Monday, April 30, 2007

Women Bloggers Harassed

A depressing piece in today's WaPo looks at the harassment women receive while online. What has happened to too many while in chat rooms has moved to blogs. Some women have given up their blogs in reaction to rape and death threats.

The story quotes two studies, as well as stories from a variety of women bloggers. The studies:

A 2006 University of Maryland study on chat rooms found that female participants received 25 times as many sexually explicit and malicious messages as males.

A 2005 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that the proportion of Internet users who took part in chats and discussion groups plunged from 28 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2005, entirely because of the exodus of women. The study attributed the trend to "sensitivity to worrisome behavior in chat rooms."

One successful technical blogger, Kathy Sierra, has stopped blogging for the moment after --

Someone typed a comment on her blog about slitting her throat and ejaculating. The noose photo appeared next, on a site that sprang up to harass her. On the site, someone contributed this comment: "the only thing Kathy has to offer me is that noose in her neck size."

Some women have contacted police, only to be told that it's no big deal, just online talk. This is more than a case of women needing to adapt to working in a man's environment. This is a basic human rights issue. Men attacking male bloggers don't threaten them with rape or sexual harassment. This is a sad, depressing, state of affairs in the 21st century. That some men continue to believe that women can or will stand to be treated like that.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Daily Life in Iraq

Make it Stop! Make it Stop! has added a new group of blogs in our links section to the right. These are blogs by Iraqis on daily life in their country five years & counting after we came to help them. The bloggers range from students to professionals. They offer valuable insights that are unfortunately too rare to find through our own media.

You Tubers are familiar with Saif, Adel & Ausama of Hometown Baghdad - whose videos on daily life are hits on the Youtube site. In Healing Iraq, a Baghdad dentist openly discusses the violence, but seems determined not to give up hope for the future of his country. Baghdad Burning's blogger attacks his national government with furor and anger. The familiy of Faiza, Raed, Khalid, and Majid are the voices heard on A Family in Baghdad. An anonymous Iraqi student shares opinions in No Pain, No Gain as does Nabil in Nabil's Blog. The blogger of Baghdad Connect examines life in Iraq and the politics behind some of the decisions. Other blogs featured in our links to the left are Madly in Love with Iraq, Where Date Palms Grow, Thoughts from Baghdad, Photos from Iraq, Alive in Baghdad, and First Words, First Walk in Iraq.

The next time you're wondering what our media and government are not telling you about Iraq and its people - look for yourselves.

Labels: ,

Tenet Moves to Cover His Ass

But just how good a job are we going to let him get away with on this? As he does his best on 60 Minutes tonight, and in his recently published book to paint his role in the Iraq war debacle as misunderstood (I didn't want us doing this. My warnings went unheeded. They did it, I didn't.), there are some who remind us that Tenet is far from innocent in all of this.

In today's WaPo Outlook section, Michael Scheuer reminds us that Tenet was hip deep in the roll out for war in his piece, "Tenet Tries to Shift the Blame, Don't Buy it."

Scheuer, who worked with Tenet, notes more than a few worrisome "inconsistencies" in this recent book. For instance, the possibility of hunting down bin Laden before 9/11:

But what troubles me most is Tenet's handling of the opportunities that CIA officers gave the Clinton administration to capture or kill bin Laden between May 1998 and May 1999. Each time we had intelligence about bin Laden's whereabouts, Tenet was briefed by senior CIA officers at Langley and by operatives in the field. He would nod and assure his anxious subordinates that he would stress to Clinton and his national security team that the chances of capturing bin Laden were solid and that the intelligence was not going to get better. Later, he would insist that he had kept up his end of the bargain, but that the NSC had decided not to strike.

Since 2001, however, several key Clinton counterterrorism insiders (including NSC staffers Richard A. Clarke, Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon) have reported that Tenet consistently denigrated the targeting data on bin Laden, causing the president and his team to lose confidence in the hard-won intelligence.

And the march to war in Iraq?

At this late date, the Bush-bashing that Tenet's book will inevitably stir up seems designed to rehabilitate Tenet in his first home, the Democratic Party. He seems to blame the war on everyone but Bush (who gave Tenet the Medal of Freedom) and former secretary of state Colin L. Powell (who remains the Democrats' ideal Republican). Tenet's attacks focus instead on the walking dead, politically speaking: the glowering and unpopular Cheney; the hapless Rice; the band of irretrievably discredited bumblers who used to run the Pentagon, Donald H. Rumsfeld, Paul D. Wolfowitz and Douglas J. Feith; their neoconservative acolytes such as Richard Perle; and the die-hard geopolitical fantasists at the Weekly Standard and National Review.

They're all culpable, of course. But Tenet's attempts to shift the blame won't wash. At day's end, his exercise in finger-pointing is designed to disguise the central, tragic fact of his book. Tenet in effect is saying that he knew all too well why the United States should not invade Iraq, that he told his political masters and that he was ignored. But above all, he's saying that he lacked the moral courage to resign and speak out publicly to try to stop our country from striding into what he knew would be an abyss.

Know thyself is good advice for Mr. Tenet, who is betting that by playing to the national and international disgust with the Bush administration and disguising his own culpability he can make us forget his role in this self-made disaster.

Don't bet on it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

If you've lost Utah Mormons, what do you have left?

Our Vice President, Dick Cheney--he of the "Saddam did 9-11" and "the insurgency is in its last throes" school of persuasion"--is supposedly at 9% in recent public opinion polls. There is no better evidence of this than the VEEP's reception at Brigham Young University, where he sought, and eventually received, an invitation to speak yesterday.

Utah and the Mormon Church are practically subsidiaries of the Republican Party, the reddest of the red states. But the ongoing fiasco that is this administration has even managed to disgust people there. When the announcement that the VEEP would be the commencement keynoter, some students and faculty immediately created an online petition in protest of the invite. I can't remember how many exactly, but I believe the signees numbered in the thousands. Some of them spoke publicly about their objections, citing Cheney's false statements and enthusiasm for war as being inconsistent with Mormon Church and BYU standards of behavior and character. Of course, they did not prevail, but the fact that there was ANY protest, let alone a protest that made the papers and brought in thousands of studnets, is remarkable.

And it got better, or maybe worse if you're the VEEP, yesterday when the entourage arrived. He was met by a crowd of picketers in Salt Lake City, and could not avoid another noisy group when he approached the BYU campus. This is a pigs-flying kind of event--it NEVER happens. BYU students are generally the silentest of the silent majority, loyal soldiers, God, flag, country people, students rated least inclined to debauchery nationwide.

I think Bush's solid 30% might be in jeopardy. We can only hope.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Finally - Some Real Checks & Balances

Media Matters has hit the ground hard - and it hasn't taken long for the FOX crowd to pull their noses out of the White House's behind and scream foul. After all, they've managed to say whatever they want without fear that any reporter is going to come along and take a look at their "facts" (aside from Colbert & Jon Stewart, that is). But now Media Matters is holding Fox's feet to the truth fire, along with some of the other right-wing hangers on of the Bush/Cheney crowd.

Why torture yourself, Mr. President?

Robert Novak has a remarkable column in this morning's Post about President Bush's determination to keep AG Gonzales in his job, despite mounting evidence that Gonzales is a)incompetent; b)widely disliked and disrespected in Washington and c)a growing liability to the reputation of the Republican Party. Holding onto Gonzales, Novak says, demonstrates how much President Bush dislikes his partners in the running of the country. "Bush, never entranced with life in Washington, detests dealing with a Democratic Congress. Reflecting annoyance and fatigue, he is unwilling to withstand incessant attacks from the likes of Reid and is ready to fight it out for the over 20 months left in his term." Furthermore, the President also detests the atmosphere in which he is forced to toil each day in Washington. Evidently no one around him likes AG Gonzales, so the President has concluded that this is nothing more than the high-and-mighty fancy-pants superciliousness of the Smart set from places like Hahvad square. Novak comments, "such derision for Gonzales is viewed by Bush as the arrogance of Washington, and he seems determined not to appease that mind-set. For now at least, the president refuses to yield on the grounds that Gonzales -- whatever his shortcomings -- broke no laws."

If the President so hates his colleagues in the running of the country, SO despises Washington and the creatures in it that just won't acknowledge the genius of his appointments, what is keeping him in our nation's craven, arrogant, demeaning-of-good-folks capital? Does he hate all of us out here, too? Why is he sticking around--does he love riding on Air Force One, maybe? Why doesn't he just take a hike down to Texas and put down this dreadful burden, so that the country would have a chance of moving forward?!

Heck, I'd chip in for a new, updated set of brush-clearing equipment.

More bookworld Thursday

...And when you finish with Popessa's choice for book of the day/week/month, take a look at Anne Hagedorn's new study of a moment in time, "Savage Peace: Hope and Fear in America, l9l9." Jay Freeman of "Booklist" assesses this new contribution to the "history-of-a-year" genre as follows:

"During the war, the government had constructed a web of domestic-intelligence agencies designed to root out those opposed to the war effort. Despite the armistice, these agencies continued to work aggressively. Particularly shocking, in retrospect, were the activities by members of the American Protective League, a government-sponsored organization. These zealots often conducted illegal searches, spied on their neighbors, and used crude intimidation tactics on a massive scale. This is a timely reminder of the dangers implicit in trying to achieve national security at the expense of basic freedoms."

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose?!

This Month's Must Read

You may recognize the BBC's investigative journalist Greg Palast by his best seller, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.” Well Greg has a new work out now, "Armed Madhouse" - and it's a definite MUST READ book. Heck, I'd have bought it just for the subtitle alone - Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats, Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal ‘08, No Child’s Behind Left and Other Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Class War.

You can read a recent Democracy Now interview with Palast here.

But turn your browsers to Powell's Books or or get on your bikes or running shoes and get down to a book seller near you and be prepared to find some truth and humor that we so disparately need in these gray days of the Bush empire.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Boris Nikolaevich Yeltsin post-mortem(an ongoing debate...)

I've listened to a lot of valedictories on the career of Boris Nikolaevich Yeltsin, first President of Russia, and as good and contemporary as they all have been, I have to return to the bad old Soviet times to give my own summation of his career. Boris Nikolaevich was a WRECKER, as they termed people shot for spying back in the day. He was a wrecker, but a POSITIVE wrecker. Most things he destroyed were richly deserving of their fate, namely:

--The Communist Party, after the August l991 attempt to re-impose its most brutal incompetents on the Soviet people

--The Soviet Union, in December 1991, in cahoots with the presidents of Ukraine and Belorus. It WAS an evil empire, because the worst people in the country ran it, and few outside the Russian republic were sorry to see it go.

--Restrictions on the press and media. Boris Nikolaevich MADE Russia's free press, which was as freewheeling and hard-hitting as you could get about ten years ago. That was huge.

--Restrictions on travel. President Reagan urged President Gorbachev to "tear down this wall" and let people travel. Well, Gorbachev tore down the wall, or at least gave it a shove, but it was Yeltsin who empowered the Russian people to see the world.

The glaring failure, of course, for Yeltsin was his inability to BUILD anything--an infrastructure for a capitalist democracy, a coherent foreign policy that didn't depend on repression and coercion, a consensus on where the country needed to go. He utterly failed at all these things. He was not a good builder at all, but he was a VERY good wrecker, and history will judge him kindly for all the things he blasted and cleared away.

A Peach of an Idea - Impeach Cheney

I've always been reluctant to sign onto to the Impeach Bush movement because I believe it would leave us worse off - I mean really, President Cheney? Well Rep. Dennis Kucinich is taking steps to remove that fear from our minds by going after war criminal Cheney first. Well done Dennis! He's filed articles of impeachment against Cheney - "Cheney manipulated and fabricated intelligence on weapons of mass destruction to justify the Iraq war. Kucinich said it was important to introduce the legislation "because the threat of war against Iran is very real."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Have a Happy, Healthy, and Productive Earth Day!

We have come a long way from the days when a 7th grade principal would tell his students that Earth Day isn't anything to pay attention to or honor. Today students and teachers, families and businesses, pretty much everyone (aside from those drinking the White House kool aid) know that the environment, conservation & climate change are things we MUST address. So here's to celebrating Earth Day everyday!

Check out your carbon footprint
Twenty-seven ways you can conserve
Join an environmental group - the National Resources Defense Council is a good place to start
Help save the rainforest here, here, or here
Check out Conservation International
Go Zero with the Conservation Fund
Help save animals with the World Wildlife Fund
Let kids lead the way - help them with activities they can do to save the planet

I'm sure most of you have several other organizations and activities to share with people - so let's get out there and make this Earth Day every day - and don't forget, this is the only planet we've got. So treat her with respect.

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Why We're in Iraq

I finally figured it out! It's taken all this time, but the clue that led to the answer was in a news story from a few days ago. It mentioned calls going out to the Shiite & Sunni factions in Iraq, challenging them to work together against the U.S.

And then all the pieces fell into place. I know why Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld stuck us in Iraq. It's not, as a surface examination would show, that they're incompetent boobs. No, they're sly as foxes, those three. They predicted that these two groups that got along before the invasion were going to turn on each other. So what did they do? They planted our troops right in the middle, working HARD to give each side a good reason to hate US, instead of each other.

Sure, this plan has cost the lives of thousands of Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis, but don't you see, it was all in the cause of fixing a situation that could not have existed if we hadn't invaded in the first place! And they were willing to sacrifice American lives to do it. Well, not, of course, THEIR lives, or the lives of anyone they know, but hey, it's a sacrifice all the same for those three who obviously care so much for humanity.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Utter Predictability of it All

Bloggers and right-wingers start their cries of "guns don't kill people" and go on their pro-gun offensive following the VT shootings. But do any of them at least bother to preface their self-promoting attacks with at the very least a word of sympathy or two about the victims? No, of course not. All we hear from these loony-tunes about the victims is that this wouldn't have happened if some of them were armed. No "I/we are so sorry to hear this latest news." No "I/we pray for the victims and their families."

Nope, it's all bodies to the barricades and shouting from the mountain tops that their precious guns must be defended against all costs. Apparently even against a brief moment of sympathy for those killed.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The breaking of armies, l9l7-2007

There's an excellent review in the IHT today of a particularly black period in a black war: the Nivelle offensive, or the battle of the Chemin des Dames, in which French infantry was massed and hurled at the German lines like a giant battering ram. Of course, the offensive failed, just like every other offensive in that war, the victim of good intelligence, Germans on high ground, machine guns and the high-intensity shell. But the Chemin des Dames acquired its own kind of infamy after French soldiers mutinied in significant numbers both there and throughout their positions on the western front. They had been run ragged by an indifferent leadership, they told their officers, and they were at the breaking point: they would not attack any more. They would defend their position, but they would not attack. It goes without saying that this could have been a huge catastrophe, if not for the British offensive at Passchendaele later that year and the certainty that the Americans were coming.

John Keegan called this incident, indeed all of l9l7, "the breaking of armies." Evidence that the Iraq war is about to break the American army--the departure in droves of young, talented officers, the extension of tours, the mounting casualty count, the persistent dumbing down of recruiting standards--is accumulating. Who will act to reverse these trends and call off this destructive, discretionary conflict, before the armed forces DO break?!

Murder is My Business

If you've ever had the opportunity to read a magazine along the lines of "Soldier of Fortune" then you are well acquainted with the mercenary wanna be mentality. One of the rarely-examined stories of the Iraqi/Afghan war are the actions of the private security contractors. Today's WaPo has a good story of four such men and questions of their activities in Iraq.

On the afternoon of July 8, 2006, four private security guards rolled out of Baghdad's Green Zone in an armored SUV. The team leader, Jacob C. Washbourne, rode in the front passenger seat. He seemed in a good mood. His vacation started the next day.

"I want to kill somebody today," Washbourne said, according to the three other men in the vehicle, who later recalled it as an offhand remark. Before the day was over, however, the guards had been involved in three shooting incidents. In one, Washbourne allegedly fired into the windshield of a taxi for amusement, according to interviews and statements from the three other guards.

The story goes on to note that while the US military has charged US soldiers and Marines with wrong doing (including murder) in Iraq, "not a single case has been brought against a security contractor, and confusion is widespread among contractors and the military over what laws, if any, apply to their conduct."

Why, you might wonder, is there confusion? After all, murder is murder, whether the finger on the trigger is a US soldier or a private contractor. Right? Well, wrong. In 2004, Paul Bremer (holder of one of Bush's awards of merit for screwing up the war), granted private contractors IMMUNITY from the Iraqi legal process. And although both the military & Congress are trying to create guidelines to prosecute contractors under either US or military law, nothing has been done to this point. So Washbourne, who has denied the allegations, probably need not worry. Apparently he could shout from the treetops that he killed Iraqi citizens whenever he felt like it and remain untouched by justice of any kind.

Killing Civilians

Just as Buckarooskidoo has long argued that high school students should be required to spend time abroad to learn that the world is larger than their back yard, I would argue that military basic training should include reading books like Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five and watching movies like Platoon.

Why? Because war isn't John Wayne striding onto a beach or Teddy Roosevelt charging up a hill. War is unpredictable, contradictory, scary, and far more times than not, makes little to no sense as it is being experienced by those troops. We send our youth into war zones with heads full of feel good war movies and winnable video games. When they come face to face with the reality of it all, most manage to adjust and persevere. Many manage to hold it together during their tours, only to lose their way back home. And sadly, some lose it on the battlefield. Where snap judgments between friend and foe have to be made. Life turns into death swiftly at those times. The wrong choice (too trusting and you're dead; too knee-jerk hostile and you're a murderer) is a fine line that is too easily crossed. And far too easily crossed, I believe, by those who enter into the conflict with delusions of war as simple - black or white; good or evil.

A preliminary military investigation shows that US troops killed and wounded over 40 Afghani citizens near Jalalabad after they were attacked. The troops apparently kept shooting and shooting as they escaped the area, killing civilians who were not near or part of the attack. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that such a thing will happen in war. Because, let's face it, this is what war is.

And no American should be sent into combat without understanding what war really is.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Presidential-level pulchritude?

There's good news and bad news for would-be Presidents this week. A group of consultants trying to help French candidates was strategizing in Paris this week. One of them was talking about the advisability of Segolene Royale's appearing in a bathing suit, and the general verdict was, well, let's not and say we did:

"You want to look like a commander-in-chief, especially as a woman," said Barbara Comstock, who helped George W. Bush get elected president.

Then Comstock delivered herself of the following:

"The only candidate who could get away with being photographed in a bikini in the United States," she said, "is Barack Obama."

I'm not sure how this evaulation will play in the Presidential election, but it would appear that while Obama has narrowly lost the first "money primary," he can already take the "hunk vote" to the bank...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

And the hits just keep on coming...

A student of mine who believes the Iraq war is a good thing informed me yesterday that CNN had reported on "an actual positive development" there, something about Baghdad college students determined to press on with their education despite multiple neighborhood bombings. That IS admirable, and positive, but it has been overwhelmed by a tsunami of terrible news just from the last couple of days.

ITEM: The Independent of London reports that General David Petraeus and his brain trust are planning to seal off neighborhoods in Baghdad, establishing checkpoints that will admit only those residents with a newly-minted ID card. That is supposed to deny access to insurgents and would-be suicide bombers. This sounds like a good idea, except when you remember that the French tried this against the FLN insurgents in Algeria, and the US followed up with the creation of "strategic hamlets" in south Vietnam. In both instances, a dismal failure. It's unlikely that this recycled version of an old strategy will have any effect in Baghdad.

ITEM: Nearly half of the West Point class of 2001, the first class affected by Afghanistan and Iraq, are opting out of continuing in the army at the end of their required 5 years. The reason most often given is repeated tours in either or both places. This is the same phenomenon we saw at the end of Vietnam, and it means the best and the brightest think a) that this war is going nowhere and b)the Army is not the place to be for the forseeable future. When you consider that these guys were gung-ho to be the next generation of officers not so long ago, that's very bad news indeed.

ITEM: We're assured that the surge is making things safer in Baghdad, that the plan is working. Someone forgot to tell the insurgents, though, who penetrated the impregnable Green Zone today for a suicide attack on the Iraqi parliament. The latest reports indicate that the death toll stands at 10.

There is NO military solution to this problem...why can't anyone see this, or be MADE to see it?!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Tony's tangle

If ever Britons had cause to doubt the wisdom of backing Bush's discretionary war in Iraq, it was last week. The Iranians finally handed over l5 British sailors and marines it had taken hostage. No word yet of a quid pro quo, but the personnel had to do plenty of public mea culpas before their release, a disgusting spectacle. About an hour after the news came of their impending release, the deaths of four British servicemen and women in Basra were announced. It is suspected that they were killed by an Iranian-made IED. Joy quickly turned to horror, a kind of grim Iran-Iraq shuffle.

The Independent takes grim note of these developments as follows in its April 8 edition:

"What Mr Blair was at pains not to say in his reaction, but many would have been thinking, was that neither the hostage drama nor the bombing in Basra would have happened if he had not taken the decision to invade Iraq in partnership with President George Bush in 2003. For television viewers, what linked the two events was the glee of Iraqis and Iranians at having British forces at their mercy.

In Basra, local people smilingly held up trophies, including an army helmet, after the explosion. In Tehran, it was the sight of Faye Turney and her 14 male colleagues having to thank the hardline Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for graciously agreeing to forgive their transgressions and let them go. Both spectacles would have heightened doubts about why we are still in Iraq - doubts that will not have been allayed by the familiar assurances of an outgoing Prime Minister that going there was "the right thing to do."

Undaunted, Blair and his friend, Bush--like the" big fool" in the Pete Seeger song--say to push on. Won't anyone stop them?

RAN! RAN!, or Really Astonishing Nonsense

Thank goodness the British sailors held by Iran got home safely. I thought the treatment they received was completely unworthy of a people that craves respect and a place among civilized nations, but that is a matter for another post.

One day before the crisis ended, I was struck by Ahmadinejad's prattling about how terrible it was that Britain sent a wife and mother out to sea. Of course, British women have long served in the armed forces, just as they do here, because western societies tend to believe in equality of opportunity. It is one of our fundamental values in this day and age, and it certainly sets us apart from fundamentalist Islamic societies, which shut women away physically, mentally and socially. As I listened to Ahmadinejad, I silently cheered him on, because that's what the world needs to know about Iran--it isn't a revolutionary or dynamic society at all, it specializes in mysogyny and antediluvianism. That's not very multicultural of me, but that's how I see it.

So imagine my amazement when I run through the Washington Post columns today and find Kathleen Parker, not usually someone I agree with but a reasonably intelligent and sane woman, AGREEING WITH AHMADINEJAD(!!). Ms. Parker claims we should all feel HUMILIATED at the fact that one of the captives was a wife and mother, it made us look JUST TERRIBLE. It was the most astonishing thing I've read in months, given all the talk since 9/11 about our waging war in Afghanistan to guarantee women's rights, our diversity and equality being our great strengths, our unwillingness to waste talent, and all the rest of it. To put it mildly, Parker has got to be kidding.

If she's not, let's send her some Islamic garb in which she can disappear for awhile, until she comes to her senses.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Cheers to Obama

Word has been leaking out for the past 24 hours that Obama's camp has been holding back his first quarter fundraising not because it's low, but because it's the highest. An anonymous source from the campaign told the WaPo today that the Obama campaign has raised $25 million in the first quarter.

And what's driving those funds? Iraq.

The war is already taking down McCain and if Clinton doesn't do some serious damage control on her previous position on the war, Obama is going to be able to take a lead over her and run with it.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

McCain in Baghdad - part 2

Thanks to Buckarooskidoo for keeping up with the world more than I have been lately. And to pointing out the McCain story. For those who are interested, the NYT has some great quotes from the market owners on the McCain stroll in one of their stories. In fact, merchants tried to get the Americans to pay attention to how bad things had been and were telling their stories to people (and let's here it for the Congressional aide who had the presence of mind to buy something instead of jotting down critical info about our allies during wartime).

“They asked about our conditions, and we told them the situation was bad,” said Aboud Sharif Kadhoury, 63, who peddles prayer rugs at a sidewalk stand. He said he sold a small prayer rug worth less than $1 to a member of the Congressional delegation. (The official paid $20 and told Mr. Kadhoury to keep the change, the vendor said.)

Mr. Kadhoury said he lost more than $2,000 worth of merchandise in the triple bombing in February. “I was hit in the head and back with shrapnel,” he recalled.

Ali Youssef, 39, who sells glassware from a sidewalk stand down the block from Mr. Kadhoury, recalled: “Everybody complained to them. We told them we were harmed.”

Oh, and the extra special benefit of McCain's publicity trip?

Several merchants said Monday that the Americans’ visit might have only made the market a more inviting target for insurgents.

“Every time the government announces anything — that the electricity is good or the water supply is good — the insurgents come to attack it immediately,” said Abu Samer, 49, who would give only his nickname out of concern for his safety.

McCain's Baghdad misadventure

There's more fallout today from John McCain's walkabout in a Baghdad market district over the weekend. Hoping to showcase his conviction that life in Baghdad is getting better and better(securer and securer?) in this period of the American troop "surge," McCain went for a stroll, chatting with stall-owners and passersby. The only difficulty with the picture he was trying to paint for the TV viewers was that he was accompanied by over l00 American soldiers and attack helicopters hovering overhead. You can go for a stroll in Baghdad, sure, but you'd better take some heavy bodyguards with you. The American press took this appearance vs. reality discrepancy and ran with it. Some people are even calling this McCain's "Dukakis" moment, recalling Mike Dukakis's awkward appearance in a tank to prove his military bona fides back in the day.

Now the Baghdad merchants McCain weigh on on the purported "normalcy" of the scene he was trying to create for the cameras...turns out they'd never seen the kind of security laid on for the occasion.

I think the "straight talker" is pretty close to being finished as a potential Presidential candidate, a maverick, even a serious person. it's cringe-inducing, really.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Last Week's Newsweek

I'm a bit behind, been under the weather lately and thanks to Buckarooskidoo for updating things around here. I have spent some time over the past few days reading through last week's Newsweek. If you didn't see it, the entire issue was devoted to letters, journals and emails from U.S. troops killed in Iraq. Portions of letters are used to give a history of the war through the eyes of the men and women who fought it. These brave people are no longer with us, but their words live on. I encourage everyone to take some time and read what these people had to say.

Audio and video snipits are available on the website as well. Here's one snipit to give you a feel of what you will find:

May 11, Fallujah

I honestly do not remember how many days I spent out there. I am doing my best to ignore the passage of time.

Eventually, we surrendered and went back to [Camp] Manhattan. It sure looked that way to us on the ground. The Marines pulled back, Iraqis showed up with old Baathist-era flags and tried to cross the bridges we were guarding. We were not allowed to shoot them. This happened about the same time the press learned that detainees were being abused in the prison east of Fallujah. Goody.

What did Hajji learn that week? First, the U.S. can be defeated. Second, if he surrenders he will be stripped naked, have electrodes attached to his testicles and [be] made to stand in a tub of water. F---ing brilliant. Where is my goddamned propeller-hat? I need to get into the spirit of things.

I don't understand...

The BBC has had reporters out in the country, talking to Americans about the Iraq war. This week, one was in central Texas, to visit with the Johnstons, who had just lost their 21-year-old Marine son, Gary. As much as we may believe the tide has turned definitively against the war here, you wonder when you read reaction like this:

"Everyone believed that US troops should remain in Iraq to protect America from terrorists, to honour the dead, such as Gary, and to complete the job... even one whose definition was becoming less certain.

But Nubbin Johnston was certain of one thing.

"My brother died in vain in Vietnam," he said, his big frame shaking. "That won't happen to my son."

He took a breath, looked at his neighbours, then spoke for them.

"You want to know why small-town America is losing so many of its people in Iraq?" he asked, his voice quivering.

"It's because small-town America still believes in this country, still believes in fighting for the freedom to worship whichever God you believe in. Our young men and women - like Gary - have been sacrificing their lives for this for 200 years. This is America."

So let me get this straight...these people believe that we are fighting a war for American religious freedom in Iraq, that the fight there is between us and "terrorists," a purely black and white affair, and that you have to believe in the Iraq war to believe in the United States of America? It astonishes me that anyone could really think like this. If you gave these remarks FIFTEEN SECONDS OF RATIONAL THOUGHT, you could never come up with conclusions like those.

What are we to make of the Johnstons' this willful ignorance, bad education, tunnel vision or grief-driven suspension of rational thought? I can't believe what I was reading there, after Vietnam, after all the high-handedness, mendacity, incompetence and dishonesty that went into launching this fiasco, after the descent into bloody sectarian war. These people seem to be stuck in a world view at least half a century out of date.

Free Web Counter
hit Counter