<\body> Stories in America: March 2008

Monday, March 31, 2008

This week on Your Call Radio

Here's what's coming up on Your Call this week.

A live call-in radio show, Your Call airs from 11 am - noon PST on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco.
You can listen live or podcast the show.

*Tuesday - A look back at Barbara Seaman's life
We'll pay tribute to writer and health activist Barbara Seaman. Her 1969 book, "The Doctors' Case Against the Pill," is credited with launching the modern women's health movement. According to Cynythia Pearson, "The kind of journalism that Barbara started doing back in the 1960s affected most of the women in this country." Barbara Seaman died of lung cancer earlier this month. She was 75.
Guests: Barbara Brenner, Executive Director Breast Cancer Action, and Norma Swenson, one of the founders of Our Bodies OurSelves

*Wednesday - A conversation with Matt Gonzalez, former president of the SF Board of Supervisors and VP candidate on the Independent ticket

*Thursday - A conversation with David Wilcove, author of "No Way Home: The Decline of the World's Great Animal Migrations"

*Friday - A conversation with Jonathan Steele, author of "Defeat: Why America and Britain Lost Iraq" `

HUD Chief Quits After Giving His Friends Lucrative Contracts

Another one jumps off the sinking ship:
The Bush administration's top housing official, under criminal investigation and intense pressure from Democratic critics, announced Monday he is quitting.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson said his resignation will take effect on April 18. The move comes at a shaky time for the economy and the Bush administration, as the housing industry's crisis has imperiled the nation's credit markets and led to a major economic slowdown.

Jackson, 62, has been fending off allegations of cronyism and favoritism involving HUD contractors for the past two years. The FBI has been examining the ties between Jackson and a friend who was paid $392,000 by Jackson's department as a construction manager in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

McCain Doesn't Know if Contraceptives Stop the Spread of HIV

This is pathetic:
Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

Q: “But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?”

Mr. McCain: (Twelve-second pause) “Get me Coburn’s thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before.”

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lawyer: Guantanamo Trials Pegged for '08 Election

The Navy lawyer for Osama bin Laden's driver argues in a Guantánamo military commissions motion that senior Pentagon officials are orchestrating war crimes prosecutions for the 2008 campaign.

The Pentagon declined late Friday to address the defense lawyer's allegations, noting that the matter is under litigation.

The brief filed Thursday by Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer directly challenged the integrity of President Bush's war court.

Notably, it describes a Sept. 29, 2006, meeting at the Pentagon in which Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, a veteran White House appointee, asked lawyers to consider Sept. 11, 2001, prosecutions in light of the campaign.

''We need to think about charging some of the high-value detainees because there could be strategic political value to charging some of these detainees before the election,'' England is quoted as saying.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Winter Soldier: GI Resistance

The "liberal media" forgot to cover Winter Soldier. Watch testimony here:
Iraq veteran Camilo Mejia (chair of the IVAW board of directors) describes the long history of resistance in the military and salutes those who continue to speak out about their experience. “We live today in times of universal deceit,” he says, “but throughout the past four days, we have witnessed firsthand accounts that challenge that universal deceit… We have become a dangerous group of people, not because of our military training, but because we have dared to challenge the official story.”

Iraqis forced to flee the occupation

It's so rare to read or hear stories in the American press about the millions of Iraqi who've been forced to flee their homes and are now struggling to get by. Last week on Your Call, we spoke to an Iraqi writer who was forced to flee with his family to Damascus and is now trying to find work to make ends meet. Out of a country of 27 million, 2.5 million have been forced to flee the country and another 2.5 million are internally displaced. Thanks to Deborah Amos for writing this story.
Since he had been threatened by both Sunnis and Shiites, I asked Arshad whether he identified himself as a Sunni or a Shiite. "I don't really know, but you have to know to live in Iraq," says Arshad, who has a Sunni father and a Shiite mother—not unusual among Baghdad's urban elite. "This is one of the reasons I left. One reason I won't go back. I have to feel myself as a human being, and I can't be a real human being if I have to declare whether I am Shiite or Sunni."

This is a common fear among Iraqi exiles. Returning to Iraq means choosing to live in Sunni or Shiite enclaves divided by high concrete walls. It means choosing a side and staking your life on that decision. The real-estate dilemma dictates the choice. Arshad's family home is now lost, because it is occupied by another family, which is likely to have been cleansed from yet another neighborhood. Moving back to Baghdad means choosing a new neighborhood, a new Iraq.

"Iraq is not a suitable place to live as a human. There are no dreams left in Iraq," says Sam, who didn't tell me his last name. "Everything is broken there." For Sam and thousands of other Iraqi exiles in Damascus, the recent lull in the killings in Baghdad is not enough to entice them home. They have middle-class values and middle-class dreams. As long as Iraq cannot accommodate their vision for an ordinary future, they will struggle in the uncertain life of exile."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Escalating violence in Iraq

The Bush administration and most in the corporate media continue to insist the "surge" is working. That couldn't be further from the truth, according to people like Iraqi-born Raed Jarrar:
"Preparations for the next Iraqi elections are underway now. The Iraqi executive branch, controlled by the five Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish separatist parties, wants to make sure their rivals won't win the next provincial elections expected to take place before October. But unlike other pre-election preparations that might include TV advertisements and sticking posters around the streets, the separatist Shiites in the Iraqi executive branch sent 50,000 Iraqi troops, backed by U.S. troops, to Basra to destroy and kill their rivals (the nationalist Shiites)."
Jarrar added: "This Shiite-Shiite fight is an excellent example of how the Iraqi civil conflict is more about political/economic issues rather than sectarian and religious as the U.S. mainstream media and politicians have been repeating for years."
Be sure to read Juan Cole's blog for the real story.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

4,000 Dead American Soldiers

More Progress in Iraq

Rockets hit the Green Zone, the most secure place in the world:
The shelling sent thick plumes of dark gray smoke over central Baghdad and ignited a spectacular fire on the banks of the Tigris River. It ushered in a day of violence that claimed the lives of four American soldiers and at least 58 lraqis around the country.

American military officials said the soldiers were killed by a homemade bomb about 10 p.m. as they patrolled southern Baghdad in a vehicle, pushing the number of American service members killed in Iraq closer to 4,000. Another soldier was wounded in the attack.

The intensity of the violence added to the sense that insurgent and sectarian attacks had been on the rise in recent weeks.

Japanese Protest U.S. Base

Thousands of Okinawans rally in Chatan town to protest against crimes committed by U.S. troops and to demand a smaller U.S. military presence on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa March 23, 2008, after last month's arrest of a Marine on suspicion of raping a schoolgirl. REUTERS/Kyodo

Friday, March 21, 2008

80,000 Angry Men - Is the "Surge" Collapsing?

Watch this:
In an investigation carried out by GuardianFilms for Channel 4, we uncover how thousands of Iraqis employed at $10 a day by the US to take on al-Qaida are threatening to go on strike because they say they have been used by the 'Americans to do their dirty work' and haven't been paid

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Five Years of Hell in Iraq

President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq as he speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast in this, May 1, 2003

"I think it will go relatively quickly...weeks rather than months."
- Vice President Dick Cheney, 3/16/03

"Now, it isn't gong to be over in 24 hours, but it isn't going to be months either."
- Richard Perle, Chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, 7/11/02

"The idea that it's going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990. Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that."
- Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, 11/15/02

"I will bet you the best dinner in the gaslight district of San Diego that military action will not last more than a week. Are you willing to take that wager?"
- Bill O'Reilly, 1/29/03

"It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could be six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
- Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, 2/7/03

"It won't take weeks... Our military machine will crush Iraq in a matter of days and there's no question that it will."
- Bill O'Reilly, 2/10/03

"There is zero question that this military campaign...will be reasonably short. ... Like World War II for about five days."
- General Barry R. McCaffrey, national security and terrorism analyst for NBC News, 2/18/03

"The Iraq fight itself is probably going to go very, very fast. The shooting should be over within just a very few days from when it starts."
- David Frum, former Bush White House speechwriter, 2/24/03

"Our military superiority is so great -- it's far greater than it was in the Gulf War, and the Gulf War was over in 100 hours after we bombed for 43 days... Now they can bomb for a couple of days and then just roll into Baghdad... The odds are there's going to be a war and it's going to be not for very long."
- Former President Bill Clinton, 3/6/03

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What is the real death toll in Iraq?

People gather at the Baquba hospital morgue next to caskets containing the bodies of six of their family members who were killed by a roadside bomb south of Baquba, Iraq. Photograph: Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty images

From the Guardian:
The Americans learned one lesson from Vietnam: don't count the civilian dead. As a result, no one knows how many Iraqis have been killed in the five years since the invasion. Estimates put the toll at between 100,000 and one million, and now a bitter war of numbers is raging.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

This week on Your Call Radio

Here's what's coming up on Your Call, a live call-in radio show. Listen from 11 am - noon PST on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco or online. You can also podcast the show.

We're doing a weeklong series of shows to mark the five year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

More than one million Iraqis have been killed, according to ORB, a British polling agency. Four million have been displaced.

So far, 1.6 million U.S. troops have served in Iraq, more than a third of them for two or three tours. Almost 4,000 soldiers have been killed, and 60,000 wounded. According to a Pew poll released last week, only 28 percent of Americans know that almost 4,000 American soldiers have died. According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the percentage of news stories devoted to Iraq has sharply declined since last year, dropping from an average of 15 percent in July to just 3 percent in February.

The U.S. government is spending $275 million per day on the occupation.

*Monday - Women and War
What impact has the occupation had on Iraqi and American women?
Guests: An Iraqi professor who taught at Baghdad University for 30 years -- she recently left Baghdad after receiving death threats
Basma Al Khateeb, gender and youth project manager at Iraqi Al Amal Association
Wendy Barranco, a 19-year-old who served as an anesthesia technician in Tikrit for two years - she was sexually harassed multiple times by her superiors

*Tuesday - Coming Home
The occupation has had a devastating effect on communities in Iraq. Many have been ethnically cleansed. Two million Iraqis have left the country; another two million are internally displaced. In the U.S., soldiers with serious wounds, both physical and mental, have had a difficult time returning and putting the pieces back together. Who should be held accountable for what's happened to Iraqis and Americans? Will anyone ever be held accountable?

*Wednesday - Rebuilding
The rebuilding efforts in Iraq have been full of corruption and mismanagement. Is it possible to rebuild Iraq? What would it take for the UN and other international aid groups to return? Where should the money come from and who should administer it?

*Thursday - Justice and Healing
Iraq has been hit hard by two invasions and years of sanctions. What's next? What would be just? What do we, as Americans, owe the Iraqi people?

*Friday - Media Roundtable
We'll hear from Iraqi journalists. According to the Union of Iraqi journalists, 272 Iraqi journalists have been killed since the invasion.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Winter Soldier - Hear directly from U.S. soldiers

Watch live testimony from U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Take a break from the 'pundits' who've never been to Iraq to hear from the people who were on the front lines:
Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan will feature testimony from U.S. veterans who served in those occupations, giving an accurate account of what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground.

The four-day event will bring together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan - and present video and photographic evidence. In addition, there will be panels of scholars, veterans, journalists, and other specialists to give context to the testimony. These panels will cover everything from the history of the GI resistance movement to the fight for veterans' health benefits and support.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The $3 Trillion Occupation

The members of an Iraqi family look at US soldiers from the 2nd Battallion 12th Field Artillery Regiment, 4-2 SBCT, searching for weapons in the village of Mullah Eid, February 2008 during operation Fox Hunt. Al-Qaeda may be shifting tactics back to the big, headline grabbing attacks in Iraq that helped plunge the country into chaos, a senior US commander said. (AFP/File/Patrick Baz)

Iraqi Refugee Crisis Worsens

An Iraqi refugee returning from Syria in 2007. Squalid and dangerous conditions, lack of shelter and scarcity of food are threatening to worsen living conditions for those displaced by the war in Iraq, refugee experts said Tuesday. (AFP/File)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The rich get richer

and the poor stand in five hour lines for food you probably wouldn't eat:
In 2007, the CEOs of America's top 500 companies made a total of $7.5 billion, or $15.7 million apiece. The average compensation of a CEO in 1980 was about 42 times that of the average worker in the company; in 2005, it was about 411 times.

Tammy Buckley, a food pantry volunteer, hands out food on a cold morning. Most people in line will get bread and a few cans of carrots, beans and peas. (Tribune photo by Nancy Stone / February 25, 2008)

Monday, March 03, 2008

Iraq violence surges in February

The number of Iraqis killed in February rose by 33 percent over January, official figures showed on Saturday, reversing a six-month trend of reduced violence, in a setback to the US military plan to curb Iraq's bloodshed. The combined figures obtained by AFP from the interior, defence and health ministries showed that the total number of Iraqis killed in February was 721, including 636 civilians, compared with 541 dead in January.

Car bombing in the Bab al-Mudham area of central Baghdad, Iraq, arrives to a hospital Monday, March 3, 2008. At least 15 people were killed and 38 were wounded in the bombing. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The widows of Falluja

From VOI:
Abu Waleed had a bad rendezvous with destiny; he lost his two legs in an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attack in Falluja, and his wife – Um Waleed, suddenly found herself responsible for providing her family’s daily requirements. She worked hard toward her education degree during afternoon classes at Falluja Education Institute, and graduated as quickly as possible to start a career as a school teacher in Falluja, that nowadays offers her a monthly salary essential for her family's life to continue.

There are other women like Um Waleed; victims of the difficult circumstances that Falluja city has experienced. The number of women in Falluja that were widowed after 2003 is at least 5000. These figures imply that since April 2003 until February 2008, 86 women a month (almost 3 women a day) were widowed, according to a recent survey conducted by the Employment Center in the city in coordination with Falluja’s City Council.

"My husband was a taxi driver, and due to an IED explosion, he lost his two legs, and his car was totally devastated; thus we lost all our sources of living in that incident," Um Waleed told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI), adding "It was my turn to be responsible for my family's living; the situation was rigid, but I did not step aside watching. In addition to having four kids going to school, I joined afternoon classes at the Falluja Education Institute where I earned the degree that enabled me to work as a school teacher."