Thursday, February 23, 2006

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

And the first shot I took with my camera and the first photo as, Ahmed remembers, it was for a human being fired or burned completely. He was a wounded person. His family were transferring him to a hospital, which was close to the U.S. forces position, and it had the Red Crescent symbol and the Red Cross, because they put him in a pickup, so they put him in the outside in the pickup, and that was under fire. And I saw this person, the wounded person is torched, fired, burned. Even smoke was coming out of him. I was unable to go and see that scenery.
I left him to go alone, and I stood far, and my sight was really bad and terrible because on that day, when we went to the hospital, there was a lot of children in the hospital that were wounded. Some children were brought, and their families were dead already. Their fathers and parents were not accompanying them. That day made a terrible shock to me and shocked me extremely. I covered many wars, but every time you cover a war and you see corpses and dead people and children, believe me, every children I looked at, I remember my younger daughter.

Laith Mushtaq interviewed by Amy Goomdan for Democracy Now!'s "EXCLUSIVE: Al Jazeera Reporters Give Bloody First Hand Account of April '04 U.S. Siege of Fallujah." Amy Goodman's interview with unembedded journalists Laith Mushtaq and Ahmed Mansur will be noted again in this entry. If you missed it, read the transcript, listen or watch. It is an important story.
Here's another one:

A "sold out" sign might as well have been posted outside the federal courtroom hearing the case of U.S. war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey on Wednesday, February, 8.
For reasons of overcrowding, about two dozen of their supporters and reps from various media were kept by police from taking the elevator to the eighth-floor courtroom where Hinzman's and Hughey's appeal for refugee status was being heard.
Interestingly, presiding Justice Anne L. Mactavish, a former president of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, is no stranger to accusations of keeping the public from witnessing the judicial process.
In the end, Mactavish reserved judgment on Hinzman's and Hughey's appeal application, which sought to overturn a previous decision denying them refugee status.
She also rejected a request from Amnesty International for intervenor status at the hearing because, she said, it was filed too late.
Hinzman's and Hughey's lawyer, Jeffry House, argued that Refugee Board adjudicator Brian Goodman erred when he prevented the question of the legality of the U.S. invasion of Iraq from being entered as evidence.

The above, noted by Vic, is from Matt Mernagh's "GIs make their plea" (Canada's NOW). There's been no verdict yet. We'll try to stay on this and thanks to Vic, Vince and the other Canadian members who have noted items on this -- we really have no US coverage on the story.
The corporate media. Not in this entry. It's Thursday and it's the indymedia roundup. With a focus on the war in Iraq and the resistance to Bully Boy's war on America.

As Lewis points out with his highlight, the resistance to Bully Boy is wide spread -- from Jackie Demling's "State Radio broadcasts message of dissension" (Dover-Sherborn Press via

State Radio shared its musical message of political dissension at the Peace Abbey on Feb. 10. Chad Stokes, formerly a member of Dispatch, Chuck Fay and Brian Sayers provided a punk rock beat, dominating a crowd of all ages. From songs like "Mr. Larkin," which focuses on the disabled and elderly, to their hit song of the evening, "Camilo," which addresses strong anti-war beliefs, State Radio shed light on many controversial subjects.
"As musicians, we have the ear of the youth," said Sayers, the band's drummer.

The concert was not the only event of the evening. Nancy Lessen and Charlie Richardson, the founders of Military Families Speak Out, an organization that encourages military families not in favor of the war to come together for support and to speak out, were being honored and presented with the Courage of Conscience award. The presenter of the award was previous recipient Camilo Mejia, a former staff sergeant of the Florida National Guard who decided to go AWOL from his duty in Iraq.
When Mejia left the Army, he turned to the organization Military Families Speak Out; Lessen and Richardson came to his aid and brought Mejia to the Peace Abbey. While in Iraq, Mejia saw the birth defects from depleted uranium exposure: children with missing facial features and extremities. He also recounted his actual war experience, the violence of innocent Iraqi civilians and invading Iraqi homes. He stressed that Iraq did not want the American forces there, and this was a war for oil.
With these factors in mind, Mejia realized at the Peace Abbey the immorality and tragedy of the war. "Tragedy -- not my tragedy, but the tragedy of Iraq; my sacrifice is nothing compared to theirs." With the help of Lessen and Richardson, Mejia realized there was support out there, and he was not alone. When he went to turn himself in and pledge as a conscientious objector of the war, Lessen and Richardson stood by his side along with his family members. Camilo's sentence was one year in prison for desertion.

And the tragedy of the illegal occupation of Iraq leads us back to "EXCLUSIVE: Al Jazeera Reporters Give Bloody First Hand Account of April '04 U.S. Siege of Fallujah" (Democracy Now!):

AHMED MANSUR: Because time is not sufficient to describe what happened those days, but let me talk about the 9th of April, 2004. It was really like the day of judgment in Fallujah. We were under siege for two days from the U.S. forces and the snipers. We were unable to move, and we decided to take adventure and go to the middle of the city at any price. And we consulted among each other. Some of us said, "No, let's stay." Then I said, "No, we have to move even if the snipers shoot us."
When we left the place, we found that Fallujah entirely -- children, women, elderly, all lifting white flags and walking or in their cars leaving the city. It was really a disastrous day for us. When we reached the heart of the city at the hospital, I almost lost my mind from the terror that I saw, people going in each and every direction. Laith was with me and also another colleague, and I felt like we need 1,000 cameras to grab those disastrous pictures: fear, terror, planes bombing, ambulances taking the people dead. And I was shouting and yelling for Laith and my other colleague, and I was shouting, "Camera! Camera!" so that we can take pictures here and there.
At the end, I felt that I have to control myself. The fear was bigger than we could ever handle, and bigger than our journalistic capabilities. There's no reporters in the city. We were the only team that was able to enter the city; therefore, we have to transfer what's happening to the whole world. It was an extremely difficult mission. That was the fifth or sixth day we went un-sleeping at all. I didn't know how we were able to stand or move or talk. I used to look at Laith and feel that he is unable to even lift the camera because of the stress on him. Regardless, he was carrying the camera and going and coming. We were trying to move this picture to the whole world, and we felt that we are responsible for all these civilians being bombed from the planes and who are threatened with death, so we have to transfer this picture of suffering to the whole world. It was extremely difficult.

That was Falluja in the April 2004 seige. Falluja was also the site of slaughter in November of 2004 (though Dexter Filkins found it to be more like a fast paced video game). The bombs fall and people are harmed. Some die right away. Some damages linger. Carl notes John Hepler's "Depleted Uranium and US Veterans" (Tennessee Indymedia):

After all the huff about Weapons of Mass Destruction, it is supremely ironic that the US Military use of Depleted Uranium in Iraq perfectly meets the definiton of WMDs. It is indiscriminate and potentially lethal to all the civilian population. In a more poignant irony, our own soldiers are subject to radioactive contamination from our own WMD weapons. DU is used in weaponry because of its high density and pyrophoric qualities, causing it to burn spontaneously on impact. These properties make DU ideal for use in armour-piercing anti-tank weapons. Amounts of DU used in bullets, shells and bombs vary from 3 ounces to 10 pounds, although there is speculation that some missiles may contain larger quantities. DU is also used in tank armour and for radiation shielding, ballast in missiles and aircraft counterweights. One study estimates that between 100 and 150 tons of DU munitions was used in 2003 in Iraq-- in lesss than one year.(1) Depleted uranium is created-- a waste product-- in the refinement of uranium for fuel or bombs. Depleted uranium--U238-- has a half life of about 4.5 billion years, whcih means it is supposedly "cold" and unreactive. It means for every 10 billion atoms of U238, only two per year will decay, or break apart violently in a small radioactive explosion. When this happens inside the body, with just one atom, there is a fair chance (no one really knows how much) of damaging effects, such as cancer.
DU also contains .2% "hot" U235, which disintegrates radioactively much more quickly, and is considered far more dangerous. If 150 tons of DU were used in 2003, that means 600 lbs of it is hot U235 dust blowing around Iraq.
But there may well be more far-reaching effects than direct radiation from particles that have entered the body. A 2001 World health organization study from 2001 concludes: The health risks of exposure to DU are likely to be only partially reflected by the radiation dose per received. Further work on the chemical transforming ability of DU, the potential for an interaction between its chemical and radiological toxicities and the significance of the bystander effect in this context is required to fully estimate the public health significance of exposure to DU.(2)
As of April 29, 2004, the US military formally-- though not loudly in public-- recognized the problem, the right of soldiers to be tested and the means of testing, a 24 hour urine collection. (fully printed below, Appendix A)Unfortunately, this needs to be done immediately after exposures to accurately reflect contamination, or at least as the soldier leaves Iraq. Because after the ingestion of DU, the DU migrates to the bones, organs and the body tries to excrete it in the urine. After a time, less radioactivity is excreted, but in a contaminated person, the process continues for several months, maybe more.
It is so far impossible to prove the effects ofDU on a general area. Iraq now has 320 tons of DU dust blowing around from the first Gulf (Iraq) War, and probably 500 more tons from this round of war. Obviously some sites are severely contaminated. Cancer rates, especially in children, are way up in Iraq, but in such a chaotic situation, statistics are very hard to gather.
Last year, the New York Daily News paid for (at $1100 each) the most sophisticated testing available , which concluded not only that 4 of the 9 soldiers tested were contaminated but that DU from exploded American shells was almost certainly the cause.

The New York Daily News investigation referred to above was something Juan Gonzalez worked on and Billie steers us to his more recent "VET'S ILLS MOUNTING FAST" (New York Daily News via Democracy Now!):

NEARLY 120,000 veterans -- more than one of every four who served in Iraq and Afghanistan -- have already sought treatment at Veterans Health Administration hospitals for a wide range of illnesses, according to an internal study the VHA completed late last year.
More than 30% of those sick veterans are afflicted with some type of mental disorder, mostly posttraumatic stress and depression.
An additional 35,000 -- more than 29% of the total -- were diagnosed with "ill-defined conditions," according to the study, which was prepared in October by VHA epidemiologist Dr. Han Kang but has yet to be publicly released.
"Those numbers are way higher than during the Persian Gulf War for 'ill-defined' symptoms," said one Department of Veterans Affairs official who asked not to be identified.
Nearly two years ago, I reported about a group of nine New York National Guardsmen from the 442nd Military Police Co. who returned from Iraq with medical problems the Army listed as "ill-defined." Nearly half of those soldiers - four out of nine -- later showed signs, in independent tests arranged by the Daily News, of exposure to depleted uranium dust from exploded U.S. shells.
Mental disorders, however, rank as the biggest problem among ailing veterans.

The damage that lingers. The damage that kills immediately? As this is typed, on the 23rd day of February, the current number of American military fatalities in Iraq is 45, bringing the total since the invasion to 2287. That's 107 since the year 2006 began. That's fourteen more deaths since we noted them on Sunday.

Let's sing the song:

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.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

We're keeping that for the Sunday entries but will we keep it for the indymedia roundup? Tomorrow's gina & krista round-robin has the tally of the votes. (Gina told me tonight but I'm not leaking it -- I'm no Scooter Libby! Check your inboxes tomorrow morning.) Whether we keep the song for Thursdays or not, the war does drag on.

Where's that easy "win"? The one promised but long ago forgotten. Where's the "we've brought democracy to Iraq!" Operation Happy Talk that we get in the leadup to every election and immediately after (until the fatalities start mounting again and drown out the Happy Talk)? Here's a better question: where's the reality?

Here's some reality from United for Peace and Justice that Elaine passed on tonight. First:

Sign on today! Please join women and men from all over the world who have launched an Urgent Call for Peace in Iraq. CODEPINK: Women for Peace, one of UFPJ's member groups, is gathering over 100,000 signatures on this Call, and we need your signature, and your help, to do it! On International Women's Day, March 8, we will deliver these signatures to U.S. embassies, consulates, and federal offices all over the world.

One more time with links:

Sign the Women Say No to War Call TODAY! From now until March 8, International Women’s Day, we will be gathering 100,000 signatures to deliver to officials in Washington DC and to U.S. embassies worldwide. Please sign the call today at, pass it on to your friends, and join us either in Washington DC or at local events. Click here for details.

B-b-b-but, I'm not a woman, some male members may say. "Women and men." I know some of you have already signed on. If you haven't yet, please consider doing so.

Second item:

FROM MOURNING TO RESISTANCE! 3 YEARS TOO MANY -- STOP THE WAR!Washington, DC, March, 20, 9 AM The National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance is organizing "From Mourning to Resistance," a March to the Pentagon on Monday, March 20, that will culminate in nonviolent direct action. It will begin with a 9 AM gathering near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The March bearing a coffin filled with names of the dead will step off at 10 AM and cross the Memorial Bridge and proceed to LBJ Memorial Grove adjacent to the Pentagon, from where nonviolent actions will commence. NCNR is inviting marchers from various antiwar groups to represent a broad spectrum of communities around the country. The march is permitted, but some participants will risk arrest by trying to deliver the coffin to Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld or undertaking other nonviolent civil resistance actions. Please contact Max Obuszewski if you plan to be there. More »

Need more reality? How about life on the ground in Iraq? Marci notes Riverbend's "Tensions . . ." (Baghdad Burning):

Things are not good in Baghdad.
There was an explosion this morning in a mosque in Samarra, a largely Sunni town. While the mosque is sacred to both Sunnis and Shia, it is considered one of the most important Shia visiting places in Iraq. Samarra is considered a sacred city by many Muslims and historians because it was made the capital of the Abassid Empire, after Baghdad, by the Abassid Caliph Al-Mu'tasim.
The name "Samarra" is actually derived from the phrase in Arabic "Sarre men ra'a" which translates to "A joy for all who see". This is what the city was named by Al-Mu'tasim when he laid the plans for a city that was to compete with the greatest cities of the time-- it was to be a joy for all who saw it. It remained the capital of the Abassid Empire for nearly sixty years and even after the capital was Baghdad once again, Samarra flourished under the care of various Caliphs.
The mosque damaged with explosives today is the "Askari Mosque" which is important because it is believed to be the burial place of two of the 12 Shia Imams- Ali Al-Hadi and Hassan Al-Askari (father and son) who lived and died in Samarra. The site of the mosque is believed to be where Ali Al-Hadi and Hassan Al-Askari lived and were buried. Many Shia believe Al-Mahdi 'al muntadhar' will also be resurrected or will reappear from this mosque.

Things aren't getting better, things haven't gotten better. The war was illegal, the occupation only compounds that. For more on the realities on the ground, Krista notes Mohammed A. Salih's "IRAQ: Bombing Could Hit Government Talks" (IPS):

The bombing of the Al-Askari Shia shrine and the wave of killings and attacks on Sunni mosques that followed have further endangered the fragile moves towards formation of a government. Sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shias that were already high have been raised further. The new violence has brought a major setback to bring Sunni and Shia leaders together into an all-inclusive government. As it is, the impasse in government formation has proved impossible to surmount as yet for more than two months now.
In the elections held Dec. 15 last year, the Shia Islamist list of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) got 129 seats, Kurds gained 53 and the Iraqi Accord Front (IAF) of the major Sunni parties, 44. Former prime minister Ayad Allawi's secular list ended up fourth with 25 seats. The election results made it impossible for any list to form a government on its own. Coalitions are needed to give a ruling group a two-thirds majority in the 275-member parliament.
Last week the UIA re-nominated Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jafari for a second term. That decision sent shock waves through Iraq's political circles. Al-Jafari has been repeatedly criticised by other parties and observers for his inefficiency.

If you depended upon corporate media, you might think no one in the United States cares very much. You might think that Colin Powell's "blot" has played well. You'd be wrong. Joel notes
Geof Bard's "Protesters Forcibly Evicted as Colin Powell Expresses No Contrition in Local Talk" (Santa Barbara IMC):

A hundred protesters strung along State Street as ticket holders lined up to hear former Secretary of State Colin Powell deliver a talk at the landmark Arlington Theatre. Sponsored by the University of California over the strenuous protest of local peace activists, the Bush functionary was greeted with the same outrage which has accompanied his appearances elsewhere: extreme indignation. Powell is sharply criticized for his notorious speech before the UN Security Council February 5, 2003. Yet,according to protesters, he has a long history of coverup and complicity.
Ten protesters infiltrated the theatre with concealed T shirts which read: WAR CRIMINAL!
Standing in silence, they drew some applause but also jeers from apparent supporters of Mr. Powell and his role in the tragic Iraq conflagration which has caused in excess of 100,000 civilian lives.
An exit survey disclosed that Powell expressed no remorse for the toll in human suffering caused by the war. He is frequently alleged to have been one of the few people on the planet that might have prevented the horrible toll of bloodshed. Stating only that there was "faulty intelligence", he, with a cavalier shrug, waxed profound about themes of "leadership".
Locals expressed serious concerns that his career is exemplary of one of the most atrocious failures of leadership in recorded history. Among them was Bob Handy, retired career military who was active in three major phases of the Vietnam war. Although in the US Navy, he was attached to the 3rd USMC Division and the 1st USMC in the difficult period prior to the Tet offensive.
"Colin Powell", said the veteran, "covered up the My Lai massacre. After that he went on and was part of [misconduct in] Central America. He was part of Ollie North and those boys." The My Lai massacre was first publicized by legendary journalist Seymour Hersh, a scoop which would have immortalized him in the history of war journalism. In more recent times, the New Yorker reported broke the Abu Ghraib story, one of the most important scoops in these times. In that tragic, shameful massacre, stressed out troops obeyed the command of Lt. Caley and proceeded to kill the civilian inhabitants of an entire village, throwing their bodies into a mass grave reminiscent of the well-documented atrocities of WWII.

We're going to return to "EXCLUSIVE: Al Jazeera Reporters Give Bloody First Hand Account of April '04 U.S. Siege of Fallujah" one more time because Micah noted that the full transcript is up including the final item Amy Goodman notes (and that's another hint to check it out, if you can't watch or listen, the full transcript is up):

AMY GOODMAN: The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is reporting that the U.S. Military is building a so-called "Little Fallujah" here in the United States for soldiers to train in urban warfare. A streetscape is being modeled after Fallujah in East Arkansas, complete with bazaar, office buildings and a school. It even includes bomb blasts and flying bullets, as well as a two-mile track where drivers will learn to shoot out car windows, ram enemy vehicles and dodge simulated rocket-propelled grenades. Three blocks of the mock city are being opened this summer. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, it won't be the only foreign war zone open for business in Arkansas. At "Little Mogadishu" in North Little Rock, trainees rappel from a helicopter perched on a forty-foot stanchion and work through a maze of concrete huts and alleyways, shooting at targets and blowing open doors.

That's what's happening in this country. Does it frighten you? Does it sadden you? (I'm going to assume members have some reaction so consider it rhetorical unless you are a visitor.) Also in this country, Portland notes "GUANTÁNAMO PERFORMED" (Eugene Weekly):

A broad coalition of local peace and social justice groups is sponsoring a dramatic reading of the play, Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom, at 7 pm Saturday, Feb. 25 at the First Christian Church 1166 Oak St. in Eugene. Doors open at 6:40 pm. The event is free, but donations will be accepted. A moderated discussion with the audience will follow the reading.
The reading is part of a nationwide effort to highlight the Bush administration's unlawful treatment of detainees, while linking it to losses of our own domestic civil liberties. Award-winning director Carol Horne and a group of 20 local citizens will present the reading of the play by Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo. Personal narratives of detainees and their families follow the lives of four men who were imprisoned while never formally charged or permitted to defend themselves in a court of law.
For more information, visit
www.bordc.orgor call 343-7858.

I'm going to throw a personal note in here because I'm too tired/lazy to do another entry after this posts (and publishes for 25 minutes). When Elaine called tonight, she mentioned Mike's latest entry. I haven't read the whole thing (I skipped the part on me -- kind words should be directed at the community, not at me -- but he has some important things to say about Democracy Now! so check it out for that reason). Elaine passed on not just what Mike wrote but the (a?) reason for it. I didn't know members were e-mailing other members with sites to find out how sick I was. It was just the flu and I'm sorry if anyone worried due to last year's . . . whatever. If I did have a serious health problem (again), it would be noted in the gina & krista round-robin. I wouldn't note it here and I wouldn't note that I was feeling anything but "tired" until it had gone out in the round-robin. It was just the flu. A very nasty case of the flu. Since this afternoon, food's stayed down so, hopefully, it's over. But I'm really sorry that a number of you were worried. If I mention I'm sick, it's just sick. It's not illness. News of that would come via the round-robin. I'll be sick again, trust me. Or at least throwing up, due to being tired or stressed. It's not something I mention unless it's preventing an entry. I did make a point to note it this week because it was obvious that we'd be doing the bare minimum here because I felt so sick. I'm sorry that anyone worried. (It was kind of you, but don't worry.) I understand that some worries were compounded by the fact that The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim were answering members e-mails. That's because I was too sick. (Fever and throwing up.) Sorry that anyone worried. (But hey, it proves that Jim really can answer an e-mail without hell freezing over, right?) And thank you to all five of them. The public account is not being checked. I'll try to go through that tomorrow. But when they kindly volunteered to help out, I asked them to focus on the private account to be sure that members were being heard. (And if any member e-mailed to the public account and felt ignored -- it was just because I was too sick to go into that account. If a member's sent highlights to that account, we'll try to grab them over the next few days. **ADDDED** Kat did go through some e-mails in the public account one day this week. Tuesday or Wednesday, I think. Thank you Kat. My apologies for forgetting to note that in the original post. She provided at least a ten minute summary of the e-mails over the phone. Again, my apologies to Kat for forgetting to note that.)

The e-mail address for this site is