Thursday, January 26, 2006

And the war drags on . . . (Indymedia Roundup)

In every war, some things are seen more clearly than others and are therefore reported more fully. The air war in Iraq is not one of them. American air power has been dominant in most of the modern wars, but bombing and strafing take place either completely out of sight or in areas not accessible to close observation by the press. Rarely does the military allow reporters to go along on combat sorties.
In the Vietnam War, some of the bombing was kept secret, such as the heavy raids in 1969-70 on North Vietnamese sanctuaries inside Cambodia, before that country was drawn full-bore into the war by the Nixon "incursion" in the spring of 1970. Military records were altered to make it appear that all this carpet bombing was carried out inside Vietnam.
Little is known or seen of the air part of the American war of today, in Iraq. One of the reasons is that the press, with less mobility because of security risks, has to be focused on what's happening on the ground, where the damage, human and material, is taking place. A more crucial reason is that the Pentagon and the CIA prefer to tell us as little as possible about air war operations.
Recently, but only in bits and pieces, military officials in Washington have acknowledged that after the U.S. and Britain withdraw the bulk of their ground troops, the American air component will be kept in the region to support the American-trained Iraqi ground forces who will be taking over the ground war. While the Pentagon doesn't say anything about increasing air power in Iraq, other military sources--speaking anonymously because the information is classified--confirm that the plans call for the air war to be beefed up and kept that way for years to come. These sources also point to Iran and its nuclear ambitions as a reason for keeping air power at a high-alert level in the region.

The above, noted by Micah, is from Sydney H. Schanberg's "The Unseen War in Iraq: When troops are cut, we'll still be bombing the hell out of the place" (The Village Voice). It's Thursday, time for indymedia roundup. One entry tonight and guess the topic?

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- "The War Drags On," words & music by Mick Softly, available on Donovan's CD Fairytale.

The war drags on. The invasion/occupation of Iraq continues. We're focused on Iraq and the homefront for this entry. Official military fatality count for the US? 2239 since the invasion began, 59 for this month of the occupation (this month thus far). Iraqi fatalities? No reliable numbers. The US figures are for troops who die while in Iraq as opposed to those who sustain injuries and die later. Such appears to be the case in our first highlight. Alabama notes an Associated Press article "Iraq war veteran's suicide a cry for helping others, friend says" (Alabama's Gadsen Times which will be one of two non-indymedia highlights for this post):

An Iraq war veteran's suicide earlier this month was a cry for helping others with post-traumatic stress disorder, his close friend says.
Douglas A. Barber, a 35-year-old truck driver, shot and killed himself on Jan. 16 with a shotgun as Lee County sheriff's deputies and two friends on the phone tried to talk him out of it.
Barber, who had an honorable discharge from the Army, had served with the Ohio National Guard's 1485th Transportation Company. He spent part of 2003 in Iraq, returning home ahead of his unit, Army officials said, and later moved from Ohio to Alabama. He had been approved for service-connected disability for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said Thursday.
Barber's best friend, Michael Teppig, told the Opelika-Auburn News in a story Thursday that Barber had problems dating back to childhood. But after he went to Iraq, his problems multiplied.

Turning to Iraq (we'll probably cross-cut throughout this entry), we zoom in on issues such as kidnapping. Rachel notes Brian Conley's "Hamas Calls For Jill Carroll's Release, and Other Things Outside the Mainstream Press" (Alive in Baghdad):

On Monday a top official of Hamas, Saeed Syam, called for the release of American journalist, Jill Carroll. "Hamas joins those who ask to release American citizen Jill Carroll. Hamas is against the kidnapping of innocent people, of foreigners who are guests in the Arab countries, and those who introduce humanitarians services and help for the Arab people -- and for any people in general -- especially when they are not interfering in internal Arab affairs. We have declared many times we are totally against kidnapping civilians."
Mr. Syam is the latest in a lengthening line of militant and anti-occupation leaders to oppose the kidnapping of Jill Carroll. Many of these groups have also condemned the kidnapping of Christian Peacemaker Team members in November of last year.
Despite the recurring and increasing calls by Sunni clerics and others, the mainstream press still has not bothered to question whether we can be certain that Sunni resistance groups are responsible for these kidnappings. Kidnappings have been a constant threat in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq, and they seem to be directed mainly by criminal elements, not resistance or insurgent forces.
Over the last three years we have repeatedly seen instances where those in leadership roles in Iraq have abused their power. It appears to be a running theme across Iraq's entire history. Recently however, corruption in Iraq’s governing agencies has been exceptionally bad.
In November it was finally released in the international press that agents of Iraq’s Interior Ministry
were engaging in torture of mainly Sunni Iraqis.
In October it was revealed that Rory Carrol, a correspondent for the Guardian,
was abducted by Shiite militia forces in Sadr city.
It is unfortunate that both Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists have failed to make clear the role of Iraqi Police or men posing as Iraqi Police, in the kidnapping of Mr. Carroll, who is not related to the Christian Science Monitor's reporter, Jill Carroll.
In September, it was revealed that one billion dollars appears to be have gone missing from the budget of Iraq's Ministry of Defense. The Indepedent reported Ali Allawi, Iraq's Finance Minister suggesting
"It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history."
The continuing failure of the mainstream press to properly grasp the risks for journalists in Iraq contributes to their risk. Furthermore, the failure of the mainstream press to treat the kidnapping, killing, and detention of Iraqi journalists with the same outrage as that reserved for Westerners such as Jill Carroll increases the division between Westerners and Iraqis and serves to inflame the anger and frustration of Iraqis with not only the direct representatives of the occupation, but all foreigners working in their country.

Still in Iraq, we turn to Gareth's highlight, also on kidnapping, Brian Whitaker and agencies'
"US frees five women, but denies deal with journalist's kidnappers" (The Guardian):

The US military freed five women detainees in Iraq yesterday, but officials denied any connection with the demands of kidnappers holding the American journalist Jill Carroll.
The women were delivered to the home of a senior Sunni Arab politician in Baghdad, where they were reunited with their families, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene. They were later driven away in taxis.
Ms Carroll, a freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, was abducted by armed men on January 7. Her kidnappers threatened to kill her unless all women prisoners were released. Their deadline passed on Friday and since then there has been no word on her fate.

Staying on the theme of imprisonment, but turning to the United States, Caleb notes Katie Quinn-Jacobs' "Mother and Activist, Clare Grady, Sentenced in Federal Court" (Common Dreams):

BINGHAMTON, New York - "As a mother who knows the preciousness of children, not just mine, but all children. I want the court to understand that before we walked into the recruiting station [March 17, 2003] a million people had already died in Iraq from U.S. imposed sanctions, half of them children," said Clare Grady as she testified at her sentencing today in Binghamton federal court.
Grady, one of the four non-violent peace activists known as the
St. Patrick's Four, was sentenced to six months of federal prison and ordered to pay her share of restitution for pouring her own blood on the posters, flag and walls of a military recruiting station outside Ithaca, NY on the eve of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, March 17th, 2003.
[. . .]
During the federal trial last fall, Grady informed the jury about her travel to Iraq before the war in 2002. She had met with a group of Iraqi mothers during the trip and spoke with them through an interpreter. After the women described the hardships of living under U.S. sanctions, they asked Grady about her own children. When she showed them a picture of her two daughters, the Iraqi women kissed the each of the girls in the photo before handing it back to her. Grady then asked the jury to consider "the love that's necessary to make that bridge."
The encounter with the Iraqi women was what drove Grady to carry photographs of mothers and children to the recruiting station during the act of civil disobedience that ultimately brought her, almost three years later, into federal court in Binghamton, NY. When Grady attempted to enter the photos as evidence for the jury during her federal trial, the judge denied her submission. But today in court, Judge McAvoy accepted a packet of 102 photographs with the names and ages of New York State military who had died in Iraq from Grady.

Ronald notes an article (by the same author) also on the St. Patrick's Four, Katie Quinn Jacobs' "Vietnam Vet and Civil Resister, Peter DeMott Sentenced in Federal Court" (Binghamton Indymedia):

Peter DeMott, a Vietnam veteran and civil resister, began his opening remarks at his sentencing in Binghamton federal court today by asking the court for a moment of silence to remember the dead who had perished in Iraq: both the American and Iraqi casualties. DeMott noted that thirty percent of the Iraqi dead are children. Judge Thomas J. McAvoy granted this request stating, "The Court will join you in a moment of silence because it is a good thing to do. I feel that loss deeply."
Ellen Grady, Peter DeMott's spouse, speaks about her husband's sentencing outside the federal courthouse.
DeMott, 59, was sentenced for two misdemeanor convictions arising out of an act of non-violent civil disobedience he took with three other activists (Daniel Burns, Clare Grady, Teresa Grady) on March 17, 2003. The four protesters are known as the St. Patrick’s Day Four. DeMott said that American civil disobedience has "helped to change unjust laws and realize a more just and equitable society" since the inception of the nation beginning with the Boston Tea Party, through the Underground Railroad, Women's Suffrage, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's.

The federal prosecutor, Miroslav Lovric, stated this morning, as he had yesterday at the sentencing of Daniel Burns, that DeMott and his colleagues lacked a sense of contrition for the crime that they had been found guilty of last September in federal court in Binghamton, NY. Lovric also made the argument before the Judge that because of the way DeMott's actions may encourage others, he should be punished for a term beyond the federal guidelines of 2-8 months.
Judge McAvoy sentenced DeMott to 4 months in federal prison and 4 months in community confinement. The judge explained that the community confinement term was assigned out of consideration for DeMott’s family. At present, DeMott is the health care proxy for an ailing family member.
On the courthouse steps, supporters of the St. Patrick’s Four held large banners that read "No Court Can Jail the Resistance" and "International Law Does Not Apply Here." Last September, Judge McAvoy prohibited the defendants from using the defense they had used to sway jurors in a state level court based on the Nuremberg Principles and Article VI, Section II of the US Constitution. The Four believe this ruling by the federal judge eliminated the legal grounds that the jury needed for full acquittal in their case.

For anyone late on this topic, from Democracy Now!:

Peace Activist Gets 6 Months in Jail For Recruiting Station Protest
In upstate New York, a peace activist has been sentenced to six months in jail for pouring blood inside a military recruiting station in March 2003 in order to protest the invasion of Iraq. The man, Daniel Burns, 45, was one of a group now known as the St. Patrick's Four. The other three members will also be sentenced this week.

We'll also note another item from Democracy Now! that Bill doesn't think got enough attention in the mainstream media.

U.S.: Insurgent Attacks in Iraq Increased by 30% in 2005
In Iraq, the U.S has admitted that insurgents carried out over 34,000 attacks during 2005. This marks an increase of nearly 30 percent over the previous year. Despite the spike, U.S. officials have attempted to put a positive spin on the news. A military spokesperson said the numbers "tells me the coalition and the Iraqi forces have been very aggressive in taking the fight to the enemy."

While peace activists go off to jail, others don't. Democracy Now! has covered the St. Patrick's Four in depth and noted them again today with "U.S. Soldier Convicted of Murder Receives No Jail Time While Nonviolent Antiwar Protesters Sentenced to Six Months in Prison."

The St. Patrick's Four are brave and they're not alone in saying "enough." Durham Gal notes Patrick O'Neill's "The CIA -- and 14 protesters -- on trial in Johnston" (The Raleigh-Durham Independent):

If a house is on fire and its occupants are crying "Help us," it would not be a crime for a would-be rescuer to kick in the door to save those inside. In legalese, that's known as the defense of necessity: An insignificant infraction of the law is overlooked if the lawless act is done to prevent a greater evil.
So went the argument of myself and 13 others who went to trial Jan. 5 for trespass in Johnston County District Court. Last Nov. 18, a group of anti-torture activists, including Voices in the Wilderness founder Kathy Kelly of Chicago and my 17-year-old daughter, Bernadette Rider O'Neill, trespassed on the property of Aero Contractors, Ltd., a Johnston County company that maintains and provides pilots for two corporate jets the Central Intelligence Agency has used for "extraordinary rendition," or torture by proxy (see "Getting an education (and a mug shot) at the CIA's Johnston County base" in the Nov. 23 edition;
The 14 of us had gone to Aero's Johnston County Airport offices to hand-deliver a citizens' indictment for crimes against international law and U.S. law and for violating the Geneva Convention and the "U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment."
With help from two expert witnesses, we argued in court that our minor infraction, trespass, was necessary to call attention to Aero's far more grievous criminal activities.

Who else is fighting? Quite a few. As peace activists are spied upon, many are saying enough, including students. Cindy notes "UC Students Demand Answers about Spying Scandal" (Santa Cruz Indy Media):

UCSC Administration appears willing to collaborate with students Santa Cruz, CA - Members of Students Against War (SAW) met with the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) Chancellor Denice Denton and other senior officials Tuesday to discuss the Pentagon spying scandal and the future of free speech on the UCSC campus.
In December of 2005, a 400-page document obtained by MSNBC revealed, amongst many things, that the Pentagon spied on 10 peaceful college protests. UC Santa Cruz's counter-recruitment protest of April 5, 2005, organized by SAW, was the only one of these 'incidents' labeled both "credible" and a "threat."
It was also the only college-related 'incident' to be spied on by the Army's 902nd Military Intelligence Group. In the Tuesday meeting between students and administrators, the foremost of the concerns addressed was the possible university involvement in undercover surveillance of student activities.
SAW presented the administrators with a 34-page document detailing many of the suspected incidents of covert surveillance, intimidation and first amendment violations that students had experienced on campus in the past year.
Incidents ranged from police infiltration of protests and meetings to students being singled out due to their political activity. To verify these allegations, students proposed that the UCSC Administration conduct an internal investigation of campus and local officials that may have been divulging students' personal information or releasing information on political activity to local or federal authorities.
The students also sought the support of the administration in any follow-up actions. Furthermore, SAW reiterated a request for the Administration to join the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR), currently involved in the FAIR v. Rumsfeld case, which would overturn the controversial Solomon Amendment -- a law that limits the University's ability to prevent discrimination by mandating military recruitment on campus at the risk of losing federal funding.
By limiting Universities' options, the law restricts important 1st Amendment rights. Chancellor Denton promised to follow up on all the issues presented, which SAW members pledged to ensure. "UC Santa Cruz has long been a bastion of freedom of speech and campus activism and we are hopeful that the administration will do everything in their power to keep it that way," said second-year student, Kot HordyƱski, who was present at the meeting.

Moving back to the reality of life in Iraq under the occupation, Doug notes this from Daily Iraq Monitor (Iraq Dispatches):

Al Sharqiyah:
The Iraqi police today said that the commando forces affiliated with the Interior Ministry killed by mistake Shaykh Karim Jasim, Imam of Al-Bukhari Mosque in Samarra, north of Baghdad. A source noted that the accident took place this morning when the commandos opened fire in a bid to disperse a car queue that was trying to pass through a checkpoint at the southern entrance of the city.
Al-Iskandariyah city police found a blindfolded and handcuffed dead body in the city, south of Baghdad. In Al-Musayyib, near Al-Iskandariyah, the police said they found another blindfolded and handcuffed dead body, which was thrown into the Euphrates River near the city. The body exhibited signs of a gunshot wound to the head.

Brenda notes that as the country continues to sour on the illegal war, "we're more ready to ask questions about the mis-administration." She notes "Of presidents and precedents" (Metro Times Detroit):

Last week's lawsuit by the ACLU seeking to halt the National Security Agency's formerly secret no-warrant domestic wiretap program could, conceivably, have been filed in any U.S. district court. So why was the Eastern District of Michigan chosen as the place to fight this crucial legal battle?
Michael Steinberg, legal director of the Michigan ACLU, tells News Hits that, at least in part, this particular court was selected for "symbolic" reasons.
The symbol Steinberg refers to is a case that dates back to the 1970s, when the United States was locked in another unpopular war being run by another president whose administration displayed a frightening disregard for the Bill of Rights. The issue achieved landmark status in a trial involving John Sinclair and other members of the radical White Panther Party accused of conspiring to bomb a government building in Ann Arbor. Presiding over the case was then-U.S. District Court Judge Damon Keith.
During the trial, according to the Web site maintained by Wayne State University's Reuther Library, it was revealed that the feds had wiretapped the phone of at least one defendant without first getting a warrant.
As with the current case, the administration -- Richard M. Nixon was calling the White House home back in those days -- contended then that the action was needed to protect "national security." It is one of the justifications being trotted out anew by the Bush administration as it attempts to justify what many see as a clear violation of the law.

Yes, bullies do love to hide behind "national security." Nixon loved to use it and so does the Bully Boy. Chances are Bully Boy's claims are as valid as Tricky Dick's were. And what happened to Nixon? What, in a just world, would happen to Bully Boy? Joe e-mails to note Steven T. Jones' "The case for impeachment: It's not just for radicals anymore" (San Francisco Bay Guardian):

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, held a Jan. 14 town hall meeting back home in San Francisco. It's the sort of thing congressional representatives do routinely, and in safe districts it's often more of a pep rally and love fest than anything else.
But on this day Pelosi was quickly confronted by a new political reality.
Antiwar protesters have already been dogging Pelosi for some time now over her failure to push Democrats to support withdrawal from Iraq. About 30 activists wielding antiwar signs filed into the Marina Middle School auditorium shortly after Pelosi's presentation began, first lining the walls, then moving up to stand right in front of the stage.
But the real eruption came when a questioner listed several war-related Bush misdeeds and asked, "Are these not high crimes and misdemeanors?"
Both of the city's dominant political factions -- the radical lefties and the loyal Democrats -- went nuts, the room filling with sustained applause and chants of "Impeach! Impeach!"
Pelosi resisted this call for radical change. "For those of you concerned about these issues," she told the crowd after the roar had died down, "I urge you to channel your energies into the 2006 elections."
But outside the beltway, in congressional districts all over America, the "I" word is moving out of the margins. In the wake of the revelation that federal officials have been illegally eavesdropping on American citizens without required warrants -- which President George W. Bush not only admitted approving, but promised to continue under his expansive view of executive power -- has propelled talk of impeachment into the political mainstream.
Although political leaders and major media outlets have been slow to pick up on the trend, national polls now show a majority of Americans support an impeachment inquiry.

The call is coming from us, not from the elected "leaders." (Real leaders in Congress, genuine ones like John Conyers, are being leaders on this.) As the Times backs off from the NSA story by printing spin as "fact" (when reporters know better), Micah again notes The Village Voice. This time Jarrett Murphy's "Who's Watching?:"

The Voice reported last month that lawyers who have for decades challenged NYPD surveillance of activist groups are taking issue with a new police policy that allows widespread videotaping of political expression ("The Spying Game," December 13). A few days later The New York Times revealed videotape evidence of undercover cops not only watching political events like Critical Mass rallies, but also participating in and even manipulating them.
This news of more aggressive local snooping came amid revelations that federal surveillance had also reached previously unknown dimensions:
The National Security Agency has eavesdropped in the United States on an unknown number of phone calls and e-mails and analyzed traffic involving even more transmissions.
The FBI has monitored groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Greenpeace, and Catholic Workers (a group that, according to an FBI memo uncovered by the ACLU, "advocated peace with a Christian and semi-communistic ideology").
A database created by the Pentagon's TALON (Threat and Local Observation Notice) system listed several protests, including a Quaker meeting in Florida, as "suspicious incidents."
For anti-war groups in the city, the revelations come at a critical time: The third anniversary of the Iraq invasion is approaching, and polls suggest the public is turning against U.S. military involvement there, so it's an important moment for enlisting new supporters. For groups like Time's Up!, the newly exposed tactics signal an escalation in a long battle.
To all activists, merely the news of these aggressive tactics can have a chilling effect. The question facing each group is whether and how to react.
Defenders of increased surveillance routinely say that the 9-11 attacks ushered in a new reality. But law enforcement has waded into these waters before. FBI agents infiltrated and disrupted political groups in the '60s and '70s as part of COINTELPRO. In the last days of segregation, Mississippi's Sovereignty Commission spied on civil rights meetings. For decades, "red squads" in places like Chicago, Detroit, and New York hound-ed local dissidents. When these activities were exposed, lawsuits and laws established new rules for gathering intelligence--and experienced activists began to devise ways to neutralize government espionage.

Finally, we've noted this in the gina & krista round-robins but Keesha says we haven't noted it here:

In large cities and town squares across the country, we will rally one hour before Bush's address. At 9:00 PM let the world hear us as we symbolically drown out Bush's lies bring your own noise - drums, pots and pans, musical instruments - your voice. Let taxi horns blare and church bells ring, as we bring our own state of the union message: BUSH STEP DOWN!
Find a protest in your area.

That's sponsored by the World Can't Wait. People are dying. How long will this war drag on? As long as we let it. The world can't wait. Iraq can't wait, the United States, England, go down the list. And it effects the entire globe. It effects where monies go (and for what). It effects aid. It tears and wears at the world's soul. The World Can't Wait. The St. Patrick's Four stood up. Students Against War are standing up. We can too.