The Forgotten Casualties of War: Over 17,000 U.S. Troops Wounded

<>As President Bush visits wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC, we take a look at what is rarely discussed in the corporate media: the thousands of U.S. soldiers wounded in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

President Bush predicted victory in Fallujah and wished U.S. soldiers "Godspeed" in their mission as the bloody U.S. assault on the city entered its third day.

His comments came during a visit of wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC. It was Bush's sixth visit to wounded troops at the veteran hospital since he launched his so-called "war on terror" in late 2001. He spent two hours with soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush said "It's so uplifting to see their spirit, their drive to become rehabilitated, their love of their country, their support of the mission."

While Bush was with the recuperating wounded, American casualties continued to mount. 10 U.S. troops have been killed in the bloody urban warfare in Fallujah. The total U.S. death toll in Iraq has surpassed 1,100. While the number of U.S. soldiers killed is widely reported, what is rarely mentioned is the many thousands more wounded.

  • Mark Benjamin, UPI Investigations editor. He has been closely following the hidden US casualties from the Iraq war. He was awarded the American Legion's top journalism award for 2004 for his reporting last year on the plight of hundreds of sick, wounded and injured soldiers at Fort Stewart, Ga.
AMY GOODMAN: We are joined by Mark Benjamin. He is an investigations editor with UPI, who has closely followed the hidden U.S. casualties from the Iraq war. He won the American Legion's top journalism prize for 2004 for his reporting last year on the plight of hundreds of sick and wounded and injured soldiers at Ft. Stewart, Georgia, and their lack of care. Mark Benjamin, welcome to Democracy Now!

MARK BENJAMIN: Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the numbers, as you understand them today, of, not the dead, but the wounded?

MARK BENJAMIN: Well, with respect to the wounded, the Pentagon does report a number that it says is the number of soldiers that are wounded in the war. I think we're running around 7,000 or 8,000 in Iraq. But what that number does not include is the number of soldiers who are wounded or ill, or injured in operations that are not directly due to the bullets and bombs of the insurgents. So, for example, as of mid-September, if you take actually Afghanistan and Iraq together, there were 17,000 soldiers who were injured or ill enough to be put on airplanes and flown out of theater, and none of those casualties, and I call them casualties because they fit the Pentagon's definition of casualties, none of those casualties appear on any public casualty lists.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you get these figures, and why aren’t they being more reported?

MARK BENJAMIN: You have to ask the right questions. If you go to the Pentagon, and you take their own definitions of casualties and ask you them the right questions, they will give you some answers. So, for example, the reason why I started asking questions is that I visited eight major military facilities around the country -- well, in the United States and Europe, and frankly, I just saw more soldiers that were hurt than seemed to be reflected in the Pentagon reports. They -- the Pentagon says, when I asked them what was on and not on their casualty lists, they said they weren't keeping track of the number of soldiers. The Pentagon told me we are not keeping track of the number of soldiers who are wounded or ill or injured that are not hit by the enemy's bullets and bombs. If you go to the Pentagon's transportation command, however -- these are the people that put wounded soldiers on airplanes and fly them out -- they will give you some data. What the Pentagon says is, well, not every single person who is put on an airplane and flown out of Iraq is a casualty; some of them may have appendicitis, and so on and so forth. But they won't tell you how many of each category there are. So in other words, we know that there are thousands and thousands and thousands of potential casualties that are not being reported.

AMY GOODMAN: And how are these troops being treated? You could refresh people on your groundbreaking story on Ft. Stewart, Georgia, and what was happening there. But what has happened since, as well?

MARK BENJAMIN: What has happened since is that essentially the treatment of the soldier, I think, depends to a certain extent on how badly they're injured, how they're injured and what stage of the treatment they're in. So for example, the military is very, very good at getting to wounded soldiers in the field and putting them on airplanes, flying them out of Iraq, taking them to Lahnstuhl, Germany, taking care of them and bringing them to Walter Reed. These are people hit by, for example, improvised explosive devices and missing arms and legs. As you go down the spectrum of casualties in terms of people that have their backs broken in car accidents, or frankly, people that have mental problems which is a growing and very serious toll from this war, which I think is also underreported, the treatment, at least according to soldiers, is not as good. I would add one other thing. The new, I think the latest, phenomenon that seems to be occurring is we now see an increasing number of soldiers reaching the end of their medical care with the military, and being put out of the military, now in the hands of the VA. And while I believe there’s some very, very capable people and caring people at the Veteran's Administration, they appear to be overloaded, and we’re reaching a situation now where sick, wounded and otherwise hurt soldiers are being essentially put out of the military and not getting the kind of care that I think they would like at the VA. And I think there are some soldiers that are starting to fall through the cracks.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Benjamin, as when you see once again, President Bush going to Walter Reed Hospital, your final thoughts?

MARK BENJAMIN: I'm certainly glad that the president is visiting the troops. I think he's probably seeing part of the picture. For example, I suspect they probably took him to the -- one of the wards there where they have more of the traditional war injuries as opposed to, for example, Ward 54, which is where I visited, which is the in-patient psychiatric ward where we have soldiers who frankly have been driven deeply insane by combat. I wish that the American people knew more about what is happening with respect to the toll of this war, because I think it's a lot bigger and a lot more troubling than most people know.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Benjamin, I want to thank you for being with us. UPI reporter.

MARK BENJAMIN: Thank you for having me.

Not Your Founding Fathers' Democracy

<>Another wrenching presidential election has come to an end. What a process! Oh, why on Earth did the founders craft such a system?

Actually, they didn't. The process we have just been through bears little resemblance to the one that put George Washington in office. For better or for worse, huge innovations have entered the system. Here (as I see it) are the ten biggest changes.

1. Today we have a popular vote
In the first 34 years of our republic (spanning the terms of five presidents) we had no popular vote to speak of. Then, as now, presidents were chosen by the electoral college, as mandated by the constitution, but back then the electors in many states were simply appointed by state lawmakers. Gradually, however, states came around to letting voters pick electors, the system we have today. The first time enough states did this to make a popular vote even worth recording was 1824. (A total of 356,035 ballots were cast for president that year.)

2. Today we have political parties
The constitution never mentions political parties. The founders thought they would be divisive and hoped to prevent any from forming. In their vision, the nation's top leader would be chosen from amongst eminent personalities who had proven themselves above all special interests. The process would simply entail selecting the smartest and most capable leader of the available sages. The founders thought such a lineup existed and always would.

They were naïve, of course. Today, no one can seriously run for president unless they belong to a party; and political parties by nature represent subsets of the nation, not the nation as a whole. A presidential election today represents a struggle between conglomerations of interest groups--rural vs. urban, oil interests vs. environment, and so on.

3. Today we have presidential campaigns
This wasn't part of the original plan. The founders considered "vote-chasing" undignified. Of course, supporters of early presidential hopefuls did write diatribes and polemics on behalf of their heroes, but George Washington held no campaign rallies. That "I Like Tom" button you've been hoarding probably references Tom Arnold, not Thomas Jefferson. Vote-chasing did not come into full bloom until the election of 1840. Not coincidentally, that was the first year a nationwide popular vote existed.

4. It now takes money to win the presidency
Washington spent virtually nothing to become president. The next few candidates incurred only small costs--small enough to handle out of their own and their friends' pockets. Really big money didn't pour into presidential campaigns until after the Civil War. A crucial turning point came in 1896, when William McKinley's campaign manager basically invented systematic fundraising. That year, McKinley raised and spent about seven million dollars to his opponent's piddly $650,000. This year, according to the Financial Times of London, the two presidential candidates spent over $1.2 billion between them. Whatever else a presidential election may be, it's now a contest between fundraising honchos.

5. Persuasive techniques developed for business are now used in politics
In the distant past, advertisers were in charge of herding existing consumer demand toward their client's products. The advent of television, and the rise of advertising power on Madison Avenue, brought a subtle change. Now advertising professionals took on the task of creating demand. In the 1950s, advertisers made the heady discovery that they could actually do this--motivate people to buy things they did not start out wanting. Political campaign professionals were quick to draw on the expertise of Madison Avenue to create, shape, mold, and herd public opinion. This tends to blur the boundary between what we think and what political professionals want us to think--whatever else it may be, a presidential election is now a contest between marketing teams.

6. Today candidates come to us in "bite-sized" portions
It's part of the effect of advertising in politics, but I think this one deserves separate mention. In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower's campaign hired ad whiz Rosser Reeves straight off Madison Avenue. Reeves had invented the slogan "Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hands" for M&M (one of the century's 15 greatest ad slogans according to many advertising experts), and Eisenhower's team thought Reeves might do for Ike what he had done for candy. Reeves happened upon a seminal idea called "spot advertising." Reeves saw that moments of time were for sale between hit shows on television. He could buy those "spots" for small bucks and thereby reach the huge audiences built at a cost of millions by the big companies that sponsored the shows. The only catch: He had to deliver a message in 30 seconds or less. Rosser made a series of "spot ads" for Ike that compressed a town-hall meeting feeling into a 30-second clip. Today's presidential campaigns consist largely of "spot ads," "sound bites," and the like.

7. Today the candidates interact with voters through mass media
About sixty years ago, technology made it possible for candidates to speak to millions at one time through radio and television. Frank Merriam, who ran for governor of California in 1934, was the first to really exploit the political potential of mass media--he used radio advertising (and fake newsreels) to squash populist Upton Sinclair.

Today, the bulk of the money raised by presidential candidates goes into mass media buys. One consequence of addressing millions at once is that candidates have to deliver least-common-denominator messages. However ...

8. Mass media appeals are now filtered through "narrowcasting"
Mass media still rules, but so many forms of media now exist that campaigns can deliver tailored messages to different target audiences. Viewers experience these ads as mass appeals--as what the candidate is broadcasting to everybody. Actually, different demographic segments see slightly different messages. What's more, the direct-mail industry has databases from which it can assemble lists of individuals fitting particular profiles based on the products they buy, the television shows they watch, the work they do, etc. By mail and phone, therefore, particularized messages can be delivered to each individual appropriate to his or her opinions and leanings. The Internet will undoubtedly promote this trend.

9. Polling has come to permeate the election process
Scientific polling was invented in the 1920s as an instrument of business, but it didn't enter politics until the late 1930s, when Franklin D. Roosevelt began using a private polling service. At that point, polling was still a one-way process: The president would give a speech and then see how it went over.

In the election of 1960, however, the Kennedy campaign began running polls in a given area before the candidate's appearances and use the results to write the speeches he would give there. This signaled a fundamental change in the function of polling: It was used not just to assess voters' reactions to a political event that had already happened, but to help shape a political event in the future. By 1976, Jimmy Carter's key campaign advisors included a pollster, Pat Caddell. Reagan followed suit and brought his pollster into the White House to help him govern. All these precedents have endured.

Meanwhile, pollsters have refined their techniques through the use of focus groups. These are small groups of people selected to mirror a particular demographic profile. Campaign professionals sit down for in-depth discussions with a focus group to get behind mere numbers and root out people's underlying emotions and unconscious leanings. In 1984, for example, focus group research helped Mondale discover that Gary Hart's supporters felt uneasy about Hart's ability to handle an international crisis. Ads based on that research helped stop Hart's momentum.

Polling enables candidates to tell the voters what they want to hear. As a result, voters know less about what the candidates themselves really think. Yet the opinions politicians glean from voters may be the very ones their own campaigns have planted out there through advertising. In combination, then, polling and opinion management create a hall of mirrors in which no one knows what anyone really thinks.

10. Today political consultants run presidential campaigns
Once upon a time, people who wanted to be president gathered a group of supporters and molded them into a staff of loyalists who did the tasks needed to get their man elected.

Then in the early 1930s, a husband-and-wife team in California, Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter, set up the first political consulting firm. They offered clients a complete package of campaign services, from developing strategy to writing speeches to catering fundraising dinners. In short, they turned campaigning into a paid service separable from any particular candidate or cause, just like lawyering or advertising.

Political consultants now dominate elections at every level.

At this point, they remain vaguely associated with one side or the other of the political spectrum, but when the fiercest Democratic hired-gun James Carville can marry his fiercest Republican counterpart Mary Matalin, it just might indicate that electing a candidate now exists as a content-free abstraction, a craft in itself, independent of any particular worldly goal.

And yes, there is an American Association of Political Consultants, and yes, they are holding an awards banquet in 2005 to hand out "Pollies" for the best political consulting of the past year. Whatever else it might be, a presidential election is now a race to win a Pollie.

The German media and Fallujah: accomplices to a war crime

The reaction by the German media to the current US offensive against the 300,000 inhabitants of the city of Fallujah is nothing less than a political scandal. The overwhelming destruction of a large city has been relegated to minor reports by most of the German television channels and the majority of daily papers, which have largely adopted the phraseology of US war propaganda and say nothing about the civilian costs resulting from the brutal offensive.

If one were to follow events through the filter of the German media one would be led to believe that what is taking place in Fallujah is a routine police operation against “terrorists,” rather than the escalation of a war of occupation which is ever more openly taking the form of naked terror against the civilian population.

If one compares current reports to the sort of reporting that took place at the start of the Iraq war in spring 2003, the difference is particularly glaring. As the war broke out, all of the major television channels changed their normal programme schedules and broadcast hour-long specials on the invasion. For weeks, the first public television channel, ARD, broadcast a special programme lasting 15 to 45 minutes after their main news report. This extensive coverage provided an opportunity for the public to make their own judgement about the war, and was undoubtedly a factor in the large turnout at the massive antiwar demonstrations that took place in Germany and other parts of Europe. Although the latest attack on Fallujah represents the biggest military offensive carried out since the downfall of Baghdad, and exceeds in brutality any operation carried out up until now by the American military, there has been no corresponding reportage in Germany of the events.

On Tuesday, the second day of the offensive, all of the news channels concentrated their reports on the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. “Heute-journal”, the main news magazine of the second public channel, the ZDF, featured a long and tiresome report on a grotesque debate on a government proposal to move the October 3rd national holiday to a Sunday. Only later was a cursory mention made of the attack on Fallujah—once again adopting the phraseology of the US government.

The situation was no better the following day in the half-hour ARD “Tagesthemen”although the fall of the wall was no longer prominent. The news, read by anchorman Uli Wickert, began with a 10-minute report on the reelection of Georg Milbradt as the prime minister of the German state of Saxony. There was no separate report on the war in Iraq—not to speak of an editorial comment. Only in a rapid review of international developments was a brief mention made of the fighting taking place.

It was necessary to resort to other media sources, such as the British BBC, in order to obtain some impression of the extent and merciless nature of the offensive. Although the BBC largely adopted the official government version of events, the minute-long video clips sent by their “embedded” journalists at least gave some indication of the hell being unleashed by occupation troops in Fallujah. They show the uninterrupted bombardment of residential areas and mosques together with a number of interviews with combat commanders on the ground, whose bloodthirsty commentaries made the blood run cold. They bellowed the words, “Kill, kill, kill” repeatedly into the cameras.

Most of the important German daily papers have been equally muted in their coverage. Most of them refrained from giving the attack on Fallujah a headline or commentary. In most cases they merely relied on a brief résumé of press agency news pages reports which also uncritically adopted the official form of presentation.

The only exception amongst the national papers was the Frankfurter Rundschau, which provided a relatively extensive and critical report of the offensive. The weekly paper Die Zeit featured a background article which described the US offensive as a revenge action and rejected the claim that the operation was directed against foreign terrorists and not against the resistance of the local population. But such articles remained the exception. Most of the newspapers that did print editorial comments greeted the offensive and resorted to giving advice to the US government on how it could rapidly and effectively bring its operations to an end.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung, for example, advised the US military to take over the city as quickly as possible. A commentary by Peter Münch in the paper stated: “The rebels of Fallujah are just as unresponsive to offers of negotiation as they are to promises of financial help for recovery.... Following the misdirected development of the last 18 months the only possibility to break the resistance is through military means. That carries with it many risks and only one hope: it has to take place quickly. A rapid victory for US troops in alliance with the new Iraqi army could have a positive effect for the entire country.”

The taz newspaper, which has rarely reported on Fallujah, gave US troops the friendly advice that they would be ill-advised to murder too many civilians. Karim el-Gawhary commented: “In the first place, the challenge is to conquer the city, without too many civilians losing their lives.... Should that fail then the US must wrestle in the short or long term with Fallujah, creating at the same time many new Fallujahs across the country. The rebels know this. For this reason they will attempt to ensure heavy losses for the US army—in the hope that the Americans will respond by shooting wildly around them.”

Here taz is pursuing a line of propaganda which is as old as the struggle by colonial and occupation powers against partisans. According to this version it is not the attacker who bombards a densely populated city with the most modern weaponry who is responsible for the huge toll of casualties, but rather the resistance, which attempts to defend itself with antiquated bazookas and Kalashnikovs, thereby causing the US army to “shoot wildly around them.” The next logical step would be for taz to assert that the Iraqi resistance is using the civilian population as “human shields.”

“Even if this feat of a relatively unbloody conquest succeeds,” taz continues, “a second major task remains: The city must be pacified.... The success or failure of military action can only be finally assessed on election day, which is currently planned for the end of January.”

The taz is evidently in the camp of those who hope for the “success of the military action”—although, with a nod towards the sensitivities of their readership, they pray that the patient should not suffer too much during the course of the operation. Taz was founded 25 years ago as an alternative to official bourgeois media outlets. Since then—in a development resembling that of the Green Party, to which the paper has close links—the newspaper has shifted continuously to the right. Following the takeover of the German Foreign Ministry by Green Party leader Joschka Fischer, the taz shifted completely to take up the official line of German foreign policy.

The indifference on the part of the German media to the slaughter taking place in Fallujah is so striking and widespread that one cannot conclude that it represents merely an oversight or the standpoint of individual editorial boards. There is no lack of information indicating that the war crimes currently taking place in Fallujah can quite justifiably be compared with atrocities committed by the German army in the Second World War.

The numbers speak for themselves. In excess of 10,000 US soldiers, armed to the teeth and supported by aerial bombardment and tanks, confront a force of 3,000 primitively armed rebels.

While American infantry waited a safe distance away, jets, helicopters, tanks and other armoured vehicles pounded the buildings ahead of them with rockets, shells and heavy-calibre machineguns to clear them of any defenders. Artillery bombarded residential areas with phosphorous rounds, which explode into a fireball that cannot be put out with water.

Iraqi journalist Fadil al-Badrani, reporting for Reuters from Fallujah, recounted on Tuesday from the beleaguered city: “Every minute, hundreds of bombs and shells are exploding.... The north of the city is in flames. I can see fire and smoke. Fallujah has become like hell.” On the following day the same journalist reported that nearly half of the city’s 120 mosques “had been destroyed after being targeted by US air and tank strikes.”

Even the censored reports of the “embedded” journalists leave no doubt that no attempt has been made by the US military to avoid civilian casualties.

By ignoring, suppressing or playing down the significance of such information the German media are making themselves accomplices to a war crime. The basis for their stance is a mixture of political cowardice and adaptation. Since it became clear that George W. Bush had been reelected for a further four years the German government has outdone itself in declarations of loyalty and efforts to curry favour with the Washington administration. As far as they are concerned the election result of November 2 is sufficient to legitimise all of Washington’s past and future crimes.

This position is reflected in the media. In contrast to America—where the press and television is largely controlled by a handful of media concerns enjoying close links to the government—the German government cannot simply dictate its line to the German press. But the reaction by a large majority of journalists and members of editorial boards expresses a reflex developed over generations by German intellectuals and the middle class—respect before every source of power and authority. Following Bush’s reelection any criticism of the American conduct of the war in Iraq has broadly dissipated. Large sections of the German intelligentsia and middle class adopted a similar attitude when they admired Bismarck, bowed down to Wilhelm II, voted in favour of Hindenburg, and subordinated themselves to the rule of Hitler.

Silence over the crimes committed by the US in Iraq does not mean that the political and media establishment rules out future conflicts and disputes with the transatlantic super power. Quite the opposite. But they do not want to prepare for such conflicts by arousing and appealing to a sense of justice within the population as a whole. In light of popular discontent with the social situation in Germany this would be too risky and dangerous. Instead they emphasise the necessity of military rearmament in order to be able to measure up to America in future “at eye level.”

In this respect the Frankfurter Rundschau, which has close links to Germany’s ruling German Social Democratic Party (SPD), shares common ground with these circles. In a commentary on the reelection of George W. Bush, Martin Winter commented that “America’s election forces Europe to get up on its own feet.... Only a strong Europe, which takes up responsibility, will be respected by the US.”

On the other side of the Rhine this standpoint is expressed more clearly. In a lead article, the French daily Le Monde writes that the reelection of Bush will wake up Europe. The conclusion reads: “Europe must become stronger. It cannot afford to lose time.” In this respect, two points are important: “First Europe must have the strength, and not just be treated as a ‘pygmy,’ as the American neo-conservatives maintain with some justification. One must therefore establish the defence of Europe at an accelerated speed, and in this respect a European defence industry. Secondly, Europe must overcome its economic weaknesses.”

By Peter Schwarz 13 November 2004

Fallujah anticlimax

Al-Jazeera's subdued coverage reveals some ambivalence in Arab views of the showdown.

<> Just as the assault on Fallujah may not be the pitched military showdown some analysts were predicting, so has the Arab press's battle for public opinion over Fallujah also been more restrained than expected. The fighting "is not generating the same intense, emotional response we saw in April" during the first U.S.-led siege of the city, says Marc Lynch, a political science professor at Williams College and an expert on Arab media.

In part, the coverage of Fallujah has been eclipsed by the passing of Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, a story that has dominated Arab and Muslim news for the past five days. Also, with the constant stream of bloody images being broadcast in the Arab world -- unrest in the Palestinian territories, bomb attacks against Iraqi civilians, and fresh videotapes of the beheading of kidnap victims -- "it becomes harder and harder for things to stand out and have an impact," Lynch says. "There's a numbing effect on Arab viewers, so it's hard for Fallujah to fight for space. Arabs right now are trying to regroup from the U.S. elections, Arafat's [death] and Osama bin Laden's reemergence on videotape. There's also a sense that the attack on Fallujah was talked about for so long, and that the jihadists are all gone, so it's not going to solve anything. It's been anticlimactic."

The realization that the outcome in Fallujah is not likely to stand as a crowning U.S. military achievement is being expressed worldwide. In Thursday's New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman, who had been a proponent of the Iraq war, wrote in a piece titled "Groundhog Day in Iraq": "Iraq has still not been fully liberated. In fact, as the fight for Falluja shows, it hasn't even been fully occupied."

The BBC took note of the "restrained way the [Fallujah] attack is being handled in the Arab media": "The images shown in the most respected Arab newspapers like Al-Hayat and Al-Sharq al-Awsat have been relatively anodyne."

Some complain that the Fallujah coverage has been too restrained. Angry al-Qaida jihadists, posting on their Web sites, have lashed out at Al-Jazeera, accusing the Arab news network, based in Qatar, of failing to highlight the heroism of the Fallujah insurgents, reports As'ad AbuKhalil, professor of political science at California State University at Stanislaus. He notes that militants have mocked Al-Jazeera as "Al-Khanzeera," or "the pig," and urged Muslims to boycott the network and its popular Web site because of its insufficiently sympathetic coverage.

That's quite a turnaround from April, when Al-Jazeera was subjected to intense, high-level criticism from another direction -- U.S. officials -- for emotional and allegedly misleading coverage of the fighting in Fallujah. Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt even said the network had served "as the catalyst for increased attacks on coalition forces." Secretary of State Colin Powell brought up the network's Fallujah reporting during a springtime meeting with Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim, suggesting relations between the two countries were being harmed by Al-Jazeera's coverage.

This time there are no such U.S. complaints. "Without a doubt, Al-Jazeera is more cautious in how they're covering things," says AbuKhalil, who suggests the change in tone is connected to President Bush's reelection. "They are trying not to antagonize the United States."

"Al-Jazeera is struggling with how to portray what's going on in Fallujah," agrees Adel Iskandar, coauthor of a recent book on the news network.

The network's subdued approach may also stem from logistics, such as its lack of reporters in the dangerous Fallujah battlefield. In April, one of its star reporters, Ahmed Mansour, broadcast live updates from the besieged city. "Al-Jazeera had the only reporter on the ground, and his reporting [about civilian deaths] was different than the coalition forces' narrative," says Lynch, who is writing a book titled "Iraq and the New Arab Public." "The Americans were saying no civilians were dying, and Al-Jazeera was pointing the camera at dead people in Fallujah. It was the perfect story for them, and they got a lot out of it." (U.S. officials complained that Al-Jazeera had incorrectly reported that American soldiers were deliberately targeting civilians.)

Despite Al-Jazeera's newfound reserve, coverage by Arab and U.S. news organizations continues to be dramatically different in emphasis, dwelling on almost completely opposite aspects of the fighting. "U.S. stations illustrate military success and forging ahead -- night vision, securing territories, images we've grown familiar with -- while Arab satellite TV reports on the sense of loss and complete destruction of Fallujah, that the entire city has been reduced to rubble," says Iskandar, who teaches communications at the University of Kentucky.

That persistent variation was highlighted on the Web sites of CNN and Al-Jazeera two days after the start of the U.S. assault. On Al-Jazeera's English-language site, the top headline read, "Mosques bombed as fighting rages in Falluja." Iraqi journalist Fadil al-Badrani, reporting from Baghdad, was quoted as saying, "Almost half of the mosques in the Iraqi town of Falluja have been destroyed, with U.S. warplanes launching air strikes and fierce fighting on the ground continuing." Citing a U.S. sergeant, the story suggested the resolve of the Muslim insurgents was high: "They opened up on my tank. They don't look like they are going to cave in." Additional stories featured on the site included "Scores of civilians killed in Falluja" and "U.S. losses mount."'s top story at the same time stressed that the resistance from insurgents had been surprisingly light. Military officials, CNN reported, said that two mosques had been "searched." Even the photo captions stood in stark contrast. From "Residents say scores of civilians have been killed." And from "Aid workers at the Iraqi Red Crescent Society in Baghdad load a truck with relief supplies for Falluja."

Many Arab and Muslim news consumers have watched the Fallujah battle unfold with conflicting emotions, unsure whom to root for, Iskandar says. "Iraqi civilian losses [at the hands of the Americans] are astronomical, even compared to U.S. and coalition forces. But it's hard for the Arab audience to see the insurgency as legitimate. [Jihadist extremist] Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is considered to be incredibly radical, beyond any conceivable understanding of most Arabs or Muslims. The idea of the underdog exists nonetheless. If it were a local, generalized populist uprising [in Fallujah], the Arab audience would be more supportive. There is sort of a subtle desire to see America be embarrassed in some way -- the 'I told you so' mentality."

That same ambivalence emerges in the Arab press coverage of Fallujah. "In the aftermath of the [Iraq] war, Americans were so unpopular, resistance became popular. But some of the romance has worn off," Lynch says. In light of recent terrorist attacks on Iraqis, including the massacre of 49 unarmed trainee policemen, "there's total frustration. Nobody can see any clear way out. They know who they're against -- the Americans -- but they don't know who they're for.

By Eric Boehlert

For women vets, a battle along with a war

(Photograph) BACK FROM HER TOUR: Sgt. Nikki Huddleston held her 2-year-old daughter Samantha at a coming home celebration in North Kingstown, R.I.
For women vets,
a battle along with a war
With their buddies driving Humvees and dodging snipers in Iraq, a group of seven Fort Bragg soldiers - all women - formed their own convoy yesterday, en route to a wreath-laying ceremony in Washington, D.C., to honor America's 1.7 million women vets, and all those who came before.

Their predecessors broke some of the most stubborn barriers in the US Armed Forces. But this group has made its own contributions to military lore: Capt. Betsy Hove is one of only six serving Army women to have graduated from the Army's Sapper leadership and combat training, and Capt. Lee Ann Campbell has logged more helicopter combat missions.

They joined several hundred women vets from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam to lay a wreath and present a quilt made by women aboard the USS Comfort on the steps of the Women's Veterans Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. "We really want to honor all the ones who have gone before, but we want to make sure our living history is preserved, too," says Capt. Mara Boggs of the 82nd Airborne Division.

It was only 30 years ago that some women wore makeup to basic training and never laid a finger on a rifle trigger. But today's women veterans are poised to not only make history, but challenge popular perceptions of "girl soldiers" and battle national concerns over how, exactly, women should be allowed to serve. They're still barred from about 30 percent of active-duty roles, including Special Forces and ground combat on the front lines.

Yet in the asymmetrical Iraq conflict, with its snipers, road bombs, and perilous supply lines, not carrying an M-16 is scant protection against getting killed. This war, as these seven Joans of Arc know, is helping define how this fastest-growing group of US veterans is popularly perceived.

"The Iraq war has seen the most women lost since World War II, and is really the first time that people are aware that women are out there, the first time that's in their face," says First Sgt. Paula Keehn (ret.), webmaster of in Sioux County, Iowa, and a 20-year Army veteran. "You turn on the TV and there's a Humvee with a 50 caliber on top and a little tiny girl behind it, just shooting the heck out of somebody."

Though US servicewomen aren't fighting in Fallujah, roughly 1 in 7 Americans serving in Iraq is female, and the officers corps is rising rapidly, as is the women's medal count. So far, 26 American women soldiers and three civilians have died, many of them in combat. American women have fought, sometimes disguised as men, since the Revolutionary War, and their legacy is one of rough ascent, struggling to dispel rumors and resentment in the trenches as they fight old stereotypes.

"In the Gulf War, the image was more of 'Mommy goes to war,' but today there's much more of a perception of women out there in the field, doing stuff that we used to think only men did," says Navy Capt. Lory Manning (ret.), director of the Women in the Military Project at the Women's Research and Education Institute. "But that also means we've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly."

Indeed, from the kidnapping and dramatic rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, to the photos of Pfc. Lynndie England mocking Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib, the narratives from this war have focused on stereotypes: the spunky waif and the deviant. There have been stories of rape and harrassment, too. But on the ground, women are forging ahead as part of an integrated Army and fighting for equal opportunity in the ranks.

"I'm not ready to say that integration is going smoothly, and I think the public needs to get a more balanced picture of what's going on," says Chris Hanson, a University of Maryland journalism professor writing a book about leadership's view of women soldiers, tentatively called "Spinning Justice."

Critics worry that the country is seeing the feminists' view, and not a reality that may be harder to bear. "One woman soldier was blown up by a roadside bomb ... but lived long enough to die in the arms of her husband, who was stationed nearby. It was a very, very sad story, yet hardly anyone ever heard of it," says Elaine Donnelly, the director of the Center for Military Readiness, which opposes combat roles for female soldiers.

Indeed, the recommendations of the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces were never heard by Congress after Bill Clinton was elected president, a failure that critics say set a bad precedent. What's more, says Ms. Donnelly, moves like the 1994 inclusion of women in assignments to house searches and MP patrols in dangerous neighborhoods were made without proper research into the effects of dangerous deployments on families.

"We know what effect sonar has on whales, but we've never studied how children react to extended deployments of their mothers," she And though the prospect of a draft has been dismissed by President Bush, many fear reaction to the conscription of women, should a call-up ever be necessary.

"I don't see how you could have a draft without women being eligible for it, and there would be a huge outcry," says Mr. Women's service is changing the outlook for veterans, too.

This week, the Center for Women Veterans outlined a broad plan to study posttraumatic stress syndrome in women, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has designated 73 outreach specialists to work with women.

To Keehn, that's a price worth paying. "Before, women soldiers were always hidden," she says. "Today we still don't know exactly how many women were in Vietnam, but we were there, and performing, and our actions started the integration of women into the mainstream.

That notion of unity was exactly the point for the seven Fort Bragg women at yesterday's wreath-laying ceremony. It was, they said, a small, symbolic way to show solidarity with those who have gone before — and to celebrate their own remarkable role in women's history.

Gonzales to Succeed Ashcroft, Sources Say

Gonzales to Succeed Ashcroft, Sources Say

President Bush has chosen White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, a Texas confidant and one of the most prominent Hispanics in the administration, to succeed Attorney General John Ashcroft, sources close to the White House said Wednesday.

Ashcroft announced his resignation on Tuesday, along with Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a Texas friend of the president's.

After a National Security Council meeting, Bush was sitting down Wednesday with Secretary of State Colin Powell, another figure being closely watched for signs of whether he will stay or go. Powell has been largely noncommital when asked about his plans.

Gonzales, 49, has long been rumored as a leading candidate for a Supreme Court vacancy if one develops. Speculation increased after Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist announced he has thyroid cancer.

Gonzales' career has been linked with Bush for at least a decade, serving as general counsel when Bush was governor of Texas, and then as secretary of state and as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court.

Gonzales has been at the center of developing Bush's positions on balancing civil liberties with waging the war on terrorism - opening the White House counsel to the same line of criticism that has dogged Ashcroft.

For instance, Gonzales publicly defended the administration's policy - essentially repudiated by the Supreme Court and now being fought out in the lower courts - of detaining certain terrorism suspects for extended periods without access to lawyers or courts.

He also wrote a controversial February 2002 memo in which Bush claimed the right to waive anti-torture law and international treaties providing protections to prisoners of war. That position drew fire from human rights groups, which said it helped led to the type of abuses uncovered in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Some conservatives also have quietly questioned Gonzales' credentials on core social issues. And he once was a partner in a Houston law firm which represented the scandal-ridden energy giant Enron.


seize those servers, no prob!

We seize servers, you can't complain - US gov

Published Thursday 11th November 2004 12:22 GMT

Indymedia seizures The US Government is attempting to block efforts to find out who seized Indymedia's servers in London last month. The Government has filed a motion in San Antonio District Court opposing the Electronic Frontier Foundation's motion to unseal the court order which resulted in the seizures, and arguing among other things that unsealing would "seriously jeopardize" an "ongoing criminal terrorism investigation".

We have of course only the US Government's word on that, as the foreign country which actually wanted the information checked the no-publicity box, and the US Government would like to keep it that way.

The implications of the rest of the Government's arguments are however more interesting than the use of the T-word as an all-purpose cloaking device, which is no more than par for the course these days. Primarily, the Government argues that the parties asking for the court order to be unsealed have no standing to ask this. The parties are the EFF, Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center Foundation (an Indymedia grouping) and Jeff Moe. The servers were of course Indymedia servers, so UCIMC could be thought of as, or acting for, the proprietor of the sites hosted by Rackspace, while Moe is the owner and operator of the specific servers that were taken from Rackspace's premises in London.

The Government covers this as follows: "None of the movants have standing to file the Motion to Unseal." The subpoena, it says, was served on Rackspace in San Antonio, "the parties to the instant action are the requesting foreign country, hereinafter 'requesting state', the United States government and the party on whom the subpoena was served, Rackspace. The entities and one individual requesting the illegal unsealing are not parties and lack standing to complain of the alleged seizure."

The vast majority of web site 'owners' (inverted commas introduced courtesy US Gov) should have no trouble at all figuring out where they would stand in such a scenario. You operate a web site which is hosted by an external company, and an unidentified agency of an unidentified government has the power to take data which you own, but which is situated on hardware hosted by the external company, and according to the US Government, it's nothing to do with you, only the external company has the standing to complain. One could speculate why, given the need to maintain some form of ongiong relationship with the FBI, a hosting company might not think it a particularly good idea to complain.

In the specific circumstances of Indymedia, a process that was started in Texas resulted in the removal of servers in London, knocking out numerous Indymedia web sites. According to the US, Inydmedia has no standing to complain about this or to seek redress, or to find out what it was supposed to have been doing, or who said it was doing it. The UK Government insists the whole matter is nothing to do with it, while the US Government says the matter is closed, flashing the T-word to be on the safe side.

The level of "redress" put forward by the Government as apparently adequate should also concentrate minds. "Movants state Moe received no justification nor any avenue for redress," it says: "Neither are true. Moe was told by Rackspace they received an order and were bound to comply with it. Movant Moe was offered his servers back but refused. Subsequently he demanded and was given new servers by Rackspace. As Movants have no standing their request to unseal should be denied."

So if your business is paralysed by the removal of all of your data by governments unknown, being given it all back a week later is perfectly fine as far as redress goes. Note that under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) used it's likely that the US Government only needs to hand seized evidence back if and when it is possible. It is therefore perfectly conceivable that all of your business could have been seized and gone somewhere, it could stay there forever, and you still wouldn't have any standing to complain about it. The Government's argument here, as far as we can gather, is in any event a seriously twisted interpretation of what happened. When the servers were returned Moe declined to put them back online until they'd been thoroughly checked over, which would seem the sensible approach, and it would also seem sensible to go back online with newly-configured servers whose integrity you could be sure of. Moe's ingratitude here would therefore seem to amount to being sensible and professional.

The Government document confirms that the requesting state has asked under the MLAT "that the application for assistance, the contents of the request and its supporting documents, and the granting of such assistance be kept confidential." It then, non-ironically, quotes article 6 of the US Constitution.

The nature of the "ongoing criminal terrorism investigation" is of course classified, and we should trust them and the shy foreign government to be doing The Right Thing. The nearest thing to such an investigation that has been unearthed so far has been the admission by Bologna prosecutor Marina Plazzi that she asked for IP address information through an MLAT request, but did not ask for the server seizures. This could produce a plausible 'cockup' scenario where a request for a specific piece of evidence dominoed into the seizure, but such a seizure's disproportionality would not have been legally permissible under US or UK law or under either the UK-US or US-Italy MLAT. It is, theoretically, not possible to just grab everything and then trawl it, but on the other hand it's not - according to the US Government - allowed to either establish that such a thing happened or too get anything done about it, if it did.

In any event even the IP address request seems dubious. Plazzi is conducting an investigation into a fringe anarchist group in connection with bombings in Italy. Indymedia itself denies that such a group has ever posted to Indymedia sites, but even if you didn't believe that, it is desperately implausible that dangerous terrorists would expose themselves by conducting conversations on open web sites, never mind ones which are known as essential reading for the Italian security forces. But if a judge in any country in the world purports to believe this sort of tosh, then whole web operations can be destroyed, and there's nothing anybody can do about it. That is the US Government's case. ®

Related links

The US Government's request for denial (
The EFF motion to unseal (
Indymedia server grab - Home Office knew, but isn't telling (
Indymedia: the tale of the servers 'nobody' seized (
Indymedia seizures: a trawl for Genoa G8 trial cover-up? (

© Copyright 2004

Who Are The “Barbarians”?

A US army chaplain by the name of Horne told US marines massing outside Fallujah, “go bring the Iraqis freedom from oppression, rape, torture and murder ... We ask you God to bless us in that effort”. It seems chaplain Horne has forgotten that oppression, rape, torture and mass murder of innocent men, women and children his US government have wrought on the people of Iraq. How can Americans forget Abu Ghraib, and the more than 100,000 Iraqi civilian lives lost since last year's invasion? This massive atrocity is not included the massacre of Fallujah.

Thousands of marines surrounding the city, “seeking solace as they awaited Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's decision on whether or not to invade Fallujah”, a BBC ‘embedded’ journalist reported. This is a lie. Allawi has no legitimacy or authority. His only authority is to appear on TV screens to repeat what the Occupation forces told him to say. Allawi was a Western-licensed ex-terrorist. Without the US forces protecting him, Allawi will be cut into pieces by the Iraqi masses. The BBC is as guilty as the US-British governments of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

As I write this, the US assault on the city of Fallujah has begun. This mass murder is sold in the West as necessary step to bring democracy to Iraq. Nothing is further away from the truth. The Bush Administration is insisting on reoccupying Iraq, and force a fake US-styled “democracy” on the Iraqi people. Furthermore, the assault on Fallujah has been grossly exaggerated to cover up a large mass murder of innocent Iraqi civilians. The residents of the city believe that the Americans made up the pretext of the bogeyman [Al-Zarqawi] in order to kill the religious people of Fallujah” because they rejected the US Occupation.

The US-British forces have sealed the city of 300,000 people and prevented males of between 14-50 years of age from leaving. Independent media is also barred from reporting to the outside world. “[A] city the size of Brighton is now only ever referred to as a ‘militants’ stronghold’ or ‘insurgents’ redoubt”, reported Madeleine Bunting of the Guardian in the UK.

In an attempt to play down the rejection of the Occupation by Iraqi people, the US employs the Nazi’s methods of labelling Iraqis as “terrorists” and “foreign fighters”. Although, there may be small groups of Arabs and Muslim fighters in Iraq along their Iraqi brothers, US soldiers are foreign invaders supported by mercenaries from Christian countries such as Britain, Poland, Italy, Australia, etc.

In Bush’s strange “war on terror”, the Iraqi people are subjected to occupation, rape, torture and mass murder by foreign forces. Iraqi Resistance is cited as proof that we are dealing with “terrorists”, and Iraqis have no right to defend themselves and return fire with fire. Under international law, the Iraqi people have legitimate right to protect themselves, and to call on their brothers for help against foreign aggressors on their land. The invasion and occupation of Iraq will go down in history as one of the most cowardly act of aggression ever.

A reader sent me e-mail recently asking: “What is so galling is the silence of [the] Arab world at this wanton destruction”. There are no Arab “leaders”. The current Arab rulers are American stooges protecting American and Israeli interests. They are completely disconnected from their people. Another e-mailer from Baghdad passionately writes: “This is a million times worse than under Saddam”. He added, “we were free people until the Americans arrived. We have jobs, we have food and we have security. Now we have nothing”. What have the Iraqi people done to the Americans and their “allies”? Iraqis have been at the receiving end of perpetuated Western violence for decades.

One of the reasons Americans voted for George Bush despite the terror and systematic violence he has wrought to the Iraqi people, because he is a better killer and Americans support their government’s violence against defenceless people. Why they don’t question what their government is doing in their name? Where is the moral “voice of America” that should cry against these atrocities? While Christian leaders moralise about gay marriage and lobbying for the “right to life”, and depriving women of their choice, mass graves of innocent Iraqi women and children are planned.

The barbarians are massing on the gates of Fallujah seeking to obliterate the people and their civil society. Destroying and occupying the city of Fallujah will have no bearing on the Iraqi Resistance to US Occupation of Iraq. It will generate unity among the people and fuel more resistance against the Occupation.

By Ghali Hassan
Ghali Hassan lives in Perth Western Australia

Pepe Escobar: Satan hides in a hospital

Everything one needed to know about the true, unspinnable foreign policy of the second George W Bush administration is represented by the "capture" of the first strategic target in the assault on Fallujah: the general hospital, on the left bank of the Euphrates, now totally cut off from the city. According to the Bush administration world view, this is the house where Satan lives.

Bush-installed interim Iraqi Prime Minster Iyad Allawi announced with a smile of victory that he personally ordered the capture of the hospital. So maybe it was not the Pentagon: it was an unelected politician asking a foreign occupation army to attack a hospital in his own country and preventing doctors and ambulances from entering a city under siege.

The assault, dubbed Operation Phantom Fury, perversely started on Laylat e-Qadr, the most important and holy night of the year for the Islamic world.

In terms of the information war, the hospital was indeed the most strategic of targets. During the first siege of Fallujah in April, doctors told independent media the real story about the suffering of civilian victims. So this time the Pentagon took no chances: no gory, disturbing photos of the elderly, women and children - the thousands unable to leave Fallujah in advance of this week's offensive, the civilian victims of the relentless bombing.

But this did not prevent the world from seeing doctors and patients at the hospital handcuffed to the floor - as if they were terrorists. Hospital director Dr Salih al-Issawi told Agence France-Presse that the Americans blocked him and other doctors from going to the center of Fallujah to help another clinic in distress; he also said an ambulance that tried to leave the hospital was shot at by the Americans - just like in April, when all ambulances were targeted. The Geneva Convention is explicit: in a war situation, hospitals and ambulances are neutral.

The Pentagon does not do "collateral damage" body counts. But as its relationship with the people of Fallujah now consists of a non-stop barrage of heavy metal, the Pentagon is certainly in a much better position than Fallujah's doctors to estimate the amount of civilian victims of its own bombing.

The marines are not only occupying a hospital; they even turned it into a military position, as they were using positions around it to attack the resistance.

Cluster-bomb democracy

The Pentagon's key primary target in Fallujah has been information: doctors in hospitals, telephone lines that people use to tell the world about the civilians' plight. Most of the world is interpreting Fallujah through embedded, Pentagon-censored reporters and Arab television. The Pentagon line is American "heroes" on the way to "liberate" the people of Fallujah. Iraqis, Arabs, 1.3 billion Muslims, the majority of European public opinion and decent Americans won't be fooled - again.

Asia Times Online sources close to the resistance say the talk in the streets of Baghdad is that the bulk of the estimated 2,500 mujahideen in Fallujah have already left to Baghdad, Ramadi, Samarra, Haditha, Khaldiya, and even Mosul in the north. Even before the assault on Fallujah, there were more than 100 resistance attacks a day all over the country. The main story playing in the Arab world in the past 24 hours is that of Mohammed Abboud - who saw his nine-year-old son bleed to death of shrapnel wounds when his house in Fallujah was hit because he could not venture out to go to a hospital. Abboud had to bury his son in his own garden.

Terrified Fallujans calling Baghdad tell of A-10 jets raining cluster bombs on the city's streets. Iraqi (very) black humor qualifies unexploded cluster bombs as the Iraqi version of Toys "R" Us: children get injured or killed because they think cluster bombs are toys. Everyone is talking of "scores of bodies" in streets destroyed by US bombing. There is no power, no water, shops are closed, food is scarce and practically no medical supplies remain, according to Dr Sami al-Jumaili, speaking to al-Jazeera. No more clinics are open throughout the city - and there is no possible way to estimate how many civilians are dead, blown up, burned or injured, although al-Jumaili tells of "scores of injured civilians". A brand-new clinic funded by a Saudi Islamic relief non-governmental agency was bombed by the Americans during the weekend, as well as a medical dispensary in the city center: this was apparently the last place where anybody could get any medical attention.

Fadhil Badrani, a reporter for the British Broadcasting Corp (BBC) World Service in Arabic, is one of the very few journalists inside Fallujah. He writes that "a lot of the mosques have also been bombed. For the first time in Fallujah, a city of 150 mosques, I did not hear a single call to prayer this morning. I broke my Ramadan fast yesterday with the last of our food - two potatoes and two tomatoes. The tomatoes were rotten because we have no electricity to run the fridge. My neighbors - a woman and her children - came to see me yesterday. They asked me to tell the world what is happening here. I look at the devastation around me and ask - why?"

The mujahideen battle plan

Apart from a maximum of 1,500 "Arab brothers" - as the Iraqis call them - from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Syria and Tunisia, most of the remaining mujahideen in Fallujah are nationalist Iraqis whose tribal code mandates that they defend at any cost their homes, their families and their city under foreign attack.

They have been preparing for this onslaught for months. And they do have a battle plan - as it was relayed to Asia Times Online by sources in Baghdad. Former or retired Iraqi army officials have always been serious students of Viet Minh tactics and Che Guevara's theory of the guerrilla foco (center of guerrilla operations). Now they are applying this to urban warfare. This, in a smaller version, is what the Battle of Baghdad would have been like in April 2003.

The Americans are closing in toward the city center, under fire from mujahideen equipped with only Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades hidden in clusters of low-roof houses. The Americans are firing back at the houses and at anything that moves. They have been prevented - at least for now - by the resistance from storming any buildings. Their priority is to control the main bombed-out roads.

The mujahideen are operating with small mobile units of five or six or a maximum of 20 fighters, changing positions all the time. As a counter-measure, American snipers are trying to control the rooftops. The mujahideen are trying to attract as many American troops to the city center as possible - so they can unleash what seems to be hundreds of coordinated car bombs and improvised explosive devices.

People in Baghdad are also telling of US$3,000 being offered for any battered old car to be used as part of a counter-offensive coming in behind the US positions once the house-to-house battle in the city center is fully engaged.

Boycotting the election

The US approach in Iraq appears to be a rehashing of the British imperial dictum of "divide and rule". Dr Harith al-Dhari, secretary general of the powerful Association of Muslim Scholars, says the scheduled January election would be held "over the corpses of those killed in Fallujah and the blood of the wounded", and has called on all Iraqis to boycott it. The association sides with the people of Fallujah - not Allawi: "We have said we support the resistance since the occupation of this country began. This is our right as Iraqis. Therefore, we don't need a fatwa on this issue as this matter is clear."

As yet another measure - if any were needed - of the illegitimacy of the Allawi government, Secretary of Defense Hassim al-Sha'alan recognized on al-Arabiya TV that the resistance won't be finished, even when the Americans finally take Fallujah, because "they have already prepared to fight in other places". This only confirms the above-mentioned that the bulk of the mujahideen have already left Fallujah - and are now launching dozens of daily attacks in Baghdad itself, Ramadi, Baquba, Latifiyah, Samarra, Khaldiya, Kirkuk ...

Hospitals "captured", showers of cluster bombs, Fallujah burning, civilians dying, not to mention the more than 100,000 Iraqis killed since the beginning of the invasion-occupation, the country's infrastructure in tatters, the center of Najaf and a great deal of Sadr City razed to the ground. This is the way Phantom Fury will end: not with terrified Iraqis voting for an Allawi-modeled puppet regime in a sham election, but with a Bush administration forced to deal with Iraqis who are ready to die to achieve real democracy.

© 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd

The Country-City Split


In his recent Znet commentary, "Don't Blame the People," Andrej Grubacic makes what seems to me to be one of the most important points that can be made post-election: the need to go to the places where the people live who vote time and again largely against their own interests and values.

He states that it worked in Yugoslavia, where eventually political parties [and activists]went into the Serbian countryside to meet those uneducated and �fundamentalist� Milosevic voters and after a few years spent in the desert of Serbia, they managed to find a model of communication which precipitated a shift in general mood, and, in final consequence, led to a mass refusal of Milosevic's agenda. So Grubacic would suggest that instead of moving to Canada, we should move to the Mid West, move, that is, in a sense that activists should go where they are most needed, that is, move into the desert of America, the countryside and towns of rural America.

Even in a state like Pennsylvania where the citizenry has managed (barely) to vote Democratic in recent presidential elections, 53 of the 67 counties voted for Bush, leaving the urban centers to carry the day for the Democrats. I suspect the same is true in most states. It is certainly true of much of the nation as a whole; the states with big cities largely and crucially go Democratic, while the country(side) goes Republican.

What seems to me to be one of the least discussed and least acted upon political phenomena in the U.S. is that country and city populations are significantly opposed�though not wholly�on issues, and in attitude toward one another, and in the voting booth. Progressives talk about and work on the race, gender, and wealth gaps all the time, which of course are real and need much attention.

Apparently a majority of white males has not gone for a Democrat since 1964. Lyndon Johnson, who of course was a Texan, a state with symbolic meaning essentially synonymous with country. Mark off Chicago and a few big cities on the coasts and the Democratic party ceases to exist as a national party (for national elections).

And so the Democratic party might do well to ask itself what right it has to rule the nation even if it were to squeak out an electoral or popular vote. Its supporters are in many ways not representative culturally and geographically of the civilization that covers the vast majority of the countryside. To help solve the problems of race, gender, and class, it might be necessary to focus increased attention on solving the problem of the country-city divide.

If Democrats care about regaining the presidency, they had better immediately forget about ever running Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or Captain America himself and anyone else from New York or Illinois or any other recently Democratic state. They had better run someone from Florida, Ohio, Missouri or another key, currently Republican, state.

And Democrats and progressives would surely do well to somehow work moreso in the countryside�after all, folks in the countryside did not ask to be blinded to much of reality any more than people in the cities asked to be rendered incapable of doing much about shaping it. Both these phenomena are forms of incapacity, alienation, and weakness. Plenty of hostilities, tensions, and suspicions are as real as rain between city and country (far apart from the voting booth), but someone needs to reach out and bridge the distance, and, in reaching, to learn, as Grubicac dares to suggest�of course, only the first step.

The experience I can offer is anecdotal. I would judge that by far the biggest prejudice culturally ingrained in me growing up in a virtually-all white part of Pennsylvania Appalachia (some years there were zero students of color in the high school) was against city people, flat-landers, and cities in general.

Yes there was plenty of racism and homophobia and isms of all sorts but expressing outright pride in being white or heterosexual wasn't much done, to my knowledge. On the other hand, people sure were and sure are proud of being country (along with being American and being family), and this year, not atypically, the presidential vote went 62% Republican.

Despising people from the city, one or another, went hand in hand with despising much of the world, and others who differed in various personal ways. Despising corporations and government was big too, but not as big as despising city folk and cities and the like, which seemed a real threat, uncivilized and strange, in plenty of ways.

Through seven years of college I almost always or always felt alienated, or felt I was made nervous, by professors who came from or seemed to come from cities, which was exactly how I thought of it. Then after several years of teaching college, I wondered if I myself didn't seem alien to those who seemed to come from the country(side).

Whether or not this is true, the larger point is that country city was the thought language I used to mark off the main zones of distance and tension. Everything else�issues, race, gender, class�felt far less problematic. The city-country cultural gap often seemed to me to be the thorn in the side of our being able to work together�teacher student, student teacher.

Nearly a decade ago, I told a professor in graduate school who I had come to know well that I thought what divided us sometimes (a lot, I thought to myself) was that he was from the city and I was from the country. He replied, Don't worry about that. About what? I have never felt able to adequately answer that question. Maybe the question is answerable on personal or professional grounds, but I still can't help thinking of it that way. What way? Geographically? Geo-politically? City-country.

As long as Republicans are largely defined as standing for and with the country and Democrats are largely defined as standing for and with the cities, everyone may likely continue to be exploited. The country-city gap seems to me to be as real of a political problem as racism, sexism, and classism and maybe more fundamental, more intractable, and much more overlooked�and so, it seems to me, deserving of far more of Democratic and progressive attentions and efforts. Is a united city and country�a real key to an inhabitable hospitable future, to any future at all? Or is this something too difficult too threatening to contemplate, this ridiculous, fatal divide.

November 13, 2004
By Tony Christini


swimmer Chinese characters for "swimmer"

forest group of people though i count more than nine, hmmm  maybe those are the forest gnomes, eh?

Though life is a dream,
Act as if it isn’t.
Act with no weight.

You may understand that life is but a dream, but that doesn’t free you from the responsibility to act. This dream may not be of your own making, but you must still engage it and operate within the parameters of the fantasy. You must become the producer, director, and actor of a phantasmic stage play. Otherwise, you are aimlessly adrift.

Meditating is to wake up. Few of us have acquired the skill to be in constant meditation. Therefore, we awake and dream, awake and dream. The moments of enlightenment are like the times when swimmers come up for air. They gain a breath of life, but they must submerge once again. We are all swimmers on the sea of sorrow, bobbing up and down until our final liberation.

The initial difficulty of spirituality is a schizophrenia between true understanding and the sorrow of everyday life. Our enlightenment clashes with the outer impurities. That is why some novitiates withdraw into isolation. Once people gain true spiritual insight, they dispense with this split. They can live in this world and yet not be stained by it. They are the strongest and most serene swimmers of all. They act, and yet they barely disturb the water. Their actions are outwardly no different from ordinary actions, but they leave no wake.

365 Tao
daily meditations
Deng Ming-Dao (author)
ISBN 0-06-250223-9

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a much better view of the artwork is archived at


Chinese writing "nine old men"
Nine Old Men 1948
for a complete biography of this artist and his work

**Suggested reading of daoist texts ancient poetry and contemporary
Chinese literature is available at the site.

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"If God dropped acid, would he see people?" -- Steven Wright

Ashcroft and After

Where will we be without John Ashcroft, his German shepherd's mug and fanatic's heart? In this season of cold comfort, it is impossible not to cheer the exit of the most destructive attorney general of the past 100 years, who responded to a great national crisis by steering the Justice Department on a narrow, stony path between the unconstitutional and the incompetent.

It is easy to forget now that by the time Al Qaeda's planes hit, it was already clear that Ashcroft was a piece of work. While his morning Bible meetings with top staff raised eyebrows, his appointments and policies bore all the hallmarks of a deadly serious and resolute ideologue. He filled the top positions at Justice with Federalist Society members, forced reluctant US Attorneys to aggressively promote the death penalty and undermined career lawyers who wanted to pursue voting irregularities in Florida.

Then, in the wake of September 11, Ashcroft embarked on his own private war against due process, dissent and freedom of information. In fact, he was a colossal failure even on his chosen terrain: preventive detention netted no would-be bombers, despite thousands of immigrants jailed and lives wrecked, while alienating Muslim communities at home and abroad. The first convictions obtained against Al Qaeda suspects in Detroit were eventually dropped because of Justice Department irregularities. Yet when the department's own Inspector General reported that hundreds of foreign nationals with no connection to terrorism were rounded up, imprisoned and denied their rights, Ashcroft's response was curt: We make no apologies.

Ashcroft, in the end, can't properly be called a conservative at all; rather, he used his job to expand executive branch authority, the power of police agencies to monitor citizens without judicial oversight and the intrusion of government into private lives. Ashcroft treated criticism and dissent as treason, ethnicity as grounds for suspicion and Congressional and judicial oversight as inconvenient obstacles. No wonder that finally even a conservative attack dog like Congressman Bob Barr soured on Ashcroft justice; no wonder that even the Rehnquist Supreme Court slapped down the Administration's Guantánamo detention policies, declaring that even a state of war is not "a blank check."

President Bush's selection of White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to succeed Ashcroft shows that Bush has no intention of changing the tenor or the policies of the Justice Department. It was Gonzales who laid the legal groundwork for torture at Abu Ghraib with a memo claiming that detainees in the "war on terror" were not covered by the Geneva Conventions--which he described as "quaint." And it was Gonzales who urged the President to deny prisoner-of-war status to the detainees at Guantánamo, leaving them unprotected from coercive interrogation and endless imprisonment. With those two policies alone, it can fairly be said that he played a central role in blackening America's image throughout the world. Gonzales also played a major role in selecting extremist judicial nominees, consistently pushed the limits of executive privilege and publicly defended the Administration's policy of detaining terrorism suspects without access to lawyers or the courts.

The confirmation of Gonzales will be a test not only of Bush's intentions but of the fault lines within the GOP Senate majority; and a test, too, of the durability of the right-left civil liberties coalition that emerged in opposition to Ashcroft's abuse of the law. The temptation may be to heave a sigh of relief that Ashcroft is gone, and to view Gonzales as an improvement. That would be a crucial error. Gonzeles's nomination should provoke the first in a series of battles over civil rights, the Supreme Court and the Constitution itself.

Progressives: Get Ready to Fight

With their bitter defeat in 2004, Democrats are now undeniably a minority party in opposition. Opposition can be fruitful or barren. In 1992 Clinton's victory gave Democrats control of the White House and Congress in a divided nation, but Newt Gingrich and the right unleashed a relentless opposition, rallied their base and put forth a national agenda, the Contract With America, to win the 1994 Congressional elections. After Clinton demoralized his base with NAFTA, electrified the right over gays in the military and tax increases, and failed to deliver on healthcare, Republicans swept Democrats out of their majority in both houses of Congress for the first time in forty years.

In contrast, after Bush stole the election in 2000, demoralized Democrats rolled over on his tax cuts, authorized Bush to make war on Iraq, offered no unified critique of his failed economics and had no national message in the by-elections. Bush led Republicans to gains in both houses by nationalizing the election, impugning his opponents' patriotism and developing the mobilization strategies that proved so effective this year.

In the coming months, progressives can drive the response to Bush's victory, just as the right drove the response to Clinton's. Thus we must take a close look at 2004, what we can build on and where we should go.

Progressives Rising

Even in the ashes of this defeat, progressives can take pride in the remarkable role we played, both in arousing opposition to Bush and in building the independent progressive machinery necessary to communicate, educate, register and get out the vote.

Howard Dean gave Democrats their voice. The Dean campaign and broke the grip of big donors in the Democratic primaries and helped Democrats utilize the Internet. Kerry ended with a 7-to-1 Internet fundraising advantage over Bush. Democrats became competitive with Republicans in raising hard money.

Progressives drove the remarkable mobilization that put together a multicultural democracy movement. Independent progressive groups and leaders--from ACORN to USAction and America Coming Together, to Bruce Springsteen, Russell Simmons, P. Diddy and the hip-hop nation--reached out to workers, the young, minorities and single women. Their success was confirmed in the exit polls. Union households remained at 25 percent of an expanded electorate and voted nearly two to one for Kerry. African-Americans increased their percentage of the electorate and voted nine to one for Kerry. More young people between 18 and 29 voted than in 2000--4.6 million more--and were the only age group to go for Kerry. The proportion of Hispanics in the electorate increased, and, although Bush gained ground, they still supported Kerry 53 to 44.

Progressives expanded our capacity to generate ideas, communicate our message and educate Americans. From and house parties around Robert Greenwald's DVDs Outfoxed and Uncovered, to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, to Internet portals, Air America Radio, paid ads by and the Media Fund, the raft of anti-Bush books, progressives drove the debate.

What Went Wrong

Bush won a majority of the popular vote by increasing the turnout and his margin in the "red states," those that went for Bush in 2000. Kerry edged out Bush in the total vote in battleground states, but Bush won his Electoral College edge in Ohio and Florida by increasing the turnout and his margin in pro-Republican precincts in those states. The Republican mobilization, fueled by volunteers in precincts across the country, often anchored in evangelical churches, tracked down and turned out conservative, pro-Bush voters of every stripe. For the first time, self-described Republicans matched Democrats in the number of voters who turned up at the polls.

"Morals trumped economics, even in Ohio," conclude the pundits. But the reality was more complicated. In an election day poll for the Institute for America's Future, taken by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, respondents were split on what factor most influenced their choice. About 20 percent said it was economics and jobs; these people voted two to one for Kerry. About 20 percent said it was the war on terror; they voted three to one for Bush. The 20 percent who named Iraq as most important voted overwhelmingly for Kerry. A similar number chose morals and voted overwhelmingly for Bush, while the smaller percentages that chose healthcare and education went big for Kerry. Where the question was performance--Iraq and the economy, healthcare, education--Bush lost. Where it was worldview--morals and the war on terror--Bush won big.

A majority of voters did not support the President's policies. By 51 to 41, voters considered the country to be "substantially on the wrong course." A majority wanted change. A plurality--49 to 46--said that the war on Iraq was making America less safe, not more safe. By significant majorities, voters supported protecting Social Security over privatizing it, fair trade over free trade, investment in education and healthcare over paring back spending and reducing the deficit. The voters who handed Florida and Nevada to Bush also voted overwhelmingly to pass initiatives to raise the minimum wage in the those states.

In the America's Future poll, most voters said they were looking for an election that provided answers about the economy and jobs rather than how to make America safe. This was particularly true among wavering Bush voters--those who ended up voting for Bush but thought about voting for Kerry. With a campaign focused on Iraq and the war on terror, with little attention paid to kitchen-table concerns, many ended up voting their social conservatism.

The power of the so-called "moral issues"--God, guns and gays--is apparent. But the potential of a compelling populist economic argument is too often slighted. Consider the so-called Nascar Dads--socially conservative, patriotic white males who've voted Republican in large numbers since the early 1980s and who have lost ground in the new economy. The AFL-CIO and associated unions showed how economic issues could matter. They made a concerted effort to reach their members on issues like vanishing overtime pay, soaring healthcare costs, the loss of jobs. This effort paid off. White men in general voted for Bush by a margin of eighteen percentage points; white men who were union members favored Kerry by twenty-one points. Weekly churchgoers favored Bush by twenty-one points; weekly churchgoers who were union members favored Kerry by twelve. Gun owners chose Bush by twenty points; union gun owners opted for Kerry by twelve. And it didn't take a lifetime of union membership to produce this effect. This year, the AFL's Working America enlisted more than 750,000 people as associate members of the federation and educated them on kitchen-table issues like outsourcing and healthcare. In Ohio, Florida and Missouri, white males went for Bush by twenty-three percentage points. In tracking polls leading up to the election, Working America's white male members chose Kerry by twenty-one points. Married women in those states favored Bush by thirteen; Working America wives preferred Kerry by twenty-three. Morals didn't trump economics; the economic cards simply weren't dealt.

What Is to Be Done?

In the wake of defeat, there will and should be reassessment inside the Democratic Party. But progressives drive this party now--we provide the energy, the organizers, the ground forces, the ideas and much of the money. We should organize the opposition. Here's a start:

§ Get Ready to Fight. Bush's agenda will ignite opposition. The current offensive in Iraq will galvanize antiwar sentiment across the world--including among the conservative realists in the Republican Party. The President's budget, featuring some $70 billion more for Iraq plus cuts across the board for education and other domestic programs, will highlight the financial costs of his folly. Progressives should continue to challenge this war and educate Americans on how it is making us less safe.

The President claims a mandate for a radical domestic agenda--privatization of Social Security, tax reform to reward wealth over work, drill-and-burn energy policy, tort "reform" to limit victims' rights to recover from negligent corporations, more testing in schools while cutting resources needed to fix the problems. He's likely to make an early Supreme Court appointment. These are all battles that progressives should fight, offering Americans a clear choice.

§ Take the Offensive. Progressives should mount a powerful assault on Republican boss Tom DeLay and the most corrupt Congress in memory, exposing the blatant giveaway of taxpayers' money to corporate contributors and spreading the word to Republican districts so voters learn about the crony corruption that is emblematic of this crowd.

§ Ideas and Local Invention. Progressives have to do more than oppose. We have to develop compelling arguments for moving the country in a different direction: What should America's role in the world be? How can we create a fairer economy? What kind of society do we want to be? This requires new big ideas--strategic initiatives for good jobs and energy independence like those of the Apollo Alliance. Progressives should turn states and localities into "laboratories of democracy." California voters just passed an initiative to borrow $3 billion to seed stem-cell research, insuring that that state will be a global center in this area. The Apollo Alliance is developing state initiatives on energy efficiency and renewable energy. In the Midwest, conservative Federal Reserve analysts are leading the argument for investing in preschool and early-childhood healthcare as an economic development policy.

In this election Progressive Majority recruited a team of progressive candidates for state and local office in three battleground states--Washington, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In Washington, their victories helped shift the State Senate into Democratic hands. All told, their candidates won 57 percent of open seats. Now they are gearing up to expand to ten states in the next cycle, finding the next generation of Paul Wellstones who see themselves as part of a movement.

§ Argue Our Case. Progressives should be aggressively arguing our case--and learning how to argue our case more effectively. Politicians are now scrambling for ways to appeal to the "values" voter. Some of this is common sense: Religious observance is not a Republican monopoly. Democrats who are comfortable with religion, like Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson and Bill Clinton, fare better in this very religious country. And progressives should be making our case in moral terms, not simply in the language of policy seminars.

But that does not mean abandoning the party's principles on social issues like choice or equal rights. Democrats champion the values of the civilizing movements of recent decades--the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the environmental movement, the human rights movement. We should lead the forces of tolerance against the forces of intolerance. We win by being the party of progress, not by blurring differences with the new reactionaries.

§ Build Independent Capacity. Progressives should build on this year's extraordinary efforts to register, educate and mobilize voters. New focus should be on building volunteer networks from community organizations (as the right has done with evangelical churches). The competition over the growing Hispanic vote is a case in point. With Republicans in control of the leading Hispanic TV and radio networks, this project can't be left to the party, or to chance.

At the same time, progressives have to expand their capacity to generate ideas, develop a message, communicate issues and carry out campaigns that can compete with the right. This is a long-term project that requires significant investment. Major donors and national and grassroots groups are already discussing it. and Dean's Democracy for America have demonstrated the potential for building powerful movements based upon citizen involvement and small-donor support. That will be key if the debate is to break out of the narrow constraints of the Clinton years.

Progressives did more this year than anyone could have anticipated--and we still got beat by a bad President espousing a politics of division and distraction. So we have to get smarter, work harder, learn how to make our case better and find ways to communicate it across America's increasingly separated nations. The task is daunting. But we can undertake it, confident that, as Dr. King taught, the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.