peers are rattling around like moving targets in Baghdad and Mosul, trying to dodge improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades.
There is something very, very wrong with this picture.
If the war in Iraq is worth fighting - if it's a noble venture, as the hawks insist it is - then it's worth fighting with the children of the privileged classes. They should be added to the combat mix. If it's not worth their blood, then we should bring the other troops home.
If Mr. Bush's war in Iraq is worth dying for, then the children of the privileged should be doing some of the dying.
David Brooks is on vacation.
The New York Times
"The president says he feels compassion for me, but the best way to show that compassion is by meeting with me and the other mothers and families who are here. Our sons made the ultimate sacrifice and we want answers. All we're asking is that he sacrifice an hour out of his five-week vacation to talk to us, before the next mother loses her son in Iraq."
-- Cindy Sheehan, Camp Casey, Crawford, Texas
t r u t h o u t | One Mother's Stand
Who Are the Real Puppets?
By Scott Galindez
Thursday 18 August 2005
As I flip my television from network to network, they sound like a broken record when they talk about Cindy Sheehan. They all seem to claim that she is a puppet of the left, the anti-war movement etc...
I am in Crawford and am spending a lot of time near Cindy. I promise you that Cindy is not the puppet in Crawford, but the puppet master. There is a media team working on her scheduling, but they are not telling her what to say.
The allegations that the left is exploiting Cindy couldn't be further from the truth. I see millions of people following Cindy, not the other way around. I got an e-mail from Cindy that she was going to go to Crawford, not from MoveOn.
The real question here is who is behind these allegations? Who are the real puppets here?
Read the complete article.
t r u t h o u t | One Mother's Stand
Why Bush Can't Answer Cindy
By Marjorie Cohn
Thursday 18 August 2005
Cindy Sheehan is still in Crawford, Texas, waiting for Bush to answer her question: What noble cause did my son die for? Her protest started as a small gathering 13 days ago. It has mushroomed into a demonstration of hundreds in Crawford and tens of thousands more at 1,627 solidarity vigils throughout the country.
Why didn't Bush simply invite Cindy in for tea when she arrived in Crawford? In a brief, personal meeting with Cindy, Bush could have defused a situation that has become a profound embarrassment for him, and could derail his political agenda.
Bush didn't talk with Cindy because he can't answer her question. There is no answer to Cindy's question. There is no noble cause that Cindy's son died fighting for. And Bush knows it.
Read the complete article.
More Than 1,500 Antiwar Vigils Held Across the US
Last night, people across the United States participated in more than 1,500 candlelight vigils calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq. The vigils were called by Cindy Sheehan who is continuing her antiwar protest outside of President Bush's property near Crawford, Texas. Here is the mother of a soldier who was wounded in Iraq, speaking at a vigil in Washington DC.
Gilda, mother of soldier wounded in Iraq:
"What is unforgivable is that you betrayed our idealistic American sons and daughters who trustingly placed their lives in your hands. we, their mothers, will not let you move on with your life."
One mother of a soldier who served in Iraq, speaking in Washington DC. Meanwhile, in Crawford Cindy Sheehan has been joined by a growing number of people at her protest and has now begun setting up camp on the property of one of President Bush's neighbors who offered his land to Sheehan. Among the people joining her are several parents of soldiers killed in Iraq, as well as Minnesota State Senator Becky Lourey, whose son died in Iraq, as well as FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley--who is running for Congress in Minnesota. Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is also in Crawford and many more people are expected to pour in for a rally planned for Thursday evening.
"Our spirits are always good here at Camp Casey 'cause we feel the support of everybody around the world."
Thursday, August 18th, 2005
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is calling for an investigation into the role of former Attorney General John Ashcroft in the outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. Conyers' call comes after a new report by investigative journalist Murray Waas that a special prosecutor was appointed in the case in large part because FBI investigators had begun to specifically question the veracity of accounts provided to them by Karl Rove. We speak with Conyers and Waas. [includes rush transcript]
We begin today looking at the latest in the investigation into who within the Bush administration outed CIA operative Valerie Plame, the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Congressman John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is calling for an investigation into former Attorney General John Ashcroft's role in the case.
Ashcroft initially refused to recuse himself from the investigation despite his longtime association with Karl Rove who was being questioned over the leak by the FBI. At the time, Ashcroft was being personally briefed about the investigation. Conyers described this as a "stunning ethical breach that cries out for an immediate investigation."
Conyers' call comes after a new report by investigative journalist Murray Waas that Justice Department officials decided to appoint a special prosecutor in large part because investigators had begun to specifically question the veracity of accounts provided to them by Karl Rove.
When first questioned by the FBI, Rove failed to tell investigators that he had talked to Time reporter Matthew Cooper about Wilson's wife. In addition, Rove claims that he learned of Valerie Plame's identity during a conversation with a journalist. But according to Waas, Rove was unable to recall virtually anything to investigators about the circumstances about that conversation including who the journalist was or whether it took part in person or on the phone.
Rep. John Conyers, a longtime Congressmember from Detroit. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
Murray Waas, veteran investigative journalist who writes for a number of publications. Among them, American Prospect magazine and Salon.com. He has broken a number of stories on the saga of the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. He maintains a blog at WhateverAlready.blogspot.com.
This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
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AMY GOODMAN: Murray Waas joins us on the phone from Washington, D.C., veteran investigative reporter who writes for a number of publications, among them, American Prospect magazine and Salon.com. He maintains a blog at WhateverAlready.blogspot.com. We are also joined on the line by Michigan Congressmember John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s begin with Congressmember Conyers. Can you talk about exactly what you are asking the Inspector General to do?
REP. JOHN CONYERS: Thank you, and good morning. The Inspector General has a responsibility, from our perspective, because they oversight the activities of the Department of Justice, to find out whether or not the Attorney General at that time, John Ashcroft, violated explicit rules of conflicts of interest when he failed to immediately recuse himself from the investigation, and not only did he not recuse himself, he was briefed on it about the Valerie Plame C.I.A. leak. And he did this knowing that a person of interest to the investigators was Karl Rove. Now, as it turns out, Karl Rove had been a political consultant for John Ashcroft. As a matter of fact, he had promoted his name for nomination for Attorney General and had a very close business relationship with him earning nearly $750,000 plus, obviously, a very clear political interest.
So, we're asking that that be examined right away. There's also usual bar rules of professional conduct that are operative here for the District of Columbia, that state: Without consent a lawyer shall not represent a client if the lawyer's professional judgment may be adversely affected by the interests of a third party in the matter. So, we're merely asking, this very late recusal of Ashcroft, which was too little and too late, be very clearly investigated. The last point is, of course, that it ties in with the requirement that all memoranda, evidence, telecommunications, email, be preserved in a matter like this, and we don't know what's being done in the Department of Justice about that.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Congressman Conyers, what specifically are the regulations in the Justice Department for officials and what they -- what investigations they may or may not participate in?
REP. JOHN CONYERS: Well, they're pretty standard, because the federal law requires that every department create them, and obviously, the Department of Justice would be one of the first places that we would know that that would happen, and it couldn’t -- it's very unlikely that not only Mr. Ashcroft didn't know about it at the time, or certainly his aides did. The federal law requires the Attorney General to promulgate rules mandating the disqualification of any officer or employee in the Department of Justice from participating in any investigation or prosecution, if such participation may result in personal, political conflict of interest, or even the appearance thereof. And those rules have been around for quite a while. So, the fact that Mr. Ashcroft did ultimately recuse himself, to me, demonstrates, of course, that there was a conflict of interest that had existed there all the time that would prevent any impartiality.
AMY GOODMAN: How much support do you have in calling for this investigation? Congressmember Hinchey, but anyone else?
REP. JOHN CONYERS: Well, actually, the letter went out just recently, and the gentleman from New York, Congressman Maurice Hinchey, has been working on this matter, and we were able to have him join me immediately. It will be gaining attention to the members who are in recess as we go on today. But I think for here, you almost don't need a number of members to ask that a law as clear and obvious as this, under the circumstances that we have before us, Amy, that we need a particularly long list of members. I can’t imagine many members that would have any reservations about this kind of a communication.
AMY GOODMAN: Murray Waas, you write in your blog, WhateverAlready, that you’ve learned, according to law enforcement officials, that Attorney General Ashcroft was personally briefed on the Rove interview. What exactly do you understand?
MURRAY WAAS: Well, we first, to take a couple of steps back, the Attorney General, according to, at some point when I wrote about this last year, the Director of Communications for the Department of Justice, Mark Corello, confirmed what I had learned from sources inside the Department of Justice, and that’s that Ashcroft got almost regular briefings, if not one a day, one every second or third day about virtually everything going on in the investigation.
I had one senior official tell me that whatever the F.B.I. knew, the Attorney General was able to know or did know within days. And the briefings were conducted by Christopher Wray, who was then head of the Criminal Division, and then John Dion -- I hope I'm pronouncing his name right -- or Dion, who was the former counterintelligence expert, 30-year veteran at the department, who was conducting the day-to-day investigation of the Plame allegations before they relented and then appointed the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. So, this was almost -- he involved himself in a very direct and personal way as Attorney General, and in a way that, you know, if this happened in the Clinton Department of Justice on Whitewater or something similar, there would have been an extraordinary outcry. But, essentially, they admitted that much.
What I learned new for this last piece is that the threshold event or the straw that broke the camel's back, essentially, was that Ashcroft was personally briefed about an F.B.I. interview with Karl Rove in which the investigators believe that Karl Rove withheld crucial information from them, which he talked about earlier, namely that he had spoken with Matthew Cooper about Valerie Plame. He didn't disclose that at all. And so, the Attorney General, a good friend of Karl Rove, a close political associate of Karl Rove, was told that a person of interest, a subject of the investigation, had lied and wanted to continue to be briefed and wanted to continue to be involved and essentially set aside, as Congressman Conyers was talking about earlier, the bar standards, the Department of Justice guidelines, virtually every standard for a lawyer in this country that should be met.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But, Murray, at a certain point, the Attorney General did recuse himself. What have you been able to discern in your reporting? What led to that, and also you do indicate that other members of the Justice Department were increasingly worried about the Attorney General's interest in the case?
MURRAY WAAS: Well, after the Ashcroft -- after the Karl Rove interview, in which the investigators had a strong belief that they were being misled or lied to by Rove, or that he was omitting information, namely the Matt Cooper discussion, but also just this -- it's a little, I don't want to call it far-fetched, but it would seem on its face a little bit implausible that Karl Rove learned this information from a journalist, but he couldn't recall the journalist’s name, he couldn't recall whether it was on the telephone, he couldn't recall whether it was in person. He didn't have any memos or notes about it, even though he's a meticulous notekeeper and has a very good memory. You know, it's quite possible that Karl Rove is telling the truth. But, once the suspicions reached the level that they did, the career officials, the lot of them just said, ‘Enough is enough.’
And at that point, as well, Congressman Conyers, Senator Schumer of New York, had already been calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor in this matter, but James Comey, who’s the Deputy Attorney General, who just left last week, he was coming into his new position. He had had been confirmed by the Senate. And he was asked quite doggedly by Senator Schumer and others about this issue, and he had personally pledged, given his word, that the investigation wouldn't be compromised, that it wouldn't be tainted. And so the recusal by the Attorney General, the appointment by the special prosecutor came three weeks after he began his job, and it also shortly -- it also happened shortly after the Rove interview in which investigators thought that Rove withheld information.
So, all this gave a lot of ammunition and a lot of power to those making the case that Ashcroft recuse himself, but assuredly, he should have done it earlier. From the initial moment of the investigation, I mean, Rove was somebody who was going to be under suspicion, and the two of them were -- you know, as Congressman Conyers was pointing out, the two of them were close political and personal associates, and the standards are that you recuse immediately.
AMY GOODMAN: Murray Waas, we'd like to ask you to stay with us and thank Congress member John Conyers for joining us. When we come back from break, we’ll also be joined by Michael Wolff, who has written a piece in the September issue of Vanity Fair, talking about the greatest irony of Rovegate, that the press was part of the cover-up.
Violations of International Law Being Committed by the Occupiers of Iraq: WTI Testimony, by Dahr JamailFrom: Information Clearing House
Violations of international law being committed by the occupiers of Iraq
Culminating Session Testimony
By Dahr Jamail
06/25/05 Istanbul, Turkey - -Thank you very much for inviting me to the Culminating Session of the World Tribunal on Iraq. I first went to Iraq in November of 2003 as an American citizen both frustrated and horrified by what my unelected government was doing. I went to report on the situation because I was deeply troubled by the “journalism” being provided by the corporate media. At the time, as a frustrated mountain climber from Alaska working as a journalist in Iraq, I never would have believed I would be providing testimony to the World Tribunal on Iraq. I want to thank the organizers for this opportunity. I am honored to be here in solidarity with the Iraqi people.
In May of 2004 I interviewed a man who had just been released from Abu Ghraib. Like so many I interviewed from various US military detention facilities who’d been tortured horrifically, he still managed to maintain his sense of humor.
He began laughing when telling me how CIA agents made him beat other prisoners. He laughed, he said, because he had been beaten himself prior to this, and was so tired that all he could do to beat other detained Iraqis was lift his arm and let it drop on the other men.
Later, he laughed again as he told me what else had been done to him, when he said, “The Americans brought electricity to my ass before they brought it to my house.”
But this testimony is not about the indomitable spirit of the Iraqi people. About the dignity and strength of Iraqis, we need no testimony. This testimony is about ongoing violations of international law being committed by the occupiers of Iraq on a daily basis in regards to rampant torture, the neglect and obstruction of the health care sector and the ongoing failure to allow Iraqis to reconstruct their infrastructure.
To discuss torture, there are many stories I could use here, but I’ll use two examples indicative of scores of others I documented while in Iraq.
Ali Abbas lives in the Al-Amiriyah district of Baghdad and worked in civil administration. So many of his neighbors were detained that friends urged him to go to the nearby US base to try and get answers for why so many innocent people were being detained. He went three times.
On the fourth he was detained himself. Within two days he was transferred from the military base to Abu Ghraib, where he was held over three months without charges before being released.
“The minute I got there, the suffering began,” said Abbas about his interrogator, “I asked him for water, and he said after the investigation I would get some. He accused me of so many things and asked me so many questions. Among them he said I hated Christians.”
He was forced to strip naked shortly after arriving, and remained that way for most of his stay in the prison. “They made us lay on top of each other naked as if it was sex, and beat us with a broom,” he said. In addition to being beaten on their genitals, detainees were also denied water and food for extended periods of time, then were forced to watch as their food was thrown in the trash.
Treatment also included having a loaded gun held to his head to prevent him from crying out in pain as his hand-ties were tightened.
“My hands were enlarged because there was no blood because they cuffed them so tight,” he told me, “My head was covered with the sack, and they fastened my right hand to a pole with handcuffs. They made me stand on my toes to clip me to it.”
Abbas said soldiers doused him in cold water while holding him under a fan, and oftentimes, “They put on a loudspeaker, put the speakers on my ears and said, “Shut Up, Fuck Fuck Fuck!” In this manner Abbas’s interrogators routinely deprived him of sleep.
Abbas said that at one point, “Two men came, one a foreigner and one a translator. He asked me who I was. I said I’m a human being. They told me, ‘We are going to cut your head off and send you to hell. We will take you to Guantanamo.’”
A female soldier told him, “Our aim is to put you in hell so you will tell the truth. These are the orders we have from our superiors, to turn your lives into hell.”
Abbas added, “They shit on us, used dogs against us, used electricity and starved us.”
He told me, “Saddam Hussein used to have people like those who tortured us. Why do they put Saddam into trial, but they do not put the Americans to trial?”
But unlike Saddam Hussein, the US interrogators also desecrated Islam as part of their humiliation.
Abbas was made to fast during the first day of Eid, the breaking of the fast of Ramadan, which is haram (forbidden).
Sometimes at night when he would read his Koran, Abbas had to hold it in the hallway for light. “Soldiers would walk by and kick the Holy Koran, and sometimes they would try to piss on it or wipe shit on it,” he said.
Abbas did not feel this was the work of a few individual soldiers. “This was organized, it wasn’t just individuals, and every one of the troops in Abu Ghraib was responsible for it.”
Accounts by human rights groups support this. According to an April 2005 Human Rights Watch report, “Abu Ghraib was only the tip of the iceberg, it’s now clear that abuse of detainees has happened all over—from Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay to a lot of third-country dungeons where the United States has sent prisoners. And probably quite a few other places we don’t even know about.”
The report adds, “Harsh and coercive interrogation techniques such as subjecting detainees to painful stress positions and extended sleep deprivation have been routinely used in detention centers throughout Iraq. An ICRC report concluded that in military intelligence sections of Abu Ghraib, ‘methods of physical and psychological coercion used by the interrogators appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures by military intelligence personnel to obtain confessions and extract information.’”
Amnesty International has also released similar findings.
Other human rights groups report that US military doctors, nurses, and medics have been complicit in torture and other illegal procedures such as those administered to Sadiq Zoman.
55 year-old Zoman, detained from his home in Kirkuk in a raid by US soldiers that produced no weapons, was taken to a police office in Kirkuk, to the Kirkuk Airport Detention Center, the Tikrit Airport Detention Center and finally to the 28th Combat Support Hospital, where he was treated by Dr. Michael Hodges, a Lt. Col.
Lt. Col. Hodges’ medical report listed Zoman’s primary condition as hypoxic brain injury (brain damage caused by lack of oxygen) “with persistent vegetative state,” myocardial infarction (heart attack), and heat stroke.”
After one month in custody, Zoman was dropped off in a coma at the General Hospital in Tikrit by US soldiers. Zoman’s last name was listed as his first name on the report, despite the fact that all of his identification papers were taken during the raid on his home. Because of this, it took his desperate family weeks to locate him in the hospital.
Hodges’s medical report did not mention the fact that the back of Zomans’ head was bashed in, nor that he had electrical burn marks on the bottoms of his feet and genitals, or why he had lash marks across his back and chest.
Today he lies in bed still in a coma, and there has been no compensation provided to his now impoverished family for what was done to Sadiq Zoman.
Another aspect I shall discuss is the catastrophic situation of the health system in Iraq. I’ve recently released a report on the condition of Iraq’s hospitals under occupation.
Although the Iraq Ministry of Health has supposedly gained its sovereignty and received promises of over $1 Billion of US funding, hospitals in Iraq continue to face ongoing medicine, equipment, and staffing shortages under the US-led occupation.
During the 1990’s, medical supplies and equipment were constantly in short supply because of the sanctions against Iraq. The war and occupation brought promises of relief from effects of the sanctions, yet hospitals have had little chance to recover and re-supply: instead, the occupation has closely resembled a low-grade war since its inception. In addition, allocation of resources by occupation authorities has been dismal. Thus, throughout Baghdad there are ongoing shortages of functional equipment and medicines of even the most basic items such as analgesics, antibiotics, anesthetics and insulin. Surgical items and even basic supplies like rubber gloves, gauze and medical tape are running out.
In April 2004, an ICRC report stated that hospitals in Iraq are overwhelmed with new patients, short of medicine and supplies and lack both adequate electricity and water, with ongoing bloodshed stretching the hospitals’ already meager resources to the limit.
Ample testimony from medical practitioners confirms this crisis. A general practitioner at the prosthetics workshop at Al-Kena Hospital in Baghdad, Dr. Thamiz Aziz Abul Rahman, said, “Eleven months ago we submitted an emergency order for prosthetic materials to the Ministry of Health, and still we have nothing.” After a pause he added, “This is worse than even during the sanctions.”
Dr. Qasim al-Nuwesri, the chief manager at Chuwader General Hospital, one of the two hospitals in the sprawling slum area of Sadr City, Baghdad and home to 3 million people, added that they, too, faced a shortage of most supplies and, most critically, of ambulances. But for his hospital, the lack of potable water was the major problem. “Of course we have typhoid, cholera, kidney stones…but we now even have the very rare Hepatitis Type-E…and it has become common in our area,” said al-Nuwesri, adding that they never faced these problems prior to the invasion of 2003.
Chuwader hospital needs at least 2000 liters of water per day to function with basic sterilization practices. According to Dr. al-Nuwesri, they received 15% of this amount. “The rest of the water is contaminated and causing problems, as are the electricity cuts,” added al-Nuwesri, “Without electricity our instruments in the operating room cannot work and we have no pumps to bring us water.”
At Fallujah General Hospital, Dr. Ahmed, who asked that only his first name be used because he feared US military reprisals said of the April 2004 siege that “the Americans shot out the lights in the front of our hospital. They prevented doctors from reaching the emergency unit at the hospital, and we quickly began to run out of supplies and much needed medications.” He also said that Marines kept the physicians in the residence building several times, intentionally prohibiting them from entering the hospital in order to treat patients.
In November, shortly after leveling Nazzal Emergency Hospital, US forces entered Fallujah General Hospital, the city’s only healthcare facility for trauma victims, detaining employees and patients alike. According to medics on the scene, water and electricity were “cut off,” ambulances targeted or confiscated by the US military, and surgeons, without exception, kept out of the besieged city.
Hospital raids by US military and US-backed Iraqi forces now appear to be standard operating procedure. On the 18th of this month, doctors at the main hospital in Baquba went on strike, saying they are fed up with constant abuse at the hands of aggressive Iraqi police and soldiers.
Dr. Mohammed Hazim in Baquba, pleaded for his governor to protect he and his colleagues from “organized terrorism of the police and army.”
When wounded Iraqi security forces showed up demanding treatment, Dr. Hussein told one of them he would require an x-ray. The doctor was told to go to hell by the policeman he was treating and was then beaten. The same policeman then ordered another police officer to put a bag over the doctor’s head and take him away.
“Our security guards tried to stop them, telling them I was a doctor, but they didn't listen and beat the security guards too,” he said, “Then one of them put a gun to my head and threatened me.”
Similar behavior has been reported during the recent US-Iraqi military operations in Haditha and Al-Qa’im. Doctors also recently went on strike at the large Yarmouk Hospital in Baghdad in a very similar incident.
Many doctors in Iraq believe that the lack of assistance, if not outright hostility, by the US military, coupled with the lack of rebuilding and reconstruction by foreign contractors has compounded the problems they are facing.
The former ambassador of Iraq Paul Bremer admitted that US led coalition spending on the Iraqi Health system was inadequate when he said, “It’s not nearly enough to cover the needs in the healthcare field.”
When asked if his hospital had received assistance from the US military or reconstruction contractors, Dr. Sarmad Raheem, the administrator of chief doctors at Al-Kerkh Hospital in Baghdad said, “Never ever. Some soldiers came here five months ago and asked what we needed. We told them and they never brought us one single needle…We heard that some people from the CPA came here, but they never did anything for us.”
At Fallujah General Hospital, Dr. Mohammed said there has been virtually no assistance from foreign contractors, and of the US military he commented, “They send only bombs, not medicine.”
International aid has been stymied by the horrendous security situation in Iraq. After the UN headquarters was bombed in Baghdad in August 2003, killing 20 people, aid agencies and NGOs either reduced their staffing or pulled out entirely.
With senior Iraqi doctors fleeing Iraq en masse for fear of being kidnapped, interns and younger doctors are left to deal with the catastrophic situation. The World Health Organization last year warned of a health emergency in Baghdad, as well as throughout Iraq if current conditions persist. But despite claims from the Ministry of Health of more drugs, better equipment, and generalized improvement, doctors on the ground still see “no such improvement.”
In conclusion, a quick summary of the overall situation on the ground in Iraq is in order. Over two years into the illegal occupation, while Iraq sits upon a sea of oil, ongoing gasoline shortages plague Iraqis who sometimes wait 2 days to fill their cars. In a country where a long gas line once meant a one-car wait, Iraqis who are lucky enough to afford it now purchase black market petrol and hope that it is not watered down.
Electricity remains in short supply. Most of Iraq, including the northern region, receives on average 3 hours of electricity per day amidst the nearly non-existent reconstruction efforts. Even the better areas of Baghdad receive only 6-8 hours per day, forcing those who can afford them to use small generators to run fans and refrigerators in their homes. Of course, this is only for those who’ve been able to obtain the now rarefied gasoline.
The security situation is, needless to say, horrendous. With over 100,000 Iraqis killed thus far and the number of US soldiers killed approaching 2,000, the violence only continues to escalate.
Since the new Iraqi so-called government was sworn in two months ago, well over 1,000 Iraqis and over 165 US soldiers have died in the violence. These numbers will only continue to escalate as the failed occupation grinds on. As the heavy handed tactics of the US military persist, the Iraqi resistance continues to grow in its number and lethality.
As I mentioned before, potable water remains in short supply. Cholera, typhoid and other water-borne diseases are rampant even in parts of the capital city as lack of reconstruction continues to plague Iraq’s infrastructure. Raw sewage is common across not just Baghdad, but other cities throughout Iraq.
With 70% unemployment, a growing resistance and an infrastructure in shambles, the future for Iraq remains bleak as long as the failed occupation persists. While the Bush Administration continues to disregard calls for a timetable for withdrawal, Iraqis continue to suffer and die with little hope for their future. With each passing day, the catastrophe in Iraq resembles the US debacle in Vietnam more and more.
Dr. Wamid Omar Nadhmi, a senior political scientist at Baghdad University who was invited to this tribunal, told me last winter, “It will take Iraqis something like a quarter of a century to rebuild their country, to heal their wounds, to reform their society, to bring about some sort of national reconciliation, democracy and tolerance of each other. But that process will not begin until the US occupation of Iraq ends.”
And it is now exceedingly clear that the only way the Bush Administration will withdraw the US military from Iraq in order for Iraqis to have true sovereignty is if they are forced to do so.
Copyright: Dahr Jamail [Reposted here with kind permission by Dahr Jamail]
The presidential vacationer is being besieged
Thursday August 18, 2005
Home on the range more than the deer and the antelope play. Near a drainage ditch by the road leading to Prairie Chapel, President Bush's Texas ranch, the mother of a dead soldier has pitched a tent. Cindy Sheehan has refused to leave until she is granted an audience with the president. Her son, 24-year-old Army Spc Casey Sheehan, a Humvee mechanic, was killed in Baghdad's Sadr City on April 4 2004, and she calls her makeshift vigil in memorial "Camp Casey".
Her previous meeting with Bush has only impelled her to seek the satisfaction of another one. "He didn't even know Casey's name. Every time we tried to talk about Casey and how much we missed him, he would change the subject."
Bush has sent out emissaries, including his national security adviser Stephen Hadley, to reason with her, but she remains adamant. Her emotional drama and outspoken opposition to the Iraq war have become daily news. Every twist in her standoff provides grist for expanded coverage.
Other bereaved parents of dead soldiers have suddenly begun speaking out and receiving respectful media attention. In Ohio, Paul Schroeder, father of Lance Corporal Edward Schroeder II, killed two weeks ago with 16 other troops from Ohio, called a press conference in front of his Cleveland home. "Our comments are not just those of grieving parents," he said. "They are based on anger, Mr President, not grief. Anger is an honest emotion when someone's family has been violated. Before Sheehan's vigil, public support of Bush's Iraq policy plummeted to 34%.
From the administration comes conflicting statements about strategy in Iraq. The recent fiasco over the attempted rebranding of the "war on terrorism" as the "global struggle against violent extremism" reflects internal tension. While Bush proclaims that he will "stay the course," military sources leak stories that the vaunted objectives of the Iraq war - democracy and civil order - are chimerical. Pentagon briefings suggest that US forces may be drawn down soon, but the projections do not flow from any new strategy.
Iraq's confounded constitution-writing has further illuminated its centrifugal forces and the visible hand of Iran. It is becoming undeniable that the outcome of the war will be an Islamic republic closely allied with Iran.
For the American public this news melds in their daily lives with the rise of oil prices. The Iraq invasion was supposed to guarantee perpetual cheap oil. While the price boost has erased wage gains and flattened consumer demand, this oil crisis is more than a tale of statistics. Like oil crises in the past, it strikes at American feelings of independence, mobility and exceptionalism. Not since the oil crisis of 1979 that provoked President Carter's "malaise" speech have such frustrations surfaced.
Sandstorms by the banks of the Euphrates swirl to the Waco River, and the presidential vacationer, besieged by marches, has turned querulous. As his crusade is being overtaken by a sense of futility, Bush explained why he would not meet Sheehan: "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life." This week he's planned a bicycle ride with Lance Armstrong.
· Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, is author of The Clinton Wars
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005
Mission of Former Marine: Arab TV
Submitted by editor on August 18, 2005 - 1:50pm.
By Nick Madigan and Annie Linskey
Source: Baltimore Sun
During the early battles of the invasion of Iraq, a Marine lieutenant named Josh Rushing became one of the salient faces of America's war, a man with a conscience who supported the mission but also understood the enemy's cause.
As a military spokesman at Central Command in Doha, Qatar, Rushing achieved unlikely cult status in a documentary about Al-Jazeera's coverage of the war, Control Room. His verbal sparring with the controversial Arab network's reporters showed him to be sensitive to the conflict's contradictions and injustices, a rare example of an American military man to whom some in the Arab world could relate.
Now, Rushing, who left the Marines last year after saying he had been silenced for his outspokenness, stands poised to join Al-Jazeera when it debuts its expanded international service early next year.
Reached on his cell phone yesterday, Rushing said he could not "confirm or deny who I'll be working with."
But Mike Holtzman, executive vice president of Brown Lloyd James, a public relations firm that represents Al-Jazeera International, confirmed that the network and Rushing were discussing a role for him.
"He'll be operating in some capacity," said Holtzman. "We're talking, we're interested. We're talking in terms of a staff position."
Holtzman declined to be specific about what Rushing might do, saying it was "still up in the air," but on one thing he was clear: "I wouldn't categorize him as an anchor."
"We don't know what role he's going to fill on the editorial side," Holtzman said. "It remains to be seen as how he would fit into a news structure. He will not be sitting in a news bureau saying, 'And this is up next.' That is not the role that is envisioned for him.
"There are a hundred things he could possibly do. He could be a military analyst; he could do all sorts of things."
Rushing's musings will not, apparently, be served up on the network's Arabic-language service, regardless of sympathetic image in the Middle East. He will appear on the new, English-language Al-Jazeera International, designed as a global competitor to such 24-hour operations as CNN and the BBC. Al-Jazeera International plans to have about 30 bureaus worldwide, with headquarters in Doha.
"The heritage of Al-Jazeera is to do things that are out of the box," Holtzman said. "They were the first to have an Israeli on an Arab news channel. They tore down all kinds of barriers. You'll see a lot of hiring decisions that will be out of the box."
The international service's audience will be primarily "a younger demographic, not Muslim audiences - the English-speaking world," Holtzman said.
Rushing's apparent move to a network that some in the United States see as inexcusably anti-American is likely to raise some hackles, particularly among those who resist the notion of a collaborative relationship with entities in the region, such as Al-Jazeera, that have in the past given voice to videotaped diatribes by Osama bin Laden and others of his ilk.
However, the powers at Al-Jazeera have recently taken pains to display their objectivity.
Matthew T. Felling, media director at the Center for Media and Public Affairs in Washington, said there had been a marked improvement in the network's performance in what he called "capital-J journalism."
"They would allow gossip and hearsay and unsubstantiated rumors about American troops to run unfettered across the Arab world, anywhere from women and children being shot in a mosque by U.S. troops to the use of daisy cutters on Iraqi civilians," Felling said. "It wasn't true, but there it was."
With Rushing's potential hiring and the launch of the English-language service, Felling said, the network is taking another step into global respectability.
"I can't think of a single more powerful arrow in their credibility quiver than an all-American, straightforward and reasonably well-known military professional joining their news-reporting team," he said.
It should not come as a surprise that Rushing, a 32-year-old Texan, may be joining the news crew at Al-Jazeera. In an interview in the Village Voice in May 2004, he said, "People don't understand what a complex organization Al-Jazeera is. They say it's all Islamists, or Baathists, or Arab nationalists. You have all that, but you have really progressive voices too. Al-Jazeera shows it all. It turns your stomach, and you remember there's something wrong with war."
In an Oct. 30 interview on National Public Radio's Weekend All Things Considered, he responded to a question about his post-military plans by saying he hoped to become "involved with the media in terms of being a spokesperson or in some other capacity."
"But I'm really looking for an organization that I believe in as much as I believe in the Marine Corps," he said.
In Control Room, which focused on the emerging network's philosophy and war coverage, Rushing is shown developing a friendship with an Al-Jazeera reporter, Hassan Ibrahim.
But Al-Jazeera has not always treated Rushing fairly. During an interview with the network while he was still serving in Doha, a correspondent asked him whether Saddam Hussein should have abided by the terms of the Geneva Convention, but showed some unrelated footage on the screen.
"There's a split screen and they're showing a market bombing in Baghdad that has nothing to do with what we're talking about, and I have no idea that they're showing it," Rushing said in an October 2004 interview with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air. "But if you watch the TV on mute, it clearly looks like I'm responding to the attack in downtown Baghdad.
"I always believe in holding Al-Jazeera accountable," he said. "When you go on and you do the interviews with them, you tell them why you're holding them accountable."
All the same, Rushing said access to the channel should not be curtailed. "There's really one voice that reaches so much of the Arab population, and I look at the invasion of Iraq as not just about Iraq, but about this clash of civilizations that really created 9/11," he told Gross. "I mean, the root to 9/11 is the Arab perspective, and the best way to reach those who hold that perspective is through Al-Jazeera."
Politics as Theater
Submitted by editor on August 18, 2005 - 2:16pm.
By Jim Hoagland
Source:The Washington Post
As metaphor, Cindy Sheehan's peaceful siege of George W. Bush's Texas ranch is pitch perfect. Like Iraq, the ranch was easy to go into. But the president pays a price either for staying or exiting while Sheehan and television cameras perch on the road outside.
Once at the ranch, Bush can hide, but he can't run.
Unfortunately, Sheehan's personal tragedy is degenerating into farce or worse. She has become a celebrity whose divorce proceedings hit the wires this week to reverberate in the great national echo chamber. That "news" was quickly topped by a barbarian driving a pickup truck through a makeshift memorial of white crosses honoring fallen soldiers in Iraq.
Sheehan may have anticipated that her family's quarrels over the meaning of her son's death in Iraq, her angry statements blaming Israel for pushing the United States into Iraq and her vituperative Web postings would become grist for the celebrity mills. If she didn't, we should feel her pain even more.
But her vigil risks becoming political theater disconnected from its larger purpose. This is an increasingly unsettling phenomenon in the Internet age, as political parties, lobby groups, the media and other institutions concentrate on spin more often than substance in politics.
Sheehan says she wants to see the president again to demand answers -- answers that she says he did not provide in their previous meeting and that she suggests, in advance, that she knows he does not have.
On that she is right: If Bush had answers on Iraq, he would shower her with them. The insufficient or partial statements he would make at this point would certainly not satisfy a woman who has already said that Bush is "spewing . . . lying filth" about Iraq to cover up a strategy of personal enrichment.
It is not so disturbing that the national political discourse has become detached from civility. That has been true, and not fatal, at other periods in American history. Moreover, this case involves a grieving mom who is entitled to vent, to petition her president publicly for redress or both.
What is disturbing is that the national political discourse is increasingly detached from reality. The emotionalism and character assassination practiced by both sides -- the clamor in the echo chamber around Sheehan is only one example -- is mistaken for "politics."
Instead of turning out more engineers or scientists, American society seems at times more geared to forming consumers, producers and critics of a particularly bombastic kind of political theater, which comes in entertainment and information flows that are increasingly hard to distinguish.
Historians will credit the New York Times with both influencing and reflecting this trend by assigning its dominant weekend political opinion space to Frank Rich, its former theater critic. If political theater's the thing, as Shakespeare might have said, who better to cast a lively if withering eye to answer the question, "How is this playing?"
Too often we now get more of our information from stories or broadcast clips about television ads on issues than stories or clips about those issues themselves. Think of John Kerry's war record, or Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts's opinions and papers. They are then followed by news stories and columns that spin the spin -- that hash out how effective, or not, the presentational values were.
Bush neither needs nor deserves defending on this score. He, too, has contributed to the national political discourse becoming more superficial, more coarse, and more driven by images and drama. That he is now hoist -- in opinion polls at least -- by the conditions he helped create at home also seems a metaphor for his dilemma in Iraq.
There the president gropes his way uncertainly through a nightmarish period in which he is necessarily a seeker rather than a provider of the answers that, in reality, only Iraqis will be able to provide for their country.
The shock-and-awe tactics of the speedy battlefield victory in Iraq created changed conditions there that the Bush team failed to perceive and to master in time. It is possible to see a parallel in his uncompromising approach to political campaigns and legislative fights at home and the plunge his standing has taken in the polls.
A vigil by a war victim's mother should be an act of devotion that transcends political theater. Bush owes Sheehan the respect of the meeting she seeks -- if she demonstrates that she will show him the respect any elected president deserves.
For this article, go to: mediachannel.org/blog/node/684
Watching the Gazan Fiasco: The Shame of It All
Submitted by editor on August 18, 2005 - 1:08pm.
By JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN
A great charade is taking place in front of the world media in the Gaza Strip. It is the staged evacuation of 8000 Jewish settlers from their illegal settlement homes, and it has been carefully designed to create imagery to support Israel's US-backed takeover of the West Bank and cantonization of the Palestinians.
There was never the slightest reason for Israel to send in the army to remove these settlers. The entire operation could have been managed, without the melodrama necessary for a media frenzy, by providing them with a fixed date on which the IDF would withdraw from inside the Gaza Strip. A week before, all the settlers will quietly have left with no TV cameras, no weeping girls, no anguished soldiers, no commentators asking cloying questions of how Jews could remove other Jews from their homes, and no more trauma about their terrible suffering, the world's victims, who therefore have to be helped to kick the Palestinians out of the West Bank.
The settlers will relocate to other parts of Israel and in some cases to other illegal settlements in the West Bank handsomely compensated for their inconvenience. Indeed, each Jewish family leaving the Gaza Strip will receive between $140,000 and $400,000 just for the cost of the home they leave behind. But these details are rarely mentioned in the tempest of reporting on the "great confrontation" and "historical moment" brought to us by Sharon and the thieving, murderous settler-culture he helped create.
On ABC's Nightline Monday night, a reporter interviewed a young, sympathetic Israeli woman from the largest Gaza settlement, Neve Dekalim - a girl with sincerity in her voice, holding back tears. She doesn't view the soldiers as her enemy, she says, and doesn't want violence. She will leave even though to do so is causing her great pain. She talked about the tree she planted in front of her home with her brother when she was three; about growing up in the house they were now leaving, the memories, and knowing she could never return; that even if she did, everything she knew would be gone from the scene. The camera then panned to her elderly parents sitting somberly amid boxed-up goods, surveying the scene, looking forlorn and resigned. Her mother was a kindergarten teacher, we are told. She knew just about all of the children who grew up here near the sea.
In the 5 years of Israel's brutal suppression of the Palestinian uprising against the occupation, I never once saw or heard a segment as long and with as much sentimental, human detail as I did here; never once remember a reporter allowing a sympathetic young Palestinian woman, whose home was just bulldozed and who lost everything she owned, tell of her pain and sorrow, of her memories and her family's memories; never got to listen to her reflect on where she would go now and how she would live. And yet in Gaza alone more than 23,000 people have lost their homes to Israeli bulldozers and bombs since September 2000 -- often at a moment's notice on the grounds that they "threatened Israel's security." The vast majority of the destroyed homes were located too close to an IDF military outpost or illegal settlement to be allowed to continue standing. The victims received no compensation for their losses and had no place waiting for them to relocate. Most ended up in temporary UNRWA tent-cities until they could find shelter elsewhere in the densely overcrowded Strip, a quarter of whose best land was inhabited by the 1% of the population that was Jewish and occupying the land at their expense.
Where were the cameramen in May 2004 in Rafah when refugees twice over lost their homes again in a single night's raid, able to retrieve nothing of what they owned? Where were they when bulldozers and tanks tore up paved streets with steel blades, wrecked the sewage and water pipes, cut electricity lines, and demolished a park and a zoo; when snipers shot two children, a brother and sister, feeding their pigeons on the roof of their home? When the occupying army fired a tank shell into a group of peaceful demonstrators killing 14 of them including two children? Where have they been for the past five years when the summer heat of Rafah makes life so unbearable it is all one can do to sit quietly in the shade of one's corrugated tin roof -- because s/he is forbidden to go to the sea, ten minutes' walking distance from the city center? Or because if they ventured to the more open spaces they became walking human targets? And when their citizens resisted, where were the accolades and the admiring media to comment on the "pluck," the "will" and "audacity" of these "young people"?
On Tuesday, 16 August, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that more than 900 journalists from Israel and around the world are covering the events in Gaza, and that hundreds of others are in cities and towns in Israel to cover local reactions. Were there ever that many journalists in one place during the past 5 years to cover the Palestinian Intifada?
Where were the 900 international journalists in April 2002 after the Jenin refugee camp was laid to waste in the matter of a week in a show of pure Israeli hubris and sadism? Where were the 900 international journalists last fall when the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza lay under an Israeli siege and more than 100 civilians were killed? Where were they for five years while the entire physical infrastructure of the Gaza Strip was being destroyed? Which one of them reported that every crime of the Israeli occupation from home demolitions, targeted assassinations and total closures to the murder of civilians and the wanton destruction of commercial and public property- increased significantly in Gaza after Sharon's "Disengagement" Plan - that great step toward peace - was announced?
Where are the hundreds of journalists who should be covering the many non-violent protests by Palestinians and Israelis against the Apartheid Wall? Non-violent protesters met with violence and humiliation by Israeli armed forces? Where are the hundreds of journalists who should be reporting on the economic and geographic encirclement of Palestinian East Jerusalem and of the bisection of the West Bank and the subdivision of each region into dozens of isolated mini-prisons? Why aren't we being barraged by outraged reports about the Jewish-only bypass roads? About the hundreds of pointless internal checkpoints? About the countless untried executions and maimings? About the torture and abuse of Palestinians in Israeli prisons?
Where were these hundreds of journalists when each of the 680 Palestinian children shot to death by Israeli soldiers over the last 5 years was laid to rest by grief-stricken family members? The shame of it all defies words.
Now instead report after report announces the "end to the 38 year old occupation" of the Gaza Strip, a "turning point for peace" and the news that "it is now illegal for Israelis to live in Gaza." Is this some kind of joke?
Yes, it is "illegal for Israelis to live in the Gaza Strip" as colonizers from another land. It has been illegal for 38 years. (If they wish to move there and live as equals with the Palestinians and not as Israeli citizens they may do so.)
Sharon's unilateral "Disengagement" plan is not ending the occupation of Gaza. The Israelis are not relinquishing control over the Strip. They are retaining control of all land, air and sea borders including the Philadelphi corridor along the Gaza/Egypt border where the Egyptians may be allowed to patrol under Israel's watchful eye and according to Israel's strictest terms. The 1.4 million inhabitants of Gaza remain prisoners in a giant penal colony, despite what their partisan leaders are attempting to claim. The IDF is merely redeploying outside the Gaza Strip, which is surrounded by electrical and concrete fences, barbed wire, watchtowers, armed guards and motion censors, and it will retain the authority to invade Gaza on a whim. Eight thousand Palestinian workers working in Israel for slave wages will soon be banned from returning to work. Another 3,200 Palestinians who worked in the settlements for a sub-minimum-wage have been summarily dismissed without recourse to severance pay or other forms of compensation. Still others will lose their livelihoods when the Israelis move the Gaza Industrial Zone from Erez to somewhere in the Negev desert.
The World Bank reported in December 2004 that both poverty and unemployment will rise following the "Disengagement" even under the best of circumstances because Israel will retain full control over the movement of goods in and out of Gaza, will maintain an enforced separation of the West Bank and Gaza preventing the residents of each from visiting one another, and will draw up separate customs agreements with each zone severing their already shattered economies-- and yet we are forced to listen day in and day out to news about this historic peace initiative, this great turning point in the career of Ariel Sharon, this story of national trauma for the brothers and sisters who have had to carry out the painful orders of their wise and besieged leader.
What will it take to get the truth across to people? To the young woman of Neve Dekalim who can speak her words without batting an eyelash of embarrassment or shame? As the cameras zoom in on angry settlers poignantly clashing with their "brothers and sisters" in the Israeli army, who will be concerned about their other brothers and sisters in Gaza? When will the Palestinian history of 1948 and 1967, and of each passing day under the violence of dispossession and dehumanization, get a headline in our papers?
I am reminded of an interview I had this summer in Beirut with Hussein Nabulsi of Hizbullah an organization that has had nothing to do with the movement for Palestinian national liberation whatsoever, but one that has become allied with those it sees as the real victims of US and Israeli policies and lies. I remember his tightly shut eyes and his clenched fists as he asked how long Arabs and Muslims were supposed to accept the accusations that they are the victimizers and the terrorists. "It hurts," he said in a whispered ardor. "It hurts so much to watch this injustice every day." And he went on to explain to me why the Americans and the Israelis with their monstrous military arsenals will never be victorious.
- Jennifer Loewenstein will be a visiting Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University beginning this fall. She can be reached: firstname.lastname@example.org
For this article, go to: http://mediachannel.org/blog/node/670
posted August 18, 2005 at 12:00 p.m.
London police chief, shoot-to-kill policy, under fire
Leaked report: Brazilian mistakenly killed by police wasn't wearing 'padded jacket' or running away when shot.
By Tom Regan | csmonitor.com
Calls for London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair to resign over the shooting of a young Brazilian are growing after a leaked document and photos from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) inquiry into his death showed that most of the claims made by police and some witnesses about Jean Charles de Menezes were false, the Daily Mail reports.
...former Cabinet Minister Frank Dobson piled the pressure on Sir Ian, saying his position was 'very difficult' as he was partly responsible for people being misled. Tony Blair would have been unlikely to give the police such firm backing in the way he did if the truth had been known, Mr Dobson said. Police 'have allowed the false impression, the misleading impression that this man was behaving suspiciously' which was 'very disturbing,' he added.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the leaked document and photos show that Mr. de Menezes was actually wearing a denim jacket, not a padded one, that he was not running from the police nor had he "vaulted" the Stockwell Underground turnstiles, as was originally reported.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the evidence now shows that de Menezes walked into the Stockwell Underground station, used a farecard to pay for his ride, picked up a newspaper and sat down in a train car before he was rushed by undercover police and shot eight times, including seven shots in the head. The police had originally said he had only been shot five times. The evidence also shows that the police had pinned his hands behind his back before he was shot.
In an editorial Thursday, the Daily Telegraph says that "This business has the makings of one of the worst blunders in the history of the Metropolitan Police." The BBC reports on the discrepancies between what the London police originally said, or allowed people to believe about the incident and what really happened.
The Guardian reported Wednesday that the police made several key mistakes, starting from the moment de Menezes left his apartment on Scotia Road in London.
One member of the team, using the call sign Tango Ten, began watching the flat at 6.30am. A soldier who had been with the Met for a year, he was equipped with a mini-DV camera which was not permanently recording in order to conserve its batteries. His job was to film people entering and leaving and then compare them against photographs of the suspects.
The crucial point came at 9.33am, when he made these notes in his log book: "I observed a U/I [unidentified] male IC1 [white] 5'8" dark hair beard/stubble, blue denim jacket, blue jeans and wearing trainers exit the block, he was not carrying anything and at this time I could not confirm whether he was or was not either of our subjects." When Jean Charles de Menezes left the block, the soldier was relieving himself and unable to turn on his camera.
The renewed controversy into the shooting of de Menezes has also led to calls for more oversight of the London police's "shoot-to-kill" policy. An editorial in The Herald of Scotland says it's still important to support the police, changes have to be made to assure people that this kind of incident will not happen again.
In the aftermath of the London bombings, the home secretary, Charles Clarke, told a news conference: "The human right to travel on the Underground on a Thursday morning without being blown up is an important human right." Nobody could argue with him. However, he would do well to add that the human right to travel on the Underground on a Friday morning without being shot by a policeman is also important. In a bid to protect innocent people, an innocent man has been shot. How can we best minimise the chance of another such tragic mistake?
Meanwhile the Scotsman reports that Sir Ian Blair also tried to block an inquiry into the shooting of de Menezes "just hours after the innocent Brazilian's death." The Daily Mail writes that the decision by Blair has the "whiffs of a coverup."
Writing in the Guardian, Simon Hattenstone goes through a list of recent cases where the British police shot innocent people and then tried to cover it up. He says history shows that the London police "cannot be taken at their word" in this kind of case.
Few deaths at the hands of the police have been as clear-cut as that of Jean Charles de Menezes. None has been as high profile. But the subsequent police distortion is all too familiar. So how should a responsible media treat these official statements or unofficial "police sources" that invariably excuse police actions or vilify victims? With caution, at the least. We know that the reality is so often complex and multidimensional. The police should be regarded as one player in the story. Just as witnesses are "reported" or "alleged" to have seen an incident, so should the police - rather than being allowed to issue reports (often anonymously) as if they were objective purveyors of the truth.
The Times of London reports Thursday that the lawyers for the family of de Menezes met for an hour and a half with the IPCC, and expressed "their anger at what they believe has been an insufficiently independent and unnecessarily slow inquiry." CNN reports de Menezes' cousin Allessandro Pereira is now says that the police officers who shot him should "be jailed for life."
An editorial in the Guardian calls for people to wait for the full report of the IPCC before taking an actions. "Until the IPCC publishes its report it is hard to say precisely what happened and why. We do not really know if the armed response was a flawed policy faithfully carried out with tragic consequences or whether it was an defensible policy carried out in a flawed manner."
The Christian Science Monitor