Sunday, January 22, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Up to 100 demonstrators from Nottingham Student Peace Group and Nottingham Stop the War forced Tony Blair to sneak into Labour's national policy forum meeting through the back door last Saturday.
We made good use of local knowledge of the campus geography to outwit a massive police presence round Nottingham University's East Midlands conference centre.
The protest got within ten metres of the front entrance while Tony Blair addressed the meeting.
Insiders later told us that our chants of "Troops out of Iraq, Blair out of Nottingham" and "What's Blair talking? Nonsense!" (in honour of Walter Wolfgang, who was ejected from Labour's annual conference last year) could be heard clearly during Blair's speach.
To achieve this we had to sit down in the face of various police attempts to move us to their "designated protest area".
The whole meeting was surrounded by incredible secrecy, and even members of the Labour Party were only told that there was going to be "an important speaker" at the forum.
With barely 24 hours to go, we heard that Blair was coming, and the demonstration was organised by text messages and e-mails.
Nottingham Stop the War is already selling coach tickets for the national demonstration on 18 March, and both of Nottingham's universities are organising their own coaches as well.
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The above, noted by Pru, is from John Shemeld's "Blair flees protest over Iraq" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker). Tony Blair on the run, Tony Blair on the run . . . (As Paul McCartney and Wings might put it.)

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.

A member sent the above in asked that we note it. It's "The War Drags On" and Donovan did record it (Fairytale is one of Donovan's CDs that you can find it on; also features Donovan's cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Universal Soldiers," the Donovan penned "Colours" and more); however, the information on the website the member found the lyrics on is incorrect about who wrote "The War Drags On," it wasn't Donovan. It was written by Mick Softly. ( mistakenly credits authorship to Donovan.)

The war does drag on. It's Sunday and we're focusing on Iraq for this entry covering news from outside the US mainstream media.

Fatality toll for US troops in Iraq (official count) stands at 2225 since the invasion began and at 45 for this month of the occupation. (31,676 is Iraq Body Count's current estimate for civilian fatalities in Iraq. The number's probably a great deal higher since they base their estimates upon press reports.)

We'll start with Lynda's highlight, "US officer guilty in Iraq abuse case" (Al Jazeera):

A US Army officer has been found guilty of negligent homicide in the death of an Iraqi general during interrogation at a detention camp.
The jury of six Army officers convicted Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr in the suffocation death of Iraqi Major General Abid Hamad Mawhush.
However, they found him not guilty on the more serious charges of assault and murder, which could have seen him given a life sentence.
Prosecutors accused Welshofer of using harsh techniques to try to get information from Mowhoush, describing them as "torture."
He was accused of placing Mawhush head-first in a sleeping bag, covering his mouth and sitting on his chest during an interrogation in November 2003.

As you read the article (or if you read it), you'll note the defense's strategy including that Welshofer believed that Abid Hamad Mawhush, the deceased, had important information. Well, if you're interrogating someone, you'll always believe that, won't you?

So how are things going in Iraq?

From Daily Iraq Monitor (via Iraq Dispatches):

In Ramadi, US troops stormed Al-Qadisiyah Civil Defence Centre in Al-Ta'mim district in Al-Anbar Governorate, western Iraq. Al-Anbar civil defence director said that the US troops had stormed the center for the third time in 24 hours, noting that the US troops beat the guards of the centre and moved them outside the building before storming it.

Brent, who noted that above, wrote "Hearts and mind, huh?" A sentimentent that could also apply to Terrance highlight, "Third Reuters Iraq journalist freed by US troops" (Reuters):

The U.S. military freed an Iraqi journalist who works for Reuters on Sunday after holding him for nearly eight months without charge.
Samir Mohammed Noor was the third journalist working for Reuters to be freed from military custody after two others were released a week ago. At least two journalists for other international media organizations are still being held.
Noor, a 30-year-old freelance television cameraman, spent time in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison and lately at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq; he was arrested at his home in the violent northern city of Tal Afar in early June during a general search of his neighborhood by Iraqi and U.S. troops.
"We are glad that all journalists working for Reuters in Iraq are now free," said Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger.
"We are concerned, however, that it has taken so long -- nearly eight months in the case of Samir -- to secure their release, despite a lack of credible evidence against them."

And the elections (or "elections") did have an impact. Polly notes Marcus Tanner's "Upsurge of Sunni violence follows election results" (The Independent of London):

A bomb struck the motorcade of President Jalal Talabani and at least 11 others were killed in a widely predicted upsurge of Sunni violence following the release of last month's controversial Iraqi election results.
The road side bomb wounded five members of the President's staff late on Friday night, 75 miles south of the oil city of Kirkuk, as they drove back to the capital from the Kurdish region in the north. President Talabani was not present.
Elsewhere, 11 Iraqis, including an army major, three policemen and three butchers, were killed in a separate bomb blasts and in a drive-by shooting. Yesterday's bloodshed almost equalled Thursday's high death toll, when 15 Iraqis were killed in bombings in Baghdad.

Skip notes "Bodies of 23 Iraqi police found" (The Australian Herald):

POLICE discovered the bodies of 23 police recruits who were part of a group of 35 killed after being ambushed in a rebel area north of Baghdad last week, a police official said overnight.The recruits were being driven to Samarra on Tuesday when they were stopped by gunmen near Tarmiya, said Colonel Emad Mohammed. One wounded man told police he was the sole survivor of a group of 15 thrown into a well and sprayed with bullets.
On Sunday Colonel Mohsen Jassim, chief of police of Salaheddine province, said the bodies of 23 recruits had been discovered. The 12 other bodies were found last week.

Finally, Pru notes Simon Basketter's "Wrong people on trial after US plot to bomb Al Jazeera" (Great Britain's The Socialist Worker):

The attempt to cover up George's Bush's plan to bomb the Arabic television channel Al Jazeera means that two men will face trial next week for allegedly breaking the Official Secrets Act.
Civil servant David Keogh and Leo O'Connor, a researcher who worked for former British MP Tony Clarke, face a preliminary hearing on Tuesday of next week.
Keogh also faces a second charge under secrecy laws which prohibit information disclosures that "damage the capability of the armed forces".
The Daily Mirror reported last year that a memo of a meeting between George Bush and Tony Blair in April 2004 detailed a proposal by Bush to bomb Al Jazeera.
The Bush-Blair meeting took place when Whitehall officials, intelligence officers, and British military commanders were expressing concern over the effect of the scale of the US assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah.
Pictures of the attack shown on Al Jazeera had infuriated US generals.
The story of Bush's proposal was dismissed as "outlandish" by the White House. Blair denied receiving details of any US proposal to bomb Al Jazeera.
However an unnamed Whitehall source let slip to the media the idea that Bush's proposal had been a joke -- confirming that the conversation took place.
A foreign office document leaked in May 2004 said, "Heavy handed US military tactics in Fallujah and Najaf some weeks ago have fuelled both Sunni and Shia opposition to the coalition, and lost us much public support inside Iraq."
Al Jazeera has started legal action to press for the publication of the minutes of the Bush-Blair meeting using freedom of information legislation.
The attorney-general has told the media that they would be breaking the law if they published details of the document.
The men's lawyers are pushing for the secret document to be disclosed.
Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle said that he had been briefed on its contents by Tony Clarke after he received a copy.
Kilfoyle, a former defence minister, says, "It's very odd we haven't been prosecuted. My colleague Tony Clarke is guilty of discussing it with me and I have discussed it with all and sundry."
In 2001 Al Jazeera’s Kabul office was hit by US bombs and Al Jazeera reporter Tare Ayyoub was killed in a US strike on its Baghdad office in 2003.
O'Connor’s lawyer, Neil Clark, said that he had been shown the document before the committal hearing but could not discuss the contents. He said it was a four-page memo marked "secret".
"It's what I expected having read the media," he said. "I didn't think that there was anything in there that would embarrass the British government."
Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, told Socialist Worker, "Those alleged to have leaked this information should be treated as heroes rather than hauled before the courts.
"The document clearly should be in the public domain. The continuing lies over the war in Iraq are now being retold as a build up to threatening Iran.
"That's why it’s important to mobilise for the anti-war demonstration in London on 18 March."
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