Sunday, March 12, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

The torture and murder of an American hostage in Iraq has increased the concern for three others seized along with Tom Fox, including two Canadians.
All four men -- Fox, Canadians Harmeet Sooden and James Loney, and Briton Norman Kember -- were kidnapped on Nov. 26 after going to Iraq as members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an organization devoted to helping people in war zones.

"What we feared most has happened," said Jane Pritchard, a CPT member in Toronto.

The above, noted by Vic, is from "Fears mount over Iraq hostages" (Canada's CBC). Wally noted Cindy Sheehan's "To the Family of Tom Fox and to the Christian Peacemaker Teams" (Common Dreams):

My heart is breaking for Mr. Fox's family and for the world. This is a dark day for peace and justice. The loss of a man of the stature of Tom Fox and the loss of his voice for peace and reconciliation is a tragedy for our country which operates so often from a paradigm of violence. Every voice for peace is imperative and needed.
I am always told that I am brave, but what I do pales weakly in comparison with the actions of Tom Fox and the Christian Peacemakers who put their actual lives on the line everyday to make the world a better place and to save lives of our brothers and sisters who are in danger.
Jesus said: "To give up one's life for a friend, there is no greater love than this," (John 15:13). This is the same Gospel passage that was read at my son, Casey's, funeral. Jesus went on to say that it is even more sacred to give up your life for people you don't even know.
Tom lived his life out of his moral center and gave freely of his life to save lives of people he would probably never meet.

So Fox gave his life attempting to help out in Iraq and corporations gave what? Well, though they haven't given, they've certainly "gotten." Gareth notes Robert Verkaik's "The War Dividend: The British companies making a fortune out of conflict-riven Iraq" (The Independent of London):

British businesses have profited by at least £1.1bn since coalition forces toppled Saddam Hussein three years ago, the first comprehensive investigation into UK corporate investment in Iraq has found.
The company roll-call of post-war profiteers includes some of the best known names in Britain's boardrooms as well many who would prefer to remain anonymous. They come from private security services, banks, PR consultancies, urban planning consortiums, oil companies, architects offices and energy advisory bodies.
Among the top earners is the construction firm Amec, which has made an estimated £500m from a series of contracts restoring electrical systems and maintaining power generation facilities during the past two years. Aegis, which provides private security has earned more than £246m from a three-year contract with the Pentagon to co-ordinate military and security companies in Iraq. Erinys, which specialises in the same area, has made more than £86m, a substantial portion from the protection of oilfields.

The blood money. It's Sunday and we're taking a look at reporting from outside the United States mainstream media with a focus on Iraq. 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)

Last Sunday, when Jess and Ty filled in (thank you both), the American military fatality count stood at 2300. Right now? 2307. Brendan found a number for the Iraqi fatalities, "over 250,000." The numbers pile up. But apparently, they aren't the right numbers. While we've focused on the loss of human lives, the focus of the Bully Boy set has been on another number, the financial gain. Apparently, the human toll doesn't matter and will not matter to the Bully Boy as long as there's a buck to be squeezed out of Iraq, the occupation continues. Something to think about as the third anniversary of the illegal invasion approaches.

It's important to speak out against the war and to stand up and be counted. Cindy notes Sean Rayment's "SAS Soldier Quits Army in Disgust at 'Illegal' American Tactics in Iraq" (London's Sunday Telgraph via Common Dreams):

An SAS soldier has refused to fight in Iraq and has left the Army over the "illegal" tactics of United States troops and the policies of coalition forces.
After three months in Baghdad, Ben Griffin told his commander that he was no longer prepared to fight alongside American forces.
He said he had witnessed "dozens of illegal acts" by US troops, claiming they viewed all Iraqis as "untermenschen" -- the Nazi term for races regarded as sub-human.
The decision marks the first time an SAS soldier has refused to go into combat and quit the Army on moral grounds.

Resistance is going on all over the world. In the United States, we know the names of (or should) people like Camilo Mejia, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Kevin Benderman and Katherine Jashinski. Some have resisted by going to Canada, such as Jeremy Hinzman. Vince notes an event in Canada this Tuesday:

Video Showing
LET THEM STAY: Voices of US War Resisters in Canada
Narrated by Shirley Douglas
Produced and Directed by Alex Lisman
Colour and B&W / 28 minutes / Canada / 2005
Followed by a question and answer session with war resisters Kyle Snyder and Abner Williamson, and War Resisters Support Campaign Organizer, Sarah Bjorknas
Tuesday March 14th,
7:00 PM
Hewett Centre,
Unitarian Church of Vancouver,
49th and Oak

If there's an event you're interested in, please e-mail and we'll note it.

Polly notes "Iraq: three years on" (the UK's Observer) which presents a cross-section of voices. Here's one:

'Geoff Hoon said he did not have the means to help me'
Fabienne Nerac, wife of Fred Nerac, an ITN cameraman who disappeared after an exchange of fire between US troops and Iraqis outside Basra on 22 March 2003. A Frenchman based in Belgium, he has two children and was 43 at the time
I was always worried when Fred went to cover wars, ever since his first war in Kosovo. But you never think that something serious is going to happen. He was being careful and always took precautions.
It happened at 9am and I knew by 5pm that Fred had 'disappeared'. Of course I was shaken. It was as if the world had collapsed but I focused on the fact that he had 'disappeared'; I thought that he would be found. That was three years ago.
The war completely changed my life. My eyes, my ears are now permanently turned to Iraq. As long as Fred has not been found, every time I hear Iraq mentioned I jump; every time I see something in the newspaper I have to read it. All my time is taken up with the effort to find out what happened or find his body.
I spoke to Colin Powell [the former US Secretary of State], but he did not help. It was just an exercise for the press. I met Geoff Hoon (former UK defence minister), who was very unpleasant. He just said he did not have the means to help and made a series of stupid suggestions. Jack Straw was helpful. He was the only one who was human. He listened to what I had to say and said that if he was in my place he would be doing exactly the same. And he must have helped, because 10 days after we met the British announced a military investigation.
There have been two investigations, American and British. The Americans just wanted to check why they had fired on the car in which my husband was travelling and to show they were blameless. But the English were very thorough and helped me know what had happened.
To not know is the worst. You just ask yourself why it happened. I am angry as well. I think about the war and about the person who is not here. I think about the journalists who have been hurt or killed during this war and I think the profession should be extremely concerned.

Currently in Iraq, the illegal occupation provides no stability. (Nor will it.) Lynda notes "Scores killed in Baghdad car bombings" (Al Jazeera):

At least 66 people have been killed and more than 300 wounded in a series of attacks in Iraq, including 50 dead and 290 injured in a triple car bombing of a Baghdad Shia neighbourhood.
Sunday's attacks coincided with the announcement that Iraq's parliament would meet on Thursday for the first time since the December elections.
It was one of the worst days of violence in Baghdad in recent months.

Polly notes that the BBC has photos on the above.

As the occupation drags on, we might do well to remember that "the mission" was not accomplished. (But then "the mission" was never really what it was sold as.) In violence continues in Bully Boy's other "win," Afghanistan. Four American troops died in Afghanistan Sunday when a roadside bomb went off.

Ned found something that should have made the national news (in the United States) but doesn't appear to have. He asked if we could note it in full. Here's Stacy Bannerman's March1st testimony to House Appropriations Sub-Committee on Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs courtesy of Military Families Speak Out:

I am the wife of a National Guard soldier who served twelve months in Iraq. I am also a member of Military Families Speak Out, an organization of more than 3,000 military families opposed to the war in Iraq. I am joined by Tia Steele, Gold Star Families Speak Out, Liz Frederick, Military Families Speak Out, and Garett Reppenhagen, Iraq Veterans Against the War. We are the military families and personnel who pay the price of war.
This is the medal given to family members of Iraq War veterans. National Guard Specialist John West took a very long time making it to the Freedom Salute stage to pick it up. Sixteen months earlier, he’d been hit by an IED that broke his back, and bones in his foot and leg. It tore out a few pounds of his flesh, and ruptured multiple internal organs. SPC West gets around now with the help of a walker. He still struggles with post-traumatic stress, depression, and flashbacks of fellow soldiers being killed in front of him. West was granted a ten percent disability.
First-hand accounts from military family members and personnel working at Fort Madigan Medical Center reveal a pattern of Reservists being granted lower benefits than active-duty for comparable injuries.
The United States Government has known for at least a decade that citizen soldiers have significantly higher rates of combat-related PTSD than their active duty counterparts.
[1][1] But you've done nothing about it. That failure of duty is costing military families their homes, marriages, jobs, and lives.
For the 56,000 Army marriages that have ended since the war on terror began, a Freedom Salute medal doesn’t mean much. It isn’t particularly valuable for this father, whose son returned from Iraq. He wrote:
"I need your help. My son's body showed up at my house for Christmas but [my wife] and I did not know the person who claimed to be [our son]. He was severely drunk every day for the whole week, belligerent, and generally just someone that nobody wanted anything to do with. He has nightmares every night of the murdered innocent children and civilian Iraqis. The Army has abandoned him as far as giving him help. They will go out of their way to help him re-enlist though. "
A Freedom Salute medal isn't going to make things better for Pat Gunn, who got this response from the Army after she contacted a member of Congress when her son was redeployed to Iraq following a diagnosis of PTSD:
"SPC Gunn...was wounded in the leg...during an attack on his HUMVEE. The soldier behind him was literally torn in half. After returning from convalescent leave [Gunn] was informed he would be redeployed. [He] indicated he would not go back to Iraq…[and] was sent to Heidelberg Hospital for evaluation. They concluded he was suffering some post traumatic stress from seeing his comrade killed so violently. They recommended he be retained...and treated at Heidelberg, [which] was contacted by medical authorities from Iraq. After discussion of his case it was determined [that SPC Gunn be] ... treat[ed] downrange [as it] may be in his best interest mentally to overcome his fear by facing it.. [SPC Gunn was] cleared for redeployment."
The Freedom Salute medal is just tin on a ribbon for the families of Marine Reservist Jeffrey Lucey, National Guardsman Doug Barber, and the dozens of other Iraq Veterans who have committed suicide after the Veterans Administration refused to treat them. Last year, the V. A. denied requests for care from over a quarter of a million veterans. Congress has tried to cut funding for veterans, and has grossly underestimated the needs of the soldiers returning from Iraq. You want to take care of our veterans? Quit making new ones.
The 1.2 million soldiers and their families who have paid for this war with their lives and limbs and loved ones don't need medals.
We need leaders.
We need leaders who will honor the Constitution, not shred it. We need leaders that hold accountable an administration that promotes a policy of torture but penalizes the foot soldiers that are expected to carry it out. We need leaders that don't bankrupt a nation in the interests of bankrolling their personal political agendas. We need moral leaders who are champions of truth and justice, not lapdogs to private interests and war profiteers. We need leaders willing to reclaim democracy from the iron fist of imperialistic power and greed.
We need leaders who will give America back to Americans, the overwhelming majority of whom want the troops home. We need leaders that care more about the lives of our soldiers and the material and spiritual health of this nation than the next election. Congress gave the Bush administration a blank check for a war based on lies. Stop payment. Immediately. Not one more dime, not one more life. You took an oath of office, and declared yourself a leader. Be one.
Brings the troops home now. Take care of them when they get here. And never again send our soldiers to fight in a war based on lies.

If this entry seems a little different (I feel like it's scattered), there's a reason for that. It's dictated. There are some problems with Blogger/Blogspot. ("Again!" screams the community.) I started an entry six hours ago. Repeatedly it was lost. Two hours ago this message began appearing (and still appears):

This server is currently experiencing a problem. An engineer has been notified and will investigate. Status code: 1-500-11

So I picked up the phone and asked a friend if I could dictate it to them (provided they could get into the account without encountering the above error message). Thank you to ___ and I'm not going to keep ___ on the phone all night, so we're going to wrap up. But note, if you do not see an entry tomorrow morning, I'm not blowing the morning off. It'll mean that the Blogger/Blogspot problem continues.

We'll go mainstream to note CNN via Common Dreams, "Feingold to Call for Rare Presidential Censure:"

A top Democratic senator said Sunday he plans to introduce Monday a resolution calling for President Bush to be censured for his domestic wiretapping program.
Sen. Russ Feingold, a potential presidential candidate, told ABC's "This Week" Sunday that the resolution would not preempt discussions about changing a 1978 law governing a special court set up to approve wiretaps.
"It's an unusual step," he said. "It's a big step, but what the president did by consciously and intentionally violating the Constitution and laws of this country with this illegal wiretapping has to be answered.

The White House allies and lap dogs are already responding by? Hiding behind the war. How can such a thing even be contemplated during "war," cries the White House. Especially because of the responsibilities during war time (and "war" time), accountability needs to take place.

We'll go ahead and close out this entry by noting Pru's highlight. If you had a highlight that's not here (and many did), please e-mail if you'd like it highlighted and we'll attempt to do so tomorrow evening. Pru steers us to Subir Dey's "Anti-war protests in India and Pakistan against Bush's visit" (Great Britain's The Socialist Worker):

While a certain corner of our capital was transformed by red carpets in preparation for George Bush's visit last week, the other corners were lined with banners, placards and posters that reflected the utmost contempt for Bush and his policies.
Many students were on the streets declaring that they would not be party to the crimes of war and bloodshed. We were joined by people from all walks of life.
The crowd swelled to around 100,000 filling thousands of metres of road.
This mass snaked its way through the streets with cries against the US president, against imperialism in Iraq, against genocide in Africa, against war for oil, against the nuclear arms race and against injustice.
Together we chanted, "Yeh bushwa paglaya hai, yeh sab tel ki maya hai, bachon ka hatyara hai, isko tel hi pyara hai. (Bush has gone mad, all he wants is oil. He kills children for the sake of oil.)"
Around 150,000 demonstrated in Mumbai and there was a partial general strike in Hyderabad.
That Bush came as a "state guest" is a clear signal that our government is becoming a client state of the US -- a shameful measure for a nation that had to fight against imperialism in order to free itself.
In Pakistan demonstrations were less visible due to a state clampdown. Nevertheless there were protests in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician, accused Bush of being an "enemy of democracy" and then, like many opposition politicians, found himself placed under house arrest.
Bush was unable to see Pakistan -- he came in the dark of night and dared not leave the fortified embassy in Islamabad for the whole visit. He left without giving a single public address.
Thanks also to Riaz Ahmed for his report
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