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Phony link murder to Occupy Wall Street action

NBC News New York reported earlier this week that the New York Police Department had linked evidence in the 2004 unsolved murder of Julliard student Sarah Fox to an Occupy Wall Street protester, reporting that the evidence “seemed to come out of nowhere.” Indeed.

Later that afternoon, the New York Times was already debunking its own article on the story – and the myriad of other media who picked it up – reporting that the link was most likely an error, with the DNA in question belonging to an NYPD lab technician who handled evidence from both cases.

Police had taken DNA evidence from a chain at the scene of a March 28th action that saw activists chain open the Beverly Road subway gates in East Brooklyn (among other stops), providing free admission to the subway for a number of commuters that morning. This action was not an Occupy Wall Street-sanctioned action, although it is believed that some OWS-affiliated activists acting independently of OWS, and with some wildcat MTA workers, were responsible for the action.

The DNA on the chain was said to have matched DNA found on Sarah Fox’s CD player, which was found near her body, in Inwood Park in 2004.

Although the scene of the MTA-action was not the scene of violence or murder, the NYPD looked for DNA there, and then used its vast database of DNA (of both criminal and non-criminal offenders) to look for a link between the MTA-action and any DNA matches in its database.

The story was picked up by numerous outlets, including the New York Post, the New York Times, the Village Voice, New York Magazine, Gawker and Gothamist; as well as CNBC, ABC News, and of course Fox News with the headline “Occupy Wall Street Murder Link.”

In its retraction, the New York Times wrote that, “The decision by investigators to search for DNA samples on the chain, which was used to hold open a subway entrance gate, illustrates how such collections have become a routine part of a wide range of criminal investigations.” This despite what many in criminal justice know about DNA: that while it can be a particularly powerful identification tool, it is still a piece of evidence and should be weighed with the context of the case in mind.

Dimitry Sheinman remains the “person of interest” in the case.

(originally aired in tv form at Occupy Public Access TV)

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Bloombergville

 

I mentioned Bloombergville to a friend the other day. He expressed surprise and frustration at having never heard of it, but elation at the occurrence.

Bloombergville was a protest by students, activists and others, against NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s vast proposed budget cuts to vital social services. By name they were New Yorkers Against the Budget Cuts. It was begun on June 14th.

They slept out on the street for two weeks, taking their name in solidaristic sentiment with the Hoovervilles of old; or the recent Madison, WI Walkervilles. They had meetings, teach-ins and all sorts of antics and activites. Thirteen of them were arrested on June 28th, after barricaing themselves in the City Council’s lobby to prevent the budget deal vote. The 13 are still raising legal defense funds.

Bloombergville was not only brave and longsuffering, but desperate; which is not meant in a disparaging way. Taking cues from Egypt, those who created Bloombergville seemed urgent to inspire such a movement, in the spirit of a ballplayer who runs the bases just to run them even though they have just struck out. I, at least, found this encouraging.

There was little mention of Bloombergville in the media, even in New York. A Lexis Nexis search revealed not a single find. Aside from the usual gaggle of left media (The Indypendent, Democracy Now, Z) a Google search turned up a few things:

– The NYTimes blog had a story about it on June 15th. One comment on the web version of the article wonders: ‘Why didn’t the New York Times also [run] a story on the large protest rally on the afternoon on June 14th?’

– RT (Russia Today, which is funded by the Russian government) was on the alert early with their June 17th article, ‘Media ignores public outrage while protesters camp out in NYC.’ If this story is similar to how RT does things, it could perhaps be like reading Pravda, wherein – if you’re willing to take the rhetoric and derision – there is a trove of useful information; similar to hearing really good gossip from one enemy about the other:

– On June 16 (Bloomsday!) Pix 11 covered the story.

– Downtown Express covered it on June 22, although confused Bloombergville with the District 37 protests.

– CBS NY, as well, got Bloombergville confused with the nearby District 37 protests.

– AM NY got into the game when the thing was over, covering the dissolution of the effort on July 6th. They also noted that the peak number of protesters was 100, instead of the 200 given by everyone else.

– CUNY covered its professor, doing a teach-in.

– The group made a commercial to attract visitors, which was kind of funny.

The Socialist Worker just released a reflective piece about the successes and failures of Bloombergville written by two organizers (Doug Singsen and Sarah Pomar), who write that ultimately, “The experience of Bloombergville shows that while the encampment tactic was a success in many ways, it cannot substitute for building a mass movement, nor can it call such a movement forth on demand.”

The organizers/writers do disagree with the writings above, claiming that Bloombergville “garnered much more press coverage than a traditional protest of the same size would have – the encampment was covered by the New York Times, CBS New York, CNN.com, Democracy Now!, NY1, AM New York, Amsterdam News, TheIndypendent, El Diario, Common Dreams, Daily Kos, FireDogLake, ALterNet and more.”

This still means it was possible for my friend, who is and considers himself to be relatively conscious of the world around him, to be totally unaware of the Bloombergville happening. So wherever and however it was covered, it was not a dominant theme.

New York is a city of the rich and for the rich, and fighting that situation seems like running the bases after one has already struck out. But maybe it just means that when there is a hit, those base running skills will carry it home?

Photo courtesy Ileia Burgos

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LexisNexis and Mubarak

 

I took the use of Lexis Nexis in David Edward’s ‘Captive Nation – Egypt and the West’ article as a challenge.

Edwards writes that, “Our search of the LexisNexis database found that [Human Rights Watch’s report on Egyptian torture, Work On Him Until He Confesses] report has so far received three mentions in the national UK press.”

Using LexisNexis, I found two mentions of it in the United States, although Z magazine/net is, apparently, not part of the Nexis.

The other two were Antiwar.com, and CNN. com.

I also came across (not through the Nexis) a blog on the LATimes website about the HRW report, by Carol J. Williams.

A Google search for the HRW report finds mostly activist sites, and some Twitter feeds from same. Nothing from the mainstream, really, unless the Huffington Postcounts?

I think the difference between the point of a LexisNexis search and the point of a Google search is that LexisNexis is giving a sampling of what the decision makers are thinking. That the HRW report was on the wire services but not in the U.S. press is significant.

The Google search, on the other hand, is giving us a sampling of what the average internet user is going to see – if they somehow are alert enough to search for a report that nobody and their mother is talking about.

I, too, found three mentions in the UK. Five wire services. And also the Palestine News Network.

The other challenge was, “According to LexisNexis, over the last month, the word ‘Mubarak’ has appeared in 1,652 UK press articles. The words ‘Mubarak’ and ‘military aid’ have appeared in 11 national UK articles.”

I only found one UK article (Morning Star, February 25, 2011) in LexisNexis for “Mubarak” and “military aid” – aside from Edwards’ own article in Pacific Free Press.

Two finds in the US: 1) CNN.com again! 2) And the St. Petersburg Times.

To skip ahead for a moment, the second find leads to a third not in the LexisNexis search: The Devil We Know, an editorial in the New York Times printed at the middle of the Tahrir protests, January 31. (LexisNexis did not find this NYTimes article because writer Ross Douthat uses the term “American dollars” instead of “American aid.”)

David Berman (of the Silver Jews? does anyone know?) did us all the favor of writing a letter to the Times editor about Douthat’s attitude of throwing his hands up in the air, never knowing what the right thing to do is because “history makes fools of us all.”

Berman responded: “‘History makes fools of us all.’ Indeed. But not because our ‘theories always fail,’ or because ‘the world is too complicated,’ but because we keep making the same shortsighted and self-interested mistakes over and over again.”

So, finally, the third LexisNexis find in the US for “Mubarak” and “military aid” was a response to the Douthat article in Florida’s St. Petersburg Times. The headline: Egypt Got More Foreign Aid Than Anyone Besides Israel, Says New York Times Columnist Ross Douthat. What is surprising is that it is news. This is where our money goes.

Of interest in the “Mubarak” “military aid” search was an AP article released November 6, 2007: Egypt Resists Linking US Aid To Rights, which stated, “Egypt received $1.3 billion a year in U.S. military aid along with other assistance that makes it the second-largest recipient of American foreign aid after Israel.”

The AP article must have come across all the newsroom wires in 2007. Why, then, are the good folks in St. Petersburg so incredulous at the reports of how much aid Egypt received from the US that the claim is qualified in the headline as “Says New York Times Columnist Ross Douthat”?

In addition to the previous search, I also tried “Mubarak” and “aid,” with results going back to 1982. There were 23 results, most of which were trivial, as in Mubarak was referencing his aids, as in his helpers. One of which is a hilarious transcript from the BBC from December 2007. Mubarak and Nicolas Sarkozy are giving a press conference and talking very nice.

[Reporter, speaking in Arabic] Sir, may I ask the French president on the possibility of a French cooperation in …
[Mubarak, interrupting] Who are you?
[Reporter] I am from Middle East News Agency, [MENA].
[Mubarak] You just stood up suddenly.
[Reporter] The French president allowed me, sir.
[Mubarak] Ok.

The “Mubarak” “aid” searches provided four surprises. The first, The Economist, in their frank, Can nothing be done? Egypt and Gaza.

It reads: ‘”Egypt and its Arab allies have their reasons for keeping Gaza isolated. Their policy began under American pressure soon after Hamas won a Palestinian general election in 2006. Egypt has kept the border closed partly to please America, which props up Mr Mubarak with aid, partly because his government loathes Hamas as a branch of its own Muslim Brotherhood, and partly in the hope of forcing Hamas to cede legitimacy to the PA, thereby keeping prospects for Palestinian unity and future peace dealings with Israel alive.”

The second surprise was The Houston Chronicle, in an article from 2002, reporting that “tens of thousands of protesters marched in a handful of Egyptian cities Sunday, calling to President Hosni Mubarak to aid the Palestinians.”
Pair this with the third find, Mr. Peres Steps Down, from a 1986 Washington Post.

It reads: “The Israelis like to think of themselves as running a light-handed occupation, but a rare poll of East Jerusalem and the West Bank indicates that 93 percent of the resident Palestinians favor the PLO, 78 percent approve of ‘acts of force” against the occupation, and 71 percent favor the PLO’s Yasser Arafat as their leader. King Hussein’s rating was 3.4.”

The fourth find was from Irna, Iran’s official news media. It is from March 27, 2003. It only came up in the LexisNexis search because “Mubarak” must be like “Smith” over there (as the joke goes), and “said” is misspelled as “aid.” As in, “Iraqi Health Minister Umeed Madhat Mubarak said in Baghdad Thursday that 215 Iraqi civilians had been killed or wounded during the US and British air raids on Wednesday. Addressing a press conference, he said that all the casualties are civilians and the bombarded areas were mostly residential areas. The war victims are mostly children, women and elderly people, he added. … Expressing his concern over water pollution in several Iraqi cities, he said the water of these cities has been polluted as a result of the US and British bombardments and there is fear of different diseases breaking out among the citizens of those cities. Mubarak further accused the US and Britain of making use of the banned weapons of mass destruction.”

The earliest article from this search that was of interest was from AP. March 8, 1985,Egyptian President Seeking $870 Million Aid Hike.

It reads: “The Egyptian request also comes at a time when Egypt is $285 million behind in repaying loans to buy U.S. arms … a situation the Reagan administration says could lead to a total aid cutoff in four to five months.”

But I had a date stuck in my mind. March 27, 2003. Was the Iraqi Health Minister just making shit up? Is it in the public record? What else happened on March 26, 2007, that such things were said by the Iraqi Health Minister on March 27th?

For one thing, March 27th was the day that the Nasdaq Stock Market “denied Al Jazeera‘s request to broadcast from its trading floor,” according to PBS; and this “just one day after the New York Stock Exchange informed the Arabic-language network that it was no longer permitted to broadcast live reports from its trading floor.”

According to the BBC, on March 26, 2003, “Three huge explosions rock[ed] the centre of Baghdad as the Iraqi capital comes under renewed aerial bombardment.”

According to Reuters, on March 26, 2003, “A few hours and a simple internet search was all it took for U.N. inspectors to realize documents U.S. and British claims proved that Iraq had revived its nuclear weapons program were crude fakes, a U.N. official said.”

According to President Bush’s address at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, on March 26, 2003, “Our pilots and cruise missiles have struck vital military targets with lethal precision. … Day by day, the Iraqi people are closer to freedom.”

I was reminded of Poe’s story, The Masque of the Red Death. “The ‘Red Death’ had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal – the redness and the horror of blood. … But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends … The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think.”

In an article from The Detroit News, printed March 26, 2003, we find that Saddam received key to city of Detroit in 1980. A mildly nostalgic priest who presented the key is quoted as saying, “Now, you remember that in those days, Saddam Hussein was a puppet. He was an American puppet.” Saddam brought gifts, of course, to the Motor City. “A check for $200,000 that paid of the church’s debt, with enough left over to build a parish center. ‘Today we use the center to teach American citizenship classes,’ [the priest] said.’”

My searches culminated in the Chicago Tribune‘s March 26, 2007 issue, at once brazenly violent and wonderfully sane. Of the latter is Clarence Page’s Shocking and awesome euphimisms, in which he writes of the heinous language of war like “collateral damage” (pointing out that Timothy McVeigh used that term about the Oklahoma City bombing victims), “friendly fire,” “search-and-clear,” and finally “shock and awe.”

Although defensive of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings because, “Such are the judgment calls one must make in real-world war,” Page said what remains mostly unsayable even today in the world where the Afghan war is “The Good War”: “In fact, once you take away the spin, shock and awe is nothing new. When our enemies do it, we call it by its original name: terrorism.”

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In Lives and Treasure

On Wednesday, March 19, 2008, an estimated 100–200 people held up banners and, eventually, traffic in the Syracuse, NY rain to protest the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.1 More generally, as organizer Michael P. Pasquale announced through an electronic-megaphone to the crowd assembled in downtown’s Clinton Square, they were there to protest Truman, Eisenhower, Vietnam & Kennedy, Ford & Indonesia. “The story of the last 225 years.”

After this speech opening the afternoon’s events, protestors participated in some anti-war chants and the Syracuse Peace Council’s players performed their first in a series of well-intentioned sketches (a constant at such functions). Then demonstrators marched to the hovel outside the James Hanley Federal Building.

Outside the Federal Building were chants of, “What do we want? / Peace! / When do we want it? / Now!” Of the many people present who brought homemade drums and sticks one of them pounded a steady beat, presumably to encourage a vigorous patriotic stride and vocal exuberance. At least four television crews, by my estimate, were present and rolling; none of the cameras were marked by a logo or number. All three local television affiliates of the major networks ran stories on the demonstration at 6:00 and 11:00pm that evening. I counted, in the merchantless stoa beneath the massive building, four other people (non professionals) with cameras of different sorts recording. (And most everyone had a still camera.) Passing motorists honked their support. It was a wet, perhaps 40 (°F) afternoon in the Salt City.

Another in the series of sketches from the Peace Council’s players in which characters like War Profiteer and Congress Person and Embedded Reporter beat an Octopus, representing War and Death, to death.

On Washington Street, as marchers headed towards the military recruitment center on Salina Street, Syracuse Peace Council organizer Jessica Maxwell wondered aloud, “Maybe somebody wants to ask the men in the van who are videotaping everyone in this march who they are and who they work for.” A female marcher does stop to ask but I was unable find her later. I overhear that the men in the van claimed to be taping the march for a posting on YouTube, reason unspecified. As of this writing it has not been located there.

A number of groups are represented by the signs carried. West Point Grads Against the War. Syracuse City Neighbors. Syracuse Eagles. The march moved from the recruitment center to positions on either side of North Salina Street, hoping for the attention of the historic Syracuse Savings Bank (home to the Salt City’s first elevator), whose present tenant is the Bank of America.
As I left the men in the van and military recruitment center behind and approached the bank, a hard times looking man asked me, “So what do I need to do to join this little march?” I provided a suggestion he immediately followed.

The fourth and what I thought of as the final stop of the march was on West Genesee Street, in front of Syracuse’s Post Standard. The War Octopus was duly bludgeoned to death by the Council’s players. Jessica Maxwell declared she had, “Gotten into the habit of reading license plates” and encouraged the crowd that, “What’s important is what you do tomorrow” regarding ending the US conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Commenting on the impending November elections, she asked, “How many elections have we had?” and, “Why do we continue to ask [elected representatives] to lie to us over and over again?”

After an announcement of “Thanks” to the marchers who attended, an invitation was extended to continue the day’s proceedings if one was inclined. Several protesters began drumming on their buckets. A chant of, “End the War!” Beat, beat. “End the War!” Beat, beat. It occurred to me that there is no such thing as a free press when that press’ governance is a daily Occupier and Aggressor and this news does not make the top headline every day in explicit terms.

After a quarter-hour the protest’s participants relocated from West Genesee Street to South Salina, around the corner. Three policemen stood outside the Bank of America a block south. Perhaps 10 of the individuals in the remaining 150 protestors were wearing a face-covering garment of some sort; they appeared to be in their late teens and one displayed a badge on his backpack advertising the Northeast Anarchist Network. Several people attempted to rope off Salina Street at Fayette with very thin and flimsy rope, which several cars drove under and over before the protestors largely emptied the sidewalks and filled Salina Street. The One Way traffic stopped between James Street and Willow Street. (Later, the police would block off Salina at Herald Place two blocks further north.) Initially, a few automobiles are inconvenienced but quickly turned around and gone, leaving the rainy block to, at its largest, roughly 150 protesters.

Chants of, “1, 2, 3, 4 / We don’t want your racist war!” Police sirens sounded in the distance but none were immediately dispatched to Salina and James. Several presumably Post Standard employees stood on the large, raised patio outside the paper’s offices, peering at the crowd and speaking into phones. Some take pictures. They are joined by several policemen, one who sets about making a visual recording of everyone on the block.

The Syracuse Peace Council’s theme for the day’s protest was, “No Business As Usual During War & Occupation.” And as a Syracuse native for 20 years I could bear witness that it was not usual business when a large group of people stood in the street chanting, “Rise Up!” Beat beat beat. “Syracuse!” Beat beat beat. Organizer Rita Gabaccia said over the megaphone, “In solidarity with the people of Iraq we raise our voices.” Then announced that the police “are willing to give up the peace of Salina Street. They don’t want to arrest us.” A chant of, “Whose streets?” Beat, beat. “Our streets!” Beat, beat. My feet became literally numb from the cold and rain. A woman entered the First Niagara bank across Salina, making a face at the protestors which communicated something like, “What a bunch of dupes.” Or was it Dopes?

Many horns honked in support. Blue uniformed policemen all around; in addition to at least “two un-uniformed policemen” in the demonstrators’ midst as well, as reported loudly by Maxwell earlier. Gabaccia reiterated Pasquale’s earlier sentiments, stating, “War is terrorism.” She declares the community’s desire for the United States to end the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, saying, “They are not just brown people on the other side of the Earth.” Perhaps directed at the Post, Gabaccia said of the war’s coverage in the mainstream media, “We don’t see coffins [of killed soldiers]. We don’t see the numbers. The soldiers who commit suicide we sure as hell don’t see.”
At 1:05pm I am convinced that the authorities are just waiting for everyone to get cold and go home. A few individuals watched the noisy Salina Street proceedings from doorways and windows. Chant of, “Who do you protect? / Who do you serve?”, apparently another jab at the Post. Early afternoon traffic was steady on James. The television reporters looked anxious but professional. Two old men held up a sign reading “Matthew 5:9.” Gabaccia announced that, “as we can see, the police have brought over the Paddywagons”, which I have heard called Honeybuckets. “We are not criminals,” Gabaccia declared. “We are not rioters.”

At 1:46pm two vehicles, one larger than the other, both reading “Syracuse Police Prisoner Transport” were parked a dozen feet beyond the protestors. Chant of, “Stop the War! / Stop the War!” The police announced from the patio of the Post that the protestors are “blocking traffic. By order of the Syracuse Police Department, clear the road or be arrested.” Chant of, “Who do you protect? / Who do you serve?”

Protestors were arrested at 1:56pm. 22 in all. Many of those not arrested, who had left the street to stand on the sidewalk, continued chants of, “What do we want? / Justice! / When do we want it? / Now!” during the arrests. Then a singing of “Solidarity Forever” while the policeman who’d been recording the crowd from the Post’s patio recorded those on the sidewalk, face-to-lens. The police lined the sidewalks as arrests were made, like a row of dikes. Off went the Paddywagons. As the Post obtusely reported later that evening, “By about 2:15 p.m., protesters who were not arrested began leaving the area. At 2:55, evidence of the day’s protest had disappeared.” And, however snide the Post, it did at least cover the story sitting right on its doorstep.

The other distinct response to the five-year anniversary of the Iraq War can be seen in the day’s coverage from the BBC, NPR, The Guardian and Agence France Presse, all of whom featured President Bush’s “Global War on Terror” speech given the afternoon of March 19 at the Pentagon to “the men and women of the defense department.”4 (Some are mentioned by name, including Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter, who know each other well from halcyon days in Honduras, kicking butts and taking names through Battalion 316.)
The decision by media outlets to feature another administration speech about “victory” in Iraq was well articulated in Guy Raz’s report for NPR.5 The speech, Raz states, “was less about marking the fifth year of an unpopular war and more about marking the first year that violence has declined and some progress has been made.” One might wonder, then, if this speech has any relevance at all in the real world. In support of “some progress” Raz cites, outside of rhetoric, only Bush’s comments about the Anbar Awakening (pro-US Sunnis armed and paid for, momentarily, by the Occupiers only because the Awakening hates Al-Qaeda more than they hate us6) before seguing into quotes of rhetoric from Barack Obama about the “Iraqis’ [need] to take responsibility for their own future.” It is evident that Raz (if not Obama) is not in the real world in which the United States is an Aggressive, Invading and Occupying force in Iraq. Also evident is that Raz (Obama, too?), a sincere chucklehead, is not only absent from but uninterested in the real world.

“The exact toll,” Raz’s report states, “in Iraqi lives, though unknown, is estimated to be many times greater [than the US toll of 4,000].” This is understatement to the point of flattery. One must assume that Raz is getting his numbers from the incorrigible Iraq Body Count Group, which is where The Guardian pulls its numbers from as well, placing Iraqi deaths at 89,322.7 The embarrassing and shameful underestimates of the death toll in Iraq used by these (and many other) media outlets was well explained by David Edwards and David Cromwell in an October 2007 essay. “IBC [Iraq Body Count],” they write, “does not monitor ‘Iraqi deaths’; it monitors media reports of Iraqi civilian deaths as a result of violence. IBC does not monitor reports of war-related deaths due to disease, lack of food, water and medicine, and so on.”8 The most recent study from the Oxford Research Bureau estimates 1.3 million Iraqi deaths.9 (For math enthusiasts, 1.3 million is 325 times greater than 4,000. “Many times” indeed, Guy!) Beyond deaths, a September 2007 UN report stated that “60,000 Iraqis are being forced to leave their homes every month by continuing violence,” claiming there were “well over 4 million displaced Iraqis”, 2.2 million of them within their native land, now home of the brave.10 And to revel in the didactic fact that Iraq is a desolate wasteland, it grabbed Silver on the Fund for Peace’s 2007 “Failed State Index”, between Sudan and Somalia, the latter taking Bronze.11

The Associated Press story covering the anti-war demonstrations on the 19th was largely reprinted by the New York Times and others. AP’s Sarah Karush wrote that, “organizers set up a 2-mile display of about 4,000 T-shirts in Cincinnati . . . while in Louisville, KY., demonstrators lined rows of military boots, sandals and children’s tennis shoes on the steps of a courthouse.”12 Just based on their merit as oddities these acts may deserve more attention than another victory speech from the White House, though I suppose if it’s not happening at the Pentagon then it just isn’t happening.
So the public is told what the powerful think. The BBC’s headline read: “Bush says Iraq invasion was right.” From AFP: “Five years on, Bush vows victory in Iraq.” The Guardian: “Bush: The battle in Iraq is noble, it is necessary and it is just.” NPR: “On War Anniversary, Bush Sees Victory in Iraq.”13
The public is also told what they themselves are thinking. The AP article claimed that the “Iraq war has been unpopular both abroad and in the United States,” then stated that an AP-Ipsos poll from December 2007 “showed that growing numbers think the U.S. is making progress and will eventually be able to claim some success in Iraq.” What “making progress” is and means is unclear, though perhaps a Los Angeles Times article from 21 January 2008 might enlighten. “In the last ten days, the military has dropped nearly 100,000 pounds of explosives . . . on the farmland of Arab Jabour south of Baghdad.”14

As per what the US population is thinking, a USA Today/Gallup Poll from February 2008 found that 53% of Americans believed the administration “deliberately misled the American public about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction”, up from 31% in 2003. This same 2008 poll found that 60% believed the US should “stick to a withdrawal timetable” “regardless of what is going on in Iraq at the time.”15

Both Raz’s NPR story and President Bush’s speech assign to the public the dissenting opinion they are allowed to have. From Bush: “There is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it.” Or later he quips that, “War critics can no longer credibly argue that we’re losing in Iraq – so now they argue the war costs too much.” This latter assigns two arguments and claims to refute both, though neither objection is serious in a moral argument. Instead, opposition to “the supreme international crime” of Aggression which “contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”16 is pedestrian and obvious. Participating in Invasion and Occupation are problems in and of themselves, and are wrong no matter who “wins” or “loses” or whatever it “costs.”

Raz claims that, “On the eve of the invasion, more than 70 percent of the American public backed the decision. But five years on, according to a Washington Post poll, most Americans say the war wasn’t worth it.” Of course “wasn’t worth it” is different from “fundamentally wrong and immoral.”29 The wording of the question in the poll itself is misleading. It implies that Aggression, Invasion and Occupation could, in other circumstances, be “worth it.” The question also implies that everyday US citizens benefit from wars of conquest as those in power do. Howard Zinn quoted Hans Koning to make the point. “For all the gold and silver stolen [from the New World] and shipped to Spain did not make the Spanish people richer. It gave their kings an edge in the balance of power for a time . . . and all that was left was a deadly inflation, a starving population, the rich richer, the poor poorer, and a ruined peasant class.”17

It seems likely Raz would have used another Washington Post poll from 2003 to support the claim that “more than 70 percent of the American public backed the decision”18 to go to war in Iraq. It is emblamatic of the whole to note this particluar poll which, the Post tells us, “was conducted Monday evening, March 17 [2003], following President Bush’s speech to the nation.” This speech warned fearful Americans that, “The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated objectives and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other.”19 For months Americans suffered “a propaganda campaign . . . launched to depict Saddam Hussein as an imminent threat to the United States and to insinuate that he was responsible for the 9-11 atrocities and was planning others.”20 The result, not difficult to guess, was that the campaign “soon drove American public opinion off the global spectrum.” That opinion has now somewhat settled at a comfortable 30 percent approval rating for the administration while an October 2007 Washington Post poll found that 70 percent of “Americans oppose fully funding President Bush’s $190 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”21

A January 2006 poll from Maryland University’s Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) could prove useful to those outside the Pentagon. The poll found that, among Iraqis, “The major source of urgency for [US] withdrawal [from Iraq] is the feeling, especially among Sunnis, that it is offensive for their country to be occupied.”22 This bit of common sense has an authority that cost, as Bush’s speech went, “in lives and treasure” pales beside it. The poll, helpfully, goes on to report that, “A secondary reason [for the urgency for a US withdrawal] is that US forces attract more attacks and make the violence worse.” But, to paraphrase novelist John Knowles, who ever cared what citizens thought about their country?

Another trend in the news sources who opted to cover the White House and not the people it represents were claims that both Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton “have pledged to end the war.” NPR reported that Clinton “if elected, will begin to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 6o days.”23 (And if she is not elected? She will, presumably, along with Obama, vote for every appropriations bill that comes her way.) It is not specified if this “withdrawal” will be a one-at-a-time operation or whether Clinton’s sentiments actually mean (though do not state) that she will end the illegal occupation of Iraq by the United States.

The Guardian’s story blithely reported, “Bush’s comments amounted to his most upbeat assessment of the war since his famous ‘mission accomplished’ speech on a US aircraft carrier in May 2003.” It is not clear whether the irony in this statement is apparent to The Guardian, though it may answer the question: Do reporters have any fun at these stuffy political speeches? Na’am! The writer of the above sentence was– as was I – absolutely enthralled with President Bush’s speech, which was often difficult to differentiate from a Social Studies textbook in many of our fine US high schools. “As they advanced,” Bush said, “our troops fought their way through sand storms so intense that they blackened the daytime sky.” Like the locusts in the plagues of Egypt who “darkened” the land?24 Or the fog (provided most presciently by the Lord) that helped General Washington and his troops escape the Battle of Long Island? Or like the “around the clock bombing raids designed to shatter the nerves and morale of the people of Kandahar” reported during the first days of bombing in Afghanistan in 2001?26

Bush continued, “Our troops engaged in pitched battles with the Fedayeen Saddam,” definitely a bad bunch of characters. The Fedayeen Saddam, Bush explains, were “death squads acting on the orders of Saddam Hussein that obeyed neither the conventions of war nor the dictates of conscience,” as we know Secretaries Negroponte and Winter have done all over Latin America and, now, the Middle East.27

In a surprising admission (yes?) to heinous crimes against civilians Bush continued, “These death squads hid in schools and hid in hospitals, hoping to draw fire against Iraqi civilians. They used women and children as human shields. They stopped at nothing in their efforts to prevent us from prevailing – but they couldn’t stop the coalition advance.” Boy, all those sandstorms and shields and the coalition still could not be stopped? Does this mean that the coalition killed the women and children shields to get to the death squads and kill them too? I suppose that when one country “has dropped nearly 100,000 pounds of explosives” in 10 days time on another country there will be no shields for anyone. There will be, what is it called?, collateral damage? Or was it extraordinary rendition? All of these euphemisms are confusing. It should suffice – for those inside and outside the Pentagon – that, as Bush claimed, the Iraq military “campaign will be studied by military historians for years to come.” And for those in Syracuse, Washington, San Francisco, Oberlin, Cincinnati, Louisville, Tampa Bay, Bangor, Chicopee, Palm Springs, Hartford, Miami, Albany, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles?28 Perhaps a “disorderly conduct” charge, their picture in a government photo album and a tonic from the real real world: Bush says Iraq invasion was right; vows victory in Iraq; the battle is noble, necessary, just. Storms so intense they blackened the daytime sky. Around the clock.

04.08

Works Cited
1. Nneka Nwosu. “17 arrested after anti-war protest.” Time Warner Cable. News
10 Now, Syracuse, NY. 19 March 2008. ; Ramirez III, Pedro, and Michele Reaves. “About 20 protesters arrested for blocking Salina Street.” Post Standard. 19 March 2008. ; WSTM-3 News. “Anti-war protests in Syracuse.” NBC. WSTM, Syracuse, NY. 19 March 2008. ; WSYR-9 News. “Police Arrest 22 at Syracuse Iraq War Protest.” ABC. Syracuse, NY. 19 March 2008. ; WTVH-5 News. “Anti-War Protest.” CBS. WTVH, Syracuse, NY. 19 March 2008. ;

4. George W. Bush. “President Bush Discusses Global War on Terror.” The Pentagon, Washington D.C. 19 March 2008.

5. Guy Raz. “On War Anniversary, Bush Sees Victory in Iraq.” NPR, 19 March 2008.

6. Juan Cole. “Top Ten Myths about Iraq 2007.” Znet, 27 December 2007. ; or see Michael Boyle’s “A new awakening.” Comment Is Free, Guardian, 12 July 2007. A brief excerpt: “The Anbar awakening, and related movements in neighbouring regions, should be seen as a movement towards Sunni self-governance, not as an embrace of the Iraqi state.”

7. Iraq Body Count Group. ; Ewen MacAskill. “Bush: The battle in Iraq is noble, it is necessary and it is just.” The Guardian, 20 March 2008.

8. David Edwards and David Cromwell. “Iraq Body Count: ‘A Very Misleading Exercise.’” Znet, 11 October 2007.

9. See Noam Chomsky’s address stating the Oxford Research Bureau’s (ORB) early 2008 estimate of Iraqi deaths. Chomsky notes that the study excludes “two of the most violent provinces, Karbala and Anbar” and that “there are over two million displaced within Iraq. Thanks to the generosity of Jordan and Syria, the millions of refugees who have fled the wreckage of Iraq aren’t totally wiped out. That includes most of the professional classes.” After five hours of searching the internet and media databases (not exhaustive but diligent) I have been unable to locate a citation of the ORB and its findings anywhere in the mainstream press, including BBC, NY Times, The Nation, AFP, The Guardian and several others.

10. United Nations Commission on Human Rights. “Statistics on Displaced Iraqis around the World.” September 2007.

11. The Fund for Peace. “Failed States Index Scores 2007.”

12. Sarah Karush. “”Protest mark 5th Anniversary of Iraq War.” Associated Press, 19 March 2007.

13. Agence France Presse. “Five years on, Bush vows victory in Iraq.” 19 March 2008. < http://www.afp.com/english/news/stories/newsmlmmd.28698e6a9 cf4b65fe11ee976c80f73f6.51.html>; BBC. “Bush says Iraq invasion was right.” 19 March 2008. ; for NPR see note #5; for The Guardian see note #7. In an interesting contrast, Al-Jazeera covered both the President’s speech and the protests in two seperate stories. See, “Arrests made at US war protests” and “Bush says Iraq surge is ‘working.’”
; < http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/7A676D32-86DF-4AE7-B35B-E7C82553F2F6.htm>

14. Ned Parker and Saif Rasheed. “In Anbar, Sunni rivalries surface.” Los Angeles Times, 21 January 2008. This LAT quote was found by the author in the most helpful “Bombs Away Over Iraq” by Tom Engelhardt. TomDispatch.com, 29 January 2008.

15. USA Today/Gallup Poll. February 2008. < http://www.pollingreport.com/ iraq.htm>

16. The words of US Justice Jackson at the Nuremberg trials, quoted in Noam Chomsky’s “’Good News,’ Iraq and Beyond.” Znet, 16 February 2008.

17. Hans Koning. Columbus: His Enterprise. Monthly Review Press, 1 January 1992. Koning quoted in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Harper Perennial, 1 April 2003.

18. “Washington Post-ABC News Poll: Bush’s Speech.” Washington Post, 18 March 2003.

19. George W. Bush. “President Says Saddam Hussein Must Leave Iraq Within 48 Hours.” Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation. The Cross Hall. 17 March 2003.

20. Noam Chomsky. Hegemony or Survival. Metropolitan Books, 4 November 2003.

21. Jon Cohen and Dan Balz. “Most in Poll Want War Funding Cut.” Washington Post, 2 October 2007.

22. PIPA/World Public Opinion. “Poll of Iraqis: Public Wants Timetable for US Withdrawal, but Thinks US Plans Permanent Bases in Iraq.” 31 January 2006.

23. For AFP see note #13 ; for NPR see note #5.

24. Exodus 10:15.

26. Cheney, Peter. “U.S. attacks on Taliban stronghold ‘a nightmare’.” Toronto Globe and Mail 4 Dec. 2001.

27. See Jim Lobe. “Congress Ignores ‘Dirty War’ Past of New Iraq Envoy.” Inter Press Service, 30 April 2004.

28. As most national news sources tended to play down the number of protests by limiting the locations reported – usually three or four in each article – one has to look at local news sources for each city or county to find reporting of the myriad demonstrations on 19 March 2008. For a very small sample, see notes #1,#12 and Veterans for Peace, “Veterans March Around the Nation.” 20 March 2008.

29. See Noam Chomsky’s “On the Kent/Jackson State Killings.” Delivered at Kent State, May 4, 2000.

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