by Michael Winship
Jan. 10, 2011
The Russian playwright Anton Chekhov had a rule: if you show a gun in the first act, by the time the curtain falls, it has to go off. For weeks and months, that gun, the weapon of angry rhetoric and intemperate rabblerousing, has been cocked and loaded in plain view on the American stage; Saturday morning outside a shopping mall in Tucson, Arizona, it went off again and again and again.
The target, Gabrielle Giffords, a member of the United States Congress, lays critically wounded, one of thirteen shot and still alive. Six others are dead, including a respected Federal judge who happened to be there but who previously had received death threats from anti-immigration extremists, a member of Congresswoman Giffords’ staff and a nine-year old girl, Christina-Taylor Green. Just elected to her school’s student council, she had been brought by a neighbor to Congresswoman Gifford’s constituent event so she could see how grown-ups put democracy into action.
Instead, this child – born on 9/11 — became just one of the latest victims of more political violence in America, violence fueled by an incoherent rage against government and elected officials who cannot instantly bring back prosperity and the jobs lost overseas or restore in a blink some idealized vision of a nation that might once have been but is no more. And all of it egged on by right wing leaders and their cronies lurking in the swampier reaches of the Internet, hate radio and television
Tag Archives: Common Dreams
In this article, former Maine Congressman Tom Andrews has summed up neatly what are the essential parts of the Rolling Stone story on Gen. Stanley McChrystal ignored by the Big Media and most everyone else. For those who think Afghanistan is nothing like Vietnam — you’re right — except in all of the important ways. We are fighting an unwinnable war as an army of occupation against people who don’t want us there, and supporting a weak and despised government led by our puppet in Kabul. Even with a million troops in Afghanistan, we still couldn’t achieve the ‘victory’ of stability the Pentagon has stated as its goal. We are caught in a trap that’s bleeding us dry and the only way out is to leave, period.
by Tom Andrews
June 23, 2010
Unfortunately, President Obama missed an opportunity today to not only replace an out-of-control general but an out-of-control and failing strategy in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, mainstream media continue to miss the most serious story contained in the now famous Rolling Stone profile.
Michael Hastings’ piece is about more than an adolescent general and his buddies’ school-yard shenanigans in Kabul and Paris. It was about a failing strategy in Afghanistan and the disconnect between how the administration portrays the war in public and the reality of how the war is actually being waged.
Here are three points in the Rolling Stone article that contradict what the White House has presented to Congress and the American people about the war in Afghanistan:
“Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further.” A senior military official stationed in Afghanistan told Hastings: “There’s a possibility we could ask for another surge of US forces next summer if we see success here.”
General McChrystal’s Chief of Operations Major General Bill Mayville, described the war in Afghanistan as unwinnable: “It’s not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win. This is going to end in an argument.”
“If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular.” This was how a Senior Advisor to General Stanley McChrystal characterizes the war in Afghanistan.
While President Obama has been assuring Congress and the American public that US troops will begin leaving Afghanistan next July, his senior military leaders believe that if they are successful, next summer could see a surge of troops, not a withdrawal. And the military should be careful not to reveal what is really going on in Afghanistan because the more Americans know about the war, the more they will be against it.
Who is holding these guys accountable?
Congress needs to step up now and start demanding answers. Until it gets them, it should refuse to appropriate the $33 billion in new war funding that the Administration has asked them for.
This is about more than an out-of-control general in Afghanistan. It’s about the strategy, stupid, and the young men and women who are giving their lives to implement it. Congress needs to send a clear and strong message to the White House using the power that the Constitution provides it — the buck stops here! No answers to these disturbing questions, no more funding for the war in Afghanistan. Period.
And, it can send that message now. The House is scheduled to vote on the administration’s Afghanistan war supplemental funding request before it leaves next week for the Fourth of July recess. It should refuse to do so. And, when it comes back to work after the fireworks at home, it should do its job and start demanding answers to all of the other disturbing issues and questions raised in the Rolling Stone article.
Now that the McChrystal side-show is over, it’s time for Congress and mainstream media to focus on the main event: the deteriorating war in Afghanistan.
Tom Andrews, a former Member of Congress from the first Congressional District of Maine, is the National Director of Win Without War, a coalition of forty-two national membership organizations including the National Council of Churches, the NAACP, the National Organization of Women, the Sierra Club, and MoveOn. He is also co-founder of New Security Action.
Here, in their first film, are the two young men who infiltrated the corporate world and exposed them for the chintzy cheats and soulless scammers most of them really are. As The Yes Men themselves describe it:
“The film’s story is simple: two guys, armed with nothing but thrift-store suits, infiltrate the world of big business, where we make a lot of bad, powerful people really uncomfortable.
“You’ll see us knock $2 billion off Dow Chemical’s share price, expose New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin for the corporate lackey he is, and show some of the most powerful free-market spokesmen to be C-level liars.”
–From “The Yes Men Fix the World’s a Riot. No, Really,” Common Dreams.org, Oct. 6, 2009.
Along with Michael Moore’s brilliant take down of Gordon Gecko corporatism, “Capitalism: A Love Story” currently in theaters, we are seeing a full frontal assault on the real culprits in most of our society’s present misery — insatiable greed, inadequate morality, and the imbecilic idea that a faceless corporation is the same as a flesh-and-blood person.
Look for both films at a theater near you. Who knows, between both Mike and The Yes Men (and others) informing the public as to who is really at fault for our economic woes, maybe we’ll bring the monster down to size in our lifetime.
Last Thursday I saw Errol Morris’ “Standard Operating Procedure,” an incredibly powerful documentary of the war crimes committed at Abu Ghraib, and the photographs thereof, put into context by the soldiers who were there. (Morris also made the great documentaries “The Fog of War” and “The Thin Blue Line.”) The most striking part of the “S.O.P.” film, aside from the wincing photos of torture and humiliation, is the ‘good kid’ quality of the participants and their bland, almost casual, recitations of how they helped to cause other human beings to suffer greatly sure, some knew it wasn’t right, but they had been ordered to “soften up” the prisoners for interrogation. It apparently never entered their minds that they were committing the same sorts of tortures that caused Iraqis to loathe Saddam Hussein and were used as a justification by the Bush Administration for the invasion of Iraq. The commentary by these young kids, most of them barely of drinking age and without training in interrogation, exudes Hannah Arendt’s oft-quoted line about the “banality of evil” and leaves several questions looming like large dark shadows over the entire farce of justice that sentenced these noncoms to prison terms: Why wasn’t anyone above the rank of E-7 (Staff Sergeant) jailed, especially US Army Col. Thomas Pappas, who was officially in command of interrogations at Abu Ghraib? (Pappas was forced to pay back $8,000 in wages and received a reprimand, but no criminal charges were ever filed.) Why was Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, former commander of Gitmo, allowed to retire honorably, since the abuse of prisoners apparently began when he took over Abu Ghraib? Why weren’t any senior members of the Bush Administration ever held accountable for the Abu Ghraib scandal? And these are just a few of the more obvious questions.
In case you aren’t familiar with the ugly and varied dimensions of these tortures at ‘Abu G,’ as a soldier in the film called it, here is a summary culled from US government and Red Cross reports (.pdf file):
“Soldiers tore out detainees toenails, administered electric shocks, beat detainees with hard objects (including pistols and rifles), slapped and punched detainees, kicked them with knees or feet on various parts of the body (legs, sides, lower back, groin), forcefully pressed detainees faces into the ground by stepping on their heads, purposely exposed detainees to severe heat and sun for prolonged periods, and forced detainees to stay in ‘stress’ positions (kneeling, squatting, standing with arms raised over their heads) for hours at a time.” 
“At least two detainees were forced to sit or lie down on blistering surfaces, causing severe burns that resulted in large crusted lesions and, in one case, three months hospitalization, the amputation of a finger and large skin grafts.”
The perverse sexual humiliation of the prisoners isn’t noted here, but it’s apparent in the photographs, and also not mentioned is the fact that at least one man was murdered as a result of torture, Manadel al-Jamadi. Al-Jamadi died just hours after his capture from abuse by Navy SEALs and torture by CIA personnel.
These are all war crimes according to the Geneva Conventions and US law, and, naturally, among the major reasons the Iraqi people hate our guts.
That brings us to Iraq’s current hero Muntazer al-Zaidi, the 30-year-old TV journalist who took the mild recourse of tossing his shoes at George W. Bush during Junior’s surprise visit to Iraq in December of 2008. (To the profound regret of many Americans, our first President installed by the Supreme Court managed to dodge both pieces of al-Zaidi’s footwear.)
Al-Zaidi was sentenced to three years, but was released in less than one year, ostensibly due to his good record, but probably because his continued confinement had become a P.R. nightmare for the shaky remains of the al-Maliki government.
Watch Morris’ documentary on Abu Ghraib, think about how you would feel if this were done to Americans, and then congratulate al-Zaidi on the forbearance and thoughtfulness of his words that follow:
I am no hero. I just acted as an Iraqi who witnessed the pain and bloodshed of too many innocents
by Muntazer al-Zaidi
September 18, 2009
(Originally published in The Guardian/UK)
I am free. But my country is still a prisoner of war. There has been a lot of talk about the action and about the person who took it, and about the hero and the heroic act, and the symbol and the symbolic act. But, simply, I answer: what compelled me to act is the injustice that befell my people, and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland by putting it under its boot.
“Those who are protecting the profit-takers in healthcare will say or do anything. You know, the old saw, ‘Don’t let the government get between you and your healthcare,’ they threaten as ammunition to scare you away from progressively financed, guaranteed healthcare for all — like those scary Canadians or Scandinavians have. But do you know what the reality is in Canada and many of the nations where healthcare is actually valued as a human right? In Canada, it is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison for a government bureaucrat to interfere in any way in a patient care issue or decision.
“While here in the United States, we let insurance companies not only get in between our doctors and patients but actually block them ever seeing one another. This week we heard testimony in a Congressional committee that the insurance companies our President and Congress want so desperately to protect have no intention of stopping the practice of policy rescissions. Rescissions happen when you get sick, file an insurance claim and then the insurance company searches your records to find reasons they would have denied you coverage before your illness and then retroactively drops your coverage. And their favorite targets? The committee found, according to the Los Angeles Times, ‘WellPoint’s Blue Cross targeted individuals with more than 1,400 conditions, including breast cancer, lymphoma, pregnancy and high blood pressure.’ Ugly stuff. And talk about getting between you and your doctor…”
— Donna Smith, “Well, WellGoing to Healthcare Hell,” Common Dreams, June 18, 2009.