Sunday, May 21, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

The United Arab Emirates has recalled its charge d'affaires from Iraq as demanded by a group holding one of its diplomats hostage.
The state news agency, WAM, said on Friday that Ali al-Kaabi, the UAE charge d'affaires, had returned home "after being recalled to report to foreign ministry officials about developments ... [regarding] the kidnapped UAE diplomat Naji al-Noaimi and study with them measures to ensure his safety".
Al-Kaabi's recall was the main demand raised by the group that kidnapped al-Noaimi in Baghdad on Tuesday.

The above, noted by Lynda, is from Al Jazeera's "UAE recalls staff after Iraq abduction." Meanwhile Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister still on honeymoon, announces that he will use
"maximum force against terrorism" -- what? You thought he was installed because he was going to address the water or power crisis? He's just a little bully in a long line of little bullies the United States has installed. Today he gets applause, in forty or so years (if he consolidates power), he'll probably be standing trial the way Saddam Hussein stands trial today. And people in America will probably look at him in horror and wonder how the Iraqis could have picked him? The answer -- they didn't, just like they didn't pick Saddam Hussein.

The corpses are nothing new in Iraq. We backed (and helped with) the slaughter of people that paved the way for Saddam's control, don't be naive enough to think we're not helping now. And things can get really 'lively' (ugly) now when al-Maliki announces "maxium force."

The "maximum force" quote is an article Gareth noted, Patrick Wintour's "'Maximum force.' How Iraq's new PM says he will end the chaos" (Guardian of London):

Neither President Bush nor Mr Blair, both suffering plunges in personal popularity, will accept that the country has descended into civil war, or that the coalition troop presence is deepening the crisis, leaving them with few options.
But Mr Blair will find when he flies to Washington this week that there is a growing mood among US Democrats for a withdrawal 18 months from now. Hillary Clinton has not joined this Democratic consensus.
At best, Britain is looking at a withdrawal from some provinces, in what the new foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, has described as "a case-by-case basis" in provinces and cities. She said there was no question of "cutting and running", and that the troops would remain as long as they were needed to assist the Iraqi government in maintaining security.

So they installed a cabinet (with "muscular" help from Bully Boy and his administration as John F. Burns noted) and? That's about all that's changed. Some new names make the news, Bully Boy calls with congrats and tries to spin it as a corner turned. Vince notes "New dawn for Iraq marked by bloodshed" (Mail & Guardian):

For Iraqis, it was a grim fact of daily life. As a crowd of men, most of them impoverished Shia construction workers gathered after dawn on Saturday at a food stand in Sadr City in the hope of picking up a day's labouring from the city's gangmasters, a powerful bomb ripped through the crowd. Half an hour later the bodies -- a dozen of the 19 killed -- were laid out in a garden of the Imam Ali hospital nearby, their faces covered with cardboard.
'When will this stop? Where is the government?' a teenager sobbed as he stood amid pools of blood. A man beat his face with his hands and hugged his dead brother. Survivors rushed the wounded to hospital. Another day, another terrible death toll across Iraq.
In the border town of Qaim, close to the Syrian frontier, a suicide bomber killed five people in a police station. In Musayib, south of Baghdad, 15 bodies of men who had been tortured and shot were dumped in the street.There are now two interlinked wars in Iraq: the insurgency against the United States-led occupation, or rather two insurgencies, one Sunni, largely in the north, and the other a Shia rebellion whose targets are coalition troops. Then there is a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia, characterised by bombs and death squads.

"New Dawn"? Try "Dark Dusk." If you're listening to KPFA as I type this section, you're hearing Radio Chronicles's look at John Lennon. (If you missed it an are interested, by the time this posts, you should be able to go to KPFA and grab the archived broadcast.) The documentary has live performances and interviews ("Across the Universe" right now) and at one point John Lennon says, "Peace, that's really all I want." Think about that and about the Iraqi sobbing "When will it all stop?"

It won't stop with nonsense about "stay the course." It won't stop by fine tuning the illegal war.
It'll take honesty and action.

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, the official count for the American military fatalities in Iraq stood at 2439. Currently? 2455. That's a reality Tony Blair's visit with the Bully Boy this week won't be able to address so they'll sidestep it. The visit's a distraction from many things.

Those who fooled themselves and went along with the Bully Boy's illegal war, some still do, might want to ask themselves exactly that they think the administration can fix abroad when so much needs attending to here? Nora notes Chris Floyd's "Gates of Eden" (Moscow Times):

Beneath the thunder of the mighty cataclysms unleashed by the Bush administration -- the war crime in Iraq, the global torture gulag, the epic corruption, the gutting of the U.S. Constitution, the open embrace of presidential tyranny -- a quieter degradation of American society has continued apace. And this slow descent into barbarism didn't begin with President George W. Bush, although his illicit regime certainly represents the apotheosis of the dark forces driving the decay.
With the world's attention diverted by the latest scandals and shameless posturings of the Bush faction -- domestic spying, bribes and hookers at the CIA, military units roaring down to the border to scare unarmed poor people looking for work -- few noticed a small story that cast a harsh, penetrating light on the corrosion of the national character.
Earlier this month, the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College London released its annual World Prison Population List. And there, standing proudly at the head of the line, towering far above all others, is that shining city on the hill, the United States of America. But strangely enough, the Bush gang and its media sycophants failed to celebrate -- or even note -- yet another instance where a triumphant America leads the world. Where are the cheering hordes shouting "U.S.A! U.S.A!" at the news that the land of the free imprisons more people than any other country in the world, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of its population?

While the administration shirks responsibilities in America, it does the same in Iraq. And the mainstream press wants to look the other way. James in Brighton steers us to Patrick Cockburn's "Iraq is disintegrating as ethnic cleansing takes hold" (Independent of London):

The state of Iraq now resembles Bosnia at the height of the fighting in the 1990s when each community fled to places where its members were a majority and were able to defend themselves. "Be gone by evening prayers or we will kill you," warned one of four men who called at the house of Leila Mohammed, a pregnant mother of three children in the city of Baquba, in Diyala province north-east of Baghdad. He offered chocolate to one of her children to try to find out the names of the men in the family.
Mrs Mohammed is a Kurd and a Shia in Baquba, which has a majority of Sunni Arabs. Her husband, Ahmed, who traded fruit in the local market, said: " They threatened the Kurds and the Shia and told them to get out. Later I went back to try to get our furniture but there was too much shooting and I was trapped in our house. I came away with nothing." He and his wife now live with nine other relatives in a three-room hovel in Khanaqin.
The same pattern of intimidation, flight and death is being repeated in mixed provinces all over Iraq. By now Iraqis do not have to be reminded of the consequences of ignoring threats.
In Baquba, with a population of 350,000, gunmen last week ordered people off a bus, separated the men from the women and shot dead 11 of them. Not far away police found the mutilated body of a kidnapped six-year-old boy for whom a ransom had already been paid.
The sectarian warfare in Baghdad is sparsely reported but the provinces around the capital are now so dangerous for reporters that they seldom, if ever, go there, except as embeds with US troops.

Bosnia. With more on reality for Iraqis, Keshawn steers us to Kathy Kelly's "Back to Iraq" (CounterPunch):

Toward the end of a three hour conversation, my friend's companion relied on his own English to articulate the pain. "If I stay, I will be killed. What can I do?" he asks. "Maybe I will find some chance. Every day, I miss my wife, my children, my family. Before, my father, my mother, my brother, and I, and our children, we all live together. I cook for all. Now, all the people are afraid." He shows us how they cower, how U.S. soldiers aim at them and shout at them. Trying to control his agitation, he asks, "Why? Why am I here now? I have two children, very beautiful. I have wife, very beautiful. I want to sleep with my wife, make the dinner, --my wife is in one place, my mother in another, my brother still another place, I am here. All these problems, Why? For the freedom?!" He continues with the long list of indignities suffered by Iraqis whose infrastructure only deteriorates. The occupiers have done almost nothing to help rebuild while, in his view, new rulers will continue looting Iraq. "Believe me, this is the blackest point in American history," he says. "But please," he pleads, "send our voice to honest American people." And what is it that honest American people can do?
The honest Americans can put the U.S. administration on notice that "staying the course" is not a strategy, that this course has been bloody, dirty, reckless, and wrong. The honest Americans can feel wretched remorse over every dime handed over to the warmongers who lead the U.S. and do their best to stop the hemorrhaging flow of dollars that fuels ongoing war. As countless Iraqis flee from their homes, we must beg one another, in the U.S., to slow down and think about where our country is going. As the majority of Iraqis live without basic securities, we must insist that the U.S. government pay for reparations rather than continue to bankroll the military expense accounts.

Just as reality in Iraq hardly makes it through the mainstream media filter, apparently also blocked by the filter are the war resistors. With news on Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, Kara steers us to Faisal Kutty's "Court to Hear US War Resister Refugee Cases" (Palestine Chronicle):

"Our children did not enlist to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity," said Cindy Sheehan, the prominent American anti-war activist who toured Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa during the first week of May. Sheehan, who lost her own son Specialist Casey Sheehan, in Iraq in April 2004, rose to prominence last year when she camped out at President George Bush's Texas, ranch, demanding answers for the war.
Sheehan called on the Canadian government to welcome war resisters as refugees. "I believe our war resisters are legitimate refugees," she said during a visit to the Legislature in Ottawa.
The call comes as Canada's Federal Court of Appeal gets set to hear appeals from resisters, Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. Both are appealing April 2006 decisions from the Federal Court which upheld the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) findings that the two did not qualify as Convention refugees. Both the IRB and the appeal court of first instance appear to have danced around the politically sensitive issues and existing case law.
Hinzman was a soldier in the elite infantry division, the 82nd Airborne. He served in Afghanistan in a non-combat position after having applied for conscientious objector status. After being refused CO status and returning to America, he learned that he would be deployed to Iraq. Hinzman did not wish to participate in what he considered to be an illegal war and in January 2004 he drove to Canada to seek asylum. He is currently living in Toronto with his wife Nga Nguyen and son Liam.
A native of San Angelo, Texas, Hughey arrived in Canada in March 2004. He left his Army unit before it shipped out to Iraq. It was, he says, his obligation to leave. "I feel that if a soldier is given an order that he knows to not only be illegal, but immoral as well, then it his responsibility to refuse that order," he wrote in response to e-mailed questions from the San Angelo Standard-Times. "It is also my belief that if a soldier is refusing an order he knows to be wrong, it is not right for him to face persecution for it."
Hinzman and Huey both face court martial and up to five years in jail as deserters if returned. Yet, their arguments that they did not want to participate in an illegal war and that they would be punished for acting on their conscience was rejected by the IRB. The adjudicators held that they were not conscientious objectors (because they were not apposed to wars in general); the U.S. was willing and able to protect them; and that their treatment would not amount to persecution.

Pru gets the final highlight, "British troops lose out in battle for Basra" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The British occupying forces in Basra have all but lost control of the southern Iraqi city. Last weekend saw two more soldiers killed in a roadside bomb attack, bringing the total number of British fatalities in Iraq to 111.
Carol Jones is the mother of British soldier John Jones, who was killed in Basra six months ago, and a supporter of Military Families Against War.
"Two more lads have gone, two more families devastated, two more repatriations, two more funerals. How many more?" she said in response to the latest deaths.
The deaths of British soldiers only show a fraction of the violence and chaos engulfing Basra and the south of Iraq.
Resistance fighters fired over 30 mortar rounds at a British military camp in the Shia city of Amarah on Monday, wounding four soldiers.
British soldiers in Amarah that day were also attacked by a crowd of children throwing stones and bottles.
A journalist working for the Shropshire Star reported how he spent six days "embedded" with soldiers on a base in Basra. The base was attacked about ten times by mortars during his stay, he reported.
Tony Blair's reaction to this is to dig his heels further into the sand. And George Bush's threats of a military attack on Iran continue to reverberate.
All of this makes the Stop the War Coalition's annual conference on Saturday 10 June a vital meeting for every anti-war campaigner in Britain. The conference will take place at Friends House in central London.
Stop the War is also mobilising for a massive protest outside the Labour Party's annual conference in Manchester on 23 September.
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